The new Maria Schneider album came to me on the day that Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai appeared before the US Congress to answer questions about their impact: pure data lords. The title of the new album ‘Data Lords' is also about the impact that such companies are having not just on the US but on the rest of the world. The album is a major undertaking. Maria Schneider is acutely aware of the effect that the digital world has on creativity. She feels that the digital world reduces our own inner space, reduces creativity. Schneider writes: ‘I can't imagine I'm alone in often feeling desperate to get away from every device bombarding me with endless chatter, endless things –endless demands. Shutting it all down and encountering space and silence, I easily find myself again drawn to nature, people, silence, books, poetry, art, the earth and sky.' In some ways that is a summary of the album.
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New York Public Radio (NYPR), home of WNYC, Gothamist, WNYC Studios, WQXR, and The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, announced today that Edward Yim has been named Chief Content Officer for WQXR, New York City's classical music station. His appointment will take effect on September 28th.
In this role, Yim will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategic vision that helps WQXR reach a broader, more inclusive audience, drives digital innovation, bolsters WQXR's role in New York City's arts and culture ecosystem, and increases WQXR's relevance and service to the city's communities. Collaborating with teams across NYPR, Yim will oversee all of WQXR's programming and operations, from live broadcasts, podcasts, and digital content, to strategic partnerships, events and community engagement. He will also be responsible for managing the station's operating budget, and fundraising across NYPR's diversified revenue base of members, donors and sponsors. Yim will report to NYPR President and CEO Goli Sheikholeslami.
Yim brings to WQXR over two decades of experience at several of the country's premier music institutions, including American Composers Orchestra (ACO), where he has served as President and CEO since 2017. There, he led the organization's strategic planning, staff and fundraising while working closely with the artistic leadership to create the organization's profile and activity. During his tenure, ACO pursued its mission to perform, promote, celebrate, and commission music by American composers -- with particular focus on women, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming artists, Black and Latinx artists, and immigrant artists -- and championed works that challenged the notion of a core repertoire. Prior to ACO, Yim held senior positions at several of the nation's most significant music institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, IMG Artists, and The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
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It is hard to imagine a more energentic ambassador for the classical guitar than Sharon Isbin. With more than 30 albums to her credit, Isbin has made waves in the music world not only by premiering important works for the instrument but by seeking out cross-genre collaborations with such musicians as Steve Vai, Thaigo de Mello, Joan Baez, and many others.
Now as the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzes live music everywhere, Ms. Isbin has released two albums highlighting the possibilities of collaboration across national boundaries and genres. On August 4th she discussed the recordings and her career with Peter Haney of WORT's Back Porch Serenade.
In "Affinity," Isbin revisits concert favorites and debuts new works written for her by noted contemporary composers from three continents. These include Chris Burbeck's jazz-influenced concerto "Affinity," the album's title track, which Isbin performed in Madison with the Madison Sympohony Orchestra in 2017. In a second release titled "Strings for Peace," Isbin makes her first foray into Indian classical music, playing compositions in the Hindustani tradition by the noted Sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan, together with the composer and his sons, who are also masters of the instrument. This release follows a successful tour of India that Isbin undertook with Khan in 2019.
Together, the two releases call for cooperation across boundaries of nation and faith at a time of increasing world tension and division. Although Sharon Isbin is not currently touring live, she did participate in the 2020 Colorado Music Festival, and the virtual concert, recorded in her living room, is still available for free viewing (registration required). Isbin hopes that these two new releases and her virtual performances will provide comfort to music lovers as everyone continues to struggle with restrictions on concerts due to the ongoing public health crisis.
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The American composer John Finbury writes his music thinking of whole America, Brazil and all South American countries. His music is interpreted by singer Magos Herrera on four of the seven songs, Chano Dominguez on piano, John Patitucci on double bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. The production is by Emilio D. Miller. The music was recorded in two sessions in New York in 2019, before the virus changed everything. As always, for his part, the music is fascinating and the songs are a continuous change of South American rhythms coming from the various traditions of the continent. Everything is perfect in production, there is very little to complain about, the record is a perfect meeting between producer, composer and musicians. Salón Jardínhe is in a trio, with the pianist taking the applause for how he manages to interpret a bolero rhythm in such a sensual way, but to underline it is also the solo of John Patitucci who transforms his bulky instrument into a kind of guitar.
