Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

First up, Tom Service's symphony guide series continues with John Adams' Harmonielehre, a symphonic work that is not called a symphony. Certainly a piece worth listening to.


Sure, the beginning sounds a bit like someone practicing his rhythmic solfege, but still, lots of good things later on.

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A little late to the party is Sinfini Music's ("cutting through classical" or should that be "cutting down classical"?) review of Hilary Hahn's encore album which I reviewed last month, in six parts, starting here. Sinfini's review is all of 215 words and doesn't contain much that you couldn't discern just by looking at the cover of the album.

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Norman Lebrecht passes on the news that the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a highly-respected newspaper, is slashing its record review section, which has been a whole page Tuesdays and Fridays. Here is an example of one of their reviews, of some C. P. E. Bach recordings. Hey, let's have some music by him, who does tend to be, as the review says, overshadowed by his father, J. S.


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Remember that 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell managed to turn into a cash cow for himself? I critiqued this in a couple of posts. It seems as if the mass media are catching up. Now Salon has a piece up debunking Gladwell. Just to underline the very obvious: thousands of people practice the guitar 10,000 hours who will never be even close to being as good as John Williams or Julian Bream or Pepe Romero.


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Norman Lebrecht has the latest on the seemingly never-ending threats to musicians who travel. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of the constant increase in bureaucratic regulation that enables little gauleiters to lord it over musicians. And here is a little message for you: none of this crap is going to save a single elephant. If you want to save elephants, it would be a much better plan to allow ivory to be a marketable commodity. UPDATE: Here is a more comprehensive description of the new regulations. It's a nightmare!

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Lessee, we haven't had an orchestral "flashmob" for a while. Here is the Detroit Symphony getting back in touch with the people by playing, yes, the ever-predictable last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony in an Ikea store. Alas, Blogger refuses to find the clip, so you will have to go to NPR to watch. But here is my favorite Beethoven 9th flashmob: an advertisement for a Spanish bank. I like the bit at the beginning with the hat for busker donations:


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Let's end with a clip of the Amadeus Quartet who were probably playing with bows that contained ivory from African elephants. Quartettensatz by Schubert, filmed in 1977:


10 comments:

Nathan Shirley said...

I can't think of a single case where deregulation saved an endangered specie... though there are plenty of cases where regulations made all the difference... but I thought this was a music blog? Unfortunately for the African elephant, extinction seems unavoidable.

Bryan Townsend said...

Sorry to wander off the reservation! But I feel that someone at some point has to push back at these pettifogging bureaucrats. I think I made the argument most fully in my post on the raid on the Gibson guitar factory which you can read here:

http://themusicsalon.blogspot.mx/2011/08/guitar-wars.html

Bridge said...

It doesn't make much sense to confiscate instruments that contain ivory as the ivory has already been harvested and the elephants probably killed. Sure, I can understand confiscating raw ivory and making it illegal to manufacture items containing ivory. I also understand confiscating items containing ivory imported from abroad (which would contribute to overall demand) and I do mean imported. As in somebody takes it with them on a return trip. I don't think it's fair for foreign musicians migrating or visiting to have their stuff confiscated (as I understand it ivory is mainly to be found in bow frogs,) and I assume that this would also cover instruments made in the U.S., in which case instruments containing ivory could either not be brought out of the country at all or if they could would be confiscated on the way back. In any case, this is exceedingly unfair to musicians whom the regulations affect. The 1976 rule is a joke, is there anybody who actually plays a nearly half-century old instrument except for special performances? As I understand it, you are lucky if your instrument makes it beyond 20 if it is in constant use and gets regular tune-ups. Oh well, there's always pizzicato huh?

Bridge said...

Depending on the instrument of course. I was referring to bowed strings here. Pianos for example obviously have a much longer life span.

Bryan Townsend said...

My guitar is thirty years old and still going strong after a full restoration and some repair work. The nut is made from antique ivory, meaning that the builder bought something in an antique store that was made of ivory and cut it up to use as nuts (and did this before the current laws). The nut is the small bar at the end of the neck over which the strings pass on their way to the tuning pegs. Ivory has better resonance than plastic. But if I were going to travel to the US today and someone questioned me I would swear up and down that the nut is made of plastic!

Of course, given the current environment I would not, under any circumstances, travel to the US with my guitar and risk it falling into the hands of some idiot customs enforcer.

Most concert violinists play instruments that are at least one hundred years old. Oddly enough, violins and cellos seem to have a longer lifespan than pianos!

Bridge said...

What do you call a full restoration? Also, the instruments must have been built to last if they are 100 years old, though I am skeptical of your claim that "most" concert violinists play such old instruments. I know that many musicians regularly purchase new instruments even though they might perhaps keep old ones around as "beaters." Guess I was wrong about the life span though.

Bryan Townsend said...

I called it a "full restoration" because after twenty-some years of a lot of touring, concertizing and practicing, everything that could wear out did wear out. All the frets were replaced and the tuning machines. All of the varnish was stripped and the whole instrument re-varnished and there were five cracks in the body that were repaired.

You weren't aware that most of the well-known concert violinists play on instruments build in Cremona, Italy in the late 17th and early 18th century? The most famous builders were Amati, Guarnerius and Stradivarius. These are regarded as the finest musical instruments ever built. There is even a well-known movie about one of them, The Red Violin.

Bridge said...

Nope. By concert violinists you mean virtuoso soloists? I just assumed they played expensive customs - I have never given it any thought beyond that.

Bryan Townsend said...

Here, from the very useful Wikipedia, is an incomplete list of Stradivarius violins, their provenance, and their current owners. You can see, for example, that Anne Sophie Mutter has the instrument named the Emiliani Stradivarius, built in 1703. David Oistrakh had one built in 1705, Nigel Kennedy plays the Le Cathedrale built in 1707, Itzak Perlman a 1714 instrument and so on.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stradivarius_instruments

Bridge said...

The age of these instruments is pretty astounding considering how great they sound. I'm amazed I never knew, in fact even though I have known of the Stradivarius name for a long time I always assumed that it was just a long generation of luthiers that made top-end strings to this day, like Steinway. Thanks for the info in any case.