for life on an epic scale
printed issue 2017
a mystical portrait
the chronicles of streaming an unprecedented timeline
augustin hadelich how do i listen?
classical music in the digital age 1
Press play. And pause. Immerse yourself in a world of classical music
primephonic.com for life on an epic scale downloads | streaming | experiences
table of contents
music & architecture
maria callas had a remarkable voice unlike any other
hans scharoun’s berlin philharmonie, one of the wonders of modern architecture
the chronicles of streaming
from the editor................................ 6 brooklyn, a classical portrait............ 14 from the recording studio................ 24 streaming user experience............... 44 label portraits.................................. 46 reviews............................................ 63 historical calendar........................... 67
‘it feels like we're just getting started’
‘there are more obscure and uncommon instruments in existence than ever before’
philip glass ‘can Philip Glass really be 80?’
how do i listen? augustin hadelich
the brown album pentatone’s graphic designer shares his enthusiasm for bringing a breath of fresh air into the creation of album art 4
from the editor WORDS RACHEL DELOUGHRY
We live in a fast-paced world of replaceable possessions, short attention spans, ever-changing fads and a constant fear of missing out. When I think about streaming I usually think in terms of the here and now – it is current, I have immediate access, but what about the future? What will we have to show for it in years to come?
Editor Rachel Deloughry
Proofreading Kevin Painting
Creative director Simon Eder
Contributors Jessica Duchen Kevin Painting Rokas Kučinskas Melanie Garrett Matt Adomeit Tristan Renfrow Beth Adelman
Art direction & design Joost de Boo Design assistant Bob Mollema Head of marketing Sharri Morris
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Well that’s just it – streaming is the future. We have come to a point as consumers where paring things down to their essentials has become of higher value than owning reams of “stuff”. Experiences are more important than possessions. This could not be more relevant than it is now, however, in terms of streaming, the quantity of quality classical music recordings is astounding. A listening experience brings you right to the epicentre of the music and brings you closer to the real live performance, yet at the same time it gives us access to a diversity within classical music that we could never have dreamed of even a decade ago. You can have unlimited listening but it’s not going to clutter your house and your life. A monthly streaming subscription that costs as little as an album and is kinder to the environment? Its value is indisputable. In this magazine, you will encounter mixing and matching of the obvious and the unexpected: take for example the architect of the Berlin Philharmonie for whom organic structure proved fundamental to good sound and a designer of album art who manages to pay tribute to the past looking toward the future, thereby playing with our expectations; to a Grammy-winning violinist who grew up in the countryside, accessing the sound of the greats mostly through recordings. In this issue, we explore the world of streaming music and how far we have come since the so-called Golden Age of Recording of the mid-twentieth century. Enjoy!
Can Philip Glass really be 80? He and his music possess a quality of youthfulness, of timelessness, that is entirely of our day while going beyond it into more mysterious, universal spheres. So distinctive is his voice, and so influential, that he has plenty of detractors. Minor arpeggios, incantatory melodies, interweaving motifs, a gradual progression of changeâ€Ś But take a closer look. Minimalism? No way. WORDS JESSICA DUCHEN PHOTO STEVE PYKE
the mystical heart of philip glass philip glass playlist Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2 “The American Four Seasons” I. LPO Philip Glass: Satyagraha, Act I Tolstoy, Scene 1 Sony Philip Glass: Dreaming Awake Sono Luminus Philip Glass: Naqoyqatsi, “The Vivid Unknown” Sony Philip Glass: The Photographer, Act I “A Gentleman’s Honor” Sony Philip Glass: The Complete String Quartets of Philip Glass – String Quartet No. 2 “Company” I. Signum Records
Glass distanced himself from that term decades ago – now he prefers to say that he composes “music with repetitive structures”. Indeed, you only have to look at his multifarious range of influences to grasp the sheer range that has fed into the mix. Among important formative experiences, he could cite his intensive studies with the pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in Paris; working on Indian music with Ravi Shankar; the downtown art scene of New York in the 1960s; theatre, poetry and literature including Hermann Hesse, Samuel Beckett and Allen Ginsberg; travelling the globe, exploring music of many cultures; a passion for Schubert; and the visceral energy and atmosphere of New York itself. The list could continue. Yet there is mysticism, somewhere in the heart of it. Travelling across India by train, he recalls in his autobiography, Words Without Music: “Music was no longer a metaphor for the real world somewhere out there. It was becoming the opposite. The ‘out there’ stuff was the metaphor and the real part was, and is to this day, the music.” All of this is reflected to some degree in the pianist Bruce Levingston’s latest album of Glass’s music, entitled Dreaming Awake. A pianist celebrated for his devotion to performing contemporary repertoire, Levingston has included a selection of Glass’s piano études – poetic distillations of his composition method in which musical process and substance become one. There are unmistakable nods towards Schubert – the Etude Book 2 No.12 opens with the same figure as Schubert’s F
minor Fantasy for piano duet. Alongside these pieces is an extraordinary work, Wichita Vortex Sutra, in which the actor Ethan Hawke joins Levingston to recite part of the poem of that title by Ginsburg, the declamation – which sounds as if torn from the depths of the poet’s and actor’s souls – becoming part of the musical fabric. With poetry its driving force, in words or music, the album proves both seductive and hypnotic. It was a chance encounter with Ginsburg in a New York bookshop in 1988 that led to the piece’s composition: having agreed to perform in a fundraising event, Glass asked the poet if he would agree to appear with him, performing together a recitation with new music that Glass would compose specially. Ginsburg chose the poem at once and Glass wrote the music in a matter of days. The two remained close friends thereafter and worked together extensively, notably on the collection Hydrogen Jukebox, 20 songs for six singers. If there is a meditative quality to Glass’s music and its effect upon us, that is no coincidence. Born in Baltimore in 1937, he has been a spiritual seeker for most of his life. The many inspirations behind that included the writings of Hermann Hesse, whose works he devoured eagerly as a young man, along with those of Kerouac, Ginsburg and others. “It was a time of awakening,” he writes. He was interested in Hesse’s vision of “a transcendental life…that took you beyond the visible world.” He took up yoga before it ever became fashionable, seeking out
a teacher in New York simply by looking under the letter Y in the White Pages. He contacted the sole entry, Yogi Vithaldas, who became his teacher and under whose impact he quickly turned vegetarian. It later turned out that Vithaldas had also taught Yehudi Menuhin. Over ten years Glass visited India and Tibet, immersing himself in particular in research on Mahatma Gandhi: work that eventually morphed into his seminal and transformative opera Satyagraha. Since those days, his explorations of spiritual cultures have extended to Buddhism and Mexican Toltec traditions. It’s tempting to wonder whether the sounds of chanting and the repetition of mantras infiltrated his developing style at the time. “Did it affect my style? It’s hard to say,” Glass muses. “But besides Satyagraha, I did a big piece about Ramakrishna, and the Symphony No.5 uses around 34 texts from different traditions. So in some ways it’s gone into the music directly, either because it’s about the person, or because it’s their texts I’ve used. It’s not an influence: it’s an actual usage. The connection is right in the music itself.”
The Passion of Ramakrishna is the “big piece” in question, a grand-scale oratorio: “The interesting thing is that I made the chorus the voice of
‘sometimes you can hear things, but you don’t know how to write them down’ Ramakrishna and the soloists are his students – so when he speaks, it’s the whole chorus,” says Glass. “The idea is that he spoke in terms of universals – and we put 60 or 120 people together so that it becomes humanity, not just singers any more. I made the voice of Ramakrishna humanity. So because of the way I processed it I began to understand which of the voices Ramakrishna is. I called it The Passion of Ramakrishna, like the Bach St Matthew Passion. I talked to the head of the episcopal church in New York at the time and asked him if that was the proper use of the word: ‘passion’ as the moment of transfiguration when he leaves the mortal life and maybe he enters into the world of immortality – something like that, we don’t know what it is. He said it was perfect.” Glass’s devotion to matters spiritual, humanitarian and social may spring in part from his background as the youngest son of a family of Jewish immigrants who sent him to a Quaker school. His father, Ben, had a record store in Baltimore and Glass recalls that he and his brother as chil11
dren were required to break up some of the unsold records in order to return them, damaged, for refunds. But when Ben began to bring home recordings of music by Schoenberg, Bartók and others to see why they were not selling, father and son were both entranced by what they heard. For years Glass explored new music of all types, soaking up works across the spectrum from Pierre Boulez to John Cage to rock music. Instead of following traditional academic routes into the music world, he took an undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, then enrolled in the adult education section of the Juilliard School in New York. There followed two years in Paris on a scholarship, studying with Boulanger, before he returned to New York with the rigorous technical grounding that enabled him to develop his own musical voice. He juggled creative work with earning a crust variously in steelworks, haulage, plumbing and cab-driving. By the time anyone approached him about a teaching position, he relates, he was 72 and not remotely interested. But then, Glass has never fitted the academic bill. Perhaps his routes did not match the approved fashions of the time. Yet his enduring effect on the world around us – musical and more – has gone far beyond that of many esteemed music professors.
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Young composers have beaten a path to his door for advice in any case; some have worked for him – among them Nico Muhly – assisting with the matters of administration and publishing of his works, all of which he controls. Glass relates in his book that his mother on her deathbed instructed him to keep hold of his copyright – and he still does. Some of his works may be legally played only by his Philip Glass Ensemble. “We started the group when I came back from Europe,” he explains. “I came back because no one in Europe would play the music. I called some friends I went to school with, and we put a group together. Right away, when I was writing music, I felt had to control the publication of it, because to give it away was not a good idea from my point of view.” Because people didn’t understand it? “No, because I wouldn’t get the income,” Glass responds. “I was making my living playing – it was a practical matter. So if you want to hear Einstein on the Beach played, my group has to play it. No one else can play it. They don’t have the music and it’s actually illegal to handle it. I also became a publisher very quickly because I knew I wouldn’t be a teacher. This was only way I was going to make a living from writing – and it was far from clear that I would. I was 41 before that happened.” The work that changed everything was his opera Satyagraha: “That took me into making a living. But it
‘we have to remember something: one of the great pleasures of being a musician is playing music’ started off slowly and even the year before I had no idea that later on I would not be working at a day job. In fact, I’d been living off of music for six months before it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a day job all that time. I remember it very clearly: my cab license came up for renewal – and I renewed it. I had no confidence that I would be able to make a living. But I didn’t use it and three years later when it came up for renewal again I didn’t renew it. That tells you where I was at.” Whether opera, theatre, dance, film or music to match the visual art or writing of his friends and colleagues, Glass has always excelled in collaborative music-making. Performing with his own ensemble seems an organic part of that openness and practicality. “We have to remember something: one of the great pleasures of being a musician is playing music,” he adds, with a smile, “and that’s not restricted to performers only – composers can play music 12
too. My generation played our music and we were influenced by people from John Coltrane to Ravi Shankar – these were composers who played music. That’s one way to go. Not everyone did that, but a lot of young people do now. The money won’t be in the records any more, but it can be in the way music is used, whether it’s in a film or a fashion show.” Despite his prolific output and worldwide fame, Glass never rests on any laurels – hence the intersection of spiritual practice, physical condition and absolute pragmatism. “I would say that because of yoga I’ve gotten a long, healthy, active life,” he says. “That’s without even going into the other benefits to do with being more able to control stress, tension, anxiety and all the maledictions of contemporary existence. “I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 20. It’s a practical way of living. Younger people are much more inclined to see it as a necessary part of life and the people who don’t, who simply ignore it and do nothing at all, by the time they’re in their seventies they are falling apart. You can’t consider working into your nineties if you haven’t done it – well, some can, but it brings tremendous benefits not just to your physical health, but your mental health. My work is very difficult in that we’re often working on four hours of sleep because the travel doesn’t allow for anything else. It’s not a good way to do it. But I’ve also learned how to rest. There are a lot of things you can learn: there are ways of putting your body to sleep
and resting for even 20 minutes.” The surprise is that he is clearly considering working into his nineties – but then again, why would he not? The joy of creating music has never left him. “I write very fast,” he remarks, “but to invent a language you need time. You need time to work out what you’re hearing. Sometimes you can hear things, but you don’t know how to write them down. That’s when you know you’re really working: when you don’t know how to do it. That’s the best time. And that can still happen.” Now anything can happen, and probably will. Events to mark his big birthday are currently taking place all over the world. His operas The Perfect American, about Walt Disney,
and The Trial, based on Kafka’s novel, are having their US premieres; he is writing a piano concerto entitled A Far Cry to be premiered in September by the pianist Simone Dinnerstein; next season he will hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer Chair at Carnegie Hall. London has already brought him a Total Immersion weekend at the Barbican; other European events include the Swiss premiere of Satyagraha and Austrian premiere of the Symphony No. 11, and the Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 are both touring widely. These are just a few selections. Glass is a composer whose music has encapsulated the spirit of today as few others could. The mystery is only 13
what he will turn his hand to next. As he has sometimes said, “When society becomes unhinged, the arts get really good.” And now? “Today the arts are getting really good!” he declares.
