Saturday, February 26, 2005

New to the Blogroll: Bill Fregosi's DesignerBlog

Thanks to The Standing Room's rouleau des blagues, I find that Bill Fregosi, a shining light and voice of intelligent analysis on opera-l, has a blog and has had a blog, DesignerBlog, for about 18 months. Welcome, Bill!

Minor update, Feb. 27: fixed error in name of Bill's blog in my title.

As Promised

The long Robert Shaw posting, as promised a couple of weeks ago before the applause discussion got started.

I need to fill in a few details here. The summer of 1982, when the choral tour took place, was a pretty bad time in my life, owing primarily to a relationship that was on the rocks and would be on the rocks until it finally ended about 18 months later, and secondarily to my general unhappiness with graduate school. So that certainly played into how I felt about nearly everything going on that summer.

Maggie Brooks is now at Yale and has been there since the mid/late 1980s.

This account is based on a writeup I put together in 1993, eleven years after the fact.

My chorus director at Stony Brook, Maggie Brooks, liked to travel, and she liked her choruses to have goals. I got to SB in 1980, and her plan was that we would do fundraising for two years and then go to Europe. She had a program picked out, in which we'd be performing Bach with Karl Richter.

The fundraising involved a lot of house-cleaning, raking of leaves, babysitting, singing at faculty Christmas parties and, god help us, selling oranges. We sold crates of oranges for two winters, meaning we had to beg all our friends, housemates and relatives to buy a crate or two of juice or eating oranges. Distributing them was a nightmare, and I suspect Maggie didn't really like giving up her porch from the time the truck rolled up with 900 boxes of oranges until the time we got rid of them all.

In the spring of 1981, Harold Axe, the musical director of the program turned up to audition us. He was a nice man who had been directing college choruses for 30 years. He liked us, and how we sounded, and we were accepted into the program.

Richter, alas, died in 1981. Who did they get to stand in for him? Robert Shaw.

The work? The Missa Solemnis, Beethoven's immense, complicated late work for chorus, solists and orchestra.

The idea was that several American college choruses would spend a year learning the piece on their own, then get together in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to rehearse for a week. Then there'd be two weeks of touring, with the possibility of side concerts for choruses that so desired. It was all pretty exciting: a big piece and a legendary conductor.

We got to work learning the Missa. This was not an easy task: The Chamber Singers, far and away the better of the two groups at SB, had only 35 singers. We could have handled a Haydn mass on our own, with a small orchestra, but the Missa? Not to mention the fact that we were highly variable in terms of musicianship. Some of us were graduate students who could sight read anything; others could barely read music. And we were also preparing music to perform in our own concerts.

Fortunately, there were two assistant conductors - myself and John Baboukis - and we could split up into sections to rehearse. That helped a lot. And, Maggie liked to have chorus weekends where we'd rehearse six to ten hours a day.

Until about two months before we went to Switzerland, I wasn't even sure if I was going. I had no money of my own, since I was living off a student assistantship of about $300 a month, $120 of which went to the rent. My mom had offered to pay my way, but I hated to take money from her, even though she could afford it. The chorus was committed to taking everyone, regardless of financial ability.

Eventually, I decided it would be fun to go, and I let my mom pay for the trip. (I went to England & Scotland for three weeks after the tour, but that's another story.)

By the time we left, we really did know the Missa pretty well, even, pretty well, the big, hairy, hair-raising fugues.

The trip to Switzerland was l-o-n-g. We got to the airport at 4 p.m., we were loaded onto the plane at 6...I had been up running errands since about 7 a.m., and it was 12 hours later before we got off the ground. We flew into Brussels and had a four hour layover. One of our fellow choruses was there too, and they ran into Brussels for a beer and a look at the famous square. Maggie was afraid, and probably rightly so, that we'd get lost, stolen, or strayed, so we got to know the international terminal at Brussels airport quite well. It's about the size of Oakland Airport, so you can imagine how stir crazy we got in four hours.

This was followed by a quick flight to Zurich, where we came closer to death than I've been since. The plane's wings were wobbling all over the place as we landed, and we were all very happy to step off the plane.

We collected our luggage and climbed into a bus. Three hours later - it was now nearly 33 hours since I'd awakened - we were in beautiful San Moritz.

