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March 2012 - Posts

A Venerable English Maestro Trashes The Period Instrument Movement

  Sir Colin Davis, 85 , one of the most revered conductors of our time , has recently vented his spleen at the so-called "Historically Informed Performance " crowd  .  Period instrument ensembles, which use instruments of the past or reproductions thereof , and which follow th elatest musicological research on the supposedly "correct" and "authentic way to perform the music of the past , have been all the rage for many years now, and  conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner,Roger Norrington, Christopher Hogwood of England  ,Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Bruggen , and others from mainland Europe have become classical superstars .

  But in a recent interview in London  according to  musical journalist Norman Lebrecht at his blog , Sir Colin is frankly appalled by many of these so-called "authentic" performances . According to Sir Colin , who has conducted virtually all the world's greatest orchestras and opera ocmpanies for nearly 60 years in a repertoire ranging from  the 18th century to the present day , the proverbial baby has been thrown pout with the bathwater . 

   In their zeal to rid performances of the music of Bach,Handel,Mozart,Haydn, Beethoven and even Brahms of  "stylistic anachronisms"  and to come as close as possible to the way things were actually done in the past ,  many of these "HIP" musicians have reduced the performance of music to a didactic display of mere correctness rather than a spontaneous and passionate communication of the spirit of the music .

  According to this old lion of English classical music, "  I think that these people have hijacked the repertory to give themselves something to do .  The way they play baroque music is unspeakable. It's entirely theoretic . Most don't play the music because it's moving . They do it to crank out theories about bows, gut strings , old instruments and phrasing . I've heard Bach especially mangled  as though he has no emotional content ."

   Whew ! it takes guts to say something like this in these days when it's not at all politicaly correct , and so many HIP musicians  claim to have founjd the one and only "right" way to perform the music of the past and sneer at those  musicians who insist upon using modern instruments as hopelessly  "unenlightened". 

  Sir Colin goes on to blast his slightly younger contemporary Sir Roger Norrington for performing th emusic of Hector Berlioz, a 19th century composer , without string vibrato, something he mainstains is absolutely necessary for expressive string playing , and  which despite the claims of the authenticity crowd , has been used for centuries ,even in the time of Bach and Handel  over 250 years ago. 

   He cites a famous Italian composer who was a contemporary  of Bach and Handel  as saying that string players should imitate the human voice, which has a natural vibrato .  He is correct .  Norrington is completely misguided and  appallingly dogmatic . He has even gone so far as to play the music of Sir Edward Elgar, who lived from 1857 to 1934 , without string vibrato, which is completely off the wall .

   To be fair,  I have heard some  HIP performances  which  I enjoyed very much  DESPITE the fact that they used  period instruments, not because of them .  But this just goes to show you , as the noted American musicologist Richard  Taruskin has said ,"Instruments don't make music - people do !"

Posted: Mar 30 2012, 07:42 PM by the horn | with no comments
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The Annual Opera News Awards Issue

   The April issue of Opera News magazine covers, among other things , the annual  awards ceremonies for lifetime achievement  in opera which will be held in New York next month  the magazine  hosts .  The honorees are the  brilliant but highly controversial  opera and stage director Peter Sellars ,  Finnish sopranos Karita Mattila and  Anja Silja ,  Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Swedish baritone Peter Mattei .

   Each is profiled in the magazine by members of the magazine's staff .  Writer William R. Braun has an interesting article on the mysterious character of Erda , the earth mother of Wagner's Ring , and her significance in the complex story of the huge operatic cycle .  Philip Kennicott , chief arts critic of the Washington Post , discusses  the significance of the Ring  as not only a work of art but  one which "connects to bigger issues in the world around us ".

   Musicologist  Hugh McDonald  discusses  the tenor roles in some of the most famous operas of Jules Massenet , on th eoccaision of the Met's new production of  the composer's most famous opera , Manon, which just had its first performance a few days ago .

  As usual duirng the raqdio broadcast season , there is coverage of this months  broadcasts : Manon, La Traviata, Die Walkure and Siegfried from the Ring , and Janacek's  The Makropoulos Case .  There are lists of cast, conductors , directors, designers etc, plus photos of the sets from the productions , plot synopses, background information about the operas and the composers etc, everything you need to enjoy the broadcasts .

  The magazine's roving  corrrespondants review  performances of operas from the Met ,  Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Miami , and  Paris, Berlin and Stuttgart in Europe . Among these are the Met's new Gotterdammerung, conclusion of the Ring, Aida from Chicago and  Manon form Paris, all new productions .

