Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today's WebPick

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and spend sometime visitng today's "Web Pick".

Glenn Gould: The Russian Journey

Excellent post exploring Gould's trip to the old Soviet Union in 1957 can be found here (photos and video clips as well).

Handcuffs, Richter, and Tschaikovsky

discovered via "Mindsyrups Weblog".

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What it's all about

Ralph Vaughn Williams

It's the 50th anniversary of his passing.

Here's something to get your primed:

"Williams was bossy, and thought the harpsichord sucked ("never a pleasant sound"). He was also pretty stern about orchestras - or rather he imagined the orchestras that Bach faced were "ramshackle", the voices in the choir "not good", and the performances themselves "not witty". Williams was all for modern interpretations. To plonk away on a virginal through "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" was his idea of hell. He preferred the wind machine."

Read the rest of here.

The Fly - An Opera

Only in LA

"The Fly", described as a classical re-imagining of the 1986 movie about an eccentric scientist who turns into a massive fly, will open the new season at Los Angeles Opera in September with LA Opera director Placido Domingo conducting the orchestra.
Read the rest here.

Now if only Rufus Wainwright were that creative (and aren't we all glad thats over?)

LIberace's Desert Home

The king of bling's first palm springs home is for sale. And it's surprisingly a steal. Deets.

Beethoven, as I Knew Him

Something to keep your eye peeled for

In one scene, Beethoven mourns the passing of his idol, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, by playing the Requiem on the piano and singing the part of the chorus in a screeching falsetto. It's a pure camp moment that's transfixing in its Liberace-esque audacity and embarrassing in its total sincerity.

If only the play contained more such wacky moments. Mostly, "Beethoven, as I Knew Him" meanders through the composer's life without much purpose or direction.


Life on the D List

Sounds about right

Her technique was fine but not spectacular,

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From Mexico with Love: Robots, Space Ships, and Opera

Y como no?

On Point

A short, to the point, and on the money reply to the "English Classical Music is Dead" notion is provided by the Guardian's Tom Service.

I pass it along w/out qualification. check it out here.

New music debate redux over at the Times. And more whitewashing of music history into a pointless, and historically wholly inaccurate, division of tonal vs atonal, this time with a specifically English gloss: Stephen Pollard with his notion that English music died with Vaughan Williams' demise, 50 years ago today.

Music in a Strange Land

Check it out peeps. A fine and tempting review of Joseph Horowitz'  Artists in Exile: How refugees from twentieth-century war and revolution transformed the American performing art. 
Horowitz provides biographical sketches for them all, each sketch studded with quotable illustrations. (Otto Preminger, hearing a group of his fellow émigrés speaking Hungarian, said, “Don’t you people know you’re in Hollywood? Speak German.”) The result is a rich assembly, an unmasked ball teeming with famous names, but you always have to remember – and our author, to his credit, never forgets – that in too many cases their attendance was compulsory, a fact which can lend a sad note to the glamour.

This looks to be an excellent read. Read the rest of Clive James excellent review here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Day Classical Music Died ... At least English Classical Music

Thoughtful. Contentious. Well worth the read.

It's a piece by Stephan Pollard which holds that
"Classical music took a wrong turn in the period after the death of Vaughan Williams. "

And the cause
"The ruination of music as part of mainstream culture came largely because of subsidy. Composers stopped writing for their public and wrote instead for the small clique that was responsible for commissioning pieces."

I'm not sure I buy that ..The varied doom and fortune of contemporary classical music speaks against it. Consider the musics produced under other models, or lack thereof, to support classical composers elsewhere.

Further along it seems the real complaint here is that English composers nowadays are, well, English enough..
"The leading young English composer is Thomas Adès, whose opera Powder Her Face won rave reviews in 1995 and has since been repeatedly performed around the world. He has been commissioned by the likes of the Royal Opera House and the Berlin Philharmonic and has produced pieces that have won instant audience acclaim.

Adès may be English but, unlike Vaughan Williams, there is almost nothing in his music to show that. Vaughan Williams may no longer be the last to write serious music for general audiences but, as a recognisably English composer, he was indeed the last of his kind"

Deets here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Care to Place a Bet?

If you care to wager, here's something

""I challenge anyone to pick up the album and tell me that it's not as artistic and culturally significant as any piece of classical music that's been around for 300 years," he boasts. "Videogame music is the soundtrack of our generation. This is only the beginning.""

Knowing when to fold is half the game. Or so I'm told.

Read all about it here.

Listening Makes the Musician

According to a recent study, listening to music "develops some amount of musical ability within the brain." Good news for the "mozart-for-babies" crowd.

