From the Editors: Brian Wise's Article Collection
Editor’s note on Nov. 9, 2015: The stories below originally appeared on WNYC.org, and some also appeared on NPR Music. The stories are in the process of being removed from their original locations and are being placed below because some words or phrases in them were found to have been copied from other sources without attribution. The words and phrases that were at issue have been highlighted on this page and links have been added to show where the material was originally published. NYPR’s policy is clear: “Plagiarism is an unforgivable offense. NYPR staff members do not take other people’s work and present it as our own.”
Instances of plagiarism in Wise's work were initially discovered by editors at NPR Music. They were written for NPR and WQXR by Brian Wise, the online editor at WQXR, a classical radio station owned by New York Public Radio. Effective Oct. 28, Mr. Wise resigned following the discovery of plagiarism in these stories. Following this, WNYC conducted its own investigation of all of Wise's stories published on our site and on Soundcheck.org, also part of WNYC. Fourteen stories, all of which are compiled below, were found to have key phrases or sentences taken from other sources.
New York Philharmonic Live at Carnegie Hall
By Brian Wise
October 1, 2015
To open its 125th season, Carnegie Hall is bringing back the New York Philharmonic, an orchestra that presided there from 1891 until 1962 in more than 5,000 concerts — the most of any ensemble in the venue's storied history.
The program, which NPR Music and WQXR will broadcast Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, features Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto — a piece the composer himself conducted during the hall's five-day inaugural festival in 1891. Joining the Philharmonic is Evgeny Kissin, a pianist who made his Carnegie Hall debut 25 years ago, at age 18, and who still draws intensely loyal, even rabid, fans to his recitals there.
But the gala concert is not all retrospective. It opens with the world premiere of Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg's Vivo, one of 125 new works the hall is unveiling over the next five seasons. Concluding the evening is Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2, music Lindberg had in mind while writing his own.
The Philharmonic's ties to West 57th Street go back to 1887 when Walter Damrosch, the conductor of the New York Symphony Society, met steel magnate Andrew Carnegie onboard a ship to Europe. Damrosch made his pitch for a new building. "The city very much needed a hall for orchestral playing," says Barbara Haws, the Philharmonic's chief archivist. "Fast-forward a couple years and lo and behold, here's this great hall."
The inaugural concert, on May 5, 1891, featured Damrosch leading the Symphony Society. In 1928 the orchestra merged with its better-regarded rival — the Philharmonic Society of New York, founded in 1842 — into what we know today as the New York Philharmonic. It eventually left for Lincoln Center in 1962 though it has returned periodically since, most recently in 2011 (a planned merger between the Philharmonic and Carnegie in 2003 fell through).
Kissin brings his own ties to both Carnegie and the Philharmonic — he made his U.S. debut with the orchestra in 1990. It also doesn't hurt that he embodies a Russian Romantic tradition that is well-suited for the Tchaikovsky concerto. This concert begins a season-long Perspectives series featuring Kissin, in which he will give recitals, recite Yiddish poetry and play chamber music.
- Lindberg: Vivo
- Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1
- Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2
Evegeny Kissin, piano
New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert, conductor
Spring For Music: A Rare American Oratorio At Carnegie Hall
By Brian Wise
May 9, 2014
When NPR Music and WQXR present the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus' performance of R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses at Carnegie Hall Friday, there will be one significant difference from its first airing: it should be free of interruptions.
Just why the 50-minute oratorio was not heard in full on NBC radio in 1937 is a story steeped in allegations of racial censorship. Dett (1882-1943) was a black Canadian-born American composer who earned degrees at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music. He later studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, the revered teacher of composers from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass. Dett called his mission "the emancipation of Negro music" and cited Dvorak's promotion of black spirituals and folk songs as a strong influence on his own works.
The Cincinnati May Festival commissioned Dett to write The Ordering of Moses. He used a text based on Exodus, fusing biblical narrative with spirituals to capture the idea of freedom from bondage.
In NBC's live broadcast, only 40 minutes of the work aired. Near the end of the original acetate disc, the announcer can be heard saying, "We are sorry indeed, ladies and gentlemen, but due to previous commitments, we are unable to remain for the closing moments of this excellent performance." Some organ music filled out the hour.
"It's very clear from the program that was published, it was meant to be a full hour and a full piece," said James Conlon, the May Festival music director, who will conduct this performance at the Spring for Music festival. "So it's very clear that something happened." Historians suspect the broadcast was cut short after callers to the network objected.
