Has any composer been more debated than Gustav Mahler? It took tireless advocates like Leonard Bernstein to heave his reputation back into the mainstream during the past century, but now he is among the most performed and recorded of composers.
James Gaffigan is to take up the role of chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra from the 2011/12 season. The 30-year-old New York-born musician first conducted Switzerland’s oldest symphony orchestra in 2008, and it was following his return in June last year that the offer was made. He states his aim is to increase the orchestra’s international profile, citing Mariss Jansons’s achievements with the Oslo Philharmonic or Neeme Järvi’s with the Gothenburg Symphony as models to aspire to.
One of the most often voiced criticisms of concert programmes – and particularly of orchestral concert programmes – is the lack of courage when it comes to unusual repertoire. Such criticism is silenced, for New Yorkers at least, with the announcement of the American Symphony Orchestra’s 2010-11 season. Returning to Carnegie Hall (where they gave their first concerts in 1962 under Stokowski), the orchestra will be conducted in all concerts by Leon Botstein, a champion of unusual repertoire. Indeed there’s not a single ‘core’ repertoire work in sight! The season comprises:
Composer, pianist and conductor George Benjamin turned 50 on January 30 and will be celebrating that important milestone with a concert at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday, February 7. The day before his birthday he recorded his 2004 composition Piano Figures , "ten short pieces for piano solo" at Nimbus's Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth. One hundred CDs will be pressed – each is numbered and signed by the composer – and will be made available at the QEH concert.
This year's Grammys, presented in Los Angeles last night, offered an eclectic and at times surprising line-up of winners. The overall prize, the Best Classical Album, went to Michael Tilson Thomas's SFSO Mahler Eighth, a recording which also took the Award for the Best Engineered Album and the Choral award. The Orchestral category was secured by James Levine's Boston Symphony disc of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé on the orchestra's own label.
The Teatro San Carlo, Naples's historic opera house, formally opened its doors to the public after restructuring work with a performance of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito yesterday evening, the 254th anniversary of the composer's birth. A capacity audience of 1400, including the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, witnessed the austere but elegant spectacle of Luca Ronconi's production, conducted by the theatre's current musical director Jeffrey Tate, with Gregory Kunde in the title role.
The Midem Classical Awards were presented at a gala event in Cannes last night and were broadcast live from the Palais des Féstivals by radio stations in France, Luxembourg, Russia and Poland. The Canadian mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Gramophone 's editor-in-chief James Jolly hosted the event which featured live music played by Sinfonietta Cracovia conducted by John Axelrod. Joining the orchestra were singers Christian Gerhaher and Elina Garanca.
Chinese pianist Lang Lang has signed to Sony Music. The 27-year-old moves from Deutsche Grammophon, the label he joined in 2003. In the years since, his virtuoso talent and media appeal have propelled him to the status of one of classical music’s highest-profile stars, not least in China where he has become a figurehead for the country’s burgeoning enthusiasm for classical music.
Earl Wild was one of the greatest pianists in history. In many ways he may be said to be unique. His omnivorous repertoire took in the works of more composers than almost any other pianist – from Buxtehude, Bach and Mozart through all the great pianist-composers of the 19th century (and a few more besides) to Hindemith, Copland, Menotti, Creston and Gould.
Anne Sofie von Otter has signed a deal with French label Naïve. The Swedish mezzo-soprano leaves Deutsche Grammophon, which this month releases her album of Baroque arias, entitled “Ombre de mon amant”, on its Archiv label. Von Otter’s first album for Naïve will be a jazz collaboration with Brad Mehldau, including jazz standards, jazz versions of Beatles songs and some pieces specially composed for her by Mehldau. The programme will be based on repertoire which can be heard at Wigmore Hall on June 2.