We tumbled into our various beds, 35 choristers, Maggie, her then-husband Jim,
their son Ben and their six week old daughter Kate and one chorister's mom, who was taking care of Ben and Kate when Maggie and Jim (a percussionist and very sweet man) needed a break from them. Hours later, we woke up and got oriented and met the other choruses.

At this time distance - 11 years have passed - I can't remember the names and colleges of origin of most of these groups. One was the Perfect Fifths from UC Berkeley, and that's *all* I remember. I remember vividly, however, that of the seven choruses, two were mediocre and one was so badly prepared that I was surprised they were allowed to sing in the Missa. The others were quite good, and a pleasure to listen to.

The conductors who got us ready for Shaw were Harold Axe, and a youngish (30-ish?) English musicologist and performer named Andrew Parrott, who now has something of a name in early music performance. [That's what I wrote in 1993; he has an even bigger name now!] The two of them were terrific and did a fine job of melding a disparate bunch of singers, used to wildly differing warm-up routines and singing styles, into something resembling a chorus. Within a couple of days, they had us singing together nicely, with a good line, and some sense of the shape of the work was emerging.

I'm sorry to say that all of that changed when Shaw arrived mid-week.

Shaw had an obsession: he wanted every last rhythm to be perfectly precise, and we had been working more on notes, choral sound and the musical line than on perfect rhythmic precision.

He had a solution to that: he threw out everything we'd been working on and had us count all the rhythms, and sing them with numbers, mostly staccato, for the next several days.

He got more precise rhythms, all right, but at rather substantial cost. Most of the choristers were ready to kill him; I certainly was. The beautiful work that was emerging from the first, relatively chaotic rehearsal got lost under the precise rhythms. Our voices were starting to shred, too, from all the staccatto singing.

And Shaw, like his mentor Arturo Toscanini, had a temper. I understand that when he first saw what shape the group was in, he nearly stormed out and broke his contract. I think we would have had more fun if he had. There were a couple of impressive displays from him, in any event.

It was all very demoralizing. The members of my chorus felt as though we'd been working our butts off for two years, had started to hear the payoff from that, and were then treated as if we'd done nothing.

Eventually, we climbed into our tour buses and headed off for the first performance. We'd been staying and rehearsing at a place called the Laudinella, on the edge of the city of St. Moritz. The orchestra, the Philharmonia Hungarica, was to meet us for a rehearsal at the site of our first concert. We got there and were quite stunned by the quality of the orchestra: there was simply no way that this was the top-notch group that had recorded all of the Haydn symphonies with Antal Dorati.

They had to be ringers. They were slothful and careless, and we pretty angry about it, as angry as we were about Shaw.

With all of those strikes against us, somehow we managed to put on good performances. Shaw pulled everything together, the soloists were okay, the orchestra learned their parts, the choristers recovered whatever voice they'd lost during the staccato rehearsal torture. There were four performances, and each chorus sang in three of them. This was just as well, given how long and demanding the Missa Solemnis is. (For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's like doing the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony four times in one night.)

The Chamber Singers, my group, sang in Lichtenstein, Toulon, and (somewhere in Switzerland?). We also did some impromptu concerts in town squares, plus two more formal concerts at churches. One was in the middle of our stay in San Mortiz, where the tour sponsor had arranged for us to sing at a Sunday church service. We had prepared more than a full concert of music so that we'd have some choices. We had Barber, Shein, Schuetz, Palestrina and spirituals to choose from.

The church was way, way up in the mountains, in a tiny village. The pastor was a lay preacher who wore a turtleneck shirt under his blazer. There wasn't a cruciform in the church, and it was clear from the quality of the singing that there was no minister of music.

And, the service was in a language none of us understood a word of: Romasch, a Swiss dialect that sounds like, well, Germanic but Frenchified. The Bible on the altar - a plain stone table - was in Romansch too, and we all gathered round after the service to get a look at it.

The only thing in the service that came through was some words that popped out of the pastor's sermone: the names Brezhnev and Reagan.

They liked us just fine, and we chatted with the multi-lingual pastor after the service, then started to walk down the hill. We'd agreed to meet our bus a couple of miles away. Along the way, we stopped at a tavern and did one of our impromptu concerts. Further along, in a village square, there were several fountains of water suitable for drinking, all full of minerals, and one of them naturally a bit fizzy.

