Mar 2015

Performance comparison: "Mysteries of the Macabre" by Gyorg Ligeti

Great performances only come about when musicians are willing to explore all of the available paramaters to create deeper meaning. Arias from Mysteries of the Macabre by Gyorg Ligeti is a somewhat obscure and exceptionally difficult work that happens to have two amazing performances available online.

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The arias are selected from an opera so it is not surprising that a vocalist would choose to present the music with an element of theater, however, Barbara Hannigan does not simply add a few hand gestures. With costume, wig, and dynamic staging this is not simply a concert performance, but a fully theatrical performance presented in a more resticted venue.

Her entrance immediately makes clear that she has drammatic as well as musical intentions, that she conducts as well adds to the impact. An alternate performance is available to those who subscribe to the Digital Concert Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic. In Berlin, Sir Simon leads the orchestra and he seems happy to engage in a bit of theater himself.

Hannigan performance

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Brian McWhorter is a trumpeter who brings a different, though still theatrical approach to this work: his performance is a product of contemporary video techniques. Not reproducible on the stage--not because of the ability of the players, but only because of the liberal use of camera cuts--McWorter has over seen the production of a unique music video: the images don't simply create a genial atmosphere for the music, but instead engage as counterpoint, enhancing meaning and underscoring effect.

McWorter performance*

This piece could easily be considered off-putting, and yet, the combination of virtuoso technique and theater create engaging performances; and, both Hannigan and McWorter have the technique and imagination to fully realize this difficult music.


*Although this performance is the greatest comercial they could want, it appears that Schott, the publisher of this music, has forced the removal of the previous links. This link will take you to a potentially dodgy web site in China.

Congratulations to Eliza, Ben, Jacob, Alex and Nicholas!

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Congratulations to a graduate of the studio, Eliza Block, currently at St Olaf College, who was just accepted to the National Syphony Orchestra Summer Institute with a full scholarship.

Congratulations also to high school sophmore, Ben Sahlin, lead trumpet of the Roosevelt Jazz Band, who will be travelling to New York to compete at Essentially Ellington.

Congratulations to Jacob Shaffer who won the Commencement Bay solo and ensemble competition and to Alex Moore who was runner up!

Congratulations to Nicholas Orndoff whose brass quintet took third place at the WMEA State Competition.