Yuletide Miscellany

– I very much enjoyed last night’s performance of Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin at the Met. Stellar performances from Eric Owens, Tamara Mumford, Susanna Phillips, the Met orchestra and chorus, and conductor Susanna Mälkki were framed by the best of the Robert Lepage productions I have seen – simpler than his Ring, or the Adès Tempest (though certainly not simpler technically), and the more effective for it. The music is gorgeous and moving but sometimes distractingly static. It seemed odd for something so finely made and fluid in small details (though with a good bit of repetition) to be less varied on a larger level. I kept waiting for the bass to move during the storm scene at the beginning of Act IV – and it never did. I suppose one could respond that the sea – where most of the piece takes place – never changes on the larger level either. Here’s a trailer:

and here is Susanna Phillips rehearsing (it’s not right that the pianist is not identified!)

– coming up on January 13, 2017, the Daedalus Quartet will be presenting George Crumb’s Black Angels along with works by Joshua Hey and Scott Ordway at the Chinese Rotunda of the Penn Museum. (Friday the 13th, perfect for this piece!) Young composers who think extended performance techniques are something novel need to check out this piece and see how such devices can be used for maximum expressive impact. Here’s a preview:

– lastly, here’s my annual reminder to keep up your musicianship skills during Christmastime.


Operas With a Future

Several of the pieces listed in the group of short essays in this Sunday’s NY Times about recent operas deserving of further performances were what you would expect, with works by Adams, Saariaho, and Adès featured. Two notable omissions that I would have included are Messiaen’s St. Francis and Harbison’s The Great Gatsby. I was surprised that the Messiaen was left out; sadly, not surprised about the masterful but under-appreciated Harbison. What would you have included?