November 4, 2013: Stream
here:Tony Arnone playing Bach live at
November 4, 2013: The Golden Age of Bach Playing, Post
amazon review of the Dunedin Consort's new recording of Bach's
September 29, 2013 - This Is the Golden Age of Bach
Playing: Post 1.
My Wagner- and Verdi-loving
friends tell me that performance of both has gone downhill
since midcentury, and who am I to disagree? But for the
composer I love the most, Bach, my opinion is that the golden
age is right now, 2013. I revere Casals, Landowska, Adolph
Busch, Edwin Fischer, Leonhardt, Jochum, and the 1955
Gould Goldbergs; I realize that at the time several
seemed the last word in authenticity; I realize that concept
of "progress" may be out of place in musical performance; and
yes, I understand Taruskin's argument about modern tastes. And
yet. Today's performers have way more knowledge, of the kind
useful to performers, about Bach, than older ones did, and
they have had time - decades in many cases - to digest it,
incorporate it, and transform it into something organic that
is part of them. They are playing this music better than it's
ever been done on record to my ears. I'll be giving some
examples over the coming weeks.
explanation: what do I mean by "knowledge useful to
performers?" OK: knowledge of: 1) the music Bach knew and
referred to - a lot of which is now not only widely
available in print but also on CD and even on youtube.
Example: Prelude 24 of Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier
clearly refers to Corelli's Trio Sonatas, and we have numerous
fine recordings of them - and knowing them can surely help
performers avoid utter misreadings; OR, Flute Sonata BWV 1035
clearly quotes a Couperin theme, which we now probably know,
Etc. 2) Knowledge of Baroque genres and "topics" - e.g., how
actually to dance each of the dance types Bach's music so
often refers to, which helps you play it with a better sense
of how it goes; 3) knowledge of Bach's musical
"grammar," for example, the way he would relate dissonance and
consonance to strong beats and weak beats, or (thanks to
Laurence Dreyfus) what he meant by "invention" - a big help in
understanding just how to deal with things like bar lines in a
natural way, not overdone a la Harnoncourt or underdone as in
so many earlier players; Above all, much more experience among
players of thoroughbass and how core it is to Bach; 4) a more
mature state of musicological study of Baroque performance
practice. For example, the simplistic idea of musical rhetoric
that Arnold Schering proposed is central to how Harnoncourt
conceived of Bach; John Butt and Joshua Rikin have shown it to
be nonsense and replaced it with something much subtler. For
another example, Butt's book on articulation marks in the
primary sources is a huge advance on previous work, and you
can hear the benefits in his own recordings (compare the
opening of the St. Matthew in his recording to Harnoncourt's).
For another, much more clarity of questions of ornamentation,
and for that matter the difference between layers of
decoration and idea in Bach's music; 5) And yes, widespread
experience with period instruments. When Andras Schiff plays
the piano or Viktoria Mullova plays the violin they know how
it goes on period instruments. It's all added up.]
April 20, 2012 -
The Bassists did WHAT? Loving the Twitter feed
- a day-by-day posting of the diary entries of the London
Symphony Orchestra's timpanist, Charles Turner, written during
their US tour of 1912 - the first US tour ever undertaken by a
European orchestra. Gareth Davies of today's LSO is
posting them 100 year to the day after they were written. It
interests me partly because I'm fascinated by the US in 1912,
an extraordinary year in our history, but also because the
diary gives a musician's-eye-view of the
legendary maestro Artur Nikisch. I especially
love the part where they get to the state I live in, Iowa - they did two gigs in
Des Moines, playing in the Coliseum. Turner writes, "It is
like a barn. Can’t play half loud enough" (today, by the way,
Des Moines has a beautiful Civic Center with excellent
acoustics). Right now (so to speak) they are in Milwaukee,
where my dad was to be born six years later.
BUT HERE'S A
QUESTION: Turner writes,
"More trouble with Nick[isch]. He gets on the Basses and gets
the bird back." What did "give the bird" and
"get the bird" mean to an English musician in 1912?
Today it would mean the basses made an obscene gesture, of
course, and although the LSO was a self-governing organization
from Day One in 1904, I find THAT hard to imagine.