Jessica Duchen’s music journalism has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. She is the author of a number of novels (most recently Ghost Variations, published in 2016), biographies and plays. Current projects include an opera libretto for composer Roxanna Panufnik (for Garsington Opera 2017). Her popular blog JDCMB has run since 2004.
brooklyn, a classical portrait New York City has five boroughs, but when people say “The City,” they mean Manhattan. The other four have always been “the outer boroughs,” full of people who make their way into Manhattan to work, eat out in the better restaurants, and enjoy all the culture New York is famous for. It’s a Manhattan-centric world. Or at least, it has been. WORDS BETH ADELMAN 14
BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC For years, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), one of Brooklyn’s oldest cultural institutions, ran a bus from midtown Manhattan to its home in Fort Greene. BAM is two blocks from a major subway hub, but those two blocks seemed like too much to walk for some. These days, the BAM bus is gone, the subway hub is also a mall, there’s an NBA arena a block away, BAM has three buildings, and is at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District—a $100 million city development project that focuses on arts organizations, affordable housing, and public spaces. Classical music is part of BAM’s very eclectic programming, and is usually part of something else—opera, dance, or theater, said BAM president Katy Clark. “We’re very much interested in the way genres collide.” A few seasons ago the Debussy String Quartet shared stage with Australian acrobat troupe Circa, for example, each interpreting Shostakovich in its own way. And BAM often plays host to Baroque operas staged by Les Arts Florissants and ballets by Mark Morris.
Welcome to Brooklyn. Powered by that greatest of all drivers in New York City—real estate—in the past decade Brooklyn’s demographics have been transformed. An explosion of high-end housing in downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg, along with the transformation of much of the Brooklyn waterfront, has lured people priced out of Manhattan to a borough that’s diverse, livable, cultured, and still affordable (just barely). The influx of culturally enthusiastic and curious residents has created a place for the arts to flourish. Brooklynites are staying in their home borough when they go out at night, and supporting cultural institutions that are now luring Manhattanites across the water to see what’s happening in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s classical music venues, old and new, are figuring out ways to bring these audiences in and show them something traditional in a new way, or something new in an untraditional way, or some of all of those things. They’re asking questions about programming choices and ticket prices and seating arrangements, and all coming up with different answers.
‘the stage area puts the performers so close to the audience, it's like a petting zoo’
tional Sawdust a music destination where people come to hear whatever is on that night. It’s a goal they’re still working on.
NATIONAL SAWDUST Perhaps no recent Brooklyn venue has opened to more buzz than National Sawdust, which debuted 2015 in Williamsburg, the poster-neighborhood for hip young gentrification. David Lang, John Zorn, Meredith Monk, Nico Muhly, Philip Glass, and Laurie Anderson—a who’s who of the new music scene—are among those on the artistic advisory board, and composer Paola Prestini is executive and creative director. The 13,000-square-foot venue, a renovated sawdust factory, includes rehearsal and development spaces, a recording studio, and a trendy bistro. About half the events in the performance space are classical music, according to Courtenay Casey, vice general manager and senior director of artistic planning, with a clear preponderance of new music. There are 350 to 400 events a year, and most nights are double-booked. Many of the performances are planned by curators in different genres; about a quarter of them
“We want to present music in its many forms,” Clark said, “and a lot of that is driven by architecture. The Gilman is the city’s most beautiful opera house.” BAM’s audience has never been the same demographic as a typical Manhattan audience, she added. They’ve always been younger, more adventurous, and less affluent. That’s why even today, one-third of all tickets are under $35. Most events offer a wide range of ticket prices. BAM’s three buildings are all set up as traditional theatres with seats. Clark said just over half of BAM’s audience are Brooklynites, and the rest are mostly from Manhattan. That’s a recent development. Fort Greene is now full of high-end restaurants and high-rise apartment buildings, where BAM is partnering with developers to make sure its neighbours know what’s coming up. “People are walking around late at night; the whole area feels comfortable and vibrant,” Clark said.
‘...actually, they hoot and holler after the arias, which is how it used to be in the old days’
ROULETTE Roulette began in the late 1970s as a 75-seat venue in the TriBeCa apartment loft of one of its founders. It was lean and nimble and alt and risky. Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Yusef Lateef, Kaija Saariaho and John Zorn made music there. But it was also in a residential building, and zoning laws are such that eventually they had to leave. So in 2011 Roulette took up residence in a 400-seat theatre with a classic proscenium arch—housed in a YWCA built in 1928. “Suddenly we were in a million-dollar facility with overhead and staff,” and about 120 events a year, said David Weinstein, director of special projects and one of the founders. “We had to become more Manhattan-y to meet those new standards.” But it has not strayed far from its musical roots. “A lot of what we do is edgy, experimental, not easy or even necessarily fun, so you get an audience of 50 people. But you’re glad, because the musicians get paid and something gets born,” Weinstein said. To balance that out, Roulette also programmes jazz and world music, and classical music. Plus, there are several curated series and artist residencies offered every year. “We want to energize people to try new things and feel supported and comfortable. But I also want everyone to have a nice, quiet room that is appropriate for listening.” That means the audience is seated, and there is just one show a night, so artists are not rushed, and can mingle with the audience afterwards. Tickets range between $15 and $30. “People who are used to performing in a dingy space may overreach or misunderstand what’s great about their work, but a space like this can be a little leap forward for them, encourage to up their game a notch and be a bit more ambitious in scale. When someone succeeds, it’s super inspiring.” Roulette is very much artist-driven, meaning most people who come are fans of the performers, know exactly what they’re going to hear, and have no problem getting on the subway and going to Brooklyn to hear it. The staff is still trying to figure out who is moving into the cluster of high-end high-rise apartment buildings going up in downtown Brooklyn, and what they want to listen to. For now, they’re working with developers to introduce themselves to the new neighbours.
work in classical music. There are also residency programmes for 12 artists a year, including commissioning support and concerts. Casey remembers one night when a string quartet was playing Bartok for the first show and pop singer Kimbra was the second show. “About 20 people came to both,” she said. “That’s what we want to be.” The performance space holds 250 standing, 150 chairs, or 95 in a cabaret configurations with tables and chairs. “We realized audience members anticipate what a show will be depending on how the room is set up,” Casey said, so club music is standing and classical music is seated. Ticket prices range from $29 to $35 and up. Brooklyn is definitely the biggest audience base, Casey said, and locals get a break on ticket prices. But Manhattan audiences do come when it’s something they specifically want to hear. The advent of Uber has helped drive some of that attendance, because New York’s yellow taxis don’t cruise for fares in Brooklyn. Ages range from people in their 20s—who like the club vibe of standing room—to opera fans in their 50s and 60s, who like the eclectic programming. “People will go where the music is that they want to hear,” Casey said. But the ultimate idea is to make Na17
iel Ellis-Ferris, and his classmate at The New School Dean Buck, basically on a dare. (“We dared ourselves to do a production of Don Giovanni in 2013 and it sold out.”) It has since grown from two events a year to four, with productions like Così fan tutte and Tosca, and coming up later in 2017 Pagliacci and Bluebeard’s Castle. Each one is an original production, with six performances. There is seating for about 500 on benches and all tickets are $30. Each production is in a different venue in Brooklyn, typically hidden-away spaces in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick—areas Maury says are “not really gentrified the way other parts of Brooklyn have been.” The locations add to the sense of adventure. “We want to strip away the pretense of going to a place like Lincoln Center,” said Maury. “Maybe to get here you’re on a subway line you’ve never taken before.” The singers and orchestra are recruited by music director Sean Kelly, who also teaches voice in the U.S. and Italy. Musically, they have, for the most part, enraptured New York critics. They’ve enraptured audiences as well. Maury said her novice audiences (almost all Brooklynites, with a smattering of visitors from the Upper West Side of Manhattan), many of whom have only heard music in clubs before, sit quietly because “they’re listening so intently that they’re on the edge of their seats. They clap at all the right places—actually, they hoot and holler after the arias, which is how it used to be in the old days.” Many first-time opera goers come for date night, and that is very much by design. LoftOpera markets itself on event sites like Thrillist, Flavorpill, GILT City, and Fever as a romantic, classy, yet affordable date. As a result, “We get couples making out in the audience,” said Maury. “We have even caught people having sex in the bathrooms. That’s how we know we’re successful.” It’s the sort of thing that would get you thrown out of Lincoln Center. Welcome to Brooklyn.
Caroline Shaw: Its Motion Keeps New Amsterdam
Bryce Dessner: Murder Ballades – Omie Wise Cedille
Jennifer Higdon: Cold Mountain, Scene II, Inman’s aria ‘The Metal Age’ PENTATONE
Philip Glass: Etude No. 1 Sony
Michael Daugherty: Brooklyn Bridge, IV. North GIA WindWorks Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 II Andante tranquillo Canary Classics
‘maybe to get here you’re on a subway line you’ve never taken before’
BARGEMUSIC Bargemusic, an old coffee barge permanently moored in the East River at the site of the old Fulton Ferry, has been a venue for chamber music for 40 years, showcasing young talent and, originally, exclusively classical repertoire—Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Chopin, and so on. The barge seats about 75 people, and lately artistic and executive director Mark Peskanov has been cutting that down a bit because he prefers the acoustic and ambience with a smaller audience. “This is a very different place, and people have very different expectations,” he said. “You have that very special view of the river and New York City, and that feeling of gently rocking—sometimes not so gently. The stage area puts the performers so close to the audience, it’s like a petting zoo.” Peskanov, a concert violinist, took over in 2005 as artistic and executive director from founder Olga Bloom, and has expanded the repertoire with the Here and Now series of newer works, some jazz and early music,
and free family concerts on Saturday afternoons. Bargemusic is an important first step for many young musicians; it’s got a group of regular performers, but “it’s not like a private club,” Peskanov said. “If you are a fine performer, sooner or later we will invite you here.” It’s a first step for many young listeners, too. It suddenly finds itself in the middle of the growing DUMBO neighborhood and a brand new waterfront park, and the free concerts attract a lot of parents with little kids. Yes, they do talk and wander and cry, Peskanov said, but “they eventually learn how to behave, and meanwhile they are hearing music played at an artistically high level and it is sinking in.” The audience is “tourists and neighborhood people, people who wander in from the park, people who have never listened to classical music and real connoisseurs,” Peskanov said. “The barge is just an amazing experience. People tell me they feel like they’re on the king’s barge, like royalty. This is what chamber music was made for.”
