Jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer is releasing his album Natural Machines tomorrow, May 17, with a twist. On this album, Tepfer plays a unique digital player piano called the Disklavier, which takes the music he plays on the piano, runs it through a computer program he wrote, and plays it back over the instrument.Read More
Ahead of last week’s Classical BRIT Awards, broadcaster Classic FM published a list of 30 classical artists under age 30 across the instrumental spectrum that have been captivating concert stages, including two of the big winners that night, saxophonist Jess Gillam and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who also made headlines last month with his performance at the royal wedding.
The list contained a few more familiar names: accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, who returns to Ravinia on July 3 in the Martin Theatre after a pair of sellout BGH concerts last summer, and violinist Ray Chen, who makes his own return in the Martin on July 25 following plaudits from his CSO debut at the festival last summer. (“Chen takes a back seat to no fiddler when it comes to lofting long lyrical lines … his fast vibrato lending expressive intensity to the phrasing,” said the Chicago Tribune.)
Also featured were pianists Lucas Debargue, who brought a pair of signature programs to his Chicago debut in BGH in 2016, and Benjamin Grosvenor and Daniil Trifonov, who electrified their Chicago debuts on the same stage in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
Three of Beethoven’s seismic symphonies are featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia residency this summer, and Alsop heads up the pack on July 14 with the world-moving Ninth, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists soprano Tamara Wilson, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Paul Appleby, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. Gustavo Dudamel makes his eagerly awaited debut leading the Seventh on July 18 with an all-Beethoven program that also features his longtime, equally starry collaborator Yuja Wang performing the First Piano Concerto. Last, but not least, of Ravinia’s triptych is the Fifth, fated to be feted in the hands of Vasily Petrenko on August 4.
When pianist Inon Barnatan returns to Ravinia on July 21, he’ll be there to extend the history of an institution. The festival has been hosting a high-spirited, evening-long celebration of Tchaikovsky every season for now 40 years. The Russian composer’s tuneful, dramatic ballets and symphonies are among the world’s most beloved classical pieces, and every year since the early ’80s, Ravinia’s “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” has ended with a rousing version of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannons. This summer, for the first time, the ever-popular event occupies a full weekend, July 21–22, with concerts featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ken-David Masur. The Violin Concerto—with Miriam Fried, the venerable, 25-year lion of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, as soloist—is the centerpiece for July 22, the traditional Sunday concert, and Israeli-born Barnatan is joining the CSO as soloist in the First Piano Concerto.
“I thought, what I want for the Ravinia audience, if we can pull it off, is somebody who’s going to see the full picture of Bernstein, had a personal relationship with him and can conduct the stuff like crazy. I want somebody who I enjoy talking to. There’s selfishness to it, I guess. I’ve just always found her to be extraordinary,” says Kauffman, who was an artistic administrator with the New York Philharmonic when Alsop made her guest-conducting debut there in December 1999 as part of an Aaron Copland festival.
In addition to holding a succession of conducting posts, including her current roles as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, Alsop has followed Bernstein’s beat as an articulate spokeswoman and innovative advocate for classical music. She has also been a leading champion of his music; a boxed set of her complete Bernstein recordings on the Naxos label was released earlier this year. As a testament to her multifaceted accomplishments, she is the only conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—an honor she received in 2005.
Once rehearsals began for the new tour, Stirling almost instantaneously realized that it would be quite the experience. “I have never co-headlined with anyone, so I went to an Evanescence show, and it was very different. I think we are definitely going to be looking to take a page out of each other’s books, especially when we see that both ways work,” says Stirling, who is no stranger to crossing performing practices, having finished as the runner-up on Season 25 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars teamed up with dance pro Mark Ballas. “It will be a different experience for anyone coming to this concert because there will truly be these seamless transitions between rock and electronic and classical. People are going to be blown away.”
Add that to the fact that the tour will be backed by a full orchestra, and it literally gives her a case of the goose bumps. “The orchestra is going to add this amazing layer behind my wooden violin,” says Stirling, who already raises hairs on YouTube, where her audience continues to make her one of the most influential musicians online. “There is a real vibration that you will be able to feel within your soul, especially in an outdoor venue. Physically you will be able to feel it.”
“It makes you focus on a completely different part of your performance. I have a lot more stage to truly focus on musicianship, which is cool, but it’s also kind of scary because it’s very vulnerable. There are moments during the show that are very raw and quiet. You just have to embrace that silence and be totally comfortable in your own skin, focus and make something beautiful. I think for me this show is a lot more focused on the emotional side—I can’t help but get choked up almost every night at some point.”
Although Lee is an enthralling entertainer who can command a stage of any size, she’s also incredibly relatable as a songwriter who isn’t afraid to bare her soul on record or before a live audience. Selecting from her catalogue of songs for either incarnation of Synthesis was literally like going back through her diary, from her teens through getting married and becoming a mother in young adulthood, but the symphonic setting and ongoing reactions from listeners finally allowed her to embrace even the oldest entries.
Because I was a still very young, I chafed at the appropriation of harpsichord music by pianists—especially since I was studying harpsichord—and it seemed rather obvious to me that one ought to perform music on the instrument for which it was composed. This was the bedrock assumption of the “original instrument” school of “authentic” performance practice, which was just beginning to go mainstream at the time and which today dominates the field of Baroque music performance. What I’ve learned since then, however, is that the whole subject is far more complex than it first seemed to me.
Though shortening daylight puts the end of summer clearly within sight, it also signals that anticipation for the next Ravinia season is beginning to grow ever larger. As the festival marks the 80th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual residency—the centerpiece of each season—in 2016 Ravinia also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the debut of the conductor who would become the residency’s steward for 20 years: James Levine. In addition to the long-awaited return of this longtime, former music director, Ravinia also welcomes six new faces to the podium,
To today’s audiences, who have heard nearly two centuries of music after the Symphonie fantastique received its premiere in 1830, Berlioz’s music sounds safe, melodious, beautiful, and brilliantly constructed, but nowhere near as jaw-droppingly shocking as it did to its first audience.
There are two current trends in classical music presentation that are driven by a desire to connect with younger audiences, a reflection of the fear among many that the graying of contemporary audiences bodes ill for the future of the genre. There is ever-increasing adoption of visual media like YouTube to extend lines of communication beyond the live concert experience or traditional audio-only, hard-copy studio recordings. Another is