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The Cold Wrath Of Nature, Given Operatic Voice

fromKERA

Bill Zeeble Kevin Burdette stars in Everest as Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who survived a deadly blizzard on the mountain in 1996.

Kevin Burdette stars in Everest as Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who survived a deadly blizzard on the mountain in 1996.

Karen Almond/The Dallas Opera

Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain and one of the most dangerous, having claimed more than 200 lives over the past century. Until last year's fatal avalanche, the deadliest year in recorded history was 1996: 15 people died, eight of them in a single blizzard. That disaster has been chronicled in at least five books, two documentaries — and now, an opera premiering in Dallas, Texas, simply called Everest.

For years, Gene Scheer was fascinated by the infamous 1996 expeditions. He wrote the libretto for Everest after traveling around the world to interview survivors of that doomed climb.

"It seems to be about both really big sorts of existential themes, coupled with these challenging circumstances these characters found themselves in," Scheer says.

One of the survivors he spoke to is Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor. At a question-and-answer session that was part of the opera's premiere last week, Weathers said he was near the summit when his eyesight failed. He recalled guide Rob Hall's advice.

"He said, 'I don't want you climbing. And I want you to promise me that you're going to stay here till I come back,'" Weathers recounted. "I said, 'Cross my heart, hope to die, I'm sticking.' It never occurred to me he would never come back."

The job of turning those stories and their setting into music fell to British composer Joby Talbot. The 43-year old has written for film, television and ballet, but this is his first opera. Talbot says he was especially eager to create a sound world around the peak.

"There's the voice of the mountain — that's one of the first thoughts I had," he says. "I was looking for the sound to represent this fickle, terrifying entity. So I was looking for rock cracking under the pressure, and the cold wind perpetually whistling past."

Talbot used percussion instruments to convey the cracking rocks and ice. At certain points, the groaning mountain is evoked by bass drum rubbed with an inflated rubber ball.

"And then, with one of the other bass drums, we've taped double bass strings to the underside of the bass drum so when you hit it, they rattle like a huge snare drum," Talbot explains. He adds with a laugh, "I'm giving you all my trade secrets."

Once the score was written, the Dallas Opera sought singers. When baritone Craig Verm heard about the show, he wanted in — because he's also a climber.

"Joby has brilliantly incorporated lots of breaths," Verm says, "so we can move with our body and gasp for air in between words and between phrases, to give the illusion that we really are suffering from hypoxia."

Hypoxia — lack of oxygen — and cold almost killed Beck Weathers in 1996. He fell into a hypothermic coma after the blizzard blew in, and was left for dead by two different teams, an accepted practice on Everest. Fifteen hours later, he woke up.

"My recollection of it was literally of waking up in my own bed. I looked down and I saw my dead hand on my right arm," Weathers says. "And I hit it, and of course it was completely frozen solid, so it bounced — which actually was a good thing because it brought me out of my reverie and pointed out to me that I was, in fact, not in my bed."

Weathers lost both hands and parts of his face to frostbite — and yet, today, he doesn't regret the trip. "If I knew exactly what happened, every bit of the pain and the misery and everything that was awful about this, I would do it again," he says.

Beck Weathers says he came out of the experience a changed man: No longer arrogant or depressive, he saved a failing marriage. For Craig Verm, the danger of climbing has a different bright side.

"What draws me to performing is the same things that draw me to the mountains," he says. "There is an aliveness, a mixture of being 100 percent physical, 100 percent emotional, 100 percent spiritual experience. And you're exhausted, but you've never been more alive."

Verm and the other members of Everest's cast and crew hope they can make audiences feel the same way.

Copyright 2015 KERA Unlimited. To see more, visit http://www.kera.org/.
26 days ago | |
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The Cold Wrath Of Nature, Given Operatic Voice

fromKERA

Bill Zeeble

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5 min 10 sec   Kevin Burdette stars in Everest as Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who survived a deadly blizzard on the mountain in 1996.

Kevin Burdette stars in Everest as Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who survived a deadly blizzard on the mountain in 1996.

Karen Almond/The Dallas Opera

Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain and one of the most dangerous, having claimed more than 200 lives over the past century. Until last year's fatal avalanche, the deadliest year in recorded history was 1996: 15 people died, eight of them in a single blizzard. That disaster has been chronicled in at least five books, two documentaries — and now, an opera premiering in Dallas, Texas, simply called Everest.

For years, Gene Scheer was fascinated by the infamous 1996 expeditions. He wrote the libretto for Everest after traveling around the world to interview survivors of that doomed climb.

"It seems to be about both really big sorts of existential themes, coupled with these challenging circumstances these characters found themselves in," Scheer says.

One of the survivors he spoke to is Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor. At a question-and-answer session that was part of the opera's premiere last week, Weathers said he was near the summit when his eyesight failed. He recalled guide Rob Hall's advice.

"He said, 'I don't want you climbing. And I want you to promise me that you're going to stay here till I come back,'" Weathers recounted. "I said, 'Cross my heart, hope to die, I'm sticking.' It never occurred to me he would never come back."

The job of turning those stories and their setting into music fell to British composer Joby Talbot. The 43-year old has written for film, television and ballet, but this is his first opera. Talbot says he was especially eager to create a sound world around the peak.

"There's the voice of the mountain — that's one of the first thoughts I had," he says. "I was looking for the sound to represent this fickle, terrifying entity. So I was looking for rock cracking under the pressure, and the cold wind perpetually whistling past."

Talbot used percussion instruments to convey the cracking rocks and ice. At certain points, the groaning mountain is evoked by bass drum rubbed with an inflated rubber ball.

"And then, with one of the other bass drums, we've taped double bass strings to the underside of the bass drum so when you hit it, they rattle like a huge snare drum," Talbot explains. He adds with a laugh, "I'm giving you all my trade secrets."

Once the score was written, the Dallas Opera sought singers. When baritone Craig Verm heard about the show, he wanted in — because he's also a climber.

"Joby has brilliantly incorporated lots of breaths," Verm says, "so we can move with our body and gasp for air in between words and between phrases, to give the illusion that we really are suffering from hypoxia."

Hypoxia — lack of oxygen — and cold almost killed Beck Weathers in 1996. He fell into a hypothermic coma after the blizzard blew in, and was left for dead by two different teams, an accepted practice on Everest. Fifteen hours later, he woke up.