Bargemusic presents about 200 concerts a year. Tickets are $40 to $45, with discounts for students and seniors. The seats are arranged in many configurations, but it’s all chairs. Peskanov added, “I love playing here myself. It’s great to have such close communication within such an intimate space. I often ask how many people have heard a piece for the first time—something typical like Mozart—and a lot of people raise their hands. So for them I have played a world premiere.” LOFTOPERA Unlike most of the other classical music venues in Brooklyn, LoftOpera has taken a very conscious turn away from new music. “We always wanted to take a populist stance and also bring people to the classics,” said Brianna Maury, the general manager and cofounder. Their audience is mostly first-time opera goers, and producing works whose names people recognize adds a bit of familiarity. “These beautiful masterworks are also more accessible than new music,” she said. LoftOpera was founded by Maury, her stepbrother Dan19
maria callas the voice Franco Zeffirelli’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in January 1964 was the most hotly anticipated event in the calendar. Not only did the lavish production cost an eye-watering £32,000 but it also marked the return to the stage of the celebrated soprano and diva extraordinaire Maria Callas. After a glittering career in the 1950s when she had divided the critics and the public alike with her remarkable singing voice and mesmerising stage presence, there had been whisperings of her fading powers especially after she had taken up with the wealthy shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis and all but disappeared from the stage. But Callas was coaxed out of her two year absence by the prospect of singing again in a new production with the renowned baritone Tito Gobbi for “mio caro public di London” in the role that for many defined her – Tosca. WORDS KEVIN PAINTING PHOTOS KEN VEEDER
nsurprisingly, the six performances were hopelessly over-subscribed with 120,000 people clamouring for 12,000 seats and ticket touts reported a brisk trade. But she did not disappoint. True to form, Callas confounded her critics on the first night, receiving 27 curtain calls and a standing ovation lasting 40 minutes for a performance still described in hushed tones as one of most memorable ever seen. She returned the following year in July to reprise her role in a Royal Gala performance at Covent Garden for what would be her final operatic appearance. Maria Callas was easily the finest dramatic soprano of her generation and one of the most recognisable and glamorous figures from an era when celebrities usually had talents. With her remarkable and distinctive singing voice, she breathed new life into bel canto opera and brought a fearsome dramatic intensity to the roles she played on stage. Seldom out of the limelight in her lifetime for her singing or her colourful behaviour, she left behind a remarkable legacy of recordings which have never been out of the catalogue. Maria Callas was born on 2 December 1923 in New York to immigrant Greek parents. In 1937 she moved to Greece where she studied at the National Conservatory in Athens with the noted coloratura soprano maria callas playlist Elvira de Hidalgo. Although she Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, Act I made her professional debut in a “Casta Diva” Warner leading role playing Tosca in AthGiacomo Puccini: Gianni Schicchi, Act I ens in 1942, her career began in “O mio babbino caro” Warner earnest in 1947 when she sang Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata, Act I the title role in Ponchielli’s La Gi“Sempre libera” aconda in Verona. There she met Warner Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, her future husband and managAct III “Dolce e calmo” er, the Veronese businessman Warner Giovanni Battista Meneghini, and Gioacchino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia, Act I “Una voce poco fa” her musical mentor, the great Warner
conductor Tullio Serafin. Her international breakthrough came in 1949 in Venice when Serafin shrewdly cast her at short notice as Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani, a bel canto role which Callas triumphantly brought to life. She went on to score considerable success in the 1950s in Italian opera with many signature roles in Anna Bolena, Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), La Traviata, Macbeth (Verdi), Norma (Bellini) and of course,
As one of the most glamorous and photographed women of her day, stories of her temperamental behaviour were lapped up and inflated by the press. Soon the strains of her punishing schedule inevitably took their toll and when she sensationally left her husband for Onassis in 1959, she also drastically cut back on her appearances. When she separated from Onassis in 1968, she essentially retired from the concert platform and, apart from a concert tour in Europe, North America and Japan, a master class series at the New York Julliard School and a brief foray into acting in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Medea, she lived quietly in her elegant apartment in Paris until her premature death in 1977. Maria Callas had a remarkable voice unlike any other, not conventionally beautiful or infallible but powerful, intense and thrillingly dexterous. Love it or hate it (and it was not uncommon for vegetables to be thrown with floral tributes at her performances), her voice is unmistakeable and impossible to ignore. It has been remarked that she had three voices which she glided between with deft artistry. A high coloratura voice: nimble, agile and precise, it could dispatch the most difficult passages of fioriture with consummate ease; a richly expressive middle voice which was capable of effortlessly sustained legato passages; and a chest
voice, often startling in its intensity. While she may have reigned supreme in the bel canto repertoire, she was not preoccupied with producing a beautiful, sweet sound per se but more with communicating the drama and meaning of the text, admitting that “to convey the dramatic effect … I must produce sounds which are not beautiful. I don’t mind if they are ugly so long as they are true”. It was her instinctive musical ability to build and sustain an atmosphere through her vocal technique and commanding stage presence which makes her performances so compelling. With Callas, the blood-curdling taunt “Muori!” that Tosca cries as she stabs the villainous Scarpia is genuinely unsettling, and on one occasion Callas nearly drew blood from Tito Gobbi when a stage knife failed to retract. Maria Callas was a workaholic who took herself and her work very seriously and, like so many great musicians, it was only through the dint of hard work combined with a perfectionist streak that she managed to achieve so much. She was not averse to spending hours in the recording studio to perfect a particular passage, nor did she baulk at the challenges of a difficult repertoire or the reproaches of an indifferent audience: they were all opportunities for her to prove herself and, above all, to shine.
‘maria callas had a remarkable voice unlike any other’
he same perfectionism extended to her meticulously cultivated appearance. The director Luchino Visconti once told Callas that if she lost some weight, she would make “a truer Traviata, who is after all dying of consumption”. Nine months later in 1953 and 30 kg lighter, she had transformed herself from a chubby, overweight soprano to an alluring svelte beauty. Dressed to kill, with an impeccable fashion sense, La Divina
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo et Eurydice, Act IV “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” Warner
as Callas became known to her fans had arrived. (Her contemporary Joan Sutherland was dubbed La Stupenda on account of her voice and not, as some wags have suggested, for her girth). The public became enamoured with the Maria Callas phenomenon and newspapers were packed with glossy photographs and gossipy stories of her temperamental behaviour. In one of her rare interviews for American television, there is a delicious moment when the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham mischievously asks whether there was any truth in the rumour that she had struck an opera director over the head with a bottle of brandy. “I never threw anything at anybody unfortunately” she replied, beaming “I wish I did.” Callas’s meteoric rise to fame coincided with the introduction of long-playing records and a rush by record companies to expand their catalogues. Fortunately for the listening public, she had a long and fruitful working relationship from 1952 to 1964 with the legendary Walter Legge, the husband to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and a music producer, and as strong-willed and perfectionist as Callas herself. This resulted in an astonishing series of both live and studio performances, many of which are considered benchmark recordings that remain unsurpassed, even after half a century. A true measure of the affection in which Callas is still held by the public can be seen in Venice. Thanks to a public campaign which gathered over 100,000 signatures, the bridge Ponte della Fenice was renamed Ponte Maria Callas in 2005. It’s just down from the Teatro La Fenice, the opera house where she made her breakthrough in 1949 performing Bellini’s I Puritani, winning the accolade prima donna assoluta, a position she still maintains for a new generation of opera lovers.
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recording studio playlist Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2 LPO, Robert McDuffie, Marin Alsop
from the recording studio with jean-marie geijsen
Glass: Satyagraha, Act I Tolstoy, Scene 1 New York City Opera Glass: Dreaming Awake Bruce Levingston Glass: Naqoyqatsi, “The Vivid Unknown” Yo-Yo Ma
reflections on hi-res audio, music streaming, and wagner
Glass: The Complete String Quartets – String Quartet No. 2 “Company” The Smith Quartet Glass: The Photographer, Act I “A Gentleman’s Honor” Philip Glass Ensemble
Jean-Marie Geijsen grew up in a musical family of 6 children. He studied recording techniques at The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, specialising in classical music. Owing to the conservatory’s culture at the time, he became interested in baroque music. After graduating, Geijsen started working at Philips Classics. Today he is a director and a balance engineer at Polyhymnia International. Geijsen has worked with major recording labels, including Sony, PENTATONE, Decca, harmonia mundi, BMG and Deutsche Grammophon. WORDS ROKAS KUČINSKAS
KUČINSKAS • Does recording classical music differ from other music genres? GEIJSEN • There’s a huge difference between recording classical and pop music. In classical music you record an ensemble playing in an acoustic environment, eg a big church or a concert hall. Pop music is recorded in a studio. There are many occasions where musicians don’t even see each other for the whole duration of a given session. A drummer records on the first day, a bassist on the second, a guitarist records a week later. Finally, a
singer comes when he has time. It is then dubbed on one tape, with an endless editing and overdubbing process afterwards. Classical music recording has a completely different approach. Interactions between musicians, as well as surrounding acoustic environments are so important. A hall, the public – and so much more – need to be taken into consideration when recording classical music. KUČINSKAS • You specialized in baroque music. Does recording baroque music differ from recording 24
other periods, such as classical or romantic? GEIJSEN • Not when it comes to the technical side. You do have to know the differences, though. How instruments sound, combine and meld together. Their unique properties, too – they all have their special character. Yet when it comes to microphones it’s not so different. They have to be as neutral as possible, so that they don’t influence the sound. A balance engineer then recreates the ensemble's sound as heard in the hall.
KUČINSKAS • What exactly does a “balance engineer” do? I haven’t encountered this term before. GEIJSEN • It’s a common English term for the guy who puts up the microphones, sits at the mixing desk, and in my case reads the score. Combining all this and then recording the sound - that’s a balance engineer. It also means that you have to work with a producer (sitting behind or next to you), a conductor, and an ensemble. Your main task is to create the internal balance of an ensemble, its direct sound and the reverb of a hall. It’s a balancing act. KUČINSKAS • How is a mixing engineer different then? GEIJSEN • There are so many titles in the world, which makes it confusing, I know [laughs]. I'd say that a mixing engineer is someone who sits behind a 24- or 48-track machine and mixes a production. It
doesn't have to be a classical music production, though. KUČINSKAS • Over the years you have made so many recordings. Which recording you are most proud of and which was the most challenging to do? GEIJSEN • That has to be the 10 major Wagner operas I recorded. The operas are immense and I recorded them live for radio and CD in one concert in Berlin over 2-and-a-half years. It wasn’t a staged performance, yet the singers had to move around and change microphone positions. The goal was to achieve a close effect of the setting the way Wagner intended. Hence, a performer could end up standing on a balcony, or in the middle of the stage, in front of the orchestra, and so on. KUČINSKAS • Who made such directorial decisions? 25
GEIJSEN • It’s written in the score, but in our case the conductor made some adjustments too. Throughout the rehearsal we had to read the score, know which singer was standing where; we also had to mark how loud a singer should be in a mix, and how loud he or she was during the rehearsal. I was marking the score in the hope that the singers would remember where they should be standing. And we had a 120-voice choir, an off-stage orchestra, and many soloists! Don't get me wrong – it was as difficult for the entire performing crew as it was for us. We only rehearsed bits and pieces and never did a full A-Z rehearsal throughout the operas. Hence, everything had to fall into place during performances, and by some miracle – I don’t know how – it did. Without a proper preparation, with all the risks, we did all the 10 operas this way. I mean, a singer could have fallen sick at the last moment
or a technical problem could have occurred. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, since we only had one concert. If there had been one major disaster, the whole series would have died. What’s more, all the operas were performed and broadcast live on radio. It meant that I had to mix on the spot in stereo for radio and record for SACD in stereo and surround. I also had to read the 48-channel mixing console while trying to read the score to know what was coming. The concerts usually started at 6:00pm and lasted until 11:30pm. Let’s put it this way – 5.5 hours of a rather concentrated evening [laughs]. But it worked for all 10 operas, and that is something I am really proud of. KUČINSKAS • Doesn't it make these recordings the most difficult you've ever made? GEIJSEN • It probably does. KUČINSKAS • Nowadays, people are going back to analogue recordings. Any thoughts on why that might be? GEIJSEN • Because they like the sound, although I often wonder what exactly it is that they like. Is it the music itself, or the playback system? If it’s the playback system, does it add something to the music? It must produce a certain feeling that people like, but in my opinion that doesn’t have much to do with a neutral playback. LPs and analogue tapes compress a dynamic range; as a result, listening to music with a little bit of compression can be very nice. Especially loud passages recorded on a tape can sound louder than they actually are – all in comparison with a digital recording, of course. Also there’s a limited
frequency response and a very low level of hiss that can be an advantage and doesn’t disturb us. Since our hearing is more sensitive to change, you stop hearing it as it is constant.
‘your main task is to create the internal balance of an ensemble, its direct sound and the reverb of a hall’ KUČINSKAS • Is a neutral playback important then? GEIJSEN • Since the days of Philips Classics we've been looking for neutral playback and recording systems, meaning those which do not influence the sound. We would not compromise distortion, frequency response, dynamics, and what not. Over the past 50 years microphone quality has been fantastic. The signal quality, too. Hence, it has been our main goal to record this pure signal, on analogue and digital tapes, or on computer. LPs or analogue tapes, however, distort the sound. It is sometimes 26
called a “pleasant distortion”, perfectly explaining what people listen to. It appeals to them; it gives them a certain feeling that there’s something added to music that wasn’t originally there. Don’t get me wrong - that’s OK for a consumer. They can do whatever they want.
Think about how complex the sound information is. It bounces from a floor, ceilings, and walls within milliseconds. Thus, the more precise framing of all these reflections is in a playback, the better feeling of the space you get. If you chop it up in 44KHz, you’re omitting a lot of information from all these random reflections. Hence, smaller frames means greater resolutions in early reflection patterns.
KUČINSKAS • But …? GEIJSEN • For me, in a recording studio, it’s very dangerous. I cannot decide what people are going to like. I have to be as objective as possible, and shouldn't influence a music recording. It’s not about me in the first place. If you are listening to music, you shouldn’t even be aware that a balance engineer was there. You listen to musicians, to a hall, while all the signal chain should be as transparent as possible. Nobody should realise that someone had been moving faders around. As soon as that happens, you will straight away think that it’s artificial. KUČINSKAS • Why did you start recording in hi-res? GEIJSEN • One of the reasons is the framing of time, which is much more precise than in a CD, for example. It gives you an ease of listening; little pieces of information (such as reflections of a hall, or a stage) that were missing in early CD recordings. CD quality doesn’t give us the spaciousness – the definition of a space – which is so important to music making. For 10 years I worked with Alfred Brendel. His musicmaking was based and adjusted on reverberations produced by a hall. He often played different pianos, listening to the environment and its reflection patterns. Later he would say: “I want my piano to move a little bit forwards (or backwards).”
