By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Wednesday, May 29, marks the 100th anniversary of the premiere of “The Rite of Spring” by the 20th century master Igor Stravinsky (below at about the time of “The Rite.”).
You may remember that its sensational premiere in Paris in 1913, which also ushered in modern dance as well as modern music, was conducted by Pierre Monteux, caused a literal riot in the concert hall at the Theatre of the Champs Elysees. (Below are the dancers of the Ballets Russes who performed the original 1913 choreography by the famed Nijinsky and a video of the opening from the Joffrey Ballet‘s recreation of the original production.)
A century later, the ballet score remains a shockingly visceral, raw, convulsive and heart-pounding work that has lost none of its impact. It is, like late Beethoven string quartets — I believe it was Stravinsky himself who made the observation about Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge” – forever modern.
Miles Hoffman recently discussed “The Rite” on NPR within the very varied and very long career of Stravinsky, and how Stravinsky (below, in a photo by Richard Avedon) was musical chameleon who constantly pushed his art and evolved his sense of style in different directions.
Hoffman, himself a performing musician (a violist) and a fine writer, compared Stravinsky to Pablo Picasso for the range and diversity of his experimentation and the masterful results.
Certain, the range of Stravinsky (1882-1971) is worth considering even as record labels are issuing special centennial editions and performances of “The Rite of Spring.”
What, one wants to ask, about the neo-Classical Stravinsky? Or the 12-tone Stravinsky? The contrasting styles are all so central to understanding his career. (I love the earlier Stravinsky of “Rite” and “The Firebird” but I adore the Neo-Classical Stravinsky and admire the courage that it took for the ever-morphing composer to buck his modernist colleagues.)
And the often repeated comparison to Picasso is especially appropriate given that the two prolific and protean ever-changing artists knew each other and even had a bet on who would live the longest. (Picasso, who lived from 1881 to 1973, won the bet.)
Here is a link to the NPR piece, which features audio samples and which I highly recommend you listen to and not just read:
Here is a piece to another NPR piece, “A Cocktail Party Guide to Stravinsky,” complete with audio and video samples, from Tom Huizenga.
And here is a third NPR piece that features sound clips and the 48-year-old Leonard Bernstein (below) in an electrifying and thrilling performance of the difficult but thrilling score to “Le Sacre du Printemps” with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1966:
Finally, here is anther comprehensive NPR piece done by Tom Vitale that aired Saturday on Weekend Edition host Scott Simon:
Meanwhile here in a YouTube video is the part of “The Rite of Spring” that always seems my ears like the soundtrack to an Aztec heart sacrifice — well, it is about pagan Russia — with its incredible use of slashing strings, pounding percussion, spooky winds and brass, and propulsive off-beats.
What careful mastery, craft and precision went into something so physical, so visceral, so emotive! There is a lesson there for advocates of passionate art who mistake sincere confession for careful craft!
ALERT: In case you haven’t already heard the news, Middleton High School pianist Christopher Eom (below, on the far left) won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” part of the Bolz Young Artists Competition on Thursday night when he performed the first movement of Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Here is a link to the MSO website with other information, including biographies of all the four participants and when the live airing by Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television will be re-broadcast.
By Jacob Stockinger
On Friday afternoon, the Madison Symphony Orchestra announced its next season for 2013-14. As in the past five season, it is holding its subscription concerts to eight, with a ninth one-performance only special event added. Difficult economic times forced the MSO to reduce its season several years ago.
Tickets will also increase 5 percent, according to Executive Director Rick Mackie.
“We have held the line on no increase for many years,” Mackie told The Ear. “But costs are going up. We had to do something.”
2013-24 is a special season because it marks the 20th anniversary of the tenure of music director and conductor John DeMain, who came to Madison from the Houston Grand Opera, where he was the artistic director. DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad) also is the music director of the Madison Opera, which will soon announce its new season.
To mark the occasion, an MSO press release says, DeMain has put together a season designed to highlight the growth of the ensemble during his tenure, which will be showcased prominently in September by opening with an all-orchestral season premiere.
Regular MSO concerts take place in the Overture Center’s Overture Hall (below) on Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Throughout the season, DeMain has programmed works by composers integral to his relationship with the orchestra, including Copland, Beethoven, Gershwin, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff and Strauss.
