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The Ecstasy of Knowledge

Early in Wagnerism: Art and Politics In the Shadow of Music, a history of the cult of fandom devoted to the operas of 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner, Alex Ross drops a charming anecdote from the 1850s. Poet and critic Auguste de Gasperini told of being “subjugated” by Wagner’s music, suffering what Ross calls “an […]

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Depressuring

The first ever Andermatt Music Winter Festival took place between January 15 and 19, 2020. Three young Englishmen curated the program for the new concert hall: symphonic and chamber music, lectures, and a recital. It was to be a mountainous excursion, with Daniel Barenboim and Beethoven. By Katharina Thalmann · Translated from the German by […]

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Transformed By Absence

As the Midwestern fall turned into a frigid, icy winter, I listened to Glenn Gould playing Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and read Philip Kennicott’s Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning. Alternating between listening and reading, I found myself overwhelmed by emotion and flooded with the desire to do something. I wanted to clean house, dance […]

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A Shallow Oasis

A Weekend at Tippet Rise By · Title Image © 2018 Calder Foundation, Photo by Andre Costantini · Date 8/30/2018 Aaron Jay Kernis wrote his new string quartet “oasis” in nearly perfect solitude. It was December at Tippet Rise, an arts center and festival near Fishtail, Montana, and windswept snowdrifts made it impossible to enter […]

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Bursting Through Confines

The first thing I saw was groups of soldiers. Aix-en-Provence, a wealthy tourist resort and college town, is not their primary target, and France is only the latest in a long series of countries to be occupied by the French military. But they were everywhere: at the airport in baggage claim, flanking the exit to […]

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Walls Stay Down

Mahler’s Sixth Symphony—90-odd minutes of descent, disintegration, mad marching—is not a festive piece. The cameo-studded, light-hearted party-concerts for Simon Rattle’s departure as Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic had come and gone, and now it was time for serious music-making. This was, the program informed 2000-odd Berliners of reassuringly mixed age and dress, the piece […]

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Heels of Fortune

Opera so often has an aftertaste of evil. The character of Osmin in Mozart’s “Entführung aus dem Serail” is an embarrassing Middle Eastern caricature absurdly obsessed with blood and gore. Wagner’s knights and gods like to address their female counterparts simply as “woman.” Blackface still makes regular appearances in contemporary stagings of Verdi’s “Otello.” In […]

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Wordlessness

Care, Companionship, and Ecological Distress in Meredith Monk’s “Cellular Songs” By · Title Image Shoshone (CC BY-SA 3.0) · Date 3/29/2018 “I’m a happy woman, I’m a happy woman.” Meredith Monk’s sudden singsong was the first and only instance of actual words to be heard throughout an evening of vocal sound. This interlude, in which […]

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Constructed Deconstruction

Experimentation at Borealis in Bergen Text and Photography · Date 3/15/2018 In four separate, darkened rooms sit five performers. One prepared piano, a Hardanger fiddle, clarinet, and guitar with electronics. It’s a chamber concert for wanderers, with each instrument piped into the other rooms via wires and speakers. The format has been exploded, and while […]

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