Cleaning out the inbox, checking out other Blogs, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

Cleaning out the inbox with items that you may or may not
have seen:

 

Andrew Norman will become the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence for a three-year term beginning in July. He
will succeed Derek Bermel and become the eighth person to hold the LACO post,
which includes funding for a new composition and an opportunity to work in
various educational opportunities. Norman, 32, was raised in central
California, studied at USC and Yale, and now lives in Brooklyn. A Los Angeles
Times story is HERE.

 

Los Angeles Opera has paid off half of the $14 million it
borrowed from Bank of America in 2009 during a liquidity crisis while it was
producing Wagner’s Ring cycle at the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The loan was guaranteed — not made — by Los Angeles
County and the early repayment saves the company about $350,000 in interest
charges.

 

The financial crisis for arts organizations has apparently
struck Trinity Church in New York City. Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has the story HERE.
(Incidentally, it’s good to have Anne back on the “beat;” she was out on
maternity leave.).

 

You’ve undoubtedly heard about Alan Gilbert, music
director of the New York Philharmonic, who stopped a recent performance of
Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 because of a persistently ringing cell phone. Tim Smith
in the Baltimore Sun has a followup
on this story with threads back to the original story HERE.

 

A new opening on Broadway is The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which has drawn greatly mixed
reviews. You may remember this as the musical that was savaged by Steven
Sondheim in a letter to the New York
Times
last year (LINK). Martin Bernheimer’s review in London’s Financial Tines is HERE; predictably
pulls no punches.

 

I include this final story just because it’s so
beautifully crafted and poignant (LINK). Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times writes about what
it’s like for a family to sell one of the world’s most famous cellos, the Countess of Stainlein, ex-Paganini of
1707,
played for 54 years by Bernard Greenhouse, a founding member of the
Beaux Arts Trio.

 

Perhaps the key paragraph is what follows:

 

“Through the optic of history, those in possession of these
instruments are caretakers, not owners. For their players, the transfer to the
next caretaker symbolizes the end of performing, the termination of an artistic
prime, the memories of which reside in long-used instruments. “The violin is
not only a friend,” said Aaron Rosand, 84, once a prominent soloist in the
tradition of the great Romantics like Oistrakh, Milstein and Heifetz. “It’s
something that you live with. Every day it becomes more dear to you. It’s
almost like a living thing. You treat it carefully; you treat it gently. It
talks to you,” he said. “You’re caressing your instrument all the time. Parting
with an instrument that has become such a wonderful friend is just like losing
a member of your family.”

 

I resonated to this story. My former wife was a concert
pianist and I was with her when she bought her Baldwin piano. She spent most of
a day trying out Steinways but never found one that made her sing. Late in the
day, we went into the Baldwin showroom (she was age 17 at the time) and when
she sat down at this Baldwin L, it was love at first sight, a love affair she
never let go.

 

P.S. The comments are worth reading, as well.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Cleaning out the inbox, checking out other Blogs, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

ON THE SMALL SCREEN

Orchestral music gets a healthy dose of television
prime-time exposure during the next week with three major programs scheduled on
some local public broadcast stations. They’ll also be streamed on the Web after
the telecasts.

 

At 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, PBSSoCal (formerly KOCE), will
telecast the “Live from Lincoln Center” New York Philharmonic New Year’s Eve
concert, which features music by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein under
the baton of Music Director Alan Gilbert. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will be
the soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in
Blue
and Concerto in F. The orchestra will also play Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Information: www.pbs.org

 

BTW: Thibaudet will join with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
at Walt Disney Concert Hall on January 5, 6, 7 and 8 as soloist in Liszt’s
Piano Concerto No. 2. Former LAPO Associate Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya will
also lead Dvorak’s Hussite Overture
and Saint-Sans’ Symphony No. 3 (Organ). There’s
an interesting tie, as John Henken writes in his program note for the symphony.
Saint-Sans dedicated the piece (which, in addition to its organ part, is
scored for piano four-hands) to Liszt, who died in 1886, the year the symphony
was composed. Information: www.laphil.com

 

On January 1 at 6 p.m., PBSSoCal will air the “Great Performances”
telecast of the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Concert. Mariss Jansons
will lead the orchestra in the city’s famed Musikverein with a frothy program
of music by the Strausses (Johann, Johann Sr. and Edward), Tchaikovsky and
others. Julie Andrews will be the host. Information
(with the complete program listing):
www.pbs.org

 

PBSSoCal comes back on January 6 at 9 p.m. with a “Great
Performances” telecast of the L.A. Phil’s gala concert that opened the
2011-2012 Disney Hall season last September. The program is all-Gershwin: An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, with jazz legend
Herbie Hancock as the soloist. The TV schedule says that the program will also
include one of the two improvisations on Gershwin tunes (Someone to Watch Over Me) that Hancock performed in September.
Apparently the one-hour telecast will not include the Cuban Overture that opened the gala or the other improv (Embraceable You) that Hancock played
that night. Information: www.pbs.org

  

Following the concert telecast, PBSSoCal will repeat an
interview between Tavis Smiley and Dudamel.

 

DUDAMEL ON VINYL?