  CD reviews include a recital of Slavic baritone arias by Mariusz Kwecien of Poland,  baroque arias by soprano Danielle De Niese , Dmitri Hvorostovsky in songs by Rachmaninov , and Bach cantatas by German countertenor Andreas Scholl .

   DVD reviews include  Carmen and Berg's Lulu from Barcelons , and Capriccio, the final opera by Roichard Strauss from the Met . There's plenty of interest , as in every month, and even if you're not particularly into opera, it's always  stimulating to read .

Posted: Mar 29 2012, 08:24 PM by the horn | with no comments
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New Book Celebrates James Levine's 40 Years At The Metropolitan Opera

  Amadeus Press , which specializes in books on classical music , has recently come out with a book  on the illustrious career of the great but  currently ailing American conductor James Levine (1943-) , and his 40 association with the Metropolitan opera .  It's a collection of tributes to the maestro by numerous  renowned singers with whom he has worked over the years , fellow conductors , music critics, contemporary composers and others who have also been associated with him .

   Among the great singers are Renata Scotto, Placido Domingo, Lucian Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, Montserrat Caballe, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jon Vickers, Cornell McNeill, Jose Van Dam, Teresa Stratas, Leonie Rysanek, Kurt Moll , Birgit Nilsson, Marilyn Horne, Frederica Von Stade, Leontyne Price and many others - a virtual who's who of the greatest names in opera in our time and the late 20th century .

   There are numerous handsome color photos of the sets of many of the operas he has conducted at the Met , including  Wagner's Ring , Verdi's Otello , Berg's Wozzeck , Puccini's Turandot , Les Troyens by Berlioz , Mozart's The Magic Flute and others . 

   You might be suspicious about the  relentlessly lavish praise which so many distinguished people offer to him in this book, but they appear to be absolutely sincere .  Levine is acknowledgfed to be enormously gifted ,  dedicated , boundlessly enthusiastic  and amazingly energetic , as well as  a kind  ,  patient , tactful  and likeable , these last characteristics not being characteristics one normally associates with great conductors , many of whom have been  downright tyrannical with  singers and orchestra musicians .

   Members of the Met  orchestra  acknowledge his  enormous knowledge , technical skill  and inspiring leadershp  , and singers  have always loved working with him .  In his 40 years at the Met , Levine  made a staggeringly great  contribution to the company and accomplished  an astonishing number of things . Among them are transforming the Met orchestra into one of the finest in the world  and initiating a series of orchestra concerts with it , helping many gifted young opera singers ot reach their full potentila with  regular coaching ,  expanding the Met's repertoire enormously , introducing  such operatic masterpieces as Berg's Lulu, Mozart's Idomeneo ,  Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz ,  Schoenberg's Moses & Aron , Verdi's I Vesrpri Siciliani , Gershwin's Porgy and Bess , and world premieres of operas by John Corigliano and John Harbison .

   Other Met premieres which he did not conduct include  Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Shostakovich , Dvorak's Rusalka, Prokofiev's War and Peace and The Gambler , Handel's Giulio Cesare , Rodelinada and Rinaldo , Verdi's Attila, Janacek's  Katya Kabanova, The Makropoulos Case and From the House of the Dead , The Dialogues of the Carmelites by Poulenc ,  Satyagraha and The Voyage by Philip Glass, Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic by John Adams, The First Emperor by Tan Dun ,  etc.

   The book also includes a list of all  of the operas Levine has conducted at the Met,( over 80 !  )and the numbers of perfornances of each he has led , all of the Met premieres  during his tenure , opening nights he has ocnducted , his numerous PBS telecast performances ,  and a discography of the numerous recordings  he has nmade with  the company, including complete operas by Wagner, Mozart, Verdi, and Donizetti  for  Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Decca  records . 

   No one ever deserved this kind of  book more than  James Levine . Let's wish him a  total recovery from his current ailments and many more years with the Metropolitan opera .

  

Posted: Mar 28 2012, 09:18 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Why All The Fuss over The Vienna Philharmonic ?

  The world-famous Vienna Pilharmonic has embroiled for some years in a controversy over its allegedly racist and sexist hiring policies .  The legendary ensemble, renowned for the golden sonorities it produces has until recently been an all male orchestra with a membership consisting almost entirely of Viennese or Austrian-born musicians playing special and unique Viennese instruments with a distinctively rich and mellow "Viennese " sound .

