Posted inEssay

Strange Dissonance

Goethe’s “Erlkönig” is one of the most horrifying poems in all of world literature. At its center is an unspeakable tragedy, the death of a child. Also shocking is the language of the poem: it omits any description of the boy’s suffering. The very objectivity of Goethe’s language is chilling. In Schubert’s setting of “Erlkönig,” […]

Posted inInterview

Decades

I studied composition with Georg Friedrich Haas in Basel from 2011-2013, his last years there before his move to New York City, where he teaches at Columbia University. In my Master’s recital, a musician showed late and an instrument I built broke, and I had trouble facing the—very supportive—audience. He managed to make me do […]

Posted inInterview

Stay Worried

I first met Betsy Jolas, a distinguished composer with a nearly 70-year career, in 2005. I had received a scholarship to attend the Academie Villecroze in Provence, France, and performed a piece of hers there. The work was “Mon Ami,” for a pianist; it’s unique in that the pianist sings, her voice melding with the […]

Posted inEssay

Sala São Paulo

On a Friday evening last December, my wife and I arrived at one of São Paulo’s major train stations, the Estação da Luz, during rush hour. Several metropolitan lines connect with regional transit to the suburbs there, and it was thronged with tired commuters. We elbowed our way past them and through the station’s labyrinthine […]

Posted inReport

Authoritarian El Sistema

El Sistema, the Venezuelan youth orchestra program spearheaded by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, was created in 1975. It was the orchestra’s Proms debut in 2007, however, that cemented El Sistema’s place on the global stage, with Simon Rattle claiming that it was “the most important thing happening in music anywhere in […]

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On Quitting

Some years from now, you might find yourself looking back on a former hobby or pastime, something you’ve long since ceased, with nostalgia—maybe with a pang of regret. This happens to most of us at some point in our lives, that bodiless longing for the passions or diversions we used to keep. And at this […]

Posted inReport

Wind

There’s something about an annoying office job that makes you idealize working with your hands, even if you have—like me—no aptitude for it at all. Last winter, I applied for an apprenticeship at the organ builder Orgelbau Scheffler, in the tiny, former East German village of Sieversdorf, outside Berlin, with a romantic idea of learning […]

Posted inInterview

Immersion

VAN: Two weeks ago, I heard you play Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 at the Berlin Philharmonic with the Staatskapelle Berlin and David Afkham, substituting for Patricia Kopatchinskaja. At practically the same time, you were touring with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Three days after the tour ended, you played Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in Frankfurt, then […]

Posted inHistory

The Pianist’s Eye

The pianist Lilian Kallir was a formidable sight-reader who could easily play a Mozart Piano Concerto on the first reading, though she was mostly known for the instinctive musicality, tonal beauty, and precocious maturity of her playing. In 1991, presented with a last-minute change in a program, switching from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in F Major, […]

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