The tour turned out to be much more fun than I thought: I had dreaded the thought of three weeks in close contact with a chorus consisting mostly of undergraduates, snob that I was. But the conversation was pretty good; we played endless games of hearts at the table in the tour bus; and the scenery was marvelous. There were stops of a couple of hours each in Basel, Lake Como, Avignon and Nice, and we stayed overnight in Genoa. We finished up in Paris, where we sang at St. Germain des Pres, one of the oldest churches in town. We saw The Perfect Fifths singing in Notre Dame, which in fact is a dreadful place for any chorus of under about 150 to sing.

The other Chamber Singers headed home, and two days later, after a mild bout of stomach problems, I headed for England. (When I got back three weeks later, I found out that 75% of the chamber singers had had the same stomach problems I had. The close quarters spread that flu like nobody's business.)

So that's the long version of my experience of Robert Shaw.

Friday, February 18, 2005

More on Applause and Booing

The discussion continues!

At Adaptistration, an orchestral violist offers up an irreplaceable body part in favor of booing (and has comments on how and when applause is offered), while ACD carefully delineates when he feels a standing O or booing is appropriate. Note that ACD is talking about something that is difficult or impossible to find - the ideal audience, "made up entirely of the musically informed and knowledgeable." Where might one find that audience? And what is one to do in the less-than-ideal real world?

Marcus Maroney says he would never boo, making him a better, or more polite, person than me. Oboist Patricia Mitchell also weighs in, and her views are a bit different from the violist's.

Finally, a fabulous posting, with relevant historical information, by Greg Sandow. This is very likely the "explosive new information" Alex Ross hinted at earlier this week.

February 20: Corrected a spelling error!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Broadcast of the Beethoven/Webern/Hartmann Concert

Our local excuse for a classical radio state, KDFC, 102.1, will broadcast last week's SFS concert in full on Tuesday, February, 22 at 8 p.m. Pacific Time. You can judge for yourself whether you would have cheered or jeered and when. (Oh, and don't believe their Web site, which says Hartmann's 5th is on the program. It's the 6th.)

If I sound surprised by this, I am. One recent broadcast consisted of two tonal standards - perhaps by Tchaikowsky and Mozart - that had been originally featured on programs that included, among other works, Turnage's Three Screaming Popes. I do not know if that work was included in a contemporaneous concert broadcast.

Wild Applause!

The ongoing discussion of applause and booing has spread through the bløgösphère like wildfire this past week -

Alex Ross has some more remarks, despite previously swearing off the subject. Marcus Maroney weighed in at Sounds Like New, and A. C. Douglas responded approvingly at sounds and fury. Be sure to read the comments at Sounds Like New also.

Today, there's a new entry at Adaptistration by Drew McManus on clapping or not.

In Sunday's NY Times Arts & Leisure section, Daniel Wakin, author of a number of interesting recent Times articles on musicians and the music business, had a related article on orchestral etiquette and dress. It's not only audiences who are suffering in the concert hall. Any calls for the relaxation of currently-established norms of audience etiquette might also to call for the abandonment of some of the archaic (but sometimes charming!) norms of orchestral dress and demeanor.

I think I ought to state explicitly that I'm very much on the fence about all of this. I'm disinclined to be the first to violate accepted norms; like Marcus, I usually enjoy the silences between movements or at the ends of works. For example, I forgot to mention in the review of the SFS concert that started this all that at the end the Webern, conductor Ingo Metzmacher held his position for maybe 15 seconds before lowering his arms. The audience respected the silence and it was clearly part of the performance. I appreciate that kind of audience sensitivity.

What I'd like to see is a controlled experiment, in the form of an arts organization that's willing to invite the audience to be more demonstrative and less formal. That way, a new or different norm can be established. The musicians and conductor will know it's coming.

Is there an enterprising opera company or orchestra out there that's willing to try this experiment?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

From Greg Sandow

Email from Greg about this subject, used with permission. Let me say that I had no idea that anyone living on the east coast would have ever heard of, let alone eaten, a durian. They are commonly found in the Bay Area in Asian markets, and are the scariest-looking fruit I've ever seen. Think eight-pound armadillo with spikes. It's a miracle anyone has ever dared to eat one, especially considering their notable, ah, pungency.

And of course you should boo. Why not? Well, because people will stare at you, because booing is still unusual behavior, looked on as extreme. But I think you should do it anyway. After the first movement! As soon as you know you hate the performance!

In the classical music world I'd like to see, there would be no problem if you did that. Everybody in the audience would expect very vocal reactions. So if you booed and others loved what they were hearing, they'd cheer. And everyone would just fight it out. I'd love to be at a performance where that happened.

