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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 […]

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Sound And Stasis

Using mostly the variable of finger pressure, Daniil Trifonov creates an astonishing variety of colors. Often, in the piano’s higher register, he makes the instrument sound metallic, as if it were prepared. Simple rhythmic accompaniments turn rich and propulsive. In one Shostakovich song, he somehow manages to give a Bösendörfer the exactly timbre of muted […]

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Baby Work

In November, I traveled to Shenzhen, China for a conference on the future of Chinese classical music. Sponsored by Volkswagen China’s cultural initiative—which, full disclosure, paid for my flights—the conference gathered orchestral conductors, managers and administrators to the top floor of Shenzhen’s “Talent Park,” a brand-new pavilion looking out onto the bay. As panelists spoke […]

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Rules of Engagement

In Wieland Hoban’s composition “Hora’ot Pticha Be’esh (Rules of Engagement I),” from 2013-14, we hear distorted microtones, low glissandi, plucking, instrumental squealing. This music accompanies testimony by a Sergeant First Class in the Armored Corps of the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, in the winter of 2008-9. The soldier speaks in […]

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Faked Silence

Listening to Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Sei Capricci” for solo violin might best be compared to spending 20 minutes in a butterfly garden. The music rustles, flickers, alights for the briefest moment somewhere, and then flies on. A similar texture lends his classic opera “Luci mie traditrici” (1998) a dreamlike quality. When, in one brief intermezzo of […]

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The Human Comedy

“The dirty world printed in the newspapers is our own,” wrote Thomas Bernhard in his final novel, Extinction. The same might be said of Norman Lebrecht’s blog Slipped Disc, perhaps the only publication to write about classical music the same way people in the industry speak about it in private. Though the site has been […]

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