Tag Archive: Henry Cowell

Bard Music Festival 2015: Carlos Chávez and his World, Weekend I

David Alfaro Siqueiros, Retrato del maestro Carlos Chávez, oil on canvas, 1948

As the Bard Music Festival has sailed through the great names in European and American music over the past twenty-five years—although there are some people who don’t like Elgar, Liszt, or Wagner, and some who doubt Saint-Saëns’ or Sibelius’ importance (if they attended the Festival they left with their minds changed)—the focal points of the festival have been generally unchallenged. This year, with Carlos Chávez, the first composer from south of the border, there has been more debate. Many attendees—and especially non-attendees—questioned the worthiness of Carlos Chávez as a subject. He is largely forgotten, and many of those who do remember him, do not think of him kindly. Even Leon Botstein himself expressed a critical attitude towards Chávez,

American Mavericks at Carnegie Hall, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Play Varèse, Cowell, Cage, and Adams

Edgard Varese

The reviews of three concerts and a dance performance you will find on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, one in San Francisco and three in New York, represent only a small part of the month-long festival, organized by Carnegie Hall under Michael Tilson Thomas’ direction, but including many other events scattered about the city at venues including the the Whitney, the Henry Street Settlement, the New York Public Library, and (le) Poisson Rouge. (Click here for a full listing. It should be noted that Michael Clark, reviewed here by Louise Levathes, is very much a maverick, although not an American.) I especially regret I couldn’t attend more of it, but I can take some consolation in referring you to WQXR’s expansive coverage of most aspects of the festival, with articles, interviews, and snippets of performances.)

American Mavericks at Davies Hall: the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas and Friends Play Cage, Foss, Cowell, and Ruggles

Revolutions, the saying goes, are frequently revisited as farce. If only one knew it at the time! In the ferment of the 1970s, a seeming battle to the death played itself out among advocates of dodecaphonic music and the apostles of deconstructed “happenings.” Both insurgencies would ultimately lose. But the arrogance of the revolutionaries was no different in music from what it would have been in politics. The average listener hoping for Brahms found himself besieged in those days—contemptuously marginalized in either camp—-and marked for replacement. That is always the frightening dimension of revolution: the smugness of the cook breaking eggs for the new omelette—-and the suspicion that you may be one of the eggs.

MTT conducts the SF Symphony in Cowell, Mozart (with Gil Shaham), and John Adams’ Harmonielehre

Last week’s program at the San Francisco Symphony carried a sense of celebration with it. John Adams was in attendance, giving luster to the orchestra’s new performance and recording of his “Harmonielehre” under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. (Edo De Waart taped the piece in his final year as Music Director, when Adams was composer-in-residence.) There has always been a tendency to rally around the orchestra in San Francisco — cultural boosterism being one of the old-fashioned charms of this now rather important city, which sometimes still thinks of itself as a town and behaves like one in its enthusiasms — and John Adams is a local hero in the orchestra’s history. But the spontaneous applause I heard on Saturday seemed to go beyond these boundaries. It is a though, from the standpoint of an audience, Adams were being hailed for having rescued contemporary music — and indeed, he just may have.

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