"My recollection of it was literally of waking up in my own bed. I looked down and I saw my dead hand on my right arm," Weathers says. "And I hit it, and of course it was completely frozen solid, so it bounced — which actually was a good thing because it brought me out of my reverie and pointed out to me that I was, in fact, not in my bed."

Weathers lost both hands and parts of his face to frostbite — and yet, today, he doesn't regret the trip. "If I knew exactly what happened, every bit of the pain and the misery and everything that was awful about this, I would do it again," he says.

Beck Weathers says he came out of the experience a changed man: No longer arrogant or depressive, he saved a failing marriage. For Craig Verm, the danger of climbing has a different bright side.

"What draws me to performing is the same things that draw me to the mountains," he says. "There is an aliveness, a mixture of being 100 percent physical, 100 percent emotional, 100 percent spiritual experience. And you're exhausted, but you've never been more alive."

Verm and the other members of Everest's cast and crew hope they can make audiences feel the same way.

Copyright 2015 KERA Unlimited. To see more, visit http://www.kera.org/.
26 days ago | |
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A Friday Surprise: Alan Gilbert Will Leave The New York Philharmonic

Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, has announced he will step down in 2017.

Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, has announced he will step down in 2017.

Chris Lee/New York Philharmonic

Anastasia Tsioulcas Talks To Alan Gilbert About His Departure From The New York Philharmonic

24 min 14 sec  

The New York Philharmonic sprang an enormous surprise this morning: Its music director, Alan Gilbert, announced that he will be leaving the orchestra in the summer of 2017. Gilbert will have spent eight years as the artistic head of the ensemble by the time of his departure, and during his time there he broke all kinds of new ground. Not only was he the first native New Yorker and first Asian-American to serve as its artistic director, but he literally grew up with the Phil — both his parents were Philharmonic violinists for many years.

'The Cunning Little Vixen' at Avery Fisher Hall, June 21, 2011.

First Listen

First Listen: Janacek, The Cunning Little Vixen

More than that, the 47-year-old Gilbert reinvigorated the New York Philharmonic. Under previous artistic chiefs, including Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur and Zubin Mehta, the orchestra's repertoire was largely conservative and inward-looking. Since Gilbert's arrival in 2009, he introduced several projects that injected huge excitement and energy into the orchestra — and into the cultural life of the city. During his watch, Gilbert created a new music festival called the NY Phil Biennial, began programming exciting, semi-staged cross-discipline productions (including Ligeti's terribly underheard opera Le Grand Macabre). As I wrote in 2011, he created a new tradition in the city: an "annual mad rush of hipsters and septuagenarians alike to the limited run of whatever New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert has cooked up to end the season."

Gilbert branched out to the city beyond Lincoln Center, taking the orchestra to far edgier venues like the Park Avenue Armory. He also spearheaded an effort to revive interest in the music of Carl Nielsen, and released a whole cycle of Nielsen recordings with the orchestra for the Danish Dacapo label. As the orchestra's president, Matthew VanBiesen, himself a quite recent and youthful arrival at the Phil, says in the press release announcing Gilbert's departure: "Alan has changed the DNA of this place."

So why is Gilbert leaving, and why now? In the press release, the next renovation of the acoustically unsatisfactory Avery Fisher Hall — which is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2019 — was pointed to as a major factor in the conductor's decision. Justin Davidson reports on Vulture that Gilbert "didn't want to commit to the orchestra for another six or seven years."

And now the horse race begins to see who will step in. In the classical world, when it comes to contract negotiations and scheduling, 2017 is barely a blink of an eye away. With many of the most talked about and dynamic marquee conductors tied up in long-term contracts with other American orchestras, at the moment Gilbert's successor is anybody's guess.

In the meantime, Gilbert hasn't revealed his long-term post-Phil plans, though he'll be returning to help program the 2017-18 edition of the Biennial. He told the New York Times' Michael Cooper, in an interview published this morning, that he hopes to conduct more operas in the years ahead. Does he have his eye on another institution across the Lincoln Center plaza?

Hear Alan Gilbert Conduct Nielsen

Carl Nielsen: Symphonies

Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 - Allegro

  • Artist: Alan Gilbert
  • Song: Symphony No. 4 ("Det uudslukkelige"; "Inextinguishable"), FS 76 (Op. 29) [4. Allegro]
  • From: Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 "The Inextinguishable"

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Symphony No. 4 ("Det uudslukkelige"; "Inextinguishable"), FS 76 (Op. 29) [4. Allegro]
Album
Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Artist
New York Philharmonic
Label
Dacapo
Released
2015

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This afternoon, Alan Gilbert stopped by NPR's New York bureau to talk with me about his departure, and about his tenure at the Philharmonic. The audio is at the top of this page; here is a transcript of our conversation. - AT

Anastasia Tsioulcas: I'd like to know what precipitated this decision.

Alan Gilbert: I don't think precipitated is the right word, because it's something that I've been thinking about for a long time, and I've been talking to Matthew VanBiesen, our president, and select members of the board for a long time. You know, it's not something that I talked about way back when, but when I was starting the job — believe it or not, and I'm actually a little surprised that somehow it's worked out exactly this way, but when I was starting, I thought kind of in my mind, eight years would be just about right. That's not an explanation, and certainly not a justification for what is happening, but it's kind of interesting to me that this has ended up being the amount of time that feels right for me.

There are many levels in which I can talk about this, but actually it's pretty straightforward, and what we've said in the release and what I've said so far is actually the story. I feel that the orchestra needs someone to shepherd it through this upcoming hall renovation project and carry it through to its logical conclusion which is obviously the re-opening of the hall, and as the schedule has become more and more concrete, and more and more clear, that's not going to be — it's clear that, it's obvious, that's not going to be until 2021 at the earliest. That's six, seven years from now.

I still have two and a half years on my current contract, and I just — it's not for me. It feels too long. I feel like I'm ready to move on to the next thing. There's a part of me that says, well, it's a little bit on the early side, but I'd rather leave a little bit too early than a little bit too late, and in these eight years — well, it's only six so far — but I hope that the progress and the momentum that I think we've generated up until now will continue, I fully expect it will. And at the end of eight years, I think it will have been a body of work and hopefully an accomplishment and achievement that will feel about exactly right.