JEAN-MARIE GEIJSEN In 1984 he began studying recording techniques in The Royal Conservatory at The Hague. From 1988 to 1990 he worked as a mastering engineer as well as a freelance classical recording and PA engineer. In 1990 he joined Philips Classics where he worked on recordings with many top artists, from Seiji Ozawa to Valery Gergiev. Became a balance engineer at Polyhymnia International, working closely with PENTATONE and other labels.
KUČINSKAS • What do you mean by that? GEIJSEN • You start understanding why a musician plays the way he or she does. Timing determines so much in music. It is also very dependent on the acoustics of a given surroundings. Musicians constantly anticipate reflections of their acoustic surroundings. Thus, the better you hear the acoustics the more sense the music makes. People who listen to music over the years will appreciate high resolution more. A lot of logic that comes to music making is better captured in hi-res recordings. However, you might not hear that much difference by listening to the technical side of hi-res audio only. That’s the funny thing. You don’t hear early reflections within 50 up to 100 milliseconds when I’m talking to you, although they’re there. Hi-res captures this and gives it back to you. Although it isn’t very obvious, it gives you this feeling. If you walk into a hall you immediately notice what the acoustic properties of that hall are. Such acoustics entail things like early reflections that you can’t hear. Improved precision on those acoustics' representation means more information about music making. 27
KUČINSKAS • You say it's tricky to hear differences when focusing on the hi-res technical side only. Have you ever heard more in hi-res than acoustic details when comparing it to PCM recordings? GEIJSEN • Yes – it was in one of the recordings I did with Mari Kodama. We were listening to 3 different versions of a track: a normal CD, which is a CD layer on an SACD, a stereo DSD, and a surround DSD. It was a prior distribution quality check. We first listened to DSD surround and stereo files, which didn’t grab our attention. While listening to a PCM version, we noticed a digital glitch, which is something that needed to be dealt with. It was strange, as we didn’t hear anything on the DSD files. So, once again we listened to the same passage on the DSD version, and we did hear it. Yet, it wasn’t a glitch, but a fingernail hitting the key – there was no doubt about what we heard! This fingernail hitting the key completely disappeared in a PCM version. That might be one of the most clear and obvious examples I encountered over the years. It’s that subtle. Oh, but wait, it’s not subtle at all! [laughs] It brings you to the core of music making. If a normal PCM version cuts away this kind of information, you’re losing a lot of music making. It’s not a frequency domain or distortion, but an acoustic environment that makes hi-res of what it is. KUČINSKAS • Have hi-res recording techniques changed over the years? GEIJSEN • No, not so much. As I said before, we are still using microphones that are 50 and 60 years old. Of course we also use new microphones, too. What I mean is
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that microphones themselves are of fantastic quality. The recording technique hasn't changed since the beginning of the stereo era, either. It is a different story when it comes to surround sound recording, which we had to invent. But techniques used to position microphones, making a balance and so on, haven’t changed. KUČINSKAS • There are so many streaming services appearing right now. Some have already started streaming music in CD quality. However, there is still no DSD streaming service. Any thoughts on why? GEIJSEN • Well actually there is [laughs]. Of course not as big as Spotify. Around two years ago we were asked to do test recordings of a live DSD streaming all over the world. The first recording we did was in Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic. We used two microphones and recorded straight to DSD in 2.8MHz, which is a standard SACD quality. We also recorded in 5.6MHz, which is one step higher. KUČINSKAS • Super Super Audio CD (i.e. Super SACD, or S-SACD)? GEIJSEN • Yes [laughs]. It was broadcasted live all over the world via internet in DSD. A couple of hundred listeners were listening to this broadcast. It was flawless. We did it again in Warsaw during the International Chopin Piano Competition. We also did a complete programme with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Later we repeated it in Japan using the same setup. All these test recordings worked perfectly.
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‘if you are listening to music, you shouldn’t even be aware a balance engineer was there’ KUČINSKAS • Why aren’t there DSD streaming services similar to Spotify then? GEIJSEN • I don’t know if a worldwide classical music market is big enough to support a streaming service like that. There needs to be enough demand to set up such a service and invest money in it. On the other hand, there aren’t that many really good DSD recordings. So it is also a matter of how much repertoire is available. Spotify’s 28
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catalogue is dominated by pop music in which hi-res recording practices aren’t used at all. KUČINSKAS • Why not? GEIJSEN • Because it’s too complicated. You don’t have all the tools. In classical music we don’t use all the effects. You put a microphone in the right place, mix the balance and that’s it – you have your master track. You don’t need compressors, limiters, EQs, or whatever. Not even a compressor. It’s just 1:1 – a straight mix. Whereas all those tools are being used in pop music’s post production. Reverbs, compressors, equalizers, or, let’s not forget, the autotune - it’s PCM. When you’re lucky it’s 96KHz, but still a bit short to DSD 2.8MHz.
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It was a spring day, the sun was shining in a provincial wooded neighbourhood in the Netherlands and I had something important to talk about – the colour brown – with Joost De Boo, PENTATONE’s art director. He shed some light on album artwork in classical music, voicing his frustration with the colour brown as the norm, and his drive to breathe fresh air into the creation of album art. Album art in classical music has tended towards safe colours and soft tones. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then it’s up to designers of album art to help disrupt the general standards in the classical music industry. There has been a renaissance in opera, set design and costume design. Album art can have one too! WORDS RACHEL DELOUGHRY
Classical music has been trying to shake off its old, dusty and antiquated vibe and Joost voiced what many people have been thinking. Although this stuffy, old-fashioned reputation interestingly impacts visual arts and public opinion of classical music, the music itself is often unrecognisable from its packaging. “The cover of a particular Liszt album was brown and olive green. I listened to the album and it was very energetic. But on a basic emotional level, there was no connection between the music and the colours brown and olive green. In the bigger picture of what the graphic designer has done, though, it all comes down to brown.” This led Joost to make a sample colour palette based on the top 50 albums in the classical charts. The 30
the brown album consensus was that the average colours were brown, beige and grey. Brown album art, low contrast and old paintings are standard. “The elements tended to be dark concert halls or old churches, backgrounds that are white, grey or brick, white people (in suits!) and wooden instruments. It all makes sense. But why use that? And why use old paintings? Why not create something new, something fresh?” This doesn’t mean designers have to remove themselves from tradition entirely, in fact Joost likes to incorporate clichés in a playful and unexpected way, hinting at a tradition but letting the observer fill the gaps. “I like to play with the obvious. So on a cover for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis I wanted to use the famous Beethoven image, but only
parts of it. I chose this specific painting because it is the most famous and recognizable image of Beethoven. However, not many people know that Beethoven is holding the Missa Solemnis score in his hand. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to play with expectations. I believe that the person who buys this album is already a Beethoven fan (because it is not a mainstream work) so they would immediately recognize the painting and the missing element and appreciate the cryptic approach.” “That’s what I did with the Wagner Ring box set cover too: on the cover, it doesn’t actually say “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. The words are cut off. Even with titles you can play around. By seeing the name Wagner and most of the letters of the title, you already know what it’s going to be. It’s been recorded hundreds of times, so why use the same approach again?” Album art is very much intertwined with concerns in the age of reproducible art. “Absolutely. Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction deals with exactly this! When you have a piece of art, reproduce it and put it in a new context, its meaning changes.
‘why use old paintings? why not create something new, something fresh?’ And the meaning of the original also changes because it’s not unique or authentic any more. Why for example produce an album of Bach’s St. John Passion with an album cover of a church? Yes, this was originally a piece you could only hear performed in a church around Easter and what’s more, you could only go there and listen if you were Christian. Now, you can listen to it with your headphones, you can read the Koran at the same time, you can do whatever you like. So the piece does not have the same aura. Its original aura is gone. We should still be aware of the original meaning and stay close to the original, but look for abstract meaning within it. And if you put an image of the Koran instead of a church on the cover, then it becomes even more about religion. You should be aware of the fact that it’s no longer the 18th century but a lot of labels and artists behave as if it still is. Thinking like this can harm the genre!” 31
There is a huge opportunity for photographers in the transition away from brown! After all, the graphic designer’s ingenuity usually only comes into play at the end of the process and therefore they have to work with what ends up on their plate. Collaborating with visionary photographers will surely bring out the quirks and the extraordinary compelling beauty that seems to be falling into the brown, murky abyss. “The featured artists are photographed in old buildings, so I have to make something out of that. It already starts in the conversation between the recording artist and photographer. We should collaborate with photographers that are more involved in contemporary art instead of using the status quo photographers. We can make a bridge there, because this is something you cannot influence as a graphic designer. If not then you just get on with it.” Joost had a prime example about how he ‘just got on with it’ and not only avoided the usual pitfalls, but made a visual narrative around the sonic traits of the album. “I’m currently making a cover for Julia Fisher’s vinyl of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin where I only used bronze ink. The delicately ex-
point of view
And You Must Suffer © Koen Broos
‘we should still be aware of the original meaning and stay close to the original, but look for abstract meaning within it’
‘it’s been recorded hundreds of times, so why use the same approach again?’
posed silhouette, the purest use of colour, the mathematically balanced page layout (1:1 ratio grid), and the early 18th century typeface are carefully brought together to enhance the aesthetic characteristics of Bach’s partitas and sonatas. But the image they originally sent me had a brown background with Julia Fischer wearing a pink dress – and her hair happens to be blond. These elements combined meant that in the end it all turned out brown. So I thought – what can I do with this? I dived into the music: the exposed quality, focusing on just one instrument was striking so I made a story around that. The music is very delicate and fresh. The result is that you’re still very close to the piece but in a contemporary way.” Could designing album art veer more towards contemporary art than graphic design? Is this even possible? Because an album cover designer is somebody who manages to strike a healthy balance between being a visionary and being a team player – to carry out the wishes of artist managers, performers and so on. “There’s a need for disruption. Urania records, PENTATONE, Concertgebouw and Challenge are all labels that are really making a
statement and are very consistent about it. Where I think this visionary design happens is in contemporary opera. Soon we have the Opera Forward Festival in Amsterdam and the Dutch National Opera is performing Bach’s St. John Passion. “You Must Suffer” is the tagline and the artist has created artwork with images of an x-ray of rats being crucified as the stage design. You can do that in art. (As an artist in Holland anyway! I have grown up in this tradition.) Pierre Audi is the artistic director of the Dutch National Opera and is known for this provocative style. I saw Wagner’s Parsifal with stage designs by Anish Kapoor. The designs played on a subconscious mood level and it was so beautiful. If you used a photo of a stage design by Anish Kapoor for an album cover, it would work where the ‘church performance’ photography would fail. It takes in form and light and reflection, because Parsifal is about reflection. It’s much more meaningful than having a portrait of the opera singer who sings the role of Parsifal, or a picture of the goblet. There’s nuance to it because the opera has such a clear story. There is so much more richness than a guy standing in front of an orchestra wearing brown.”
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There is further room for change in classical album art, not just conceptually but even in terms of the basics: typography and dimensions. “There are very specific titles in classical music, compared with any other genre. Opus numbers, full titles, conductor, soloist, sometimes multiple composers, and all opus numbers for each work listed. For digital we should just cut it out. In a thumbnail you don’t see anything anyway – text can just look like a white line. I create two versions of every album cover – one for digital, one for physical. When you buy it in hard copy you have more text on the cover, but in digital, this is not necessary.”
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“An unrivalled classical music experience through superior audio technology.“
“For streaming and downloading it doesn’t even have to be a square anymore. Your screen is a rectangle, not a square. It can be changeable so that when you download an album, there can be a cover that becomes interactive depending on screen size. In the not-too-distant future, album art could even have moving images or exist in a virtual reality. Square CD-size will still work when it’s advertised in a magazine or in thumbnail size, but it’s not the only dimension we need to work with. Vinyl on the other hand, is a fixed size and is sold on a merchandise level, so from a design point of view, vinyl should be treated separately, as a work of art, as with posters and so on.”