Throwing a durian, though, would be cruel and unusual punishment for the offending musicians -- or, more likely, unless Roger Clemens is throwing one, for the poor souls in the audience that the durian actually lands on. I've had the pleasure of eating one. What a strange experience. A rare occasion in which "hold your nose" isn't advice to save us from ugliness, but instead a way of pointing toawrd a gateway to pleasure.

Feel free to quote any or all of this in your blog!

It's time for me to add here that I've booed a few singers who gave substandard performances at the opera. In most cases, people around me were cheering wildly. I would have to go through the SFO annals for the past decade to figure out exactly who so disgusted me. I've also walked out of a couple of performances, one of them mid-act, that for one reason or another were so bad I couldn't take it. (That's a subject for a different blog posting, however, because a couple of walk-outs had more to do with my mood of the moment than with what was on stage. I deeply regret at least one of them.)

Dear Alex and Greg,

You've both been writing over the last couple of months about how different audience expectations might make classical music concerts more welcoming and relaxed, and might attract new listeners. Stop discouraging people from applause between movements, make concerts more like entertainment and less like a museum, go back to how things were in the 19th century, etc., etc.

It's easy to see how this could work out very nicely at good performances. Expressions of enthusiasm for a work or performer: what's to dislike, even between movements? Greatness deserves recognition.

But here's a question for you: what's an audience member to do at a bad performance?

I saw one of those last night at the San Francisco Symphony.

Now, if you're advocating for a more vocal and naturally responsive audience, should I boo when I hear a performance that bad? Should I throw rotten - or at least ripe - tomatoes?

Or maybe that potential murder weapon, a durian?

Should I walk out in the middle of a movement? Or, like the first audience at Le sacre du printemps, start a riot?

Is it even safe to boo at the end of the first movement? (It was obvious early on that the Beethoven would be a trial.) I would have worried about being tossed out of Davies, and I very much wanted to hear the Webern and Hartmann on the second half of the program. What if we'd booed and been set upon by Ohlsson's fans? He got a standing ovation from about a third of the audience at the end of the piece, as Mike and I looked on in silent amazement. (What to do about an audience that can't tell they've just heard a bad performance is another question.)

Booing is controversial, I know. It's kicked around a couple of times a year on opera-l, with opinions ranging from "you should never boo because you'll hurt the feelings of sensitive, hard-working artists" to "you need to boo so that the conductor and performers know what you heard wasn't acceptable."

Alex mentions, in a long and informative posting on the subject of the audience, that Brahms knew his First Piano Concerto "was destined to fail at its 1859 premiere when the first two movements met with dead silence." The judgment of history has put it in the first rank, even though the concerto failed at its first performance.

So maybe I'm just supposed to sit on my hands - as I did - and glower. But if positive enthusiasm is allowed, I think there ought also to be some mechanism for negative enthusiasm.

What say you about this?

Very truly yours,

Lisa

Beethoven, Webern, and Hartmann at the SF Symphony

To the San Francisco Symphony last night, with my friend Mike, for a concert of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"), Webern's Passacaglia, Op. 1., and Karl Amadeus Hartmann's Sixth Symphony. The draw was primarily the Hartmann, after Jeff Dunn, who also reviews for SFCV, told me it was one of the most profound works of the 20th centry.

It's an intense and complicated piece, for a very big orchestra; too much for me to describe with much accuracy after only one hearing. But I liked it a lot, and I'll be getting some Hartmann for my collection, for sure, and looking forward to future performances of his works.

The Webern's a magnificent work, and something of an apotheosis of late Romanticism, with hints of Mahler, Strauss, and, in the gauzy textures and underestated moments, Debussy. And you can hear some hints of what he'd become in a few years.

I wish the Symphony had just played both of those pieces twice and skipped the Beethoven. The "Emperor" had nothing at all in common with them and, like the concert pairing John Adams's Naive and Sentimental Music with the Beethoven violin concerto, felt like the draw for attendees who might be scared by a program consisting only of 20th century music.

Worse, unlike the violin concerto, the piano concerto got a wretched performance. The soloist, Garrick Ohlsson, wreaked havoc on it, in league with a Fazioli piano I hope never to hear again. Joshua Kosman's review is right on - if anything, he was too kind to Ohlsson. Sure, the piano was so loud as to be suitable only for the Hollywood Bowl or the Royal Albert Hall. I've never before thought a piano concerto would have sounded better with the lid closed all the way. The piano's tone was ugly and it seemed nearly impossible to play the thing at less than about forte.