   The members of the orchestra are all members of the orchestra of the equally famous Vienna State opera , and play sporadic orchestral concerts in Vienna's  Musikverein concert hall under the world's leading conductors , as well as making international tours and appearances at the presitigious Salzburg festival every Summer .  However, not all the members of the opera orchestra are members of the Philharmonic , and  have to audition for the orchestra when there is an opening .

   For some time , there have been complaints about the Philharmonic's lack of female and non-white members .  The orchestra ,which is a self-governing institution , has maintained that native Austrian musicians are best-suited to maintaining the orchestra's distinctive and unique sound ; the members have traditionally studied at Vienna's Academy of music with musicians in the orchestra , and  positions have often been handed down from father to son . 

   Supposedly, women musicians ,if married , have to take time off to have and bring up children , and musicians who are not trained in the authentic Viennese style of playing  and sound  are ill-suited to the orchestra and would cause it to lose its distinctive Viennese sound .

   But things have been changing somewhat , and a number of women , all string players and harpists , have been  allowed ot play in concerts as substitutes  . The opera orchestra already has a number of women and non-viennese members, including  a Bulgarian  female concertmaster .

   One of the prime instigators of the crusade  to end racist and sexist  hiring practices as been an American composer and write on music called William Osborne .  Osborne's wife  Abbey Conant , is a gifted  American trombonist  who was hired some years ago as principal trombone of  the Munich Philharmonic under the brilliant but eccentric Romanian conductor  Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996).  However, the conductor , who had the reputation of being somewhat prejudiced against female musicians as beass players ,  expressed  the desire to have a male trombonist for the position , and Conant  lost her job , despite the fact that she is  considered on of the finest trombonists anywhere, male or female .

   Osborne  orgnanized a campaign to force the Vienna Philharmonic to allow women and  non whites into the orchestra .  It does  hold auditions behind a screen like American orchestras , and recently , a Japanese tuba player was chosen from a blind audition , but was not retained after one season .

   Recently , at  the blog of  the controversial British writer on music Norman Lebrecht called "Slipped Disk "  at artsjournal.org , Osborne has been  attacking the Vienna Philharmonic again . In addition ,  the orchestra's principal trombone  Ian Bousefield  , first English member of the orchestra , has decided to resign from the orchestra  for personal reasons , including job disastisfation because of what he claims to be overwork , and  there has been discussion of how the hiring of an English trombonist  supposedly  endangered the orchestra's  distinctive Viennese sound .  However, Bousefield would never have been hired unless he produced the kind of sound  the orchestra  wants .

  The Osbornes have their own interesting website osborne-conant.org , which discusses  the Vienna Philharmonic and other musical topics .  Will the orchestra lose that  distinctive Viennese sound ?  Not very likely .  The brass players still mostly use the traditional Viennese brass and woodwind instruments , as well as the woodwinds and percussion . The trombonists have switched to German instruments, but my ears could not detect any loss of  the orchestra's precious sonorities  from recent recordings and DVDs .  I've also heard the orchestra play at Carnegie hall some years ago , and it was an unforgettable experience .  That golden Viennese sound  is indeed miraculous .

  

  

Posted: Mar 27 2012, 07:44 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Wagner And Verdi - Two Vastly Different Operatic Geniuses

  Next year, the classical music world will celebrate the bicentennial of two towering but vastly different opera ocmposers - Richard Wagner of Germany and Giuseppe Verdi of Italy .  Both are among the most famous and popular opera ocmposers and their outputs are cornerstones of the operatic repertoire .

   Wagner died in 1883 and Verdi in 1901 . Both as composers and human beings , they were vastly different , yet both weilded enormous influence on opera , both in their lifetimes and after .  Verdi was a practical man of the theater who wrote operas which were designed to please audiences ; Wagner was a radical reformer and  musico/drammatical theorist whose stage works created  enormous controversy both in his lifetime up to the present day , and  were wildly innovate and often impractical to produce .

  Verdi was a down-to-earth , unpretentious , modest and retiring  man , and Wagner was something of a megalomaniac and  a dreamer who was impractical and uncompromising in his vision of a revolutionary kind of opera . Verdi produced about 26 operas in his long lifetime and  Wagner only about half as many , mainly because he was also very much active as a conductor and a writer .  Neither wrote a large amount of non-operatic music , but  Verdi  wrote one of the greatest musical setting of the Catholic mass for the dead ,and Wagner wrote one early symphony and several other orchestral works etc, and both wrote a number of art songs .

