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: DJ and D&D Go to the Symphony  ( 7311 )
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« #45 : February 24, 2017, 11:46:20 AM »

The 7th is definitely more famous, but I prefer the 8th.


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« #46 : February 24, 2017, 04:44:42 PM »

The 7th is definitely more famous
Not my point at all:
Quote
it's the better, more substantial work



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« #47 : March 04, 2017, 09:21:23 PM »

Just saw this nice interview in The Guardian with Ivan Fischer, from last summer

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/music/2016/aug/12/how-ivan-fischer-found-greatness-with-the-budapest-festival-orchestra


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« #48 : March 14, 2017, 11:39:27 PM »

DJ and I were at Lincoln Center Wednesday night for The New York Philharmonic, guest-conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, playing Beethoven's 7th and 8th Symphonies.


I just discovered a bit of trivia: "The New York Philharmonic gave the U.S. Premieres of both works, which Beethoven completed in 1812: it performed the Seventh Symphony on November 18, 1843, led by the Orchestra's founder, Ureli Corelli Hill, and the Eighth Symphony on November 16, 1844, conducted by George Loder."  :)

http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwclassical/article/STAGE-TUBE-Sneak-Peek-at-Herbert-Blomstedt-Conducting-NY-Phil-in-Beethovens-7th-and-8th-20170220


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« #49 : June 08, 2017, 12:58:23 PM »

RE: our earlier discussion of the "flash mob" of the choir in the audience for the Budapest Festival Orchestra's performance of Beethoven's 9th at Lincoln Center:
I found on YouTube a performance of Beethoven's 9th in which the trumpeter for the Ode to Joy is in the audience. This is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, conducted by Mariss Jansons at 51:14 of this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYbSNJDDAfk



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« #50 : October 19, 2017, 10:12:38 AM »

I have been listening to  classical music for years, but I was never at a live performance until January 12: The New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert, with Stephen Hough on piano playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (aka The Emperor Concerto)

 It was appropriate that this was my first classical concert, because the Emperor Concerto maybe the first piece of classical music that I ever fell in love with. About 16 years ago, I heard it on the movie "Immortal Beloved," was hooked on that and hooked on Beethoven.

The second half of the show was Brahms's Third Symphony,  which is an awful piece of crap, so DJ and I left at the intermission. We did not want to ruin our memories of the Emperor with the crappy Brahms piece

This  program ran for several nights; DJ and I went on Jan. 12. The show from the final night (Jan . 14)  was streamed live on Facebook live. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/nyphilharmonic/videos/10154695338457293/

That Jan. 14, 2017 show is available on YouTube

Beethoven's Emperor Concerto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvUlOezxsxE

Brahms's 3rd Symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhB_umc9F84

The new symphony season is beginning soon .............  :)


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« #51 : October 19, 2017, 11:31:06 AM »

Drink, thanks for the heads up. Something else you put me onto I appreciate knowing about: On Nov. 3rd there's a performance at Carnegie Hall featuring film music. There's some Korngold, some Herrmann: some kind of Psycho Suite. But also they'll be doing Herrmann's rarely performed Symphony #1. I'm looking forward to that.



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« #52 : October 19, 2017, 12:09:04 PM »

Drink, thanks for the heads up. Something else you put me onto I appreciate knowing about: On Nov. 3rd there's a performance at Carnegie Hall featuring film music. There's some Korngold, some Herrmann: some kind of Psycho Suite. But also they'll be doing Herrmann's rarely performed Symphony #1. I'm looking forward to that.

 O0 O0 O0


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« #53 : October 19, 2017, 12:45:36 PM »

DJ and I got tickets for some 2018 shows but (due to various commitments and scheduling and women) may be going to separate shows.