APRIL 21: I asked the LSO, and
LSO Administrator Jo Johnson answered brilliantly -
"It seems that the etymology of the phrase 'giving the
bird' is booing and hissing, like a goose, as opposed to the
more obscene gesture we know these days. It was apparently in
use in the music hall/vaudeville era - 1920s - to get someone
unpopular off the stage. We can probably assume that giving
the bird to the Maestro was more like tutting or grumbling
loudly enough to be heard! "
here's a page with the LSO tour itinerary (it ended April 28)
and the programs.
April 19, 2012 -
While prepping for interview of
Marlboro, I read Alex Ross's superb
"The Music Mountain" in
to This. Vivid portrayal of the life force that is Mitsuko Uchida, one of my favorite great pianists,
quoting the Mitsuko-isms that emerge from her brain
to the world with welcome frequency. An example, "For the
Germans, the greatest thing since Karajan.
Karajan, of course, was the greatest thing since Hitler." Alex
doesn't say to whom she refers - only, "an overhyped
instrumentalist"; otherwise I'd have guessed it was Christian
Thielemann... anybody have any specifics?
Also love her
comment on prodigies: "Do you want yourself to be operated on
by a genius twenty-year-old heart surgeon? Do you want to go
to the theater and see a teenager play King Lear?"
April 17, 2012 - Been a while, some odds and ends:
Beautiful, honest, insightful interview with the great
(2) Ever read Goodnight Moon
to a child? Check out
Whitacre's setting on his new CD, Water
Nights. As I tweeted in under 140 characters,
Hila Plitmann's singing is perfect for the music, and
Whitacre's music is perfect for the words. (Raise your hand if
you find Goodnight, Moon oddly comforting even at
your advanced age. Ah, I see a lot of hands!)
(6) Was exciting to have
Plum and the Drake University String
Ensemble broadcast the Four Seasons live out
of our Studio One today. They made the long drive from Des
Moines to Cedar Falls and then played their hearts out. Sarah
is a virtuoso to whom the considerable demands
of the piece are as nothing, and an artist with insight and courage.
April 3, 2012 - More on
Ken Woods' post on the slow movement of the Brahms Piano
Concerto no. 2, discussed below:
can't recall where I read it discussed, but it clearly is an
hommage to the slow movement of Clara Schumann's Piano
Concerto in A minor, op. 7, which also has a cello solo.
This fact strongly supports Ken's belief that this is a
"Clara" movement. (Jon Bellman has shown that the first
movement of the Symphony no. 1 is too, by finding unmistakable
allusions in its development section to Schumann lieder.)
Also, Ken is clearly right that the MM doesn't apply so much
to the beginning of the movement. I feel that it means more
with respect to the piano's entry - clearly meant to be played
2012 - Martin Pearlman has (a)
written an extraordinary article in Early Music America
(not online) about Armand-Louis Couperin,
long neglected by (among many others) me in favor of his
cousin Francois; (b)
produced, after decades of work, an
edition of his music, which he
is - get this - giving away free online
(what a guy!); (c) made some VERY wonderful recordings
of his music, also free at the link; (d) pointed out to you
pianists that his music would
sound great on your instrument.
March 17, 2012 -
Great post by Greg on the storm movement in Beethoven's
Pastoral symphony. We may think of Disney cartoon storms, but
to Beethoven and his listeners it was more like our experience
of a tornado; a thunderstorm was life-threatening and truly
terrifying. Thus the "song of thanksgiving" that follows feels
so profound, even religious (Beethoven inscribed, in German,
"we thank Thee, God" over the hushed moment near the end).
March 15, 2012 - Truly
great article by Jed Distler, classifying musicians into "line
guys" vs. "chord guys." Incredibly enlightening.