The Cincinnati May Festival revived Dett's oratorio in 1956, but it has been rarely heard since. After a 1993 performance at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York, Alex Ross wrote in the New York Times that the piece suffered from an unwieldy structure and some meandering moments, but added, "there are episodes of startling power."
This concert will begin with John Adams's Harmonium, a 1980 piece based on poetry by John Donne ("Negative Love") and Emily Dickinson ("Because I could not stop for Death," "Wild Nights") that is regarded as milestone of Adams's minimalist period. The texts, an essay by the composer and an excerpt may be found here.
Conlon, who has promoted composers suppressed by the Nazis, sees this Dett performance as an extension of that rescue mission. "If any of us artists hear music that has a value and for whatever reason is not played, I'd rather do that than the umpteenth performance of Beethoven or Tchaikovsky," he says, adding that there's nothing wrong with those composers. "This was an ideal opportunity to do that in the context of Spring for Music."
- ADAMS Harmonium
- DETT The Ordering of Moses
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
May Festival Chorus
James Conlon, music director
Latonia Moore, soprano
Ronnita Nicole Miller, mezzo-soprano
Rodrick Dixon, tenor
Donnie Ray Albert, baritone
Carnegie Hall Live: An Opening Night Gala With The Berlin Philharmonic
By Brian Wise
October 1, 2014
Finding the right mix of artistic heft and party-night pizzazz is a balancing act orchestras face when planning an opening night gala concert for Carnegie Hall.
The Berlin Philharmonic and its chief conductor Simon Rattle will especially want to start things right when they open the legendary venue's season Oct. 1. They're sticking around for five more concerts in New York, including three at Carnegie and two at the Park Avenue Armory. The former will include all of Schumann's four symphonies; the latter, Peter Sellars' staged presentation of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
This gala program is an altogether different affair. It will feature two servings of late Russian Romanticism — Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances and scenes from Stravinsky's The Firebird— along with Bruch's First Violin Concerto with German soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter. NPR Music and WQXR will broadcast the performance live.
Long identified by her sumptuous tone and glamorous presence, Mutter has a long and somewhat complex history with the Philharmonic. She made her debut with the ensemble in 1978, when she was just 13, playing Mozart's Third Violin Concerto in Salzburg. The orchestra's music director, Herbert von Karajan, had heard her play two years earlier.
There was some skepticism around Mutter in those early years. Critics and some members of the orchestra didn't feel the teenage violinist was ready for the big time. But with Karajan's support, she managed to overcome the doubters and made her first recording with the ensemble in 1978 (Mozart's Concertos Nos. 3 and 5). Several more recordings followed, including the major concertos — Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Bruch — usually with Karajan on the podium.
Karajan arranged for an exclusive Berlin contract for Mutter, by which in that city she appeared only with the Philharmonic.
Then from 1987 there was a 26-year hiatus between Mutter and Berlin that has been shrouded in mystery (Mutter guards her personal affairs carefully, and many published profiles of her read similarly). But in recent years, she has been on the Philharmonic's speed dial again, appearing several times. Last year saw the release of Dvořák's Violin Concerto, their first recording together since 1983.
As things often coincide at Carnegie Hall, the opening night concert also kicks off Mutter's "Perspectives" series at the venue — and, perhaps surprisingly, marks her first performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in the U.S.
• Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances
• Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1
• Stravinsky: Closing Scenes from The Firebird
Simon Rattle, conductor
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Carnegie Hall Live: Dresden Staatskapelle Plays Bruckner
By Brian Wise
April 19, 2013
Anton Bruckner divides audiences. For admirers, his sprawling, stately symphonies — with their great pauses and timeless repetitions — represent the summit of the 19th-century Viennese symphonic tradition. For skeptics, the symphonies are exercises in lumpy piety, plagued with bombastic sonorities and numbingly long-winded development sections.
Yet in a hyper-kinetic, overstimulated world, Bruckner's symphonies may not fit comfortably at either extreme. In recent years, some conductors and ensembles have sought to contextualize the Austrian composer in broader, semi-mystical terms. They've programmed him alongside contemporary minimalists like Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki, or they've encouraged listeners to think of his writing as a kind of heavyweight version of Gregorian chant. The message: Bruckner is a composer who rewards patience and contemplation.
