Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

I like to save the weirder items for the Friday Miscellanea, so here we go, the Courante from the Cello Suite No. 1 by Bach on a glass cello:


Nope.

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The Guardian reveals to us the lineup for the 2018 Proms: Bernstein, Bach and NY disco-punk: 2018 Proms lineup revealed.
There will be plenty of Beethoven, Bernstein and Bach at the 2018 BBC Proms, but also a good helping of pagan-gospel, disco-punk, DIY indie and feminist rap. The festival is set to be more with it and edgy than ever before with a late-night prom celebrating the music of modern New York.
In theory I like the idea of "with it and edgy" but so often how it manifests itself is more like "brutally ideological and aesthetically questionable." I won't be making a pilgrimage to Salzburg this summer as I will likely be going to Toronto to oversee the recording of a couple of my recent pieces. Next year I do plan on spending a couple of weeks there. But, I will certainly look over the offerings at the BBC Proms as well. Just in case...

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Norman Lebrecht has an item up recalling a post from a few years ago on pieces you never want to hear again! I missed it first time around. The comments are absolutely hilarious. Let me give you three lists. First, from pianist Katya Apekisheva:
1. Vivaldi. Four seasons
2. Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals
3. ABBA
4. About 85% of music by Liszt
5. Berlioz
6. Ending of Tchaikovsky piano trio ( around 8 last pages)
7. Neapolitan song ‘O Sole Mio’
8. Beethoven Fur Elise
9. Virtuoso violin music, such as Sarasate and Weniawsky
10. Brindisi from Traviata
Next, Norman's list:
1 National music
2 Tchaikovsky (except last 3 syms and violin concerto)
3 Anything with Moon in the title – any language – lune, mondo &c.
4 Mahler’s Adagietto except when played within the fifth symphony
5 Vivaldi’s you-know-what
6 Messiaen
7 Bernstein’s Mass
8 Anything by Puccini after Bohème
9 Elgar’s oratorios
10 Barber’s Adagio
Finally, my list:

  1. Andrew Lloyd Webber
  2. most Liszt
  3. most Mahler
  4. Bernstein's Mass
  5. Hip-Hop
  6. EDM
  7. Pachelbel Canon
  8. Spanish Romance
  9. Sevilla by Albéniz
  10. Choro No. 1 by Villa-Lobos
As a guitarist, I reserve the last three places for the pieces for classical guitar that I don't ever need to hear again.

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There are ways of fighting back: FABIO LUISI DENOUNCES ‘COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE’ ECHO AWARD. What's this about, you ask?
The Zurich Opera music director has joined the rush of musicians who are giving back their ECHO awards after the 2018 prize was given to a pair of rappers making Holocaust jokes. ‘They have mocked the suffering of millions of people,’ he says.
Follow the link for his letter (in German). Now, has it occurred to any of the recent recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for Music to return their awards? Different situation, I guess.

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The New Yorker weighs in on the deep significance of awarding the Pulitzer to Kendrick Lamar:
Lamar’s historic win figures in the grander, affected consecration of blackness within élite spaces—exemplified, I think, by the “thousand flowers of expectation” blooming in Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama. It was Obama, with his caucuses of rappers in the White House, who accelerated the conclusion that hip-hop had earned a prestige as a great American art. In its long and perplexing lurch toward acclaim, did hip-hop sacrifice its edge? Lamar is a fascinating and brilliant non-answer. He is a complicated artist because he sits at the nexus of forces that seem misaligned: he is an alert political gadfly who will happily curate a soundtrack for the commercial juggernaut “Black Panther”; he is a literary virtuoso who understands the charisma needed to make songs you can play in a club. He is hip-hop, which means that he skirts categorization. The Pulitzers got it right.
If you have a lot of spare time, perhaps you could unpack that paragraph! My favorite bit is the gratuitous French accent in the word "élite" that has not been necessary in English for, oh, a hundred years or so.

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Here is a lovely piece on the history of the concert hall:
Throughout the Romantic era, several interrelated cultural shifts coincided to make a concert culture that more closely resembles what is expected in concert halls today. Romanticism, particularly in Germany, emphasized the inward experiences of the individual. Music became more closely associated with personal expression, statements from composers to be received by listeners. Also, as William Weber has written, people started making greater distinctions between “high” and “low” art, with the presumption that a person’s taste in music corresponded to their social stature and moral bearing. Furthermore, it became an expectation that people needed to educate themselves about art to fully understand and appreciate it. Music was no longer just the background of social events; it could itself be the focus of attention.
These ideas emerged throughout the first half of the 19th century, contributing to a new, meditative form of listening, notes Meredith C. Ward. This aesthetic experience of music required more from its audience—more education, more concentration, more thought. As music became an inward experience rather than the background of a social function, performance spaces reflected the change: audience seats faced the stage rather than each other. Symphonies came to be perceived as unified works with motives that tied the movements together, rather than separable movements that may not even be performed in succession. Influential conductors like Felix Mendelssohn discouraged applause between movements of works to help audiences sense these connections.
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 One of the past winners of the Pulitzer in Music was Jennifer Higdon (who has also commented on this blog) and now she has a new award: Philly Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon now wins $100,000 Nemmers Prize, too.
The Nemmers Prize comes with a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and will bring Higdon to Northwestern to lead coaching sessions with ensembles and to conduct lessons and seminars with composition students in two residencies over the next two years. The award was established in 2003 and has previously gone to composers such as John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, John Luther Adams, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Steve Reich.
I think that what this illustrates is that it is prizes like this and the Grawemeyer Awards and other similar ones that are the significant ones, at least for classical, concert or "art" music composers. After all, nowadays they are giving Pulitzers to hip-hop artists. Heh!