March 13, 2012 - Life
after cyberspace?: The new Bridge CD
of music of Paul Lansky, "Imaginary Islands," is
glorious. Lansky is a computer-music pioneer who has turned
his attention to writing for physical instruments and
instrumentalists; these are, it turns out, even better than a
computer. Especially since they include the Iowa-born piano
duo Quattro Mani and the guitarist extraordinaire David
March 5, 2012 - If
you have anything to do with classical music and you haven't read Jennifer Homans' extraordinary history of
Apollo's Angels, really, do not
delay. (You'll thank
Feb 29, 2012 -
NICE interview with Richard Egarr on WGBH by Cheryl
Willoughby. On his teacher Gustav Leonhardt : "He was an odd
man in some ways, very contradictory. He loved fast cars... he
would have his latest Alfa Romeo ... he was above the speed
limit all the time, and he would just pay the fines, he was
very happy to pay the fines... He was very obsessed with speed
yet he didn't have a fax machine, and it only under duress did
he ever possess a CD player. ...I remember on this trip, it
was late at night and we'd sort of got lost in the suburbs
down there, and of course there was no GPS back in those days,
so rather than get out a map and start looking he just looked
up into the sky and found the north star, which was again this
fantastic thing between being very concernd with the latest
car and using the north star to navigate with.... He was a
fantastic teacher. He really taught me to listen to what
you're doing....He used to sit a very long way away during
lessons, and would just know if you were making a bad
physical gesture or doing seomthing which was not comfortable.
He had fantastic ears. And it was a great lesson to really
listen to what is going on in this strange instrument, the
harpsichord, which is the unmusial instrument on the planet."
Feb 24, 2012:
by conductor Kenneth Woods on the slow movement of the Brahms
Piano Concerto no. 2 and its
relationship to a Brahms song about the death of a young
person (I'd add only the connection to Clara Schumann and her
children). It sheds light on one of my long standing
This movement is the only one in Brahms with a really puzzling
metronome mark: quarter note=84, about 50% faster than most
pianists play it. It’s the only MM mark in Brahms that’s far
removed from what musicians actually do; a few of his other
MMs are on the fastish side, and many more are on the slowish
side, but most are pretty close to intuitive practice. So why
is this one so far off? It’s not a mistake: Brahms was very
careful about MMs, providing them only for a handful of works,
and only after much care and thought. Further, the MMs in this
concerto were meant to guide conductors of his upcoming
performances when he toured the concerto – testing it out in
Meiningen, premiering it in Budapest and then around Europe.
I’ve heard some very intelligent theories for the movement’s
speed. The pianist/composer Gianluca Cascioli points out that
this movement has a 2-against-3 meter; the “3” is in the bass
line, and, Gianluca says, it is only audible at the fast
tempo. The great musicologist Walter Frisch makes a very
different case: that it’s a matter of genre: Brahms heard this
movement as a “serenade,” a type of orchestral work which was
lighter and faster than a symphony. The arguments are both
most performers (e.g.,
none of this matters: the movement
right at a slower tempo. I think this has to do with its
profound emotional content, and I think Ken's comments about
the song points us to what that content is. (Although the song
is in cut time...) Perhaps Brahms was afraid the movement
would sound sentimental-schmaltzy if played for deep feeling -
which only supports Ken's view - but if so Brahms has been
proved wrong time and again. I’d like to hear a pianist try it
at the MM (actually, Horowitz and Toscanini come fairly close,
so I have my wish), but I don’t think it will ever catch on.
There’s just too much there there.
Feb 19, 2012:
Our Conversation about Beethoven's Ninth and Gustav Leonhardt.
Here is a
transcript of a fascinating conversation I had with some
friends on Facebook. The opener: "The
late Dutch harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt detested
Beethoven's 9th, esp. the finale, which he called "the
quintessence of platitude" and "the most vulgar music ever
written." [All i've since been able to track down was, "“That
‘Ode to Joy’, talk about vulgarity! And the text! Completely
puerile!”] What would you say to Leonhardt - the
master of the subtle, esoteric art of the French clavecinistes
- about this topic?"
Jonathan Ahl: "Platitude?
Perhaps. But, even if true, I would think LVB elevated
platitude to a higher art form in that movement."
LvB was embracing the vulgar in its highest sense. He knew
exactly what he was doing. He considered dropping it and
replacing it with a purely instrumental finale in a minor key,
but decided against it. Fortunately."
"Vulgar literally means 'common'. Since the 9th appeals to so
many people, his comment is
true. If he wants something exclusive he should listen to
"Seid umschlungen, Millionen! Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!"