The Dresden Staatskapelle brings Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 to Carnegie Hall April 19 — webcast live on NPR Music and on WQXR, which is also broadcasting the concert. Listeners will hear an orchestra with plentcy of experience working through Bruckner's quirks and thrills. Founded in 1548 as an ensemble of trumpets and timpani, and considered one of the world's oldest orchestras, the Staatskapelle has recorded the stately Eighth Symphony many times over, most recently in 2009 under Christian Thielemann.
Thielemann became the Staatskapelle's principal conductor this year, and by many accounts it's a strong match. Both orchestra and maestro are steeped in 19th-century Germanic repertoire. The orchestra's previous chief conductors included Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner. Richard Strauss also maintained a close association with the ensemble for some 60 years, both as a stand-alone orchestra and as part of the Sächsische Staatsoper, or Saxon State Opera.
In modern times, the Staatskapelle has risen to international prominence through recordings and tours led by Giuseppe Sinopoli, its chief conductor from 1992 until his sudden death in 2001. The past decade has seen greater turnover on the podium; conductors Bernard Haitink and Fabio Luisi each had brief and tumultuous tenures with the orchestra.
But unlike his predecessors, the Berlin-born Thielemann has spent the bulk of his career with the major German opera houses and orchestras, most recently with the Munich Philharmonic and the Bayreuth Festival (where he's chief musical advisor). While Thielemann's tenure in Dresden is just getting underway, music critics have been optimistic about the results. Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer called a recent performance of Bruckner's Eighth a "mesmerizing experience." L.A. Times classical music critic Mark Swed wrote that a "rapturous live performance of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony indicates that Dresden could be in for yet another golden age of German Romanticism."
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Christian Thielemann, conductor
Picks of the Week
By Brian Wise and John Schaefer
May 18, 2010
Soundcheck's picks this week include an afro-pop pioneer and a musical portrait of Los Angeles of the 1940s and '50s.
John Adams: City Noir; Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon)
Music fans in the New York area who want to know why Gustavo Dudamel has generated such buzz at the Los Angeles Philharmonic since becoming its music director in the fall will have two chances to hear him in action this week. That is, if you were lucky enough to score a ticket, since the Lincoln Center concerts were sold out months ago. Or you can go to iTunes and download John Adams' City Noir, a new piece the orchestra commissioned and introduced at its gala last fall.
City Noir is a musical portrait of Los Angeles in the 1940s. Adams calls forth the image of the Los Angeles we know from Raymond Chandler novels and noir films. There always seems to be a jazz solo floating in the air. The work packs a tremendous punch, especially in the work’s third and final section, "Boulevard Night." Dudamel and the Los Angeles musicians own this music from start to finish. [Available at iTunes] – picked by Brian Wise
New York City Opera Chair is Stepping Down
By Brian Wise
September 17, 2010
Susan Baker, the chairwoman of New York City Opera who presided over a turbulent period that included the ill-fated hiring of Gerard Mortier as general manager, will step down in December, the company announced Thursday. Baker, who is 59, has been chairwoman since 2003. Charles R. Wall, a former tobacco company lawyer who served on City Opera's board of directors from 2001 to 2008, will succeed her as chairman.
In a phone interview Friday, Wall expressed optimism about the company's future, noting that he intends to focus on fundraising and recruiting new board members.
"I think they’ve done a pretty good job frankly from where they were," he said. "Last season was well received. The finances are getting in better shape though lots of work needs to be done."
Wall's predecessor presided over several crises during her seven-year tenure. Chief among them was the ambitious attempt to hire Mortier, the high-profile, iconoclastic Belgian opera director, as a replacement for the company’s outgoing general manager, Paul Kellogg, in 2007. Mortier held the position for less than a year, however, only to resign on the grounds that the $60 million operating budget he was expecting had dwindled to $36 million.
Baker’s tenure was also marked by ongoing efforts to find a new home for the company. She sought to make City Opera a cultural anchor at the World Trade Center site, a plan that never came to fruition. Negotiations to build a house on the site of the former American Red Cross New York headquarters on Amsterdam Avenue also didn’t work out.
The Mortier marriage was tumultuous. Upon his arrival, the director insisted that the New York State Theater, the home City Opera shares with New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, should be renovated. This forced the company to abandon its regular 2008-09 season in favor of sporadic performances elsewhere. During this period, the company saw a sharp decline in revenue, which coincided with the global financial crisis. For the 2008-2009 season, City Opera posted a $19.9 million deficit.
After terminating his contract with City Opera in fall 2008, Mortier decamped for Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, George Steel, the opera’s general manager and artistic director, said he did not know of any particular reason beyond her lengthy tenure for Baker’s departure as chairwoman. “Susan brought the company through some of the most challenging economic times in history, and she stuck with it until the company was on stable financial footing,” he told the Journal.
