Mamedkuliev brings out magic in classical guitar

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer


Heading into Sunday evening, I pondered. No, I argued with myself. It had been a very busy past few weeks, with lots of events to cover.

There was a concert scheduled for that evening. Should I go or should I not? That was the argument.

I really yearned to stay home to relax and came close to that easier decision: to stay and not go. But something got in the way of following through. Something was telling me to go. And go I went: to Auer Hall for a recital by a guest guitarist, Rovshan Mamedkuliev.

As usual, I arrived early, took my seat, and read through the program notes. Heading my way was Ernesto Bitetti , chair of the Jacobs School of Music’s guitar department and very much involved with putting together the Seventh Indiana International Guitar Festival and Competition, a two-day affair of all things guitar-wise that was to close with Mamedkuliev’s concert.

“I’m so glad you came,” said Ernesto. “Rovshan is something special. He’s the best. You’re going to hear a wonderful recital, perhaps like nothing you’ve ever heard.” The sales pitch was turning into a rave.

“I’m glad I came, too,” I said, partially probably to be polite and partially because I was already there and, as reward, likely to hear some pleasurable guitar music.

And then, the Azerbaijan-born guitarist stepped upon the stage, bowed, took his seat at stage center, and began to play Miguel Llobet’s Variations on a Theme by Sor. The Sor theme was familiar; the variations were not. But, oh my goodness! Ernesto Bitetti’s rave was totally deserved. This Mamedkuliev fellow was remarkable; he is remarkable.

Not at all in a showy manner, he made acrobatic fingers play fancy games with his lovingly-held guitar and perform wonders, producing sounds one does not believe can possibly come from the instrument. But that he continued to do: reveal the ways a virtuoso can bring out the magic in a classical guitar. He had vistas of rural Granada to visit in Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Junto al Generalife,” a musical description of a countryside surrounding an elegant home for the kings of Granada, in relaxing territory away from their most-of-the-time normal palace life.

Born in Azerbaijan and growing up in Russia, Mamedkuliev honored those years in his life by selecting works from composers of those lands. He selected six of “Twelve Miniatures for Piano” written by Fikret Amirov that he transcribed for guitar. The tonal colors differed sharply from the Latin influence of much else that he had chosen for the program. But, as everything selected, these pieces allowed the recitalist to add important performance lessons that only an experienced and gifted guitarist can provide. He did that also with “The Old Lime Tree,” composed by the Russian Sergei Rudnev as reminiscence of his childhood, a ballad that adoringly describes a favored object from the past.

A more contemporary composition, the Sonata Number 2 for Guitar by Nikita Koshkin, dating to 2011, gave Mamedkuliev more thorny themes and developments to deal with, which he did astonishingly.

To close the concert, Mamedkuliev turned to a brilliant showpiece, “Gran jota de concierto” by Francisco Tarrega. The outflow of melodies and embellishments was stunning, indeed something to remember.

The audience roared in approval, roared like a hungry soccer crowd. And I am happy I came.

Paul Sherrill and Matthew Boyle win prestigious Kraehenbuehl award

The music theory department is thrilled to announce that Paul Sherrill (Ph.D., 2016) and Matthew Boyle (ABD), students of Prof. Roman Ivanovitch, have won the David Kraehenbuehl award from the Journal of Music Theory, for their article “Galant Recitative Schemas.” The award, awarded only once every two years, is given to the best article submitted by an untenured author.

Sherrill and Boyle’s work develops a concise and accessible method of categorizing musical gestures in 18th-century recitatives, and promises to spark new interest in recitative among both audiences and scholars. Both Sherrill and Boyle were past recipients of the Jacobs School of Music dissertation-year fellowship in music theory.


Paul Sherrill

Paul Sherrill is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the College of Wooster. In May 2016, he graduated from Indiana University with a Ph.D. in music theory. His dissertation “The Metastasian Da Capo Aria,” which was advised by Prof. Roman Ivanovitch, explores how the musical form of the da capo aria functions both as a dramatic device and as an embodiment of certain philosophical principles. In his research, Paul is interested in the ways that musical convention and usage create meaning at various levels, with a focus on Italian-language operas from the eighteenth century.


Matthew Boyle

Matthew Boyle is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. His research focuses on the analysis and history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century opera. His dissertation examines how the relationship between Rossini’s compositional style and common tropes in the reception of his operas (especially as a source of hedonistic pleasure) both constrains and shapes potential analytical narratives of his operas. Other research projects include developing a theoretical framework for simple (secco) recitative and exploring the cultural and expressive meanings of recitative in eighteenth-century Northern Germany.

Festival celebrates the tuba

Music Beat | Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist


Time for the tuba. Time for music set to Shakespeare.

The annual Octubafest opens on Tuesday evening not with a tuba recital but one featuring the euphonium, the tuba’s little brother, as played by a distinguished guest, Misa Mead. The fest ends next Sunday with more guests, a renowned twosome from Japan — Shimpei Tsugita and Shoichiro Hokazono — performing new music for a tuba/euphonium combination, plus piano. There are daily concerts in between performed by upcoming talents, a lineup put together by the IU Jacobs School’s chief of the tuba and its little brother, Provost Profeesor Daniel Perantoni.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, as part of a concert by the New Music Ensemble, faculty composer Don Freund will introduce two parts of his setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Ballroom and Balcony scenes. They’ve been performed here before but with piano accompaniment. Professor Freund has now orchestrated those scenes, making his new music newer.