DJ will be seeing the awesome Ivan Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center on Jan. 14, performing:
 Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. With pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2
http://www.lincolncenter.org/great-performers/show/budapest-festival-orchestra-2


I will be at Carnegie Hall (my first time!) on Feb. 15: Robert Spano conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's:
Mozart's Symphony No. 40;
The world premiere of a new work by Bryce Dressner, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, commissioned by Carnegie Hall. With mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor.
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, the "Emperor." With pianist Jeremy Denk.
https://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2018/2/15/0800/PM/Orchestra-of-St-Lukes/


And I'll be at Lincoln Center on March 19, with Joshua Bell conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields:
Mendelssohn's overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Wieniawski: Violin Concerto No. 2. With violinist Joshua Bell.
Beethoven;s Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral"
http://www.lincolncenter.org/great-performers/show/joshua-bell-and-academy-of-st-martin-in-the-fields-1


 :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)


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« #54 : October 20, 2017, 11:43:02 AM »

awesome video:

7-year-old Yo-Yo Ma, and his 11-year-old sister Yeou-Cheng Ma, perform at the American Pageant for the Arts in 1962, introduced by Leonard Bernstein.

This video is higher quality https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G2QKzp78Zs

This video is lower quality, but it has more of Bernstein's comments at the end https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNvAUobb1y4

Here is a brief clip of a 2017 interview, in which Yo-Yo Ma discusses that appearance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzup9PK3blI

If you want to see the full 2017 interview, here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0E0U-9XOt8


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« #55 : October 28, 2017, 11:36:16 PM »

There is a new biography of Arturo Toscanini, called "Toscanini: Musician of Conscience," by Harvey Sachs.

Here are some reviews

The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/books/review/toscanini-biography-harvey-sachs.html

Christian Science Monitor: https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2017/0629/Toscanini-Musician-of-Conscience-is-a-feast-of-music-culture-politics
Here  is a review in The Wall Street Journal https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-lesson-of-the-maestro-1503091854

I will cut and paste that WSJ review below - half in this post and half in the next, because it is too long to have in one post:



The Lesson of the Maestro

By Lloyd Schwartz


I’ve just been listening to Arturo Toscanini conducting Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (“A Masked Ball”), the conductor’s last complete opera performance, recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1954. Harvey Sachs, in his comprehensive new biography, “Toscanini: Musician of Conscience,” describes in detail the process of rehearsal, live performance and post-concert “patching sessions” to correct minor slips in the recordings. The nearly 87-year-old conductor was not in prime health, and there were signs that his phenomenal photographic memory was beginning to fail him. Mr. Sachs finds weaknesses in this performance, as he does in many of Toscanini’s later recordings with the NBC Symphony, the recordings from which modern listeners know him. The performances of this period, the last couple of decades of the maestro’s long life (1867-1957), were often less spacious than his earlier ones—maybe a little rushed to fit broadcast time-frames and vexed by the dry acoustics of NBC’s notorious Studio 8H. “This version of Ballo,” Mr. Sachs writes, “must not be taken as holy writ.”

And yet listening to it, especially after reading Mr. Sachs’s compelling chronicle, I’m once again swept away by Toscanini’s forward momentum, in which incisive, brilliant attack and a flowing, singing line are, for a change, complementary and not contradictory. It’s that singing line that Toscanini’s detractors usually neglect to mention. In a remarkable recording made during a 1946 orchestra rehearsal for Verdi’s “La Traviata,” the conductor croaks all the vocal parts. It’s heartbreaking how much he wants to sing. If he had a beautiful voice, maybe he would have become a singer. But how wonderfully, from the very beginning of his astonishing career, he made the orchestra sing.

One of Toscanini’s most remarkable abilities was conducting from memory, for which he is still being imitated. When, in Preston Sturges’s 1948 comedy “Unfaithfully Yours,” an interviewer asks the Rex Harrison character, a preening conductor, why he conducts from a score, he replies: “It’s because I can read music”—both indirectly condescending to Toscanini and defending himself against the fad of memorization inspired by Toscanini. The Harrison character might be surprised to discover Toscanini’s serious studies of Bruckner —two of whose massive symphonies he led though never recorded. No question about Toscanini’s phenomenal ability to read a score.