A world-class roster of guest artists — their desire to return to Madison is more proof, says DeMain, of the high caliber of the MSO’s ensemble playing — has been invited to Madison for the season’s performances, including pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Augustin Hadelich, organist Nathan Laube, and Tony Award-winning singer Karen Ziemba.
New this season is a one-performance only presentation of Beyond the Score® in January, featuring Symphony No. 9 (“New World”) in a multimedia context that illuminates the stories behind the music.
The orchestra’s website has already been updated about the new season. Details about purchasing tickets and the concert season–including music previews and guest artist biographies–can be found on the MSO website at www.madisonsymphony.org.
The season begins on September 27, 28 and 29, 2013 with a program of orchestral favorites spotlighting the musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The American harmonies of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” open the concert, followed by Richard Wagner’s majestic and moving Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde.” Rimsky-Korsakov’s epic “Scheherazade” concludes this program of touchstone works that demonstrate the full expressive range of orchestral music and highlight MSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below).
On October 18, 19 and 20, 2013 French pianist Philippe Bianconi (below, in a photo by Bernard Martinez) returns to the MSO for a performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Of the piece, Bianconi says, “What I really love is that it’s like playing in a symphony. Being immersed in the orchestral texture is always an exhilarating experience.” Two 20th century works round out the program: Benjamin Britten’s “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell” (better known as The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra), recently featured prominently in Wes Anderson’s Academy Award-nominated film “Moonrise Kingdom,” and Debussy’s “La Mer,” a musical seascape sure to transport audiences.
The program for November 15, 16, and 17, 2013 features violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) – one of The Ear’s favorite young fiddlers — in Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole.” Hailed as “one of the most distinctive violinists of his generation” by The New York Times, Hadelich describes the Lalo as “emotional and hot-blooded” and is excited to help listeners “rediscover what a great piece it is” as he makes his second appearance with the orchestra. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Too Hot Toccata” opens the program and the lush Romanticism of Rachmaninoff is on full display in his Symphony No. 2.
Conductor DeMain and the orchestra don their Santa hats for the 20th anniversary of A Madison Symphony Christmas (below top, in a photo by Greg Anderson) on December 6, 7, and 8, 2013. A beloved Madison tradition, this concert brings together the Madison Symphony Chorus, Madison Youth Choirs and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir with outstanding guest vocalists. This season, soprano Melody Moore (below top) and bass Nathan Stark (below bottom, in a photo by Paul Sarouchman) take the stage to help mark Madison’s unofficial start of the holiday season.
January 26, 2014, brings a special, one performance-only concert entitled Beyond the Score®. The first half of this concert is a multi-media exploration of Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) by Antonin Dvorak (below), weaving together historical narrative with live actors, visual illustrations and musical examples played by the MSO, all exploring the life and times of the composer. The second half is a full performance of the work. Beyond the Score® is designed not only for classical music aficionados, but also for newcomers looking to delve deeper into the world of classical music. Developed by and licensed from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Beyond the Score® has been celebrated by orchestras and critics around the country, with the Chicago Tribune raving, “Seldom has enlightenment proved so entertaining.”
On February 14, 15, and 16, 2014 the young Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth (below, in a photo by Colin Bell of EMI Classics) makes her MSO debut in performances of two contrasting concertos: Hadyn’s Concerto for Trumpet, and Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. The concertos are framed by three orchestral gems: Sibelius’ symphonic poem “Finlandia,” the “Doctor Atomic” Symphony from John Adams’ new American opera of the same name, and Strauss’ Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier,” which DeMain, known as an opera conductor, says is his favorite opera.
Beethoven is at the heart of the orchestral experience and no anniversary celebration would be complete without his music. Concerts on March 7, 8, and 9, 2014, offer an ALL-BEETHOVEN program and features one of the world’s great pianists, Yefim Bronfman (below, in a photo by Odad Antman), in not one, but two concertos by Beethoven: his rarely played Piano Concerto No. 2 (actually composed before the first) and Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”). The Beethoven bonanza continues throughout the program, with the orchestra performing his Symphony No. 1 and Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus” — from the great composer’s only ballet!