The theme is like a drinking song; Beethoven knew exactly what
he was doing.
Jonathan Bellman: I
heard something like this from the revered musicologist
Nicholas Temperley, at the University of Illinois when I was
doing my masters. Always one to exercise self-control, I—a
first-year masters student, remember—jocularly riposted,
"Don't worry; I won't tell your Chair!" L-o-n-g pause. "I
gather you disagree," he said, frowning slightly. When I
extricated myself, it was another day of mental "goddammit,
Jon, again? AGAIN?"
Fred Smith: It sounds like the musical equivalent
to the most tiresome variety of academic political
Michael Goodleman: I can't image
anyone perceiving the Ode to Joy as vulgar. In my humble
opinion it's one of the most spiritual orchestral pieces ever.
But at the same time Mr. Leonhardt may not have had the
consciousness to appreciate it.
think you guys are right that this is about Leonhardt, not B9.
But it's not PC so much as the opposite. Leonhardt lived on a
17th-century canal in Amsterdam in a 17thc house, beautifully
restored and filled with 17th c antiques and instruments (and
18th c ones as well). He felt that music went way downhill
after the French Revolution (I hope he didn't feel that way
about political arrangements!). He played baroque composers as
if Beethoven, Wagner, and Stravinsky had never been born, and
thus was exceptionally convincing. And to any claveciniste at
Versailles, Beethoven's 9th would sound supremely vulgar, and
its sentiments Jacobin. So this approach contributed to
Leonhardt's artistic greatness, even if it would deprive most of
us of a powerful artistic experience. Freude, schone Gotterfunken!
Thanks Barney - I'm sure you're right. Very enlightening
Rabbi Alan Green: Wonderful discussion!
Thanks to all for participating.
February 11, 2012. Two
from the Next Generation of Great Performers: 1)
Alondra de la Parra,
here in Iowa this weekend to conduct the (excellent!) Quad
City Symphony has the musicians very excited, and this clip of
her conducting Dvorak's
why; 2) Ray Chen's
new cd of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos arrived
this week, and it's clear
this kid is going to be one
of the greats,
not just another PR project. PS I interviewed Alondra, and
find it interesting that she says that for her and the
orchestras she conducts worldwide, gender simply isn't an
issue. Great marker of progress.
Feb 5, 2012: So where does that leave
"Historically Informed" Brahms orchestral performance?
In my last post, I noted that
Norrington is wrong about vibrato. Brahms clearly expected
vibrato from orchestral strings, and probably well varied
and modulated vibrato at that. My own writings suggest that
his "fast tempos" are largely a myth - what we know of Brahms's
tempi suggests he often took slowish ones. And how about
small ensemble size? Styra Avins demolished that one;
Brahms preferred a large ensemble if it could play well. Proportional tempo schemes tying
together large works? Fuggedaboudit; that one was easy to
What's left? Well... gut strings
instead of steel, but sounding sweeter than anything you
hear in England today; wooden pre-Bohm flutes instead of metal;
Vienna horns; leather-covered timpani with hard sticks. Portamento,
more than we hear today, but less "thick" and coordinated than in
Mengelberg - some players would slide while others did not,
creating a much lighter portamento sound. Indeed, free bowing and fingering in
string sections for the most part.
So yet again: Norrington, Gardiner,
and Mackerras are giving us a modern style of Brahms playing.
Turn to pre-war recordings by the likes of Clemens Krauss and
(here's an example) for a sense, at least, of period sound and style.
February 4, 2012: Norrington Is Wrong
about Vibrato - I had the good
fortune of reading through a pre-pub copy of a major study of
19th-century orchestral string vibrato by David
Hurwitz, to be published in Music and
Letters. It is thorough, definitive, and
devastating. (You can read his informal writings on the topic
here.). The conclusion: the clean,
non-vibrato string sound that Sir Roger Norrington proclaims
as historical is nothing of the sort; orchestral
string vibrato was normal, rather than "just an
ornament" to be applied occasionally. Contra Norrington,
when Bruno Walter first heard the Vienna Philharmonic in the
1890s he was taken by what he described as their special vibrato, and in 1960 he
said that the VPO's vibrato was basically the same. Richard Taruskin is
again proved right when he says that Norringtonian HIP has
little to do with
history and much to do with high-modernist taste.
