Issues in the Arts

Chamber Music Series Casts Revelatory Light On Black Composers

DIGITAL REVIEW – As part of Black History month, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through its CSOtv network offers a significant tribute to Black composers in chamber music played with compelling virtuosity by members of the CSO.

Seeking Humanity Amid Operas That Wax Humanitarian

DIGITAL REVIEW – Three new streamings point up the possibilities and pitfalls in play as high-minded opera creators and administrators are seized with the need to be relevant amid current times but risk losing the essence of their art.

Koh Caps Her Bach Project With Links To Berio, Harbison

DIGITAL REVIEW – As the final installment of Jennifer Koh’s Bach & Beyond project for solo violin was released in November, the series became a metaphor for sheltering in place. The crowning CD ties Bach to two more modernists.

Found Eloquence: 4’33” Of A Thing In Overabundance

COMMENTARY – This time, John Cage’s famous 4’33” really was about silence as Kirill Petrenko and the Berlin Philharmonic found a special way to say farewell to live audiences under Europe's Covid-constrained lockdown.

Exploring Wagner, Loathsome Genius Of Endless Allure

BOOK REVIEW – In his exhaustive and fascinating book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Alex Ross probes the enduring cultural impact of the composer's art as well as his controversial social views.

Pre-Virus, Music Often Reveled In Sound Of Silence

COMMENTARY - What better time than the COVID-19 shutdown to look at the phenomenon of silence in music? If the idea seems like a contradiction, composers have historically invoked the sound of silence in creative ways.

Stephen Hough’s New Book Mirrors A Pianist Of Parts

BOOK REVIEW – Filled with more than 200 essays, Hough's Rough Ideas abounds in aphoristic commentary, like a concert of virtuosic bonbons. Topics range from stage fright and trials of touring to the aging of classical audiences.

Black Man In Blue As Family Tragedy Wins Opera Honor

BREAKING NEWS – Blue, an opera rife with generational and racial conflict by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson, takes the Award for Best New Opera of 2019 from the Music Critics Association of North America.

Students, Faculty Staying Together While Kept Apart

COPING WITH CRISIS – The coronavirus pandemic has forced music schools across the nation to move instruction online. They’re making the best of a bad situation, and taking a few innovative strides forward at the same time.

Winding Pathway Led Orchestra To N. Carolina Heart

BOOK REVIEW – The North Carolina Symphony, based in Raleigh but roaming statewide, was known as the "Suitcase Symphony" for its touring ways. The nation's first state-supported symphony is finally getting its colorful story told.

Filmmaker Filters A Life Devoted To Classical Spirits

BOOK REVIEW – Christopher Nupen's book is frequently insightful and illuminating, but it is more about Nupen the man and his life than about the breakthrough technology that made music films feasible and artistically meaningful.

With Strike Ended, CSO Has Breathing Room Under Muti

CHICAGO – In the aftermath of a bruising labor dispute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti sounded themes of tradition, continuity, and community. The first program featured Joyce DiDonato in Berlioz.

Mary Ann Feldman Left Her Mark As Musical Whirlwind

MINNEAPOLIS –  A gifted writer, Mary Ann turned out erudite and witty program notes for the Minnesota Orchestra for 33 years. She died Feb. 18 at age 85, perhaps the Twin Cities' most prolific advocate for classical music.

Ensemble Project Sparks Surge Of Creative Energy

CHICAGO – The recently debuted Grossman Ensemble, a contemporary sinfonietta set up with funding for 15 years, includes thirteen award-winning instrumentalists committed to work with a dozen composers each season.

‘Amahl’ Production Connects Artists With Community

NEW YORK - For On Site Opera’s version at Church of the Holy Apostles, host to Manhattan's largest soup kitchen, audience members were asked to donate food in lieu of cash. Tickets released online went in 20 minutes.

A Musical Mystery: Beethoven’s ‘Lost’ Tenth Symphony

BOOK REVIEW – This brilliantly researched novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Kluger will have scholars rechecking what they thought they knew about Beethoven, and mystery lovers delighting in the deft plotting.

Season Of Verdi Reflects Lifelong Passion Of Conlon

INTERVIEW – American conductor James Conlon will lead 39 performances of the Italian composer’s works in 2018-19, reaching his 500th Verdi performance overall. He's not yet saying where that landmark performance will be.

Pulitzer Compass Key To Mapping American Music

TOKYO – At the recent institute on Music From Japan, I was asked to sum up musical trends in North America today. A brief survey of the last eight Pulitzer winners reveals a rich landscape: chaotic, diverse, experimental, many-faceted.

Archive Retrieves Golden Interviews With Studs Terkel

CHICAGO – When Louis "Studs" Terkel left WFMT in 1997 after 45 years on the air, he took more than 5,600 of his reel-to-reel tape chats with the A-list of culture at large. That treasury of incredible stories is getting new digital life.

Carnegie’s Season Of Glass Retraces Path Of A Master

NEW YORK - How times have changed for 81-year-old Philip Glass. An outsider spurned by the establishment in the early 1970s, the composer’s vast output and its impact were on display all season long at the epicenter of American music.
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