Parsifal © Monika Rittershaus & Ruth Walz
JOOST DE BOO Art Direction and Graphic Design at Pentatone Music and primephonic. Previously worked at design studios
So why is there so much brown in classical? This conversation confirmed some of my suspicions of how sepia tones and ‘playing it safe’ can hinder the perception of what is an extraordinary, exciting and vibrant genre. We can rest assured though that the genre is already being shaken up and we have lots more innovation to look forward to, not just in design but on multiple levels of creativity. 34
in Utrecht, Toronto and New York. Studied at the Rietveld Academie, Utrecht School of the Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design.
the chronicles From physical CD to Napster filesharing and from iTunes to purposebuilt classical streaming platforms with richer metadata and room for discovery, the classical music industry has evolved beyond what any industry maverick could have foreseen. The ability of technology to change how we listen to music has had a gamechanging effect which has accelerated considerably from the turn of the millennium up to the present day. primephonic editor Rachel Deloughry had the opportunity to speak to PETE DOWNTON, Deputy CEO of 7digital about this exciting era.
of streaming 36
i. an unprecedented timeline I
dustry needed help: it needed help to organise itself and to make this transition, because the old rules didnâ€™t really apply any more. We were struggling to organise ourselves and our own assets, let alone determining and dictating the way music should be distributed. So we were really fortunate that around the same time that this was taking place, we were at the forefront of the discussions leading up to the launch of iTunes. At Warner, Roger Ames, our global chairman and CEO, was the first senior executive from the recorded music industry to engage with Steve Jobs and the team at Apple. And so we saw up close the transition that the industry needed to make. However when iTunes launched, it was regarded in the technology industry as the last roll of the dice for Apple. Apple was a business that was completely dwarfed by the big internet and mobile players of the time, by companies like Nokia and others who were worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Apple was a relatively niche player in that marketplace. So, one of the things that really enabled Warner to have a disproportionate impact was seeing the transformation of an idea as simple as iTunes, and watching the reality of that idea play out in the marketplace. I remember vividly on the second full day of iTunes sales in North America, receiving a phone call from the North
guess I saw the tail end of what had become the CD boom that had driven growth in the recorded music industry. To provide a little bit of context, I joined Warner Music Group initially in 1996 and worked in the physical business in the UK company. To give you a sense of what that meant in practical terms: when I joined Warner Music, there were five major record labels. Between us, we employed upwards of 40,000 staff around the world, managing principally the physical distribution of music. Of course classical music was a meaningful part of that activity. And so, there was a transition in 1999 when peer-to-peer first emerged as a major consideration for the music industry. With Napster, one saw that the industry had, to a degree, anticipated the shift to digital. But it tried to make digital in the image of physical, by offering the same kind of products in the same kind of way but on an internet retail basis. I always refer to that period in recorded music as â€˜the abbreviated grieving processâ€™. We began with denial, we experienced anger, which resulted in us suing pretty much everybody! And then in 2003 we reached acceptance with the launch of iTunes. Having worked at Warner as part of the team that helped bring iTunes to the market, it had become apparent from the previous year or so that the in-
‘we thought, if only we could get this thing that meant so much to people and make it available using new technologies and new digital channels’
wasn’t prepared to make that transition. And I don’t think consumers were either. So if you think about where the industry was: this was 2003 or 2004 and iTunes had given great confidence to the industry. We thought, if only we could get this thing that
American team saying that they had sold a million downloads, which was the forecast for the first year! So this gave us a tremendous confidence that music still had a real relevance. If we could find the right combination of technology, partners and distribution, and the confidence that music would continue to have a valuable role in people’s lives, if we could bring those things together, then it was a signpost for the way the market might evolve. That said, if you were to look at what happened after iTunes, there was a renewed confidence in the industry and many larger players tried to replicate what Apple had done. Microsoft in particular had a tremendous initiative with many of the world’s retailers involved in consumer electronics manufacturers, but nobody ever really replicated it in the form of music downloads. The industry bubbled as a download industry until 2007 when Spotify came along. Now, at the same time, we were constantly looking at what Rhapsody (the new name for Napster) was doing, and we were seeing that if you deliver a compelling product to a music fan, the levels of engagement were fabulous. I think the reality was that the industry
meant so much to people and make it available using new technologies and new digital channels.
Everything looked very rosy. What actually happened was that the transition from an old CD business into a new digital retail business turned out to be a relatively niche opportunity, in that it didn’t broaden! iTunes was a success in its own right but it was nowhere near reaching the same levels of consumers that the physical CD had ever reached. Frankly, consumers and fans were looking for more depth in a musical experience and for classical music fans, it was just underwhelming. The way that classical recordings were being presented on internet services was almost impenetrable. It was a model that was built around pop music and driven by popularity. It was inconceivable to most classical music collectors and fans that they would use digital to replace their old physical music library. To be fair, Apple have done a
cal capability combined with a music obsession, but it was the first time we’d seen that in a single company. And I think ironically it was able to grow, develop and improve because it didn’t come from North America. North America has this tendency to burn brightly and often to burn out but Spotify was able to thrive, initially across a single territory and then in a handful of territories. It really had the breathing space to build and develop and improve on the experience. And meanwhile, all the time Spotify were improving their experience, customers were becoming more accustomed to access music as opposed to ownership, or accessing content based on someone else’s schedule. Spotify allowed audiences to access content according to their own schedules and lifestyles. So I think between 2007 and 2014, we were going through this transition in consumer behaviour and Spotify dragged the music industry kicking and screaming into the streaming era. A lot of the infrastructure that was necessary for the music industry to completely change its model was developed then. But still, it’s fair to say that while Spotify provides a great experience for someone who is a mainstream music lover – someone who wants pop, classical, rock, and many of the contemporary genres – it’s not a finished article when it comes to classical music. For the different ways you want to search the catalogue as a classical music fan or collector, the bar is set pretty high. You want to search by composer or by work, understanding that an overture is not necessarily a full work, for instance. The infrastructure necessary to deliver classical still wasn’t in place by 2014 when I think streaming really started to gain momentum.
better job than most to enrich what they do, but fundamentally those services were about pop music and hit songs and genres other than classical and they certainly didn’t lend themselves to discovery of classical works for the simple fact of the metadata. It was impenetrable. Downloading didn’t take off in the classical world initially. Consumers have always wanted to upgrade to something better, but it wasn’t better in terms of the convenience of discovery. Arguably as important was the denigration of sound quality. The trade-off between convenience and quality certainly lost a lot of consumers who had previously been classical music collectors and jazz music collectors. There was no comparison between what they were being offered as a download and what they had been offered in the physical world. And it wasn’t just those genres that struggled. We reached a ceiling because of so much that was happening in people’s digital lives. If we look at what happened in film and TV over the same period, the quality, experience and convenience was getting better and better. Music, on the other hand, has tried to take the physical experience and copy it across, business model and all, onto a digital platform. So we were constantly trying to find companies that would deliver not only the convenience of digital but at least as good a quality of an experience as we had found in previous formats. If you think about it, during that period Rhapsody was doing reasonably well – it was a service that had a million or so users but it never really broke out into the mainstream because the consumers were finding it difficult to get their heads around not only recurring subscriptions, but also the idea of being able to access music as opposed to collecting music. Music is so important for people’s self-expression and the act of collecting music itself, that ritual of music buying is art of the experience. We then fast-forward to 2007 and the launch of Spotify; not only did Spotify do a lot for the music industry in terms of their techni-
ii. experience, search and discovery I
such as Chromecast, you now have the ability to stream to your hifi system. It’s an incredibly exciting time to start to serve those audiences in a way that genuinely is an upgrade to a much better experience. So for 7digital, and for me personally, it is a really exciting time. I worked in the early days of DVD audio and SACD and I was involved in attempting to resuscitate the DVD audio format in 2000 when the industry had frankly missed probably its most obvious opportunity to drive a new wave of growth by following up on what had been the most successful consumer package media format of all time. The music industry could not organise itself to deliver those products as an experience, despite the fact that they had tremendous momentum. And then at that point the industry stopped for the best part of a decade investing in audio quality. We’re now starting to see all the major labels and independent labels, especially in classical, gear up to deliver not just the catalogues but also new releases, contemporary artists and working in much higher resolution. So over the next couple of years, there are opportunities for businesses to evolve which means that music fans don’t have to compromise on quality or convenience any more. If we look at another phenomenon over the last few years, namely the resurgence of vi-
think streaming has done a fantastic job at replacing a lot of our listening habits and has even improved them. Now we are starting to see classical music being made available on various streaming platforms in a way that’s appropriate, and it’s being made possible because the record labels in particular have been forced to look closely at the kinds of metadata that are necessary to underpin a classical streaming service. And they are starting to build something that supports services that are fit for purpose in terms of search and discovery. But also we are only now seeing the coming together of services and devices in a way that makes it possible for people to access a streaming service and to listen to music in a quality that I think most classical aficionados would appreciate. If you give somebody the convenience and ability to browse through a catalogue, that’s fine, but you’ve also got to experience it. The ability to stream higher quality is thanks to bandwidth improvements but also because of progress that’s been made in delivering new formats in high resolution. That now means that the context is there and the tools necessary to deliver really compelling classical music experiences on the internet are just becoming available. That’s on the service side. If you combine this with developments in connected devices, particularly audio devices and platforms
‘it’s being made possible because the record labels in particular have been forced to really look closely at the kinds of metadata that are necessary to underpin a classical streaming service’
packaged media business into a digital streaming business, I think we’re in the first hour of digital music. In some ways it’s painful to say that because I’ve been at it for 20 years, but it feels like we’re just getting started. And there are ways we can approach new technologies to make it easier to discover and navigate the catalogue and then bring another context around those recordings. The next few years are going to be tremendously exciting for music lovers of all persuasions. I’m tremendously excited about this. But at the heart of it all is the storytelling. The way that you experience and re-experience music, there needs to be tremendous depth to it and we are only just getting started digitally.
nyl, I think it’s evidence of demand without a product. It tells us about the way that people want to engage with music and what’s important about music in their lives. There are certain needs and requirements that are currently not being satisfied by the existing digital music marketplace and by that I mean the depth that you get from being able to understand more of the composer, the producer, the engineer, the artist, the songwriter. The story around the music and the context about the way the music has been created has always been a part of the experience and so if I look at today’s most widely used streaming services, they‘re great at finding things and making things available that are popular, but the depth of context isn’t really there. That creates tremendous opportunities in the music industry, to provide services that really do meet the expectations of those who are looking for more depth, both in the quality of the audio, listening to works from different orchestras, being able to form their own opinions about the best performances, and also the stories and the context around those works. So context is everything and if we’re to look at where we are in the transition from a physical
iii. investment in digital music innovation B
these services available. So I am encouraged about what the next few years will look like for all musical genres, but particularly classical and jazz that have been so under-served in the last few years. Goldman Sachs published a report not so long ago about what the music industry will look like in 2025.The most significant thing about this authoritative report is that it pulls together all elements of the music industry and looks at them through a single lens. The challenge of the music industry over the last couple of decades has been fragmentation, and that is just as significant in pop music as it is in classical music. Once you separate investment in artist and repertoire from an ability to generate revenue, then it becomes challenging to continue to invest. For the first time, we’re beginning to look at the industry through a single lens which is tremendously encouraging for all genres of music. And I’m a cynic. I’ve been doing this too long to be easily convinced of these things! So I can safely say, it really is an exciting time for the music industry. The advice I’d give to those new to streaming is: you’ve got to try it. You’ve got to
ut at least we’re getting started with the right tools now. There are more catalogues available, better metadata and fewer technical barriers. We forget how far we’ve travelled in the last 24 months. So many of those early challenges have been removed and that creates a fantastic platform for innovation. The work is not finished by any stretch of the imagination. Over the last 2 or 3 years, the industry – the likes of Universal Music Group, Decca, Naxos, Deutsche Grammophon – has become focused on how we make sure the classical experience is compelling. And there’s a resurgence in interest in artists and repertoire. So despite the fact that the relative share of the digital marketplaces has been challenging in classical music over the past few years, I’m really encouraged by the focus on investment that we’re seeing across the major labels and the major independent producers of classical music and just a great example of where the industry is headed. At CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this year in Las Vegas, three major record labels came together to demonstrate not just a desire to help support high resolution music, but also that they are investing in and making
‘so context is everything and if we’re to look at where we are in the transition from a physical packaged media business into a digital streaming business, I think we’re in the first hour of digital music’
look at the simplicity of the way that streaming is now being delivered and the simplicity of taking the music off a computer and making it available through your audio system. The advances we’ve seen in the last 12 months means it’s a whole different proposition now. Find the service that’s right for you because not all services are equal in terms of their focus on context or the breadth of content. The great thing is that the industry is now in a growth phase. So it’s easy to get a taste of this and give it a try. You don’t have to let go of your CD or vinyl collection to give it a go now. I think people will be pleasantly surprised at just how far it has developed just in the last 18-24 months.
1999 Peer-to-peer music sharing with Napster.
2003 iTunes launched. Apple was still a niche company.
PETE DOWNTON Deputy CEO of 7digital. He joined Warner Music Group in 1996. In 2014 he joined 7digital, the B2B digital music and radio services company.
2007 Spotify launched. Beginning of the concept of accessing music rather than collecting it.
2014 Improved metadata, breaking ground for classical streaming.
2017 primephonic launches 100% classical streaming platform.
KATHERINE STREAMING BETA TESTER
“I have enjoyed streaming the available music during the beta period. I hope that when you go to production there is at least a tier of service that is compatible with my listening habits. If I had to crowd out some other aspect of my musical life in order to justify whatever I had to pay then I would not do that.”
“I have used the service more during the beta than I would on average over the long term, as I did postpone some other things to focus here because of the limited time.” “I was just playing a piece by a composer I know, but a work of his that is less familiar to me. And my first thought was “I like this musically but maybe I'd prefer a different version.”