Norman Lebrecht is reporting on his Blog, Slipped Disc, (LINK) that Gustavo
Dudamel’s next recording on the Deutsche Grammophon label will be a vinyl
pressing, scheduled for release in May, of the Venezuelan maestro conducting
the Vienna Philharmonic as it plays Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish. It should also be noted that
neither DGG nor Dudamel have officially commented on the subject (at least that
I can find).

 

In Lebrecht’s comment section, there are predictably joyous
reactions from those who love vinyl recordings as opposed to CDs, although as
some responders point out there are questions as to the recording format to be
used. I wonder (a) are there enough vinyl lovers in the world to make this
commercially viable or will be there also be CD and iTunes versions available;
(b) how many people can really tell the difference in recording formats; and
(c) if they can, will they be willing to invest in the high-quality equipment
necessary to make the difference audible? (My answers are “I doubt it,”
“relatively few,” and “I can’t afford it.”). Stay tuned … so to speak.

 

The thing that interested me about this recording is that
the Scottish Symphony will (if you
judge by the cover Lebrecht posted) be the only piece on the LP. When Dudamel
and the L.A. Phil played it last October, the symphony clocked in at about 40
minutes, which seems pretty short for a record.

 

ANNE MIDGETTE

Anne is the Washington
Post’s
classical music critic and her Blog, The Classical Beat, is one of my favorite reads. However, her last
Blog post was Nov. 1 and I wondered whether that newspaper had joined the list of publications to deep-six their classical
music reviews or whether she was ill. Neither, fortunately, is the case. She’s
on maternity leave and will be back on the “beat” in mid-January. Good for her
and for us, too.

 

WYNTON MARSALIS

This isn’t exactly news — CBS News released it on Dec. 15 –
but I’m not on its distribution list so I just caught up with it via a post on
Peter Dobrin’s Blog (LINK). Trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis has been
named Cultural Correspondent for CBS News, appearing on CBS This Morning and CBS
Sunday Morning.
His first CBS News gig will be on Monday, Jan. 16 (natch) –
the day that the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. A link
to the media release is HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: “The Little Orange Dress” … and other items

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

A shorter version of this
article was first published today in the above papers. See the end of the post
for several additions to the printed piece.

______________________

 

Summertime often becomes silly season, even in the
supposedly serious realm of classical music. Consider, for example, the case of
“The Little Orange Dress” (aka, “The Little Red Dress” — some have called the
dress red but I think it was orange).

 

Last month, Yuja Wang walked onto the stage of Hollywood
Bowl to perform as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto with the Los
Angeles Philharmonic. The 24-year-old native of Bejing is an electrifying
talent who can blaze through octaves and runs with breathtaking speed, as she
amply demonstrated during her Bowl performance (her hands were moving so fast
that they appeared to be a blur on the Bowl’s video screens). My review is
HERE).

 

However, what caused a great deal of notoriety wasn’t how
she played but what she wore: what has now become known as “The Little Orange
Dress.” Ms. Wang is a slender, attractive woman and her attire wouldn’t be
unusual on any street in any American city these days, but when she walked
onstage at the Bowl, she created quite a stir from those in the audience.

 

What led to the most commotion on the Internet wasn’t so
much the dress but that two professional critics in attendance commented on it
in their reviews. In my review I wrote, “It also may (or may not) be worth
mentioning that she came on stage last night wearing the shortest dress I’ve
ever seen a female pianist wear, an orange sheath that elicited gasps from the
audience.”

 

My colleague, Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, devoted four paragraphs of his review to Ms.
Wang’s attire (LINK — which includes a photo). The line
most frequently quoted was: “Her dress Tuesday was so short and tight that had
there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict
admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult.” It should
also be noted Mark devoted the next few paragraphs to her performance, which he
called “downright magical.”

 

The debate in the classical music blogosphere has centered
around whether it’s appropriate for a music critic to comment on “non-musical”
things, such as attire (Lisa Hirsch, a San Francisco-based Blogger who writes
under the nom d’computer of “Iron
Tongue of Midnight,” offers a listing of several of the Bloggers/reviewers
comments HERE).

 

One she listed was Anne Midgette, the well-respected music
critic of the Washington Post, who
wrote a lengthy post on the issue (LINK). The others,
including the comment threads of responders, make for interesting reading. My
attitude (as expressed in several comments to posts) is that attending a
concert is both an aural and visual experience and something like “The Little
Orange Dress” was worth at least a mention — my guess is that many in the
audience can’t remember today how well she played but they certainly remember
the dress. If you agree or disagree with my stance, feel free to post a comment
below.

 

Late adds:

Mark Swed
weighs in on the issue HERE and the L.A. Times has a separate article on
concert dress that includes an interview with organist Cameron Carpenter HERE,
along with three photos of “The Little Orange Dress.” Carpenter’s sequined tee
shirts and jeans are undeniably part of his total concert package and are often
mentioned in stories and reviews.

 

Timothy Mangan,
music critic of the Orange County
Register
(who didin’t attend the concert), offers his comments HERE.

 

MORE FROM THE WEB:

Anne Midgette offers
a good basic primer on contemporary music for those who wonder how to get into
this genre. There’s nothing earth-shaking in her assessments and you may not
agree with all of them but I found it well worth reading. MORE

 

CK Dexter Haven
has begun a new Blog entitled “All is Yar” and he has an interesting post on
the subject of guest conductors HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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