Monday, August 21, 2017
In a supportive Facebook comment about my post lamenting the sanitising of social media, world music maven Joshua Cheek recommends "When in doubt, post cat videos. That's all that is expected of you." Joshua's comment is much more than an amusing throw away line. 'Cat video' can be used as a surrogate for any content that attracts an audience by slavishly respecting established comfort zones. And it not just social media that is stuffed full of cat video content: our concert halls are full of the music equivalent, as is the broadcast media. Everywhere the mantra has become, when in doubt, create cat video content, that's all that is expected of you. Classic FM is a perfect example of cat video content. A recent Classic FM press release spinning a "huge increase in under-35 listeners" has been used by those with a vested interest in defending the establishment's stranglehold on classical music to prove that the art form is in rude health. The RAJAR figures quoted by Classic FM and its boosters are undoubtedly accurate. But a quick scan of this Classic FM chart - which is a good measure of the station's playlists - for the week in which the news was announced, shows that the light at the end of the tunnel is no more than yet another dumbing down train coming the other way. Classic FM Chart: July 30th 2017 1 Dunkirk soundtrack Hans Zimmer 2 Islands - Essential Einaudu, Ludovico Einaudi 3 War for the Planet of the Apes soundtrack - Michael Giacchino 4 The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music, LPO/PARRY 5 Peaceful Piano, various artists 6 Believe, Jonathan Antoine 7 Singing My Dreams, Carly Paoli 8 Game of Thrones, Season 6 soundtrack - Ramin Djawadi 9 Gladiator soundtrack - Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard 10 Spider-Man, Homecoming soundtrack - Michael Giacchino 11 Elements - Ludovico Einaudi 12 Elgar/Dream of Gerontius - Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim 13 New Greatest Hits 1969-1999 - John Williams 14 Three Worlds - Music from Woolf Works - Max Richter 15 Wonder Woman - Rupert Gregson Williams 16 The Little Mermaid soundtrack - Alan Menken 17 40 Most Beautiful British Classics - Paillard/BBC SO 18 Summertime - Craig Ogden 19 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy soundtrack - Howard Shore 20 The Blue Notebooks - Max Richter Of course we need film sountracks in moderation, just as we need cat videos in moderation. But if you feed young children nothing other than baby food they don't develop teeth and as result become dependant on baby food. Similarly if you feed audiences - young or old - a diet of Hans Zimmer, Max Richer and Ludovico Einaudi they do not develop an appetite for anything more chewy. It is a common fallacy that Peaceful Piano by various artists is the first step towards appreciating Schoenberg. In fact the Peaceful Piano virus results in risk-averse audiences; as the empty seats at the recent Salonen Stravinsky/Ravel/John Adams BBC Prom and - even more surprisingly - at the Barenboim Birtwitle/Elgar Prom prove. Attracting a new audience by dumbing down does nothing more than encourage yet more dumbing down to retain that prized new audience. The result is lose, lose. As we see at the struggling BBC Radio 3, which is now too dumb for its once-loyal core audience but not dumb enough for the Classic FM market. One of the music establishment's social media mullahs gleefully re-tweeted Classic FM's news of young audience growth with the ironic comment "Death of classical music: latest". Yes, it is indeed true that classical music is not dead. But if the cure is Classic FM, we should be considering euthanasia. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
The Slovak composer Marian Varga, who made post-modern ‘interpretations’ of works by Haydn, Bartok and Stravinsky in Communist Czechoslovakia, has died at 70. In a pointed satire at phoney classical reverences, he named his 1969 art-rock band Collegium Musicum. The authorities forced him to disband it. Later on, he devised a kind of classi-rock.