I occassionally think of Sir Roger's
current revulsion toward even a trace of vibrato as a kind of obsessive-compulsiveness.
I may be wrong; it may have more to do with Norrington's
generation rejecting Romanticism and Norrington seeking a
unique career niche. In any case, Hurwitz has settled the
matter, and all musicians who care about these topics really
should seek out his writings ASAP.
February 2, 2012: Stephen Fry on
Wagner!!! Genius on genius - a BBC
January 26: George Szell: Was His
Strength His Weakness? Donald Peck,
principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony, in his
excellent book on his years in the
Chicago Symphony: "He made mistakes on the podium, which
resulted in the orchestra's looking bad. There was a terrible
episode during one performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.
Szell was most emphatic, stating, 'Watch me! Watch me! After
the storm scene, I will make a cut-off before we go on.' The
concert came. He did not make the cut-off. Half of the
orchestra did make a cut-off as he had admonished, and the
other half didn't. It was a scramble..... he might
conduct or not conduct, give entrance cues or not give them.
All in all, that three-week period was rife with conductorial
errors." WAIT! I thought Szell was the ultimate technician.
Not so. The diagnosis? Szell
was a giant,
writes Kenneth Woods in his excellent blog, but was
diminished when he was not in Cleveland: "[He] still inspires
awe and fear in his colleagues who knew him in Cleveland, but
less admired where he worked as a guest. ...He would have been
an even greater conductor outside Cleveland had he just let
players relax and play and not tried to control everything....
[he] had to rehearse and drill every detail in rehearsal until
it was encased in concrete. The concerts always fell apart
because he had hammered any and all flexibility out of us
[says a player to Woods], then he would get inspired and try
to do something different and couldn’t show it, and we were
never sure whether to rely on what we saw in the concert or
what he said in the rehearsal.” Chimes exactly with what
Donald Peck said. The takeaway for leaders not only of
orchestras but of anything is kinda obvious...
Jan 22, 2012. Thank you for the kind
Kenneth Woods! It's an awesome CD, folks - hear it!
Jan 18, 2012. What Inspired the opening
A Love Supreme?: Alex Ross
notices that the sequence of
fourths that open John Coltrane's A Love Supreme
is identical to that which begins the Fifth Symphony of Jean
Sibelius. He does not posit a direct influence; these
two great musicians could have arrived at the same motif
independently. I'm going to step out on a limb and speculate
that what led Trane to think about
this sequence was working on his absolutely matchless
interpretations of My Favorite Things, heard
to special advantage in
this take with Eric Dolphy. If there's
anything to this idea (and who can know what really goes on in the
mind of a genius), props are in order to Richard Rogers for
great song and then to Trane for recognizing
the musical potential of this Broadway hit and realizing it so fully.
Jan 15, 2012: Naida Cole Plays Like One
Bourree-Fantasque. After you hear her untrammeled manic
joy - the sheer visceral delight in playing repeated notes
insanely fast, for example - every other performance seems
anemic. And after you hear her mystical, sad Satie, everyone else seems
shallow. Take my word for it:
Dec. 16, 2011:
January 28, 2011: Backgrounder (by me, not an expert on
Hungarian politics) on Andras Schiff
and Hungary's Media Laws. UPDATE JANUARY 19,
2012: Damn - I was right. And
things have gone downhill.
January 24, 2011: Bill Kling warns that the
effort to defund public radio is SERIOUS, not just bluff, and
could well happen.
Jan. 20 2011: The Bach Violin Glut of the 2000s and Its
Puzzling Gender Gap [down for editing]- Jan 20 version; no fewer than 26 violinists recorded
the Bach cycle in the last decade. The gist:
1) that's a lotta supply; a stab at why; 2) whether or not you
used a period instrument could be predicted partly by your nationality
and partly by your gender - if you used a modern instrument, bookmakers
could give almost 4:1 odds that you were burdened with a Y chromosome.
Next edition of Inside Early Music will never happen,
but it would seek gender balance, and would look more into gender
and the early-music movement.
