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Withdrawal

In November 2014, Sony Masterworks released a documentary called “Cameron Carpenter: The Sound of My Life.” Intended to accompany the American organist’s album “If You Could Read My Mind,” released that August, the film included footage of Carpenter ripping off his T-shirt to reveal a sculpted chest; dancing at the once-legendary Berlin gay party Chantal’s […]

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The Cloudily Divine

The English writer Alan Hollinghurst is one of the great chroniclers of musical experience and anal sex. His characters don’t simply hear music; they live with, through, inside it. I met Hollinghurst one bright afternoon at his home in Hampstead. VAN: There are many classical music-related jokes in your novels. In The Swimming-Pool Library, a […]

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Artistic Personas

HarrisonParrott, the renowned artist management company, represents some 200 classical musicians in all categories, looked after by 72 people on staff. That makes the London-based agency a giant in a small but competitive field. On October 6, HarrisonParrott celebrated its 50th anniversary. Soon after, work brought founding partner Jasper Parrott to Berlin. We met one […]

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Conductivity

Around 11:20 on the morning of Saturday March 17, 2018, Laura Eisen, the orchestral manager of the Staatskapelle Berlin, visited Daniel Barenboim in his dressing room, which looks out onto the imposing Bebelplatz. She planned to discuss a personnel change, in the flutes, for an upcoming rehearsal of Verdi’s opera “Falstaff.” According to a statement […]

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Friction

Recognition is a basic neural pleasure. The first five notes of “Parsifal” are thrilling if we expect the sixth, an agonized A-flat. Something similar is at work with names like Bejun Mehta, Ken-David Masur, Kristjan Järvi, Michael Barenboim. On albums and concert posters, the names sound like transcendent concerts. They radiate prestige, competence, familiarity, proximity […]

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Sonic Cultures

The Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös has lived in Germany, France, and Holland, and worked closely with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez. In 2004, he returned home to Budapest. His primary motivation was the theater. Going to plays abroad, he told me, “you understand the words, but not always what’s behind them. My wife and I […]

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Sophie’s Choice

On May 14, I sat in on an hour’s worth of auditions for the early rounds of the 2019 Neue Stimmen (New Voices) opera competition. Visibly nervous singers entered a cavernous rehearsal space, weary pianist in tow. Some 70 feet away, the jury sat at a table barely visible beneath laptops, water bottles, papers, and […]

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Cast Together

An orchestra is like a pendulum. Pull it in one direction—toward a more contemporary, progressive repertoire, say—and eventually it will swing back toward the crowd-pleasers. This regrettable pattern can be observed whenever an enterprising music director leaves. In Boston, the profoundly flawed choice of James Levine nevertheless shaped the idea of what an orchestra can […]

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Sunken Costs

In 2015, the Italian pianist Marco Sanna and his duo partner saw on Facebook that an artist management company called Xenia Evangelista Communications was signing new performers. They sent the company an application, including a cover letter and a CD, in the mail. Soon after, Evangelista, who is based in Munich, emailed the duo expressing […]

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The Elephant In The Opera

On Monday, the Staatsoper Berlin announced its 2019-20 program. Aside from a few potential highlights—René Jacobs leading Scarlatti and a new ballet by Georg Friedrich Haas—the programming reads like a parody of a conservative orchestra season, featuring yet another Beethoven cycle, Brahms cycle, and “Ring.” The soloists are of high quality, but belong firmly to […]