Foreign or local, the menu of symphonic and chamber music has remained enticing in recenty weeks. Let´s start with symphonic. The fourth item of Nuova Harmonia´s season was originally announced as the visit of the Prague Philharmonia, but it was later changed and instead we had the debut of the Istanbul State Symphony, although keeping the programmed conductor (Milan Turkovic), violinist (Vadim Repin) and repertoire. We never had a Turkish orchestra before. This one has a long history: in 1827 the Ottoman Sultan Mahmut II invited Giuseppe Donizetti (brother of Gaetano) to found the Muzika-i-Humayun, Ottoman Imperial Orchestra. Much later, during WWI, the orchestra did a tour of such cities as Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Budapest and Sofia. By 1945, at the end of WW2, it was the Istanbul Municipal Symphony, and finally it got its current "name" in 1972. We are not familiar with the Turkish composers or interpreters. I couldn´t trace any recordings of the orchestra in my CD catalogue, so I had no clear expectations, for ethnic Turkish music has little to do with Occidental tradition (I have some folk songs and Janissary pieces) and I know no classical pieces of that origin. Curiously the conductor´s name seems Turkish but isn´t, his family is Austro-Croatian; he was for several decades one of the best bassoonists in the world (200 CDs with Harnoncourt´s Concentus Musicus!). During the last twenty years his career veered towards conducting; this was his BA debut. He started the concert with the very brief suite "Telli Turna" by Nevit Kodalli (1924-2009), of course a première. Graduated in 1947 at the Ankara Conservatory (founded in 1936 and the oldest in Turkey), he also studied in Paris with Honegger and Nadia Boulanger. Among his works, the opera "Van Gogh" and the oratorio "Atatürk". The title of the suite is that of the so-called damsel crane and it was written in 1967 for the Presidential Symphony. The music is folk-inspired, melodic and rhythmical. Then, the return of Vadim Repin, born in Siberia in 1971, an artist much appreciated here, playing in his 1733 "Rode" Stradivari the overplayed Bruch Violin Concerto Nº1. Which he did with admirable technique and much elegance, though a bit too contained for this fiercely Romantic music. The encore was pure virtuoso display: Paganini`s version of the Carnival of Venice. Finally, the wonderful Eighth Symphony by Dvorák, fully the equal of the famed Ninth, "From the New World". The orchestra isn´t big as it came, only 59-strong, but they seemed more because they played with dynamism and full-bodied sound. Its members are all Turkish, and most violinists are women. Turkovic may be a little stiff in his gestures but he is very musical and I listened with much pleasure, for the whole orchestra is of a good standard. Two encores: a clean Overture to Mozart´s "Le nozze di Figaro", and a funny Scherzo by Ferit Tüzün (première), Nº 3 of his "Esintiler" ("Inspirations"), played with plenty of spirit. In what had been a rather weak Nuova Harmonia season, this was the best so far. And now, a grade A surprise: the marvelous BA debut of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra under its venerable founder Benjamin Zander at the Blue Whale. They came in full force, 101 players between 12 and 21 years-old, and their playing was tremendously assured and beautiful throughout. A stirring Sibelius "Finlandia" was followed by his Violin Concerto, played with astounding precision by the 21-year-old Korean In Mo Yang, a major talent confirmed in his encore, a Paganini piece. But what capped my feeling of exhilaration was a fantastic performance of Prokofiev´s Fifth Symphony, a masterpiece; I have strong memories of high-caliber interpretations (Mitropoulos-New York Phil; Szell with the same orchestra; Ormandy-Philadelphia) and I have no doubt that this one belongs in such distinguished company. Discipline, capacity and hard work guided by the sure hand of a wise conductor. Zander communicated with the packed house with enthusiastic speeches showing his other side (he has often given lectures at Davos on leadership), a life committed to peace and artistic accomplishment. Three encores: a perfect "Stars and Stripes Forever" (Sousa), queen of marches; Piazzolla´s "Oblivion" with solo flute; and Elgar´s noble "Nimrod" from the "Enigma variations". Decades ago the Zagreb Soloists under Antonio Janigro were the great rivals of I Musici and both ensembles visited us often. Now we had the debut of the Zagreb Philharmonic conducted by Alexander Rudin (also debut) at the Usina del Arte, but in fact it was a chamber orchestra of only 32 players. In its full garb it has a long trajectory, for it was born in 1871 and has had guest conductors such as Stokowski, Stravinsky and Maazel. Rudin is Russian and has made recordings with Musica Viva of scores by Sviridov, Tcherepnin and C.Ph.E.Bach; he is also a cellist of prestige. The special interest was the possibility of hearing the premières of two Croatian composers: the agreeable and succinct Third Symphony by Luca Sorkocevic (1734-89) and the charming "Idyll" by Blagoje Bersa (1873-1934), reminiscent of Delius in its understated refinement. Beethoven´s Fourth Piano Concerto showed our Carmen Piazzini, distinguished artist of long German career as player and teacher, especially in Darmstadt, with unexpected technical hesitations blemishing the result, notwithstanding some passages expressed with real style. The Orchestra had played well under Rudin, but they demonstrated their true ability in the final marvelous score, Mozart´s