MCANA Hosted Columns

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

Recordings from California that matter

     California's leading musical organizations have been very active releasing recordings this past fall and winter – and yes, I've been listening and watching, though apparently not writing fast enough.  So here is an attempt to catch up with what's new.      In 2011, Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony revisited Philip Glass's eloquent oratorio The Passion of Ramakrishna – a piece that they unveiled during the opening concerts for Renée and Henry

Glenn Gould – Still Iconic After All These Years

     Every few years or so, there is a new eruption of Gouldiana, celebrating and recirculating the strange, visionary, and amazingly durable legacy of Glenn Gould.  The Canadian iconoclast would have been 80 on Sep. 25 – and oh, how he would have enjoyed today's technology, with the Internet to hide behind and play with, tweeting endlessly to his heart's and mind's delight, making those wee-hours phone calls via Skype. Today's advanced digital editing techniques would have given him even more

Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

      As I was driving home from the doctor's office late this morning, I turned on the jazz station and heard the last strains of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk."  Immediately, a feeling of dread arose from somewhere around the solar plexus, although I knew that his 92nd birthday was coming up soon and perhaps this was a preliminary salute.  There was no back announcement, no sign that anything was up, and the station immediately segued into Lee Ritenour imitating Wes Montgomery, so I

100 years of Woody Herman and Witold Lutoslawski

     There have been a lot of round-numbered birthdays this year, and there will be no letup next year – what with Verdi, Britten, Wagner and Lutoslawski coming up fast.  And not just in so-called classical music, for Woody Herman would have been 100 next year as well. Yet he somehow doesn't seem like a historical figure, for he kept his big bands refreshingly up to date over the decades, even attempting a rapproachment with components of rock before heading back to the mainstream in his last band.

N.C. Symphony Has Fine 2012 Fall Season

By Roy C. Dicks: What's the Score?
The North Carolina Symphony began its 80th season in Raleigh, NC, in September 2012. I attended three out of its six Classical Series concerts in Raleigh between September and December. Overall, the concerts were satisfyingly consistent and engaging, with intriguing repertory that belied any dumbing down or popularizing of the classical series.

A Portrait of Georg Solti on his Centennial

By Richard S. Ginell
It used to be said that among the living conductors in the 1980s, the three that were at the summit of the profession were Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Sir Georg Solti. They departed one by one – Karajan in 1989, Bernstein in 1990, and Solti supposedly had the mountaintop all to himself until his unexpected death in 1997.  It was unexpected because even at 84, Solti seemed like an inexhaustible ball of energy; no one could imagine him being ill. And then when he died, few noticed because it

Another Stab at Popularizing Classical Music — French Style

By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!
Once again French TV stupifies. Tuesday night 2 1/2 hours of prime time on the major French network channel France 2 were devoted to La Grande Battle, a "reality" competition to choose the best interpreter of a theme from classical music. Nagui, the game and genial MC, clearly not a classical music lover, managed three panelists, including tenor Rolando Villazon, an orchestra of young conservatory grads lead by a cute female conductor , a genial co-host who provided music appreciation

Gergiev’s Gripping Shostakovich in Chapel Hill

By Roy C. Dicks: What's the Score?
On October 30, 2012, Carolina Performing Arts presented the Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, in the second of two back-to-back concerts. The orchestra and the conductor again upheld their well-deserved stature in an all-Russian program.

Sightings of Henze and Elvis

    I just missed seeing Hans Werner Henze by two days.       Had I visited Leipzig on a Saturday rather than the following Monday on my trip to eastern Germany this past May, I could have caught a glimpse of the venerated German composer, who died Oct. 27 at 86, receiving well-wishers in J.S. Bach's own church, the Thomaskirche. I know this because Donald Rosenberg, the president of the Music Critics Association of North America, made the trek to Leipzig that Saturday afternoon, although he wasn't sure

Georg Solti on his Centennial

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West
Among living conductors in the 1980s, the three said to be at the summit were Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Sir Georg Solti. They departed one by one...

If You Build It, Will They Come?

