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Could the NY Phil tap Manfred Honeck as music director?

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

In case you missed it, Alan Gilbert last week said that he would leave his post as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Before the ink had dried on the announcement, social media was all, well, a-twitter with speculation as to who would replace Mr. Gilbert in arguably the most visible platform in the American orchestra scene. 

Some folks, including Anne Midgette of the Washington Post and Will Robin, who pens articles for publications such as the New York Times, brought up the possibility that Pittsburgh Symphony music director Manfred Honeck would be considered. Ms. Midgette wrote: "Manfred Honeck and Jaap van Zweden, who both came to Pittsburgh and Dallas as relative unknowns and have both done some wonderful things in their respective cities, have been mentioned as intriguing possibilities." Mr. Robin mentioned Mr. Honeck in the course of several tweets about the announcement.

During a recent interview with Mr. Honeck (who has guest-conducted the NY Phil on a few occasions), I asked him about whether he'd be interested in the gig.

"Nobody has contacted me, and I'm not yet ready for any change. I love Pittsburgh very much," he said.

"There is not any connection with Alan Gilbert's leaving the New York Philharmonic and my presence with Pittsburgh," he said. While he said he likes the NY Phil, he firmly stated, "I am the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra."

From a practical standpoint, Mr. Honeck has a contract with the PSO through 2020 and would likely have to be bought out of it. I don't know details of his contract or what that would require.

It seems like the NY Phil will try to get a new MD as close to 2017 as possible. Mr. Gilbert said he was leaving to let the new conductor guide the orchestra before and through the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall (set to open in 2021 or thereabouts). You don't want to have the appearance of unstable leadership during a period in which the orchestra will already be anxious about keeping ticket-holders around. 

In addition, there are all sorts of symbolic reasons that conductors are selected. In the New York Times, Michael Cooper's article discussing possible replacements for Mr. Gilbert broke down conductors into various categories – the wunderkinds Nelsons and Dudamel, the Americans Robertson and Alsop, and so on. Mr. Honeck doesn't quite fit into any of those groups. And, of course, there's that little detail about the artistic direction of the NY Phil and the chemistry between a conductor and the orchestra, which much of this early early speculation doesn't even get into. So stay tuned.

 

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Pittsburgh Opera and PSO announce 2015-16 seasons

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

In case you missed it: Both Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony announced their 2015-16 seasons this week. There's a lot to whet the musical appetite. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Ricky Ian Gordon's "27" and the David Hockney production of "The Rake's Progress" at Pittsburgh Opera and the performers-slash-composers-of-the-year at Heinz Hall. 

For those of you who are print readers, you might not have noticed the full PSO schedule, which was too long to publish. But it's in the online version, and I'll post it here for your perusal.

Sept. 12: "Cinema Serenade" gala, Manfred Honeck, conductor; Izthak Perlman, violin. Music from the golden age of film.

Sept. 18 and 20: Mr. Honeck; Daniil Trifonov, piano. Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 ("Italian"), Trifonov's Piano Concerto in E-flat minor, Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien."

Sept. 25-27: Mr. Honeck; Augustin Hadelich, violin. Bach's "Chaconne," BWV 1004; Beethoven's Symphony No. 8; Brahms' Violin Concerto.

Oct. 9 and 11: Gustavo Gimeno, conductor; Pablo Villegas, guitar. Jonny Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood"; Rodrigo's "Fantasia para un gentilhombre"; Stravinsky's "Jeu de cartes"; Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe" Suite No. 2.

Oct. 16-18: Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor; Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp. Edu Lobo's "Suite Popular Brasileira," Ginastera's Harp Concerto, Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."

Oct. 30 and Nov. 1: Leonard Slatkin, conductor; Conrad Tao, piano. Tao's "Pangu"; Gershwin's Piano Concerto; Strauss' "Symphonia Domestica."

Nov. 13 and 15: Jiri Belohlavek, conductor. Smetana's "Ma Vlast."

Nov. 27 and 29: Mr. Honeck; Michael Rusinek, clarinet. Rossini's Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra; Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Strauss family waltzes and polkas.

Dec. 4 and 6: Mr. Honeck; Yulianna Avdeeva, piano; Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh; soloists TBD. Mozart's Mass in C major ("Coronation); Schubert's Symphony No. 7 ("Unfinished"); Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor").

Dec. 5: Mr. Honeck; Mendelssohn Choir; guest soloists TBD. Handel's "Messiah."

Jan. 15-17, 2016: Christoph Konig, conductor; Tim Fain, violin. Respighi's Overture to "Belfagor," Glass' Violin Concerto No. 2 ("The American Four Seasons"), Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral").

Jan. 29 and 31, 2016: Gianandrea Noseda, conductor; Denis Kozhukhin, piano. Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3, Rossini's "William Tell" Overture, Beethoven's Symphony No. 2.

Feb. 12 and 14, 2016: Juraj Valcuha, conductor; Joshua Roman, cello. Wagner's "Prelude und Liebestod" from "Tristan und Isolde"; Dvorak's Cello Concerto; Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-Fantasy; Bizet: Excerpts from "Carmen" Suites No. 1 and 2.

Feb. 19 and 21, 2016: Marcelo Lehninger, conductor; Stewart Copeland, percussion. Copeland's Trapset and Percussion Concerto No. 1 ("The Tyrant's Crush"), Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1.

March 4 and 6, 2016: Mr. Honeck, Sunhae Im, soprano, other vocalists TBD, Sam Helfrich, stage director, Mendelssohn Choir. Bach's "St. John Passion."