He began as a cellist and, at the age of 20, was in the orchestra for the 1887 premiere of Verdi’s late masterpiece, “Otello.” He had already made his debut as a conductor the year before, when, on tour with an Italian opera company in Brazil, he became a sudden replacement for an inadequate conductor and led a performance of “Aida” from memory. He completed the tour leading 25 more performances of 12 different operas. Mr. Sachs reports that Toscanini later said he had “thought about becoming a conductor at twenty-seven or twenty-eight, but not at nineteen.”

His rise was meteoric. By 1898, he was principal conductor of La Scala, Italy’s major opera house, having already conducted the premieres of such classics as Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” and Puccini’s “La Bohème.” Later, as co-director (with Mahler ) of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he led the premiere of Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” (“The Girl of the Golden West”), and back at La Scala, the premiere of Puccini’s “Turandot.”

Toscanini’s later detractors, especially the German philosopher and musicologist Theodor Adorno, attacked him for ignoring avant-garde contemporary music, especially the 12-tone compositions of the second Viennese school ( Schoenberg, Berg, Webern). But as Mr. Sachs notes, when Toscanini started out, much of the music he conducted was by composers still living or only recently deceased. He gave the first Italian performances of such daring works as Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” and Strauss’s “Salomé.” From early on, he was devoted to the music of that German firebrand Richard Wagner, whose music, both operatic and symphonic, became a cornerstone of Toscanini’s repertoire. Only a dozen years after Wagner’s death, he led the first Italian performance of “Götterdämmerung” and, in 1930, became the first non-German-school conductor to be invited to perform at the Bayreuth Festival, the sanctum sanctorum of Wagnerian opera. By the end of his life, he had conducted a repertoire of more than 600 works.



[WSJ review continued in next post]

« : October 28, 2017, 11:41:07 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #56 : October 28, 2017, 11:39:04 PM »

[WSJ review continued from previous post]


Toscanini became famous for eliminating fat: keeping to the tempo markings indicated by the composer, not transposing keys and eliminating other excrescences of “tradition” (cuts in scores, or unwritten high notes or encores for singers). He returned to the old seating plan of dividing first and second violins antiphonally—that is, positioned across from each other rather than side by side—so that one could hear the dialogue going on between these sections. ( James Levine at the Met has been much praised for carrying this forward.) He even had to fight to turn the house lights off during an opera.

Each performance entailed a passionate new confrontation with the score. Few conductors were ever less on automatic pilot—which explains the intensity of Toscanini’s rehearsals. “Put your blood!” he notoriously screamed at his players. “I put my blood!” His photographic memory gave him an especially important edge as an opera conductor, because he could look at what was happening onstage. And what happened onstage—how accurately the action reflected both the music and the words—was one of his primary concerns. When he brought the La Scala company to Vienna in 1929, 21-year-old Herbert von Karajan wrote: “For the first time I grasped what ‘direction’ means. . . . The agreement between the music and the stage performance was something totally inconceivable. . . . Everything had its place and its purpose.”

Despite Toscanini’s outbursts of temper and occasional insults, most of his musicians loved him for his commitment to how the music should go. No wonder he was so admired by his most “serious” contemporaries— Igor Stravinsky (whose music he played only rarely), Otto Klemperer, Fritz and Adolf Busch, Bruno Walter, violinist Joseph Szigeti, pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, even his polar opposite, Wilhelm Furtwängler, with whom, Mr. Sachs demonstrates, he had a competitive and uncomfortable relationship.

Toscanini’s passion, as Mr. Sachs vividly demonstrates, was not only directed at music. Drawing on Toscanini’s letters (in 2002, Mr. Sachs edited a volume of them), he allows us to follow not only Toscanini’s career but his sex life. He married in 1897 and would never leave his wife, but he had long and intense extramarital affairs with some of his leading ladies—the sparkling Rosina Storchio, Puccini’s first Cio-Cio San, with whom he had a child; the glamorous Metropolitan Opera diva Geraldine Farrar ; the great German soprano Lotte Lehmann—and many other women, relationships documented in his graphic love letters. His home life was unfulfilling. Constant traveling was a torment. His sense of guilt was another torment. Yet well into his last years he couldn’t stop his more-than-flirtations.

