Author: Mike Rush

Minnesota Orchestra’s free concerts in response to police violence, and remembering George Floyd

The Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä will perform concerts on May 14 and 28 in response to the turbulence in Minneapolis and around the world, particularly with regard to issues of racial equity and police violence against Black Americans. Both concerts will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS and Minnesota Public Radio, and streamed live for free at The May 14 concert will feature Yaz Lancaster’s dis[armed], which reflects on gun violence and is scored for percussion duo with fixed track and interludes; the concert also will include Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Penderecki’s Chaconne in Memory of John Paul II, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”). The May 28 program—performed three days after the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer—will feature Carlos Simon’s string quartet “An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave,” and will be performed in memory of Floyd and other victims of racial violence. The program also will include Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Joseph Bologne’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 3, No. 1, with soloist Karen Gomyo, and the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Following the live-stream and broadcast, the May concerts will be available free on demand at

Multi-genre composer Nicholas Britell, from “Moonlight” to “The Underground Railroad”

“ ‘The Underground Railroad’—a 10-part series, based on the novel by Colson Whitehead, that debuts on Amazon this month … is [composer Nicholas] Britell’s first television collaboration with [director Barry] Jenkins, and his compositions for it are less a single score than 10 intersecting, fully realized musical universes,” writes Jamie Fisher in Thursday’s (5/6) New York Times. “You have almost certainly heard Britell’s music, even if you don’t know his name…. You may have seen ‘The Big Short’ (2015)…. Or maybe ‘Moonlight’ (2016), narrated by a violin-and-piano theme that matures with the protagonist…. Britell also scored HBO’s ‘Succession.’ … Consider what movies sounded like in their earliest years: the swashbucklers that Erich Korngold scored in the 1930s, or Max Steiner’s lush ‘Casablanca,’ or the sweeping historical epics…. Britell’s most arresting scores tend to fuse both ends of his musical education…. ‘Moonlight’ chops and screws a classical piano-and-violin duet as if it’s a Three 6 Mafia track.” Film-music historian Jon Burlingame says most composers “have found it impossible to incorporate such modern musical forms as hip-hop into dramatic underscore for films. When Nick did it in ‘Moonlight,’ I was frankly stunned. I didn’t think it was possible.”

Baltimore Symphony’s Camille Delaney-McNeil tapped as director of LA Phil’s new YOLA Center at Inglewood

“Camille Delaney-McNeil, director of programs for the Baltimore Symphony’s much admired OrchKids, is to be the inaugural director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s new Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood,” writes Susan Elliott in Friday’s (5/7) Musical America (subscription required). “The 25,000-square foot, $15 million facility … opens August 1 and welcomes its first students in the fall. It is the first building fully dedicated to the 14-year-old YOLA program and the fifth YOLA site, drawing students from Inglewood and environs. The other four sites are in South LA, the Rampart District, Westlake/MacArthur Park, and East LA. Delaney-McNeil is to oversee them all, as well as the YOLA National Symposium and Festival. She starts June 28…. YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles) is modelled after El Sistema, of which the LA Phil’s Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel has long been the official the poster child…. Trained as a singer and a flutist, Delaney-McNeil holds a BM from the University of Maryland, College Park, and an MM from the Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University. She is a graduate of the inaugural SphinxLEAD, a leadership development program of the much-admired Sphinx Organization.”

Knoxville Symphony to perform free outdoor concerts, May 15-22

“The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will take its show on the road this month, performing free concerts in Athens, Maryville, and Morristown,” reads an unsigned article in Monday’s (5/10) WBIR-TV (Knoxville, TN). “The shows will be the KSO’s first fully public performances since March 2020 and will feature the KSO brass and percussion sections. The playlist will include familiar selections such as Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars’ from The Planets, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ and American classics like ‘When the Saints.’ ‘The KSO strives to serve the entire East Tennessee region with live orchestral performances,’ said Jennifer Harrell, the KSO Director of Education and Community Partnerships. ‘We have missed visiting communities with whom we have established partnerships. We are looking forward to these outdoor performances of live music and especially excited to feature our brass and percussion musicians of the KSO!’ No tickets are required for the free performances. Social distancing and mask are encouraged.” Concerts are scheduled for Theatre in the Park in Maryville (May 15), Athens Market Pavilion (May 16), and Citizen Tribune/Jefferson Federal Amphitheatre at Cherokee Park in Morristown (May 22).

