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November 2012 - Posts

Happy 70th Birthday To The Great Pianist And Conductor Daniel Barenboim

  Today is the 70th birthday of one of the world's foremost classical musicians -  Daniel Barenboim , a native of Buenos Aires , Argentina ,son of Russian jews , but a citizen of the world . A  child prodigy on the piano who  grew up to achieve world renown  not only as a pianist but a  condiuctor of music  by composers ranging from Bach  to contemporary , at home in  both the concert hall and the opera house and an ambassador for  world peace .

    Daniel Barenboim  began to achieve international renown as a pianist  more than 50 years ago after having studied with  many eminent teachers ,including the legendary French  pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (1887 - 1979 ) , and  working with  eminent conductors such as otto Klemperer and others .  He grew up in Israel , but  but made virtually the entire world his home with his constant travelling  as a pianist and conductor .  He has been more active conducting  than playing the piano for  much of his life , but continues to make appearances both as a recitalist and  performing concertos with the world's leading orchestras .  He has also made an enormous number of recordings  of music from Bach to the late, great Elliott Carter and other contemporary composers , and many of his live performances are now available on DVD . Barenboim has recorded  prolifically for such great record labels as  Deutsche Grammophon ,  EMI, Telarc ,Decca and Sony Classical .

   Daniel Barenboim  has  held  a number of prestigious conducting  posts, including ten years as music director of  the  renowned Chicago symphony,  succeding the late , great  Hungarian maestro Sir Georg Solti , the orchestre De Paris , as well as regular appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic , the  London Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic  and other great orchestras .  He has  been cief conductor of  the Berlin State opera for many years , as well as conducting concerts with its resident orchestra, the Berlin State orchestra , and has recently become the first  non Italian to serve as music director of  the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan .

    A few years ago , he made his eagerly awaited debut at the Metropolitan  opera  conducting Wagner's Tristan &Isolde .  One of his most significant recent projects  has been the creation of the East West Divan orchestra, which is made  up of  talented young  Israeli and Arab  musicians  in the  hope of promoting  peace  between Israelis  and  Arabs . 

    Barenboim  is one of  today's foremost Wagner conductors , and has  appeared at the Bayreuth  Festival  numerous times . His performances there of  Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung  and Die Meistersinger are available  on CD and DVD, and  he has recorded  the other Wagner stage works  with  the Berlin State opera and the Berlin Philharmonic with some of today's leading Wagner singers .  He is also renowned as an interpreter of the mighty symphonies of Wagner's fervent admirer Anton Bruckner , and has made complete sets of  his symphonies with  the Chicago symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic .

    There are also recordings of all nine Bewethoven symphonies, and the complete symphonies of  Brahms, Schubert and Schumann , as well as composers as diverse as Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar , Debussy ,  Berlioz , Carter ,  Luciano Berio , Liszt , Bach ,  Richard Strauss ,  Mahler, and many others . 

    Barenboim has  regularly collaborated with  such  great  violinists  as Itzhak Perlman , Pichas Zukerman , pinait Lang Lang and other renowned  musicians, as well as such great opera and  lieder singers as the late, great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau , Placido Domingo , and others .

    Let's all wish a happy birthday to this enormously gifted ,  industrious  and  versatile musician, and wish him many more years  of  great achievements .



Posted: Nov 15 2012, 08:53 PM by the horn | with no comments
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The Great American Composer Elliott Carter Has Died At 103 .

  Elliott Carter , generally acknowledged to be the greatest American composer of the present day, has died at the  extraordinary age of 103  in his native New York . Even more remarkably , he remained active  as a composer  until just before his passing . His death  comes just a week after  that of  Hans Werner Henze , which I covered  last week here . Carter was not  as well known to the general public  as  Aaron Copland  , Samuel Barber and a few other American composers , but  he enjoyed  the esteem of  many  of the world's leading music critics , scholars , conductors and instrumentalists , as  well as many other distinguished composers for decades and  won virtually every award a composer  could receive , including a Pulitzer prize .

