Monday, April 30, 2012

Other Famous Brandeis Grads

Making up for T** F*******, and with thanks to MD and DFU:

  • Geir Haarde, former PM of Iceland
  • Angela Davis
  • Edward Witten, physicist
  • Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist
  • Joe Conason
  • Steven Mackey
  • Peter Lieberson
  • Roderick Mackinnon, '78, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
  • ....and many many people whose names aren't quite so bold-face, but who are well known in their fields.


The 2012 BBC Proms web site joins the parade of sites failing the Ross/Hirsch test for web site usability: you can't scan a list of performances and see all of the crucial information about each performance.

The Proms web site fails by not telling you who is conducting, which orchestra is playing, or who the soloists are. Apparently you're supposed to figure out...some of this....from the photos. Okay, I recognize Karita Mattila, no, I don't, it's Anne Schwanewilms (I expected Mattila to be singing Saariaho!), but of course I had to click through to get Imogen Cooper's name.

Return of an Old Discussion

Apparently I was wrong the other day: it's still possible to talk about applause between movements.

The Machine Stops

Around the net, we have various reports on the Met's ongoing Ring cycle. Here's Anthony Tommasini in the Times (and responses at Parterre Box); Alex Ross's recent NYer article is now available to nonsubscribers; as always, Brian at Out West Arts has plenty to say. Zerbinetta reports brilliantly and provides useful background. I'm linking to her primary blog address because I recommend reading everything she's posted about the Ring.

When Tommasini, normally something of a soft-peddler about problems at the Met, calls the Lepage Ring "the most frustrating opera production I have ever had to grapple with" and the normally mild-mannered Alex Ross says that "pound for pound, ton for ton, it is the most witless and wasteful production in modern operatic history," you know things are bad. Very, very bad.

Zerbinetta's spy in Boston reported the other day on a public discussion that Peter Gelb and Robert Lepage had at MIT. Here's the money quote:
She concluded, “My interpretation of their justification for their Ring is: Wagner wanted spectacle, and we're the only ones who have the means and wherewithal to do it properly, so we're bloody well going to do it, and any abstraction or symbolism would be compromise, and we don't have to compromise, because we can do a perfect realization thanks to technology!”
Wow. If Lepage and Gelb think that what Wagner really cared about was spectacle, they are so far off that they should both lose their jobs. If they are just bullshitting to cover for the failures of the production, then they should both etc. Yes, the libretto does call for many effects, from swimming nixies to the end of the world, but those are secondary to the real stories of the Ring: the passing of the gods and the coming of the age of men; how gods and men relate to and exploit nature; the coming of age of a young demi-god; the nature of love, power, and betrayal; promises made and broken; the nature of property and class.

If the Ring were primarily about spectacle, Wieland Wagner's bare-stage postwar Ring cycles wouldn't be legends. Perhaps it's time to send Lepage and Gelb to read up a bit on the history of Ring stagings.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fashion Notes from SFS

I try not to comment on performers' outfits too often; yeah, you're all right that the visuals are part of the experience, but my preference is to focus on the musical, plus there's the complex issue of what women wear (or can wear) versus what men wear (or can wear). Nonetheless, it was an interesting week at SFS.

Sunday matinees are dress down days, with the men in black suits rather than tails and the, dressed the way they usually dress (long black). Last weekend, the star was definitely violinist Leor Maltinsky's brilliant lavender tie. As SFMike once pointed out, he looks like a young Mark Ruffalo to start with. (A web search turned up this portrait of him playing violin in a bathtub.) The tie just added a charming bit of eccentricity to his stage presence.

Then there was Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The pianist is no longer wearing the trademark red socks, I'm sorry to say. Why, oh, why did his obviously expensive jacket have such a weirdly patchy look to it, as though different parts were differently worn? And why did it not seem to fit quite right?

Last night's program - which you should go see tonight if you can - brought us Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki in her San Francisco Symphony debut, along with pianist Horacio Gutiérrez in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. What a woman should wear while conducting is one of those interesting questions: every one I've seen has opted for long black, whether it was Marin Alsop's plain pants and short jacket, Maggie Brooks's long skirt and short jacket, or what Mälkki wore last night.

She was wearing what I think of as the female equivalent of tails: black slacks and a beautifully cut jacket that fell to her knees and flared slightly, tunic-style, on its way down. It was a rather severe look but suited her well. I understand completely why kalimac jokes that it must have been cold and blustery on stage, because it really did look a bit like an overcoat. That probably is not quite the impression she wanted to make, but I'll tell you, if I could find a garment like hers that actually fit me, I'd buy it in a second.

As for Gutiérrez, sigh. He wore a matching jacket and pants in a sort of dark gray; they were almost shiny, the jacket needed to be pressed, and honestly, the cut was not flattering. He could do better. I mean, tails would have looked better.

