Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I'll be updating this regularly as orchestras announce their seasons.

Los Angeles Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic

41 composers represented. All white, all European or American.

Men: 40 Women: 1 Dead: 35 Alive: 6

Thanks to Brian Lauritzen for counting the NYPO.

Los Angeles Philharmonic

81 composers represented

50 dead, 31 living!
41 men, 9 women
1 African American, 1 Asian, several Latin American

Count by me. It's an extraordinary season in every way.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

50 composers represented. 46 dead, 4 living 48 men, 2 women 49 white, 1 African American

Count by me.

Philadelphia Orchestra

54 composers

Men: 53
Women: 1

Dead: 43
Living: 11

White: 51
POC: 3

Works by living composers: 14
Women conducting: 1 (MGT)

Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2017-18

Walt Disney Concert Hall, October 2007
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

OMG, the LA Phil's 2017-18 season!!!

A friend in LA very kindly passed along some information to me about five minutes after the season went live around midnight, and OMG I wish I could work from LA for the year. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

Here's a very brief rundown, and note that the repertory must include the Green Umbrella New Music concerts. That's okay; all of this is happening under the aegis of an American orchestra. Nearly every other orchestra whose programming I've seen pales in comparison to this. (As previously noted, I'm very impressed by the adventurous programming of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, nearly all of whose concerts involve the new or unusual.)

There are 81 (EIGHTY-ONE) composers on the season. Of these, 31 are alive. That's right, the LA Phil and its associated programs have a season on which more than one-third of the composers are alive. Not only that, a significant further number composed entirely or primarily in the 20th c. These include Varese, R. Strauss, Eastman, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Zimmerman, Weinberg, Vaughan Williams, Bernstein, Bacewicz, Berg, Debussy, Holst, Martirano, Messiaen, and Shostakovich. (Eastman is JULIUS EASTMAN!!)

They're performing music by nine (9) women, 8 of whom are alive (see Bacewicz, whose music i don't know at all). There's one Asian woman (Chen Yi), one deceased African American man (Eastman), and a number of Mexican and other Latin American composers (one Brazilian man, one Cuban-American woman). There is a festival of music by living Mexican composers, looks like. There are also several living Italians, not all male. There are several works by Esa-Pekka Salonen. There are 23 commissions, 22 world premieres, 6 US premieres, and 2 west coast premieres.

Four women are conducting during the season: Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Susanna Malkki, Emmanuelle Haim and  Xian Zhang, all of whom have multiple concerts assigned.

I must note that there's no lack of 18th and 19th c. classics. There's Brahms, Mozart, and Beethoven. There's Bach. There's a nice heap of Schumann, including Das Paradies und die Peri and some symphonies. The 18th c. composers are nicely chosen and include Galuppi and Charpentier.

It is an astonishing season. See you at WDCH.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keilberth Ring at Berkshire Record Outlet

Joseph Keilberth's 1955 Bayreuth Ring, aka the real first stereo Ring, is on sale at the Berkshire Record Outlet for under $100.

This set boasts a terrific cast and remarkable sound. Astrid Varnay is Brünnhilde, Hans Hotter is Wotan, Ramon Vinay, Gre Brouwenstijn, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gustav Neidlinger, and others make it a vocal feast. That's about as good as it gets.

Click this link to see the first page of results at BRO. Right now, this set is at or near the top.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opera Philadelphia Drops Jaws

I mean that in a good way.

Opera Philadelphia has announced their 2017-18 season, and it is astonishing:

  • The Magic Flute
  • Elizabeth Cree, Kevin Puts, libretto by Mark Campbell. World premiere.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved, Daniel Bernard Roumain, libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Bill T. Jones directs & choreographs. World premiere.
  • War Stories, Philadelphia premiere,
    • Il combatitmento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Monteverg
    • I Have No Stories to Tell You, Lembit Beecher, libretto by Hannah Moscovitch
  • The Wake World, music & libretto by David Hertzberg. World premiere.
  • Written on Skin, George Benjamin
  • Carmen
Three, count 'em, three world premieres, plus Written on Skin and a Philly premiere. Wow.

Six-Point White Type on Burgundy

Pro tip: if you want people to read the print on that CD by an interesting artist, do not do the following:

  • Print the interior type in approximately 6 or 7 point white type on a burgundy background
  • Print the middle cover, oh, 9 point spidery handwritten black on a mutli-colored background
  • Print the back-cover track listing in approximately 6 or 7 point white type on a background of several shades pink
I am going to send a polite email to the label requesting the text in black on white, 10 point, and pointing them to some accessibility guidelines.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Look What Came in the Mail!

I hadn't taken volume 2c, the critical notes, out of the plastic wrap when I took the photo. Now I have to spend some time clearing space for the score in my bookcases.

The advantage of having the physical score, rather than trying to read a PDF of a deeply flawed 19th c. edition, is that, well, there it is. And on the very first page there's a line of music I had not really noticed in the PDF: the top line isn't the piccolo, it's for "doubles flute antiques," which are supposed to be on stage on the grave of Achilles. Apparently what Berlioz expected was that the oboes would play this, as can be heard on every recording of the work.

Les Troyens in Frankfurt

Care of composer Daniel Wolf, here's a link to a video feature, with performance footage and some yakking, about the Frankfurt Opera's current production of Les Troyens. It's redundant if I say I wish I could see it, because as you all know, I wish I could see any pretty much complete production of the opera. (I will pass on the badly-cut Dusapin "performing edition." I mean, I can imagine the damage done by hacking out more than an hour of the score.)

There are some production photos as well. I'm confused by a photo captioned Hylas, Hecuba, and Cassandre; perhaps that should read Helenus, a short tenor role appearing only in the Troy scenes.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guest Blogging

Going to a concert I can't get to? Or an opera in the northeast or Europe?

Let me know if you'd like to write a review of it, to be published here. I might do some editing, so please be prepared for that.

Let me know by email, lhirsch@gmail.com, if you'd like to give this a try. I can't promise press tickets, just some glory.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Concert I'd Attend

Unfortunately, it's a little far from me, but the Princeton Symphony Orchestra has a great program coming up. What's not to like about this? An excellent soloist and two off-the-beaten-track works.

Sunday, March 19, 2017 – 4 pm; Pre-Concert Talk – 3 pm; Richardson Auditorium

Christopher Lyndon-Gee, conductor
Philippe Graffin, violin

Edward ELGAR                                       Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 61
Carl NIELSEN                                            Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 “The Inextinguishable”

Tickets: $82, $65, $52, $33, and $25 (student)

Programs, artists, dates, and times are subject to change.