Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Atlanta Symphony calls for composers

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 2:40 PM

ASO Music Director Robert Spano will judge the finalists in this years Rapido! Composition Contest.
  • Jennifer Taylor
  • ASO Music Director Robert Spano will judge the finalists in this year's Rapido! Composition Contest.
Do you have the melody of the world's next great chamber piece buzzing around in your head? Can you write it down really, really quickly?

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has announced its third annual Rapido! Composition Contest, designed to promote new chamber music and encourage new compositions by underrepresented composers of all levels of experience. The winner will receive a commission for a full orchestral work to be premiered by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in spring of 2014. More about the contest after the jump.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Atlanta composer Alvin Singleton premieres new work with the ASO

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Atlanta composer Alvin Singleton's new work Different River will have its world premiere this weekend as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra debuts the piece under the baton of Music Director Robert Spano at Symphony Hall. Scored for full orchestra with extra percussion, the one-movement 25-minute work is a commission by Spano and the ASO.

"It's about an ever-changing perspective on a river that is always moving," explains Singleton. "Each time you step in you're at a different place." Although Singleton's compositions have been premiered and performed by major orchestras around the world, the composer has long maintained especially strong ties to Atlanta and the ASO.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dean and Britta make the Most Beautiful music for Warhol

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Dean Wareham (left) and Britta Phillips
Dean Wareham admits that being asked to score 13 of Pop Art icon Andy Warhol’s screen tests was intimidating. In 2008, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust commissioned Wareham and his wife Britta Phillips, aka indie pop duo Dean and Britta, to put music to 13 of Warhol’s “stillies” featuring Factory regulars such as Dennis Hopper, Lou Reed, and Edie Sedgwick, for the 2008 Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts. The result is The 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, a guitar-and-keyboard soundtrack of original works created specifically for the short films, save a few older Dean & Britta songs, a cover of Reed’s “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore” for the Velvet Underground frontman and a Bob Dylan cover ("I'll Keep it With Mine”) for Nico. The project led to the first DVD release of Warhol’s works. Dean and Britta come to Atlanta to perform The 13 Most Beautiful… at Symphony Hall as part of the High’s Culture Shock event series. The exhibit Picasso to Warhol: 14 Modern Masters remains on view at the High through April 29.

Would you explain Warhol's screen test films?
Warhol made 472 of these films between 1964 and 1966. They are short, silent, black-and-white portraits. Before he was doing this he was doing photo booth portraits, which he called “stillies,” so this kind of grew out of that – it was the next step when he bought a Bolex and decided that he was moving into making film. He didn’t really know how to edit film I guess; he didn’t have to edit film. He’d just load a reel of film, which is about three minutes in length, and he would sit someone against a white background or a black background and just let the film roll and tell them to stare straight into the camera and do as little as possible. Then he would play these films back at a slower speed, at a silent film speed instead of the sound film speed, so they’re all kind of stretched out. So, they play back and they were just over four minutes each and that’s what kind of gives them a slightly spooky quality. If you slow down someone’s face you can kind of see things flicker across them that you really wouldn’t otherwise notice. The first part of our assignment was to pick 13 of these films.

What drew you to these 13?
We started reading about the Factory in this period; it’s called the Silver Factory. It was the one that was painted silver and it was a former hat factory on East 47th Street. After this period he moved to Union Square, which is where everything changed. It’s where he got shot. I know a little bit about Warhol and the Velvet Underground and the people that were around them, but I didn’t really know much about them at all until I started researching this and the more we learned the more we decided to focus on the people that were there everyday, like Billy Name who was Warhol’s assistant and even Dennis Hopper who was an important early champion of Warhol’s work when he went out to the West Coast. This is at a point where Warhol wasn’t selling anything at all and Dennis Hopper was blacklisted from Hollywood, he wasn’t doing much at all either – this was before Easy Rider — he was blacklisted for the first time because he was too difficult to work with, I think. Hopper was one of the first people to buy a soup can painting.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dancer by day, Musician by night

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Dancer Jesse Tyler with fellow Atlanta Ballet principal dancer Alessa Rogers
  • Charlie McCullers
  • Dancer Jesse Tyler with fellow Atlanta Ballet principal dancer Alessa Rogers
Like almost any musician in the early stages of his career, Jesse Tyler has a day job. Unlike most musicians, his "day job" involves a lot of grand jetés, entrechats, and arabesques.

While ballet audiences probably remember Tyler as the Snow King in The Nutcracker, Renfield in Dracula, or as one of the comic goblins in The Princess and the Goblin, they may not realize that for the past couple years, after rehearsals and between performances, Tyler, now in his fifth year as a principal dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, has also been performing his music around Atlanta and steadily establishing a name for himself on the city's singer-songwriter scene.

"I kind of just slid into both, not really knowing it," says Tyler of his affinity for both dance and music.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ASO premieres the work of "Atlanta School" composer Adam Schoenberg

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Composer Adam Schoenberg
  • Aleigh Lewis
  • Composer Adam Schoenberg
Composer Adam Schoenberg will see the world premiere of his new piece La Luna Azul performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts this weekend. We caught up with the 31-year-old, LA-based composer to ask him a few questions about the experience.