In 1978, Mr. Sachs published an excellent biography of Toscanini, but this entirely new one—not a revision—draws extensively on newly available archival material, especially Toscanini’s own letters, and offers a portrait that even more fully humanizes the Great Man. Toscanini, Mr. Sachs shows, was modest almost to a fault, continuing into his 80s his rigorous studies of music and feeling mostly dissatisfied with even some of his greatest performances (although, on rare occasions, he knew when he had done especially well). He was shy about the tremendous ovations he received and angry when he felt they were undeserved. He could be petty but was more often inordinately generous—supporting people in need, especially musicians, with money and personal recommendations. Has anyone in the arts ever performed more fundraising events or done more benefit concerts without accepting a fee? “What emerges most clearly . . . in all of Toscanini’s correspondence with lovers, friends, or family,” Mr. Sachs writes, “is his seemingly limitless capacity for experiencing a whole panoply of emotions and states of mind as if they were raw, fresh, new.”

And as Mr. Sachs’s subtitle, “Musician of Conscience,” suggests, Toscanini was more than just a famous conductor. He was a true hero of democracy. From the earliest days of fascism, he was an outspoken antagonist. He profoundly regretted supporting Mussolini in the leader’s early socialist phase, given what he turned into. He got into trouble—and was even beaten up—for refusing to play the fascist anthem. He was so widely loved that even Mussolini was forced to return his passport after he had it confiscated. Toscanini stopped performing at Bayreuth after Hitler came to power and refused Hitler’s personal request to perform, in the process alienating Wagner’s daughter-in-law, Winifred Wagner, who essentially took over Bayreuth when her husband died. The idea of anti-Semitism, in a world of so many great Jewish musicians, was particularly loathsome to him—and incomprehensible.

Mr. Sachs is a lucid informant, providing all sorts of interesting details, down to which ships Toscanini took on his numerous Atlantic crossings. I confess that I find the list, in itself, an irresistibly colorful image of a certain aspect of 20th-century life: the Perseo, the Champlain, the Brazil, the Uruguay, the Conte di Savoia, the Vulcania, the Normandie, the Queen Mary, the Constitution, the Saturnia. A last-minute change in plans saved the maestro from boarding the doomed Lusitania.

More important, Mr. Sachs rises to each climactic turning point, creating moving narratives about Toscanini’s first conducting in Rio; his rising from the music directorship of Turin’s Regio to Milan’s La Scala, then to the Met and the New York Philharmonic; appearing at Bayreuth; performing with the BBC Symphony; returning to Italy for the gala re-opening of La Scala after the war; and especially playing a crucial role in the formation of the Palestine Orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic) when so many Jewish musicians were being forced out of Europe and out of work.

One of the most complex stories comes near the end, with the creation of the NBC Symphony—the period during which Toscanini reached his largest audience and for which he has been most criticized. In 1937, David Sarnoff, the head of NBC and RCA, offered the 70-year old conductor the chance to form his own orchestra and give public concerts that would be recorded and broadcast on the air (and later on television). Toscanini accepted the offer and continued at the post for 17 years.

The broadcasts and recordings are how most of us know Toscanini, and even if some of them are not on the level of his earlier work with the New York Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony, they include much that is valuable, including his overwhelming recordings of Verdi—especially “Otello” and “Falstaff” (his favorite opera and the one he led most frequently). Among the other highlights are incomparable versions of the last act of “Rigoletto” and of the rapturous, almost-forgotten final trio from “I Lombardi”; complete sets of Beethoven and Brahms symphonies; a rhythmically electric Schumann “Rhenish” Symphony; major Wagner recordings (with Wagnerian greats Helen Traubel and Lauritz Melchior ); Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” and “Roméo et Juliette” (has any other conductor so completely captured the Berlioz melodic line?); Brahms’s delicately lilting “Liebeslieder-Walzer”; Debussy’s surging “La Mer”; and Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” (surely the least schmaltzy but most heartfelt and soaring performance ever recorded of that familiar love theme). He even “put his blood” into perfecting such trivia as Ponchielli’s twinkling “Dance of the Hours” in a performance of such delicious buoyancy that I never want to stop listening to it.

