Matthew Gurewitsch
Matthew Gurewitsch
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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How Hope Grows
A contemporary requiem for victims of terrorism

January 8, 2015

What could this music be? An unknown choral elegy, in a language not immediately recognizable… Somehow it called to mind the first-act finale of Puccini's last opera, Turandot. No sooner has the unknown prince resolved, "though the universe crumble," to woo the cold-hearted daughter of the Emperor of China than the universe itself—reflected in the voices of the singers onstage and the brooding orchestra in the pit—cries out in lamentation. The mystery music had just this sweep, this pathos, the same oceanic undertow. Then came something very different: a soprano solo, perhaps Byzantine in flavor, the high-floating melody looping like a garland, embedded in lunar sonorities of chimes over a slow-moving bass line. Then the mood changed again. All hell broke loose in crashing percussion, blaring brass, and panic-stricken song. It was here that I figured out that I was listening to a Requiem. The text, unmistakably in Latin, was the "Dies irae" sequence, conjuring up the Last Judgment. Of the many who have set the Mass of the Dead, none has surpassed Mozart or Verdi for fear and terror. Yet here was another composer, likely of our day, bold enough to compete on equal terms. Who could it be? And why?

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From the Archives: Roll-Player
A Whipping Boy In His Element

January 6, 2015

On the eve of the publication of Allen Kurzweil's second novel, The Grand Complication, I went spelunking with him in the bowels of the New York Public Library. For a grandly uncomplicated reason--we got scooped--my editor never ran the resulting story. On the eve of the publication of Whipping Boy, Allen's queasy but hypnotic saga of a trauma victim stalking the tormentor who bullied him decades before, I have retrieved the unpublished manuscript, which as it happens retains a certain timeliness.

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La Divina Goes Hi-Def
A new high-definition set of recordings shows why Greek-American soprano Maria Callas remains a legend

December 17, 2014  •  Wall Street Journal

The voice, the look, the gossip, the headlines: The Greek-American soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977), known as La Divina, gave new meaning to the cliché "a legend in her own time." And a legend she remains, hands down the most influential diva in opera since Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. From generation to generation, her recordings have perpetuated her mystique. Ranging from jewels of bel canto to indispensable Verdi and Puccini, with Bizet's smoldering "Carmen" in the mix just to shake it up, the Callas discography, originally on the EMI label, has proved an enduring gold mine.

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review of Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs

December 12, 2014  •  Wall Street journal

While he lived, the schoolmaster's son Franz Schubert made no great splash in the world. Intimates called him Schwammerl, or Mushroom, supposedly because he was small and round. His occasional travels never took him more than 200 miles from his native Vienna. Before his death, much of his music was played only at private gatherings or not at all. Yet the catalog of symphonies, piano sonatas, chamber music and sacred works he brought forth in his brief 31 years—four years fewer than Mozart's, 26 fewer than Beethoven's—places him well and truly in the company of the immortals. Arguably most impressive of all is his legacy of song, inexhaustible in its Shakespearean variety, upward of 700 items, each, to the mind of Graham Johnson, "a law unto itself."

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Fitting Farewell to an Era
A recording of Wagner's 'Ring' cycle ushers out Speight Jenkins's 31-season tenure at the helm of Seattle Opera

December 11, 2014  •  Wall Street Journal

From the safety of two free seats on the aisle, what music critic can resist lecturing impresarios on how to run an opera house? But how many ever step up to the job?

Meet Speight Jenkins, who in 1983 moved straight from a desk at the New York Post to the general directorship of Seattle Opera, where his reign lasted a historic 31 seasons. A recording of Richard Wagner's "Ring des Nibelungen," taped live in 2013 and released by Avie on 14 handsomely boxed CDs (also available on iTunes), stands as the uniquely fitting memorial to his tenure, which ended this year.

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Books by Matthew Gurewitsch

Cover of Rafal Olbinski Women Cover of When Stars Blow Out


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