A Berlin Institution’s Lively Shift

(New York Times)  —  On a recent evening at the Konzerthaus here, audience members chatted with members of the orchestra as they tuned their instruments. The stage of the main hall had been lowered and rows of velvet upholstered seating removed, everyday chairs forming wide concentric circles around a wooden podium. “I have to make sure I can see all the musicians!” the conductor, Ivan Fischer, joked into the microphone. The concert series, “Mittendrin,” or Right in the Middle, is one of several experimental formats the Konzerthaus Berlin has introduced since Mr. Fischer’s arrival as music director in 2012. […]

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When Opera takes on the Big Issues

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(Financial Times)  —  Big-busted celebrities. The Twin Towers. Nuclear physics. Opera in recent decades hasn’t been afraid to grapple with the most violent, vulgar and unsettling issues of our time, lifting characters from the news and setting them to music. …The English National Opera last month premiered Tansy Davies’ Between Worlds, a “spiritual and poetic drama based on the events of 9/11”, in the composer’s words. It follows Christopher Theofanidis’s 2011 opera Heart of a Soldier, about a security chief who led more than 2,000 people to safety that day. Now, a new opera at Milan’s La Scala takes on a current issue of even greater consequence: climate change. […]

New Shostakovich Recordings Highlight Composer’s Ambiguity

(Wall Street Journal)  — When  Paavo Järvi conducted two rarely performed  Shostakovich cantatas in Tallinn, Estonia, three years ago, an outcry in the media forced him to hire a bodyguard. This episode highlighted both the ambiguity of the music, written in the shadow of Stalin, and the sensitivity that remains in the Baltic country, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  […]

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Pierre Boulez’s Life in Service to Music

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(New York Times)  — Few musicians in history have been as influential within their lifetimes as Pierre Boulez. As a composer and theorist, he shaped the path of modernism in postwar Europe. As a conductor, he redefined concert programming. As an educator and administrator, he oversaw the creation of groundbreaking music facilities.  […]

Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi/Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Komische Oper Berlin — review

(Financial Times)  —  If Calixto Bieito’s new production of Gianni Schicchi and Bluebeard’s Castle makes a strong case for pairing these one-act operas, his lewd humour and sadomasochist displays offer little psychological insight. Both works premiered in the year 1918, and the dark journey of Bluebeard and Judith emerges as a counterpart to the paradise of the young lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio. […]

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New Artist of the Month: Aleksey Semenenko

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(Musical America Worldwide)  —  The tension was high at the first International Boris Goldstein Violin Competition in Bern last January. As it turned out, all but one of the winners were students of Zakhar Bron, himself a living legend for having trained soloists such as Vadim Repin and Daniel Hope. […]

Musica Nova, Helsinki — review

(Financial Times)  —  As a younger generation of Finnish composers remains under the shadow of modernist pioneers such as Magnus Lindberg and Kaija Saariaho, Musica Nova’s role may be more important than ever. Founded in 1981 as the Helsinki Biennale, the festival is Finland’s largest contemporary music event, this year offering both a glimpse into local talent and a wide range of repertoire in well-conceived programmes. […]

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L’Orontea, Frankfurt Opera — review

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(Financial Times)  —  With its slapstick comedy and sumptuous melodies, Antonio Cesti’s L’Orontea was a mainstay of 17th-century Italian repertoire. As a piece of modern entertainment, however, it presents both scholarly and thespian challenges. […]

Pascal Dusapin’s Music Tests Mind and Body

(New York Times)  —  With his chin-length hair, jacketed attire and focused gaze, Pascal Dusapin might be mistaken for an architect. Sitting at his tidy desk in front of a wall of books, he could also be a professor of philosophy. […]

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