Dec 23: Three notable music books of 2010 that
I actually read? I was gripped by (1) John Butt, Bach's
Dialogue with Modernity: perspectives on the Passions
- if you're into Bach, especially the Passions, you must read
it; it's game-changing; (2) Jonathan Bellman's Chopin's
Polish Ballade: op. 38 as a narrative of national martyrdom,
which joins the short list of books about a single work that
open up huge vistas of social, cultural, and political history
(another example: Late Idyll by Reinhold Brinkmann);
and (3) Alex Ross's Listen
to This, which you can sample by reading this linked
chapter on how
the process of recording changed music radically. .
For me, it is the classical-music book of the decade,
except possibly for Alex's other book, The
Rest Is Noise. I don't mean this as hyperbolic
praise: the book revisits many of the essays that shaped my
musical thought during the 2000s, and adds an end-of-decade
perspective. PS: the chapter on Brahms - the last - is the best
single essay on the composer I've read.
July 30, 2010: How to play "The Moonlight" first
movement - like Gianluca Cascioli. Here he is playing it for
a masterclass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnvb4_02ZmE
Gianluca explains in his Decca recording interview (ok,
conducted by me) why it has nothing to do with moonlight, and
why he plays it as fast as he does. "C-sharp
minor is a strange, almost sinister key; it does not relate
to something as Romantic as moonlight. Instead, the reference
that strikes me is the passage in Don Giovanni when
the Commendatore dies after being stabbed by the Don. Beethoven's
triplets are close to Mozart's triplets, and the rhythms in
Beethoven's melody are similar to the Commendatore's rhythm....Beethoven
wrote down the Commendatore scene among his sketches, which
means that he was particularly struck by it.....he
wanted to take Mozart as a starting point (a good one!) just
to get somewhere else, far away...... It is difficult to describe
in words the feeling you have while playing, but Czerny's description
comes close to my own: a dark night with a choir of ghosts
heard from far away...
One element behind my choice of tempo is that the listener
must concentrate almost completely on the melody - the choral
in the soprano. At slow tempos, very often one hears nothing
but the slow triplets, as if they were the melody. But the true
melody in the soprano gets lost in the piano's decay of sound,
as the notes become disconnected. [My next question was:Does
the alla breve meter, two per bar, also imply a fastish tempo?]
GC: This was less important to me. For one thing, if you
count two beats in a bar you might easily get it much too fast.
It must flow, but it must be extremely calm, almost still. Also,
what this time signature implied for tempo in Beethoven is not
July 26, 2010
Very fine obit of
Wendy Allanbrook in today's NYT, by Jim Oestreich.
She embodied the word "humane."
July 15 2010: Very sad to hear of the death at age 67 of
Wendy Allanbrook (Wye
J. Allanbrook), a great musicologist and great human
2010: RIP Sir Charles Mackerras, at age 84. Alex
Ross, as usual, says
it perfectly: "He had a gift for leading a kind of
performance in which nothing out of the ordinary seems to happen
and yet everything goes radiantly right." Nice ideal in
So that February From the Top in Iowa City - you remember,
the one for which I provided a laugh-line? The full
broadcast is now online. Alternatively, you can
hear just my 46 seconds of fame
- my voice comes in after 55 seconds of set-up, in which
Christopher O'Riley interviews the incredible 16-year-old cellist
2010: That article from last November - on the state of period-instrument
Brahms, for Diapason France - I finally have an English-language
version up, at
this link. ["Mûrissements
d'époque" and "Brahms et le cor" -
were published in the October issue of Diapason France
Octobre 2009, pp. 34 - 37. This is the first of the two. The
second appears in triply-expanded form in Early Music America,
Spring 2010, as "Brahms, the Horn, and History")]
did a show in Iowa City on Feb. 24, 2010;
for some reason they interviewed me the day before to get a
laugh line. Apparently it worked: listen in to the full
broadcast (or, if you prefer, here
are my 46 seconds of fame).
legendary Bruno Walter
did NOT like modern flutes, and
he did not like the power of postwar clarinet playing. Martin
Mayer, in 1960, quotes him: "Think what the flute has
gained up top of the range," he says, "but it has
lost its beauty. Jean Paul wrote of 'the moonshine of the
flute.' Who would now say, 'the moonshine of the flute"?