AT: Well, when you talk about shepherding, obviously this is going to be an orchestra in transition — physically, as well as sort of, I don't know, spiritually, extra-musically. Is that the kind of shepherding you're thinking of in particular?

AG: It's a big deal to think about building a new hall or renovating a new hall, creating a new home for any orchestra. I think it's a huge opportunity, both for the New York Philharmonic and also for Lincoln Center and the city at large. There will be a lot of moving parts: The orchestra will have to find places to play, will have to figure out how to deal with its subscription audience, I mean there are a lot of — that's not only logistics, it becomes a philosophical question of what to do during the two years that the orchestra will not have a regular home to play.

A sense of continuity and a sense of stability is so important for the organization. You know, I've said before it would be something that I would be proud of if I were the one to do it, but the time spent has just become longer than I think what feels right for me, personally. And so, in order to give the orchestra ample time hopefully, to identify my successor and put someone in place and give that person enough time to build up a relationship with the audience in order to be that sort of symbol of continuity while the orchestra is — I mean, "at sea" sounds negative. I actually do think it's a big opportunity for the orchestra to make a connection with the city in a new way, but it's going to be somebody else doing that.

AT: I appreciate what you're saying sort of about continuity, because obviously it's an organization that's very closely tied to the Lincoln Center campus, though you've done so much to sort of take it outside of that space and around the city.

AG: I've tried to do that, and you know it's kind of an obvious moment for me to look back at where we came from and what we've done over the years. Frankly, a lot of what we've accomplished, I was told early on, "You know what — don't expect to ever succeed in these areas, there's too much entrenched thinking." And I won't go into exactly the conversations I've had, but I guess people were trying to manage my expectations. At the end of the day, or at the end of today, or by now, we've done a lot. And the very culture and sort of the premise upon which the orchestra operates has significantly — radically, even — changed. I think that the way New Yorkers look at the orchestra and think about it is very different from any other time I can think of, and I've known the orchestra for a long time.

AT: Especially so.

AG: Well, yeah. You know, I love New York, I love the orchestra. You know, I remember when I started floating ideas for my first season with the artistic team that I had, Grand Macabre wasn't even on their radar screen, and it was a crazy, pie-in-the-sky idea to introduce that in my first season. If I suggested something like that now, it would be normal in the best sense. I think that, I don't know if there was skepticism, there was full support, and the institution really mobilized it to announce that incredible production of Ligeti's Grand Macabre that we did, but a lot of people didn't know what we were getting into. There's was a little bit of sense of "Okay, let's let Gilbert get it out of his system. We'll do this, and then we'll go back to what we really do."

Of course, what we really do is a lot of things, and I think that's the point. I've tried to expand the notion of what it is that we really do, because we have to stay obviously true to our traditions — playing Beethoven and playing Tchaikovsky. It's crucial, and it's right down the center of what we do, but the center is wider than it used to be, and now I think, frankly, I don't know any other orchestra that has a track record of the big marquee production and events and festivals that we've done. And now, you know, that's one of the things I said when I started, I want there to be a constant stream of surprising good news coming out of the New York Philharmonic, and I think it's starting to really take. It's also about building up a relationship and a sense of trust with our audience and I can feel that. That has developed. So I'm really proud of that, and if I may say so myself, creating that kind of initial shift in an organization like the New York Philharmonic — that's the hardest thing. Of course continuing it is a challenge and it won't be in my hands after I leave, obviously. Hopefully, I've positioned the organization to really maintain that new trajectory and continue to — it's note even to think out of the box. It's just a bigger box now.

AT: Well I think those are incredibly important ideas and incredibly important to make that gravitational shift in the organization's thinking, and obviously the New York Philharmonic has a very particular place in our culture. But you think there are lessons that other orchestras — large, small — can take away from what you've done at the Phil in terms of shifting that mind-set?

AG: I'm not doing it to sort of consciously lead the way. I won't lie to you, it's been amusing and gratifying when I hear arts administrators from other organizations, other orchestras, say, "Well, you know what we do, frankly, is we wait and see what the Philharmonic is doing. And then you see on our schedule, a year or two later we start doing the same thing."

AT: Have you really heard that?

AG: I have actually heard that.

AT: Wow.

AG: I don't take credit for changing the tide or changing the course of music, but I know that people do look at what we do and are really interested, because now we have a track record and for the most part, even my wildest, most ambitious ideas have been embraced. For that I'm extremely grateful, both eternally and externally. I mean it requires a real – you know, it takes a village. It really requires the buy-in of — if not everybody, of most everybody in the organization. There's so many moving parts, and the Philharmonic as an institution is such a complicated organism. You can really tell when a group has its stuff together, and I feel that more and more that's the case. That leads to a sense of inevitability, in terms of the way what you offer can be received, and I've spoken from early on about building up a relationship and a sense of trust with our audience, so that no matter what we do, even if people don't know what it is or haven't heard of this composer or have no idea what the project is going to feel like or look like or sound like, they'll say, "Oh well, if Gilbert or the Philharmonic are doing it, we'll give it a try." And I actually think that's happening. I personally think I do have a lot of thoughts about the state of orchestras and the business as it were. I hate to call it a business, but you know what I mean in this context.

I think that orchestras are having to change and are being constantly challenged by new circumstances. We can talk about the modes of delivery that people have at their disposal to receive entertainment: instant streaming, Internet ... you name it, it's a totally different landscape right now. The orchestras that are going to succeed are the ones that somehow stay true to their essence and traditions as symphonic, concert-presenting organizations, but are also able to go with the flow, and take risks and try to connect with people in a new way. I've mentioned the Grand Macabre. And more than doing the Grand Macabre, the big thought behind that project, and other live things that we've done, is finding a new audience, but a new way of connecting with our audience — redefining what the experience of hearing a symphony orchestra is. Every project that we've done, even if it's been operatic or theatrical or experimental, essentially has the symphony orchestra at its core. So it's not about turning the symphony orchestra into something else — it's about showing the myriad facets that a symphony orchestra can, and I believe should, have in the modern-day age.

AT: And what advice or values — well, what advice would you give a successor to you and what values would you hope that person could bring to the organization?