If it’s autumn, there must be tubas

The history of Octubafest goes back to 1974, when the late Harvey Philips, IU’s legendary teacher of the tuba, started the event in remembrance of his teacher, William Bell, who was on the IU School of Music faculty for the last 10 years of his life (1961-1971). The idea spread, as did Phillips’ Tubachristmas and Tubasantas and Tubajazz, all designed to celebrate his beloved big brass instruments.

Daniel Perantoni, a Phillips student, when later he was named to the music faculty, decided that traditions matter. As he has built his own distinguished teaching and performing career, Perantoni found his own ways to celebrate the tuba and little tuba, but he’s also seen to it that Octubafest remains important here as an annual showcase.

“My enthusiasm still throbs,” he says, throwing back at me the verb I used in sending him questions about what’s to come. Octubafest, he insists, still “has an impact on me. I have so many wonderful memories of my dear friend and mentor. I see his picture every day in my studio, so that I think of him every day.”

For this 2016 version of Octubafest, Perantoni has left spaces on the festival schedule for every student of his. “All of them will perform a special solo for their colleagues, peers and the general audience. As every year, we’re starting the student recitals with an arrangement of Bach’s ‘Come Sweet Death’ by William Bell. This was the tradition that Harvey wanted to continue to honor his teacher. Then, we close our last Octubafest student program with Harvey’s arrangement of Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’ for tuba quartet to honor Harvey.”

How did Daniel Perantoni end up with the tuba? He tells the story this way:

“I first auditioned at the Eastman School of Music on piano, which I had started at age 5. My father was a fine jazz trombonist and also played with the circus on euphonium. He wanted me to play in his jazz band on piano, which I did in high school. I wanted to play his trombone, but he said he’d rather not teach that to his son. I was hurt playing high school football my freshman year and was asked by the band director to join the band. He asked me what I wanted to play. When he brought out the sousaphone (a wind instrument similar to a bass tuba but shaped for easier carrying in a marching band) I played it. I took to the instrument like a duck in water. And three months later, I won a superior rating at contest.

“When I auditioned on piano at Eastman, they asked me to play the tuba,” Perantoni continues. “My father had me bring my sousaphone, and I played a couple of solos. They offered me a scholarship on tuba. My teacher, Donald Knaub, said I was the only one ever to audition at Eastman on a sousaphone and get in. I never really had a lesson on tuba until then, in college.”

The ties between Perantoni and his tuba became a love affair still lasting. And he raves about changes in the instrument “Over the last 50 years,” he says, “our instruments have really developed into works of art. Today, there is really no excuse for anyone to play out of tune; plus, we have reached a range of more than five octaves. After all these years, I am still trying to master the instrument. There is nothing I would rather do than play and teach at my dream job at IU.”

I say believe the tuba-loving Master Perantoni and join the crowds at one or more concerts during Octubafest.


Contact columnist Peter Jacobi at

If you go

To Octubafest:

• Tuesday evening at 7 in Recital Hall, guest recital by Misa Mead, a Japanese-born and now England-residing euphonium virtuoso. She performs her own music, along with works by Schumann, Debussy and contemporary composers.

• Wednesday evening at 7 in Ford-Crawford Hall, recital by Jacobs School tuba and euphonium majors. They play music of Bach, Bozza, Ewazen and others.

• Thursday evening at 7 in Ford, recital by student tuba majors. They play works of Grieg, Vaughan Williams, Bozza and Arban.

• Friday evening at 7 in Ford, another student recital by tuba and euphonium players. They focus on music of Horovitz, Marcello, Penderecki, Golland and Hindemith.

• Saturday evening at 7 in Ford, more tuba and euphonium students. They offer pieces by Lundquist, Plog, Hummel, Stevens and Menendez-Pidal.

• Sunday evening at 7 in Ford, students play Octubaween program with music for tuba by Paganini, Meador, Broughton and Wilder.

• Next Sunday evening at 8 in Auer Hall, a Japanese duo — Shoichiro Hokazono on euphonium and Shimpei Tsugita on tuba — performs music by Monti and Bernstein, along with items by contemporary Japanese composers.

All events are free.

© Herald Times Online 2016

Weekly Digest – October 24


Musical America Names Yuja Wang 2017 Artist of the Year
Musical America, a brand that has stayed vital across its two centuries of distinguished publishing history, has announced its annual awards, to be presented at a ceremony in December at Carnegie Hall. Pianist Yuja Wang has been chosen as artist of the year, with Eighth Blackbird, Susanna Mälkki, Andrew Norman, and Eric Owens recognized as ensemble, conductor, composer, and vocalist of the year 2017.


UNESCO Report Says Culture Makes Cities Safer and Stronger
BlouinArtInfo: Lisa Contag
The UNESCO makes a strong case for systematically fostering culture in city planning in its new “Global Report, Culture: Urban Future,” launched on October 18 at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.

