Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Friends I saw at a concert later that night also raved about it. I'm looking forward to the next one, Rossini's Barber of Seville, which will feature a friend of mine up on the big screen, Joyce DiDonato.
The concert I did attend last Saturday night was a real let down. The only thing I can say is that the best thing about the program is that the group did NOT play Beethoven's Quartet Opus 135.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Oh, there's another, Zitch Dog!
Seriously, I was happy to spot Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) reading Get Fuzzy while at the autoshop on this latest episode of "How I Met Your Mother." You can watch it here.
And find Get Fuzzy comics online here.
The writer's really have my number, as Robin and Lily smoked cigars. (By the label they appeared to be cohibas!)
Oh, the Where's Waldo hitchiker was pretty funny too.
Monday, February 26, 2007
The interview segments are now online at WITF, here. Enjoy!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Libby Larsen is writing a new piece for Gettysburg College and she gave a talk Thursday night in Gettysburg. As always, she was fascinating and brilliant. I learn something new everytime I talk with her - the last such conversation was for Composing Thoughts.
Libby will be back in the area in April, plan on seeing and hearing more here, and be sure to catch the performance - it's April 28th & 29th, 2007 at the Gettysburg Majestic Theater.
BTW, Libby did play two of her scores, Four on the Floor, and an aria from Barnum's Bird.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
John's uhms [mp3 file]
Wha? [mp3 file]
Like Rehearsal? [mp3 file]
Of course, there is more where this came from.
Hear the real interview, with edits, here on the New Releases Blog.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
This is my response to Don Lee's post:
Don and his non-broadcasting friend bring up an interesting point, that a "concert performance engaged him in a way that a radio broadcast of the piece would not have done."
There are several questions to about why this was more engaging...is it the visual side to music making or seeing the performer? Is it sitting in a wonderful hall with fine acoustics? Is it knowing you're one of many audience members enjoying the music?
Also, how often do you "put down the op-ed pages, turn up the radio and just listen?" with any radio broadcast: music or news?
Is radio meant to be background or foreground? Is it art or business?
Let's take a piece from the early 20th Century not as challenging as the Messiaen or Carter, Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos as an example. If you listen to it on the radio or from your cd/ipod/musical device, you'll hear the notes played by performers X & Y with Z orchestra. Yet you won't see the interaction of the brilliant orchestration of Poulenc when pianist X plays with the violins on the right side of the stage and pianist Y play with the cellos on the left side of the stage. It really is stunning to see, besides hearing it. So should you only enjoy the Poulenc in a live performance and not a recording? You may not be as engaged by it.
Violinist Joshua Bell is currently on tour with a recital, and soon to be playing on tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He is a performer who communicates brilliantly on his recordings, yet seeing him play live is another level. His recital partner on the current tour, Jeremy Denk is someone who is constantly communicating with Bell on stage. Yet both shouldn't be missed on recording or the radio, or in the hall.
I truly believe if radio stations played Carter as much as they play Stamitz, Mozart and Vivaldi that it would not be the case that a 14 minute piano & orchestra work by Elliott would be more engaging in the concert hall, or while reading the business ads of the Star Tribune. Engaging music is engaging music.
We should always ask ourselves why. Why is live music engaging on Performance Today? Why is the programming engaging from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? Why is a break engaing on Classical 24? Why interview a composer for Composing Thoughts? If it is not engaging, why isn't it? Perhaps it is not the music. I'll take Carter anyday over Vivaldi.
[pictured above right, Poulenc; pictured above left, Carter]
There is astounding poetry and writing to be read...my contributions include a rare interview with a Polish composer and some Schubert in recital.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Thanks for your response, and congrats on a successful drive!
A few more points, to help clarify (or clare-ify if you will, hahaha)
If John had read carefully, I wrote "perhaps" they walk out because the music is bad.
Great word, "perhaps"...and I agree completely. Most of this discussion comes from my part reading it before coffee and a cigar. I’m now trying to take time in making these comments precise and with thought (hence sleeping on it last night and posting today.)
I just don't see that many folks walking out on concerts in general - nor do I really want them to leave unless they do give it a chance (be it Beethoven or Babbitt!) – what is “giving it a try” length?
Quantity ain't necessarily quality.
