MCANA Hosted Columns

Members of the Music Critics Association of North America maintain their individual columns here

Farewell to the great Jim Hall

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West Yet another jazz giant is gone;  this time, it's the guitarist Jim Hall, who passed away...

The First Performance of a Britten Masterpiece, and is there a Sibelius Eighth?

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West Wouldn't it be a treat to be able to hear the actual first performance of a...

New Verdi Discs for his 200th birthday

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West Giuseppe Verdi turns 200 on Thursday Oct. 10 – and CD land is full of tributes...

Grant Llewellyn’s Decade with the N. C. Symphony – The Honeymoon Continues

By Roy C. Dicks: What's the Score?
An overview of music director Grant Llewellyn's past ten years with the North Carolina Symphony.

Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Voice Motet: sound as matter

By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!
A lone alto intones the opening notes, gradually joined by single voices emanating from nearby speakers, sound reverberating against the stone as the texture thickens. So begins Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff currently on offer in the Fuentaduña Chapel of the Cloisters in upper Manhattan.

Lenny’s Legacy

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West
Michael Tilson Thomas stopped by Hollywood Bowl recently to remind us – perhaps without meaning to – that one of Leonard Bernstein’s many legacies was the Mahler boom of the 1960s, which turned out to be permanent. Tilson Thomas, of course, has since gone on to become a world-class Mahlerian with no need to hang on to the coattails of Bernstein.

Tenor Jay Hunter Morris Says Long Haul Worth It

By Roy C. Dicks: What's the Score?
Texas-born tenor, Jay Hunter Morris, now in great demand, is thankful for those who believed in him during his two-decade journey to the top. One was Eric Mitchko, general director of N.C. Opera, who was Morris’ manager for several years and later hired him at the Atlanta Opera. Morris is repaying that faith by appearing in the company's concert of Wagner arias and excepts.

RIP the electronic wizard George Duke

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West
We should be getting used to the regular passing of our jazz heroes by now, but the death of George Duke Monday at the age of only 67 still comes as a devastating shock. He was still very much an active creative figure; only less than two months ago, he closed the first day of the Playboy Jazz Festival in Hollywood Bowl. Evidently he kept his struggle with leukemia to himself – always a pro putting his best face forward.

Goodbye, EMI Classics

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West
The reason why you won't see these logos anymore is that Universal – which sold off EMI's classical holdings in order to get permission to acquire the bulk of EMI – still owns the rights to these brand names.

All The Rites Of Spring You Can Hear

By Richard S. Ginell
On May 29, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring turns 100, and never in my memory has the centennial of a piece of music been so exhaustively commemorated with performances, festivals, symposiums, and recordings – including a massive box containing every recording in Universal’s Deutsche Grammophon/Decca/Philips stockpile.   With that in mind, I’d thought I’d share with you a survey of all the recordings of the Rite that I could lay my hands on.    

Back in Business — Hours TBD

By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!
Wagner's 200th birthday gala concert in Bayreuth was broadcast on the French-German ARTE TV network. After taking the stage will the orchestra want to return to the covered pit? Christian Thielemann led a crackling performance.

Road Trip, Part Two: John Adams Meets Beethoven, and vice-versa.

     Pulling out of Paso Robles on US 101, it was an unseasonably hot early May day, in the 90s at least.  But the further north I drove, the faster the temperature dropped – and a fine, cooling fog was rolling into San Francisco by the time I reached the city limits. The city is lucky to have such powerful air-conditioning – and it's free.       The following afternoon (May 5), it was off to Davies Symphony Hall to check out for myself the current parallel recording paths of

Road Trip, Part One: A Sonic Facelift in San Luis Obispo

     Now and then, these eyes, ears and feet get a little restless, so it was time to wander for awhile up the coast.  So I headed out of Frazier Park the afternoon of May 3, gliding over hill and dale on the lonely Cerro Noroeste Road to State Highway 166, which then goes more-or-less directly west through the Coast Range to US 101 just north of Santa Maria.       First stop was to drop in on a rehearsal of the San Luis Obispo Symphony, which over that weekend was graced by the company of the

Everest Strikes Again, Sightings of Quincy, and Other Matters

     At one time, it would have never occured to me that Everest was considered to be an audiophile label.  The Everest that I knew should have been called Neverest – a label that put out of some of the shoddiest, noisiest, tinny-sounding pressings in the classical record field, with bad "electronic" (fake) stereo disfiguring all mono issues.  You could find Everests polluting the budget bins of college bookstores or close-out emporiums – and I found myself passing up performances that I would

Brahms Requiem Becomes Impromptu Tribute to Robert Ward

By Roy C. Dicks: What's the Score?
A moving performance of Johannes Brahms’ “A German Requiem” by the N.C. Symphony and N.C. Master Chorale not only revealed the work’s warmth and beauty but also served as an unplanned but fitting tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Robert Ward, who died April 3 at age 95. Ward came to North Carolina in 1967 to head the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and later taught for a decade at Duke University in Durham, NC, the city where he continued to reside until his death.

Lutoslawski and Bach from Los Angeles

     Esa-Pekka Salonen's set of the four Lutoslawski symphonies with the Los Angeles Philharmonic – now out at last in the U.S.  –  stands as one of the longest-gestating recorded cycles in the catalogue, spanning several technologies.  To give you some perspective, when the cycle began with the Symphony No. 3 in 1984, a public Internet was still a pipe dream, Lutoslawski was still alive, the Fourth Symphony had yet to be written, Salonen had just made his North American debut with the

Adams’ Gospel, version 2.0 – and finally, a Dudamel/LA Phil CD

    As I write this, Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic are leaving for Europe, bringing along an unusually massive calling card – John Adams's The Gospel According to the Other Mary in its current, semi-staged form.       On one level, this proves that Dudamel is eager to have it both ways, comfortable with his celebrity status yet willing to take risks, refusing to play it safe with predictable popular repertoire (as in the example of the late Van Cliburn).  Also,

Van Cliburn – A Hero For Another Time

     When Van Cliburn left this planet today, he left a much-different world than the one in which he shot to fame some 55 long years ago.      There was a Cold War going on, Sputnik had been launched, and America needed a lift. The country was ready for someone, anyone, who could wrestle the Russian bear to the ground in one field or another.  Not only that, classical music had a more prominent place in the mass culture than it does now.  TIME Magazine regularly covered classical music news, even

Somewhat Off-the-Beaten-Concert-Track Dept.

    Usually, this blogger has enough on his plate running from the hi-fi and the flat screen TV to live concerts and back again.  But over the past week, there was a string of interesting music events that were not public concerts per se, so I thought it would be diverting to take them in.       First, the young, pretty, heavily-promoted Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti dropped into Los Angeles last week to make her US television debut on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (nice to

The Perfect American – Walt Disney as Megalomaniac.

     I've been watching a live telecast on the computer today from Madrid – courtesy of, the invaluable C-SPAN of classical music – of Philip Glass's new opera The Perfect American, which has placed his name temporarily front and center in the mass media.  Mind you, this isn't because it is a Glass opera. Rather, it is because it is an opera about Walt Disney – and not a flattering one.     Throughout the opera's 104 minutes, we see the buccaneering,
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