April 4, 5, and 6, 2014 brings together six guest artists for spectacular performances of Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante” and Mozart’s Requiem led by acclaimed guest conductor Julian Wachner, praised as a “major talent” by The Boston Globe. Organist Nathan Laube (below top) is featured in the Jongen, a grand, dramatic concerto heard previously in Madison at the dedication of the Overture Concert Organ. UW-Madison trained soprano Emily Birsan (below bottom), mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, tenor Wesley Rogers, and bass Liam Moran join the Madison Symphony Chorus for Mozart’s Requiem, his final composition and one of his most compelling to this day. Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 1 opens the program.
Concluding the season on May 2, 3, and 4, 2014, is a concert event close to Maestro DeMain’s heart: “The Gershwin Legacy.” George Gershwin left an indelible imprint on American music, says DeMain who is known for his award-winning performances and Grammy-winning recording of “Porgy and Bess.” This grand finale brings together soprano Emily Birsan, and Broadway stars Karen Ziemba (below top) and Ron Raines (below bottom). The program features works by Gershwin, including the fascinating “I Got Rhythm Variations,” which will be played by 2012 Bolz Young Artist Competition winner, local pianist Garrick Olsen (below middle, in a photo by Chris Paskas), along with the “Catfish Row Suite” from “Porgy and Bess.” Then Leonard Bernstein steps up with the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” and music by Kurt Weill, Marc Blitzstein and Stephen Sondheim — all also influenced by Gershwin — round out the season finale. It is a fitting closer since DeMain worked closely with Bernstein.
As for tickets:
As mentioned above, there is a 5 percent ticket increase.
The MSO is also continuing its popular new subscriber discount of 50% off single ticket prices for subscriptions of six, seven and eight concerts. New subscriber packages start at just $56 for five concerts, including a 40% discount off single ticket prices. There is no deadline for new subscriptions; however, patrons are encouraged to order early for the best available seats.
Renewing subscribers save up to 25% off the price of single tickets. The renewal deadline in May 6.
In addition to subscriber discounts, unlimited ticket exchange and optional reserved subscriber parking in the Dane County Ramp, the MSO also offers an exclusive 10% discount on single tickets during Subscriber Courtesy Days, August 10-12, 2013.
Subscribers can contact the MSO by calling (608) 257-3734 with questions or to be added to the mailing list.
ALERT: On Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen,” which airs live statewide tomorrow, on Sunday, March 10, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Lawrence Chamber Players (below) from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, will perform. The faculty string ensemble will consist of violins, viola, cello, bass, piano and classical guitar. The Lawrence Chamber Players will perform music by Miroslav Tadic and Astor Piazzolla as well as the famed Brahms Piano Quintet.
By Jacob Stockinger
Last week, in a popular posting, The Ear offered obituaries for the American superstar classical pianist Van Cliburn, who died of bone cancer at 78.
Here is a link to that initial post:
Since then many more obituaries, features and analyses have appeared.
NPR asked pianists who have won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition -– where several months ago Cliburn (below, performing in 1993) made his last public appearance — to remember the namesake, who emerges once again as a modest, gracious and warm personality as well as world-class pianist.
The medalists such as Olga Kern (below top), Jon Nakamatsu (below middle), Andre–Michel Schub and Joyce Yang (below bottom) have their own big names and reputations now, and they mention specific performances and specific piano pieces, some of the memories and accounts are quite moving and emotionally stirring.
The blog posting also feature some of Cliburn’s best recordings as well as one of the medalists’ own playing:
See for yourself and maybe leave a memory of your own here or on the NPR blog or, thanks to copying and pasting on both:
And here are more obituaries and commentaries:
From the blog “Music Beat” at The Voice of America:
From the Dallas-Morning news with information about where to send memorial gifts and donations:
From the New York Times, that places Cliburn within his outstanding generation of American contemporaries, sort of the Leonard Bernstein of the Piano in terms of changing the debate from Europe and Russia to America:
For a view from abroad, here is the obit from The Guardian in Great Britain:
An analysis about how Cliburn’s live-in friend was treated and how the issue of Cliburn’s being gay and the subject of a palimony suit was ignored or finessed:
How the LGTB magazine The Advocate treated The Gay Van Cliburn:
How the LGBT Washington Blade reported on the gay side of Van Cliburn:
There are many more. Just go to Google and plus in Van Cliburn obituaries or “Van Cliburn and homosexuality.”
