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September 2013 - Posts

The Indescribable Soprano ? Florence Foster Jenkins (1868 - 1944 )

   Recently, I borrowed a CD from my local library of  recordings by the once famous , or notorious  American soprano ? Forence Foster Jenkins , who my have been the worst  snger in the history of the vocal art .  This eccentric  lady , who managed to  make a  successful career despite her apprent lack of  any  vocal  talent or musicianship ,  is one of the most curious stories in  the history of  classical music . 

    She was born  the daughter of  a wealthy banker  in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvnia in 1868  and was  a  total amateur  . She studied voice in Europe  despite a lack of ny talent  , and when her father died  in 1909 she inherited enough to  begin making  a career of sorts on her own .

    Jenkins' singing is so awful it's fun !   She could not sing on pitch to sve her life , her rhythmic  accurcy was non-existent  and she sounded  like a  wounded  duck !    Her pronunciation of  foreign languages was comically bad .  But audiences loved her  demented  caterwauling !   In a sense,  she may have been  the first performance artist  , active long before the term was invented .

    She would  perform in  elaborate and ridiculous-looking  costumes of her own design , including one  with angel's wings , changing  at least twice  during recitals .  She was able to book  even prestigious Carnegie hall for herself  , nd her  recitals  were egerly  awaited and actually sold out !   Her accompanist  was the  grotesquely-named Cosmo Mc Moon ,  who was able to adjust to her  rhythmic  and musical ineptitude  and even wrote some  songs for her .  She tried to tackle some very difficult operatic arias with  hilariously disastrous  results , such as the  fiendishly difficult  revenge aria of  the Queen of the Night in Mozart's  famous opera The Magic Flute . 

    On the  recording, you can hear how she is totally unable to reach  the  dizzying high notes of this aria and is off  by  a mile !   The ironic thing is that she always considered herself to be a serious  singer  !   The  CD is  on the R.C..A. label . If  you're unable to  find it. check youtube, which has  wealth of  performances by famous classical musicians  .  It's a  blast !

Posted: Sep 16 2013, 10:17 PM by the horn | with no comments
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How To Destroy A Great Orchestra

  For nearly a year, the classical music world has been wringing its collective hands over the plight of the members of the Minnesota orchestra  of   Minneapolis , an orchestra with a long and illustrious history . Due to protracted  disagreements with  the orchestra's management over salary nd benefits etc , the musicians have been locked out by the intransigent  individuals  who run the orchestra , particularly its  general manager, who shall remain nameless here .

    It's almost time  for the beginning of the  orchestra's  2013-14 season , and no  way through  the impasse  is  in sight .  The orchestra's music director and chief conductor , the distinguished Finnish maestro Osmo Vanska , has threatened to resign if  the orchestra  does not settle the lockout in time for the new season, which includes  appearnces at Carnegie hall .  Thisw is a pity, because  the orchestra has been enjoying  international acclaim  under Vanska's leadership and had begun to make commercial studio recordings , incluidng an acclaimed set of all 9 Beethoven symphonies at a time when  very few orchestras  anywhere are making  commercil stuido recordings becuse of economic  difficulties . 

    Sessions to record   symphonies by Sibelius, a specialty of the maestro given his Finnish  nationality , have been cancelled . Several   musicians in the orchestra  have successfully auditioned for positions in other major U.S. orchestras .  The fate of one of America's finest orchestra is uncertin, an orchestra which had flourished under the dirrection of such eminent conductors as Dimitri Mitropoulos,  Antal Dorati,Stanislaw Skrowaczewski  and Edo DeWaart . 

    The orchestra has called  on the  government of  the state of Minnesota  for help , but no end to the  mess is in sight .  The musicians nd the management  are at each others throats , but  the management will not give in .  If you are a Minnesota resident, PLEASE contact  your  local representiatives and  the two Minnesota senators  and sk them to intervene . The fate of  one of America's finest orchestras is at stake .


Posted: Sep 11 2013, 11:34 PM by the horn | with no comments
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