New York Times Reporter Dan Wakin says Baker left the job because she thinks the City Opera needs a change in leadership.
"She had been there for seven years and felt that it was proper governance to turn over the chairmanship," Wakin says. He adds that Wall was a natural choice. "Mr. Wall was on the board for seven or eight years and so was very familiar with City Opera," He was obviously a familiar figure in the corporate world and understands business."
Wall is the recently retired Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Philip Morris International and has been involved with the City Opera in various capacities since his days as a VP at the Altria Group, a onetime corporate supporter of the company. He is also a major supporter of the Aspen Music Festival and School and is said to have been a music enthusiast since childhood, when his father took him to the St. Louis Municipal Opera. He takes the title chairman-designate until his official start date of December 16.
Wall believes that that the company's biggest missteps in the past decade were centered around the plans for a move. "Did we waste a lot of time and energy on that? Probably. But I can’t say it was wrong."
City Opera opens its fall season on October 27 with Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, a once-panned opera about a long marriage that’s told through a series of flashbacks. The opera is characteristic of George Steel’s decision to advocate offbeat and modern works in addition to standard fare. Last season, the company presented Esther, a once-neglected opera by Hugo Weisgall.
Wagner's Ring in Popular Culture
By Brian Wise
March 24, 2009
Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung is an epic saga of greed, lust, the corrupting influence of power, and redemption through love told over sixteen hours and four nights. It's sung completely in German. Music for the masses it is not. Or is it?
While the Ring may seem like a rich feast served up to opera’s elite, its timeless themes have long resonated in popular culture. Some Examples:
Finally, heavy metal music also has time and again shown an indebtedness to Wagner. Joey DeMaio, the bassist and main composer for the heavy metal band, Manowar, has attested to Wagner's influence on his music; German bands like Rammstein and Joachim Witt also claim inspiration from Wagner's music. Even a lot of '70s arena rock is concerned with the epic concepts and lavish orchestrations that Wagner pioneered 100 years earlier.
Radio Quotas for German Songs?
By Brian Wise
October 28, 2007
France isn't the only European country that has tried to encourage native-language music on the radio. For the past five years, Germany has been considering a radio quota for German-language music and music produced in Germany. If turned into law, this would be similar to France's policy, wherein native-language music must constitute at least 40 percent of programming.
A bit of background: In December 2004, the Lower House of the German Parliament passed a resolution calling for a voluntary self-regulation by radio broadcasters: roughly 35 percent of the pop or rock music broadcast should be either German-language or Germany-made. About 500 German musicians lobbied for this bill, arguing that it would serve to stimulate the German music industry and generally provide greater variety on the radio (not surprisingly, English-language pop music is everywhere here). The bill's opponents felt it was an excessive regulatory restriction and some voiced concerns about its nationalistic overtones.
At least a couple of musicians we've spoken with have another beef with this: if the current practice becomes mandatory it may hurt German musicians who wish to tour abroad more. After all, as CD sales decline, touring is becoming a much larger revenue source for musicians. And given that English is spoken throughout the West, a band would be limiting its potential audience by writing lyrics only in German, even if it does help them get more radio play at home. Then again, maybe there is an interest in German lyrics internationally: there was a brief time in the mid-80s when Americans were busy grooving to the German version of Nena’s "99 Red Balloons" and the latest songs by Falco. -- Brian Wise
By Brian Wise
October 30, 2007
Some of the gold records made at Hansa Studios include albums by Depeche Mode and Falco.
Built in a converted 1910 ballroom, 'Hansa at the wall' stood 50 meters from Hitler's bunker and was badly damaged during World War II. When Bowiemoved to Berlin in October 1976 he spent three years in and out of the studio, working on his Berlin trilogy - the albums 'Low,' 'Lodger,' and 'Heroes.' The latter album is peppered with references to the districts in Berlin and its title song -- a love story about two people trying to escape over the Berlin Wall -- became an anthem when the Wall collapsed in 1989.
U2 soaked up the studio's inspiration for their 1990 album 'Achtung Baby.' While the band did not ultimately finish the album here, they drew much inspiration from the city at the time, and images of the studio appear prominently in the CD cover art.
