Back in September, I blogged that the San Francisco Symphony’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 was “one for the ages”, just as the concert performances were the preceding year. Tonight, that recording won three Grammy Awards:
- Best Classical Album
- Best Choral Performance
- Best Engineered Album, Classical
Congratulations to Michael Tilson Thomas, Ragnar Bohlin, Kevin Fox, Susan McMane, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger, all the soloists, orchestra, and chorus musicians, and everyone else involved in the recording at the Symphony and SFS Media.
Last week was also my first rehearsal with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. My first concert set will be Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 on March 11 – 14. The two soloists, Laura Claycomb and Katarina Karnéus, were two of the fabulous soloists on the Mahler 8th recording. After hearing so much great Mahler in Davies over the years, what a thrill it is to be rehearsing it with the SFS Chorus. Performing it should be amazing.
Yesterday was our first staging rehearsal for West Bay Opera‘s upcoming production of Der Freischütz. I was already excited about getting the opportunity to perform this German masterwork that is rarely done in the USA. The cast is fabulous, full of favorites from previous West Bay productions, especially from Dutchman. The chorus is as big (and strong) as you can put on the Lucie Stern stage. General director José Luis Moscovich will conduct.
There is a reason that Der Freischütz is not performed often in the USA, despite its glorious music. The work can seem a bit opaque to American audiences who don’t share the cultural context of the opera that German audiences do. How can a production make the staging more immediate and involving to American audiences, while remaining true to the work itself?
Yuval Sharon, directing at West Bay for the first time, has devised some creative ways to add some American cultural references to the staging that cleverly parallel the German references of the work. I don’t want to give away any surprises. But I will say that this production will not fall into either of the twin pitfalls of dusty museum-piece staging or been-there-done-that Eurotrash updating.
Der Freischütz will be performed on February 19, 21, 27, and 28 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. The performances on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 27th start at 8:00 pm; the Sunday performances on the 21st and 28th start at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available online or at the box office.
In December 2007, I participated in a conference on “Digital Editing Between Experiment and Standardization” in Paderborn, Germany. The conference focused on issues involving digital critical editions for both music and text, and was attended by many scholars and music publishers, mostly from Germany and elsewhere in central Europe.
I participated in the session on music encoding issues. Perry Roland (the inventor of MEI) and I were asked to evaluate our respective formats against a list of encoding requirements for music editorial applications. Thanks to the feedback we received from a 2006 conference in Mainz on similar issues, MusicXML 2.0 was able to meet all the representation challenges for common Western music notation. There was a lively discussion afterward, not just about the differences between MusicXML and MEI, but larger issues on the goals and use of critical editions.
The proceedings of this remarkable conference are now available! Digitale Edition zwischen Experiment und Standardisierung, edited by Peter Stadler and Joachim Veit, includes papers based on the conference presentations as well as summaries of the conference discussion sessions. It reflects the bilingual nature of the conference. Most of the chapters are in German except for the music encoding session, where the following papers are in English:
- “Musical Variants in Digital Practice” by Eleanor Selfridge-Field
- “The CMME Occo Codex Edition: Variants and Versions in Encoding and Interface” by Theodor Dumitrescu and Marnix van Berchum
- “Editing Renaissance Music: The Aruspix Project” by Laurent Pugin
- “Using MusicXML 2.0 for Music Editorial Applications” by Michael Good
- “MEI as an Editorial Music Format” by Perry Roland
If you are interested in scholarly music notation issues, these five English-language chapters could be well worth the price of the book by themselves. At this writing it is temporarily out of stock at Amazon in the US, but in stock at Amazon in Germany.
My 2006 paper on “MusicXML in Commercial Applications“, published in Music Analysis East and West, is now available online. This gives a scholarly summary of MusicXML practice in the music industry as of four years ago.
It is interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. MusicXML has moved from version 1.1 to 2.0, and the number of supporting applications has grown from over 50 to over 120. MusicXML’s role in music distribution has started to grow – see our list of MusicXML sites – but the format still is mostly used for interchange rather than distribution. That is something I hope we address in our work at Recordare this year.
