The Well-Tempered Ear

Alec Baldwin makes a great pitchman for classical music, symphony orchestra

January 5, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

I’ll confess it: I love Alec Baldwin. I’m a Alec Baldwin fan. You might even call me an Alec Baldwin addict.

I loved him on “Saturday Night Live,” I loved him in “The Hunt for Red October.”  I loved his appearances on “30 Rock” and his interview on “60 Minutes.”  And just last week I loved him in the romantic comedy “It’s Complicated,”  which is not a great movie but generates great laughs from terrific performances by Meryl Streep and Baldwin, who both play so well off each other.

Here’s a link to the 51-year-old actor’s official web site:

http://www.alecbaldwin.com/

And here is a link (with links of its own) to the announcement of Baldwin’s new ties to the New York Philharmonic:

http://nyphil.org/about/bio_baldwin.cfm

So, am I pleased Baldwin is the new public face — and radio voice in weekly broadcasts — of the New York Philharmonic?

You bet.

Perhaps you saw Alec Baldwin’s TV debut as the host of “Live From Lincoln Center” on New Year’s Eve when the New York Philharmonic played Gershwin and Copland under its new music director and conductor Alan Gilbert and with baritone Thomas Hampson.

Baldwin did a fine job, and The New York Times did a great set-up introductory profile about how seriously Baldwin (performing in Avery Fisher Hall, below, in a photo by Chris Lee) takes classical music.

Here’s a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/arts/music/13baldwin.html?_r=2

I especially loved the way Baldwin sends up and spoofs his own glamorous celebrity and macho, sex-pot image, now that he has pudged out and has higher aspirations than conquering Hollywood. He’s a bad boy — especially with his own image, and that takes guts and a gift.

But that is also why his talent for being a great host does not surprise me.

Classical musicians usually take themselves so-o-o-o seriously. So it is good to have Baldwin to leaven the experience, to get the longhairs to lighten up. I loved his tongue-in-cheek banter with Thomas Hampson. And I expect Baldwin will only get better with experience.

But all the basics are there.

It doesn’t surprise me that Baldwin loves classical music. He has a consummate sense of timing, and he shows great nuances and subtlety in the way he delivers lines and uses his facial expressions. He listens to others — and is there a bigger musical gift?

Baldwin seems a very smart and savvy actor who is also very grounded in his sense of himself and his appreciation of what is entertainment versus what is art. (Marlon Brando also had that. Some reporter once asked him how it felt to make great art, referring to “The Godfather.” Brando replied something like “I don’t make great art, I make movies. Mozart made great art. Listen to his chamber music.”)

Here’s a link to his enjoyable interview with Morley Safer on CBS’ “60 Minutes”:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/08/60minutes/main4079846.shtml

The New York Phil is lucky to snag Baldwin. He’s a hot property right now, a celebrity who will co-host the Oscars.

He’s wry and witty, sharp and friendly. He comes right across and jumps right off the screen, whether little or big. He helps makes classical music fun as well as deep.

Of course I would like to know more about Baldwin. What are his favorite classical pieces? Favorite performers? Favorite composers? Favorite instruments or genres? Does he play an instrument?

But I suspect all will be revealed in time. Maybe he will even write a classical music blog or column. I’d certainly read it.

In the meanwhile, I say Bravo to Baldwin and to the New York Philharmonic.

Local groups should follow the example and find high-profile local entertainers who will add some new life and zest to classical music. Lord know, it could use it.

But this much is certain: Between Gustavo Dudamel in Los Angeles, Alan Gilbert in New York and Alec Baldwin on the TV pitching for classical music, 2010 is already shaping up to be a great year, maybe even a pivotal year and turning point, for the future of classical music.

What do you think of Alec Baldwin as a host and pitchman for classical music?

The Ear wants to hear.

Especially from Alec Baldwin.


Posted in Classical music

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