The lyrics are singer in Spanish and English with the sensual and sometimes dramatic voice of
Magos Herrera , as on All The Way To The End . Great album, a very high level production in the genre.
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Uncertainties have rocked the start of 2020, crushing promises of live concerts at venues and festivals. But today's artists aren't letting these aftershocks pause the show. The start of the new decade was blessed with so many fresh albums in various genres. While reality seems to grow more chaotic by the minute, these new releases are perfect for those who want to temporarily escape from the real world through retro-pop tracks and trancy synth beats blasting in their ears. Stacker created a list of the best 50 albums of the year so far, collecting data on top albums of 2020 from Metacritic. Each album is ranked according to its Metascore as of June 23, 2020, with ties being broken by the number of reviews.
#35. 'We Are Sent Here by History' by Shabaka & the Ancestors
- Metascore: 84
- Release date: March 13, 2020
Shabaka & the Ancestors are a contemporary jazz outfit brought together by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. "We Are Sent Here by History" melds saxophone, trumpet, drums, percussion, bass, and piano notes to evoke images of South Africa's traditions and culture.
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Chris Brubeck's Concerto for guitar and orchestra Affinity is a single-movement work in three sections: the first bright, jazzy and energetic; the second, based on a melody by his father, jazz great Dave Brubeck, mellow and Chopin-haunted; the third a whirling percussive dance infused with foot-tapping Brazilian and Middle Eastern vibes. Though Rodrigo isn't far away, either. Ably accompanied by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra under Elizabeth Schulze, Isbin gives a sparkling, virtuoso account that neatly underscores Brubeck's bountiful musical syncretism, while revealing a wider vista with smaller peaks and valleys visible in the distance.
Though smaller in scale, Brouwer's colourful El Decamerón Negro for solo guitar also boasts three sections but its romantic tale of love and war achieves its intensity through intimacy, Isbin relishing the sweeping scales and arpeggios, the toccata-like textures and the programmatic elements. After a delightful interlude in the form of a duet version, arranged by and performed with Isbin's former student Colin Davin, of Lauro's popular Waltz No 3, Isbin returns to the subject of love with Tan Dun's extraordinary Seven Desires, a surreal courting ritual between flamenco guitar and pipa, and Richard Danielpour's three Rumi settings for voice and guitar, Of Love and Longing, in which she is joined by the soprano Isabel Leonard. Thanks in large part to Leonard's clear diction and languid phrasing, we're suddenly made aware that a more transcendent, spiritual love was with us on the journey all along.
‘Affinity' by name, affinity by nature, Sharon Isbin's terrific latest recording evinces a wonderful talent for making fully hers what was written for her, regardless of style.
No doubt, you've heard some new music in rotation lately on KXPR - music that seemingly stands a bit outside of what you are used to hearing on the classical station. There's no question that the standard European repertory that we've come to associate with classical music is important. The music is beautiful, powerful, and well, classic. But there's a whole world of amazing and unique classical music either rarely presented or being created right now across the globe. On KXPR, we want to bring you examples of the diverse face of classical music today. Among our few examples of the broad classical music reach we're spinning, from Manhattan (New York OR Kansas) to Mumbai is....Amjad Ali Khan - "Love Avalanche" - Performed by Sharon Isbin.
Guitarist Sharon Isbin has been incredibly busy of late. One of her three albums released within the last year is called "String for Peace."
The record is Isbin's first foray into the intriguing sounds of Indian classical music. It's not always easy to separate classical music from its traditional European roots. But when I listen to the music of Amjad Ali Khan, I am reminded that there is so much more out there.