Alex Wende, the current co-owner of Hansa, explained how the studio's fortunes have grown as musicians have flocked to Berlin in recent years to take advantage of the cheap rents and thriving arts community here. A few of the bigger-name artists to record at Hansa recently include Supergrass, Wyclef Jean, Daniel Lanois, Diamanda Galas, and others. -- Brian Wise
Gehry-designed Performing Arts Center Marks Bard a Destination
By Brian Wise
April 23, 2003
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, New York - With its undulating canopies of stainless steel that mirror the nearby Catskill Mountains, the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College is a dramatic addition to this small liberal arts college in the Hudson River Valley. As proven by the gala inaugural concert in its 900-seat Sosnoff Theater Friday night, this Frank Gehry-designed facility for music, theater, and dance has gleaming acoustics to match.
The sole work on the program was Mahler's Symphony No. 3, performed by the American Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leon Botstein, Bard's president and the music director of that ensemble. The epic, 90-minute symphony heralded a building that Bard hopes will enhance the college's public profile and revitalize the tourist economy of this bucolic, tree-lined region 90 miles north of New York City.
Indeed, the $62 million center represents a triumph for Botstein, who has been an important crusader for the role of the arts in academia. Nearly fourteen years ago, he founded the Bard Music Festival, a summertime staple that concentrates on a particular composer through two weekends of concerts and symposia.
While the festival has become a choice weekend destination for intellectually curious New Yorkers, it has sorely lacked a suitable concert space (concerts were held in an acoustically problematic outdoor tent). In his vision to change this, Botstein set the bar high.
Making Vision a Reality
In 1997, Botstein enlisted Gehry, before the noted architect had finished the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, acknowedged as one of the world's great modern buildings. Then, he went about raising the cash, which included $25 million from Fisher, chairman emeritus of Morgan Stanley and a Bard board member. New York State invested $5 million, to be distributed over five years by the Empire State Development Corporation
Botstein also stipulated that the main theater be flexible, accommodating everything from intimate chamber concerts to expansive opera productions. There had to be room for rehearsal studios, support facilities, and a black box theater to house student productions of dance and drama. And if that weren't enough, the hall's acoustics had to be adjustable so major symphonic works didn't overwhelm the listener while a solo recital or lecture could still fill the room.
To a large extent, these requirements have been achieved. With its shallow and wide layout, the Sosnoff Theater is a handsome, inviting space that draws the listener in to the performance on stage. The bare concrete walls and floors are balanced by two rows of balconies paneled in Douglas fir. Playful decorative squiggles loop the walls. The wooden proscenium is retractable to accommodate the staging of opera and theater works.
Acoustically, the modest theater favors treble instruments like trumpets and flutes, at least in Mahler's brilliant sonorities. Botstein reportedly delayed the opening for two months while he worked with acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota in some last-minute modifications. These certainly paid off: when deployed in full, the orchestra enveloped the listener with a halo of deep, resonant, and a bit forceful sound.
Mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby, the Concert Chorale of New York and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the latter positioned in the upper balcony, contributed rich and sonorous performances Friday. If there was any obstacle to full appreciation of the hall, it was Botstein's hulking tempos, which depleted some of Mahler's dramatic tension.
Nevertheless, there will be many other opportunities to experience the facility in the months to come. A second weekend of inaugural events will take place from May 1-3, and feature performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Kronos Quartet, the Ballet Hispanico, and the Charles Mingus Orchestra with Elvis Costello as special guest.
In July, Bard will inaugurate Summerscape, a festival which incorporates both the old Bard Music Festival, as well as theater, drama, and dance. This year's festival will focus on the works of Czech composer Leos Janácek, which will include the composer's neglected opera Osud; Botstein will conduct the American Symphony and a cast of 40 in five performances of this rarity.
CD Spotlight: Prokofiev Orchestral Works
By Brian Wise
May 6, 2003
2 003 will be remembered in the classical music world as the year of Hector Berlioz. Still, other anniversaries need not go unnoticed. The 50th anniversary of Russian composer Serge Prokofiev's death--which, ironically, came just as his great tormentor Stalin also died--is being marked by two leading Russian conductors in gripping new recordings.
Scythian Suite; Alexander Nevsky
Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano)
Kirov Orchestra & Chorus
Valery Gergiev, conductor
Available at Amazon.com
Valery Gergiev, the high-energy maestro of the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, has received much attention for his visceral interpretations of Mussorgsky and Stravinsky, but as this pairing of the "Scythian Suite" and "Alexander Nevsky" demonstrates, he has an equally strong affinity for Prokofiev's brilliant orchestral scores.