[ILet me note that German and Austrian flutes were still made
of wood during Walter's early career; German-speaking flutists
resisted metal flutes and the Boehm key system precisely because
the French had adopted them].... As for modern playing:
"That is just a gentle clarinet," he said [of
a clarinet solo in the Schumann Piano Concerto]. "But
today they all play trumpet." Quoted in the excellent
biography, Bruno Walter: A World
Elsewhere, by Erik
Ryding and Rebecca Pechefsky, p. 404.
1) Elijah Wald's history of what actually happened
in American pop music in the 20th Century (misleadingly titled
"How the Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll") - I endorse
the review in the New York Times book review and recommend
the book highly.
2) Daniel Leech-Wilkinson's book on what actually
happened in 20th-century classical music performance:
Changing Sound of Music: He's brought research
methodology to new levels of accuracy, and is intellectually
fearless and original. And his book is available free
online at http://www.charm.kcl.ac.uk/studies/chapters/intro.html
January 24th, 2009 - This Is How People Listen to
Classical Radio - in terms not of the "importance"
of the piece, but of the emotional effect. Kudos to Greg
Sandow for being able to put himself in the ear-space of a listener.
This is how it's heard. I also appreciate that my failure to
program high-dissonance modernism could be seen not as a lack
of responsibility, but a quest for "a fuller view of life
than screams alone can give." I also appreciated the comments
by radio professional William Lang. Like him, I'm constantly
looking for new music that will not drive listeners away. Observation:
such music is far more likely to come from West of the Atlantic
than East, probably for reasons involving funding and peer pressure.
January 14th, 2009 - You have been reading Greg's five-part
posts on where Classical Music is in 2009, right? Read it:
RE: post 1: I wrote the following comment
to Greg: "Just a loose thought about yet another possible
reason why the [classical-music] audience has aged [over the
last half of the 20th c, relative to the population as a whole
- Greg demonstrates it carefully and has some excellent ideas
on why. I suggested adding one:} "(1) music became more
and more a marker of group membership - it had been that for
centuries, but became more so; (2) people had increasing numbers
of options about which group to become a member of: more mobility;
(3) crucially- "the young" increasingly became a group
you could identify yourself as a member of. Having one's own
music (to mark off "us," the young, from "them,"
the old) became increasingly important (4) having lots of different
"musics" to choose among became increasingly possible
(recording being a big part of this? And prosperity/leisure?)......
None of this is to replace anything you [Greg] said - it'd be
just one more element."
for Puck: - oxytocin for Helena and Hermia; vasopressin
for Lysander and Demetrius. [re "Anti-love
drug may be ticket to bliss" - John Tierney's angle,
in the New York Times]
- So... year-end roundup time. Entry #1: the winner of the
Pulitzer Prize in music, David Lang's The Little Matchgirl
Passion. Deeply haunting music about a problem very
much of the moment: starving children. The committee is no longer
in an uptown
ivory tower. It's also telling that no CD is out - the piece
was distributed free online
here. No waiting. The age of Youtube.
December, 2008 - Entry
# 2 Newspapers may be dying and music-critic gigs disappearing,
but I'm struck by how good the critics in the USA are in 2008.
Midgette on the staff of the WaPo is a prime example.
- Felix Mendelssohn devotees: Strongly recommended
background reading is Deborah Hertz's brilliant and superbly
Jews Became Germans.
designed to be the most unpopular song ever written.
You, of course, will love it. Especially the rapping opera singer -
Your Hands Say Bravo!
above reminds me of a previous question about whether It's
OK to Applaud between movements at a classical concert.
The proscription against that sure chimed with the proscription
against "histrionics." Anyway, I hold with those
who say Express yourself! See: Alex's short essay
and Greg's post
the 2nd edition of Lydia Goehr's The
Imaginary Museum of Musical Works
(published in 2007). Our core sense
of what music IS (at least for classical fans) turns out to
be about 200 years old.
not just give Alex
Ross his Pulitzer right now and be done with
Rest Is Noise.)