   Wagner wrote the vast and  awesome Ring of the Nibelungen , a  tetralogy of four operas ,or music dramas as he preferred to call them , based on Norse and Germanic mythology , a continuing story which requires no fewer trhan 14 hours to perform complete over a series of four days , a mind-boggling creation which was written over a period of over 20 years , as well as  the passionate love drama Tristan &Isolde , based on medieval Celtic legend , his only comedy Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg, and the mystical and enigmatic quasi-religious Parsifal , his last work .

   His first three matiure operas are Der Fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman ) , a kind of nautical ghost story , Tannhauser , the story of a medieval German troubador who is caught between sacred and profane love , and Lohengrin, the story of a knight of the Holy Grail who comes to defend a young noblewoman in what is now Belgium from charges of fraticide .  There are two early operas which are almost never performed , and his first success was Rienzi , the story of an idealistic Roman papal legate in medieval Italy who tries to crush the power of the corrupt Roman nobles but dies in the attempt . This is occaisionally revived , most recently in a concert performance in Carnegie hall a couple of months ago .

  Verdi's most popular operas include Rigoletto , La Traviata (the woman who strayed ),Il Trovatore (the troubador) , Aida , which takes place in ancient Egypt , Otello, based on Shakespeare's Othello ,Don Carlo , La Forza Del Destino (the force of destiny ) , Un Ballo in Maschera (a masked ball), Macbetto, based on Shakespeare's Macbeth , and his final masterpiece Falstaff , based on Shakespeare's Merry Wives Of Windsor .

   Wagner wrote the librettos to all of his operas , and painstakingly researched the historical backgrounds of the stories . Verdi relied on professional librettists , some of whom were frankly hack writers , but was able to engage the services of the distinguished Italian writer and composer Arrigo Boito late in life ,who provided first-rate librettos for Otello and Falstaff .

   Musically , the two are  vastly different ; Verdi's music tends to be much simpler in harmony and is much easier to grasp at first , and  most of his operas are much shorter than Wagner's , which do tend to be VERY long .  Verdi's early operas can be somewhat formulaic and almost simplistic at times, but his later works are far more sophisticated . But all are highly melodious and drammaticaly effective .

   Wagner used  highly complex harmonies  and his orchestration tends to be far more elaborate ,sumptuous-sounding  and complex than Verdi's , and   more than a few critics and listeners accused his music of "lacking melody ", although this is far from being the case . He developed a highly complex system of what are called "Leitmotifs", or leading motives, reoccurring melodic ideas which describe the different characters and even abstract ideas of fate , and which undergo constant transformation and polyphonic combination .

   Wagner has been accused of writing operas which were almost more like symphonies than stage works , but Verdi used recurring themes at times, too .  In Wagner, the orchestra is not a simple accompaniment but a highly complex orchestral fabric which is an integral part of the action . The overtures and preludes to his stage works are frequently performed in the concert hall , and several of Verdi's overtures are also sometimes heard in concerts .

   Late in life, Wagner had a special  festival theater built in the  northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth designed with his stage works in mind . The Wagner festival there opened in 1876 with the first ocmplete performances of his Ring, and  the festival has become world-famous . It still exists, and every Summer, leading singers and conductors come there to perform his operas . Countless Wagner lovers have come there every year in a kind of pilgramege to hear special performances performaed under festival conditions . In order to get tickets , you have to be placed under a waiting list of ten years ,before ypou can attend performances !

   Which is greater , or the better composer ?  This is a futile question , and comparing apples and oranges .  Both are towering geniuses .  One thing is certain ; Verdi is the more immediately approachable of the two , and Wagner more demanding of listeners by far .But you should  not miss the music of either .

  If you would like to become familiar with their works , there are an enormous number of complete recordings of their operas , as well as excerpts , and DVDs of live performances on the market . The greatest singers of the 20th century can be heard performing their music ; such great names as Caruso, Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Leontyne Price, Maria Callas,  Renata Tebaldi , Tito Gobbi , Robert Merrill, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes , Nicolai Ghiarov , and many,many others in Verdi, and such great Wagner singers as Kirsten Flagstad , Lauritz Melchior, Birgit Nilsson , Hans Hotter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and others in Wagner .  Some sngers, such as Domingo, have recorded both .

   Great conductors of Wagner you can hear on record include Sir Georg Solti, Herbert Von Karajan, Hans Knappertsbusch, James Levine, Daniel Barenboim , Karl Bohm, Rudolf Kempe, Wolfgang Sawallisch , Wilhelm Furtwangler , to name only some, both on complete recordings and orchestral excerpts .

