Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

We begin with a mug shot:

Igor Stravinsky

There is a small repertoire of scandalous stories about Stravinsky. One is about how he and Picasso were nearly arrested for public urination in Spain one evening. And there are lots about his relationship with Coco Chanel. But I just ran across another one about when he was nearly arrested in Boston for conducting his arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner at a concert. Unusual arrangements of the national anthem were illegal in Boston at that time, the 1940s. Sadly, the photo above does not document the incident with the national anthem, but might be simply a photo taken for a visa. You can read the whole interesting story here: Did the Star-Spangled Banner land Stravinsky in jail?

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The great Spanish director Carlos Saura is known for his series of films about Spanish music and culture that include El Amor Brujo on music of Manuel de Falla. This is part of a trilogy of films based on flamenco music and culture that began with Blood Wedding, on a play by Garcia Lorca, and continued with his film of Carmen, using the music of Bizet, but done as a flamenco ballet. I mention this because I just discovered a recent film by him, Flamenco Flamenco from 2010, that consists of a number of separate vignettes illustrating the wide range of flamenco dance, song and music. There is everything from large ensemble pieces, to structured ballet, to individual performances (which include a kind of flamenco mime by a solitary dancer) and on and on. Endlessly fascinating if you enjoy flamenco. I have always loved Saura's brilliant framing technique where he opens and closes each film by traversing that magical path from the real world to the world of theater and art. The film is available for free on YouTube:

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The Wall Street Journal reviews some performances of unusual musical theater works, part of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York:
Like many entertainments of the Louis XIV era, Molière’s great comedy “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” (1670) is a hybrid, encompassing music and dance as well as spoken theater, but modern producers rarely stage it that way. C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord’s hilarious production, presented in French by the Lincoln Center Festival last week, brilliantly incorporated the original music by Jean-Baptiste Lully, and the musicians, singers and dancers enriched director Denis Podalydès’s fast-paced staging.
There are times when I really wish I lived in New York.

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Prepare to be offended! Actually, I thought that was rather the point of a lot of progressive opera productions these days. We must have reached a boundary however as the Edinburgh festival is offering refunds before the performance:
The Edinburgh international festival has been criticised for offering refunds for a new production of Così fan tutte before the opera has opened.
Christophe Honoré’s version of the Mozart opera opened the Aix-en-Provence festival in France last month and will play at the Festival theatre in the Scottish capital in late August.
The festival told ticket buyers in its description that it was a “provocative and sexually explicit take on Mozart’s opera” that “contains adult themes and nudity”.
Mind  you, Così fan tutte is always challenging.

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The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara passed away on Wednesday this week. He was the most-performed Finnish composer after Sibelius, the composer of eight fine symphonies in a variety of styles.

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I'm not saying that an abundance of silence is one factor in Finland's status as a musical superpower, but it might just have helped. Have a look at this article: This is Your Brain on Silence.
...modern society often seems intolerably loud and busy. “Silence is a resource,” it said. It could be marketed just like clean water or wild mushrooms. “In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”
People already do. In a loud world, silence sells. Noise-canceling headphones retail for hundreds of dollars; the cost of some weeklong silent meditation courses can run into the thousands. Finland saw that it was possible to quite literally make something out of nothing.
In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board released a series of photographs of lone figures in the wilderness, with the caption “Silence, Please.” An international “country branding” consultant, Simon Anholt, proposed the playful tagline “No talking, but action.” And a Finnish watch company, Rönkkö, launched its own new slogan: “Handmade in Finnish silence.”
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As part of a series, the Guardian offers a musical tour of Venice
there are actually two Venices. There is “the opulent Venice celebrated in the music of Monteverdi, Gabrieli and Vivaldi. And then there is the decaying Venice we know from novels and films, for example Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Visconti’s film and inevitably the adagietto from Mahler’s 5th symphony; Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers, also made into a film directed by Paul Schrader; Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, etc.”
There are two Venices because the city is the decaying relic of a once-great empire. When Monteverdi was composing, even though that empire was already in decline, the grandeur, the independence and the city’s position as a centre of trade remained. After the conquest by Napoleon in 1797 and absorption into the new Italian state in 1866, it became a museum, the most beautiful and captivating in the world.
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Our envoi for today must honor Einojuhani Rautavaara. This is his Symphony No. 7, "Angel of Light". Leif Segerstam conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in four parts:

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