I'm asserting that the many concerts I take in there IS great quality to the performance and music choices. Of course, I spend a large amount of time figuring out what concerts to go to before I go - which I recommend to others as well.
I am not asserting that since there are so many composers these days that music is on a higher level - but in general I want to make a point that American music really is top form – hence the Vienna of the 1890s comparison. You should really give music every bit of chance. Perhaps this is why I don’t watch American Idol: I want to make my own opinion, and I also do not want to judge immediately.
This assumes that a) you gave it a fair shake, and b) it's not disruptive to others at the concert who *are* getting the experience they came for.
Amen! and there (being disruptive) is where I have a huge problem: talking during the music or being loud in leaving. Please, if you must leave, be kind and respectful to the other audience members.
If it was simply a matter of being averse to "sonic disturbances," people would be leaving movie theaters in droves every night of the week at Dolby THX suburban multiplexes across the land.
THIS is where I mentioned the latest movies. Sorry, but I didn’t get the idea you were talking about volume, rather I took it as content.
if the art that's presented to them has a compelling story to tell, one that makes them so engaged that they can't wait for the next scene, the next movement, the next chapter.
I will maintain that if you go through a journey, things become clearer. Should people leave after the first chord in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony finale?! Gosh, if you don’t like percussion, shouldn’t I leave Beethoven’s Ninth when the second movement starts with that awful timpani?! If you stay through an entire piece, you’ll get the architecture and perhaps some catharsis…I will say if the orchestra is butchering a work, say a masterpiece like Beethoven’s Ninth, you should feel free to leave. (But again, please be considerate to other concert goers!) [A cinematic comparison could be made with the movie “Crash” – where after the first hour things are connected that weren’t before; if you left the theater after that hour, you would have a very different view of this movie than staying for the entire film. A literary example might be an Ayn Rand novel where five seemingly unrelated elements are all drawn together to make a compelling and remarkable story. Yet, if you stop reading it, you don’t realize the elements are there to clarify it.]
Mostly I yearn to keep an open mind about art – especially music of our time. I do not want to give any ammunition for the bashing of new music. It’s close to my heart and I try to protect it in any way possible.
John, I will admit there are compositions I don’t care for, but you’ll hear me plead for those that I love, rather than those I hate. (Hard to believe after my passionate defense above, huh?) I write a regular “Five Things” post on ClassicallyHip about concerts I attend. They are on the whole positive, because I write about what I liked, rarely about the negative.
So, I’ll come around and answer, What keeps me in my seat?
Creativity, originality, beauty, and curiosity.
More specifically, performers like Helene Grimaud, Janine Jansen, eighth blackbird, and Gil Shaham. Composers like Andrzej Panufnik, Jennifer Higdon, Augusta Read Thomas, Elliott Carter, and John Harbison to name a few.
I hope more folks comment on what keeps them in their seat, I’m anxious to know!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Welsh star CHARLOTTE CHURCH will ditch her television career in favour of a return to classical music. The former child soprano turned her back on classical music to make a pop album, and now presents her own TV chat show - but is keen to go back to her roots. The 20-year-old says, "I often think 'Oh my God, I was so good at opera, why did I leave it behind? "Now that I am older I have a much better classical voice, so you could definitely see me going back to that."
In some ways I wasn't shocked to find her on this list, although 2nd was suprising:
Fox's Biscuits asked 1,000 people to rate the most naturally attractive women in the world.
1 Kate Middleton
2 Charlotte Church
3 Claudia Schiffer
4 Kate Moss
5 Catherine Zeta Jones
6 Keira Knightley
7 Gwyneth Paltrow
8 Scarlett Johansson
10 Victoria Beckham
1. eighth blackbird continues to astound and amaze me with their killer ensemble playing and perfect balances in complex music. Saturday night was no exception, with a program to complement their latest cd, strange imaginary animals.
2. Especially striking in both quality and soundscape was Gordon Fitzell's violence, a work from 2001 - which Lisa Kaplan mentioned was one of the group's favorites - it certainly showed!
3. Recently recorded Indigenous Instruments by Steven Mackey was definitely a hit - coming right after intermission and followed a remix by Dennis DeSantis, which Mathew Duvall explained before he left the stage would be played at the end of intermission, and the dance floor would be open. Unfortunately, the beautiful Erin Palmer of the Kimmel Center staff didn't cut a rug with me - maybe next time Erin?