AG: It's a good question; it's an interesting question. Obviously some of my pet projects, like the Biennial — which we've only did one but we're coming back with Biennial Two later this season. I'm already committed to helping curate the 2018 incarnation ... I'm really proud that the NY Philharmonic is the presenter and the driving force behind this. I mean it's a big deal for music, for contemporary music, and for New York City to be able to host this. Obviously, I hope it continues far into the future. I personally think it should. I hope it will, and I know there are a lot of people in the organization who agree with me and will do their best to keep it going. But at the end of the day, whoever follows me or whoever is doing any job anywhere in any field, I think will do well to be true to him or herself. There are a lot of ideas. Some are good; some are bad; some are right; some are wrong. It's not even so important whether an idea or initiative is good, or bad, or right or wrong — it has to be sincere. So I would never want my successor to do something that I implemented simply to keep it going. It would have to be something that they could honestly put their heart into.

I certainly hope that the sense of daring and experimentation and risk-taking that I think has become normal in the best sense for us, I hope that continues. It's obvious, it's manifest, that that's how I feel like orchestra should function, because that's how I led the orchestra up until now. As I've said, I think that orchestras and organizations — we've all heard of the orchestras that are struggling and even closing. I'm not saying it's because they didn't embrace risk-taking necessarily, but the fact is that we have to look at the altered landscape and roll with it as it exists.

But I do think to underline this point, what big institutions such as the New York Philharmonic need is a human touch, is a personal face, a point of view that actually comes from a very honest place. It's very easy — there's so many pressures to do it this way and satisfy this consituency, or make sure that this part of our audience is not alienated. There are a lot of things that enter the discussion. At the end of the day, what I try to do when I program, is present music, perform music that I really believe in.

Obviously, I'm a professional musician. I spend my life doing music. Not everybody does that, so in that sense I'm unusual I guess, but on the other hand — I'm just a normal guy. And I figure, if something can touch me, if something can turn me on, make me excited, there's a good chance that there are other people in the world will react in the same way but it has to be presented sincerely. I think that the attitude of, "Okay, well if you're going to play Stockhausen, then you're going to make sure to play Beethoven in the same program" is understandable, but should not be the driving force behind decision-making, because it amounts to hedging and not really putting your full passion behind what you do.

I think that obviously people are most comfortable with what they know best. But that doesn't mean that they're not willing to experiment, certainly in New York of all places — I mean, we have so many different people, so many different choices. We should embrace that, and I hope that that spirit of really honest communication is what the New York Philharmonic does forever.

AT: Well, I can't help but ask with all this talk about NY Philharmonic as an institution, what the next steps might be for you. I know you talked to Michael [Cooper, at the New York Times] about maybe more things in Europe. I know maybe more opera. Would you consider another American post?


AG: I really couldn't say. You know, once you conducted the New York Philharmonic and been its music director — that's pretty much, that's the top of the game in the States. And I've been really, it was an enormous challenge when I started and it has been, it's pretty much all-consuming. I've loved it, I really feel a great rapport with the musicians. They give everything, this orchestra that has had — completely wrongly — but has had the reputation for being difficult in rehearsals and with conductors. I've never seen that, certainly with me, or even with other conductors that I know that they don't like. I mean, they're consummate professionals, and they do their best every time they're on stage. It's an amazing privilege and pleasure to work with them. The daily demands of the job are enormous, and I'm not the first person who has talked about this. It's a very taxing job because they're — I believe in doing it. I think it's important to do and I really want symphonic music to flourish in the United States . It's been great to have the chance to throw myself into it.

I have three young kids. I'm very curious about lots of different things. I'm excited about having more flexibility to choose to do other things. As far as taking another position in the States —

AT: Or elsewhere —

AG: Well, you mentioned the States. I would say there are specific challenges that go along with being a music director of a top orchestra in the States, that I'm not sure I feel the need to do that again. Once you've done it at the New York Philharmonic, that's a very strong experience and it's not necessary to repeat it, perhaps. In Europe, I have a lot of orchestras that I'm very close to and that I've built relationships with over the years. I feel very comfortable working in Europe and in Germany particularly. We still have our home in Stockholm. I'm laureate conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic. I conduct them as often as I can, but it's not even possible every year necessarily to get there, so it should be possible to bring that back as a regular element to my schedule. I'm excited about that.

Opera: you know I'm in the middle of a Don Giovanni run — well, just started it, actually. We've only had one performance at the Metropolitan Opera. It's so great to be back in the pit. I feel extremely comfortable there and I love the world of the theater. I did a lot more before the New York Philharmonic. But I put a conscious stop on that area while I've been at the Philharmonic because it takes a lot of time to do opera. It's time that I love to spend in the opera house, but it just didn't make sense with all the things that I had to do with the Philharmonic. You had to develop a chunk of time. This has worked out well, because it's a revival at the Met and it's at home. I'm in New York, but it really reminds me how much I like to do opera. So I'm looking forward to getting one or two operas back in every season, but we'll see. I'm not leaving the Philharmonic in order to go somewhere else, but obviously it does make it possible to think about other things.

AT: Well, you know the horse-racing bets have already started, you know — inevitably. I completely understand I think what you're saying, or have some glimpse of what you're saying. about the difference in the demands put on an American music director, or at a position at an American orchestra rather than abroad. So I would imagine, you are or would consider similar posts in Europe?

AG: I wouldn't rule it out. I'm not looking for such a position right now. But again, I've spent a lot of my life in Europe. My wife is Swedish, my sister lives in France We spend a lot of — I mean my parents have an apartment in France, near where my sister lives. There's a strong pull in that direction. And yeah, it would be fun. I'm always looking at new challenges, and that's something that I would be interested in trying at some point. I was music director of the Stockholm Philharmonic for eight years — also eight years. That seems to be a good amount of time for me at different places! But that was my first position with an orchestra, and I remember thinking when I was leaving there, "Ah, you know what, I would love to have another chance." Because the first few years I remember I was just finding my way. I'm glad I did that position before I came to the New York Philharmonic. Even though it's totally different, it's just the responsibility of guiding an organization of that orchestra. It was really useful to me, but now — yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe another time, but again, it's actually not something I'm looking for but now is theoretically possible.

AT: Is there any repertoire that you're absolutely dying to tackle in the next couple of seasons before you go? I mean, I feel like there's the Biennial, which is obviously a huge thing and you'll still be involved in that. The Nielsen project — the last recording was just issued. Are there any other big goalposts that you'd like to do?

