Monthly Archives: September 2013

Legendary composer Philip Glass enthralls a sold-out audience in Emerson Hall [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 30 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

Philip Glass

Philip Glass

Composer and pianist Philip Glass concluded a three-day residency at Emory University on Friday evening with a sold-out recital with violinist Tim Fain in Emerson Concert Hall at Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Glass opened the program on solo piano with “Mad Rush”…
READ MORE on ArtsATL

AUTHOR’S NOTE: For nearly a decade I was a contributing writer for Creative Loafing, before moving on to writing for ArtsATL. One of my contributing colleagues there was Chad Radford, who is now CL’s music editor. EarRelevant readers will enjoy reading his recent interview of Philip Glass online at Creative Loafing-Atlanta. —Mark Gresham

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra season kicks off in grand fashion, but new acoustical shell steals the show [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 27 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

The new shell has brought a vibrant tone to Symphony Hall. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

The new shell has brought a vibrant tone to Symphony Hall. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

On Thursday in Symphony Hall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra opened its 2013-14 season with music of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, led by Music Director Robert Spano with guest piano soloist André Watts. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Pianists Jeremy Denk and Vijay Iyer among MacArthur “genius grant” fellows for 2013

by Mark Gresham | 25 September 2013

Jeremy Denk

Jeremy Denk, pianist/writer


Vijay Iyer Vijay Iyer

Two musicians, both pianists, are among the 24 winners of this year’s John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, informally known as the MacArthur “genius grants,” which were announced by the Foundation on Tuesday evening.

Jeremy Denk is a classical pianist with a growing reputation as a writer and Vijay Iyer is a jazz pianist and composer working across a range of musical genres. This is the first time two pianists have become MacArthur fellows in the same year.

Denk, who will be performing at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Center as soloist with the KSU Orchestra on November 20, made his most recent Atlanta appearance a solo recital last March at Spivey Hall. He was also among the team that picked out a new Steinway D piano for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which arrived this summer. The MacArthur Foundation describes Denk as “an extraordinary pianist and essayist of keen musical intellect” who “is engaging listeners and readers in a deeper appreciation of classical music.”

Vijay Iyer, 41, is known foremost in jazz circles but his music spans many styles and disciplines. His 2011 string quartet, “Mozart Effects,” was performed at Spivey Hall last April by the Brentano String Quartet, the group that commissioned the work. The Foundation calls Iyer as “an ardent investigator of musical communities, practices, histories, and theories,” who “mines core rhythmic, melodic, and structural elements from a wide range of sources to construct richly varied, improvisation-driven solo and ensemble music.”

Each of the two dozen recipients, range in age from 32 to 60, will receive a “no strings attached” stipend of $625,000, paid out in annual installments over a span of five years. That’s an increase from last year’s awards of $500,000. They are free to spend the money however they see fit. Here is the complete list of this year’s recipients:

  • Kyle Abraham, choreographer/dancer
  • Donald Antrim, writer (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Phil Baran, organic chemist
  • C. Kevin Boyce, paleobotanist
  • Jeffrey Brenner, primary care physician
  • Colin Camerer, behavioral economist
  • Jeremy Denk, pianist and writer
  • Angela Duckworth, research psychologist
  • Craig Fennie, materials scientist
  • Robin Fleming, medieval historian
  • Carl Haber, audio preservationist
  • Vijay Iyer, jazz pianist/composer
  • Dina Katabi, computer scientist
  • Julie Livingston, public health historian/anthropologist
  • David Lobell, agricultural ecologist
  • Tarell McCraney, playwright
  • Susan Murphy, statistician
  • Sheila Nirenberg, neuroscientist
  • Alexei Ratmansky, choreographer
  • Ana Maria Rey, atomic physicist
  • Karen Russell, writer (fiction)
  • Sara Seager, astrophysicist
  • Margaret Stock, immigration lawyer
  • Carrie Mae Weems, photographer/video artist

• Read more about each of the 2013 Fellows here.
• See the MacArthur Foundation’s official press release here.