March 11 and 13, 2016: Osmo Vanska, conductor, James Ehnes, violin. Sibelius' "Finlandia," Sibelius' Violin Concerto, Sibelius' Symphony No. 2.

April 1-3, 2016: Mr. Honeck, Emanuel Ax, piano, the All University Choir. Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, choral works TBA.

April 15 and 17, 2016: Mr. Honeck, Cameron Carpenter. Carpenter's Organ Concerto, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10.

May 6-8: Mr. Honeck, Mr. Trifonov. Haydn's Symphony No. 93 (Friday and Sunday only), Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1, Tchaikovsky's Symphonies Nos. 6 ("Pathetique," Saturday only) and 4.

May 13-15: Mr. Honeck, Martin Grubinger, percussion. Strauss' "Elektra" Symphonic Rhapsody (Mr. Honeck and Tomas Ille, arr.), Hartl's Percussion Concerto, Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" Suite.

June 10 and 12: Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor. Prokofiev's Suite from "Lieutenant Kije," Copland's "El Salon Mexico," "The Earth — An HD Odyssey," Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra," Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine."

June 17-19: Mr. Honeck, Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin. Mozart's Rondo in C Major for Violin and Orchestra, Klezmer Violin Concerto (conceived by Mr. Bendix-Balgley), Mahler's Symphony No. 5.

 

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Another installment of Quick Hits

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The next installment of Quick Hits is here!  Alia Musica is presenting a recital with new-music clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich; learn more about the concert and watch videos showcasing music from the program: http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2015/02/04/Quick-Hits-New-music-clarinetist-Gleb-Kanasevich-to-perform-in-Pittsburgh/stories/201502040195

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Liner Notes Vol. XIV

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Snow got you down? Pick yourself up with music news, reviews and more: 

From Unique at Penn: Vladimir Jurowski thumbs through an Ormandy score http://uniqueatpenn.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/vladimir-jurowski-studies-eugene-ormandys-changes-to-a-rachmaninoff-symphony/ 

From the Washington Post and the New York Times: Anne Midgette pans Amazon's new show, "Mozart in the Jungle" http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/the-off-pitch-mozart-in-the-jungle-charismatic-acting-conducted-among-cliches/2014/12/22/1cbed300-89aa-11e4-a085-34e9b9f09a58_story.html whereas Zachary Woolfe rather likes it http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/19/arts/television/mozart-in-the-jungle-an-amazon-series.html 

From NPR, a Civil War album from Anonymous 4 http://www.npr.org/2015/01/04/373979156/first-listen-anonymous-4-1865 

From the New York Times, a concert hall seeking to bridge a divided Paris http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/14/arts/music/a-concert-hall-in-paris-aims-to-bridge-divides.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/16/arts/music/in-paris-a-music-hall-built-for-unity-offers-stirring-first-act.html?partner=socialflow&smid=tw-nytimes 

From the L.A. Times, Beethoven's (possible) arrhythmia http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-beethoven-heartbeat-20150108-story.html 

From the New York Times, the effect of the encore http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/arts/music/calls-of-encore-bring-surprise-to-classical-music.html?_r=2&referrer&referrer= 

From the New York Times Magazine, an interview with Valery Gergiev http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/magazine/valery-gergiev-anyone-can-buy-a-ticket.html 

From the Guardian, a piano that kind of looks like the Batmobile http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2015/jan/20/boganyi-piano-budapest-sound-beyond-time 

 

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More on the ivory ban

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

OK, another post about the ivory ban. One question that naturally arises is: Why now? I briefly touched on these issues in the article but wanted to go into more detail here.

Poaching is not only an ecological problem but also a security issue, since selling wildlife materials is a way that militant groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabab fund themselves.

"At its most basic level, this is about exploiting natural resources for large amounts of money," said Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade and Conservation branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That means the clock is ticking on several endangered or near-extinct animals. Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were poached for the illegal ivory market, according to the Wildlife Service. In 2007, South Africa lost 13 rhinos in one year; in the past year, that number exceeded 1,000, said Mr. Hoover. There are only a few thousand tigers left in the wild.

In nations such as Vietnam and China, rhino horn, tiger bone and black bear gallbladder are believed to cure various illnesses, such as cancer, fever or hangovers, or to improve nail growth. Other animals, such as shark (which, while not endangered, is regulated) and pangolin, are used in cuisine. Elephant ivory is a status symbol, popular in decorations, statues and carvings.

There's no demonstrated medicinal benefit of those materials that has not been synthesized in Western medicine, Mr. Hoover said. The increased demand is the result of savvy marketing in those countries. These days, consumers in those booming economies have more resources to afford expensive wildlife materials.

In addition to banning or regulating these wildlife materials, reducing demand for them is another way to rein in poaching. During the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. curbed demand for ivory "by essentially making it less cool" and "convincing people that only elephants should wear ivory," Mr. Hoover said. An educational campaign was part of those efforts, as consumers didn't know elephants had to be slaughtered to harvest ivory, said Christina Meister, public affairs specialist for the Wildlife Service. Indeed, that is a taller task for cultures that have used traditional medicine for hundreds or thousands of years.

No one I spoke with in the music community doubted the validity of curbing wildlife trafficking; indeed, Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, said it fully supports those conservation efforts. Musicians argue, however, is that instruments — which contain small amounts of ivory that were, in general, legally harvested long before endangered-species lists and ivory bans — are disconnected from today's black market for elephants and rhinos. Mr. Hoover agreed; the Wildlife Service is trying to strike a balance between its own objectives and those activities that don't pose a threat or contribute to the illegal ivory trade. 

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