The Money Pit: Orchestras that Strike Should Remember How Far They’ve Come
The Wall Street Journal: Terry Teachout
With the justifiable anger that musicians sometimes feel about their salaries, it’s worth remembering—yet hardly ever mentioned in news reports—that most orchestral musicians in the U.S. make a lot more money than they did only a couple of generations ago. A response from Norman Lebrecht: Why The Wall Street Journal is Wrong on the Pittsburgh Strike

David Wallace: Becoming Village People
21CM (video)
At the 21CMposium, David Wallace, chair of Berklee College of Music’s String Department, talks about how his program cultivates a “village mindset,” where faculty and students collaborate to create a diverse, open-minded, and noncompetitive environment.

Jonathan Biss: ‘Performing Can be Inspiring, or The Thing That Eats You’ The Guardian: Interview by Fiona Maddocks Jacobs alumnus, internationally renowned pianist, discussed composers and mortality, having two violinist parents, and his lack of coordination in all things not piano-related.

R.E.M. Bassist on ‘Breaking Down Walls Between Classical and Rock’”
Rolling Stone: Kory Grow
Mike Mills, violinist Robert McDuffie are touring in support of recently released ‘Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra’              .


Dance Audiences Are Down in NYC, Study Finds
The Wall Street Journal: Pia Catton
A 20% decrease in the number of paid attendees as live performances emerged in the study run by the advocacy group Dance/NYC – looking at 172 dance companies over a 2ix-year period.

The Musical Map of the United States
Brooklyn Magazine
A delightful map – and a collection of more than fifty essays by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state, melds all of this—geography, lived experience, and music—in one.

Benjamin Grosvenor Awarded Philharmonic’s New Piano Prize
New York Times: Michael Cooper
The young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who has been making the leap from child prodigy to a maturing star, has been named the first recipient of a new $30,000 classical piano prize awarded by the New York Philharmonic.

Former Lincoln Center President’s New Post: At National Sawdust
New York Times: Michael Cooper
Jed Bernstein, whose tenure as the president of Lincoln Center was cut short last spring after he failed to disclose a relationship with an employee, is crossing the river for his next post: He is now an adviser at National Sawdust, the new-music space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

ICE’s Founder, Claire Chase, Will Relinquish Leadership Role New York Times: Michael Cooper It’s been an aspiration of the group since the very beginning to evolve into being an artist’s collective,” Ms. Chase said in an interview. “And after 15 years I think we can say that we’ve achieved that — and that it’s time to not be founder-led.

Philadelphia Orchestra Adopts Aspects of Michael M. Kaiser’s Report
The Inquirer: Peter Dobrin
The Philadelphia Orchestra will program musicals. It will set up new philanthropic councils made up from donors with special interests and, starting in 2018, from outside the city. The orchestra is starting a series of master classes with guest artists. And it will develop more ways to lure and keep younger donors.

Best and Worst of Times for Freelance Classical Singers in Philly
The Inquirer: David Patrick Stearns
New, entirely professional, and a child of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir would seem to be much-needed good news on the choral landscape. But so far in its formation, some Philadelphia vocal freelancers are experiencing consternation or even heartbreak at how it’s being handled.

Chuck Berry Celebrates 90th Birthday with First Album in 38 Years
Rolling Stone: Daniel Kreps
Rock n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who turned 90 on Tuesday, celebrated his birthday by announcing that his new LP Chuck, the guitarist’s first LP in 38 years, will arrive in 2017 on Dualtone Records.


Beijing’s Glowing Concert Hall is a Symphony of Visual and Audio Design
New Atlas: Stu Robarts
When you’re one of the world’s top symphony orchestras, it’s only right that you should play in one of the world’s best concert halls. That was the basis upon which MAD Architects worked when designing a new translucent, glowing, lotus-flower-inspired home for the China Philharmonic Orchestra.

English National Opera Appoints New Music Director
ClassicalMusic: Elinor Cooper
Conductor Martyn Brabbins will take up the post immediately.

Nobel Panel Gives Up Knockin’ on Dylan’s Door
The Guardian
Days after being awarded the literature prize, Bob Dylan has yet to get in touch with the Swedish Academy, or indicate whether he will attend the celebrations.

Leeds International Piano Competition to be Revamped
BBC: Mark Savage
The Leeds International Piano Competition, which launched the careers of Andras Schiff and Murray Perahia, is to be overhauled in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience.


A New App, Rotor, Turns iPad Into Electronic Music Performance Suite
ROTOR is the new app that turns the iPad into a comprehensive electronic music performance suite. Using the optional ROTOR controllers, which can be purchased separately, it also brings the reactable tangible music experience that has captivated musicians such as Björk, Coldplay or Gui Boratto, for the first time into the iPad.

The Future of Pop Culture
The Guardian
AI, VR and smartphones are changing the way we consume culture, but what comes next? From film to visual arts, we explore entertainment’s new frontiers

Uber, But for Millennials Who Want Orchestras in Their Living Rooms
Wired Magazine
Around 20 Groupmuse shows happen across the country every week, mostly in Boston, New York, Seattle and the Bay Area.

