Posted inReview

Too Big To Fail

Can a piece of music be too big to fail? The latest work by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Finnish composer and conductor who is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony, has a startling number of what politicians like to call “stakeholders”: The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice (which gave the premiere on […]

Posted inProfile

Throw the Doors Open

In early December, I went to a concert in London called a noisenight. Founded 18 months ago by through the noise, led by Jack Bazalgette and Jack Crozier, this nascent live music group organizes classical gigs in traditionally non-classical venues.  Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, arguably the UK’s top classical star of the moment, performed with pianist […]

Posted inInterview

Transience

The composer Rebecca Saunders was not where I imagined her to be. Plans for a meeting in person were moved online, owing to her retreat to the countryside to complete a deadline. So it was a surprise when Saunders appeared, not in some remote rural studio, but in her Berlin flat. “I think a lot […]

Posted inInterview

The Threshold of Time

In the big pond full of big fish that is the New York contemporary classical music scene, the Argento New Music Project, led by composer and conductor Michel Galante, is an unusual and irreplaceable specimen. As artistic director of the ensemble, Galante combines two qualities that rarely go together: An ear for logical and creative […]

Posted inStuff I’ve Been Hearing

Weather Patterns

“You are the sky,” says the Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. “Everything else is just the weather.” Chödrön offers this as a guide for dealing with strong emotions—a more tangible variation on “this too shall pass.” Emotions arise and, while they feel like they may fully inhabit every pore of our body, they rarely leave […]

Posted inInterview

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 […]

Posted inInterview

“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 […]

Posted inInterview

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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