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Visceral Communication

An Interview with Philip Thomas By · Title Image © Carl Davies · Date 2/4/2020 There’s a very long pause, then a single plucked string bends up. Pause again, followed by a long screech from the highest flute register. Another pause. Something rattles. So begins my very own realization of John Cage’s “Concert for Piano […]

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The Cloudily Divine

An Interview with Alan Hollinghurst By · Illustration © · Date 10/31/2019 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 […]

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Artistic Personas

An Interview with Jasper Parrott By · Photos © Kaupo Kikkas · Date 10/24/2019 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 […]

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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

An Interview with Opera Casting Director Sophie Joyce Text · Title Image © Foto PR · Date 12.6.2019 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. […]

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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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Listening Blind

An Interview with Paul Lewis By · Title Image Tim Jokl (CC BY-NC 2.0) · Date 4/2/2019 Whatever your image of the standard background and biography for a world class concert pianist, Paul Lewis ain’t it. Born in Liverpool, the son of a dock worker and a local council employee, there were no other musicians […]

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Space for the Wrong

On a recent evening in Berlin, the pianist and composer Frederic Rzewski performed his virtuosic variations on a Chilean protest song, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” Physical and mental exhaustion are composed into the piece, and watching Rzewski play, I was struck by the similarities between the musical obstacles in his work and […]

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The Nature of the Mind

Laurie Anderson, the 71-year-old performance artist, storyteller, musician and wife of Lou Reed, was looking out at the fog. She seemed exhausted, but her green eyes were alert. I met her in her green room in the middle of a packed four-day festival at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, where she was joined by her colleagues, […]

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Winter Words

Garth Greenwell is a remarkable novelist. Like vocal lines, his sentences explode with vibrating, irrepressible energy while still assuming classically beautiful forms. What Belongs To You (2016), his debut novel, about collisions between guilt, grief, desire, and openness in the relationship between an American high school teacher and a Bulgarian hustler, was long-and short-listed for […]