""More and more labs are showing that people have the sensitivity for skills that we thought were only expert skills," explained Henkjan Honing, a researcher behind the study to Science Daily. According to the publication, "the UvA-study shows that listeners without formal musical training, but with sufficient exposure to a certain musical idiom... perform similarly in a musical task when compared to formally trained listeners.""

Read more about it here

Haven't we always known this?

Hoodlums take note

And there's this:

"If you see any threatening hoodies heading towards you, just click it on and release the music." The youths are unable to cope with the strains of Mozart and Bach, hands over ears they retreat back to their dark corners to recover their ears with "hip hop", but it is enough, the classical music has done it's job and one more OAP is safe.

Sadly it's probably not much of stretch...


Jazz and the Parlor Pianist

I've always liked Gottschalk (and a little goes a long ways), but I'd never thought of his place in the genealogy of Jazz.

A phenomenon in his lifetime but relegated to the status of parlor pianist today, Gottschalk nevertheless was the complete package: talented, good looking, highborn. Educated at the Paris Conservatoire and a peer of Fredrick Chopin, Gottschalk carved an impressive pedigree when he hit the concert trail in the Western Hemisphere during the years leading up to and including the American Civil War.

A very fine round up of Cd's on the Naxos of Gottschalk's best works.

Read it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music at the Limits

Edward Said was one of the more interesting intellectual figures of the last century to attempt to seriously engage Western classical music.

And so it was with no small interest that I read that a collection of essays from the last 20 years of his life has been published.

On balance I think the TLS reviewer gets it just about right:

"To admire Glenn Gould – or indeed Alfred Brendel or Maurizio Pollini, two other pianists whom Said singles out – is not unusual, and it could perhaps be claimed that Said’s views tend to be rather Establishment ones: he writes a wholly adulatory article about Boulez, for example, without any mention of Boulez’s Jesuitical dogmaticism or his musical narrow-mindedness. Similarly, Said seems too respectful of Adorno: he makes good use of some of Adorno’s more insightful observations but also quotes a number of his tiresomely prejudicial opinions about composers he disapproved of, without criticism. But as with Boulez, it is always stimulating to disagree with Said, and reading the last essay in this book, appropriately about late Beethoven, which Said felt to be more about the opening up of new horizons than reaching conclusions, makes one sadly aware of just what a loss his premature death has been."

Radio Waves - NOT

A bit of depressing news from Canada. CBC Radio 2 is puts classical music on the chopping block to carve out room for pop, jazz, and the like.

""It's good for CBC radio to be playing a variety of musical genres," he said, "but this is a radical change. It is moving away from something only the public broadcaster can do to something many private broadcasters already do. And they are shoving classical music into the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. low audience ghetto"

Read about it (and listener reactions) here.


Where is this?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baroque women's music

It's your "must read" link for the day. A fascinating account of Laury Gutiérrez and her tireless work to rescue and perform works by female baroque composers.

"It's not that women weren't composing years ago, or aren't composing now - it's just that, with notable exceptions like Baroque harpsichordist Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, who lived in France at the turn of the 17th century, their music has remained mostly unplayed, confined for centuries to paper."

Schroeder’s Muse

It might be a wee bit of a reach, but it's fun trying no doubt.
The late “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had a long love affair with Beethoven. In fact, he listened to his music so much while he worked — from early piano sonatas to the late string quartets — that his albums became scratched and worn over time. Those pitted records are just a few of the unusual artifacts displayed in the exhibit, “Schulz’s Beethoven: Schroeder’s Muse,” opening Saturday at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa in collaboration with the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University. The exhibit attempts to show a clear connection between the musical scores Schulz incorporated into some of his “Peanuts” comic strips featuring Schroeder and the meaning of the cartoon itself.

And if you're wondering how Schroeder and the rest of the gang turned out as adults, then look no further than the play "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead". Read all about it here.

stairway to heaven?



* 1/3 shot Kahlua
* 1/3 shot Milk
* 1/3 shot Bacardi 151 proof rum

Mixing instructions:

Pour in the Kahlua. Layer the milk on top of it. Then float the Bacardi 151 on top of the milk. Light the top of the shot. Let it burn for about 10 seconds, blow it out and shoot it.

via the online source of all things boozy The Webtender". link

Ya Don't Say

And they were expecting...?

Lang Lang and the young girl looked more like they were playing around than playing the piano. The piano was bouncing up and down very visibly as Lang Lang and the little girl played, looking more like a cardboard prop on an uneven ground than a piano.


But wait, there’s more! Offer Not Sold In Stores

12 tone music never sounded better !!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Andreas Staier

I have always liked his playing, and so I was a very happy camper to find this interview with fortepianist Andreas Staier in the online edition of DiarioVasco. (Spanish).


Staier's webpage can be found here.

Do you know Prokofiev?

Maybe not as well as you think.

Prokofiev is the subject of this year's Bard Festival and the times has a very nice write-up.