Symphony Nº41, "Jupiter". The disastrous hand programme gave no information on Rudin or the Croatian composers and didn´t specify the movements, but of course music lovers have long incorporated Nº41 in their hearts and intellect. This was a very honest and well-rehearsed performance by responsible musicians, though a bit short on impulse. And now, some chamber music. Pride of place to a concert at the Usina´s chamber hall , part of the Boulez focus planned by the Colón´s CETC: lectures, dialogues and installations, plus three concerts. I caught the second one, in which a Boulez première, "Messagesquisse" ("Messagesketch") was sandwiched between two Schönberg scores. I have never heard in concert the latter´s Trio for strings, op.45, and may be it was a première. Mosco Carner defines this late work thus: it "was written in 1946 after an almost fatal illness. Anxiety, agony and existential sadness, prompted by the utter solitude of man in extremis, mingle with a retrospect into a happy past". He also mentions "extreme registers and dynamics" and "an exploitation of special effects". I found it both harsh and lyric, an uncompromising creation. Boulez can sound too cerebral, long and experimental, but his "Messagesquisse" was brief (9 minutes) and convincing in its combination of a cello soloist with six accompanying cellos in music that was vital and made the most of the mahogany textures. And of course Schönberg´s "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night"),written in 1899 before his atonal and twelve-tone phases, is a marvel of postromanticism with a strong expressionist touch; in fact, a rarity, a tone poem for string sextet. We were treated to admirable interpretations based on the Marmer Quartet (British, debut) with the addition of high-level foreign and local musicians, combining fine technique and savvy style. For Buenos Aires Herald
The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra seeks a skilled fundraiser who is passionate about music to lead its comprehensive development program. POSITION SUMMARY: The Director of Development works closely with the Maestro Benjamin Zander, the Managing Director, and Board to meet the development needs of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), whose annual operating budget is approximately $3 million. This full-time position works out of the BPO office and reports to the Managing Director. The Director of Development takes the lead on development initiatives, coordinating and collaborating with the Maestro, staff and Board to develop and strengthen the donor base for the organization. The ideal candidate for this position is someone with experience in major gifts, a passion for classical music, and a creative and flexible mindset, someone who enjoys enabling others to express their enthusiasm for the Boston Philharmonic by contributing financial resources. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are essential. ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION: Website: www.bostonphil.org The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, founded by the dynamic conductor Benjamin Zander in 1979, features 96 student, professional, and amateur musicians. One of Boston's premier orchestras, the BPO follows its vision of "passionate music making without boundaries," presenting top-notch performances in a manner that both music aficionados and the casual listener can enjoy. A hallmark of its presentations are innovative pre-concert talks with Maestro Zander. He has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk, leading audiences to describe the Boston Philharmonic as "passionate," "inspiring," "unique," and "un-stuffy." The BPO message rings loud and clear: music making is a privilege and a joy, and above all, a collaborative adventure. The season includes performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, and often Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. The Philharmonic performs with a wide range of soloists from highly gifted performers at the start of their international careers to world-famous artists and legendary masters. The Philharmonic has released five critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich and Ravel. Its commitment to reaching and educating a wide audience is maintained by its Music Without Boundaries program, which allows access to concerts for school groups and other community members who receive free tickets. To further accommodate new and uninitiated listeners, the BPO hosts a long-running weeknight Discovery Series, which incorporates Benjamin Zander’s lecture into the concert itself. In 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was formed under the auspices of the BPO. Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO embodies its motto, "Shaping Future Leaders Through Music," and its 120 members range in age from 12 to 21. BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Design and implement development activities in close collaboration with the Managing Director, Maestro, and Board, focusing especially on high-level donor cultivation and solicitation. Oversee the preparation and dissemination of individual solicitations and appeals in all their forms. Work closely with the Board's Development Committee to develop fundraising strategies, plans and specific initiatives for achieving and maximizing individual, corporate, and foundation donations. Coordinate with all Board members to leverage their business and social contacts to support fundraising initiatives. Proactively communicate with and support Maestro Zander to maximize the impact