AG: Well, as far as the repertoire that I'll do in the next two and a half years — I mean, next year is already announced and planned. I have one more season and now I can start thinking about it as my final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic. It takes on a new dimension as soon as I call it that. And so it does make me think, okay what will I really like to do in this final season?

I've repeated very little repertoire. I've done many, many things over the years, so it's not as if I missed pockets of the repertoire. I've always wish we had more time to do Mozart and Haydn. There's a demand to use the [full] orchestra, and it comes internally and externally. People want to hear the Philharmonic play in its full splendor and glory, and I think the orchestra shines in the big repertoire, the big, glamorous repertoire. And so it's great to do. But when you go on tour, people always want to hear big pieces, and you also want to work with the presenters. It seems to be hard to get enough Mozart and Haydn, so I definitely want to do that. But into the future, we are talking about recognizing Bernstein — he has a big anniversary coming up, and the recordings of the Nielsen have come out sounding so good. I just love the way the orchestra sounds on those, and the team that's done that is really interested to keep recording with me and the orchestra. You know, we haven't talked about it and it's probably premature to even mention it but I would love to record the Bernstein canon with the New York Philharmonic. That would be really fun for me and I think it would turn out to be really spectacular.

AT: Especially now that you're talking about an orchestra that sort of — I mean obviously there's the history of Bernstein and the Phil, but you're talking about generations of players who have that sort of Bernstein sensibility in their gene pool — do you know what I mean?

AG: Of course I know what you mean. I feel it every time I conduct Bernstein with them, and there's no other orchestra that can touch the New York Philharmonic in that music.

AT: Not just historically, in terms of — I don't know if the right word is generational approach, but it's sort of his sort of embrace of all music and sort of how you find that in so much of his work, is there.

AG: I couldn't agree more. Anyway, for me that would be an idea worth pursuing, so we'll see if that goes anywhere.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
27 days ago | |
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Aldo Ciccolini, An Italian Pianist With A French Soul, Dies At Age 89

Italian-born pianist Aldo Ciccolini was closely associated with French music. He died this weekend at age 89.

Italian-born pianist Aldo Ciccolini was closely associated with French music. He died this weekend at age 89.

Sabine Weiss/Courtesy of the artist

Pianist Aldo Ciccolini was born in Naples, Italy, but he had a French soul. A passionate champion of French composers, he recorded more than 50 albums, mostly of French repertoire, and along the way championed many underrepresented French composers, especially Erik Satie. Ciccolini died overnight Saturday at age 89, shortly after returning home to Asnières-sur-Seine in the Parisian suburbs from several weeks in the hospital for undisclosed treatments. His death was announced by his manager, pianist Paul Blacher.

Born Aug. 15, 1925, Ciccolini began studies at the Naples Conservatory, where he studied with Paolo Denza (a student of composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni), and made his concert debut at 16 with Chopin's F Minor Concerto at the Teatro di San Carlo in his native city. Though Ciccolini's family had an aristocratic background, they fell on hard times, and he supported them by playing in bars in the years after World War II.

Ciccolini began teaching at the Naples Conservatory in 1947. Two years later, he tied for first place in the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris. He moved to France that year, and before long he became very closely identified with the music of his adopted land — particularly that of Satie, Debussy, Ravel and Saint-Saëns. Between 1971 and 1989, Ciccolini taught at the Paris Conservatory, where his students included Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Nicholas Angelich and Artur Pizarro.

Ciccolini also sought to tackle non-French repertoire, including music by Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart. The pianist made his American debut in 1950 with the New York Philharmonic under Dmitri Mitropoulos, playing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. in his mature years, Ciccolini was celebrated for his cultivation of the smallest details in the music he played, rendering them with clarity and insight. As critic Bernard Holland wrote in a 1992 review for the New York Times, "Mr. Ciccolini belongs to a school of Debussy playing that replaces obscuring veils and deflected light with something more pinpointed, with every arpeggio and whole-tone run registered in bright, clear light."

In a testament to Ciccolini's huge body of work for the record label EMI, the company (now Warner Classics) released a 56-volume box set of his albums in 2010.

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Bach, Brits And A Bodacious Boston Orchestra: New Classical Albums

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9 min 15 sec   Composer Andrew Norman's new album is called Play.

Composer Andrew Norman's new album is called Play.

BMOP Sound

It may be deep midwinter, when music releases are usually sparse, but this month a surprising crop of intriguing classical albums has popped up. In this visit to All Things Considered, host Arun Rath and I listen to a fearless Boston orchestra powering through a symphonic blockbuster by American composer Andrew Norman, as well as a smartly programmed album by the British Aurora Orchestra that includes a Paul Simon song. The popular Anderson and Roe piano duo takes on the sturdy music of Bach, and we'll meet Sonya Yoncheva, a Bulgarian soprano whose star is on the rise.

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Fifty Years Of Steve Reich's 'It's Gonna Rain'

Sometimes great things are born from happy accidents. Fifty years ago today in San Francisco, composer Steve Reich premiered It's Gonna Rain, his first official piece. The music, made by manipulating a recording of a Pentecostal preacher, opened a door to a new way of composing for Reich and helped launch his career. He says the creation of the work came about by chance as he was fiddling with two identical tape loops of the preacher that got out of synch with each other.

"Actually the going out of phase was kind of an accident," Reich told NPR's Fresh Air in 1999. "But when I heard it I thought, 'This is fantastic.' It's a kind of seamless process that goes on and on. After I did that piece and another one like it, I began to apply that principle to live musicians from about 1967 to 1971, and then sort of moved on from there."

Steve Reich, with a phase-shifting pulse gate, photographed in New York in 1969.

Steve Reich, with a phase-shifting pulse gate, photographed in New York in 1969.

Nonesuch

One reason Reich was drawn to the tape he recorded of the charismatic preacher, Brother Walter, was the sheer musicality of the sound. "Sometimes when people speak, they almost sing," Reich said. "Tape loops are little bits of tape that are spliced together so that they just go around and around and around and repeat themselves. And when you take a bit of speech like 'It's gonna rain,' the way he says it, you really begin to hear the music of what he's saying and what he says increasingly blended together so it's hard to separate them."

Another reason for Reich's interest in the sermon was the Cold War. Reich stumbled across the preacher in San Francisco's Union Square Park in 1964, when the Cuban missile crisis was still a fresh memory.