An Unsigned Artist Makes 4X More from Streaming Than a Major Label Artist
According to to new calculations released by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, signing to a major label can cost an artist dearly when it come to streaming royalties.  Specifically, an unsigned artist can expect to receive nearly four times the royalty from streaming than an artist signed to a major label.

Vlogging for Musicians: The equipment you’ll need
For music artists looking to build a brand for themselves online, videos can factor heavily into a music marketing plan. This is part one of a two-part post with advice about vlogging for musicians. Here, we take a look at the equipment you’ll need to build your video empire.


All About The Bass
Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) is debuting a new instrument Thursday, one that will be hard to miss. The octobass measures 3.6 metres and weighs 131 kilos. The OSM has the distinction of being the only orchestra in the world in possession of one.

7th Annual International Guitar Festival and Competition


Isaac Bustos

The Jacobs School Guitar Department is hosting its 7th Annual Indiana International Guitar Festival and Competition on Oct. 22 and 23, with more than 45 guitarists from around the world competing in three categories: Open, Senior Youth, and Junior Youth. 

On Saturday, Oct. 22, the festival opens at 10 a.m. in Ford-Crawford Hall with the preliminary round of the competition. Rovshan Mamedkuliev will offer a master class at 5:30 p.m. in Sweeney Hall, and Isaac Bustos will offer a recital at 8 p.m. in Auer Hall.


Rovshan Mamedkuliev

Sunday, Oct. 23, the festival continues at 10 a.m. with the semifinal round in Ford-Crawford Hall, the youth competition in Sweeney Hall, and a master class by Isaac Bustos at 3:30 p.m. in Sweeney. The final round of the competition starts at 5:30 p.m., followed by a recital by Mamedkuliev at 8 p.m., and the closing ceremony and prize announcements at 9 p.m., all in Auer Hall.

All events are FREE and open to the public!


Jacobs faculty member Petar Jankovic is executive director of the festival and competition, and Guitar Department chair Ernesto Bitetti is artistic director.

Click here for more information

Weekly Digest – October 17



Dylan-NobelBob Dylan as Richard Wagner
The New Yorker: Alex Ross
The announcement that Bob Dylan will be given the Nobel Prize in Literature set off a predictable but not entirely pointless controversy. The questions posed by this latest Dylan coronation go deeper than the winner-takes-all cultural economy of the early twenty-first century. We are confronted, once again, with the intricately tangled relationship between words and music. What happens when they merge? How does the language of one affect the language of the other? When a sung text takes hold of us, which is the more active force?

Does a Musician Have Any Right to Win the Nobel Prize in Literature?
Washington Post: Ron Charles

Arts Journal: Greg Sandow


We Live In An Information Society, Not a Society of Culture
SwissInfo: Rodrigo Couto, Morges
Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit rarely gives interviews. But on the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Grammy-winner spoke to about a 55-year career that started with conducting at age 14, and what he hopes will be his legacy.

Why the 21st Century is the Most Exciting Time for Music
NewMusicBox: Frank J. Oteri
At only 16 years in, it’s still a bit presumptuous to make sweeping statements about the 21st century, but I’d like to posit a grand claim: our new century is the most exciting time to be making and listening to music.

What is the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Future After the Strike? Peter Dobrin
The vision of the future, actually, is startlingly obvious: The orchestra must be critically unassailable when it is playing in Verizon or Carnegie halls. And at Capitolo Playground or in Camden, it must be forming deep connections between newbies and a great art form that is needed more than ever in noisy times.

The Prodigy Complex
Van: Hartmut Welscher
Since the time of Leopold Mozart, who dragged his son through the drawing rooms of Europe’s nobility like a trained monkey, the prodigal youngster has become a familiar, peculiar trope in classical music hagiography.

A Universal Music
NewMusicBox: Aakash Mittal
How is universal music possible? Is not music, like language, born of culture and environment? Is not each musical style a unique expression of place and experience?

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s Evolution Raises Issues of Mission
New York Times: Anthony Tommasini
The decision to turn the Simón Bolívar orchestra pro, in a sense, may have been a miscalculation. For one thing, it raises expectations of excellence. When it was a student ensemble, it was easy to simply root for these inspired young musicians. But the music-making during these three recent programs, though exciting, was uneven, certainly not at the level the orchestra’s current status would call for.

David Bowie as Muse? Why One Composer Says So
New York Times: Allan Kozinn
A tribute to David Bowie, who died in January – and whom composer Glenn Branca described as “a kind of muse” – is the main draw on a program he will lead on Saturday at Roulette in Brooklyn.


ICE’s Founder, Clair Chase, Will Relinquish Leadership Role
NY Times: Michael Cooper
The group is about to embark on one of its biggest transitions yet: Ms. Chase is stepping down from her leadership position there to become, in her words, a member of the band, and to be able to devote more time to her blossoming career as a soloist.

The U.S. Marine Band, America’s Oldest Music Group
WQXR: Lucy Hatem
Music has been a part of America’s history since the very beginning. In fact, America’s oldest continuously active professional music organization predates Washington, D.C.