So the curators of “Prokofiev and His World” at Bard are concerned not with polishing a dull reputation or arguing for greatness but with exploring aspects of the composer’s life — including his involvement with Christian Science and his surprising decision to return to Russia in 1936 — and the musicians and trends that influenced his irresistible brand of tuneful modernism.

And you'll not want to miss visiting the "The Prokofiev Page". Find it here.

Franz Liszt

I've recently added to the WTB list of keyboard links the "Franz Liszt Site". I've no doubt you'll find it your "go-to" site for all things Liszt.

Check it out. Link.

Monday, August 11, 2008


If you love the music of Chopin -and you probably do if you're reading this blog- then you'll be excited to discover the "The Chopin Project". The site describes itself as an online "gateway to the complete solo keyboard music of Fryderyk Chopin."

You can quite easily spend hours combing thru the various essays, links, audio clips, and other resources that constitute the site. Find it all right here.

You'll also want to check out the "International Chopin Information Center". Link.

Coming to A DVD Near You: Van Cliburn

Searching for a new DVD and you are a fan of Van Cliburn?

Then take note
VAI Video enables us to experience what looks like the television broadcast of Cliburn's legendary "Winner's Concert" performance of Rachmaninov's Third Concerto. The assortment of simple camera angles, in front of and behind the pianist, a few shots of the audience (some incongruously from seemingly separately-shot footage), facing the conductor and a few others in the Moscow Philharmonic, capture the growing involvement in the performance, by both the musicians and the audience, leading in an unbroken arc from Cliburn's first hushed entrance to the triumphant close.
Read the full review here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today in History: A Strange Music

Wired Magazine has published an article that's well worth checking out. The article explores the remarkable collaboration of composer George Antheil and actress Hedy Lamarr to invent a better torpedo. Yes, you read that right.

...Lamarr, a Viennese-born movie actress, would eventually be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Antheil, an American avant-garde composer of orchestral music and opera, lived in Paris during the '20s and counted Ernest Hemingway and Igor Stravinsky among his friends. Not exactly the kind of folks you picture tinkering with cutting-edge weapons of war. In fact, their device was way ahead of its time. Although it was patented at the height of World War II, frequency hopping relied on electronics technology that didn't exist yet. An updated version of the Lamarr-Antheil device finally appeared on U.S. Navy ships in 1962 (three years after their patent expired), and was first used during the Cuban missile crisis.
Read the rest here.

Ballet Mecanique

Still fresh after all these years..

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gabriela Montero

A fine write-up of the phenomenal pianist Gabriela Montero can be found online here.


Did Chopin suffer from cystic fibrosis?

Scientists are locked in a battle with the Polish government over their request to test the heart of Frédéric Chopin for evidence he suffered from cystic fibrosis. They believe the Polish composer was not a victim of tuberculosis, as commonly supposed, but died because he suffered from one of Europe's most widespread hereditary disorders.

I love a piano.

So bad it's good.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lou Teicher, Dead at Age 83

Some sad news.

Louis Teicher of the popular piano duo "Ferrante and Teicher" has passed away this week.

Ferrante & Teicher charted 22 gold and platinum records, beginning with the theme from "The Apartment" (1960), and claimed to have played 5,000 concerts attended by 18 million people. If their names evoke blank stares from today's audiences, it is because, for all their wit, their music was as evanescent as smoke in a summer breeze. Some of their signature pieces can be seen on YouTube. Teicher died of a heart attack at home in Sarasota, Fla., according to a statement from the duo's manager, Scott Smith.


Music The BBC Banned

Apparently you can blame it on Arthur Bliss

"His wrath was incurred by such unlikely revolutionaries as Liberace and Mantovani, and the score of Kismet, borrowed from Borodin, which meant that MOR standards such as Stranger in Paradise and Baubles, Bangles and Beads were rarely heard. Bliss was a particularly stormy weather vane: while he considered Tony Bennett's version of Stranger in Paradise to be sufficiently tasteful (it reached No 1), the Four Aces' sprightlier version was out of bounds. Meanwhile, kids with flick knives were slashing cinema seats at screenings of Blackboard Jungle."


Let's Liberace up the Olympics!

This is almost too good to be true. David Remnick reports in the New Yorker that Lang Lang is rumored to be an opening up act for the Olympics.

Too good to be true. But then it is China.

"Lang's penchant for "moony gyrations and emotive expressions" while playing annoy classical-music critics, including the Times' Anthony Tommasini, who walked out of Lang's Carnegie Hall debut in 2003....magine this dude, dressed Liberace style, atop a column in Beijing's Olympic stadium, almost definitely playing this song, and you'll have a good idea why we never watch Olympic opening ceremonies."

My retinas burn just thinking about it.


Friday, August 01, 2008