"And he's talking about the flood in the Bible and Noah and the ark," Reich said, "and you've got to remember the Cuban missile crisis was in '62, and this was something hanging over everyone's head ... that we could be so much radioactive dust in the next day or two. So this seemed very appropriate."

Once Reich realized the beauty of his accidental discovery, he set out to make It's Gonna Rain.

"There are two loops of his voice, starting in unison," Reich said. "And then one slowly creeps ahead of the other — I just did it with my thumb on the recording reel of one of the machines. And so they go out of phase. It's like a canon or a round, like 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' And you get first a kind of shaking, a reverberation, and then you get a sort of imitation and gradually you begin to hear it as a round. And that's exactly what happens in this piece."

The idea of notes and phrases closely interlocking, pulsating and slowly evolving is one of the central tenets of what would come to be called minimalism. It's Gonna Rain is just one example of Reich's broad musical lexicon that over five decades has influenced countless musicians in classical, electronic and even popular music.

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Soundtrack To The Outback: Remembering Peter Sculthorpe

On Australia Day, we salute composer Peter Sculthorpe.

On Australia Day, we salute composer Peter Sculthorpe.

Bridget Elliot/Sono Luminus

They're celebrating Down Under. Today is Australia Day, a holiday marking the arrival of British ships at Sydney Harbour in 1788. A perfect day then to salute something truly Australian, something that speaks of national pride, austere landscapes and even the darker side of Australian history — the music of Peter Sculthorpe, who died last year at age 85.

Perhaps the most Australian of Australian composers, Sculthorpe created a soundtrack to the Outback. One of his first important works, a piano sonatina from 1954, was inspired by an indigenous Australian creation story. A series of string pieces called Irkanda (an aboriginal word for "scrub country") evokes what Sculthorpe described as places "remote and lonely." In Port Essington for string orchestra, he cites an indigenous Australian chant, and in his later string quartets he includes the didgeridoo, an ancient wind instrument made from eucalyptus wood hollowed out by termites.

Sculthorpe was born on April 29, 1929, in Tasmania, the Australian island state 150 miles south of the mainland. Claiming to have had a happy childhood, he later understood some of his country's less pleasant history, including the use of Tasmania as a British penal colony (his great-grandfather was sent there as a convict) and the systematic "resettling" of Australia's Aborigines. Commemorating those 18th-century British ships today is not appealing to every Australian. As a mature composer, Sculthorpe wouldn't shy away from these disturbing themes, even though he knew appropriating them for his music was itself problematic.

Hear the Music

The String Quartet No. 14, for example, takes its subtitle, "Quamby," from a story Sculthorpe first heard from his father about Quamby Bluff near his hometown of Launceston. Although undocumented, legend has it that colonial troops herded native Tasmanians, forcing them over the edge of the bluff. As they leapt to their deaths, cries of "Quamby! Quamby!" (Save me! Save me!) were heard. The 20-minute piece is rife with mixed emotions and evocative sounds as Sculthorpe tries to at once reclaim his idyllic youth and confront his country's dark past.

In the third movement, "On High Hills," seagulls cry (in bowed glissandos) and a wistful melody glides over a gently swaying beat. The didgeridoo, droning underneath, grounds the movement.

Stephen Kent, the soloist along with the Del Sol Quartet, says the didgeridoo worked on two elemental levels for Sculthorpe. "One, it is the literal 'sound of the land,' ever present as a witness to the events happening in Australia," Kent wrote in an email. "And two, it is the musical voice of God, an omnipresent force (for good) in the world." Kent worked with Sculthorpe before giving the world premiere of the composer's Sixteenth String Quartet in 2006. "I found him to be a very gracious man with a deep sense of connectedness between his artistic vision and the realities and problems facing the world around him," Kent wrote.

By incorporating aboriginal themes and sounds of the Outback in his music, Sculthorpe gave his compatriots a sense of themselves. And isn't that just what they need on Australia Day?

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John Luther Adams' Ode To Sundogs

Sky With Four Suns

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  John Luther Adams' new album, The Wind in High Places, evokes austere landscapes and mysterious light.

John Luther Adams' new album, The Wind in High Places, evokes austere landscapes and mysterious light.

Kris Serafin

The day composer John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his symphonic seascape Become Ocean, I tracked him down in Houghton, Mich., in the northernmost reaches of the Upper Peninsula. Over a crackly phone line, Adams — who turns 62 Friday — said he never thought much about a career with a capital C.

Songs We Love.

Songs We Love

"It seems that every time I had the opportunity to make the right career choice, I made the wrong career choice, which in the long run turned out to be the right artistic choice," Adams said. He also wondered whether winning the Pulitzer meant there could be a larger audience for his work.

How things have changed.

A few weeks later, Become Ocean received a terrific Carnegie Hall performance. Last fall, an album containing the piece found its way to many best-of-the-year lists; it's since been nominated for a Grammy. And earlier this month, Columbia University announced Adams as the recipient of the $50,000 William Schuman Award, a kind of lifetime achievement award for American composers.

The John Luther Adams wave continues to roll with The Wind in High Places, a striking new album of austere landscapes and mysterious light.

A longtime resident of Alaska, Adams had his imagination triggered by ice crystals in the arctic air for "Sky with Four Suns." Light from a low-hanging sun can mingle with ice to create the illusion of multiple suns called parhelia or sundogs. Adams says the piece — the first of the four-paneled Canticles of the Sky — is a musical evocation of these magical apparitions from sunrise to sunset.

Beginning with a low hum, choirs of cellos — 45 cellists in the Northwestern University Cello Ensemble, directed by Hans Jørgen Jensen — gradually make their entrances, slowly blooming like a bright golden sun bursting over a mountain range. Shafts of light intersect in slow motion, winding down to a warm glow before finally dipping below the horizon.

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What We Love And Hate About 'Mozart In The Jungle'

Gael García Bernal (right), Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell star in the classical music comedy series Mozart in the Jungle.

Gael García Bernal (right), Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell star in the classical music comedy series Mozart in the Jungle.

Nicole Rivelli /Amazon Studios

Pill popping, pot smoking, back-stabbing, bed hopping and tantrum throwing — now we're talking classical music! At least that's what the new Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle would have us believe is all in a day's work for orchestra musicians. The 10-part series is based on a tell-all book of the same name published a decade ago by oboist Blair Tindall.