Daniel Hope and San Francisco’s New Century Join in “Artistic Partnership
San Francisco Classical Voice: Janos Gereben
Ever since the announcement by New Century Chamber Orchestra that its music director will leave at the end of the current season, the organization has been faced with Mission Impossible: replacing the irrepressible and — not to mince words — irreplaceable Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Leonard Cohen Makes it Darker
New Yorker: David Remnick
At eighty-two, the troubadour has another album coming. Like him, it is obsessed with mortality, God-infused, and funny.

New York Phil Saves Contact! New-Music Series
New York Times: Michael Cooper
In an extraordinary step, Matthew VanBesien, Alan Gilbert, Jaap van Zweden, and Esa-Pekka Salonen step in to save the series.

The Forensic Musicologist Musicians Call When Two Tunes Sound Alike
New York Times: Alex Marshall
Peter Oxendale, a onetime glam rocker (“We all have skeletons,” he says), is perhaps the world’s leading forensic musicologist, the person musicians call when they believe someone has ripped off their work. In a penthouse overlooking the English Channel, he analyzes songs, everything from pop hits to classical pieces, until he is sure there has been an infringement, or not.

Is This Millennial Composer the Next Mozart? Libby coleman
Outside, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers in neon-lettered T-shirts walk hand in hand past campus police officers. Inside, just a block away from the University of Southern California’s “Frat Row,” 22-year-old Tim Callobre is intently focused on his music. No Top 40 or bumping DJ beats here; Callobre’s music has landed him performances at the White House and Carnegie Hall. It’s classical stuff. High-minded to the T.

A Ballet Dancer, A Singer, A Drag Queen
New York Times: Brian Schaefer
Pushing boundaries is something of a habit for Mr. Whiteside, 32, who joined American Ballet as a soloist in 2012 and became a principal a year later. Yes, he professionally plays Prince Charmings, but he also leads alternative artistic lives: as a pop singer, JbDubs, and drag queen, Uhu Betch.

As Creative Placemaking Continues to Grow, New Help for Practitioners to Get it Right
Inside Philanthropy: Mike Scutari
Much like recent developments in the field of liberal arts education, it’s one of those areas where both private and public funders are on the same page.

Boyle Heights Activists Way White Art Elites are Ruining the Neighborhood…But it’s Complicated
Los Angeles Times: Carolina A. Miranda
A century ago, if you’d uttered the word “artist,” chances are it would have been accompanied by the modifier “starving.” Today, artists are more liable to be described as the “gentrifying foot soldiers of capitalism,” harbingers of highfalutin coffee and six-figure loft living.


Gustavo Dudamel: 2015 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal
Dudamel’s Website
“Some people think that art is a luxury and must be cut back in times of crisis. These people must understand that precisely during times of crisis the unforgivable sin is to cut access to art. In my beloved home of Venezuela such a crisis is happening right now. People are spending their days looking for food, medicine and the necessities of life. The same arguments exist — how can we fund music — the arts — when basic needs are not being met?”

The Bolshoi’s Swans of Steel
New Republic: Maddison Mainwaring
Surviving revolution after revolution, the ballet company has long served as a mirror for Russia’s obfuscating statecraft.

From Armstrong to Winehouse: the evolution of jazz in the US and the UK
Sponsored by Jaguar!
The US and the UK have spent the last century influencing and encouraging each other’s jazz musicians. Below is a visual exploration of how jazz grew and developed due in large part to the symbiotic relationship between the two countries.

UK Decides to Phase Out Art History Exams Over Protests of Art History Teachers
BBC: Judith Burns
AQA’s decision stems from government changes to A-levels in England which have required new syllabuses in all subjects.


Stunning ‘Soundsuits’ Address the Realities of Racial Profiling in America
Huffington Post: Katherine Brooks
Artist Nick Cave’s work is best described as an explosion of color, texture and noise. Born in Fulton, Missouri, in 1959, Cave is known for his soundsuits ― wearable artworks that can be displayed as still objects or incorporated into wild performances as costumery. “The soundsuits hide gender, race, class and they force you to look at the work without judgment.”

4 Tips for Successfully Building Your Personal Music Brand
Music Think Tank
There’s so much more to being a professional musician than just creating and playing music. If you want to make it in this business, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd, and when it comes to musicians, that’s tough.

Before You Waste Money on a Lawyer: 5 Legal Steps for Every New Artist
DigitalMusicNews: Steve Gordan
This is the ninth installment of an 11-part series I’m writing for Digital Music News on basic music industry agreements.  It discusses business actions a band should take, and can take at no or little cost, without the services of an attorney.


Paramusical Ensemble
Aeon – a 9-Minute Video worth watching!
Heartwarming and fascinating in equal measure, Paramusical Ensemble captures the first public performance of ‘Activating Memory’ at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London, and explores how emerging brain-computer interface technologies could help those who are unable to walk, move or speak to reconnect and communicate with others, including through creative expression.


Review: Guest conductor leads an extraordinary show with IU Chamber Orchestra

Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer

I turned off the network news at 7 on Wednesday evening, depressed by a number of current issues. I headed to my car, started the engine and tuned the radio to WFIU, hearing some of Giuseppe Verdi’s intense “Requiem Mass.” The beauty of the music made me start to forget the day’s briefing on politics and the rest.

