We’ve rounded up some links of interest from over the weekend.
Conductor JoAnn Falletta has renewed her contract with the Buffalo Philharmonic for another six years. Falletta, who was also conductor of The Women’s Philharmonic (1986-1997), currently also leads the Virginia Symphony. Read the story here.
NewMusicBox has an interview with Melinda Wagner. The interview with the Pulitzer Prize winning composer was filmed in March. Watch an excerpt of the conversation below, and visit NewMusicBox for more as well as a full transcript of the lengthy conversation.
Agata Sorotokin a (very) young and up and coming conductor spoke with The San Francisco Classical Voice about her early interest in conducting and how she came to be assistant conductor for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra during this summer’s European tour. Sorotokin, who will be attending Yale in the fall, also addressed the “woman conductor” question with grace:
Included on Sorotokin’s list of admired conductors is Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Sorotokin hopes there will be more opportunities for women conductors. “The world in general is moving in the right direction in terms of women leaders. I hope that would be the case for women music directors.”
“The fact that she happens to be female does not really come into play,” said [San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor] Donato Cabrera, “but it makes it doubly satisfying knowing that we are able to nurture women in their pursuit of what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.”
Sorotokin thinks more about merit than the gender of conductors. “Bias, whether it be gender, or other external factors, has nothing to do with merit,” she said. “People saying, ‘oh, women should not be up there conducting’…that’s not driven by music, that’s driven by society and that’s what needs to be changed.”
And in feel-good news, the last original member of the Florida Orchestra is retiring after playing with the ensemble for 50 years. Evelyn Pupello was just 17 when she began in the violin section. Read more about her here.
Here are some headlines worth paying attention to:
Though the LA Philharmonic didn’t promote Saariaho’s world premiere, it received an excellent review in the LA Times:
The performance was strong. Dudamel remained constantly attuned to Saariaho’s vastly changeable instrumental colors, a cosmic sonic background for Finley, who handled each song with operatic intensity, part of a grand psychodrama of searching for meaning, for words that can obtain meaning through music but can also become emptied of meaning when sung. This is a profound, important work.
Read Alex Ross’ thoughts on the drama surrounding the Berlin Philharmonic and the search for a new conductor. Though the classical music world was #WaitingForBerlin just a week ago, perhaps the choice of conductor doesn’t really matter for the reasons people suggest:
Not the least of the challenges that classical music faces is the increasingly unworkable celebrity-maestro model—a twentieth-century mutation, stemming from a disproportionate emphasis on the music of prior eras. It is fundamentally irrational for musicians to play the same passel of pieces over and over. Conductors serve to generate the illusion of novelty: as Theodor W. Adorno wrote, in his “Introduction to the Sociology of Music,” the maestro “acts as if he were creating the work here and now.” That top-tier conductors are almost always men is less an indication of institutional misogyny—though that certainly exists—than an inevitable consequence of the play-acting ritual: because the canonical composers are entirely male, so are their stand-ins. The modern orchestra concert is not entirely unrelated to the spectacle of a Civil War reënactment.
Be sure to also read about the partnership between Parsons School of Design and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in an effort to redesign orchestra attire.
What did I miss? Leave a link to your favorite news story from the past week in a comment below.
Congratulations to Julia Wolfe on winning the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Anthracite Fields. The piece is an oratorio inspired and based on the lives of Pennsylvania coal miners. It was commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Their website is full of information about the piece, the compositional process – which included extensive research, as well as the performers. Anthracite Fields is going to be performed this weekend (April 26 and 27th) in Philadelphia – tickets are still available!
By telephone Monday afternoon, the 57-year-old composer, originally from Pennsylvania, spoke with me from her home in Manhattan, where she had been reveling in the news(…). Wolfe took more than a year to write and research the work, visiting museums and interviewing miners. While talking to one daughter and granddaughter of miners, Wolfe discovered that in the small mining villages women spruced up their impoverished existences with gardens and flowers. That image, and a list of those flowers, forms one section of the piece.
Here is the flowers movement:
A full recording of the work will be released in September.
Wolfe is only the sixth woman to win the Pulitzer for music. The other women are Ellen Taffe Zwilich (1983), Shulamit Ran (1991), Melinda Wagner (1999), Jennifer Higdon (2010), and Caroline Shaw (2013).
The list of composers who worked on music after they finished their day jobs includes:
Ethel Smyth (who was a composer first and turned to writing books – including a multi-volume autobiography – later in life)
St. Hildegard of Bingen (abbess, mystic, healer, author, composer)
Lera Auerbach (a novelist and visual artist, she is also well-known in Russia as a poet)
Which makes me think: who else? Clara Schumann was a pianist first and a composer second, and Nadia Boulanger was an educator first. How many women were first wives, mothers, and homemakers before they could spend time composing at the keyboard?
Why don’t we all take a listen to Spotify’s collection of works by women and add some other names to the list!
I was thrilled to learn that a long-lost work by Lili Boulanger will finally receive its premiere on Thursday, February 26.
The Royal College of Music will present the work at the Royal Festival Hall. The Philharmonia Orchestra’s website provides more information as to its origin from scholar Caroline Potter:
In her all too brief career, Lili Boulanger composed a number of works that have not survived. One missing piece, Marche gaie, resurfaced in short-score form in 2011 in a private collection in North Carolina; the owners of the manuscript are the grandchildren of the work’s dedicatee, Jeanne Leygues. As Marche gaie was registered with the French copyright society SACEM as a work for chamber orchestra in 1916, we can assume it was composed in that year. While the manuscript is in an unknown hand, there is musical and circumstantial evidence that shows beyond reasonable doubt that this is a missing work by Lili Boulanger. The piece has been orchestrated in appropriate style by Robert Orledge.
Jeanne Leygues, daughter of the French politician Georges Leygues (briefly Prime Minister in 1920-21 and a great supporter of the arts), married an American, Paul Rockwell, who fought with his brother in the French Foreign Legion in the First World War. We can assume that Marche gaie was composed for their wedding in December 1916, not least because the piece alludes to Mendelssohn’s famous Wedding March; Lili Boulanger was fond of quotation and allusion. Marche gaie was originally paired with a Marche funèbre, a work yet to resurface.
This is a great discovery – and I have my fingers crossed that Marche funèbre and other works will be found, performed, and recorded. What a fabulous addition to the repertoire!
Marche gaie will be heard along with Ravel and Stravinsky as part of the “City of Light: Paris 1900-1950″ Festival. More information and tickets are available here.