Still, the shapless, flubbed runs, dull phrasing, almost complete lack of rubato, and inability to take command of the music were entirely Ohlsson's fault. There was no poetry in the second movement and no magic in the transition from the second to the third movement. Ohlsson also managed to play the whole concerto very loudly but without much of a sense of command.

It was a poor performance, and it wasn't even an interesting poor performance. It was just plain boring.

I am dismayed to report that Ohlsson got a standing ovation from about a quarter to a third of the audience anyway, as Mike and sat on our hands and glared a lot. I don't know what to make of this. Were they fans of Ohlsson who'll applaud anything he does? Were they all insufficiently familiar with the piece to be able to tell a good performance from a bad one? Were they just impressed by the piano's volume and Ohlsson's ability to play pretty much all of the notes of a very difficult work? (And why were so many orchestra members showing approval? Maybe it sounded better if you were behind the piano?)

Sigh. And see my next blog posting ("Dear Alex and Greg") for an issue raised by the whole experience.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Interlochen Encounter

At Adaptistration, Drew McManus has been chronicling management and staff issues at the music department of the Interlochen Academy of the Arts.

On my way to Disney Hall last week, I passed by the Colburn School of the Performing Arts, which is just about catty-corner to Disney. A friend of mine studies piano there with Ory Shihor, so I peered in the windows to take a look. To my surprise, a woman inside the lobby peered back at me.

I stepped in, and we shook hands and introduced outselves. It turned out she
didn't work there.

She was from Interlochen and was there with a musical group. She was waiting for the bass player. I smiled and she said "Oh, you've heard of Interlochen?" I should have said, "Of course, since I was a kid - I'm a musician."

What I actually said was, "I understand there's been some controversy there recently."

"How did you hear about it? The L.A. Times?"

"Drew McManus's blog."

"He's certainly very...VOCAL. The people who were here in the past remember it fondly and like how things were done then, but there's a need for change now. And things are not quite how he says."

I smiled again and said it had been nice to meet her, and that's more or less where the conversation ended. I wish I'd said a little bit more:

It's not change that's the problem. The problem is how it's being done: from the top down, without enough consultation with interested parties like the faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and thus without their support. The press reports sure sound as though long-time faculty members are being treated with little respect, and that's a problem.

The whole process, or non-process, is going to result in much unhappiness, not to mention quite a bit of very bad publicity.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Robert Shaw

Last week's editorial in San Francisco Classical Voice discussed the career of conductor Robert Shaw, in the context of a newly-released set of live performances with the Cleveland Orchestra. And SFCV's question of the week, accordingly, was "What memories do you have of Robert Shaw's music-making?"

I sent in a response about my one personal experience of Shaw as a conductor, on a short 1982 European tour featuring the Missa Solemnis. I'm not surprised to see that another participant also responded, and his experience was the diametrical opposite of mine. This is an example of the well-known phenomenon where, after attending a concert, you read the review and find yourself scratching your head and wondering if you really were at the same concert as the reviewer. I will put up a long posting about the trip sometime later this week.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Gehry....uh, DISNEY Hall

I spent 24 hours, more or less, in Los Angeles, in connection with an ongoing writing project. I had tried to find out in advance if there were any performances at Disney on the afternoon of February 5, but the Web site of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles, encompassing several performing arts organizations and various physical venues, is a hellish maze of buttons, links, and distractions. There doesn't seem to be a central calendar where you can click a date and get a handy listing of what's on.

Oh, yes, there's a calendar sitting there, but it's just a tease. Click any date in February and you get the same page in response. You must then click through to any particular organization to find out what it might be performing in that particular month.

A Web site that makes it hard to find out what's going on and when: How helpful!

For contrast, see the Web site for London's Barbican Centre. The Barbican itself is a hellish maze of brutalist concrete, nearly impossible to navigate even with a map, but the Web site is a pleasure to use.

Anyway. I sauntered over to Disney Hall to take a look and check in at the Box Office. Alas, it transpired that the rumored L. A. Phil/Salonen performance of Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" was taking place, but was only open to members of the American Choral Directors Association, which held its national convention in L. A. this weekend.

Like The Standing Room, I found the exterior of the building stunningly beautiful, from the sinuous, organic forms to their massing to the shining, burnished skin.

