Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Past & Future Saturdays

Last Saturday the Met broadcast Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in theaters. One audience member was Garrison Keillor, who has written about it here.
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

Zitch dog!

Ha, that's a point for me.
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.

Update here!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Die Fliegende Hollanderin (tm)

Yes, the Flying Dutchwoman, hahaha...the amazing fiddle phenom, violinist Janine Jansen travels so much, I teased her about being "Die Fliegende Hollanderin" (tm).
The interview segments are now online at WITF, here. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2 musical scores and 3 days ago...

(my thinly veiled reference to "Four score and seven years ago...")

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

Nine Foot Orchestra

or Orchestra in a box...
Hear an interview with pianist Clipper Erickson on the New Releases Blog.

Some fun

Here's a out of focus shot of the Claremont Trio and me, and not one of my better moments on engineers love to make fun of me, and all of my takes...
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

Clare bon mot?

Clare and the Claremont Trio!
(no relation, hahaha)
Keep an eye out for my interview with the Claremont Trio this morning in Gettysburg over at the New Releases Blog.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Get Carter

What a great discussion going on over at Classical Notes! There is also another posting at New Music Box.
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 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]

Latest issue

Enjoy my friend Adam's wonderful literary online journal, Danse Macabre. This issue is Europa, Europa!
There is astounding poetry and writing to be contributions include a rare interview with a Polish composer and some Schubert in recital.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The robot fell in love

Let's go to Damby's and get some Grizzly paw ice cream sandwiches!
Learn more here.

A response to a response

More from Comparing Notes at Minnesota Public Radio. Here's what I had to say:
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

Bound to happen

Many of my friends will be disappointed to read this:

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.

TOP 10
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
9 Beyonce
10 Victoria Beckham

Five Things about eighth blackbird

Spectacular concert last night at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center with eighth blackbird.

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

Great Finds

Three great finds today in Philadelphia.
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

Casanova Concertmaster?

Or misunderstood maestro?
Read about Cleveland's concertmaster from an article Wednesday here in the Cleveland Scene.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Help is here

I wanted to announce a new service from ClassicallyHip - for those superstars/models, perhaps former exotic dancers, who are depressed and may want to seek help, I'm prepared to offer some new music therapy.
If you are a supermodel, and considering having a child, I am also positive I can help, let's talk. No legal battles necessary for paternity tests.

References available.

Classical music mystery?

One of the stranger tales I've heard. Read about the pianist that isn't? here at Gramophone and check it out in their next issue - I plan to!

Poor Argument

Reading "Classical Notes" over at MPR, I am shocked in many ways by John Birge's most recent post, in a topic started at NewMusicBox. But I wasn't surprised by Birge to tell the truth.
"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'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

Runner up

My mom sent me the funniest Valentine this year. And I've gotten some really cool cards, et al.
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.

Choppers and snow

This week has been odd. Snow, hearts, and operas. Monday mid-morning there was some loud sounds from outside the building at WITF. Turns out it was a helicopter from PPL doing some sort of check of the powerlines.
Tuesday, it started snowing, the most I've seen so far in my 1.5 years here in Harrisburg. This was the scene in front of my apartment Tuesday morning. I ended up staying last night at the Holiday Inn next to WITF so I could make it in to work without any troubles.
We'll see about tonight, I should be home and back to "normal."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tony "Thumbs" Tempesta

So we had a blast last night "Live at the Gret" with Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona.
Within this "intermezzo" I play the valet and in this version, a mobster. Here's my entrance as "Thumbs":

Afterwards, bass Steve Morscheck snapped this pic of my alterego...
You can read Dr. Dick's view of the evening here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

From Rehearsal

Friday was spent at Elizabethtown College's Leffler Performance Center. I was rehearsing for Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona - I'm Vespone, the "mute" servant.
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

My operatic life

Well, my "mute operatic life" would be more accurate, although my stage directions and "lines" are many in the second intermezzo. (I'm having fun with this gangster aspect! mumble mumble)
Join me at Gretna Music tomorrow night in Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. It's gonna be fun.

Read about it here and here. The original posting about my role was here.

[pictured is Karin the pianist from last night's rehearsal]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Five Things about Joshua Bell

I heard the phenomenal violinist Joshua Bell on tour last night in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center.
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

Exploring creativity

Be sure to check out my online interview with Kathan Brown - she's an artist who has worked with others in creating art.
Find it on the Composing Thoughts blog here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Take a moment

and become a member of WITF, and send some roses to the one you love.

Join now!

Catching up with...

...some photos I've been meaning to share...
I was in Philadelphia just briefly the weekend the Royals were in town as well, and spied the train (not while they were on it.)
I also grabbed a shot looking south on 2nd street in Harrisburg one chilly night last week.
BTW, the doors at the Hotel Pennsylvania are old school and a bit odd.
I was next to room 666, which at points had loud latin speaking folks in it - luckily not loud enough to hamper crashing at 2am!
[all photos by John Clare]

Monday, February 05, 2007

Five Things about James Primrosch

I was able to hear the 50th Birthday celebration recital at University of Pennsylvania Sunday afternoon at Rose Recital Hall for composer James Primrosch. I met Jim last month when John Harbison was visiting.
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

Seen under Philly

While taking the subway, an ad with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra was across the platform - I love it!

Five Things About the New York Philharmonic

Saturday evening I caught another of my subscription concerts with the New York Philharmonic, with guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
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.

Friday, February 02, 2007


So it's been another busy week around ClassicallyHip. On Monday I talked with a rising young trumpeter, Alison Balsom - you can hear our interview on the WITF New Release Blog.

On Tuesday I met and interviewed composer Jeremy Gill, who will have a new work premiered by the Parker String Quartet for Market Square Concerts' 25th Anniversary and will be on Composing Thoughts.

Wednesday I was in State College, hearing new music...Saturday I'll be in NYC for the new concerto by Esa Pekka Salonen and Sunday finds me at U Penn for James Primrosch's 50th Birthday concert with the Prism Quartet and Lucy Shelton.

More soon!