The "Scythian Suite" was originally conceived as a rival ballet with Stravinsky's 1912 masterpiece, "The Rite of Spring," but unable to secure a production, Prokofiev turned it into an orchestral piece. Certainly, it shares some of Stravinsky's primitivist subject matter--the bristling brass chords in "The Adoration of Veles and Ala," the searing march in "The Glorious Departure"--all of which is performed here with much zest.
"Alexander Nevsky" is filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's landmark 1939 tale of Russia thwarting the German invasion of the 13th century, and it was complemented by one of history's great film scores. Prokofiev later fashioned a cantata from the complete score, and its scintillating orchestral colors provide a complement to Eisenstein's subtle mix of light and shadow. This high-energy account, recorded live in Moscow, confirms that the Kirov forces have Prokofiev in their blood. The chorus gives an incisive performance of the Latin texts that portray the chants of the invaders. Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina brings hushed eloquence to the final lament.
Although both of these scores are already well-represented on disc, this recording can be recommended for the Kirov's brilliant brass and dark string sound, coupled with Gergiev's compelling interpretations.
Classical Symphony; Suites: "Romeo and Juliet," "Love for Three Oranges."
St. Petersburg Philharmonic
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor
RCA Red Seal
Available at Amazon.com
While Gergiev reveals Prokofiev at his most aggressive and melancholic, on a new release from RCA, Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov conducts several of the composer's lighter (though hardly lightweight) works.
Lightness is not generally a Russian quality, but a reading of the "Classical" Symphony beautifully captures Prokofiev's dance qualities--fleet phrasing, and vivid primary colors. No less convincing is Temirkanov's way with the suite from "The Love for Three Oranges," which finds the composer at his most wry, angular, and sassy. And the Suite No. 2 from "Romeo and Juliet" captures a wide range of Prokofiev's moods, from the rapturously lyrical balcony scene to some dissonant action in the fighting scenes, and some comedic moments throughout. Here we're reminded that there's much that can go unnoticed in stage productions.
If Temirkanov lacks a bit of Gergiev's intensity and grit, he's nonetheless a master of orchestral detail, always presiding with a deft touch without losing sight of the music's architectural qualities. The St. Petersburg musicians play this music as if by birthright. Together, these two recordings offer a perfect "basic library" Prokofiev collection.
July Fourth Musical Highlights
By Brian Wise
July 2, 2003
Parades and picnics, flag-waving and fireworks: the Fourth of July is an opportunity to explore American music in all its spirit and diversity. But just what defines American music? What makes it sound American? WNYC's Independence Day musical calendar may offer some clues...
The British music critic Andrew Clements recently criticized the very idea of American opera in London's Guardian newspaper, arguing that it is hopelessly stodgy, trapped in Puccinian realism, and incapable of the bold experimentation found overseas. Whether or not you agree with his assessment, it's undeniable that American composers have long struggled to find a national identity, distinct from the European tradition. Many have been both burdened and invigorated by an ambiguous relationship with jazz, Broadway and other native popular styles, even as they adhere to old-world genres like the symphony, concerto, and sonata.
It is ironic, if hardly surprising then, that European musicians have often taken the lead in exploring America's musical history. Estonian conductor Neeme Jarvi has led the Detroit Symphony in over a dozen CDs of American repertory for the British label Chandos. On Friday's Overnight Music with George Preston, we hear their recording of the Symphony No. 2 of Charles Ives. Ives's five-movement canvas is filled with direct quotations drawn from various corners of American musical life, including Protestant hymnody, popular song, and Civil War marching tunes.
Another European-led recording project devoted to the American experience is Naxos's American Classics, an extraordinary series comprising 108 CD's and anticipated to include dozens more. The mastermind of American Classics is Klaus Heymann, a German based in Hong Kong. The participating orchestras are based in the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Slovakia, and the former Soviet Union.
Yet several American orchestras have joined the budget-priced label of late. On Overnight Music, we hear one of them - the Nashville Symphony's 2002 recording of George Chadwick's seldom-heard symphonic suite "Aphrodite," under conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn. Chadwick was a composer enormously popular with Boston Symphony audiences before 1920, and "Aphrodite" is one of many unsuspected and unfamiliar crannies in early American symphonic repertoire. With its brilliant orchestration, the work suggests the Impressionist tone poems of Debussy and Ravel.