As I drove to the Musical Arts Center parking lot, the beauty of the music helped me wash away the gloomy news. Once parked, I walked over to Auer Hall, saw and chatted with friends and waited for the concert to begin at the appointed hour of 8.

It did. Guest conductor Marzio Conti entered the stage and took a bow and then a seat to lead just the strings of the IU Chamber Orchestra. Immediately, I relaxed and continued to do so for the next 60 to 70 minutes, listening to an exuberantly led concert of works by Luigi Boccherini (an orchestral version of his String Quintet in C Major: “La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid”); Mozart (his K.453 Piano Concerto in G Major), and Ottorino Respighi (“Trittico botticelliano”).

As with the Verdi in the car, so with the Chamber Orchestra’s repertoire in the concert hall, the music hooked me: the Boccherini, which was unfamiliar to me; the Mozart, which I know and love; and the Respighi, which I’ve heard once or twice but not for a long while.

Music and performance combined throughout to bring joy to a listener’s heart, certainly this listener’s heart. Maestro Conti, an Italian who serves as music director of the Oviedo Philharmonic in Spain, is in the midst of an extended visit, having already conducted IU Opera Theater’s production of Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” last month, and now the Chamber Orchestra, and will close off his stay as conductor of IU Ballet Theater’s annual extravaganza, “The Nutcracker.” Conti has been here before and, in my estimation, earned awfully good marks each time; the students always seemed to respond enthusiastically to his training and leadership. They did so once again on Wednesday.

The Boccherini, translated as “Night Music of the Streets of Madrid,” proved delightful, a charming stroll or hop, skip and jump through those streets as the composer experienced them in the 18th century. Boccherini, strangely, told his publisher: “The piece is absolutely useless, even ridiculous, outside Spain because the audience cannot hope to understand its significance nor the performers to play it as it should be played.” I beg to differ. I could contemplate the places that inspired the composer. And with a conductor in charge who has spent years in Spain, the young members of the University Orchestra brought environmental validity to their reading.

Mozart’s K.453 is a delicious score that requires a light and buoyant touch from both the orchestra and the soloist. What was required one heard in generous proportions. The performance was gorgeous. At the Steinway was Yu-Pang Yu, a Jacobs student seeking a master’s degree; his pianism was remarkably genuine, the fingers floating with ease and clarity up and down and across the keyboard. The concerto’s score often leaves the soloist at the mercy of no competing orchestral sounds, thereby making any wrong note stand out dramatically. Well, there were no wrong notes, only Mozart’s sublime expositions, sublimely offered.

Respighi’s descriptive passages for three paintings of Sandro Botticelli are tone poems that can take a listener on a journey back to that artist’s imagination. The composer used melodies from the 17th and 18th centuries and spiced them with his unique orchestral style, here an inviting blend of old and new. Maestro Conti and the University Orchestra supplied a riveting performance.

I left Auer Hall smiling and calm, feeling cleansed. Back home, I avoided the late evening news and, instead, headed for bed still smiling.

© Herald Times Online 2016

IU Opera Theater tackles a contemporary opera

Peter Jacobi

Over the years, Indiana University’s Opera Theater has given us a rich sampling of contemporary operas, the most recent having been Jake Heggie’s powerful “Dead Man Walking,” just last season. This week, we’re to get another, “Florencia en el Amazonas” (“Florencia in the Amazon”). It is the work of Daniel Catan, a Mexican composer who was driven to make the Spanish language a servant to operas yet to be written.

He wrote a few of his own in Spanish before death took him in 2011 at a too-early age of 62. Consequently, Catan did not live long enough to see a tradition formed, but in “Florencia,” he left us an opera that, according to critics and others who have seen it, works and makes a strong case for opera in the beautiful Spanish language. “Florencia” premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 1996 and was highly lauded by the press, not only in Houston but when co-commissioning opera companies took their turns producing it, Los Angeles in 1997 and Seattle in 1998. There have been plenty more performances since, including a number at universities: Michigan State and the Universities of Houston, Maryland, Illinois and Boston.

Now, it comes our way in a brand new production designed by Mark Smith, who serves as director of paint and props for IU Opera Theater; clothed by Linda Pisano, director of costume design at IU Theater; musically led by David Neely, head of Des Moines Metro Opera and conductor of last year’s impressive IU production of “Dead Man Walking”; stage directed by Candace Evans, widely acclaimed for not only her directing skills but as choreographer. I’ve not seen the opera but have listened to its music on CD; it impressed me for the lushness of the score, its accessibility, and how the music seems to closely fit the story.

The story, in brief, tells of a passage on the Amazon by a steamer. Aboard is, most prominently, an aging opera singer, a diva named Florencia Grimaldi, who has spent the last 20 years in Europe and now plans to give a concert at the opera house in Manaus, deep in the jungle (one that actually exists). The trip becomes a voyage of self-discovery for each of the characters. Florencia, in addition to singing her return concert, hopes to find her lo ver of long ago, of all things a butterfly hunter. Action takes place on the riverboat, named El Dorado, and off. You must wait to see what happens.

Each member of the production team claims to love Catan’s “Florencia,” it music, its story, its libretto, its theatrical potency.

