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Song Cycle

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NEWS
October 16, 2006 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Music speaks to the troubled times in which it was written, though the instances when it addresses its contemporary audiences with unflinching directness are special chapters in history reserved for, say, Kurt Weill in soon-to-be-Nazi Germany and Dmitri Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia. Not so expectedly, Philadelphia-based Michael Hersch took his place among them with his two-hour, 50-part, full-evening piano work, "The Vanishing Pavilions. " Premiered on Saturday under the auspices of Network for New Music, the piece represented a summation of the great but disturbing symphonic and chamber works he has written during the last 10 years.
ENTERTAINMENT
October 4, 1987 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
The Schubert song cycles have gradually become the province of the recording rather than the concert hall. One reason is that there seem to be fewer recitals; another is that many singers find it more profitable, commercially and musically, to learn another operatic role than to polish a long song cycle. German baritone Olaf Baer is the latest to record such a cycle, Die schone Mullerin, with pianist Geoffrey Parsons (EMI CDC7-47947 2). The 20 songs that trace the story of romantic longing and final disappointment are a microcosm of Schubert's world of song.
NEWS
November 20, 2003 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Though only a few weeks old, composer Libby Larsen's latest whatever - string quartet? song cycle? hybrid? - can have its uniqueness safely proclaimed, both now and in the foreseeable future, when it's likely to be all the more loved for being one of a kind. Titled This Unbearable Stillness: Songs From the Balcony, the piece was premiered locally by the Cassatt String Quartet and soprano Eileen Strempel on Tuesday at Irvine Auditorium, and was inspired by poems (in English) of Dima Hilal and Sekeena Shaben from the contemporary anthology The Poetry of Arab Women.
NEWS
March 6, 2002 | By Peter Burwasser FOR THE INQUIRER
The sea has inspired the artistic imagination forever. The very vastness of that world contains whatever an artist wishes to draw out of it. In the case of composer Robert Capanna, the sea and its environs are a dark and ominous place of shipwrecks and ravenous birds. In his song cycle Songs of an Ancient Mariner, which premiered Sunday afternoon at PNC Bank's Presser Recital Hall, Capanna conjures the dangerous, mysterious ocean of Melville's words and Homer's canvases. Songs of an Ancient Mariner, scored for string quartet and baritone, consists of 26 songs divided into three books.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 18, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Songs are not what Kile Smith is known for amid a high-concept output that includes sacred choral works and new music for ancient instrument. But his 45-minute song cycle In This Blue Room , written as composer-in-residence to Lyric Fest, returns to what he calls his creative center - though in a project full of conceptual gymnastics. Premiere performances by Lyric Fest (Friday in Chestnut Hill and Sunday at Academy of Vocal Arts) had their creative starting point in the batik paintings of Laura Pritchard, most of them portraits that suggest distant Modigliani influences refracted through a playful sensibility and rich, often-blue-based palette.
NEWS
April 19, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Even the greatest artists have performances in which all the right things happen but the core experience just isn't there. The surprise with soprano Dorothea Röschmann is how that can happen from piece to piece, not just in her Wednesday recital with pianist Mitsuko Uchida, but in past recordings. Anticipation ran high for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel Center; two such notable artists collaborate infrequently. And in the Perelman Theater, they were heard in one of the more intimate auditoriums this side of London's Wigmore Hall on this duo's six-concert tour.
ENTERTAINMENT
September 7, 2016 | By Tirdad Derakhshani, Staff Writer
For more on the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, check out our guide to the  curated and non-curated shows . James Baldwin changed Mark Stewart's life. Mind you, it didn't come as a thunderbolt or a sudden burst of light. It wasn't a poetic epiphany or a religious crisis. It happened slowly, imperceptibly, said the singer-songwriter and playwright better known by his stage name, Stew. Baldwin's words and his work, his life and ideas, germinated over the years, Stew said in a recent phone interview.
NEWS
April 25, 1991 | By Peter Dobrin, Special to The Inquirer
A badly out-of-tune piano at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square sabotaged a concert Tuesday evening by Sonus, a trio of piano, voice and flute from Baltimore. The situation grew worse as the evening wore on, and by the time Daron Hagen's Dear Youth came around, the problematic intonation had created a sense of disorientation that gripped listeners and performers alike. The work's harmonies are complex, so we'll probably have to wait until the song cycle is performed under more favorable circumstances to get a complete and accurate sense of what the music is really about.
NEWS
May 7, 2004 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Encountering a voice such as Stephanie Blythe's in a room as small as the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater is one of those experiences you're never prepared for - like happening upon an erupting volcano. At close range, Blythe doesn't seize you in the fashion of Ewa Podles, whose vocal force is confrontational in its penetrating strangeness. Blythe is about vocal lushness layered into a single sound, not dissimilar to voices you've heard, but much deeper, and so fluid it's like a genie that can fit into most any bottle.
NEWS
May 12, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Though the program had its oddities and performances could be tentative, Christian Gerhaher left no doubt Thursday at his Philadelphia debut recital that he possesses a Stradivarius among voices and is one of the most cultivated singers in the new generation of German art-song interpreters. You could have guessed that by the Andras Schiff stamp of approval: The in-demand pianist only occasionally accompanies singers, but there he was, playing a secondary role to this Bavaria-born baritone, so little known in the United States.