“The music is awesome – I am pretty sure we all agree on that – and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hopefully make the final product a success.” “So I went to the “work info” choice that lives at the top of the bar and clicked. I was shown information about the piece that included the date and place of its premiere AND – of interest to me – other recordings of this piece that I will go and explore soon.”
the streaming user experience
“I wish to report that I am a fan of this feature – please keep it! And thank you!”
ALI KHAN NEW SOUNDS CONSULTING
“So far I played two releases and connected it to my system via Bluetooth in my car system. Very nice. Keep up the great work.”
HEESANG JEON FORMER HEAD OF PRODUCT AT 7DIGITAL
“I have been waiting for a classical streaming service for a long time. It's great that my needs as a user are being finally met!”
DON MCINTOSH STREAMING BETA TESTER
“Metadata for music is always an issue but especially for classical music, simply because there are no standards. What I see on primephonic is better than what I get from most CDs.”
BOWERS & WILKINS HEADPHONE GIVEAWAY
We held a competition for beta testers to win a set of Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones. Their exquisite design and breathtaking sound are a high-end treat for the one lucky winner. And that winner is: Don McIntosh
In 2017 primephonic launches its streaming service, which complements the high-res download store, adding a new dimension to the 100% classical platform. The successful beta phase was well-received by the users, giving a great sense of satisfaction and the road ahead looks promising. Here is what some of the beta testers had to say. 45
harmonia mundi CHRISTIAN GIARDIN
The scope of labels primephonic offers is astounding. This means that the diversity of music available on primephonic ranges from the staples of the symphonic repertoire to authentic period instruments, to brand new compositions by the cutting-edge composers of today. In these label portraits, we introduce. you to the people behind some of the labels.
As the focus of the early music movement moved from scholarship to musicianship in the 1970s and 1980s, it was harmonia mundi that introduced the world to the some of the first stars of the genre, including Anonymous 4, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, Andreas Scholl, and Andrew Manze.
The French label was founded in 1958 by Bernard Coutaz, who simply wanted to record music that he thought was beautiful. His quest for exciting new sounds led him to the emerging proponents of historically informed performance. “There was a special focus on a quest for excellence, linked to the notion of authenticity: more period instruments, returning to the original manuscripts, and above all, the idea of exploring the repertoire with a new perspective, always questioning the score, never accepting it without asking questions,” explained harmonia mundi’s current head of classics, Christian Giardin.
WORDS BETH ADELMAN
Coutaz passed away in 2010, leaving his widow, Eva Coutaz, in charge 46
of the company. In 2015 she sold harmonia mundi, still with a solid line-up of early music artists, to the eclectic European independent label PIAS. At the time, PIAS co-founder Kenny Gates called harmonia mundi “a hidden gem.” “The spirit of continuity,” is what Giardin said he’s after as harmonia mundi continues to grow. “The mastering of historically informed performance is now at the highest level possible, with such artists as Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras, René Jacobs, Andreas Staier and Kristian Bezuidenhout. But new artists have been joining the label in recent years.” The continuity shows in their commitment to uncovering something new and fresh in the music they record. For example, the conductor Brad Lubman is a brilliant advocate for new music, Graham Ross a leader in choral music, and the stunning soprano Sophie Karthäuser stars in opera and song. “They embody that new generation: new perspectives, new repertoire, and a new sound,” Giardin enthused.
2L MORTEN LINDBERG
“There is no method available today to reproduce the exact perception of attending a live performance, with all its commercial limitations. On the contrary, we should create the sonic experience that emotionally moves the listener to a better place,” said Morten Lindberg, founder and CEO of 2L. “That leaves
us with the art of illusion when it comes to recording music.”
This pursuit of the perfect illusion makes 2L recordings sound almost as if they are playing inside your head. “Recorded music is no longer a matter of a fixed one- or twodimensional setting, but rather a three-dimensional enveloping situation; a sculpture that you can literally move around and relate to spatially,” Lindberg explained. “As recording engineers and producers, we need to do exactly the same as any good musician: interpret the music and the composer’s intentions and adapt to the medium where we perform.” The Oslo-based label started out as a production company in the early 1990s. But as the major labels scaled back their classical music recordings, Lindberg said, “we wanted to move forward. Our obvious solution was to start our own label.” 2L currently has 10 to 15 releases per year, all on Pure Audio Blu-ray and HiRes files. Most feature Nordic artists and contemporary composers. 2L recordings have garnered 28 Grammy nominations since 2006— mostly in the engineering and sound categories. Lindberg has a hard time explaining the science behind how 47
they make such beautiful illusions, saying “It's a mixture between intellect and the heart.” He continued, “2L records in roomy acoustic venues—large concert halls, churches and cathedrals. This is actually where we can make the most intimate recordings. [There is a] spaciousness due to the absence of close reflecting walls. Making an ambient and beautiful recording is the way of least resistance. Searching the fine edge between direct contact and spaciousness— that’s the real challenge!”
Sono Luminus COLLIN J RAE
Like so many audiophile companies, Sono Luminus began as an engineering studio and eventually branched out to record under its own label. It started in 1995 when the founders of Cisco Systems, Sandy Lerner and Len Bosack, decided that their knowledge of digital signal processing could be applied to recorded music, to gorgeous effect. They married a studio made for natural acoustics (a 100-year-old former Episcopal church with a 25 foot vaulted wood ceiling and the original heart pine flooring) with the best possible technology and the minimal possible miking, to end up with a remarkably natural sound. Ten years later, they bought up the entire catalogue of Dorian, one of the first audiophile labels and an early music pioneer, and launched Sono Luminus as an independent label.
title goes here
Today, the focus is still on using the highest technology to create the most natural ambient sound. Sono Luminus was the first American record label to release Pure Audio Blu-ray discs. All recordings today are made in 192kHz/24-bit stereo versions as well as 7.1-channel, 96kHz/24-bit, and 5.1-channel, 192kHz/24-bit surround sound, and Auro-3D 9.1-channel recordings. As label CEO Collin J Rae said, “Once you have recorded something, you can always go down [in quality] but you can’t go up.”
These days Sono Luminus records an eclectic mix of early and contemporary music, two genres that Rae said are “relatable as an aesthetic; there’s something similar about the sonic quality and the atmosphere.” So, for example, Jory Vinikour playing Bach Partitas on the harpsichord is coming out around the same time as Nordic Affect and a programme of new music from the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. “We want to support artists who are actively engaged with their audience,” said Rae. “I’m trying to take a holistic view and up the ante on what
performances and we don't feel we should compromise on the quality of our recordings.”
LSO Live was born in 2000, when the musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra decided they needed to control their own recording legacy. “LSO Live was set up to be profitable, but we also had other reasons,” said Becky Lees, head of LSO Live. These included replacing income lost from the decline of traditional recording deals, maintaining a high level of exposure for the orchestra, and reaching a wider audience through digital distribution—something LSO has been pioneering. “We were adamant that only the artist truly has their long-term business interests at heart.” While other orchestras have since launched their own labels, LSO Live was the first. It grew out of the structure of LSO itself, “a collective built on artistic ownership and partnership,” said Lees. “The LSO is still owned and governed by its members, and the chairman is an elected member of the orchestra.” The musicians decide what to record, they control all rights, and share the profits. LSO Live recordings really are live; they edit together several live performances—combining the best features of live and studio recordings. “We wanted to capture the energy and emotion of our concerts, and for that we need a high-quality sound,” said Lees. “We are a world-class orchestra. We don't compromise on the quality of our 48
The energy and emotion you only experience live
The label was founded when Sir Colin Davis was at the helm, and a lot of his core repertoire was featured—Berlioz, Haydn, Sibelius. With Simon Rattle now ready to pick up the baton, “There will be a greater diversity to the orchestral programme, and that will broaden the offer on LSO Live,” Lees said. “Simon believes passionately in living composers and each season will begin with a new commission. It's our intention to record these for the label. We have also added Gianandrea Noseda and FrançoisXavier Roth to the roster. We look forward to some exciting recording projects with both conductors.”
Verdi Requiem Gianandrea Noseda Erika Grimaldi Daniela Barcellona Francesco Meli Michele Pertusi Simon Halsey London Symphony Chorus
The debut album from the virtuoso LSO Wind Ensemble
Album of the week
‘This could turn out to be the finest Sibelius cycle’
Listen on primephonic
title goes here
The connection between
In our solar system, there is
music and outer space was
a minor planet named after
already observed in Ancient
Hildegard of Bingen, the
Greece and frequently dis-
German Benedictine abbess,
cussed by the likes of Plato,
composer, writer, scientist
Aristotle and Socrates. The
and philosopher of the Medi-
eval period. The minor planet
suggested that celestial bod-
898 Hildegard, which orbits
ies emit a unique humming
the sun, was discovered on 3
sound based on their orbital
revolution, known as musica
for life on an epic scale
universalis or Music of the
On 12 April 1961 a melody was whistled in space for the
WORDS RACHEL DELOUGHRY
There’s something ethereal about music that speaks to humanity. Music expresses emotion sonically without the need for language or text. Music doesn’t even need to be understood to be enjoyed.
first time. Russian cosmonaut
Sir William Herschel was a
Yuri Gagarin, the first ever
German-born English com-
human in space, whistled the
poser and astronomer from
patriotic song "The Mother-
the 18th century. Although
land Hears, The Motherland
better known for his work as
Knows" by fellow-Soviet Dmi-
an astronomer, Herschel led
tri Shostakovich, on board
a short but successful music
the Vostok 3KA-3 (Vostok1).
career, with an astonishing
Hearing the words ‘music’ and ‘universe’ in the one sentence brings many things to mind – from the Ancient Greeks to space travel, or maybe the sound of Holst’s The Planets or Bartok’s Mikrokosmos. Space can be perceived in music, either in terms of physics and acoustics or on a more abstract level within our imagination. The universe holds a special place; a source of wonder and mystery, it can be admired and contemplated and it’s up to us how deep we want to delve. The same can be said of music.
18 symphonies to his name,
as well as concertos for oboe
The Voyager Interstellar
and viola. Using a telescope
Record is a compendium of
in 1781 he found the planet
human achievement which
Uranus, the first planet to be
was recorded on a gold-coat-
discovered since antiquity. .
ed phonograph and sent into space on the Voyager in
1977. It is currently floating
Holst was an innovative En-
through space at least 11.6
glish composer, most famous
billion miles away from Earth.
for his orchestral work, The
Planets. He was a modest
In his book, The Murmurs of Earth (1978), the astrono-
and introverted character
mer and astrophysicist Carl
and spent the majority of
Sagan refers to the curation
his career as an educator as
of this artefact – what was
well as a composer, holding
chosen and why. Sagan
many teaching positions in
declares that the decision to
various schools throughout
include the music of Johann
his life. The use of bitonality
Sebastian Bach was a case of
and dissonance in The Planets
unashamed showing off. The
creates a unique and individu-
full playlist consists of tracks
al element to the work. It
of music by Bach, Mozart,
gained immediate attention
Beethoven and many popular
and most of his continuing
and non-Western numbers.
fame rests on this striking work. 50
title goes here
Grammy Award winning violinist Augustin Hadelich has made a name for himself as one of the foremost musicians of his generation. Born in Italy to German parents, Hadelich thrived at the Juilliard School in New York where he evolved from young prodigy to fully-fledged concert soloist, emerging as one of today’s most sought-after musicians. He plays on the 1723 “ExKiesewetter” Stradivari violin which is on loan to him from the Stradivari Society of Chicago. primephonic editor Rachel Deloughry caught up with him to discuss his listening preferences. WORDS RACHEL DELOUGHRY PHOTO ROSALIE O'CONNOR
how do i listen: augustin hadelich AUGUSTIN HADELICH Born in 1984 in Tuscany, Italy, to German parents. He is a graduate of the Instituto Mascagni in Livorno, Italy and the Juilliard School in New York He won a Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo in 2016 for his recording of Henri Dutilleux’s Violin Concerto ('L'Arbre Des Songes') with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot.
“When I perform violin concertos, they are usually in the first half of the programme but I almost always listen to the second half of the concert, which I greatly enjoy! I also listen to many recordings for research (especially other works by the same composer as the piece I am performing). However, because my ear is next to the violin so much when I'm practising, rehearsing or performing, I do also find silence to be very relaxing, something which is very hard to come by these days! I don’t like background music (for example in restaurants), especially if it is classical, since I invariably start listening and then can’t keep up with the conversation!
or headphones. I can never quite understand people who listen to music while walking or running - I would run into things or get lost if I did that. The computer I take with me when I travel doesn’t actually have a CD player, so I usually buy the music that I want to listen to on iTunes. I feel it’s important for musicians to buy recordings – we have to set a good example!
