Matthew Gurewitsch
Matthew Gurewitsch
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Among friends: a new album from Saimir Pirgu
The tenor from the dark side of the moon

February 5, 2016

A decade ago, the boutique label Universal Music released Angelo Casto e Bel, the debut CD of the very young, very promising lyric tenor Saimir Pirgu, from Albania. In January, Opus Arte followed up with Il Mio Canto, the second recital of an artist who in the meantime has conquered all the principal stages of the operatic world. Blurbs from Plácido Domingo praise the beautiful lyric quality of Pirgu's voice, as well as his superb technique. The press release adds one extra endorsement, from the New York Times: "[Pirgu's] singing sounds spontaneous and unforced, graced by an intuitive play of light and shade and a silken touch in hushed passages." That's about right, I reckoned, only to discover that the uncredited words are my own, originally published three years ago under the headline, "Tenor from the dark side of the moon."

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The Socratic method
Ronald Wilford's life and times

January 9, 2016

If, as tradition has it, a certain Athenian really did once claim to know that he knew nothing, his meaning was less literal than Delphic: metaphoric, counterintuitive, subject to never-ending interpretation. When Ronald Wilford, who was half Greek, said that he knew nothing about music, he may have been speaking in that same spirit. No, he did not read music, but he responded to its power. And no, he was no performer, yet at Christmas Eve services he sang the carols a little louder with each passing year. "He wasn't a professional musician, and he didn't ever assume the posture of one," the conductor James Levine says of the friend who was also his only manager over the course of his illustrious career, now in its fifth decade. "What he knew he learned by concentration and absorption and native intelligence and always being one-hundred-percent plugged in."

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Wagner's Meistersinger in San Francisco
Music minus one

December 3, 2015

Generally speaking, the perfect Wagnerite is a dour specimen, but not at the prospect of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. This, of course, is the show in which the Master turned his heavy artillery away from portentous legend for close to six blissful hours of maximalist urban comedy. The latest revival at the San Francisco Opera, seen on Wednesday, December 2, both hit the mark and missed it by a mile.

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In memoriam: Yveta Synek Graff
The velvet revolutionary who put Czech opera on the map

November 25, 2015

Yveta Synek Graff died at her home in Casa Dorinda, Montecito, California, on November 6. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on November 18, 1932, Yveta was the only child of the distinguished judge, author, playwright, editor, politician, and diplomat Emil Synek and Eugenia Budlovska, formerly a star of Czech theater. Wanted by the Nazis, Synek escaped to Western Europe in 1939 and spent the following years chiefly in England, serving under President Edvard Beneš in the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. His wife and daughter endured the hardships and anxieties of World War II in Podolí, on the outskirts of Prague, totally in the dark about his fate. At war's end, he caught the first train back to Prague,. In 1947, anticipating the imminent Communist takeover, he spirited himself and his wife and daughter to Paris.

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A Bolcom and Morris scrapbook
"Autumn Leaves" concludes a remarkable discography

October 29, 2015

One evening in March 1972, a woman named Francy, carrying twins two months shy of their due date, climbed to the fifth floor of a Greenwich Village walkup just to introduce her friend Joan Morris, a mezzo-soprano, to a slight acquaintance, the composer and pianist William Bolcom. As Bolcom tells the story on a liner note for Autumn Leaves, the latest of his recordings with Morris, "We've been together ever since." Setting aside any Wagnerian implications, I'm tempted to call Joan and Bill the Tristan and Isolde of popular American song.

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Books by Matthew Gurewitsch

Cover of Rafal Olbinski Women Cover of When Stars Blow Out

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