And here is a wonderful video and audio remembrance put together by PBS’ The Newshour and arts reporter Jeffrey Brown:
ALERT: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will play music by Mozart and Brahms in a FREE concert tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Skaalen Retirement Community Chapel , at 400 North Morris Street, in Stoughton. Free-will donations will be welcome at the door. The quartet brings together some of the brightest stars of the MSO: Co-concertmaster Suzanne Beia, Principal Cellist Karl Lavine, Principal Violist Christopher Dozoryst and violinist Laura Burns. The concert will include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421, and Johannes Brahms‘ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 155, featuring MSO clarinetist Nancy Mackenzie. The Rhapsodie String Quartet is the resident quartet of the MSO’s HeartStrings Community Engagement Program which reaches beyond traditional learning environments to bring live, interactive performances by some of the MSO’s best players into healthcare and residential facilities.
By Jacob Stockinger
February is Black History Month.
That makes it a great time to once again ask a question that I posted last month on Martin Luther King Day: Where are African-American classical musicians, and why don’t we see and hear more of them?
Apparently, I’m not the only person with that question on my mind. In fact, if you follow this link back to that posting, you can read reader Comments and see some very fine suggestions for more names of black composers and performers.
Here is a link:
But there is more.
National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” with Scott Simon also featured a terrific story about Marin Alsop (below), the conductor and music director of the Baltimore Symphony and the Sao Paul Symphony in Brazil.
It turns out that Alsop uncovered long-lost manuscripts of serious music by the forgotten James P. Johnson (below, in a photo by William Gottlieb), best known as an outstanding jazz stride pianist who also taught Fats Waller.
And as a jazz composer, he wrote THE piece that embodied an entire age: “The Charleston.”
But it runs our that there was a classical side to Johnson too. He wrote “Harlem” Symphony (an excerpt in a YouTube video is at the bottom) and several other works that were actually performed in Carnegie Hall during the 1940s.
Moreover, Alsop – a Leonard Bernstein student in spirit as well as name — is trying to bring Johnson back into the mainstream.
Alsop is attempting to restore the lost manuscripts that languished in an attic for decades. And she intends to give performances of the music that will become, one suspects, recordings. The story even includes some excerpts, so stream it and listen to it, don’t just read it.
And more live performances and recordings of a black composer just might also lead to more black students and black audiences.
At least one can hope so.
Here is a link to the story:
By Jacob Stockinger
We all remember the superstar conductors, conductors like Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. Even the popular media recognize them as celebrities. More recently, one could conceivably put Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Valery Gergiev in the same category.
The most recent one to capture and hold the public’s imagination in such a charismatic way was Gustavo Dudamel (below), the passionate and almost hyperactive young man who emerged from poverty in Venezuela through the “El sistema” that offered free classical music education. He now is music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Probably the latest candidate for that elite club is Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below, in a photo by Torsten Kjelstrand/NPR with the Philadelphia Orchestra in a Carnegie Hall concert of Shostakovich, Ravel and Szymanowski that was webcast last night by NPR.) And I can think of no better introduction to him than a long profile by The New York Times critic and writer Daniel J. Wakin that appeared last weekend.
Where do you start to convey his personality? The fact that the 35-year-old French-Canadian native of Montreal is openly gay? The Tahitian Turtle Tattoo? The great reviews? The pumped-up chest that earned the short 5-5 conductor the nickname of Mighty Mouse from renowned soprano Joyce DiDonato? His quick rise to the podium of the Philadelphia Orchestra and to the ranks of top, world-class orchestra conductors?
I doubt he will be known as Yanni, since Yanni is already reserved for the New Age composer, who also is often dubbed “Yawni.”
But the boyish conductor just might become a one-name celebrity – something like “Yannick” in the way that Bernstein was “Lenny.” He certainly projects that kind of intensity and he sure gets results.
You can make up your own mind about the man who hopes to rebuild the special “Philadelphia Sound” of Eugene Ormandy that relied on strings the way the Chicago Symphony Sound relied on brass.