Of course popular doesn’t always—or even usually—mean better, and Adorno hated the idea of Toscanini making classical music popular (and even worse, corporate), especially since he ignored the more challenging moderns. As Edward Said wrote in a New York Times review of Joseph Horowitz’s 1987 book critical of the Toscanini phenomenon: “Although [Toscanini] died too early to benefit from the great recent advances in audio technology, his legacy as the man who stripped phony traditionalism and sentimental sloppiness from musical performances will endure.” If you listen to the recordings freshly, with an open mind and an open heart (and in better sound now than when they were first released), you can’t help discovering one of the world’s greatest musical voices. Mr. Sachs’s necessary, authoritative biography reinforces that impression with a portrait of a complex, flawed, but noble human being and a towering artist.

--- Mr. Schwartz, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is the classical music critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air.”

« : October 28, 2017, 11:40:10 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #57 : January 13, 2018, 10:29:17 PM »

Ever wondered what goes into conducting symphonies and operas? Is the conductor that important? Is it just an egotistical motherfuckers waving a wand? What distinguishes one from another? What were the famous ones like? The jealousies and pettiness and rivalries ....


A new book by John Mauceri, a conductor himself: "Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting"

Here is a review in The Wall Street Journal, by Leon Botstein:


In his self-effacing autobiography, the Russian composer and pedagogue Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov confessed that conducting “baffled” him. If Stravinsky’s teacher had a hard time making sense of what someone standing in front of an orchestra waving a baton was doing (or was supposed to be doing), how can we expect audiences to appreciate and comprehend the art of conducting? Suspicion whether there is actually anything difficult or substantial to conducting is commonplace among instrumentalists who play in orchestras or with them as soloists. To the eminent chamber musician and critic Hans Keller, conducting was just a “phony” musical profession.

Keller was annoyed, properly so, by the arrogance and affectations of most conductors. But is conducting really “phony”? When the legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein, already in his 80s, toured Israel with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra playing concertos he knew inside and out, he realized that there would be a 50-minute “sound check” before every performance (to permit all concerned to get used to the piano and the hall at each stop). Rubinstein asked the conductor, the late Gary Bertini, whether instead of warming up with the program before one of the concerts, he might try his hand at conducting. Rubinstein had never had the opportunity to conduct.

As Brahms was the composer dearest to his heart, Rubinstein chose the Third Symphony, in F major, for his private conducting debut. Bertini and the orchestra were thrilled at the prospect. The orchestra revered Rubinstein. They knew the Brahms. All four Brahms symphonies were part of the orchestra’s core repertoire. The score and parts were in the orchestra’s library.

At the agreed-upon day, the stage was set with the piano in front so the maximum time could be given Rubinstein. He went to the podium and raised his baton. The opening was a mess. Rubinstein stopped and started again. Chaos reigned, with little progress. Frustrated, Rubinstein stopped again and went to the piano to play the opening as he wished it to sound and then returned to the podium to try once more. His demonstration had no effect. Confusion triumphed, and the reading came to a halt. Rubinstein could not make the orchestra play together and reproduce what they had just heard him play for them. After three false starts he stepped off the podium, returned the baton he had borrowed from Bertini, and said, with a smile, “After all these years, I had no idea; but now I finally understand.”