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ENTERTAINMENT
September 7, 2016 | By Tirdad Derakhshani, Staff Writer
For more on the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, check out our guide to the  curated and non-curated shows . James Baldwin changed Mark Stewart's life. Mind you, it didn't come as a thunderbolt or a sudden burst of light. It wasn't a poetic epiphany or a religious crisis. It happened slowly, imperceptibly, said the singer-songwriter and playwright better known by his stage name, Stew. Baldwin's words and his work, his life and ideas, germinated over the years, Stew said in a recent phone interview.
NEWS
April 19, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Even the greatest artists have performances in which all the right things happen but the core experience just isn't there. The surprise with soprano Dorothea Röschmann is how that can happen from piece to piece, not just in her Wednesday recital with pianist Mitsuko Uchida, but in past recordings. Anticipation ran high for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel Center; two such notable artists collaborate infrequently. And in the Perelman Theater, they were heard in one of the more intimate auditoriums this side of London's Wigmore Hall on this duo's six-concert tour.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 18, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Songs are not what Kile Smith is known for amid a high-concept output that includes sacred choral works and new music for ancient instrument. But his 45-minute song cycle In This Blue Room , written as composer-in-residence to Lyric Fest, returns to what he calls his creative center - though in a project full of conceptual gymnastics. Premiere performances by Lyric Fest (Friday in Chestnut Hill and Sunday at Academy of Vocal Arts) had their creative starting point in the batik paintings of Laura Pritchard, most of them portraits that suggest distant Modigliani influences refracted through a playful sensibility and rich, often-blue-based palette.
NEWS
February 14, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
The air was thick with reverence Tuesday evening when the beloved Canadian baritone Gerald Finley sang Schubert's Winterreise , often described as the King Lear of song cycles since the life experience the piece requires doesn't always coincide with a singer's vocal prime. At age 54, Finley's baritone seemed unmauled by a busy succession of operas ranging from from Anna Nicole to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg . I'd even say that his tone quality has never been so resplendent as on Tuesday at the Kimmel Center, or his command of his vocal faculties so acute down to the tiniest details, seconded with great artistry by pianist Julius Drake.
NEWS
February 8, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Not all of Hugo Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch (Spanish Songbook) portrays desperation, plus its aftermath and echoes. But most of the best songs do, exploding the emotional violence latent in the Paul Heyse and Emanuel Geibel poems so insistently that it's no wonder singers and audiences are intimidated by the density of the 44-song cycle. So few were likely to feel shortchanged when Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge sang only 34 of the songs Tuesday at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 29, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
New song cycles spinning off the greatest one of all - Schubert's Winterreise - might seem like creative futility. Not for Andrea Clearfield and Daron Hagen, the two composers who were commissioned by Lyric Fest to take their own winter journeys Sunday at the Academy of Vocal Arts, on very different paths away from the unflinchingly direct simplicity of Schubert's starting point. Philadelphia's Clearfield long has exhibited great curiosity about musical worlds beyond those taught in conservatories.
NEWS
October 15, 2012 | By Howard Shapiro, Inquirer Staff Writer
How do you turn a book of interviews - clearly a piece of nonfiction - into, of all things, a stage musical? Do you sing about the details of what people told the author? Do you compose a chorus of direct quotes from the interview subjects? Do you riff on the general nature of the plotless talk? As a matter of fact, yes, plus more. In a bold move from out of left field, the Philadelphia Theatre Company this week presents the world premiere of Stars of David, a musical it is staging with eyes toward Broadway.
NEWS
May 26, 2012 | By Brian Howard and FOR THE INQUIRER
‘This song is about the Mitchell brothers, who were like Cain and Abel if they'd gone into the strip-club business," Chuck Prophet quipped Thursday night at World Cafe Live before leading his Bay Area band, the Mission Express, into the excellent "The Left Hand and the Right Hand. "   The song was inspired by notorious San Francisco entrepreneurs Jim and Artie Mitchell, whose O'Farrell Theater was once dubbed by Hunter S. Thompson "the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America," and who split up when Jim went to prison for killing Artie.
NEWS
May 12, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Though the program had its oddities and performances could be tentative, Christian Gerhaher left no doubt Thursday at his Philadelphia debut recital that he possesses a Stradivarius among voices and is one of the most cultivated singers in the new generation of German art-song interpreters. You could have guessed that by the Andras Schiff stamp of approval: The in-demand pianist only occasionally accompanies singers, but there he was, playing a secondary role to this Bavaria-born baritone, so little known in the United States.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 11, 2012 | By JONATHAN TAKIFF, gensleh@phillynews.com
Rob Morsberger is one of the best rock/pop singer/songwriters you've never heard on recordings or seen in concert. There is still time to make amends, but urgency is suggested, as the guy is "living with an illness that could rapidly derail me at any time," he acknowledges with admirable nonchalance. This weekend, Morsberger performs two shows in the area — Friday night at Kennett Flash in Kennett Square and Saturday at Psalm Salon in Overbrook Hills, where talent booker Jamey Reilly calls him "an artist we love.
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