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by Daniel Hautzinger

american-graceOf all instrumentalists, pianists seem to commission and perform new works the least often. The repertoire for the piano is already so vast and worthy that many performers see no need to add to it. Why even play pieces from the past half-century, when there is so much great, neglected, earlier music?

Luckily, not all pianists think this way. Take Orli Shaham, whose album American Grace, released in February on Canary Classics, features attractive works written since 1975 by John Adams and Steven Mackey, as well as two world premiere recordings. One of those pieces, Steven Mackey’s concerto Stumble to Grace, was commissioned for Shaham by a consortium of orchestras as a result of her own initiative.

Stumble to Grace (2011), performed here with the responsive Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Shaham’s husband, David Robertson, is Mackey’s first major work for piano. Read the rest of this entry »


The word on the street is that American Orchestras are hurting. In 2009 both endowments and audiences have shrunk. This fall we’ve seen the Cleveland Orchestra announce a new residency with the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and an innovative Friday concert series aimed at a younger crowd. Both moves are intended to reach new audiences and generate new revenue.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Anne Midgette explores another audience-boosting tactic — the new, celebrity, conductor. Without doubt, the biggest hype of the season surrounds the arrival of Gustavo Dudamel in Los Angeles. Also this fall, the New York Philharmonic has welcomed maestro Alan Gilbert. It is still too early to tell whether new blood has increased the audience in these cities, but they have reason to be hopeful. Midgette points to Pittsburgh (Manfred Honeck) and Dallas (Jaap van Zweden) as recent examples of orchestras reenergized by new music directors.

Read the rest of this entry »

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