John Mauceri’s “Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting” explains what, after 60 years of being a soloist with orchestras, Rubinstein should have known. Mr. Mauceri mentions how notoriously challenging the opening of Brahms’s Third is for conductors (recounting his mentor Leonard Bernstein’s own search for the right solution). Brahms’s complex rhythmic structure requires that the conductor show how the various instruments in an ensemble of more than 80 musicians fit together to produce Brahms’s arresting synthesis of melody and drama. The music sounds glorious, natural and straightforward. But to realize what Brahms wrote—forget matters of interpretation and nuance—requires the technical skill of conducting. Bertini must have smiled to himself when Rubinstein chose Brahms’s Third for his first foray into conducting. No matter how well Rubinstein knew the music, and could play it from memory in its version for piano (made by the composer himself), showing an experienced professional orchestra how to follow and make the music is harder than it looks.

What exactly constitutes the technique of conducting? There is an evident paradox. Conducting by itself makes no sound. The music comes from the instruments of the orchestra. Skepticism concerning the function of a conductor results from invidious comparisons. No one can fake playing one of Brahms’s two piano concertos, or his violin concerto. If one can play a Brahms concerto at a professional level, measured in terms of basic accuracy, in public, at a concert, there can be no doubt that one deserves to be called a musician, and a pianist or a violinist. To be able to do so demands respect and even awe at the required discipline and athletic achievement. But there are fakes, charlatans and successful mediocrities among conductors, including individuals who cannot read music but who have learned to mimic the gestures of conducting. They stand in front of professional orchestras and preside over a respectable account of a piece of music and take the credit.

Although the bulk of his book is devoted to outlining what real conductors need to know and the challenges they face, Mr. Mauceri believes that there is some ineffable quality about conducting that sets it apart and is not rational. He concludes that conducting is a “mystery” and cannot be taught. A form of alchemy is at work in conducting—an inexplicable wizardry. Therefore Mr. Mauceri frames his book, in its very first pages, by addressing directly a case with which many readers of this newspaper are likely to be familiar. The late Gilbert Kaplan, founder of the magazine Institutional Investor, was a wealthy music lover. He became obsessed with Mahler’s Second Symphony, listening to it endlessly in his car and at home. As a 41st-birthday present to himself he hired the American Symphony Orchestra and what was then known as Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center and “conducted” the work before an invited audience of friends and relatives.

How was this possible? No amount of listening could have enabled Kaplan to approximate playing any single orchestral part of Mahler’s Second on a professional level, not even the percussion parts, which routinely appear to audiences as easy (which they are not). Yet Kaplan succeeded by appearing to conduct. He looked the part but actually followed the orchestra. They organized themselves to coordinate the proceedings. There is a long, noble history of conductor-less orchestras; generating the illusion that Kaplan was conducting was clearly possible.

If Kaplan made it through Mahler’s Second, why did Rubinstein get stuck immediately in Brahms’s Third? The reason is that Rubinstein was determined to shape the music the way he was used to doing at the piano. But he could not translate his musical ideas into the pantomime that is conducting, using his hands, eyes and the space around his body (the tools of the conductor) to anticipate and control sound. He understood the music and what he wanted but soon discovered that the skills required were harder to obtain than he had assumed. With humility, he gave up.

Kaplan, however, did the opposite. He embraced the illusion generated by the orchestra. He went on to repeat playing at conducting, gesturing from the podium as if he were conducting—always the same Mahler symphony—over and over again all over the world. He even recorded the work with the Vienna Philharmonic. Despite a fanatical obsession with Mahler, Kaplan could never repeat this elaborate hoax with any other work. Kaplan could not read a score, was untrained in the materials and methods of music, and was not even proficient on an instrument. He was, to put it bluntly, musically illiterate. He was the beneficiary of recording technology—the capacity, since the mid-20th century, to become familiar with how a piece of music goes by repeated exposure to sound recordings. Indeed, in the 1960s a few long-playing recordings were sold with a baton so that the consumer, in the privacy of his home, no doubt with the volume turned up, could play at conducting an orchestra. This fantasy mirrored the extent to which a few high-profile conductors, such as Toscanini, Stokowski and Bernstein, had become stars and how alluring the role of the conductor had become.

