Claude Debussy at 150: We take his musical revolution for granted

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, one of Western music’s revolutionaries.

As with the varying styles of Impressionist paintings, the long view represents something defined, but the closer you get, the more his compositions start to fall apart into the individual components that our minds work imperceptibly to piece together into meaningful shapes.

The long view is so sleek and seductive that listeners long ago began taking Debussy’s art for granted.

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Il Divo puts Atlanta Symphony on stage but pipes pre-recorded music to audience

Those orchestra players lost in the crimson dusk behind Il Divo may look like they’re playing — but it’s highly likely they’re just part of the stage dressing.

Organisers of male popera quartet Il Divo’s current world tour hired the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for their concert at Encore Park last Sunday — then used pre-recorded tracks as the musicians played in the background. Continue reading

Flying acrylic discs are history as last of Roy Thomson Hall’s sister buildings unveils acoustic makeover

Melbourne’s 1982 symphony hall has lost its Casavant pipe organ along with Theodore Schultz’s acrylic discs as part of a massive renovation project.

Melbourne, Australia’s Hamer Hall, whose acoustics were engineered by the same guy as Roy Thomson Hall’s, has reopened its doors to a fresh, vibrant new sound. Continue reading

Two CD releases show off the art of composer Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns in his element — on a steamship.

Repeat something enough times with conviction, and people start to believe it, whether it has to do with politics, economics or art.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who bridged the Romantic and Modern eras thanks to an 86-year lifespan, was treated as a relic of a bygone age by his obituarists and university lecturers.

It’s a status that does not square with a legacy of rich craft he left behind, and which deserves a fresh look and listen now that we can have some perspective on the aesthetic steamroller of Modernism. Continue reading

Classical music clings to youthful saviours as Roy Thomson Hall announces 2012-13 season

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez makes her solo Toronto début at the Glenn Gould Studio on Feb. 22 (Monica Trejo photo).

There isn’t much classical programming any more from Roy Thomson Hall with the demise of its mainstage concert series. But what may be missing in quantity is still there in youthful quality, according to today’s announcement of the 2012-13 season.

The best news is that Roy Thomson Hall continues its advocacy of rising vocal talents with a series of four recitals with piano at the Glenn Gould Studio collectively billed as Canadian Voices. Continue reading

Introducing: The Sea, a suite for orchestra by Frank Bridge

Frank Bridge completed The Sea at Eastbourne, on the Sussex coast, in July 1911.

Spend a couple of weeks near a large body of water and you’ll likely witness the seductive shimmer of water on a calm sunny day transform into a roiling, heaving monster in a matter of minutes. Anyone whose ankles have ever been suddenly lassoed by an undertow knows that water is a treacherous vacation partner. Continue reading

DVD review: Renée Fleming and Christian Thielemann a great Richard Strauss match

Renée Fleming sang Strauss Lieder in Salzburg a year ago, accompanied by conductor Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Exactly one year ago, Renée Fleming sang an all-Strauss programme at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg and, wrapped in a half-hectare of black tulle, brought the house down. Continue reading