Now hear this! New $500,000 acoustical shell improves long-lamented sound in Symphony Hall [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 23 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

The new shell has a warmer look and replaces the original one from 1968. (Photos by Jeff Roffman)

The new shell has a warmer look and replaces the original one from 1968. (Photos by Jeff Roffman)

The catalyst for change was a pragmatic problem, not an artistic one, but the important consequence is that Atlanta’s Symphony Hall is now sporting a new $500,000 acoustical shell on its stage. Every indication so far is that it’s a shell of an improvement. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

ASO review: In Chastain debut, Spano delivers “postcards” from all over and “galaxy far, far away” [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 23 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at Chastain Park. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at Chastain Park. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

On Friday, just two days before the official beginning of autumn, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Robert Spano, performed an outdoor concert at Chastain Park Amphitheater. In the dozen years since Spano joined the orchestra, it’s the first time he has conducted in the venerable venue. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

Review: Burton Beerman’s multidisciplinary “Tikvah” oratorio remembers Holocaust [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 19 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

Tikvah at the Rialto Center. (Photo by Brandon Patrick Ellis)

Tikvah at the Rialto Center. (Photo by Brandon Patrick Ellis)

On Tuesday evening, Georgia State University’s neoPhonia concert series hosted a performance of “Tikvah,” a concert-length chamber oratorio by composer Burton Beerman, at the Rialto Center … • READ MORE on ArtsATL

[The article on ArtsATL references the premiere performance of "Tikvah" which took place in Atlanta on January 21, 2006. The review of that performance can be found on NewMusicBox.]

Jennifer Higdon completes her new opera, “Cold Mountain”

Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Jennifer Higdon reports that she has completed her new opera, “Cold Mountain.” The announcement appeared in a post to her Facebook profile yesterday.

Based upon the best-selling 1997 historical novel by Charles Frazier, the opera was co-commissioned by Santa Fe Opera and the Opera Philadelphia. Set in North Carolina near the end of the American Civil War, the story centers around W. P. Inman, a wounded deserter from the Confederate army, and his journey to reunite with the love of his life, Ada Monroe.

Higdon says that the opera took her 20 months to compose, working 8 hours daily. In describing her immediate feelings upon completing the work, she wrote, “When I put the double bar on, it literally felt like Ada was the last to leave the room, and she closed the door behind her as she went out. I was sitting there alone, listening to the silence. Not sure whether to laugh, smile, or weep.”

Higdon was partnered with librettist Gene Scheer on the project. The opera will feature baritone Nathan Gunn in the role of W.P. Inman. Santa Fe Opera will perform the world premiere during the summer of 2015 and the Opera Philadelphia will perform the work in February, 2016.

Shell Games: Symphony Hall gets new acoustical shell, but keeps it tightly under wraps

by Mark Gresham | 13 Sep 2013

Symphony Hall stage, as it looked with the old acoustical shell.

Symphony Hall stage, as it looked with the old acoustical shell. (photo: Jeff Roffman)

ATLANTA, GA — A new acoustical shell is being installed in Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center due to safety concerns with the old shell, which was original to the hall when it opened in 1968.

However, the acoustics of Symphony Hall have long been criticized both by members of the audience and by musicians on the stage. So in addition to resolving safety issues, a new, well designed shell will hopefully prove a musical boon to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its audience.

The hall has been closed for construction over the last month. Media and other observers have not been allowed to see construction in progress due to it being a “hard-hat” area. No images of the shell under construction have yet been officially released to media nor any details about the shell itself, as of this writing. (Requests for basic factual information were made by this writer earlier in the week.)

Installation is due to be completed by the time the orchestra starts rehearsals on Tuesday, September 17 when rehearsals begin. In addition to preparing the orchestra for concerts, the next two weeks of rehearsals in the hall will incorporate acoustical tests and the process of “tuning” the new shell to the hall.

[ Author's note: The full story is expected to emerge early this coming week. Watch here for a link to the forthcoming article I am writing for ArtsATL. ~Mark Gresham ]

Review: Jennifer Stumm, Elizabeth Pridgen overcome a hurdle to successfully preview new CD [ArtsATL]

By Mark Gresham | 10 Sep 2013, ArtsATL

Elizabeth Pridgen (left) and Jennifer Stumm. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Elizabeth Pridgen (left) and Jennifer Stumm. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

The classical music series at Eddie’s Attic kicked back into gear on Sunday with violist Jennifer Stumm and pianist Elizabeth Pridgen, one month after the duo recorded a new CD for the British Orchid Classics label, … • READ MORE on ArtsATL