Imagine an adult who cannot read or write and only speaks a language that is not English. By diligent use of recordings and videos, he memorizes the sound of every word and line assigned to Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play. He then dresses in the costume and recites the sounds of the text he has learned by rote. This person is not an actor; he does not understand the sounds he is making. No matter how amazing and near perfect this imitation might be, the curtain concealing the hoax will be lifted. In Kaplan’s case his initially charming and quite admirable display of the love of the music (he could have bought himself several Rolex watches and luxury yachts for what it cost him) persisted as a spectacle of harmless self-delusion at the margins of concert life.

Mr. Mauceri gives Kaplan more credit than he deserves, slyly claiming that some people believe the Kaplan recording of Mahler’s Second is the best, or one of the best, recorded accounts of the work. But Mr. Mauceri, using his own career, undercuts his own opening gambit by detailing how complicated conducting is, and how much one really needs to know, particularly when conducting opera, unfamiliar music and film scores. His book is as much a personal account of his life and career—a memoir filled with anecdotes and his opinions about music, performance, language and history—as it is a candid objective guide to conducting written for the general audience.


[ctd. next post]

« : January 13, 2018, 10:30:24 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #58 : January 13, 2018, 10:34:23 PM »

[WSJ review ctd.]


Mr. Mauceri definitely knows what he is writing about. He has a distinguished conducting career. He studied at Yale under the eminent conducting teacher Gustav Meier. He was Bernstein’s assistant for nearly two decades. He has conducted all over the world. And his experience ranges from orchestral music and opera to popular music, movie music and musicals. Most impressive has been his advocacy of unjustly neglected works, notably those banned by the Nazis as “degenerate.” Mr. Mauceri has made pioneering recordings. He has been, at various times, the director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Opera, the Turin opera house and the American Symphony. He has conducted in every major venue—from Covent Garden and La Scala to the Met—and with every major orchestra in the world, and has worked with practically all the great soloists and singers. And Mr. Mauceri served with distinction at the helm of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Mr. Mauceri holds strong views about conducting, including the need to interrogate musical texts to establish the composer’s intent and the right critical versions. He recognizes the obligation to get under the surface of music to reveal meaning. He is determined to push the boundaries of the standard repertoire so that more of the great music produced over the past 300 years can be heard live, which, for Mr. Mauceri, is the only proper way to experience music. He rightly stresses the indispensability of learning to accompany the voice and of working in the opera pit as part of required training

Despite Mr. Mauceri’s conclusion that conducting remains a unique mystery, “Maestros and Their Music” offers a succinct but candid detailed account of the training, trials and tribulations conductors go through, including loneliness, bad hotels, hostile orchestras, poor pay, greedy managers, philistine administrators, and mean-spirited and ignorant critics. The reader learns of Mr. Mauceri’s triumphs, successes and contributions to conducting. Mr. Mauceri’s many anecdotes—war stories of near misses and disasters—provide among the most engrossing pages.

Conductors are known for their outsize egos, and Mr. Mauceri, despite an admirable effort to show humility, is no exception. Even when he expresses admiration for others, he is somehow dead center in the picture. Mr. Mauceri can also be sharply critical. He is quite restrained in his admiration for Pierre Boulez and downright dismissive of Lorin Maazel, two of the finest recent masters of the technique of conducting.

The success, distinction, discipline and breadth of Mr. Mauceri’s accomplishment, all evident in the book, contradict the notion that there is something particularly un-teachable about conducting. The spirit, personality and serendipity that separate a fine professional from a star among conductors are the same qualities that do so among singers and instrumentalists. However, since orchestral and operatic life today is so dominated by a narrow standard repertoire and the quality of professional ensembles is so high, there are bad conductors and poorly trained conductors out there being rescued every night by their orchestras. But as Mr. Mauceri makes plain, faced with a new piece of music, or an unknown and unrecorded one from the past, or an ensemble of amateurs or students, the veil of mystery will be lifted quickly and all that should and can be taught to train a conductor will become obvious.