   Notable conductors of Verdi on record include Arturo Toscanini, who knew the composer personally , Tullio Serafin , Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Giuseppe Sinopoli , etc, and Karajan,Solti, Levine and some others have been outstanding interpreters of both composers .

Posted: Mar 26 2012, 08:35 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Cancellations , Illnesses Everywhere

  The classical music world is currently experiencing  difficulties caused by the illnesses of a number of distinguished conductors and other performers .  76-year old Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston symphony , is recovering from cancer of the esophagus and has decided to take a year off from conducting ; he has also had a bout with pneumonia .

  As is well-known in the classical music world, James Levine has been suffering from severe back trouble and spinal problems for years , and will be absent from the Metropolitan opera's pit for the first time in 40 years next season . The veteran German maestro Kurt Masur, former music director of the New York Philharmonic, Gewandhaus orchestra of Leipzig, London Philharmonic and French national orchestra of Paris was recently forced to cancel a performance of Beethoven's monumental Missa Solemnis with the Boston symphony recently, and choral conductor John Oliver, who has prepared choruses for concerts for many years in Boston and the Tanglewood festifal , stepped in for him .

   The renowned Canadian operatic tenor Ben Heppner has also been plagued by illness intermittantly and recently had to cancel appearances in one of America's regional opera companies in the role of Captain Ahab in the recent opera Moby ***, by Jake Heggie .

   Other renowned conductors who have been health problems include the distinguished latvian maestro Mariss Jansons ,music director of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw orchestra and  Munich's Bavarian radio orchestra, and Leonard Slatkin of the Detroit symphony .

  The life of a classical musician is anything but an easy one ; it's extremely strenuous and constant travel around the world is highly stressful . Opera singers have to sing in large opera houses with large orchestra WITHOUT MICROPHONES, unlke pop singers . Conducting is very strenuous aerobic excercize and conductors are prone to ailments such as bursitis from constantly waving their arms around . 

   However , there is always the chance of some promising young conductor , musician or opera singer getting his or her big break by substituting at the last minute . In 1943 , a 25 -year old aspiring conductor who was serving as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic had to step in at the last minute for the eminent German conductor Bruno Walter, who was ailing .  Who was this ? None other than Leonard Bernstein . And the rest was history . 

Posted: Mar 13 2012, 10:50 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Some Of My Classical Pet Peeves

  Every has pet peeves , and here are some of mine regarding classical music :

   1. Critics , musicologists and fans who are always longing for the "golden age of classical music" and using this as an excuse to knock musicians of the present day they hapen they dislike .

2.  People who automatically prefer old recordings by legendary musicians of the past to recordings or live performances by today's classical musicians , and use those old recordings as sticks with which to bash them .

3. Musicologists and  performing musicians who claim to have found the one and only "right" way to perform any given work or the music of a particular composer . There is no such thing as one "right" way to perform music .

4. Music critics who instead of criticizing a performance or recording they dislike use their reviews as an excuse to take pot shots against the performers and make ad hominem attacks on them as musicians .

5.  The tendency of  carrying the use of period instruments  later and later in time, closer to the present day .

6.  Musicologogists, critics and performers who claim to "know" the composer's intentions , even with long dead composers .  The only way to know whther a performance  has actually done this is when the composer hears th eperforms and  states whether it satisfied him or not .

7.  Period instrument fanatics who automaticaly sneer at , belittle and dismiss any performance or recording which does not use them .

8. Composers and critics who are always complaining that  new music is neglected ,despite the fact that new works are constantly being premiered everywhere .

9 .  People who are always complaining that all orchestras today sound alike, despite the fact that it's impossible for orchestras to sound alike .

10.  Critics who are always complaining that today's pianists, violinists ,singers, conductors are much too literal and pedantic in interpretation and don't take enough  liberties with the music , yet are always blasting these musicians of today  for the liberties they take with it .

Posted: Mar 12 2012, 06:56 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Critic Anthony Tommasini Is At It Again

  New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini  is one of the best currently writing today, and his reviews are usually  scrupulously fair and balanced . But he has one failing ; he has an unfortunate tendency to  complain  endlessly about the supposedly "stodgy" programming of America's oldest orchestra, the New York Philharmonic , the same as many other classical music critics .

   He has given its current music director Alan Gilbert credit for beig a committed advocate of cntemporary composers  and  trying to  bring fresh air into this supposedly staid an dconservative orchestra .  But there's just one problem with this ;  it has in fact been  one of the most adventurous orchestras in the world in terms of programming for decades before Gilbert .