But up close, I have my worries. It really looks like it was fabricated and built by Americans.

Yes, I mean that the way it sounds. I've seen articles about how architects have to adjust fabrication and construction methods because American manufacturers aren't able to match the precision of, say, German and Japanese manufacturers and because construction here is sloppier.

When you've got a building like Disney Hall, where thousands of complex parts have to fit together perfectly, sloppiness is one hell of a big problem. Who wants to be looking at a work of art and see construction flaws?

Not me. But they're there. I saw uneven seams, places where sections of wall are joined so badly that there will certainly be water penetration issues in the future, and places where the panels just don't fit precisely. I'd be curious if Gehry's other buildings in this style exhibit similar problems - how's the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao doing? or Experience Music, in rainy Seattle?

I'm reminded of my reaction to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which I saw for the first time in 1979, when it was very new. I took one look and said to myself that if it wasn't maintained absolutely perfectly, it would look like hell in a few years. It wasn't and it did. I sure hope Disney Hall doesn't go the same way.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Thanks and a Groan

Thanks to ACD for coming up with a nice bleeding chunk of Wagner for comparison's sake. I've only been reading sounds and fury since November and didn't know about the losses from fire until yesterday. I am so sorry.

I have the Solti, on LP, even, but it will take me some time to run down a copy of the Boulez Rheingold. It seems to be out of print and there are no copies currently available via eBay. I will try friends and the library.

But - it would be nice if the rhetorical flourishes could be kept to a minimum. The accusations of misquoting and failure to read carefully enough become wearing after a while. It seems to me that read in context, it's perfectly clear that I understand ACD to be talking about how conductors interpret Wagner.

I also do not appreciate having my own sincerity doubted about the matter of talking about specific musical examples. It should be obvious why I'd want to refer to what's in the score as part of discussing the validity of different approaches by different conductors, especially since ACD keeps saying the composer's intentions as expressed in the score are the final arbiter of what's right and proper in interpretation.

What's up in Finland?

Alex Ross's posting on Sibelius and other matters Finnish has sö mäny umläuts in it that it lööks like än Ikea cätälögue.

Regardless, even though I'm not Drew MacManus, whose response to Alex I haven't read yet, I'm willing to take a shot at figuring out what's up in Finland, where an exceptionally high percentage of the residents attend classical music concerts.

The N. Y. Times had an article about music and music education in Finland a couple of years ago. I spent 20 minutes sifting through their archive trying to find it, without success. The rest of what I'll write here combines what I remember with what I can find on the Web about classical music in Finland.

I recall that there is high-quality music education available for all children in the Finnish schools; that a very high percentage of Finns learn to play an instrument; that many sing in choruses. There are 9 music conservatories in Finland - a country of 10 million. (Certainly the US has hundreds or thousands of departments of music at colleges and universities, but I don't think we have anything like one per million conservatories, or 300 conservatories.)

I found lots of interesting Web pages about music in Finland, among them:

Finnish Ministry of Education page on music education in Finland

Finnish Music Information Centre

Finnish Amateur Musicians' Association

Finland is also, most emphatically, not the United States. It is a much more culturally and ethnically homogenous country; it is not a country where there is reflexive suspicion of government funding for the arts or reflexive hatred of taxation for the collective good. What works there would need major cultural translation to work here.

And now off to read Drew's response to Alex.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wagner's Orchestration: Join in the Fun

ACD, on both his blog and in comments below to my Roger Norrington/Wagner posting, asserts that transparency in Wagner represents a "willful disregard of a composer's clear intent as reflected in the score."

When asked to provide and discuss some examples from the scores themselves, he declined, on the grounds that it has been his "experience that whenever someone makes such a demand it's never for the purpose of possible enlightenment, but rather a challenge laid down in the hope the challenged will fail utterly to meet it."

I'm sorry about that. I find it's easier to talk about orchestration (massing vs. transparency) with reference to the score itself. I'm not the other people ACD is thinking of and I wish he'd give it a whirl. I might learn something. Or, I might disagree. But there's no chance of either if the discussion is stopped in its tracks.

So, I invite others with an interest in the subject - pro-massing, pro-transparency, or neutral - to offer up some passages for discussion. Pick a section; find the measure numbers; if you've got recordings that you think make interesting points about the passages, provide the timings.

Post on your own blog, email me, or post comments here. If you email me, I'll put up a posting for your email.