Conducting—the complex, multifaceted, silent use of motion and gesture to create sound and meaning—can be taught. How well it is learned and how imaginatively it is practiced vary. The distinction between routine professionalism and greatness in conducting is the same as it is in playing and composing. The only difference is that 20th-century technology has raised the standard of orchestral and operatic performance and made the currency of conducting easy to counterfeit. Anyone who finishes Mr. Mauceri’s book will understand why Rubinstein stopped, why Kaplan managed to carry on and why Mr. Mauceri deserves recognition as a real conductor.

— Mr. Botstein is the president of Bard College and the music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra.


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« #59 : January 15, 2018, 05:24:30 PM »

DJ and I got tickets for some 2018 shows but (due to various commitments and scheduling and women) may be going to separate shows.

DJ will be seeing the awesome Ivan Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center on Jan. 14, performing:
 Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. With pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2
http://www.lincolncenter.org/great-performers/show/budapest-festival-orchestra-2
Had a lot of fun at this. The three pieces were all very different. The Bach was a chamber piece for 8 performers, some or all on period instruments. Fischer himself (with his back to the audience) manned a primitive organ. My date (not Drink on this occasion) was gratified to be able to finally hear a harpsichord played live. She also pointed out the fact that the flute being played was not the modern version. The rest of the group performed on various string instruments,  but I was unsure of their vintage. Two negatives: I find most Bach a bit dull; and, a chamber group performing in Avery Fisher/David Geffen Hall doesn't have the stuff to project enough sound for the place. It was all too pleasant, too quiet, too soporific. At least it was short (24 minutes).

Then the full orchestra came in with the guest pianist, Denes Varjon (not Mr. Thibaudet as originally advertised). Fischer's platform was set up on the other side of piano, so that the pianist was sitting front and center where everyone could enjoy his performance. This meant Fischer's conducting was obscured, but I was happy with the trade-off. A program note informed us that "Mr. Varjon will play Beethoven's cadenzas." What does that mean? Do pianists performing this piece sometimes play cadenzas by other composers? Do they improvise? I couldn't quite see the point of the note. Nonetheless, Mr. Vajon was a demon on the keyboard, with both a light touch and a commanding presence. Thirty-five minutes later he got standing ovations by many--I myself found myself on my feet at this point. Afterwards, Mr. Varjon performed an encore, a short piece for solo piano that I did not recognize. He called out the name before starting, but he was not mic-ed and I was way, way too far away to hear what he said.

After the intermission it was time for the Rachmaninoff (55 minutes), which I had never heard before. There was no piano for this--hah, Rachmaninoff without piano!--but plenty of orchestral pyrotechnics, yeah. The first movement was filled with potential movie music moments--I guess Messrs. Korngold, Steiner, and Waxman heard this a few times in their youth. Nothing seemed to have been stolen outright--I didn't hear anything I recognized--but as I listened I could easily imagine bits of the music accompanying scenes from some of my favorite films. This and the second movement had a lot of changes, dynamically and otherwise, and surprise seemed to be the point of many of these. Fisher was very aggressive throughout: at one point it looked like he was sparring with his string section, at another it looked like he was suffering a bout of apoplexy as he cued his horn section. The frenzy of the first two movements gave way to the lush romantic theme of the third. I recognized the theme, but took a moment to place it. It was Eric Carmen's "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again"! Of course, pop composers have been raiding the masters for years, I just hadn't realized Mr. Carmen's theft had been so conspicuous. I have to admit Mr. Carmen has good taste, though. The fourth movement was a capitulation of all that had gone on before, plus, I believe, the introduction of a new theme. Then there was the boffo finish, a bit of parody if you ask me. The performers were impressive and received many standing ovations. There was, apparently, an encore after that, but I couldn't stay--I had to hurry over to PJ Clark's for my $25 hamburger so that I'd be done in time for my movie at the AMC Lincoln at 7 (but that's another story).

« : January 15, 2018, 05:30:06 PM dave jenkins »


Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
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