THOUGHTS AND LINKS: Can a composer quote the “Horst Wessel” song in a piece?

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Parts of the music world are abuzz over the decision by the New York Symphony to cancel a performance of a new work, Marsh u Nebuttya, by young Estonian composer Jonas Tarm (the title means March to Oblivion/ in Ukrainian).

Tarm was the latest winner of the orchestra’s “First Music,” composition but when the piece was played last month, an anonymous letter writer (who called him or herself “a Nazi survivor”) objected because the nine-minute work quotes 45 seconds of the Nazi’s infamous “Horst Wessel” song.

Norman Lebrecht, in his “Slipped Disc” Blog, has letters from the composer and the orchestra HERE (the comments are also illuminating). Zachary Woolfe has a thoughtful take in his New York Times HERE. Was the orchestra right to cancel? Not in my book (Woolfe nails the issue perfectly IMHO) but others may disagree.

(c) Copyright 2015, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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FROM THE WEB: Two views of one performance

Concert-goers occasionally ask critics, “Were you and I at the same concert (opera, etc.)?” Here’s the latest version: two reviews of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavailer.
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in the New York Times
Martin Bernheimer in London’s Financial Times

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STORY AND LINKS: On the road with the L.A. Phil in Venezuela

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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


NOTE:  I have reordered the posts by date (I think), separated them by media outlet, and added a new post from Mark Swed (Los Angeles Times) this afternoon.

Although the name “El Sistema,” the landmark music program that nurtured Gustavo Dudamel, now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has become increasingly well known around the world, most of the stories have focued on Dudamel and the programs that organizations such as the L.A. Phil are launching in the U.S. to emulate the Venezuelan system.


With the Phil in Caracas this week for a repeat of its
“Mahler Project” cycle from last month in Los Angeles, both Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times and Daniel J. Wakin of
the New York Times are in Venezuela
providing reports not only on the concerts but mostly on the local aspects of
“El Sistema” and its impact on the hundreds of thousands of students who are
part of the program.”


Following are the stories published so far:

(Los Angeles Times):

Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Phil start things in Caracas

diary: A sweet Mahler’s Fourth and Dudamel-mania

Meeting the Youngest Musicians of El Sistema

Even Dudamel is wowed by huge Mahler rehearsal

L.A. Phil musicians get to know
the Venezuelans

Dudamel, Abreu and a multitude of young musicians

(New York Times):

Mahler Is O.K., but Gustavo, He’s Amazing

In Caracas, doubling up the orchestra

Fighting Poverty, Armed with Violins

A musical exchange in Venezuela:
El Sistema performs for the L.A. Philharmonic

(Associated Press):

Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic make waves in Caracas
(Sacramento Bee via AP)



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

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