Some of America's best indigenous music was enriched by the European composers and performers who took refuge from the Nazis in the country during the 1930s. Jascha Heifetz was the leading figure among the group of Russian Jews who dominated violin playing in the twentieth century. After settling in California, he became an American citizen, and arranged several American popular tunes, including Stephen Foster's "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair." On Friday's Evening Music with David Garland, we hear violinist Leila Josefowicz's rendition of this chestnut from her 2001 disc Americana (Philips). This will be paired with the equally cosmopolitan "Yankee Doodle" variations by Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps (from his 1845 "Souvenir d'Amerique," also performed by Josefowicz).
To round out the July Fourth musical journey, New Sounds with John Schaefer presents very updated versions of Ives's music in Sideshow's 1999 CD "The songs of Charles Ives."The disc's ten selections are drawn from "114 Songs," a 1922 collection of completed pieces and works-in-progress printed by Charles Ives in an effort to generate interest in his work within the American musical community. It's arguably Ives's most memorable and most American work, and Sideshow, a New York improvising quartet, re-imagines its iconoclastic spirit for new audiences.
July 4, 2003: A Musical Calendar
Whether you're enjoying a day at the beach, at the park, or simply relaxing at home, WNYC provides a distinctive and diverse patriotic soundtrack. Below is a chronological calendar of events, from 12am to 12pm.
Overnight Music with George Preston
12am on 93.9 FM
The American symphonic tradition takes center stage as Host George Preston presents works by Copland, Chadwick, Ives, and others. While Aaron Copland is best known for his folksy ballet scores, his idealistic and tuneful Symphony No. 3 has always been a bit underrated. It's a work of poignant lyricism and brass-laden climaxes and incorporates the famous "Fanfare for the Common Man" in its finale. We also hear the American landscape and story evoked in recent works by composers as diverse as Richard Danielpour, Ned Rorem, and Mark O'Connor. And as a special treat, we hear excerpts from "On the Town," Leonard Bernstein's vibrant 1944 Broadway musical in a now-classic 1993 recording featuring Clio Lane, Michael Barrett and Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Leonard Lopate Show
12pm on 93.9 FM and AM 820
Academy award winning composer Elmer Bernstein has made music for over 200 major film and television scores. He talks about with Leonard Lopate about his celebrated, four-decade-plus career.
Soundcheck with John Schaefer
2pm on 93.9 FM
Soundcheck celebrates the sounds of America as host John Schaefer talks to singer-songwriters who are revisiting and reinventing classic American songs. The program also wraps up singer-songwriter week, as guests include British songwriter/pop-star Billy Bragg and Nora Guthrie, daughter of folk legend Woody Guthrie and head of the Woody Guthrie archives. In the mid-1990s, Nora Guthrie invited Billy Bragg and the American roots-rock group Wilco to write music around some of Woody Guthrie's previously unpublished lyrics. The result is "Mermaid Avenue", a collection of soulful songs that sheds a new, contemporary light on one of America's pioneer singer-songwriters. John will also welcome composer Dick Connette, who takes lyrics from traditional American songs from the past two hundred years and updates them with his own music.
Evening Music with David Garland
7pm on 93.9 FM
Celebrate Independence Day with some old-fashioned--and NEW-fashioned-Americana: from the enthusiasm of Charles Ives' First String Quartet to the introspection of Bill Frisell, enjoy some independent-minded American music on Evening Music with David Garland.
New Sounds with John Schaefer
11pm on 93.9 FM
Host John Schaefer nominated Sideshow's debut CD "The songs of Charles Ives" (CRI/Blueshift) as one of the ten best recordings of 2001. Similarly, the Village Voice called the disc one of New York's "best of 1999," noting that it "consists of smart, rowdy, sneaky, bass-clarinet-guitar-vibraphone-percussion versions of Charles Ives' turn-of-the-century art songs…" The Voice continues, "Transplanting America's gnarliest great composer to semi-improvisational topsoil is a weird idea, but it works shockingly well, and the group blurs the line between intellectual rigor and chaotic fun. Their first album, in the works now, should open some eyes in both the classical and new music worlds."
Why Does Copland's Music Sound American? In a 1999 All Things Considered segment, NPR's Noah Adams talks to musicologist and crtitic Michael Steinberg about the music of Aaron Copland. Why, we ask, does Copland's music sound American? What is it about the music that evokes an American landscape in the minds of the audience? Steinberg think it has something to do with the composer's habit of quoting folk and cowboy tunes -- but also something about his chord structure that connotes wide-open spaces. Read more
Newmusicbox.org, the Web magazine of the American Music Center, celebrates Independence Day by examining the world of independent jazz labels. Also, you can read an excerpt of Michael Hicks's new book Henry Cowell, Bohemian, and a conversation with the author. Read more
Rosalyn Tureck, Eminent American Pianist, Dies at 88
By Brian Wise
July 18, 2003
NEW YORK, NY (2003-07-18) Rosalyn Tureck, the distinguished musician who was devoted to the music of J. S. Bach, died Thursday evening in the Bronx, New York.
