Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Miscellanea!

Yeah, yeah, I know, this was supposed to come out on Friday.  But I've been just swamped with all manner of thing. Plus, I am going to be visiting relatives over Christmas so, while there will be some blogging, it won't be voluminous.

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I haven't written much about Shostakovich lately, but I just ran across this fascinating essay: 'He speaks to us': why Shostakovich was a great communicator. There is a quote from a letter that is well-worth the effort. We tend to forget what a profound sense of humor Shostakovich had.

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I include this item partly because Mozart is always a good idea and partly because I had not heard the Schabel quote before:
As Schnabel said, his music is too easy for children and too difficult for adults.
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Now I realise that Artur Schnabel, the great Beethoven interpreter of the first half of the century, said a lot of quotable things. A selection:
The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.
Mozart is a garden, Schubert is a forest in light and shade, but Beethoven is a mountain range.
But my favourite Schnabel quote I can't seem to find. He apparently once explained his long refusal to record the Beethoven piano sonatas by saying that he was afraid that someone, somewhere, would listen to them while eating a ham sandwich!

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There was a time, extending from the late 1960s well into the 1980s, when stuff like this seemed to make a crazy kind of sense. An Eastern-flavoured wisdom. But I hope that now we can see it as the meaningless drivel that it is. Ever noticed how some kinds of statements actually seem to suck understanding from your mind?
“Since there could be no such thing as the absence of sound for a living, breathing human being with a pulse, what then could silence be? It was a matter of intent, Cage decided: The essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention. Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind. … Does listening to random sounds we do not intend to hear – the drone of an airplane engine, a dripping faucet, the roar of a bus pulling away from a stop – constitute the experience of silence? Or does silence end the moment sounds actually impose themselves on our consciousness?”
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The first time someone did this it was just cute, or surprising or something. But it is starting to become tiresome. Here is violinist Filip Pogady doing a cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" in the style of a fugue for solo violin by Bach. Sorry, you have to go there as Blogger won't embed.

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John Doyle, usually the television critic at the Globe and Mail, included this in his choice of the year's best cultural events:
Death & Desire, at the Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery, Toronto
A mild evening in June in a tiny art gallery. A man strode to the piano and began playing Schubert. Two singers wandered through the audience. What ensued was dazzling, a rapturous evocation of naive, unbridled desire meeting neurotic, unfocussed longing. The naive desire was male, Stephen Hegedus singing Schubert’s delicate, inflamed Die Schone Mullerin (The Miller’s Lovely Daughter); and the manic longing was in Krisztina Szabo performing Olivier Messiaen’s starkly distraught Harawi: Chant d’amour et de mort (Song of Love and Death). This was Against the Grain’s Death & Desire, a fabulously inspired mash-up. Simply done, it was the most unforgettable night of the year and made, as a poet said, one little room an everywhere.
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André Rieu is likely the biggest-selling classical musician in the world with something like 40 million discs sold. There is an article and interview with him in the Guardian: "André Rieu: 'I spent £34m on fountains, ice rinks and gold carriages' " Here he is in a real super-star moment, leading thousands of football fans in a singalong of, of all things, a waltz by Shostakovich:

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Kyle Gann shares a very challenging recording project with us: the complete string quartets of Ben Johnston. Here is a sample page:

Those extremely peculiar accidentals indicate micro-tones. Really micro, micro-tones. Here is his String Quartet No. 6:

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For our envoi today I offer a magnificent trumpet obbligato by Handel, "The Trumpet Shall Sound" from the Messiah on natural trumpet. Dashon Burton, is the bass and the natural trumpet is played by John Theissen:


Christine Lacroix said...

Tuesday Miscellanea
In the tube in London recently saw a poster that read: Have Yourself a Classical Christmas showing Einaudi (spelling?), André Rieu, Andrea Boccelli, and Max Richter. The only one I hadn't heard of was Max Richter so I came to your blog, Brian, and 'googled' his name and found your post on Hilary Hahn's Encore project which then led me to YouTube and this nice interview

Also in London saw an article in the Times "How many Dylan lyrics can a science paper take?'
Since you're a Dylan fan....

Marc Puckett said...

Why would we listen to an Adele cover when there is a new Adele album?! (or is that Rolling Over song on the new album?) but I did look about to see if the Filip Pogády fellow is a Real Virtuoso[tried inserting a trademark symbol here unsuccessfully]. Backing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is great (seriously; ESMZ have some nice songs) but somehow I doubt he's spending much time on the classical repertoire in between that sort of show and his modelling gigs. Does what's his name, the artist with the perfumes, have a modelling career?

Until I read this, I had always the impression (shows how much attention I pay, tsk!) that André Rieu is some sort of Neil Diamond-ish character with a substantial following amongst single ladies of a certain age. Makes me wonder what else of importance I've missed.

You've made me wonder, Christine, what Einaudi does that is Christmas-appropriate; I'll look about.

I have a friend that travels a couple of times a year to Big Sur to get her Esalen fix and oh, does she understand how 'listening to random sounds we don't intend to hear' 'constitutes the experience of silence'. Gosh. I swear they put something in the water back in the 60s. :-)

Marc Puckett said...

So the Schubert and the Messiaen are being sung at the same time? with Hegedus singing to or at Szabó and Szabó singing to or at Hegedus? perhaps they are simply alternating songs. I'm having difficulty seeing how I personally would enjoy this but could perhaps be persuaded to lay out the cash for a ticket once, sure.

Or maybe not. Schubert and Messiaen aren't alive to defend their intellectual property but my take is that those composers created unique works that are complete in themselves; 'mashing them up' (judging by the photos at Against the Grain's site that is an euphemism for a staged 'romance' between Hegedus and Szabo; they've "shuffled the songs together") is deforming them, prose on all you want about the novelty and esprit and fabulousness! Writing this-- I swear I started by being open to the idea of it-- it is just decadence, decadence, decadence. Instead of being humble enough and receptive enough to hear the Schubert and the Messiaen on their own terms, those people need to manipulate their works into something palatable to their decadent televisual sensibilities. I think I'll keep my fifty bucks in my pocket, and, no, am not going to their Messiah, either. Tsk.

The Messiaen estate administrators in France thought this was a good idea, I guess. Hmm.

Christine Lacroix said...

Marc I think the poster was to sell albums or concerts, not sure, I was in a hurry. So probably the only connection to Christmas was commercial. Merry Christmas everyone!

Marc Puckett said...

Ah, I see, Christine, thank you. I did look at Wikipedia and Spotify and didn't see any Einaudi that looked 'designed' for Christmas.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks to you, Christine and Marc, for keeping the blog bubbling while I was traveling. And a very delightful Christmas and Hanukkah to you both, depending on what you celebrate. And, of course to all my other readers. I will be putting up some posts over the holidays, but not as many as usual as I am relaxing in Virginia Beach with relatives.

Yes, I pretty much think mashups are a horrible idea. This sounds like a great way of confusing and confounding the unique qualities of both Schubert and Messiaen.