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Degrees of Density

“99 percent of the day, we are in the thinking mode,” Peter Ablinger tells me across a table in the lobby of our hotel in Bergen. “And in opposition to that, if we decide now to be silent for a few seconds. Just…” His voice drifts off and he raises his eyebrows in anticipation. For […]

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The Bernstein Effect

On an unusually sunny February afternoon, I met Craig Urquhart in his apartment at Berlin’s Nollendorfplatz, the beating heart of the city’s gay life. (Christopher Isherwood once rented a place here.) “I’m going to be very bad and have a gin,” Urquhart said, but then realized he didn’t have any ice. Urquhart was a longtime […]

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A Long Way

The harpsichordist and ensemble leader William Christie could quite easily be mistaken for a patrician, 1960s-era CIA operative out of Norman Mailer’s novel Harlot’s Ghost. Yesterday morning, he was wearing a fitted black suit, blue shirt, beige pocket square, and polka dot socks, and spoke in aristocratic American English that clearly recalled his days studying […]

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Too Little, Too Late

On May 3, 2017, a young violist named Armando Cañizales Carrillo was killed in Caracas during clashes between demonstrators and the Bolivarian National Guard. The following day, the Venezuelan conductor and director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, published a statement on Facebook calling for President Nicolás Maduro and the national government “to rectify […]

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Confinements

Round-number anniversaries of composers’ births and deaths can often feel arbitrary, excuses to keep programming the same music. Not Monteverdi’s 450th birth year. His operas are universal, important reminders that us humans have always had the same struggles, that we’ve been here before: 450 is a number that puts things in perspective. The conductor John […]

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Two Cities

For this interview, I reached Marin Alsop on Skype from Brussels, where she was conducting the finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition for pianists. She usually performs a wide variety of repertoire—did she have to do the same piece over and over there? “Three Profokiev Twos, Three Rachmaninoff Threes, and otherwise only one of everything […]

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Doctor Baton

In pop culture, there are usually two ways of looking at the conductor’s baton. One way is as the focal point of his or her authority and magic: as Bernstein said, the stick as a “an instrument of meaning in its tiniest moment.” The other way is as a symbol of the conductor’s pretension and […]

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Continental Shift

Ilan Volkov’s Tectonics Festival, in Reykjavik on April 14-15 and in Glasgow on May 7-8, conjures images of dramatic, continental upheaval. But plate motion is an incredibly slow process—land masses move at rates measured in millimeters per year. Listening to the names of the many avant-garde composers mentioned by the Israeli conductor in our Skype […]

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