Isbin and Ali Khan have been working on making this collaboration happen for nearly a decade. Isbin's guitar is paired with traditional Indian instruments including the sarod, played by Amjad and sons, and the tabla. Ali Khan says of the collaboration, "The idea is to achieve a cross-fertilization at both the cellular and cosmic levels of two classical music traditions, which are often held to be radically different."
You can hear more about the recording on a recent episode of New Classical Tracks from Minnesota Public Radio.
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The first-time teaming of Poland's dynamic Marcin Wasilewski Trio and big-toned US tenorist Joe Lovano brings forth special music of concentrated, deep feeling, in which lyricism and strength seem ideally balanced.
Sony Music Masterworks today releases Not Our First Goat Rodeo, the long-awaited follow-up album to the GRAMMY Award-winning The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile.
Blues Hall of Famer Bettye LaVette has decided to release her stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" ahead of schedule as it says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today.
Milan Records announces the Friday, August 21 release of I Am Woman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), an album of music from the biographical film surrounding Australian singer Helen Reddy as performed by Chelsea Cullen.
Praised by The Washington Post for playing with "an easy warmth, drawing the orchestra after him like a halo around a candle flame," cellist Kian Soltani follows his DG debut album, Home, with a Dvořák album centered on the famous cello concerto.
Outside England, the music of Elgar (1857-1934) still has a crusty, flag-waving reputation, despite the efforts of musicologists and the advocacy of musicians. But over the past eight years, Mr. Barenboim, 77, and his Staatskapelle Berlin have released accounts of Elgar's two symphonies, the oratorio "The Dream of Gerontius" and the Cello Concerto, with Alisa Weilerstein.
It's a connection of long standing: Mr. Barenboim's first wife, the cellist Jacqueline du Pré, collaborated with the conductor John Barbirolli on a classic recording of the Cello Concerto in 1965, and she and Barbirolli in turn inspired the young Argentine-born Mr. Barenboim to learn and record much of Elgar's work with the London Philharmonic.
A fifth album in the Berlin cycle is coming out on Friday, featuring "Sea Pictures" (five songs, sung by Elina Garanca) and "Falstaff," an ambitious, often rambunctious symphonic poem. Mr. Barenboim, whose contract with the Staatskapelle and the Berlin State Opera was extended last year amid accusations of bullying, spoke by phone from Spain about Elgar and his music. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Why do you love this music so much?
It's a difficult question to answer, because one has to admit that, historically, Elgar is not so important. If Elgar had not come through this earth, the development of music would have been the same. One also has to forget that he was somewhat anachronistic, when you think what else was being written at the time - Schoenberg, Stravinsky, etc.
The music of Elgar (1857-1934) still has a crusty, flag-waving reputation, despite the efforts of musicologists and the advocacy of musicians.Credit...Central Press/Getty Images
But there is a unique quality in his music which appeals to me tremendously: something emotional, in the best sense of the word. Not outward, but something very, very deep and sincere, which has to do, I suppose, with the modulations - with the harmonic language, which is unlike that of many other composers. The closest is Strauss.
Should we then think of Elgar not as a radical, like Schoenberg or Stravinsky, but as a progressive, like Strauss or Mahler?
I think so. "Falstaff" is a special work in Elgar's output. It has things that connect it to his symphonies, but if the symphonies are close to Strauss's "Don Juan" and "Ein Heldenleben," "Falstaff" is close to "Till Eulenspiegel."
Even in England, "Falstaff" is not that often played compared with some of Elgar's works, and if music lovers know the "Falstaff" story, it's primarily through Verdi.
Verdi, of course. But you know, I take very slight objection to the fact that Elgar's nationality is always mentioned in relation to his music, as if it was not to be expected that one could be English and be a great composer. Nobody talks about the nationality of other composers as much as they talk about Elgar being English; of course, there is a certain Englishness about it, but it's not the most important element.
What is the most important element?
The harmonic language, the orchestration, is remarkable, if the conductor balances the orchestra properly and the orchestra has familiarity with the music, which is very rarely the case, because Elgar is not played that often. The English saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is totally out of place; we forget that orchestras and publics alike need familiarity with music in order to love it.