Tulsa Symphony and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to perform Marsalis’s “All Rise” to mark 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

“Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will join the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Festival Chorus to perform Marsalis’ epic work, ‘All Rise’ [on] June 6 at the BOK Center, to commemorate the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre,” writes James D. Watts Jr. in Saturday’s (5/8) Tulsa World (OK). “This will be the first concert event the BOK Center has hosted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic … Guest conductor David Robertson will conduct … with the chorus under the leadership of Damien L. Sneed. ‘All Rise’ is the first work Marsalis composed on a symphonic scale. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, which premiered the massive, 12-movement work in December 1999…. ‘All Rise’ makes use of a cornucopia of musical idioms, including American blues, Argentine tango … New Orleans parade music, ancient African chant, 20th century symphonic modernism, and rural Southern dance forms…. Phil Armstrong, project director of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which is co-sponsoring this event, said, … ‘Processing tragedy and trauma is complex. For me, music has always been an emotional outlet, and I hope this experience provides just that to Tulsans during this important week of remembrance, resilience and hope.’ ”

CIM selects Carlos Kalmar to lead orchestral and conducting programs

“On Monday, the Cleveland Institute of Music announced the appointment of Carlos Kalmar as principal conductor and director of orchestral and conducting programs,” writes Zachary Lewis in Monday’s (5/10) Plain Dealer (Cleveland). “The selection ends a three-year search for a successor to Carl Topilow, who stepped down in 2018 after 37 years…. Kalmar, whose duties as a designate commence in July … has served since 2000 as artistic director and principal conductor of [Chicago’s] Grant Park Music Festival…. He also spent 18 years as music director of the highly regarded Oregon Symphony…. He said his intent is to be a partner, to leverage the talent of his faculty peers—many of whom are members of the Cleveland Orchestra—and develop a program that becomes the ‘gold standard’ of orchestral training…. With [president and CEO Paul] Hogle’s contract recently extended to 2028, the school is actively pursuing a vision of a smaller, more selective institution…. The conductor said he plans to settle in the area soon … and play an active, prominent role in the musical life of Northeast Ohio.” Said Kalmar, “I want to be part of this community and get to know people.”

Milwaukee Symphony announces 2021-22 season, its first in newly renovated hall

Interior of the renovated Bradley Symphony Center, a former movie palace that is home to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra “is planning for full houses in the recently renovated and still-sparkling Bradley Symphony Center” writes Jim Higgins in a preview of the orchestra’s 2021-22 season in Friday’s (5/7) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI). “The MSO plans a free community day of music on Sept. 26 [and] the return of guest stars [including] cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who will play a recital April 29, 2022, with pianist Kathryn Stott. The Bradley Symphony Center opened in 1931 as a movie palace [and] music director Ken-David Masur has programmed several concerts featuring music of the 1930s…. Pianist Aaron Diehl … will be an official artistic partner … in 2021-’22.… In a consortium with eight other orchestras, the MSO has commissioned a new piano concerto by Jessie Montgomery, which pianist Awadagin Pratt will perform here… Masur will conduct the orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony Chorus in a staged adaptation of Edvard Grieg’s music for [Ibsen’s play] ‘Peer Gynt.’ … Masur will lead an unusual Pops program … featuring music associated with Prohibition, including Josephine Baker, Kurt Weill and King Oliver. The staging will include projected visual imagery.… Masur, orchestra and chorus will close the next classical season with Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 9.”