Here is a link to the profile:
And here is a link to the archived webcast of last night’s concert in Carnegie Hall. Be sure to read the “Read More” button:
If you heard him, what did you think?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Not being a close follower of choral music, I do not know a lot of choruses or choirs around the nation or world by name.
And like most Madisonians, I know the name of the Festival Choir, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Choral Union, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, the Madison Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Madison Opera Chorus, among other local groups.
But the nationally known choir that I remember mostly fondly is the same one I heard decades ago with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Leonard Bernstein and with pianist Rudolf Serkin in Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 9 “Choral” and his “Choral Fantasy,” which is a preliminary sketch-like work for the Ninth Symphony with a piano part thrown in.
The name of that first-rate choir is The Westminster Choir (below).
And it is REALLY good, as I was reminded again recently when I listened to their CD of holiday music.
No surprise, I suppose. After all, it is composed of specialists: of student from Westminster choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Every summer it is in residence at the internationally renowned Spoleto Festival in South Carolina.
Its 40 members form the core of the 175-voice Westminster Symphonic Chorus that still performs regularly with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and other major European orchestras.
In any case, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Westminster Choir is coming to town and will perform this Saturday night in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.50. For tickets, call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. For more information about the performers and a complete program, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/westminster.
The concert’s generous program includes vocal music from the 15th through the 21st centuries, including works by J.S. Bach, Debussy, Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten and Morten Lauridsen among others, and will also feature several works for solo organ, some quite virtuosic, played on the impressive custom-built Klais concert organ (below) in Overture Hall.
Decide for yourself. Here is a sample, the most visited one on YouTube, with such lovely quality singing, of the Westminster Choir:
By Jacob Stockinger
One of the most interesting stories I heard about classical music in 2012 points yet again to a curious paradox.
Even while many First World audiences, as well as school programs, in Western Europe and North America seem to be turning their backs on classical music, that same classical music is thriving and blossoming in South America and Asia, and even in Africa (below is a double bass player in the Kinshasa Symphony).
Curiously, the greatest success often seems to come from the most unlikely source: The poor and undereducated young people and students, plus their families and friends, for whom the music takes on even more personal and cultural or social meaning.
One example is Gustavo Dudamel (below), the fiery and charismatic superstar conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel and “el sistema” in Venezuela, which trained him and gets countless young people into making classical music.
You may remember that on Christmas Day I touched on this same theme with a very moving video of poor young in Paraguay who are featured in the upcoming documentary “Landfill Harmonic” about poor students who recycle trash into instruments of musical beauty.
Here is a link to that posting:
And here is a link to the story, which aired on NPR in which Leonard Bernstein protégée and conductor Marin Alsop, who leads both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Sao Paulo Orchestra in Brazil, discusses her exhilarating experience south of the border.
Those experiences include an outdoors concert for 20,000 (below) and taking the first South American orchestra ever invited to the famed British Proms concerts, where the crowds went wild. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Alsop and the Sao Paulo Orchestra playing encores at the 2012 Proms in Britain.)
Such beauty, meaning and enthusiasm are indeed contagious. Let us hope 2013 brings more of that same energy and devotion to beautiful music and a lifelong appreciation of it right here!
I found the story hopeful and inspiring, and I hope you do too:
ALERT: Just a reminder that this Saturday will see the “Met Live in HD” production of Verdi‘s “Aida.” It features Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska (below). Performances are at 11:55 a.m. at Point and Eastgate cinemas in Madison. The opera lasts 4 hours and will feature English supertitles. For information, a cast listing and program notes including a libretto summary, visit: http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Youth Choirs (below) will perform their 10th anniversary Winter Concert series on this coming Sunday, Dec. 16, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 1609 University Avenue, in Madison.
Concerts are at 1:30 p.m, 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.
Tickets are $9 plus a processing fee in advance or $12 at the door. Children 7 and under are free.
Selections from the programs among the three concerts include:
Three pieces by Roger Bourland with text by Francisco Alarcón.
Several songs from the shape-note tradition including an arrangement of “Idumea” by Rick Bjella;
“Cuncti Simus” from the red book of Monserrat;
And “Gloria Tibi” from Leonard Bernstein‘s “Mass.”