By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!
Valery Gergiev certainly believes so. In a move to expand audience capacity and enhance the appeal of St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky Theater is set to open its new opera house just six months from now. The new theater, across the canal from the existing 19th century house, will double the seating capacity for opera and ballet while further increasing capacity with its expanded behind-the-scenes facilities. Not halfway through Naomi Lewin's interview with Maestro Gergiev, everyone in the room was plotting how to swing a

Gustavo’s Symphony Of More Than A Thousand comes to DVD

     Gustavo Dudamel's Mahler Project earlier this year is now in the history books, but it hasn't disappeared from view, nor will it.  The first permanent artifact from that audacious, bicontinental adventure has emerged, a Deutsche Grammophon DVD (and Blu-ray) release containing the Mahler Eighth Symphony performance from Caracas on Feb. 18 (the Ninth Symphony was recorded in Los Angeles by DG for iTunes, but hasn't been released yet – tentatively delayed until next year). This was the performance

Bayreuth for Beginners III: Where Are the Spear-Toting Ladies in Helmets?

You're not going to see anything like a traditional production on the Green Hill. On the contrary, the Festspiel has a reputation for hiring the most forward-looking stage directors in the business. In a mini press conference with critics during the second intermission of Sebastien Baumgarten's controversial Tannhaüser, Eva Wagner-Pasquier declared, "We should be an example for the world in the interpretation. Of course, tradition is very good, but if you say a ‘new tradition’ it has to be

Plenty of Penderecki

     Some have written that Naxos's brave, long-term project of recording all of Krzysztof Penderecki's orchestral and choral works has been going mostly under the radar amidst the blizzard of Naxos releases every month.  Now there is one quick way in which to start catching up.  All of the completed Penderecki symphonies have been gathered together in a discount-priced five-CD boxed set, led with eloquence and bite by Naxos's main man in Poland, Antony Wit. Since starting the cycle way back in 1998,

Intermezzo: Le Poeme Harmonique at Miller Theater, September 14

  Baroque music performed by candlelight sounds better than it looks: that is, the idea is more imaginative than practical, and the musical experience is likely to be more alluring than the visual. Case in point: when I saw Cavalli's Egisto at the Opéra Comique in Paris last January, I wanted to run down from my perch in the front row of the third balcony seat and demand of Vincent Dumestre exactly what he was thinking, staging an opera in a 1250-seat house and lighting the stage only with candles? Even

Popularizing Classical Music – French Style

Once again French TV stupifies. Tuesday night 2 1/2 hours of prime time on the major French network channel France 2 were devoted to La Grande Battle, a "reality" competition to choose the best interpreter of a theme from classical music.

The Music In Politics 101

    While watching Barack Obama and Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic Convention last week, it occured to me that the difference between the two presidents' speaking styles can be explained in terms of musical ensembles.     In the case of Obama, I think of a symphony orchestra led by an inspired conductor – a large diverse organization that reads the notes right off the printed page (as Obama reads a teleprompter), but now and then manages to harness the rhythm, flow, melodic content and meaning of the

HEAR NOW festival

      If it didn't happen in New York, it didn't happen – so some of our East Coast brethren seem to say. Indeed, they still trot out the epithet "Hollywood" to dismiss and denigrate a lot of things that come from here. To this day, much interesting musicmaking From Out Of The West goes not only under the national radar, but locally as well as publishing outlets become fewer and fewer, and blogs like this one try to fill in some of the gaps.      Well, here's one gap

From Dresden to Leipzig and Back Again: Opera in Saxony

By Richard S. Ginell
The distance between Dresden and Leipzig is only 62 miles, and to see one city without visiting the other would seem to be an opportunity missed if you have the time.

The Forgotten Leinsdorf Centenary

By Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West This has been a year of centenaries for a number of 20th-century podium giants born in 1912 – Solti, Sanderling, Markevitch, Celibidache – all of whom still have their fame, or at least a cult. Yet a fifth, Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993), remains in a curious state of limbo, not exactly reviled but not particularly loved. One wonders why.
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