Tureck was sometimes referred to as the High Priestess of Bach. She was a pioneer in Bach playing on the keyboard; some of her most famous concerts included performances on two instruments: she would play the Bach “Goldberg Variations” on the harpsichord, then the audience would break for dinner, and then would return later that same night to hear her play same work on the piano.
Born in Chicago, Tureck studied as a child with several teachers including Sophia Brilliant-Liven, a student of Anton Rubenstein, to whom Tureck traced her technique. Tureck moved to New York at age 18 and studied at the Juilliard School with the famed Olga Samaroff. A year after her graduation in 1935 she made her New York orchestral debut, performing Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. During this period she also became closely associated with the music of Bach.
Tureck's celebrated all-Bach recitals began in the 1930's at New York's Town Hall. After her European debut in 1947, she began a successful international career that eventually took her to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Israel. No less of a giant than Glenn Gould told an interviewer that as a young man he particularly admired Tureck's "Goldberg Variations" for having "a moral rectitude in the liturgical sense." Throughout her career she made several recordings of the "Goldbergs," some of which rank among the most imaginative in the catalogue and have been praised for their intensity of feeling and clear contrapuntal sense.
In the early 1960s Tureck took up the harpsichord and clavichord, although the piano remained her primary vehicle for performance. She also occasionally took the podium as conductor, appearing with several major orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as her own Tureck Bach Players and other groups.
Along with a rich concert and recording career, Tureck held numerous teaching posts as such institutions as the Juilliard School, Columbia University, and Oxford University. She published articles and books on pedagogical and performance-related topics, including "An Introduction to the Performance of Bach." She founded the International Bach Institute.
Along with her pursuits in the standard repertoire, Tureck's involvement in the contemporary-music world is reflected in her world premieres of a wide range of 20th-century modernists, including William Schumann's Piano Concerto and David Diamond's Piano Sonata No. 1. Throughout her life, she had a pioneering interest in electronic music, making her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 17 on a Theremin; and performing on the Moog synthesizer in recitals and on television. In 1952 she presented the first program in the United States of tape and electronic music.
Carnegie Ends Merger Talks with New York Philharmonic
By Brian Wise
October 8, 2003
NEW YORK, NY (2003-10-08) A much-heralded but controversial plan to merge the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall – two of New York’s most powerful cultural institutions – has collapsed after three months of talks.
In an announcement on Tuesday, the boards of both institutions agreed to call off the merger, citing irresolvable conflicts over which organization would dominate rehearsal and performance time. Instead, the Philharmonic will remain at Lincoln Center, its home since 1962.
The Philharmonic's executive director, Zarin Mehta, said in an interview on WNYC's Soundcheck that the main reason the merger did not succeed is that Carnegie Hall could not accommodate the number of concerts the orchestra plays each season, between 120 and 130. He added that the Philharmonic is pleased to be staying at Lincoln Center.
“It has been a very comfortable happy home,” says Mehta. “There was the possibility of a great hall being available so I think it was perfectly right...on the part of our board to look at it to see if it would work. It took 3 or 4 months to do that and it's over with."
The planned union, announced for the 2006-07 season, would have created a massive nonprofit corporation with an endowment of around $350 million and shared programming. But those involved with the discussions said that there were problems from the beginning. The Philharmonic has a constituency agreement with Lincoln Center that runs through 2011 and a move was viewed by the latter institution as a breach of contract. There was also considerable uncertainty as to how the merged institution would function from an administrative and artistic standpoint. Insiders questioned whether Carnegie Hall would agree to give up artistic control over its offerings.
When the plan was announced in June by the executive boards of both institutions, it took many of the respective board members by surprise, who first learned about it from an article in The New York Times. Lincoln Center was also taken by surprise.
Many questions remain, particularly how renovations will proceed at Avery Fisher Hall now that the Philharmonic will be staying. Before the announcement of the merger the orchestra commissioned a report from the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that detailed several renovation options: $400 million for rebuilding Avery Fisher, $300 million for renovating its interior, $25 million for more modest improvements and $100 million for moving to Carnegie with reconstruction there.