4. It was nice hearing Derek Bermel's Coming Together live, but a bit surprising since Michael Maccaferri started off stage right next to my seat, and had the house lights up on the left side of the hall. I'm scheduled to interview Derek in March, so it was great hearing and seeing his music in the hands of 8th bb. The piece was intense at times (although Michael's suggestion of the Peanuts' grownup sound "wah wahhh" was effective and humorous) and so when Michael said Nicholas' cello had literally exploded that afternoon in rehearsal and he was playing on a borrowed cello (thanks to Network for New Music's cellist), it didn't surprise me somehow! (I'm sure the weather hasn't really helped out things either.)
5. There were quite a few young musicians at the concert - which was great to see, although it wasn't a full house by any means. WRTI recorded it and will be broadcast next Sunday, you can hear it online here. The talkback was fun and entertaining as well.
You can read 8th bb's own blog here. And recall their Pierrot Lunaire in Gettysburg here and here.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
First, I'm staying at the Alexander Inn for the first time, loving it!
Second, dinner at Mercato - yum-o!
Third, cigar and scotch after the concert at Mahogany on Walnut - awesome!
And to start the trip, Beethoven sonatas with Daniel Barenboim on DVD!
Friday, February 16, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
"But beyond that, perhaps people walk out of concerts not because the contemporary piece they are hearing disturbs their quietude, but because it's bad art, and has nothing to say to them."
Not only is this laughable, it's untrue - what is this sentence based on? Surely not from experiences of concerts/concert-goers with the Minnesota Orchestra or the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Birge's backyard! Perhaps from Birge's Cincinnati Pops background? I hope not and doubt that too.
We are living in the leading country of modern composers/compositions today - I speak with roughly 30 or more composers each year, hear mountains of new recorded works, and attend concerts in Philly, NYC, DC and Baltimore on a regular basis. As Vienna and Paris were musical capitals in the past, New York and the US are the leading place for modern music today.
John, take in some of the Minnesota Orchestra's Composers Institute next year. And why not do a feature on it? [Read a young composer's view about it here.]
Then Birge addresses the environment question:
"If it was simply a matter of being averse to "sonic disturbances," people would be leaving movie theaters in droves every night of the week at Dolby THX suburban multiplexes across the land. But be it cinema or concert hall (or radio station for that matter), they'll stay -- if the art that's presented to them has a compelling story to tell, one that makes them so engaged that they can't wait for the next scene, the next movement, the next chapter. Art that makes them excitedly anticipate: "What happens next?""
Actually, I don't think you should settle, in the theater or concert hall, for distrubances. You're paying for entertainment, not for someone else talking or their cellphone ringing. Yes, the content should be compelling, but please don't put "Norbit" or "Music and Lyrics" on the same platform as Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 or John Adams' My Father Knew Charles Ives.
We should support and nuture music, especially new music; let's not be hasty and declare an exodus for audiences. Attend the preconcert talk, or talkback after a concert - ask questions, discuss the work...it's art and sometimes a second hearing, or even a little insight might help. Just two weeks ago, in Philadelphia for a composer's 50th birthday, I was looking for the stairs (after the concert was over, and had spoken to the players/composer, ahem!) and joked to another concert-goer, who happened to be a conductor of a new music ensemble, "Oh here it is, Exit- in case of Brahms!" We both had a chuckle.
In a nutshell, give music a chance.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
But today I passed along a link from OGIC & Terry Teachout over on ArtsJournal to the FM Staff at WITF. "My assistant" Andrew made this one:
Too funny. But mom still wins.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Here's Steve Morscheck, nee Umberto, the talented and visionary bass with me.Robin Wiper is the charming assistant, Serpina.
Karin Edwards is the collaborative pianist who astounds at keeping places in rehearsal.
This is during Barber's Dover Beach.
While turning pages for Knoxville: Summer of 1915.
The show is tonight at 7:30.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
1. Josh was joined by pianist Jeremy Denk who was a wonderful match to collaborate with this program. The two were at ease with each other and have similar styles, both musically and technically.
2. The first half consisted of two romantic sonatas - close enough to be comparable and different enough to be contrasting. Both Schumann's first and Beethoven's last sonatas were played with passion and panache, not as if they were written two hundred years ago, but as if the ink was still fresh.
