Thursday, May 11, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

Both the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic are celebrating their 175th anniversaries this season. Can that be true? I thought the New York band was younger than the Vienna one. But no. In any case, both are also issuing giant boxes of CDs offering retrospectives and the Wall Street Journal has a comprehensive review: Two Orchestras Mark their 175th Birthdays with Big Packages (that headline is rather suggestive, isn't it?). The review comments on the New York offering:
Among the discoveries are recordings by John Barbirolli, whose five seasons with the orchestra (1936-1941), immediately following Toscanini’s storied term, are generally regarded as misbegotten. Yet his accounts of symphonies by Schubert, Brahms and Sibelius and overtures by Berlioz reveal a conductor innately sensitive to color and style. (He would later become a revered presence in his native Britain, as well as widely respected in Berlin and Vienna.) The recordings of his successor, Artur Rodzinski, who enjoyed even fewer seasons as music director (1943 to 1947), are better still. His thrillingly idiomatic account of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony ranks with the best, as do his lush, potent version of Rachmaninoff’s Second and ravishing yet unsentimental reading of Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique.”
The one from Deutsche Gramophone is much less extensive:
Deutsche Grammophon’s comparatively modest salute to the Vienna Philharmonic runs to 44 discs and, like Sony’s New York Philharmonic box, looks beautiful. But because DG didn’t begin recording this orchestra until after World War II, and even then the company faced competition from rival labels like Decca/London and EMI, the material available for this retrospective is limited. Opting for quantity over rarity, DG has produced a set containing mostly relatively recent performances of the standard repertory by the likes of Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, James Levine and Christian Thielemann—all readily available individually on the label.
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Tyler Cowen is a pretty cultivated guy, for an economist, and he makes some interesting music references in a recent post: How long until another Industrial Revolution would have taken place?
The optimistic perspective is gained from studying the history of the arts.  Then one sees European culture as having a series of mini-industrial revolutions, starting in late medieval times and rapidly accelerating progress in painting, sculpture, perspective, bookmaking, goldsmithing, musical instruments, musical notation, paper-making, and many other areas, most of all in northern Italy and also Franco-Flemish territory and a bit later Germany.  Bach came before the British “Industrial Revolution” and his genius had a lot of preconditions too!  The “special” thing about the British IR is that it overturned Malthusian assumptions, but from the point of view of understanding how the inputs related to the outputs, and how so many new, complex innovations were possible all at once, that is arguably of secondary import.  Study Monteverdi, not coal!
I like that: "study Monteverdi, not coal!" This is the ninth of a list of questions about why the Industrial Revolution happened in Great Britain and not in China or Rome (or, for that matter, in Mexico under the Aztecs). By the way, when I get back home I am going to continue my series on Monteverdi: just about to do Orfeo!

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I can't see any silver lining in this cloud: "Australian Arts Face Media Wipeout"
The Fairfax newspaper group – which owns the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age – plans to fire 125 journalists.. Among them are all arts, film and books writers, as well as the two deputy arts editors.
I suppose that not too far down the road we will hear about the disappearance of newspapers entirely, which won't be too much of a surprise.

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This item, about celebrities smoking and fooling around in the bathroom at the Metropolitan Museum, along with one I just read about the dissolute lifestyle of Johnny Depp makes one stop wondering whether we are experiencing a global decline in not only cultural standards, but intelligence. We are. I mean, how can you just blow $650,000,000? And, I'm sorry, but $2 million a month on "expenses"? Dude, those aren't personal expenses, that's the budget of a fair-sized municipality!
After the obligatory small talk, the visitors got to the point: Depp's cash flow had reached a crisis point, they declared. Even though the star had become wildly wealthy (later, Mandel would claim Depp earned more than $650 million in the 13-plus years he had been represented by The Management Group, the company Mandel had started in 1987 with his brother Robert), there just wasn't enough liquid money to cover Depp's $2 million in monthly bills.

I remember this from high school, but with less fabulous clothes
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Yet another in a seeming never-ending series of studies that compare Stradivarius violins with modern ones:
in their latest study, Fritz and colleagues blind-tested instruments in two concert halls in Paris and New York City. Expert players performed both solo and with an orchestra on old and new violins, including several by Stradivari. Listeners, including violinists, violin-makers, composers and music critics, were asked to rate the instruments according to how well their sound projected, and to give their overall preference.
The results were stark: new instruments were consistently preferred and judged to project better. At face value, this questions the wisdom of many violinists who strive to play on a Strad if they can.
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Anne Midgette and Phillip Kennicotte offer a perspective on the state of the opera on the occasion of the Met's 50th anniversary gala:
One of the main messages I took away, unexpectedly, is that for all of the anxiety about dwindling audiences and poor ticket sales, especially at the Met, the present state of singing is in pretty good shape. In addition to “La Bohème” with Calleja and Sonya Yoncheva, and Camerena’s lovable Tonio in “Daughter of the Regiment,” there was Susan Graham in “Les Troyens,” René Pape in “Boris Godunov,” Michael Fabiano in world-class form in Verdi’s “I Lombardi,” and Anna Netrebko single-handedly upholding the grand tradition of opera as camp as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and a veritably ferocious Madame Butterfly.
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 How about Anna Netrebko for our envoi? Here she is singing "Un Bel Di Vedremo" from Madame Butterfly by Puccini:


Will Wilkin said...

Speaking of the Met Opera, and considering its already 1:30am here, that means that TODAY I'll see a live simulcast of the Met Opera's production of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. And the "Live in HD" simulcasts are a FABULOUS way to see opera: up close, every facial expression and costume detail, great sound, backstage interviews and tours of the costume and set shops....

And regarding those "ladies" smoking in the bathroom, not only would they taste like ashtrays but the tattoos suit them best for service on a Spanish galleon.

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh, heh, heh! Arrgggh! Is it "talk like a pirate day" yet?

I have never seen one of those opera simulcasts. Where I live, I would have to drive an hour and a half to get to where they are shown.

Will Wilkin said...

Find a friend with whom 3 hours (round trip) of conversation would be enjoyable, and drive to see one. Totally worth it. But today's is the last one of the season, so you'd have to wait for fall anyway. I totally recommend it, that drive would be worth it.

Bryan Townsend said...

That actually sounds like a feasible idea.

Marc Puckett said...

Am missing Der Rosenkavalier this morning, alas, but am looking forward to next season-- Magic Flute, Norma, Tosca... and Thomas Adès's The Exterminating Angel, so I will get to see for myself how "utterly inert" (Norman Lebrecht) it is. (This is a Met/Royal Opera/Royal Danish Opera/Salzburg Festival co-production, so I'm presuming that the Met's show will be more or less the same as was presented in London.)

There's a simulcast of the Van Cliburn finalists' performances in Fort Worth on the 10th of next month-- five and a half hours. I may do this.