Tickets and more information are available at www.madisonyouthchoirs.org
Special guests include musicians from the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO), Madison harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson, below), cellist Eric Miller, violinists Amber Dolphin and Carol Carlson, and local bluegrass band Off the Porch.
Here is a schedule:
At 1:30 p.m. the high school ensembles Cantilena, Cantabile, and Ragazzi; at 4 p.m., the boychoirs Purcell, Britten, Holst, and Ragazzi; and at 7 p.m. the girlchoirs Choraliers, Con Gioia, Capriccio. (Below is a photo by Harriet Chen.)
Here is a statement about the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) from artistic director Michael Ross:
Madison Youth Choirs strives to create a community of young musicians dedicated to musical excellence through which we inspire enjoyment, enhance education, and nurture personal, musical, and social development, by the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. To this end, we focus on the process and provide singers a rich rehearsal experience where thoughtful discussion and activities lead to larger connections and a music education that becomes a springboard for understanding the world.
ALERT: Next Saturday night, Dec. 8 — NOT Sunday, Dec. 9. as originally and mistakenly posted –, at 7 p.m. in Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, Candid Concert Opera (below) will perform a concert version (edited and without costumes or sets) of Mozart’s opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio.” The concert is FREE, although a donation of $12 is suggested. Codrut Birsan will conduct and English supertitles will be used. For more information and reviews, visit www.candidconcert.org.
Sure, you sometimes see and hear successful performances by chamber orchestras without a conductor, though it often seems they have a principal violinist or someone else who gives cues and maintains control or balance.
But the question remains: Do symphony orchestras really need conductors to perform at their best?
And if they do, what kind of conductor do they need most? A more authoritarian one? Or a more laid-back and collaborative one? (Below is a photo by James Garrett of The New York Daily News and Getty Images of Leonard Bernstein conducting a rehearsal of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1977 in Carnegie Hall.)
Famed maestro Herbert von Karajan once said he only need to convey four words to conduct: faster, slower, louder, softer.
But music is complex and symphony orchestras are big organizations.
Here is the story – the unidentified music, by the way, comes from the first movement on YouTube of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (at bottom in a performance by famed perfectionist conductor George Szell) — and what the experimenters found:
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, it started with Gray Thursday and yesterday proceeded to Black Friday. Today is Small Business/Shop Local Saturday and then we move on to Cyber-Monday.
Yes, the holiday gift-giving season– and especially gift-BUYING season — is upon us. And how!!!
The Ear has long proposed combining a book, a CD and a ticket to a live performance.
And this year offers a perfect chance.
Take no doubt the most famous four notes –- made up of just two tones, a minor third – in all of classical music.
They are: DUH-DUH-DUH-DAHHHH.
Say it out loud and you will recognize at once the “fate knocking on the door” motif opening of the Symphony No. 5 in C Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a work of unparalleled forcefulness for its time – of any time really. It was the “Rite of Spring” of its day.
Half a century ago, Leonard Bernstein (below) discussed Beethoven’s Fifth in a wonderfully lucid talk. He particularly emphasized the inevitability of all the repetitions at the end. I can still see Lenny on TV standing on a floor that was covered with the score that he was discussing.
Well, lo these many years later come two other Great Explainers.
The first is Boston Globe writer and critic come Matthew Guerrieri (below top) in his book “The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination” (below bottom), which is available as both a regular book and an e-book/Kindle.
The second is the award-winning Sir John Eliot Gardiner (below), who conducts and records with the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, (the ORR, or Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra) and who gives his take on the opening of the famous symphony, which he has just released a new recording from live performances of the Fifth and the Seventh Symphonies at Carnegie Hall.
Gardiner and Guerrieri also talked to NPR host Robert Siegel on “All Things Considered” about how period-instrument playing has evolved from historical accuracy to more expressive and visceral playing and the role the Romanticism, the French Revolution and the role that the newly invented metronome played in helping Beethoven decide how fast the symphony should be played.
Here is a link. Take a listen and tell me it isn’t like hearing this iconic work with new ears – and makes you want to share the news and beauty by giving them as a gift.
Do you have a favorite recording of Beethoven’s Fifth that you recommend? (I personally like Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon).
Leave a COMMENT with your pick.
The Ear wants to hear.