Amy Beach, American composer

(Curated classical music news and views from around the internet.)

A classical music festival in Rhode Island goes horribly wrong….

Kiri Ti Kanawa confirms her retirement from singing….

Another Proms season — the 123rd — is in the books….

Meet the elder statesman of American composers, George Walker….

Study: Listening to Vivaldi boosts creativity….

Bill Murray, classical musician?

Amy Beach, a pioneering American composer, turns 150….

Previn cancels

Rune Bergmann

André Previn, who was scheduled to conduct the Pacific Symphony in three concerts in October, marking his return to Southern California as a performing musician after more than two decades, has cancelled. The 88-year-old musician has withdrawn from the concerts due to injury and doctor’s orders not to travel. No other details were given in the press release.

Luckily, his replacement, Norwegian conductor Rune Bergmann, has agreed to take over Previn’s program in its entirety. It includes the West Coast premiere of one of Previn’s newest works, “Almost an Overture,” which had its premiere this summer at the Newport Contemporary Music Series in Newport, RI; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, K. 271, with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist; and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. The concerts are slated for Oct. 19-21 in Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Bergmann, music director of the Calgary Philharmonic and artistic director and chief conductor of Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic, made his debut with Pacific Symphony last November.

photo:Kristin Hoebermann

Pacific Symphony 2017-18 classical season: A brief overview

Conductor Carl St.Clair


One of the more interesting discussions going on in the world of symphony orchestras these days, well into the second decade of the 21st century, concerns the matter of programming. What, exactly, can an American symphony orchestra do to reach and serve a contemporary audience, not necessarily well versed in classical music, and remain relevant in our entertainment-saturated culture? It’s a question that every orchestra struggles with and that each orchestra will answer differently.

Pacific Symphony’s answer, in its 2017-18 classical subscription season, beginning in September, is a balanced one, offering careful doses of innovation and newness while honoring a responsibility to the canonic standards. Rarely heard masterpieces get an airing. Star soloists arrive and young talent is introduced. A rich and befitting vein of American music runs through the schedule, too. But it’s all of a piece, designed for an Orange County audience right now.

The biggest news of the season, though, is that the orchestra will make its debut in that Mecca of classical music, Carnegie Hall, a huge moment in any orchestra’s life. Conductor Carl St.Clair and the ensemble have been invited to perform there by the composer Philip Glass, who celebrates his 80th birthday year as a resident composer at the venue in 2017-18.

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Audio: Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, first movement

Here’s one of the earliest recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, with Arthur Nikisch conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in 1913. Don’t let the primitive sound put you off; it’s a fascinating interpretation, notable for its extremely flexible approach to tempo.

Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony open the season with the work this week.

Classical cover: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

In 1945, a theme from the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (played Saturday) was turned into a popular song called “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” which over the years has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, Robert Goulet and Freddie Hubbard, among others. The theme was also featured in the film “Brief Encounter” that same year.

Here’s how it sounds in its original form (I have the video cued up to the spot). Then below is Bob Dylan’s cover of the pop song based on same.


Amy Beach: 150

Today is the 150th birthday of pioneering American composer Amy Beach. Here is the first movement of her Symphony in E minor, “Gaelic,” written in 1896. Neeme Jarvi conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Amy Beach, a Pioneering American Composer, Turns 150. The New York Times, Sept. 1, 2017.