I still have my minidisc player although I haven’t used it in years. I generally listen to music on the computer, either over speakers
One thing I love about the digital revolution is that it has changed the programming of albums: it used to be common to record the
When I’m studying a new work, streaming makes recordings more easily accessible. However, I have also found that some of my favourite recordings are not in the streaming libraries. And sometimes I find that it’s just nice to take out a CD and hold it in your hand!
He plays on the 1723 “ExKiesewetter” Stradivari violin which is on loan to him via the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
‘i greatly prefer to listen to music in the concert setting’ repertoire of one composer on each album, for example, the 3 Brahms sonatas, so that it could be easily found in a store, under “B for Brahms.” If there was Schubert on the same disc, however, would the disc be filed be under B or S? Such categorical conundrums are now obsolete, as we can now easily use search engines to find composers, works, or performers we want to hear or buy. We can programme albums more creatively, more like a concert programme. Personally, I love recordings with highly contrasting repertoire and often find anthologies boring! I greatly prefer to listen to music in the concert setting. There is some-
thing special about being in a hall with many other people, listening to music that is being created in the moment. But I do also enjoy the recording process. Music is an ephemeral thing and recording a work after years of studying and playing is very satisfying.’ The new recording of Lalo and Tchaikovsky concertos with the LPO are my first live recordings and they are the perfect works to record live! Playing Tchaikovsky at 10.00am in a recording studio just would not work because this work thrives on the excitement of the concert hall. On the other hand, I knew that my recording of the Adès concerto had to be a studio recording, as only then would we be able to work out the more subtle details in the complex score. I was also really happy with my recording of the Bartók and Mendelssohn concertos with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya on AVIE. 53
At the moment I am recording the 24 Caprices of Paganini for Warner Classics, which will be released in early 2018. The caprices are really fun, interesting and beautiful pieces, which are unfortunately often treated more like etudes. I feel very strongly about Paganini's music because I grew up in Italy, where he is beloved as a composer and his works are played operatically, more like Rossini.”
how do I listen playlist Henri Dutilleux: L’arbre des songes, II Vif Interlude 2 Seattle Symphony Media Édouard Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole, I Allegro non troppo LPO J.S. Bach : Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott, BWV 127: Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen Steinway & Sons Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, I Allegro moderato LPO Henri Dutilleux: Nocturne for Violin & Orchestra “Sur le même accord” Seattle Symphony Media Béla Bartók: Mikrokosmos, Sz. 107, BB 105, Vol. 6 - Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm VI Gramola Records
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music & architecture TEXT RACHEL DELOUGHRY
The Berlin Philharmonie,
Scharoun, however, stayed
home of the Berlin Philhar-
in Germany and worked on
monic Orchestra, is one of
the restoration and re-con-
the most renowned concert
struction of bombed-out
halls in the world, celebrated
buildings. Interestingly, he
for its acoustical brilliance
discreetly anticipated his
and its visual and spatial in-
architectural plans for a
genuity, with organic acous-
post-Nazi Germany by creat-
tics at the centre of it all. The
ing watercolours of city-
fact that it was built during
scapes – secret architectural
the lifetime of Herbert von
blueprints in disguise.
Karajan – a towering figure in the world of conducting and
The inside of the main
the orchestra’s longest-serv-
concert hall in the Berlin
ing conductor – is monu-
Philharmonie has been fre-
mental in itself. The Berlin
quently described as “tent-
Philharmonic Orchestra was
like” and German filmmaker
already recognised as one of
Wim Wenders called it “a
the world’s great orchestras,
huge musical instrument in
so the construction of one
itself”. Acoustics are centre
of the wonders of modern
stage. The concert stage of
the main hall is placed cen-
the orchestra’s status and
trally, with audience seating
brought forth a hall appro-
situated all the way around.
priate for an orchestra of
Symmetry is not one of its
features – in fact, it is noted for its offset terraces of
The architect, Hans
seat rows at elevations that
Scharoun, was celebrated
irregularly increase around
for his organic architec-
the platform. While this may
ture and this harmonious
not seem unusual, it charted
balance between nature
new architectural territory
and buildings has stood the
and inspired the same asym-
test of time. Scharoun was a
metrical features in more
member of an architectural
recent concert halls such as
collective called Der Ring,
the Walt Disney Concert Hall
from which expressionist
by the architect Frank Gehry
architecture emerged with a
and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney
socialist agenda. It dissolved
music & architecture playlist Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I Warner Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K.550 I Molto allegro (1996 - Remaster) Warner Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Op.26 (2002 - Remaster) Warner Claude Debussy : Pelléas et Mélisande, L. 88, Act I Scene I Interlude Warner
in 1933 and many members
Richard Strauss : Don Quixote, Op. 35, Variation V - Don Quixote’s vigil during the summer night Warner
left Germany during the war.
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo et Eurydice, Act IV “Jái perdu mon Eurydice” Warner
amplify your life with primephonic Our catalogue items have become as diverse as they are numerous, with just the right picks for the explorer, the adventurer and the pioneer in classical music.
brilliant simplicity to it, operating based on the distance of the player’s hands from two medal rods, one to control pitch and one for dynamics. It emits a pure, spooky sound emblematic of decades worth of movie soundtracks. But it has however had some success in the concert hall as well, with Dmitri Shostakovich being the most famous composer to write for it. The Ondes Martenot, invented less than ten years after the Theremin, can be thought of its logical continuation. Although they share some sonic properties, including continuous pitch, the Ondes Martenot is more complicated and features multiple speaker cabinets and a sounding board with strings. Although the Ondes Martenot can still be found in France where it was invented, it has not enjoyed the same longevity as the Theremin.
Every musical instrument started life as an invention, as a piece of technology. In most cases they went through hundreds of trials and modifications In a way the most successful instruments are those, like the violin or the piano, which have gone through so many perfections and modifications that their evolution has reached a dead end, remaining essentially unchanged for decades or centuries. However, for every instrument that reached this stage, there are hundreds if not thousands of failed experiments, impractical designs and creations simply too weird to become popular amongst musicians or composers. Here are a few instruments that, for one reason or another, failed to make it into the mainstream. WORDS MATT ADOMEIT ILLUSTRATIONS BOB MOLLEMA
NAIL VIOLIN The nail violin is one of many instruments, including the Singing Saw, that work on the principle of bowing a sheet or spike of metal. Invented in the mid-18th century by Johann Wilde, a German violinist, it takes the form of several nails of varying lengths arranged in a circular or semicircular shape and stuck into a wooden soundboard. The sound can be sharp and grating, and the range and tonality is severely limited. Combined with a quiet volume, it is no surprise that the nail violin failed to catch on. Its close relative, the singing saw, continues however to enjoy popularity as a folk instrument, particularly in the United States. 58
GLASS HARMONICA Oddly enough, the glass harmonica falls into the same category as the nail violin in that sound is produced by direct friction from a non-toneproducing object. In this case however it is not a bow but the human hand. The modern version was invented by none other than Benjamin Franklin, and comprises a mechanical device similar to a lathe on which a variety of glass disks are mounted, with the wider (and lower pitched) disks on the left. As these spin, simple contact with a human finger emits an eerie pitch, reminiscent of the sound of rubbing one’s finger around the rim of a wine glass. The popularity
of the instrument used to be much higher than most people realize, with many notable composers including Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss writing music for it. However, it began to decline precipitously in popularity by the mid-19th century, perhaps due to the legend that listening to the sound for too long would drive the listener (or performer) mad.
the orchestra, often including all of the wind instruments and many percussion instruments. Although the nearly endless possibilities were surely tantalizing, the sheer cost, size and complexity of the orchestrion ensured from the start that only a few would ever be produced. Synthesizers have also replaced many of the roles that the orchestrion was designed to fill.
ORCHESTRION Also falling in the relatively small category of instruments that are largely mechanical in nature but not electronic, the orchestrion can refer to a variety of inventions of dazzling complexity that arose around the turn of the 19th century. Essentially a “super-organ”, the aim of the orchestrion is to imitate even more of the timbres from
THEREMIN Perhaps the most famous “alternative” instrument, the Theremin was invented in 1919 by the Russian physicist Leon Theremin,. In addition to being one of the only musical instruments to operate without physical contact between the performer and the instrument, it is also the first famous electronic instrument. The Theremin has a 59
EWI In recent years, countless digital devices have been added to the growing pool of instruments vying for attention. Many of these take the form of keyboard instruments, hence the special significance of the EWI, or Electronic Wind Instrument. With variable settings that can duplicate the fingerings of the flute, oboe and saxophone, together with sensors that can detect changes in dynamics and vibrato, and a whole catalogue of synthesized sounds, the EWI is another extremely versatile instrument. Made famous mostly by jazz and genre-crossing saxophonists such as Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer, it was never taken seriously as a concert instrument. However with the additional breath sensors, the possibilities of the instrument are in many ways even more
never truly caught on with classical composers. It has often been imitated in classical music, most famously in Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man) in Schubert’s Winterreise.
numerous than on a traditional keyboard synthesizer, ensuring that the instrument will continue to be used in new and exciting ways. MANDOBASS Despite its niche status today, the mandolin used to be surprisingly popular, particularly in early 20th century America. By the onset of World War II, hundreds of mandolin orchestras had sprung up all over North American and Europe, typically featuring mandolins, mandolas and mandocellos (which correspond to the three highest instruments in the violin family) in addition to the occasional guitar or contrabass. Seeing an opportunity to create orchestras consisting entirely of mandolin-family instruments, several companies, most notably Gibson, began manufacturing mandobasses in the early 1910s. Typically tuned identically to a contrabass but with frets and an A-style mandolin body, these awkward and uncomfortable-looking instruments were produced until the 1930s, when interest in mandolin orchestras began to wane. SHOFAR The Shofar is the instrument most closely associated with many Jewish ceremonies and holidays. Crafted from a ram’s horn, the Shofar is typically used to emit a piercing tone or rapid burst of short notes, and is mentioned numerous times throughout the Old Testament. Interestingly, the asymmetrical shape of the air cavity often means that the instrument does not follow the normal overtone series, and the organic nature of the instrument makes them nearly impossible to tune, which is
‘it is quite likely that many of these supposedly obsolete instruments will witness a resurgence’ perhaps the reason the Shofar is traditionally played solo. Nowadays it can regularly be found in Israeli pop music and is even called for in the score of Edward Elgar’s “The Apostles,” although a flugelhorn is often substituted for reasons of convenience. 60
HURDY-GURDY Despite its comical name and bizarre construction, the hurdygurdy is a surprisingly versatile instrument. Although it is technically a string instrument, the mechanics of playing are truly unique. The performer’s right hand turns a wheel that rubs against the strings, while the left hand changes the pitch through a series of wooden keys, resulting in a bizarre cross between a bowed instrument and a keyboard instrument, powered by a hand crank. A series of drone strings gives the instrument a bagpipe-like quality and a characteristic buzzing sound. Used in folk music throughout most of Europe, the hurdy-gurdy has also enjoyed periods of popularity with the upper classes, although it
DIDGERIDOO The didgeridoo is an ancient instrument that has been played by indigenous Australians for at least 1,500 years. Ranging between 1 and 3 metres in length, the sound of these massive aerophones is instantly recognizable by its deep droning quality and pulsating overtones. The technique to play it often requires the performer to employ circular breathing, and accomplished players such as Mark Atkins have been known to play for nearly an hour without taking a breath. Although the didgeridoo is a traditional instrument, more recently it has found its way into classical music, particularly through Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Sean O’Boyle and William Barton.
the triple concerto for banjo, double bass and tabla “The Melody of Rhythm”, along with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer. With the advent of digital music and synthesizers, there are even more obscure and uncommon instruments in existence today than ever before. When these are combined with the vast number of traditional and folk instruments from around the world, it is clear that the standard Western orchestral instruments represent only a tiny fraction of the possible range of sounds available. As the boundaries between genres continue to dissolve and composers continue to search for new tonal possibilities it is quite likely that many of these supposedly obsolete instruments will witness a resurgence, both inside and outside of the concert hall.
TABLA The tabla is the most recognizable and widespread instrument used in Hindustani Classical music, centered in present-day Northern India. The tabla consists of two small drums of different size and pitch that are played with the fingers and heel of each hand, the latter being used to apply pressure and change the pitch. Outside of India the most prominent tabla player is undoubtedly Zakir Hussain, who has made serious inroads into Western music through collaborations with musicians from John McLaughlin to Charles Lloyd. Hussain also found his way into American concert halls as a performer and co-composer of
unconventional instruments playlist Zakir Hussain: Overture Phaia Peter Sculthorpe: String Quartet No. 12, “From Ubirr” (Earth Cry) Sono Luminus Schubert : Winterreise D. 911 - XXIV. Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man) harmonia mundi Camille Saint-Saëns: The Carnival of the Animals – VII Aquarium Chandos Edgard Varèse: Amériques Seattle Symphony Media Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie Introduction Ondine
what the critics say
DVOŘÁK: SYMPHONY NO.8; CARNIVAL OVERTURE SUK: SERENADE FOR STRINGS BAVARIAN RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, MARISS JANSONS (CONDUCTOR) BR KLASSIK 900145
ment, the passion for nature rebounding softly through the opening allegro con brio’s second subject – recalling birdsong, perhaps, on the flute – and the twist in the pit of the stomach deep inside the cello-rich opening theme’s harmonies.
