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Authentic Human Utterances

Nearly a decade ago, I watched Julia Bullock crawl around the floor of the Juilliard stage in the title role of Janáček’s “The Cunning Little Vixen.” A great talent had arrived. I kept listening: First, to her Joséphine Baker-inspired “Perle Noire” in a penthouse at Lincoln Center (and the tweaked version that followed on the […]

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A Glimpse of the Butterfly

Few conductors manage to cross the invisible boundary separating contemporary music ensembles (with their emphasis on ephemeral premieres) from mainstream orchestras (where even the 867th rendition of a Brahms symphony is expected to sound gripping and fresh). The American David Robertson is one such conductor. In 1992, Pierre Boulez appointed Robertson music director of the […]

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“Will I Die? You Bet I Will.”

Steve Reich is the Bob Dylan of classical music: Everyone loves the revolutionary early stuff (“Come Out,” “Piano Phase,” “Four Organs,”) but the variety and longevity of the career that followed inspires more controversy. And also like Dylan, whose 2020 album “Rough and Rowdy Ways” was largely acclaimed, Reich’s most recent work is worth a […]

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Into the Cosmic Unknown

When does your experience of a new piece of music begin? When you hear the first note? When the performers first enter the space? Or does the context of the venue’s ambience beforehand also affect how you take in the piece? Does the experience begin with the first rehearsal, the first compositional sketch, the first […]

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Holding the Center

In 2018, outgoing Berlin Philharmonic music director Simon Rattle told the orchestra’s in-house magazine, 128, “You probably need to be 90 to conduct this orchestra correctly.” Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, age 95, proved the truth to this remark in a concert with the orchestra at the end of September. The Berlin Philharmonic is known for […]

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The Direction of History

Gambist and conductor Jordi Savall has recorded over 200 albums, most featuring music written before 1750—the year most mainstream conductors’ repertoire begins. Then, in 2018, Savall began a plan to perform multiple projects of Mozart and Beethoven. He was dipping his toe into the 19th century. Last week in Barcelona, Savall performed Schubert’s Eighth and […]

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Questioning Posterity

When La Boîte à Pépites (The Jewel Box) was announced as a new record label for women composers, I was cautious in my optimism. But founder Héloïse Luzzati shared a vision not about exclusion, but about uplifting voices: a project whose goal is not to record a composer just because she is a woman, but […]

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The Responsibility of Connection

On Saturday, October 15, the International Contemporary Ensemble presents “Peyvand (پیوند),” a program of works featuring the ensemble (currently celebrating its 20th anniversary). What began as a collaboration between IntCE with Composers Now and the Cheswatyr Foundation—which commissioned a work by Niloufar Nourbakhsh to honor the life and legacy of philanthropist Cece Wasserman—grew into a […]

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Cherish the Quiet

Valentyn Silvestrov is a Ukrainian-born composer who has lived long enough to write nine symphonies and have his music be censored by both Soviet apparatchiks and Putin’s police. He lived in Kyiv for 84 years until this March, when he left the country due to Russia’s invasion.  Silvestrov now lives in exile in Berlin, but […]

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The Troubled Kids Club

Starting tomorrow, the New York-based Experiments in Opera will launch its latest venture: a ten-part video opera series told in 15-minute segments. Each segment is written by a different composer-librettist team. In “Everything for Dawn,” the eponymous heroine spends her critical teenage years coming to terms with her father’s mental illness and eventual suicide, which […]

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