So I wrote in October. I'm delighted that the NY Times
has since put it on its "10
Best Books of 2007" list and that the Washingon
Post, LA Times, Economist, Time,
Newsweek, and Slate put it
on their best-of-year lists. His writing has by itself improved
the future of music.- Jan 1, 2008
tone of moral outrage sounds Wieseltierian (that neologism is
not a compliment), and he bullies the
defenseless, but Richard Taruskin
state of classical music
is not to be missed. (Much more essential, though, is his
History of Western Music. There he had to seek the
tone of the balanced observer - although his difficulties with
that role are part of what make the book so compelling.)-
you like the idea of Ira Gershwin and
Kurt Weill performing "The
Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria" et al., you
gotta hear them. Available at emusic.com and on a CD, "Tryout."
don't miss their musical/ operetta Lady in the Dark.)
by Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg,
and Uri Caine - moving, beautifu, (Thank
you, LK.). Even though I don't
romanticize the Chassidim as they seem to - my view is more
Spinozan. Also: Srul
Irving Glick's A
Night at Heaven's Gate And, in a different vein,
the Klezmatic's Woody Guthrie CDs.
Jacobs in Haydn's symphonies 91 & 92
on Harmonia mundi - check out 92's
opening . What
is more beautiful than a string section playing superbly and perfectly
in tune? - Which brings us to....
exclusive! - sample
Simon Rattle and
the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the Brahms
Tragic Overture. Rattle, who's often
dissed as superficial, proves otherwise. I've heard other conductors
project these inner voices but make them sound like too-precious
detail. Here they are meaningful - and moving. Beautiful phrasing.
a River of Time is heartfelt. I like so much
of what I hear from this unabashedly neo-romantic composer.
When old means new: the Debussy
from Andante.com (early recordings, e.g., Coppola's La
mer) . And at emusic, Sibelius bud Robert
Kajanus conducting the Sibelius Fifth.
Kajanus and Coppola bring a lightness, volatility and spontaneity
to the music that would be hard to regain once the works became
- Benjamin Britten and Sviatoslav
Richter playing the first movement of
the duo sonata in C, K. 521 (iTunes) strikes me as a mind-blowing
synthesis of imagination, finesse, and wild energy. The musical
equivalent of the right stage of hypomania. And Rene
Jacob's recordings of Mozart's Don Giovanni (at
youtube, here's a documentary), and Figaro and
Cosi - no "hypo" to this mania!
BBC Music Magazine liked this website: "[A]
refined voice... intriguing articles
on early music and performance from a wide variety of publications. A
cleansing experience after all this mud-slinging." - April 2002
I also mention my modesty and avoidance of self-promotion...?) This
means that at least one person has visited this site!
chapter on "Conducting Early Music" appears
in The Cambridge Companion to Conducting (ed. Jose
A. Bowen, 2004). Kind review here
My archived shows
Wisdom of Crowds with
James Surowiecki and Joyce Berg. Better: just read The
Wisdom of Crowds. My followup read will be Cass Sunstein's Infotopia.
of The Wisdom of Crowds is well worth reading: http://www.powells.com/review/2004_06_24.html
. BUT - see this new study http://palmdesert.ucr.edu/conferences/economica2007/erikson-gdi.pdf
- showing why prediction markets are LESS successful than polls at
predicting election outcomes.
my interview with Daniel Altman
about his first book, Neoconomy
(now available for $0.01 at Amazon...)
an mp3 of Studs Terkel (on
his book And They All Sang) - WFMT called with the opportunity
to do a short interview with Studs, and everyone was on vacation, so...
I did it. What an honor.
I just interviewed the brilliant Rebecca Sheir of Alaska Public
Radio about her Third Coast-award-winning documentary, The End as Beginning:
An Audio Exploration of the Jewish View of Death. I'll play parts of it
interspersed with the documentary on KSUI tomorrow. Here's the interview
itself (17 minutes) rebecca mp3
to Invest- revealed! - a short transcript
from when I used to host radio shows on this. Still pretty timely. (TIPS
are yielding a little less, but not enough to make a difference to what
me: sherman.bd at gmail