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Singing Within

I had tea with the tenor Mark Padmore one recent afternoon, backstage at the Berlin Philharmonic as it rained and hailed outside. He wore a black sweater over a light gray dress shirt and a sleek bronze bracelet, and had just finished a rehearsal with the violinist Pekka Kuusisto and members of the Karajan Academy, […]

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The Mischief I Made

When a friend sent me a YouTube video of Helmut Lachenmann’s newest piece, “Marche fatale” for orchestra, I texted him back asking, “Holy shit, is this a joke?” The eminent German, who writes noisy works of intimidating craft and intelligence, who has probably single-handedly invented more new instrumental sounds than anyone in music history, had […]

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Make It Hurt

On October 26, 2017, the alto Wiebke Lehmkuhl sang a note—a G or an E flat, if I’m not mistaken—that was so quiet and smooth it sounded more like a boy than many boy sopranos do. The piece was Bach’s Mass in B Minor, conducted by Ton Koopman at the Berlin Philharmonic, penultimate movement, the […]

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Sensual Narratives

The music of Jay Schwartz is hedonistic. You listen to it, and when you’re finished you can’t wait to listen to it again. His SoundCloud page becomes an almost physical addiction. It envelopes you in shimmering glissandi of infinite complexity, teases you with the briefest glimpses of tonal intervals, and rewards you with the endorphin […]

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Forgotten Worlds

Actus Humanus, a festival of early music in Gdańsk, Poland, ended on December 17. I was there for the final concert, which featured the harpsichordist Christophe Rousset, the soprano Ann Hallenberg, and the period band Les Talens Lyriques. The repertoire was vocal and instrumental music inspired by the Academy Award-winning film on the life of […]

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A Long Way

The harpsichordist and ensemble leader William Christie could quite easily be mistaken for a patrician, 1960s-era CIA operative out of Norman Mailer’s novel Harlot’s Ghost. Yesterday morning, he was wearing a fitted black suit, blue shirt, beige pocket square, and polka dot socks, and spoke in aristocratic American English that clearly recalled his days studying […]

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Suspended States

In October, Erstwhile Records released a recording of the Swiss composer Jürg Frey’s six hour tape piece “l’àme est sans retenue I.” I took this opportunity to revisit and translate a conversation we had in August 2016 via Skype. VAN: Your piece “A Memory of Perfection,” for solo violin, takes its title from an interview […]

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Malleable Structures

The composer and performer Tyshawn Sorey was in Berlin recently as the very first Artist in Residence at the Berlin Festival’s JazzFest. At a concert on November 2, he played an array of highly differentiated sounds, combining subtly with his trio colleagues Christopher Tordini and Cory Smythe. For large chunks of the work, Sorey’s face […]

Posted inReport

Critic Bashing

It’s a peculiar and alienating feeling to sit among a crowd of people and feel as defensive as the others feel delighted, as unmoved as they feel enthusiastic. That’s what happened to me on October 22, when Vladimir Jurowski, the conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and new music director of the Berlin Radio Symphony […]

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