Designer Mark Smith says the ship built for this production is, itself, a character, “an extension of its aging captain, who is in charge of navigating the dangers of the river, but it is also a character of its own, not only scenery. Many other productions have them traveling on a polished luxury vessel, but we agreed that didn’t fit the setting or the music. This is 1910, deep in the Amazon. We were drawn more to the romanticized stories found in film and fiction of unpleasant river journeys full of love, danger, and the unknown. Our El Dorado has the faded beauty of a once elegant craft.

“With what we settled on,” Smith continues, “there are elements of realism at the center of the stage picture, but as they depart for their destination and move deeper into the jungle, the river and surroundings take on a fantastic and slightly surreal environment suggested by the colors, textures, and creatures found in the Amazon.”

Director Candace Evans adds that the river itself is a character. “It changes everyone,” she explains. “What Mark has evocatively built for us makes possible an atmosphere that suggests movement. The river, as we show it and as the music and story line make clear, is the force of nature that changes the people making the trip. They’re caught by the emotional force of the Amazon, the spell it casts. Importantly, we have to create the blend of magic and reality through the actors’ interaction with this strange environment. Catan’s music, of course, promotes the spell. It is absolutely beautiful, exquisite, intriguing.

“We’re working very hard with the singers,” says Evans, “asking them to know the music and what it is meant to say. I need them, also, to think why they’re singing the music, what the music is dramatically all about. And another lesson deals with how to listen. The singers we have here understand those requirements, and they have the will and talent to make it happen. It’s always a joy to be here.”

Conductor David Neely says the opera is new to him but that he’s had his eyes on it for a while. “For me, ‘Florencia’ works on all levels and captures the magical-realist spirit of Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Great opera begins with a great libretto that understands the language and the pacing necessary for the music, as it expresses the words and what is happening on stage. in this case what Marquez’ assistant, the writer Marcela Fuentes-Berain created. The compelling text incorporates elements from across Marquez’ works and proves perfect for the operatic stage. People can relate to the imaginative story, characters, and music. It’s no accident that the opera has rapidly grown in popularity since its premiere.”

Expanding his discussion of the music, Maestro Neely says, “Catan wrote in a sweeping style that combines beautiful vocal writing, impressionistic orchestration, Wagnerian-style leitmotivs, Latin-American popular music, and naturalistic effects to place us in the dense and mysterious Amazon. He created a lush and layered musical dream state of great beauty that is pleasing to the ear and soul. Conducting ‘Florencia’ feels a bit like flying, and that is what I hope the audience feels, too.”

I’ll be waiting to sail and soar.

© Herald Times Online

Opening concert gets Brahms series off to glorious start

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer

Between this just-past Sunday afternoon and a Sunday afternoon next April, eight distinguished members of the faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music will be immersed in a fascinating and noble performance project: to play all the chamber music Johannes Brahms wrote for three or more musicians.

That effort will fill six Sunday concerts to the brim with music and, in the process, probably fill Auer Hall to the brim with Brahms enthusiasts. The audience that came to Auer on Sunday for the first concert of the series had good reason to be excited about what was and what is to come.

The octet of musicians began their “Brahms: An Intimate Portrait” series with the Piano Trio in B Major, Opus 8; the Piano Quartet Number 3 in C Minor, and the String Sextet Number 2 in G Major, more than two solid hours of music. And who are “they?” They, the project participants, are instrumentalists of vast experience and reputation, each also an IU professor with a studio of students: pianists Evelyne Brancart and Norman Krieger, violinists Jorja Fleezanis and Simin Ganatra, violists Edward Gazouleas and Stephen Wyrczynski, and cellists Eric Kim and Brandon Vamos, a stellar line-up to be sure.

Sunday’s program opened with the Opus 8 Piano Trio, both the earliest of Brahms’ chamber works and one of the latest: earliest because he wrote it at age 21, making it the first such composition that he kept rather than destroyed in the furnace; latest because he kept fiddling with the trio over a span of 36 years. And even then, he wondered, according to what he wrote to his beloved Clara Schumann, “It will not be so muddled up as it was — but will it be better?”

We know today that he needn’t have wondered. It’s a gloriously passionate piece of music, intimate when called upon to be but also scored symphonically, with a trio of instruments caused to sound like a far heftier ensemble, a talent for which Brahms had throughout his compositional life. Add the passion that pianist Krieger, violinist Ganatra, and cellist Kim contributed to the score, and what one heard sizzled. Burn, thankfully, the reading did not; everything remained under control, though invitingly heated.

The Opus 60 Piano Quartet also received extended treatment; 20 years separated its first finish and the second. When initially written, Brahms was emotionally torn by friend Robert Schumann’s mental illness and concerned about Robert’s wife Clara and their seven children. The melancholy opening Allegro non troppo set the tone for the quartet, undoubtedly inspired by events in the composer’s life.

Twenty years later, circumstances involving his unrequited love for Clara continued to have an impact on the quartet’s music, especially on the work’s Andante movement, a radiant love song that provides an emotional center for the quartet, one that can bring tears to a listener. Surely it was so as performed by pianist Brancart, violinist Fleezanis, violist Wyrczynski, and cellist Vamos; their interpretation of the music’s stunning beauty made clear why it has become one of the composer’s best loved works.

