Recently, I traveled on a 14-hour long-haul flight from MEL to LAX. As a result, I was able to watch numerous films to help pass the time–if you are curious, the grand total that I watched during the 14-hour flight was seven. One of them, curiously, was Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, the 1954 re-imagining of [...]
Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about Gershwin’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, mostly due to the fact that we are talking about it in one of my classes. I’ve found this work to be fascinating from several perspectives, particularly in Gershwin’s incredible fluency between different musical styles. His ability to move seamlessly from one idiom to the next is unmatched and makes him stand out from many of his contemporaries who sought to integrate new sounds in their music but were ultimately unsuccessful.
This post addresses a topic that I’ve hoped to write about for a while: resources for listening to classical music online. I’m planning to stick to resources that are free (no iTunes) and accessible to anyone (no Naxos/Classical Music Library) as well as not potentially infringing on copyright (YouTube). For this post, I will discuss three of my favorites and welcome you to submit others. I’d like to investigate other possibilities for listening online, so please feel free to comment and leave more suggestions.
Due to the fact that recently I have spent a considerable amount of time driving, I decided that there could be no better opportunity to revisit the Ring Cycle.
This week, a close friend of mine emailed me in a panic: she is getting married in two weeks and needed some suggestions for repertoire that could be played during the ceremony. She has hired a solo cellist and so I thought of the Bach Suites, which are not only enjoyable to the ears, but can be lengthened or shortened as required by omitting/taking repeats — necessary for any good wedding piece. She wanted to hear examples and I created a list for her on YouTube, where there are numerous performances by Mstislav Rostropovich of the Suites. There are worse ways of spending an evening and I wound up listening to many of the available clips even after sending her my suggestions.
Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing the Hagen Quartet play at the Konzerthaus (I am in Vienna and will be here for the next 2.5 months, so I am certainly looking forward to a lot of concerts!). This ensemble is one of the premier string quartets in the world and as usual they did not disappoint — except for the fact that they did not play an encore! The program was Beethoven op. 18/4, Bartók’s String Quartet no. 1, and Brahms’s op. 111 Quintet, also featuring Antoine Tamestit as the second viola. Needless to say, the performance was virtually flawless and highly appreciated by the crowd.
Kent Nagano and Guy Lafleur For those of you who think that classical music is dead, or that classical music cannot appeal to a mass audience, or even that the funding of classical music organizations is doomed to be perennially on the brink, you clearly did not attend the Montreal Symphony‘s presentation at the Bell [...]
As a genre, opera is not a high earner. Indeed, the amount of money that must be invested to produce one is staggering: the costs are high and possibility for success unpredictable. Thus the question of programming has been a primary concern since the start of public opera. What will audiences want to hear? How can balance be achieved between the composition and its execution? Which works will keep the reliable patrons coming and draw in new audience members to the performance?
The University of South Florida’s School of Music is in the midst of the fourth annual Robert Helps International Composition Competition and Festival. Each year, this event pays homage to Robert Helps (1928-2001), composer/pianist, who was a faculty member at USF and one of the key promoters of new music during the second half of the twentieth century. His music is best described as belonging to New Romanticism and he had a particular fondness for piano pieces. Each year there is a $10 000 prize awarded to the most promising composition by a young composer, as well as a performance of the winning work (this year’s winner was Lyudmila German, whose Piano Sonata No. 1 we heard played excellently by USF faculty member Svetozar Ivanov as the second half of tonight’s program).
Today I attended the Metropolitan Opera broadcast at my local movie theater in a performance of Puccini’s La Rondine (like La Traviata, only minus the tuberculosis and judgmental father). I cannot thank the Met enough for getting these performances out to a wide audience because for many of us here in the US, it is virtually impossible to see good opera live.
As I’m sure many of you know already, each year the Vienna Philharmonic presents a concert from the Musikverein showcasing primarily the music of Johann Strauss Jr. This tradition started in 1939, just after the Anschluss which made Austria a province of Germany — as you can probably imagine, there is a whole story to this, and I will elaborate on it further at another time and in another format. Since the 1950s, the concert has been broadcast around the world. There are several traditions associated with this event, including a minimum of two encores (Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube Waltz followed by Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March), and this year’s concert followed in the typical vein. Daniel Barenboim was the conductor.
This photo graced the cover of the July 20, 1942 issue of Time Magazine. The story discussed the upcoming radio broadcast by the NBC Orchestra of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony (‘Leningrad’), a piece that had been brought via 100 feet of microfilm from Kuibyshev to Teheran, then to Cairo, and finally to New York. Time considered this work to be the most highly anticipated American debut since the 1903 Manhatten premiere of Parsifal, a piece that was apparently so lofty as to be devoid of political ideology or national origins.
In 1962, Duke Ellington and arranger Billy Strayhorn collaborated to do a jazz version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The original version was for big band and features nine movements. The titles have been slightly modified — for instance, the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ becomes ‘Sugar Rum Cherry’ — but the melodies remain relatively easy to identify (even if, at times, Tchaikovsky’s melodies don’t readily swing).
It is a pleasure to be writing for Zeitschichten! Ironically, when I was asked to contribute by Matthias, I specifically said, ‘Sure, as long as I can write about something other than Stockhausen!’ Oh, the irony. One of the disadvantages of teaching music post-World War Two can be difficulties in bringing recordings to class. If [...]