New recordings, May 2021

Among the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s recent releases is Elliott Carter: Ballets, featuring The Minotaur and the world premiere of Carter’s original Pocahontas ballet score. The Buffalo Philharmonic’s recent Naxos recording of works by French composer Florent Schmitt led by Music Director JoAnn Falletta has received the Diapson d’Or award, given by the reviewers of France’s Diapason Magazine; the recording includes the symphonic poem La Tragédie de Salomé, Oriane et le Prince d’Amour Suite, Musique sur l’eau with mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, and Légende in the version for violin and orchestra, with BPO Concertmaster Nikki Chooi. The Chamber Orchestra of New York’s performances of works by its music director, Salvatore Di Vittorio, have been released on Naxos Records; the recording includes Di Vittorio’s Symphony No. 4 (“Metamorphoses”) with Concertmaster Kelly Hall-Tompkins as soloist. Violinist Gil Shaham and The Knights ensemble are featured in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Brahms’s Violin Concerto on a new Canary Classics album. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Principal Clarinet, Joshua Ranz, has released an album of his own arrangements for bass clarinet of three Bach cello suites, on the Navona Records label. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s February 2020 performances of Charles Ives’s four symphonies at Walt Disney Concert Hall are featured on a new Deutsche Grammophon album. The Minnesota Orchestra has released the seventh installment of its Mahler symphony series on the BIS label, with the Tenth Symphony (completion by Deryck Cooke) conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in June 2019. The Seattle-based Northwest Sinfonia has released a recording of Canadian composer Christopher Tyler Nickel’s Symphony No. 2, led by Clyde Mitchell. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Manfred Honeck have released a new recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, on the Reference Recordings label, with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and vocal soloists.

In June, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax will release Hope Amid Tears, a new recording of Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano, on Sony Classical. Violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Alexey Botvinov have released an album of works by Alfred Schnittke, Schnittke—Works for Violin and Piano, on Deutsche Grammophon. Trumpeter and composer Nate Wooley has released Mutual Aid Music, a two-CD and digital album featuring eight newly composed concertos; in addition to Wooley, musicians include saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, vibraphonist Matt Moran, pianists Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe, violinist Joshua Modney, cellist Mariel Roberts, and percussionist Russell Greenberg. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s recording of Richard Danielpour’s An American Mosaic, a set of fifteen miniatures commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival commemorating segments of the American population affected by the pandemic, has been released on Supertrain Records. Steinway & Sons has released Simple Music, a recording of 33 miniatures from music for stage and screen by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, performed by pianist Jenny Lin and accordionist Guy Klucevsek.

What it’s like to take in a virtual-reality opera

“I’m standing in the small space that is hosting the world’s first ever virtual reality opera,” writes Stuart Jeffries in Tuesday’s (4/5) Guardian (U.K.). “I have a headset, headphones and a backpack. The Royal Opera House is calling this the opera Tardis; to me it seems more like a walk-through art installation with bespoke soundtrack. Whatever this is, it isn’t opera as we know it…. Only four people can enter the opera … at one time … A variety of effects are transmitted to our headsets by unseen technicians via the computers in our backpacks…. The strings of the seven-piece Chroma ensemble accompany [soprano Anna] Dennis, who is singing a hummable, overdubbed canon with herself. Samantha Fernando’s music (with words by Melanie Wilson) is piped into our headsets throughout the entire 15-minute experience…. Current, Rising is brief but so much is packed into it that it feels rather overwhelming…. Singer and musicians don’t lead the action as opera usually would, and very nearly become ancillary to an experience that is multi-sensory but overwhelmingly visual…. What is most radical about Current, Rising is not the technology but how the creative process has been flipped.”

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to give in-person concerts starting this fall

“October 19 marks the opening of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 2021-22 season, with Alice Tully Hall welcoming audiences back after 18 months,” writes Susan Elliott in Wednesday’s (4/5) Musical America (subscription required). “The 52-year-old CMS will make up for losses during to the pandemic, both of wages to its artists and of programs to its public…. Artists whose concerts were postponed last season received 50 percent of their fees at the time. Rescheduled to this season, those concerts will pay those same artists 75 percent of their full fee, for a total of 125 percent. Programs lost to Covid-19 include, among others, the conclusion of the Society’s ‘Milestones’ series, now part of the group’s Winter Festival, which runs February 4-March 29 and includes” works by Schoenberg, Messiaen, and Shostakovich. “Scheduled across the Tully Hall season are 94 works in 30 concerts, with the Society’s typically active touring schedule to be announced as post-pandemic guidelines dictate…. Over the last 18 months, apart from maintaining contact with its own audiences through online and occasional outdoor performances, CMS also partnered with more than 60 North American chamber music presenters to offer archived material.”