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Classical Notes: June 26, 2013 Archive

Happy Birthday, Claudio Abbado

Posted at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2013 by Rex Levang (0 Comments)

Today is the 80th birthday of Claudio Abbado.

For an example of his artistry, hear and watch him on--and this is no joke--Conductor Cam, as he leads the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven's Fifth.


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Maria Schneider Never Conforms (Thankfully)

Posted at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2013 by Emily Reese (0 Comments)

I am so thankful Maria Schneider writes for orchestras of all sizes these days, not just the jazz-shaped ones.

When I was a trumpet player (those days are pretty much gone), I focused heavily on jazz, but balanced my listening between classical and jazz. Miles Davis, Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen and Kenny Wheeler are a few of my favorites.

I went to college in the mid-nineties, right about the time Minnesota-native Maria Schneider released her first album, Evanescence. The record features compositions by her, performed by the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.

My friends and I went NUTS for this record. Our jazz director was a fan as well, and we ended up playing several of her pieces, like "Green Piece" and "Wyrgly".

I found her music so refreshing and so utterly different than anything I'd ever played in a jazz ensemble in my life, most closely resembling the boundary-pushing Stan Kenton tracks from several decades earlier.

Performing Maria's music always seems like an adventure, rather than a task. Like the difference between spending time outside mowing the lawn and spending time outside in a chair with a glass of lemonade.

I've become equally smitten by her recent work, Winter Morning Walks, featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Maria's music is a constant surprise, and just as refreshing as ever. She utilizes each chamber orchestra in unique ways, creating beautiful colors and combinations of sounds. Much of the piece "Winter Morning Walks" sounds improvisational. Maria is a master at this type of writing - she's able to create the sound of freedom in her music.

I think part of that sound might be in the mixing and mastering of Winter Morning Walks, too, which was done brilliantly.

It's difficult to classify this particular album, though. We get lulled into assuming it sounds "classical" or orchestral based off of the artists on it, like the SPCO. And SPCO's contribution to Winter Morning Walks, a piece called "Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories", is more orchestral in tone than "Winter Morning Walks".

I can only hope Maria Schneider writes more for the classical stage. It'll probably be a while until her next recording comes out - she rarely takes less than three or four years between an album release.

That gives us plenty of time to enjoy Winter Morning Walks.

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