    Carter was born in December  1908 , when Theodore Roosevelt was  President , and died  just one day before  Barack Obama  was re-elected .  He was the son of a wealthy New York  merchant  and  was by no means a  child prodigy .  But  the great composer Charles ives, who  was  an insurance executive by profession  and  sold insurance to his father, befriended the teenage  Carter  and encouraged his musical insterests  .  The youth  became  studied music diligently but enrolled in Harvard  as an English major ,later studying  music there on the graduate level  .  He also  went to Paris to study composition with  the  legendary   teacher Nadia Boulanger  , who taught  many  young Americans who  went on to  major careers as composers, such as Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson .

    Carter began  writing music  of  a populist style  similar to  Aaron Copland  , but did not  find his own voice until  the early 1950s , when  he wrote his  acclaimed  first string quartet , which  launched his  career as  a  composer of  uncompromisingly  complex , thorny and challenging music .  He never used  the Schonebergian  12-tone technique  which was adapted by so many other composers of the day , but  developed a freely atonal  technique of his own  .

    Over the years , Carter  wrote four more string quartets,  assorted orchestral works, concertos for violin, cello, piano,  and other instruments, choral works, songs ,  piano works , and even  one opera, written at  the age of 90 !   Many  concertgoers were perplexed  and even  outraged by  the  baffling complexity of his works  and  their  utter lack of  conventional  melodiousness  ,  but  many prominent critics  recognized  the  brilliance of  compositional technique and inventiveness of the music , and many prominent  conductors ,  pianists ,  and other  musicians  championed his works  and  even  befriended him  . 

    Despite  the  extreme difficulty  they  posed to  orchestras , pianists and chamber ensembles ,  Carter's works were regularly performed  all over America and Europe  .  Orchestras and conductors required extra rehearsal time  to  prepare his orchestral works  for performance , so  he was not performed  as often at concerts as other contemporary composers , but  they  did  get performed with some regularity ,  and  there have been  numerous  recordings  .  Eminent conductors such as  Leonard Bernstein,  Sir Georg Solti,Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, James levine,  and others  progrmmed his orchestral works despite  the  reluctance of  many  conservative concertgoers to  hear challenging music ,  and  leading pianists such as  Charles Rosen  and Ursula Oppens  played  his  piano concerto  and solo  piano works  regularly and recorded them .  The  Juilliard string quartet and other leading quartets played his  string quartets often  and recorded them .

    Carter also taught composition at Juilliard and Queens college  in New York  , and wrote articles  on his music and other contemporary composers  and  traveled regularly to Europe  to  participate in  festivals of contemporary music  and teach .

    When you  hear Carter's music for the first time ,  you will probably be  confused ,disoriented  and baffled  until  you get accustomed to it .  If you are looking for  juicy , lush ,melodious music  you  will be disappointed .  But to do this is to miss the point altogether .  Carter's music  seems  rhythmically chaotic at first  and there are so many different  rhythms going on simultaneously .  But everything is  rigorously organized despite the apparent chaos  .

    Carter's music is diametrically opposed to  the  minimalist , highly repetitious style of his younger ocntemporary  Philip Glass , which seems to  bother many listeners with  its relentless  repetition .  The older composer's works  seem  to be totally lacking in repetition ; the music is in a constant state of flux  , and there is no sense  of  going from one theme to another  , and returning to  this or that theme as  you find in  the familiar works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky etc .  To use a cliche, you have to go with the flow, and follow the music  as it goes on its  mercurial course . 

    The variations for orchestra  is probably the  best introduction to  Carter's music ; it's quite complex but  relatively approachable .  Other orchestral works by Carter include  the Concerto for orchestra,  Symphony of Three orchestras, which  features  three different  instrumental groups within the orchesta contending with each other ,  the piano concerto ,  and the various concertos for cello, violin, clarinet and French horn . 

    A good place to check for recordings  of Carter  and  countless other composers is , where you cna look up any recording by either composer or performer and easily order it  .  If you are willing to challenge your ear and brain ,  the music of Carter is the perfect place to start .

Posted: Nov 07 2012, 11:12 PM by the horn | with no comments
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