of his contacts. Follow up with connections he makes, cultivate local prospects, work with his Personal Assistant to capture information about prospective donors and other contacts. Create call lists and check in regularly to troubleshoot and follow through. Coordinate donor outreach, including inviting existing donors to concerts and events and cultivating relationships with stakeholders. Create organizational development calendar and timeline. Proactively communicate with staff, Board, and external vendors to ensure timely production and review of materials to meet deadlines. Serve as staff liaison with Board of Directors and Board of Overseers. Prepare reports and materials for board review. Attend meetings of the board, prepare board minutes, actively track board prospects and support board committees as needed. Work directly with Development and Gala committees. Serve as staff point-person for Annual Gala (working with external event planning company), Annual Meeting, pre- and post-concert donor receptions, cultivation events, board meetings, etc. Coordinate with external graphic design/marketing team to create and disseminate solicitation materials and collateral for fundraising events and activities. Prepare donor lists for concert programs. Manage the gift entry and acknowledgement process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency. Reconcile records with bookkeeping staff. Manage part-time grant writer to facilitate the corporate and foundation solicitation process. Attend and staff concerts and events. Other duties as assigned. QUALIFICATIONS, SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE: 5+ years’ experience in development at another non-profit (including major gifts experience) and college degree in related field or equivalent Excellent verbal and written communication skills Ability to manage multiple projects at once, and to respond thoughtfully and calmly to shifting priorities Passion for classical music highly desirable Proficiency in Microsoft Office suite and Google Docs preferred Experience managing data and generating reports using PatronManager or other patron databases highly desirable Experience with Basecamp, Mailchimp, or Hubspot a plus Respect for and ability to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information Availability to work frequent evenings and weekends EXCELLENT BENEFITS PACKAGE INCLUDES: Fully paid HMO medical, dental, and vision coverage 403(b) retirement plan with company match Four weeks’ paid vacation Short- and long-term disability coverage and life insurance APPLICATION PROCESS: Please send cover letter, resume, and salary requirements before August 25, 2017, to Charlie Owens, Executive Search Consultant, Resonate Search Group: email@example.com The BPO is committed to nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in employment.
Opera: America’s War Without End Anthony Haden Guest calls “The Plain of Jars” — a chamber opera by Keith Patchel about America’s secret war in Laos — “the lineal descendant of Stravinsky’s ‘Nightingale’ and Alban Berg’s ‘Lulu’ and ‘Wozzeck.'” Click ... read more AJBlog: Straight|Up Published 2017-07-21 From Montreal to Massachusetts Compagnie Marie Chouinard performs at Jacob’s Pillow, July 19 through 23 Marie Chouinard’s 24 Preludes by Chopin (an earlier cast). Photo: Marie Chouinard The immaculately groomed women in the above photograph don’t look much like ... read more AJBlog: Dancebeat Published 2017-07-22 From Dreams to Reality Did you ever dream of being in a certain profession when you were little? Of traveling to a distant land, or gaining the skills of heroes who you admired? Kia Moore dreamed of wowing ... read more AJBlog: Field Notes Published 2017-07-22 The Mess We’re In: Politics, Economy and Journalism OVER the last few weeks, I’ve been asked on several occasions if I can explain what the hell happened to this country. (I’ve been in London and Ireland for some of that time.) The ... read more AJBlog: CultureCrash Published 2017-07-21 What a Swell Party. Wonder Why we Were There? Penelope leaving the party What a swell party it was, to be sure. Our taxi driver asked the armed policeman whether he could drive through the front gate of Buckingham Palace? He was told no, ... read more AJBlog: Plain English Published 2017-07-21 “Public Trust” Bust: Berkshire Museum to Jettison 40 Works (including 2 artist-donated Rockwells) Why should it matter if the Berkshires lose two major paintings by Norman Rockwell, when there are already so many in the vicinity ? That mindless mindset seems to be driving the deplorable decision by the ... read more AJBlog: CultureGrrl Published 2017-07-21
Igor Stravinsky (17 June 1882 - 6 April 1971) was a Russian-born, naturalized French, later naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential composers of 20th century music. He was a quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1934 and a naturalized US citizen in 1945. In addition to the recognition he received for his compositions, he also achieved fame as a pianist and a conductor, often at the premieres of his works. Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The Rite, whose premiere provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure, and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of musical design. In the 1950s he adopted serial procedures, using the new techniques over his last twenty years. Stravinsky's compositions of this period share traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form, of instrumentation, and of utterance.
Great composers of classical music