The small-screen version depicts the fictitious New York Symphony on the threshold of its season-opening concert, the first with its charismatic but capricious new conductor Rodrigo (single name only, please!), played with goofy charm by Gael García Bernal and more than loosely inspired by Gustavo Dudamel, the dynamic Los Angeles Philharmonic music director. There's also a perky newcomer oboist named Hailey (modeled on Tindall), played by Lola Kirke; the orchestra's general manager Gloria, in a believable turn by Bernadette Peters; and Malcolm McDowell as the high-strung conductor replaced by Rodrigo. (The series is also stuffed with guest appearances, from violinist Joshua Bell as himself to Wallace Shawn playing a hyper-neurotic pianist in the tradition of Glenn Gould.)

Gael Garcia Bernal stars in the pilot of Mozart in the Jungle as a hyper-charming young conductor on the rise.

Deceptive Cadence

Sex, Drugs And Wandering Batons: Classical Musicians (Finally) Get Some Screen Time

For classical music nerds (and a few critics), the series has triggered something of a tempest in a teapot. Indeed, whenever the entertainment industry takes on a profession, be it doctors, lawyers or meth cookers, there are bound to be gaffes experts will grouse about. But Mozart in the Jungle seems to have more easily avoidable goofs than it should, from the music programming to the ways actors hold their instruments.

Still, the series tries to have fun. And when's the last time you saw a show in which classical music and pop culture collide? Here are a few of our favorite moments — for better and/or worse.


Sibelius on TV

Given the perceived disinterest in classical music in this country, I have to admit a certain giddy joy just watching a program about an orchestra. Alas, only occasionally is the music given enough breathing room to display its powers. Music does shine brightly in the final episode, where the Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius has a glorious moment. — TH

"Hailey, will you please make my maté?"

The fresh-faced, oboe-playing heroine is recruited to assist conductor Rodrigo. One of her jobs is to concoct his beloved yerba maté tea, yet her dream is to play in the orchestra. Her personal crisis of identity is mirrored in the show itself. It can't really make up its mind what it wants to be. Is it a behind the scenes peek at classical music? Is it Hailey's story, a kind of Mary Tyler Moore in the symphonic world? Or is it just a comedic romp that uses a fictitious New York orchestra as a framing device? — TH

Betty: "What are you, some kind of masochist?"

Hailey: "Maybe, I don't know. Don't you kind of have to be to play the oboe?"

Very occasionally, the show is absolutely on point. While some may think that willfully secluding oneself in the confines of classical music is its own form of masochism — considering an infamous academic study in which orchestral musicians demonstrated less job satisfaction than federal prison guards — one could argue that oboists have a particularly sorry lot. They have to deal with an incredibly finicky instrument, constantly make and refine their equipment in a very time-consuming and mind-blowingly detailed process and, at least according to tradition, suffer a higher risk of serious and alarming injuries (especially to the eyes and brain). So yes, Hailey, you're probably something of a masochist. — AT

"Classical music has been losing money for people for 500 years. It's not a business."

Always looking for fundraising opportunities, Gloria, the head of the symphony, admits that the orchestra's finances are in trouble. I appreciate how the show at least touches on some of the contemporary concerns about classical music, including tensions between the musicians union and management and crazy marketing schemes drummed up to spin the music as something hip for younger audiences. — TH

Mexican actor and director Gael García Bernal.

Guest DJ: Gael García Bernal's Music Diaries

Jacques Ibert's Pièce.

For me, the best episode in the first season without question is "You Go to My Head," episode 7. Written by Adam Brooks and Kate Gersten, and directed by Roman Coppola (who along with Schwartzman and Alex Timbers created Mozart), it's a lovely and dreamy episode artfully stitched with tons of tiny, emotionally truthful moments. We watch a very young girl, Alice, play this music by Ibert on her flute. Rodrigo, mesmerized, seeks her out and asks her what she feels when she plays. She says the most beautiful thing: "When I play in front of my teacher, I'm mostly thinking about how I don't want to make a mistake. But when I'm home, and I play to myself, I really don't think at all. And when I finish, it's like waking from a dream." — AT

Bending down on hand and knee to clean up bird poop with a scarf. (Really?)

In Mozart in the Jungle's fake New York, almost none of the players we see are Asian — whereas in reality, many American orchestras have a significant number of players of East Asian background and descent. But the character of Asian descent given by far the most screen time in the series is Sharon, the weirdly subservient and sycophantic administrative minion who figures heavily in the first couple of episodes. One of her big moments is rushing to clean up some parrot guano with her own clothing — scrubbing off Rodrigo's shoe, no less. The pileup of ugly stereotypes gives me the heebie-jeebies. — AT

Performing Mahler's Eighth Symphony ("Symphony of a Thousand") is a Really Big Deal.

There are good reasons Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony is rarely performed. The difficult piece takes, at a minimum, hundreds of singers and players. Early in the series, Rodrigo decides at the last moment to change a program to include it. That would never happen because you couldn't pull all the moving parts together that quickly. And when they do rehearse the symphony, there are far too few musicians on stage. — TH

"Welcome Bach."

"That was Xenakis with Analogiques A et B. You're listening to another edition of B. Sharp, a musical podcast where classical music is our forte ... First question: Is classical music dead?" This is the introduction to a podcast interview hosted by one Bradford Sharp (played by Jason Schwartzman, one of the creators of this series). Between Sharp's choice of incredibly challenging music, the string of horrendous puns and his idiotic opening question, how could I not love this bit? — AT

And no, Hailey, you can't clean an oboe with wet wipes.

This is one of a gazillion tiny, telling details the show gets utterly wrong. (I won't even touch the glaring mistakes the actors make in pretending to play.) I'm sure that this is just as true for legal eagles watching Law & Order reruns, but it's galling just the same — maybe partly because a pop culture spotlight is so rarely thrown on the classical world. (The real answer, by the way, is to clean an oboe with a cloth swab. Or a turkey's tail feather. Seriously.) — AT

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Swan Songs: Classical Musicians We Lost In 2014

Conductor Claudio Abbado was one of the many great classical musicians we bid farewell to in 2014.

Conductor Claudio Abbado was one of the many great classical musicians we bid farewell to in 2014.

Getty Images

Farewells are never easy, especially when you're saying goodbye to a favorite musician. From conductors and composers to pianists, singers and critics, the classical music world lost many masterful musicians in 2014.