Thanksgiving week was a slice of contemporary big band heaven in Manhattan. On Wednesday night, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society performed two sets at Iridium. These photos are from the first set:
It’s interesting how you can go your whole life without seeing a bucket-muted bass trombone, and then you can see it twice in three days. Here’s the Secret Society version, with Jennifer Wharton on bass trombone:
Darcy gave interesting introductions to some of the tunes:
The second set was even better than the first, highlighted by a great performance of Ferromagnetic. But our seats didn’t work as well for photos.
On Friday night, we saw the Maria Schneider Orchestra play their second set at the Jazz Standard. We heard the band when they played in San Francisco a few years ago, but it’s so much better to hear them in a small club like this than in someplace like Herbst Theatre. The set included a new commissioned piece, tentatively called “The Bean Fields.”
Maria was conducting in between a couple of the front tables, so we were really up close and personal, as you can see from this after-set photo:
Thanks so much to Darcy for mentioning the Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim in his Secret Society newsletter. We went to see it on Friday and it was as wonderful as advertised. My introduction to Kandinsky’s art was a bit different than most people’s: one of his paintings provided the cover art for the MIT Symphony Orchestra’s first LP on Turnabout. This LP was recorded my freshman year, so I’m playing third trumpet on both selections. Both the Piston and Copland recordings are still available on CD in different packagings.
The Guggenheim Museum looked as lovely as ever in the cloudy late November light:
Argue and Schneider write wonderfully well for big band, so it was a real thrill to hear them in clubs within a few days of each other. I’m looking forward to more great music from these bands and bandleaders in the future.
Recordare now has version 5.1 maintenance updates available for both the Dolet 5 for Finale and Dolet 5 for Sibelius plug-ins. The Dolet 5.1 for Finale update was just released today, and includes a dozen new features and fixes compared to version 5.0.
The Dolet 5.1 for Sibelius update was released back in October, but I missed blogging about it. It now supports Sibelius 6.1, which added ManuScript support for many new features, including document setup and selected engraving rules. So version 5.1 exports much more score formatting from Sibelius 6.1 than has been possible in the past. Sibelius 6.1 also runs plug-ins 2 or 3 times faster than previous Sibelius versions, and most Dolet users will really notice this difference.
These updates are free for current Dolet 5 customers. Both plug-ins are available at the Recordare Online Store, with upgrade discounts available for Dolet 4 users. These updates take another step forward in making digital sheet music interchange between different music programs as seamless and accurate as possible.
It’s unusual for amateur groups like the Stanford Symphonic Chorus and Peninsula Symphony get reviewed. But the rarity of the Reicha Requiem attracted a review from David Bratman in San Francisco Classical Voice.
It’s a nice, insightful piece, and I love his thoroughly appropriate lead sentence: “Tired of the usual run of jolly Christmas choral music?” The Reicha is a severe, complex work. It’s quite beautiful, but not quite the more comforting kind of Requiem that Fauré and Brahms would later write. It’s great to see the piece and performance attract some press attention.
Infernal Machines, the debut album from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, is my favorite jazz album of the year. Here is a big band album that engages popular music in ways that have been largely lost since the 1970s, and does so with great beauty and sophistication.
Argue refers to the Secret Society as a steampunk big band. I hadn’t heard of steampunk before this, but I see now how that’s an apt analogy. Another shorthand description might be Maria Schneider meets Michael Gibbs. Neither of those capture the individual personality, of course, but you can hear that in the music – there are plenty of free downloads available at the Secret Society site.
One thing I find particularly refreshing about Argue’s writing is its avoidance of the layered orchestration cliches common to most big band music. If you read the previous Herb Pomeroy post and want to hear what it sounds like when a big band composer really likes to rub color against color, this is the album for you! Argue studied with Bob Brookmeyer. While you can hear the influence in the approach to orchestration, I find Argue’s music has a whole different aesthetic from Brookmeyer’s.
In addition, Argue is a music copyist who has made some very helpful contributions to improving jazz support in our Dolet for Finale plug-in.
This coming Thanksgiving week in New York is a slice of big band heaven – Argue’s Secret Society performs at Iridium on Wednesday, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra has a residency at the Jazz Standard throughout the week. Argue’s band has never toured to California, and Schneider’s only plays in big venues and festivals out here. So I’m looking forward to hearing these two bands in New York clubs later this week! Friends in the Boston area will have a chance to check out the band in a few months at the Regattabar on February 25.