   His latest review of a concert by the Juilliard orchestra  conducted by Gilbert, who heads the conducting program at the famed conservatory is typical .  He accuses the orchestra of "playing it safe ".  Unbelievable . This is an orchestra which puts most of the world's other orchestra to shame in  its consistently adventurous programming, and Gilbert's programming is not really radically innovative there at all . He is merely contuing this  admirable trend .

   How many orchestras play the music of Arnold Schoenberg, (1874 - 1951) , the great though still high;ly controversial Austrian composer who is considerede box office poison by so many orchestras ?  Not many . But  the renowned pianist Emanuel Ax will be playing his piano concerto with the orchestra next season . It's not such a terrible work at all if you give it a chance . In fact, it's a genuine masterpiece .

   There will also be more new music than most other orchestras play next season, including a number of world premieres by leading contemporary composers , and  some interesting works from the past which are rarely encountered in the concert hall .

   Compare this to your average orchestra .  Any of these usually offer a steady stream of the same old familiar warhorses by Beethoven,Brahms Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov , Ravel , Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Rimsky-Korsakov , etc.  Of course , these are deservedly popular works . But the management of these orchestras are terrified of audiences voting with their feet and  are extremely reluctant to allow conductors, whether music directors or guests, to program anything out of the ordinary , because they are saddled with  extremely conservative audiences who are terrified  of that awful "modern" music .  You can't blame the management, given this  deplorable situation .

   Yes, the New York Philharmonic still plays those beloved warhorses . But it's irritatingly disingenuous the way critics are always using  this fact to accuse the New York Philharmonic of "stodginess", despite its  consistent championship of new music .  You can get an idea of what the orchestra will e offering next seasn at its website, newyorkphil.org .

Posted: Mar 07 2012, 10:45 PM by the horn | with no comments
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March Opera News - Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi On The Cover

 The March issue of Opera News magazine features  Italian conductor Fabio Luisi , recently installed as the Met's principal conductor in the wake of James Levine's chronic health problems . Writer Lisa Mercurio interviews the busy maestro , who will also assume duties as music director of the Zurich opera in Switzerland . Luisi  will be leading the Met's complete Ring cycles this season and next , as well as a variety of other operas .

   Heidi Waleson ,  a music critic of the Wall Street Journal , has an article on the enterprising  Gotham City Opera of New York , which  presents small-scale obscure operas ranging from Haydn and Mozart to contemporary in an intimate setting .  William R. Broun has an article on the teaching activities of the noted American soprano Carol Vaness , who guides promising young people who are aiming at a career as opera singers .

   Film and theater teacher Steve Vineberg has an interesting discussion of film versions of operas based on Shakespeare plays

  As usual, there is coverage of this month's Met radio broadcasts , which include Verdi's Aida, the new production of Don Giovanni , Mussorgsky's epic Russian opera Khovanshchina, which deals with the struggle for power in Russia just before the rise of Peter the Great , Verdi's Macbeth and Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore , with  lists of the cast, conductors, etc, plot synopses, and interesting background information on the operas, as well as photos of the sets .

   The magazine's critics review among other things , the Met's new production of the baroque opera pastiche  "The Enchanted Island ",  as well as a variety of opera productions from  Milan, Geneva, Barcelona, Zurich and Berlin . 

   Reviews of new opera and vocal CDs include  Donizetti's rarely heard "Maria Di Rohan " and Benjamin Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," both from London,  as well as historic performances  by the Met of Carmen and Mignon by the 19th century French composer Ambroise Thomas  , with such legendary opera stars of theetc. past as Rise Stevens, Richard Tucker, and others, released by Sony Classical records  as part of its ongoing series of  performances from the Met's broadcast archives .

   DVD reviews include  Giordano's Andrea Chenier from the Met and La Traviata  from Graz, Austria, and  lesser-known operas such as Atys, by the 17th century French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully and the  German born, Italian-based composer Giovanni Simon Mayr's opera Medea in Corinth .

   There is also a review of a new book by Helena Matheopoulos  called "Fashion Designers At The Opera", which  deals with  famous fashion designers who have  designed costumed for operas in our time .  Whether you are a  die-hard opera fan  or an opera newbie , you should never miss an issue of this magazine, and you can also visit its website ,operanews.com .  

Posted: Mar 07 2012, 04:27 PM by the horn | with no comments
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