New York Festival of Song visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall with a program celebrating Ned Rorem’s 90th birthday. The frame—the tonality, the lyricism, the elegant hedonism—is obvious; but what’s contained within the frame, what is and isn’t there, is something considerably more elusive.
One of the more endearingly paradoxical indications of compositional success is that interest gets piqued in music that even the composer had largely forgotten about. Unpublished works, unfinished works, juvenilia—when even that becomes fair game, you know you’ve (posthumously, usually) made it. The latest recordings from Florestan Recital Project pay that tribute to Samuel Barber (1910-1981).
There is something invigorating about the diversity of Henry Brant’s career. But there is one corner of his catalog that doesn’t get mentioned much: his music for children. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Brant wrote three original scores for records produced by Young People’s Records and its successor, the Children’s Record Guild—some of the hippest children’s records ever made.
Lou Harrison translated the Mahāyāna Buddhist Heart Sūtra into Esperanto for his choral setting, La Koro Sutro—a universal wisdom in a universal language. And then, paradoxically, he set it in a way that guaranteed that performances would be few, far in between, and heavily dependent on where you were.
American operas, apparently, can have the second acts American lives cannot. The concert performance, at Tanglewood on July 11, of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby—after the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who famously hypothesized that particular limitation of biographical dramaturgy—was a bid for redemption.
This lovely new recording by the Eclipse Quartet and percussionist William Winant is, primarily, united by the relatively unusual, pleasantly mad scientist-ish combination of string quartet and percussion. But it also presents three works that wear their respective approaches to marking the time on their sleeves.
With my antennae more or less permanently oriented toward music and the arts, the defining mood of this year’s commencement season has been realism. This is a year in which, it seems, society is determined not to let students of the arts out into the world without making sure they’re painfully aware of what awaits them.