Through their performances and recordings, we grow into strong relationships with our favorites. Some, like the conductor and early music evangelist Christopher Hogwood, left us suddenly and too early. Others, such as sopranos Madga Olivero and Licia Albanese, both well over 100, offered fascinating glimpses into earlier eras. And still others, like 29-year-old pianist Christopher Falzone, had entire careers yet to come.

Here is a list of many of the musical personalities whose art made the world better and brighter.


Claudio Abbado June 26, 1933 – Jan. 20, 2014

A masterful conductor of symphonies and operas, Abbado cultivated his own personal style by letting the music — anything from Mozart to modernists — speak vividly for itself. He ruled, self-effacingly, over some the world's premier musical institutions, including the Berlin Philharmonic and La Scala.


Robert Ashley March 28, 1930 – March 3, 2014

In the 1970s, this trailblazer was rethinking opera. His rigorously intellectual works, laced with sly humor, were composed not for the opera house but for the medium he thought Americans could best relate to — television. His mesmerizing song-like recitations mused on everything from The Wall Street Journal to Renaissance philosophers.


Joseph Kerman April 3, 1924 – March 17, 2014

Dismissing Puccini's Tosca as a "shabby little shocker" was just one of the vibrant bon mots from a musicologist and critic who helped bring more than a little sparkle, and clear-eyed observations, into the often fusty realm of classical music criticism.


John Shirley-Quirk Aug. 28, 1931 – April 7, 2014

The lab's loss was our gain. The Liverpool native began his career as a science teacher but ended up as a gifted bass-baritone, singing opera, oratorio and recitals. He was closely associated with music by Benjamin Britten, singing in the premieres of the composer's last five operas.


Lee Hyla Aug. 31, 1952 – June 6, 2014

In his youth, the composer played in a funk band, and that spirit of melding rock and jazz continued to shine in his own highly accomplished pieces, which have been described as "sagely controlled chaos."


Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos Sept. 15, 1933 – June 11, 2014

Although he directed orchestras of his own — including, until just before his death, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra — he was perhaps the world's best-loved guest conductor. Revered for his wide-ranging repertoire and relationships with orchestras the world over, Frühbeck truly shined when conducting music from his native Spain by composers such as Manuel De Falla and Isaac Albéniz.


Julius Rudel March 6, 1921 – June 26, 2014

The general director and principal conductor of the New York City Opera for more than 20 years, Rudel was a tireless champion for American opera, while nurturing the careers of major artists including Plácido Domingo and Beverly Sills.


Lorin Maazel March 6, 1930 – July 13, 2014

Maazel was a prodigy, conducting many major American orchestras before he was 15. He led a busy life directing the world's top orchestras (the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic) and opera houses (Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin) while finding time to compose and to build his own summer music festival and school.


Carlo Bergonzi July 13, 1924 – July 25, 2014

Not as loud or intimidating as some of his Italian rivals, Bergonzi outlasted them all with a voice of velvet and bronze that rang out at New York's Metropolitan Opera for more than 30 years and at La Scala for 20. His intensity and elegance were a perfect fit in most of Verdi's heroic roles.


Peter Sculthorpe April 29, 1929 – Aug. 8, 2014

Possibly the most Australian of Australian composers, Sculthorpe provided a virtual soundtrack to the Outback. By incorporating aboriginal sounds and instruments (several of his string quartets include the didgeridoo) in his music, as well as socio-political themes, the Tasmanian-born composer gave his compatriots a sense of themselves.


Franz Brüggen Oct. 30, 1934 – Aug. 13, 2014

Once called the John Lennon of classical music in his Dutch homeland, Brüggen was a charismatic and free-thinking recorder player who blossomed into a champion of the historically informed performance movement. He founded the Orchestra of the 18th Century, conducting music from Bach to Beethoven in the style of the composers' lifetimes.


Licia Albanese July 23, 1909 – Aug. 15, 2014

Born in Italy, Albanese spent the bulk of her lengthy career in the United States, especially at the Metropolitan Opera, where she sang more than 400 times from 1940 to 1966. The soprano excelled as a consummate singing actress, specializing in Puccini.


Magda Olivero March 25, 1910 – Sept. 8, 2014

A soprano who knew how to emote, Olivero could spin the finest threads of vocal silver to the farthest reaches of the opera house while thrilling audiences (for more than seven decades) with her passionate portrayals.


Christopher Hogwood Sept. 10, 1941 – Sept. 24, 2014

Hogwood founded the Academy of Ancient Music in 1973, an orchestra devoted to performing music of the Baroque (and beyond) as the composers might have heard it. He became a leading light in the historically informed performance movement, which has also influenced the performance practices of modern symphony orchestras.


Anita Cerquetti April 13, 1931 – Oct. 11, 2014

Her star rose immediately when she stepped in for an ailing Maria Callas in Rome in 1958. But the career of this gifted, voluptuous-voiced soprano came to a mysterious close when just three years later she quit singing.


Stephen Paulus Aug. 24, 1949 – Oct. 19, 2014

The Minnesota composer was masterful when it came to the human voice, with nearly 200 choral works, plus operas and oratorios to his credit. Pilgrim's Hymn, perhaps his best-known piece, was sung at the funerals of both Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.


Christopher Falzone April 14, 1985 – Oct. 21, 2014

By all accounts, including those of his fans like Martha Argerich and teachers like Leon Fleisher, the prizewinning Richmond, Va. native was a brilliant pianist whose international career was on the rise.


Mark Sokol July 16, 1946 – Nov. 28, 2014

Violinist and chamber music master Sokol played his first Beethoven string quartet at 9 years old and never looked back. He co-founded the adventurous Concord String Quartet, specializing in American music. Later he became an important teacher and mentor to such musicians as the Kronos Quartet's David Harrington.


José Feghali March 28, 1961 – Dec. 9, 2014

After winning the 1985 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the Brazilian-born pianist played concertos with the world's finest orchestras, settling in Fort Worth, Texas, where he served as artist-in-residence and taught at Texas Christian University.


Claude Frank Dec. 24, 1925 – Dec. 27, 2014

The German-born American pianist may not have strayed far from his beloved Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, but his solid interpretations were well respected, especially his cycle of all 32 Beethoven sonatas in the 1970s. He also made lovely recordings with his daughter, violinist Pamela Frank.

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