April 23, 2019

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Beloved Composer: The Week in Classical Music

Beloved Composer: The Week in Classical Music
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[Read all of our classical music coverage here.]

Readers! Here’s a lovely profile of the composer George Crumb, who is getting a little festival from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on Sunday and Tuesday as he approaches his 90th birthday this fall.

Corinna went out to his home studio in Pennsylvania, and we pulled together some highlights from a rich career of wondrous sounds:

Here’s “Black Angels,” inspired by the Vietnam War and written for amplified string quartet, complete:

And here’s the much-loved “Vox Balaenae”:

In other news!

A crazy story out of Hungary:

When the Hungarian State Opera’s white cast of singers came together in Budapest earlier this month to revive a production of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess,” they received letters carrying an unusual request: to declare themselves African-American.

Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic’s music director, burned himself while icing himself last week — I know, I know — so Simone Young jumped into this weekend’s performances of Mahler’s Sixth. Josh opines that her extensive work in opera may have informed her approach.

Enjoy the weekend! ZACHARY WOOLFE


As the Miller Theater at Columbia University begins to wrap up its 30th-anniversary season — a Composer Portrait concert featuring David T. Little’s music comes next, on Thursday — I’ve been thinking about some of the best concerts I’ve heard there in recent years.

One particularly fine show was in October 2007, when the composer David Sanford conducted his own big band ensemble, the Pittsburgh Collective. Both raucous and exquisitely poised, the music was decked out with some broadly perceptible reference points — including traces of classical modernism, jazz improvisation and the attack of punk. Yet it was the composer’s way of combining these surface-level traits that proved most memorable.

While Mr. Sanford’s music is not heard in New York nearly enough, a taste of his more recent work is available, thanks to a set on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s label. The 11-minute work that gives the album its title, “Black Noise,” is a 2017 piece commissioned by the orchestra, known as BMOP.

Less immediately boisterous than some of what Mr. Sanford has written for his own band, “Black Noise” lavishes time on an investigation of spectral trends in contemporary classical harmony. In his liner notes, Mr. Sanford cites composer Fausto Romitelli as an influence, as well as the “harmonic world” of Pierre Boulez.

Boulez’s “Notations” for orchestra don’t feel all that far away at points. But other of Mr. Sanford’s stylistic predilections also push themselves to the fore, including a frenzied section in the middle, which is helped along at first by authoritative, pizzicato bass lines, suggestive of Mr. Sanford’s appreciation for Charles Mingus. SETH COLTER WALLS



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