3. The ink was still fresh on Edgar Meyer's Concert Piece, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the stellar performance and interpretation - you'd guess it was an old friend that Bell and Denk could pull out anytime and just play, like the rest of the program which was "tba".
The inner movements of Meyer's piece were especially well crafted and exciting - looking forward to hearing this recorded soon. I also mentioned to a friend that I thought the Meyer stood up well against the Schumann and Beethoven. She mentioned another hearing would be awesome.
4. Bell and Denk then charmed the audience with Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, Ponce's Estrellita, and Sarasate's Introduction and Taratella. After a standing ovation, they came back for an encore - playing Tchaikovsky's None but the Weary Heart.
5. I've heard Josh many times live, and usually find something I adore about his playing. This performance it was his vibrato that captivated me. It was varied, sometimes used sparingly - I felt I had a lesson, from a narrow and quick arm vibrato to a more unique wrist motion, his sound is stellar.
Josh is touring with this recital and soon with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Check his website for more information, he's in great form.
You can also hear an interview I did with Bell before the tour here.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
1. The concert started with the Prism Quartet in a work from 2003, Short Stories. It was a quality piece of chamber music based on Sam Shepard stories, a Chirstmas present from the composer's wife.
2. The largest work on the program was Piano Variations, in a new (first performance) version played by the astounding Stephen Gosling. Originally it was part of the Sonata-Fantasia for piano and synthesizer, now all acoustic. It certainly ran the range and drama of the entire keyboard and explored all 88 keys, much to the flashiness and musicality of Gosling. It also was convincing music and knowledge of the keyboard prowess of Primrosch.
3. After intermission, Gosling was back, this time with electronics in 1993's Secret Geometry. It's a dated work and while entertaining not my cup of tea. It's not that I don't appreciate electronic music, and maybe its partially hearing the quality of the variations before it that this paled by comparison.
4. The Prism Quartet brought out two more works, a short premiere (from 2007!) of I Never Knew and a jazzy Straight Up from 2004.
5. If you're a believer in "best for last" sort of programming or philosophy, you'd be in seventh heaven with Holy the Firm from 1999. It's a song cycle premiered by Dawn Upshaw out in Utah. Sunday's performance was with the dedicated and delicous Lucy Shelton, collaborating with Gosling again at the keyboard. It was a moving reading, and is a brilliant and touching score. I joked with Lucy afterwards that we should have sang "Happy Birthday" afterwards, and she joked about it not rising to the occasion harmonically, I about needing some electronic accompaniment!
There are several cds of Primrosch's music available, as well as the Prism Quartet and Lucy Shelton - check them out, you'll be glad you did!
Sunday, February 04, 2007
1. I enjoyed the pre-concert email of notes and snailmail letter inviting me to take a friend to the concert. I did, and he enjoyed it greatly! I think it's a brilliant move to offer subscribers to "take a friend" - on all levels, for exposure for the new audience member, for the orchestra playing to a fuller house, etc.
2. Principal Oboist Liang Wang was in fine form for Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin. In fact it was a fine opener all around, and the crowd seemed especially into the night's guest, Salonen.
3. Yefim Bronfman was certainly up for the evening's new work, dedicated to him, and Bronfman was indeed a delight to hear and see. For this world premiere performance of Salonen's Piano Concerto, he used music and had a page turner - and what a workout. I had been surprised it was not only recieved favorably, but also got sparkling reviews from the critics! I should clarify my surprise by noting it is a delightful work and am pleased it will be recorded - keep an eye out for it.
4. The second half was as exciting as the first, with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition getting a fresh and energetic reading. Section by section, players wove great music making with delightful technique.
5. My final surprise of the evening was a standing ovation for the Mussorgsky. New York has been the one place where I haven't seen the ubquitous standing o for every performance...and not to say the Saturday performance wasn't amazing, it just caught me off guard. I truly believe that it mostly came from the visiting Maestro and his dynamicism - desipte all the work from the orchestra. There is something magical about Salonen and it clearly is felt by audiences.
There's another performance of Salonen's Piano Concerto this week, catch it if you can. And if you get a chance to hear Salonen and his normal band, the LA Phil, in concert at Disney Hall, do that as well, you won't be disappointed.