You're a member of the Atlanta School of Composers. Can you tell us what that involves?
The Atlanta School of Composers is a term that [ASO Music Director] Robert Spano coined. It's basically a long-term partnership with the Atlanta Symphony. None of the composers actually reside in Atlanta. It's people he's believed in and wants to champion. He will take someone on and perform their music and commission them for new work. The piece that will premiere this week is my first big commission with the symphony. He personally commissioned it. He's the type of conductor a composer can actually approach, and he'll listen to what you have to say. We hit it off when we first met in January of 2009, and I handed him some of my music. A few weeks later I got a phone call from him saying that he wanted to program some of my work. I was 29 then, and it's an extraordinary thing to realize that you're going to get a piece performed by the Atlanta Symphony. One of the great things that's part of the Atlanta School: When Robert commissions a work, he brings the composer back before the premiere to do a reading of the piece in progress. This is a very rare thing which few orchestras do. Usually you just show up the week of the premiere and you have three rehearsals and that's it. If you want to make changes to the piece, you have to pull an all-nighter in your hotel room, trying to make changes. So for Robert to give a reading, you then have a couple weeks to revise the piece. That is one of the greatest gifts any composer can have.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Bernadette Peters keeps it short and sweet at ASO Gala

Posted By on Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 1:48 PM

  • Firooz Zahedi
Bernadette Peters performed a short set at Atlanta's Symphony Hall on Feb. 18 as part of the ASO's annual gala that raises funds for music education. The operative word is short: The show, though strong, consisted of about an hour of music with one encore.

The show began with an overture, and Peters made a star's entrance with "Let Me Entertain You." In a fitting, sequined purple gown, she looked incredible. It's especially hard to believe the AJC preview article, which pointed out that Peters will celebrate her 64th birthday at the end of February.

Unfortunately, the quality of the amplification was not so good, and the sound suffered especially on big boisterous numbers like "Let Me Entertain You." The sound quality varies greatly depending on where you sit in Symphony Hall — it's one of the space's perennial problems — and unfortunately from where I was sitting, it was pretty awful: unbalanced, echoey, hollow, and undetailed. It was even hard to understand the between-song patter.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Broadway Baby Bernadette Peters joins the ASO for Gala Fundraiser

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Bernadette Peters, fresh off her huge success in the recent revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies on Broadway and guest-starring on the new NBC drama "Smash," will perform with the Atlanta Symphony this weekend at Symphony Hall on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The preternaturally youthful singer will perform classics from her career on stage and screen including “Losing My Mind” and other hits by Sondheim, as well as standards from the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook, Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, and “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The Broadway star appears in honor of the symphony’s second annual gala, a fundraiser for the orchestra's music education programs.

Individual tickets for the show start at $35 and special packages, which include a cocktail reception and a black-tie gala dinner, start at $500 per person. For more information, visit the ASO or call 404-733-4900.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Johannes Moser brings on the "melancholia" of Elgar's Cello Concerto

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Cellist Johannes Moser will explore the melancholia of Elgars Cello Concerto with the ASO this weekend.
  • Manfred Esser/hansslerCLASSIC
  • Cellist Johannes Moser will explore the melancholia of Elgar's Cello Concerto with the ASO this weekend.
German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser has been called “one of today's finest young virtuosos” by Gramophone magazine, and he makes his Atlanta Symphony debut this weekend with Elgar's Cello Concerto. We caught up with the musician to discuss Elgar's melancholia, Moser's YouTube addiction, and the best way to travel with a priceless Guarneri instrument.

You've said that Elgar's Cello Concerto is one of your favorite pieces. What aspect of it most appeals to you?
I love this piece because it's pure emotion. It's an extremely emotionally charged concerto because Elgar wrote it at the end of the first world war. He was in his 60s at the time, and he had just come home from being hospitalized. Everything inside and outside was shattered, so to speak. The Old Europe he related to was gone. Then he decided to write a cello concerto. The theme came to him the first time he came home from the hospital. It has a huge melancholia. The whole set is very sad, and I'm a happy person so I'm exploring feelings and a life situation that aren't really mine. I find it extremely challenging, but sort of rewarding to live through the eyes of the composer. The way he writes his music you can absolutely relate to his life situation, which I think is exceptional.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Europa Galante brings "gutsy" sound to Atlanta

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 9:32 AM

The sublime period-ensemble group Europa Galante is touring North America, and they're planning a stop at Atlanta's Spivey Hall on Saturday, February 4, at 8 p.m. Formed in Italy by violinist Fabio Biondi, the group has explored the work of mostly Italian composers on period stringed instruments since 1990. The sound is distinctly different from the classical instruments you might hear in a typical symphony orchestra: bolder, warmer, more primal, energetic, and, well, um, gutsier.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ASO performs 20th anniversary King Celebration with guests Yo-Yo Ma and Mayor Kasim Reed

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 8:49 AM

  • Phillip McCollum
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its annual “King Celebration” concert, a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Thursday, January 12, 2012, at 8 pm.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano leads the Orchestra in the tribute which includes acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing Dvorak's Cello Concerto, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed narrating Joseph Schwantner's “New Morning for the World,” and Beethoven's Overture to Fidelio. The Morehouse and Spelman College Glee Clubs will sing “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” from Brahms's A German Requiem and the traditional “Elijah Rock.”

Performed annually in the chapel at Dr. King’s alma mater (Morehouse College), the event is being moved for the first time to Symphony Hall. The performance will be broadcast live on public radio's Performance Today on WABE 90.1 in Atlanta.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the ASO's King Celebration, visit, or call (404) 733-5000. Tickets may also be purchased at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office, located in the Woodruff Arts Center. For information about the radio broadcast, visit

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