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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Uri Caine’s ‘The Passion Of Octavius Catto’ Is Reviving Eclecticism

By Norman Lebrecht on May 22, 2020

Uri_Caine-_The_Passion_Of_Octavius_Catto

Uri Caine: The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

★★★★★

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

Around the turn of the century, an Argentine-Israeli composer living in Massachusetts was suddenly all the rage. Osvaldo Golijov was a maker of fusions, welding symphonic, jazz and folk music into orchestral scores, often with a choral component. Such was his success, that he was showered with commissions by Big Five US orchestras and film deals from Hollywood. It all got a bit much for Golijov, who missed one deadline after another before eventually pronouncing himself blocked. Nothing has been heard from him for a decade and eclecticism has gone totally out of fashion.

So I was quite thrilled to discover this concert work by the thoughtful Philadelphia pianist and composer Uri Caine. It’s a meditation on the murder of Octavius Catto, an Afro-American schoolteacher who was shot dead in a Philly election scuffle between Democrat-voting Irish immigrants and Lincoln-loyal blacks. Catto’s killer, Frank Kelly, was never charged. The injustice still rankles.

The Passion is a concert oratorio of a kind that went out of fashion with Hiawatha (or maybe Berio), but it is convincingly performed by the Catto Freedom Orchestra and the Philadelphia Choral Ensemble, conducted with fine rhythmic verve by André Raphel. Caine, who is at heart a jazzman, has written some effective blues and hymn scenes and two furiously engaging orchestral passages for the mob episodes. The dramatic half-hour passes very swiftly.

Why would the Philadelphia not grab this score with open arms? Yannick, are you reading me? This is your comeback piece.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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SCRUTINY | Convergence Theatre’s ‘The Corona Variations’ Offers Fun Interactive Plays By Phone

By Paula Citron on May 15, 2020

In this time of plague and closed theatres, Convergence Theatre is actually trying to earn money with original material.
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THE SCOOP | Three Major BC Arts Organisations Cancel Seasons Until 2021-22

By Michael Vincent on May 21, 2020

Three of Victoria’s largest arts organisations, The Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Dance Victoria, have announced they will be suspending physical programming for the next 18-months through 2021/22.
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REMOTE | Korin Thomas-Smith: ‘This Is Not A Time To Lament What Is Gone’

By Michael Zarathus-Cook on May 6, 2020

UofT Opera’s Korin Thomas-Smith talks about rolling with the punches during the COVID lockdown.
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