Posted inInterview

Targeted Melodies

In “What Grieves Frenzy Drown’d,” an album released on SCRIPTS Records in April by 27-year-old New York-based guitarist Alec Goldfarb, melodies rise out of coarse microtonal string textures like strange objects—both ancient and modern, water-smooth rocks and plastic detritus—found on a rough-hewn beach. Occasionally these melodies sound familiar, influenced by Goldfarb’s immersion in Indian classical […]

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Completed by Perception

When I was 13 or so, I raced through Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, finishing the final volume, The Amber Spyglass, on Christmas eve. I carried the complex melancholy of the ending around with me for weeks afterward in defiance of holiday cheer.  Recently, I realized that Pullman is also a classical music fan. […]

Posted inReview

The Indifferent Cosmos

In July 1996, Gérard Grisey was at work on the first movement of what would be his final composition, the “Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil”  (“Four songs for crossing the threshold”) when he made a note to himself in his journal. “If I ever compose an opera,” he wrote, “make the stakes and the […]

Posted inReport

Trial and Error

In November 2021, two trumpets of the Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal in western Germany slithered up a chromatic motive at the beginning of the fourth movement—the “Tuba Mirum”—from Antonin Dvořák’s Requiem before disappearing into an unsettling augmented woodwind chord. The kind of exposed orchestral passage that only registers as difficult when someone cracks a note or the […]

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Title Change

Has New York’s Metropolitan Opera, led by manager Peter Gelb since 2006 and probably at once the most beloved and most hated institution in all of classical music, been going through an astonishing rough patch? Or has its visibility simply made it a lightning rod for systemic issues facing the entire field? The last seven […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Beautiful Serialism Playlist

Like some others on the 300-million-headed-hydra of hysteria known as Twitter, I was mildly irked on April 26 when the Columbia University linguist and New York Times op-ed writer John McWhorter published an essay titled “Classical Music Doesn’t Have to be Ugly to be Good.” Citing two recent books, McWhorter argues, among other things, that […]

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Dangerous Symbols

On April 14, the Russian keyboard player Alexei Lubimov and the singer Yana Ivanilova performed a concert at DK Rassvet, a venue in central Moscow which, similar to New York’s (Le) Poisson Rouge, hosts concerts and cultural events and doubles as a club. As Lubimov was performing playing a solo portion of the concert, with […]

Posted inInterview

Hit Me in the Belly

On March 18, the trumpet player Håkan Hardenberger celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he performed Brett Dean’s trumpet concerto “Dramatis personae,” and smiled gamely (and sipped champagne) through an encore rendition of the theme from “Superman” in his honor. (Disclosure: As with my recent interview with […]

Posted inInterview

Renaissance State

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Stockholm to speak with English conductor Daniel Harding and hear a rehearsal and concert with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which Harding has led since 2007. (Disclosure: The orchestra covered my flights and hotel for the trip.) Harding and I had lunch together at a restaurant so fancy […]

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