One of the things that you seem to be saying is that Elgar was part of a European - not just an English - tradition.
This is a very dangerous statement you are making now in view of Brexit, of course. I think he is very much a European composer, don't you?
Absolutely. Wasn't that the point you were trying to make when you played his "Land of Hope and Glory" at the BBC Proms with the Staatskapelle, the year after the Brexit vote?
"Land of Hope and Glory" at the Proms had nothing to do with a political thing; it was totally misinterpreted. We played both symphonies at the Proms, and I wanted to show that you don't have to be English to play this music well.
I am a firm believer in the European idea, and I am a firm believer that a lot of the problem with the European Union is that many people forget that it was not only a financial or economic idea. Let us not forget that whether it is France, Germany, Italy, England or Spain, culture is the greatest contribution, historically, of the continent. It is a different contribution from the other continents, and therefore culture - European culture - is a very important point for today's world, too.
That raises the issue that Elgar is usually thought of as a quintessentially English composer because of his association with the British Empire.
Yes, but do you think that Elgar's connection to the English part of it is more important than, shall we say, Debussy's to France? No.
But as someone who loves Elgar's music, I still have trouble with it historically, as I love and still have trouble with Wagner's music.
Yes, but your problem with Wagner's music, I imagine, has to do with his profile as a person, as a human being, which is not the case with Elgar.
Elgar still wrote works like "The Crown of India" and the "Imperial March," though. So how do you think about performing him today, during a global reckoning with racism, slavery and empire? Should we ignore that part of Elgar? Should we confront it?
No, I think we have to place it in context. Let's be a little bit more neutral in our remarks. We realized a long time ago that slavery was a horrific thing, and we did away with it, but at the time that it was there, it was there. The English Empire quality is only a part of some moments of Elgar's pieces. Let's not dwell on the "Pomp and Circumstance Marches," because that's a "pièce d'occasion," like the ballet in "Aida," but in the serious works - "The Dream of Gerontius," the symphonies, "Falstaff," the Cello Concerto, the "Sea Pictures" - that element is only a part of it.
So we can play him today by accepting that part and moving on? Is that what you are saying?
Yes, I don't think we have to play Elgar and pay special attention, as it were, not to forget that there was a British Empire and that that was the expression of it. That is part of the whole.
Are there particular moments of "Falstaff" that you think show Elgar at his best?
The interlude in the center, the small interlude with the violin solo, is very touching, because it is juxtaposed against very rhythmical, boisterous music. And of course the end. Falstaff's death is an absolute masterpiece of composition.
Elgar had a gift for endings, like the end of the Second Symphony.
Yes, and they are very difficult to conduct. If you look at the score of the end of "Falstaff," it is so constructed - I wouldn't say calculated, because that smells of something not natural. Then, when it's finished, it's finished; it doesn't end on a sentimental note. He dies, and then there is a very little coda, which seems to say death is part of life. And that's it.
PHOTO Credit...Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images
Daniel Barenboim and Decca Classics continue their acclaimed Elgar series, recording Sea Pictures again after four decades and paired with the symphonic poem Falstaff. Recorded live in the winter of 2019, the album features the Staatskapelle Berlin and mezzo Elīna Garanča in her first recording of Sea Pictures.
The first orchestral recording from Berlin's Pierre Boulez Saal, Brahms: The Symphonies is a four-CD set featuring Boulez' beloved friend Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin in all four symphonic masterpieces from the great Romantic composer.
One of the most important artists of our time, Daniel Barenboim releases a collection of beloved Debussy pieces in time for the French composer's centenary, including Estampes, Suite bergamasque and Preludes, L.117.
Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin Record Elgar's Symphony no. 1 for Decca. For their second album featuring the music of Edward Elgar, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin have recorded the composer's first symphony, following a recording of his second symphony two years ago. "I hold that the symphony without a program is the highest development of art." With these words, spoken in a University of Birmingham lecture in 1905, Elgar declared himself as belonging to the Brahmsian tradition of the abstract symphony, already thought moribund by many, rather than allying himself with Richard Strauss, the modern master of the symphonic poem.
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