Some commentators can be bizarrely mean about Dvořák, regarding him as somehow the best of the second-rate composers. He’s not quite Brahms – nobody else could ever be Brahms, let’s face it – and indeed, championed by the German composer, he perhaps spent too long in his shadow. Still, there’s a quality to him that is unique – call it, perhaps, a purity of soul, and a deeply Czech one, too. It can be elusive, and what it needs to do, most of all, is to make you smile, dance and cry at the same time.
This account of the symphony was recorded live at Munich’s Gasteig last year, and despite the hall’s slightly difficult acoustic it proves that Mariss Jansons has at his disposal one of the most luxurious orchestral sounds in the world. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra shines with high polish and a generous heart, and Jansons balances its elements to near-ideal calibration. The strings match the brass and wind for lustre and they respond to Jansons’ mix of seriousness and gentle wit, of thrill and lilt, with alacrity and unanimity. The rhythmic approach is rigorous, extremely disciplined – there is no hint of self-indulgence in the up-tempo allegros – but Jansons never loses sight of the softer side of Dvořák’s soul, handling rubato with a light, deft touch, and letting string portamenti offer just the right amount of sensuality.
The Symphony No. 8 in G minor is concise and concentrated, with a strong core of classical form, which is perhaps why it packs the punch it does. Unlike his concertos, in which Dvořák sometimes had a slight tendency to sprawl, here he presents never a note too many. This is distilled Dvořák, the Czech rhythms unmistakable in the lilting third move62
But if you think the Dvořák is drop-dead gorgeous, just listen to the Josef Suk Serenade for Strings. Suk, Dvořák’s pupil and also his son-in-law, likewise suffers from overshadow syndrome. His Serenade, though, is easily as fine as Dvořák’s; dating from 1893-4, it finds the composer matching chamber-like interaction with richness of sonority, and capturing to a tee that Bohemian ache of mingled beauty and sorrow. The playing flows with
apparent effortlessness, yet one has the feeling every note is being cherished. The recorded sound is excellent: the Gasteig acoustic seems relatively unproblematic in the Dvořák, and the Suk, a studio recording, is warm and clear, beautifully enhancing the satiny strings.
– Jessica Duchen
RICHARD STRAUSS: EIN HELDENLEBEN & MACBETH FRANKFURT RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ANDRÉS OROZCO-ESTRADA (CONDUCTOR) PENTATONE 5186582
“unearths an astonishing amount of detail”. PENTATONE also received a great deal of praise for their “awesomely precise recording”. With a history of successful recordings with PENTATONE, it comes as no surprise that their newest album, containing Strauss’s tone poems Ein Heldenleben and Macbeth, are also impressive.
The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra has obtained a prestigious reputation worldwide for their excellent interpretations, especially of Romantic and late Romantic music. They are considered one of the top Mahler and Bruckner orchestras.
The orchestra performs Ein Heldenleben flawlessly; at times a bit tentative, perhaps afraid to crack notes or distort the sound at some of the most intense moments in the opening sections. The backstage trumpet fanfare lacks clarity, certainly due to the positioning of the players; their intonation is excellent and they exude an enormous amount of energy, invigorating the orchestra. The dynamics of the orchestra are surprisingly extreme, from barely a whisper in the wind to a (well-balanced) storm. Not only is the violin solo splendidly performed, the trumpet and horn solos are heroically executed with the support of the bombastic string playing. The orchestra builds to an incredible climax together, with the trumpets and trombones leading the way.
The relationship between PENTATONE and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony extends more than ten years back with the release of a remastered SACD version of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with soloist Werner Haas and conductor Eliahu Inbal. Following this release came two more albums with the highly esteemed conductor Eliahu Inbal, namely SaintSaëns’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 and an album of works for flute and oboe by Bellini, Molique, Moscheles, Rietz and Vivaldi. Half a decade later, the orchestra returned for a recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and The Firebird with PENTATONE, this time under the baton of the much sought-after conductor Andrés OrozcoEstrada. This album, released in early 2016, received much praise. Audio Review was impressed by the “ruthless dynamic intervals” and the “rich tonal palette” while Gramophone complimented the orchestra’s responsiveness and the ability of Orozco-Estrada as he
Strauss’s first infrequently heard tone poem, Macbeth, is also featured on this album. It is certainly interesting to hear Strauss’s final tone poem followed by his first. The style is quite different, and sometimes this first tone poem is referred to as a transitional work, though Strauss was not affected by such criticism. Macbeth uses a smaller setting than Ein Heldenleben, but the sense of drama between two ‘heroes’– Lady Macbeth and 64
Macbeth – is still evident, as characterized by woodwinds and low instruments respectively. This drama is much more subtle than Ein Heldenleben.
sound and its culture of dynamic performances”, it creates an unforgettable listening experience. The accompanying booklet is in a convenient interactive and colourful pdf format full of interesting tidbits about the music, in both English and German.
The recording quality is excellent, allowing the listener to experience the music with the depth and special awareness of a live concert. Combined with the orchestra’s “outstanding wind section, its rich string
– Melanie Garrett
PHILIP GLASS: GLASSWORKS AND INTERVIEWS WITH THE COMPOSER PHILIP GLASS ENSEMBLE SONY CLASSICAL G010003613671W
Regarded as one of his most iconic compositions, Glassworks was composed in 1981 for the Philip Glass Ensemble to be recorded and released as a studio album the following year. In an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, the six-movement piece presented another new direction in the composer’s development while maintaining his trademark style. The codified glassisms are well represented: motor rhythm, repetitive structures, chord progressions, electro-acoustic voice doublings and a constant stream of arpeggios. With the addition of tuneful melodies and shorter pieces, he managed to make Glassworks more accessible to a larger audience which greatly contributed to his renown and recognition.
Widely recognized as one of the most prominent musical figures of the 20th century, Philip Glass, the self-proclaimed “bad boy of modern music” is credited with being one of the founders of the American minimalist movement along with Steve Reich, La Monte Young and Terry Riley. The Sony Classical UK label’s recent release of his 1982 album Glassworks also features an enthralling interview with the composer, providing context and insight into his career and process.
The order of movements is constructed in a way that the slow, peaceful Islands and Façades alternate between the frenetic Floe and Rubric giving the album a natural undulating shape. Opening, performed entirely by solo piano, introduces the composition with a simple triple over duple polyrhythmic drive and repeated chord progressions that emanate a melancholic mood. With regard to the choice of solo piano, Glass states, “what I was trying to evoke in the opening was a feeling of intimacy.” Using the same compositional material, Closing returns to the intimacy of Opening by gradually reducing the full ensemble orchestration until the piano is left alone to conclude the album.
As an exemplary student of the Julliard School and recipient of various grants and awards, Glass’s early accolades evaporated after he radically redefined his compositional approach while living in Paris. He refers to his early work as music that he had merely learned without representation of his own compositional voice. In search of a more personal style, he decided to abandon his academic approach, subsequently arriving at a very reduced form of music which was based on process and simple repetitive structures. Glass remarks “I got rid of everything I had learned very systematically.” His new approach was initially met with misunderstanding and rejection until he formed his own ensemble shortly after moving to New York in 1967. His distinctive use of rhythm, tonality, arpeggios and repetitive structures became central to the work that he is known for today.
The instrumentation of flutes, saxophones, horns, viola, cello and synthesizers combine to create peculiar timbres and a decidedly amplified sound in Glassworks. Because of his prominent emphasis on sound quality, Glass worked closely with sound engineer Kurt Munkac65
si, treating him as an integral member of the ensemble as well as making him co-producer of the album. Glass found it imperative to keep sound engineering an “inhouse operation” to achieve the ideal sound quality of his amplified music ensemble as opposed to relying on hired sound engineers of venues who would not be as familiar with the music and ensemble sound.
As Philip Glass approaches his 80th birthday, this new release of Glassworks paired with an engaging interview with the composer informs a fresh perspective on the seminal 1982 work.
BRAHMS: PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2, OP. 83 BEETHOVEN: SONATA NO. 23, OP. 57 “APPASSIONATA” SVIATOSLAV RICHTER (PIANO) CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ERICH LEINSDORF (CONDUCTOR) SONY CLASSICAL G010001718537R
opening cadenza, the startling pianissimo octave passages in the second movement or the ease with which he despatches massive chords and dramatic flourishes. It’s matched with playing of great sensitivity in the mesmerising slow movement with fine cantabile playing from the orchestra throughout. All in all, a performance not to be missed.
On 15 October 1960 in Chicago, Sviatoslav Richter gave his eagerly awaited North American debut with a sensational performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, the latter standing in at short notice for Fritz Reiner who had been taken ill. The concert created quite a stir, one critic writing that Richter gave “the performance of a lifetime”. Two days later, the work was recorded by RCA to produce an instant classic that has never been out of the catalogue, released here in a remastered version.
Following his debut in Chicago, Richter went on to give a series of wildly successful recitals a few days later at Carnegie Hall in New York. The first programme featured five Beethoven Sonatas and concluded with a now legendary performance of “the Appassionata Sonata”. Richter’s recording of the work shortly after for RCA “raised the bar for all of us” noted the pianist Malcolm Frager, “…no one was able to play [it] without worrying that the audience might have the sound of Richter’s performance in their ears.”
– Tristan Renfrow
It’s an astonishing and sustained performance, played with searing intensity and conviction by Richter and it’s a rollercoaster of tension and drama. A respite to the adrenalin rushes is given in the tender slow movement which has fine filigree finger passages. But it’s in the final movement where Richter really lets rip. While some pianists match his demonic speed few can equal the almost visceral intensity of his playing. Exhilarating and breathless, it’s an unforgettable performance and a must-buy in this remastered version.
Richter recorded the work nine times between 1950 and 1969 but it is this performance with the CSO/Leinsdorf that is widely regarded as a landmark and it earned a Grammy Award in 1961 for “Best Classical Performance - Concerto or Instrumental Soloist”. However, the ever fastidious Richter was dissatisfied with it, exclaiming “one of my worst records, even though people still praise it to the skies. I can’t bear it!” Listening to this vibrant recording afresh, it’s hard to agree with Richter as his performance is revelatory. Incandescent without being imposing or mannered, he tosses aside the phenomenal technical challenges with alacrity – just listen to the sustained crescendo in the
– Kevin Painting
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CAL ENDAR 67
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BEETHOVEN PREMIERES HIS WORKS IN A FOUR-HOUR CONCERT 22 December 1808
CLASSIC FM WAS LAUNCHED 7 September 1992
Ludwig van Beethoven premiered a few of his most celebrated works in Vienna, in a concert that lasted four hours. The performance at Theater an der Wien included his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Piano Concerto and Choral Fantasy, all conducted by Beethoven himself. It was the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann who first noted down and published elements that established the principles of Romanticism in a review of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony around 18 months later, declaring it one of the most important works of the time. His terms were in contrast to the formality and restraint that were the defining features of classical forms.
Classic FM, the UK's first national commercial classical radio station, was launched. The first work to be broadcast was Handel's anthem Zadok the Priest, a celebratory anthem that Handel had composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727; it has been performed at every British coronation ever since, as well as being used widely in film and television and as the anthem for the UEFA Champions League.
FIRST BROADCAST FROM NEW YORK’S METROPOLITAN OPERA 13 January 1910
FIRST LIVE STREAM OF AN OPERA IN HD FROM THE METROPOLITAN OPERA 1 December 2006
The first experimental broadcasts of live performances from the stage of the Metropolian Opera New York took place. Radio pioneer Lee De Forest carried out an experimental live transmission from the opera stage of Puccini’s Tosca. This was followed by another partial broadcast the following day, of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, starring the legendary Enrico Caruso.
The Met: Live in HD first appeared in December 2006 featuring live transmissions shown in high definition in movie theatres around the world. The Met also developed a programme for US students to attend these broadcasts for free at their schools.
FIRST COMPLETE SYMPHONIC CONCERT BROADCAST LIVE ON RADIO 10 February 1922
MEDICI TV LAUNCHED 1 May 2008
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra became the first orchestra ever to perform a full symphonic concert live on air. The orchestra, with guest pianist Artur Schnabel, was conducted by Ossip Gabrilowitsch and broadcast live on the American radio station WWJ.
After filming and broadcasting the Verbier Festival in 2007, the medici.tv video platform was officially launched on 1 May 2008 with 200 programmes available online.
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