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For our envoi today let's listen to a piece by Jennifer Higdon. This is her Percussion Concerto in a 2016 performance by the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Samuel Tam. Michael Murphy, solo percussionist:



12 comments:

Marc said...

Noticed that the Pulitzer award to Kendrick Lamar happened and gathered that it is supposed to have been an earth-shattering act of progress! for some reason. Perhaps I should listen to some of his music, I thought, but haven't yet.

In case I forget (again), Sir James MacMillan's Stabat Mater, performed by The Sixteen and the Britten Sinfonia, will be video live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel (an historic first!) on Sunday at 1700 UK time (which is 0900 here on the Pacific coast, I believe). Am not so sure I think such 'events' in that sacred space are progress or appropriate but since it's happening, I suppose I'd listen, were it not for the fact that that is my usual Sunday Mass time. I'm happy, however, that Someone didsn't take it into his head to allow an 'Excerpts from Bomarzo' concert in the same location.

Craig said...

That Lebrecht piece is pretty entertaining. Here is my list of music that turns my stomach:

Beethoven - Violin Concerto (esp. the last movement!)
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Anything by Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis, and their ilk
Choral music with "extended vocal techniques"
Strauss' tone poems
Grieg - Piano Concerto
Mahler - Symphony No.8
Berlioz
Reich
Bartok

Marc said...

Am glad to see that Mass on the lists. My principal objection is nothing to do with the music; blasphemy aside, weirdly enough I remember whistle-able tunes that are quite catchy. The fact is that I enjoyed the damn thing when, at 17, perhaps, I first heard it. Must have listened to it four or five times (the purchase of an LP was, in those long ago times, an event) before-- presumably because I was not keeping my enthusiasm to myself-- it was remarked to me by someone I much respected that (words to this effect, anyway) 'there are one or two decent show tunes but the blasphemy prevents me from enjoying them'.

Marc said...

Sorry to see that reports from Salzburg aren't happening this year but hope to hear the results of the Toronto recording sessions instead. I'd be very disappointed to miss Jordi Savall and the selections from Victoriä's Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae.

Have never listened to Henze's The Bassarids nor to von Einem's Prozeß, so perhaps this summer I will. One can only imagine the productions' extravagances!

Craig said...

I heard the Sixteen's recent recording of MacMillan's Stabat Mater, and disliked it strongly, despite counting myself, in general, an admirer of his choral music. It reminded me of his orchestral music, which often seems like so much aimless noodling, and not particularly pleasant to hear. I'd be curious to hear your opinion of it, Marc, if you're able to catch it.

Marc said...

Oh, I have the Coro CD, last year sometime. While I only listened a couple of times, there are a couple of passages that might fall under that 'aimless noodling' rubric, as I recall, but that was certainly not my general impression, which was favorable & that there was far less gratuitous modernistic jarringness (which I realise is probably more or less incomprehensible but my abilities to describe these things in real musical terms is unhappily limited) than I had expected. But am always going to prefer the plainchant, in any case, so it is to their credit, I thought, that they began the CD with that. The 22nd April concert is available for a month afterward on Classic FM.

Steven Watson said...

I remember when MacMillan’s Stabat Mater premiered in London -- it got an incredible reaction. A quite long reverent silence followed by a standing ovation. I remember it for its beauty, albeit a grinding sort of beauty, if that at all makes sense -- I particularly remember a recurring violin melody -- and the use of counterpoint, which I always appreciate about MacMillan’s music. I don’t recall listening to the recording but live it was fantastic. I liked it so much that I travelled across the country to see it a second time! (It helped that the programme included his Miserere -- what a glorious piece! -- and VW’s Tallis Fantasia.) Though yes, I partly agree with you Craig, in that I'm wary sometimes of MacMillan’s orchestral music. He can overdo it, and it becomes loud and unattractive -- I'm thinking, sadly, of his John Passion.

Marc said...

Glad to read Steven's comment about MacMillan's Stabat Mater; 'a grinding sort of beauty'.

While I know that EDM is not the thing done here, I must confess to using it occasionally as the musical background when I'm housecleaning or paying bills etc-- in consequence I noticed the death of Tim Bergling, Avicii, requiescat in pace. Know nothing about him beyond the fact that he had retired from DJing and whatever else was in the news story; pancreatic disease after years of too much alcohol use.

gunnro said...

110 Women Composers Linked to Youtube performances of Their Music: https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1022922291387826177

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, gunnro, for the link. As should be evident, the Music Salon is happy to celebrate women composers (we are currently doing a series on Sofia Gubaidulina), but we are against the suppression of male composers.

gunnro said...

Famous Male Classical Music Composers Linked to Youtube Videos of Their Music https://www.thinglink.com/scene/356894836550270976

Bryan Townsend said...

There you go. However, Philip Glass, but no Steve Reich?