The six string players of the octet took good care of the Opus 36 String Quartet Number 2, a piece written while Brahms had an aborted love affair with another woman. Some say it was written because, after the break, he felt like a “scoundrel” and needed to assuage his conscience. Whether that worked, who knows? But ours is the reward, another Brahms work of substance and intensity, meat for Sunday’s sextet of talents and satisfaction for an enthusiastic audience.

A propitious opening, this fine concert.

© Harold Times Online 2016

Weekly Digest – October 10


August 10, 2016

With the decision by Joseph Polisi to step down as president of Juilliard after three decades, we take a look at how a few institutions around the U.S. are adapting to the 21st century


Turandot: Time to Call it Quits on Orientalist Opera?
Opera Philadelphia
As contemporary audiences become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to discern negative ethnic stereotyping and inherent gender bias, one has to wonder at what point do we retire a problematic piece?

Sibbi Bernhardsson Interviews Menahem Pressler
Pacifica Quartet
Filmed in September, the interview is a powerful reminder of Distinguished Professor Pressler’s extraordinary spirit.

How Humanities Can Help Fix the World
The Chronicle of Higher Education: John McCumber
In particular, it is the humanities that teach us how not to be racists, by showing us how to open ourselves up to what is different.

You Bought It, but You Don’t Own It
Slate: Aaron Fellmeth
We now live in a chasm between the old product-based copyright law and the newish reality of cloud computing, streaming on-demand content, and content-as-a-service.

Greedy Bosses and Musicians on Strike – The Crisis Engulfing Classical Music
The Telegraph (UK): Ivan Hewett
The economic reality of American orchestras is out of kilter with the mindset of their managers, which treats orchestras as competitors in a pure free-market. As long as that ethos prevails, these top American orchestras will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis.

Why Allentown Symphony is Unlike Philadelphia, Pittsburgh Orchestras that Went on Strike
The Morning Call: Kathy Lauer-Williams
The Allentown Symphony Orchestra is seeing its audience grow and revenues increase. The musicians will vote next week on a three-year contract that gives them a raise.

WFMT Steve Robinson Retires and Talks about Classical Music
Chicago Reader: Deanna Isaacs
At a challenging time for the radio industry, there also seem to be limitless opportunities.


Philly Orchestra Board OK’s New Contract; Players Play Pop-Up Concerts All Over Town Patrick Stearns and Peter Dobrin
The entire institution breathed a sigh of relief after the turmoil last week that led to the cancellation of the orchestra’s opening-night gala concert Friday.

USC Celebrates the Opening of a $46-Million Building for Dance
Los Angeles Times: Deborah Vankin
Several hundred USC dance faculty and students, university trustees, professional dancers and choreographers gathered Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the $46-million Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, the university’s first on-campus building dedicated to dance study.

Will the Pittsburgh Symphony Resort to Hiring Temps?
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Elizabeth Bloom
The management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has told its musicians that it “has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open” and may “hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity we face.”

Grand Opening of Baltimore’s Open Works Underscores Importance of Making, Creativity in Local Communities
Fractured Atlas Open
Works was developed by the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO), a not-for-profit that converts underutilized buildings into platforms for creativity and community building.


Fiddling while Venezuela Starves? Bolívar Symphony Opens Carnegie Season
New York Times: Zathary Woolfe
For all the good El Sistema does, its closeness to the government has made many wonder whether it and the Bolívars are inextricable from — or even function as a kind of propaganda mission for — a regime that has dragged its people to disaster.

Jonathan Cohen Replaces Bernard Labadie at Les Violons du Roy
CBC Music: Robert Rowat
British conductor, harpsichordist and cellist Jonathan Cohen will be the next music director of Les Violons du Roy, the world-famous chamber orchestra based in Quebec City.


World Ballet Day Takes Leap of Faith with ‘Longest Facebook Live Ever’
Mashable: Elise
The marathon Facebook Live ever was touted as the longest livestream the platform has ever hosted, giving a rare window into the real time happenings of rehearsals around the world.

How to Promote Your Music to Bloggers
Music Think Tank
Believe it or not, as a musician, you need blogs. They are the lifeblood of many artists’ careers, and one of the most effective ways for independent musicians to grow their online reach.

Social Media Marketing for Musicians: How to Get More Fans with Facebook
Music Think Tank
No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of music you play, we all share a common goal: To find fans and build a fanbase. The big blue-and-white F-word at the top of the social media food chain: Facebook.

17 ways to promote your music online
BandZoogle: Jon Ostrow
When it comes to promoting music online, there are far too many channels, networks, forums, platforms, apps and communities for musicians to be involved with to be present on them all. So rather than attempt the impossible, you should focus your efforts on a handful that are likely to bare the most fruit.


World’s Oldest Train Station Hosts Steve Reich’s Different Trains
BBC: Ian Youngs
Reich’s Grammy-winning 1988 work was performed at Edge Hill station, with passenger trains rolling in and out of Liverpool on both sides of the stage. About 1,200 people watched on the station’s Victorian carriage ramp.