(I note that both Thibaudet and Gutiérrez played the hell out of their respective concertos; this is merely about their look on stage.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pavel Haas Quartet on Radio, Tonight

The Pavel Haas Quartet's concert tonight at Carnegie Hall is being broadcast live on WQXR. Their Bay Area debut last year was spectacular, featuring great performances of the Debussy quartet and works by Pavel Haas and Erwin Schulhoff. Here are the details of the broadcast:

Works by Shostakovich, Smetana, and Tchaikovsky
Friday, April 27, 2012
8 p.m. Eastern  / 5 p.m. Pacific time
WQXR FM if you're in radio range, or click the Play link on their web page.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Point of View

Over on the Well, which I mentioned in yesterday's long post, it's been common over the years for people to have very, very different views of what, exactly, is going on. If you limited yourself to reading the books, decor, words, and sports conferences, you'd have quite a different view from someone who read the politics, media, and flame.ind conference. (Yes, flame is for random, and sometimes systematic, flaming.) I also learned the useful fact that the ratio of lurkers to posters is about 10 to 1.

The same things are true on the Web and in the blogosphere. If you read only composer blogs, you'd have a different view of the classical blogosphere from the one you'd have if you read only San Francisco classical bloggers or instrumentalist bloggers. We have different interests and viewpoints. And my blogstats make it clear that lots more people read me than comments. (Dear readers, please feel free to comment. I like hearing from you.)

As I mentioned, people stop blogging, or resume blogging, for all kinds of different reasons. I checked the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine the other day and looked at this blog as of late 2005. That was the first time the Wayback Machine archived Iron Tongue of Midnight; it was about a year after I launched the blog.

At the time, I linked to 38 blogs. Of those, about a dozen have gone dark in the intervening years. Scott Speigelberg's life took over, but he's now blogging again (yay!). But now I'm linking to a gigantic number of blogs, and there are hundreds more I don't link to. I Can't Keep Up.

So if at any point you feel discouraged about the state of the blogosphere - which one you happen to be reading - just wait a while. Things will change. Or, even better, read a completely different group of blogs for a while. Figure out who you really really need to read and who you just read out of habit. Then swap in some other blogs. I'll suggest a few:

  • Patrick Vaz, The Reverberate Hills. Patrick is extraordinarily well read, and exceptionally interesting and thought-provoking across a range of subjects, including literature, music, and opera. He was a big fan of a couple of SF Opera production that I disliked intensely, which sure got me thinking about them. Based in the Bay Area.
  • Doundou Tchil, Classical Iconoclast. Another enormously erudite writer, with interests in music, opera, film, literature, and China. Based in London.
  • Zerbinetta, Likely Impossibilities. Insightful and sharp-eyed opera blogger, based currently in the NY area but has also blogged from Vienna.
  • Daniel Wolf, Renewable Music. California-born composer, currently based in Frankfurt. I described him within the last 24 hours or so to a friend as a "brilliant guy you should read," because  as a composer he simply thinks about music in a completely different way from me. Deeply, deeply knowledgable about the history of experimental music in the US.
  • Everyone else on my blogroll!

Why We Need to Think About Women Composers

Some weeks ago, an article was published over at New Music Box proclaiming that women composers were dead. No, actually, it claimed the term "woman composer" is dead. We are sufficiently advanced that we don't need the term any longer.

A number of people took issue with this in the comments, which are well worth reading. I asked whether that much had actually changed since my 2008 article, "Lend Me a Pick Ax," was published in NMB.

Here's some evidence that things just aren't changing as fast as you might think.
  • Ojai Music Festival, 2010: works by Saed Haddad, George Benjamin, Steve Potter, Schoenberg, Strauss, Varese, Zappa, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Purcell, Boulez, Knussen, Ligeti
  • Ojai Music Festival, 2011: works by Purcell, Faure, Messiaen, Szymanowski, Copland, Britten, Berio, and Grainger, David Bruce, Crumb, Janacek, Prokofiev, Peter Sculthorpe, Richard Tognetti, Schoenberg, Bach, Crumb, Webern, Maria Schneider, Bartok, Grieg,  
  • Ojai Music Festival, 2012: works by John Luther Adams, Dmitri Shostakovich, Charles Ives, Leos Janacek,  Reinbert de Leeuw, Richard Wagner, Alban Berg, Beethoven, Haflidi Hallgrímsson, Bent Sørensen, Mozart, Kurtag, Bartok, Grieg, Bolcom, Copland, Debussy, the other John Adams, Stravinsky
  • Ojai Music Festival, 2013: works by Lou Harrison, John Luther Adams, Samuel Barber, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen, Igor Stravinsky, William Walton
The Ojai Festival is a major West Coast festival of 20th and 21st century music, and four years of programming, from 2010 to 2013, include one work by a woman.
There's just no excuse for this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This Gives Me the Fear.

Found in the NY Times:
 Paul Klee’s “Mask of Fear,” for instance, will make its film debut later this year in “Cloud Atlas” with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Natalie Portman.
Cloud Atlas is a most marvelous book - with musical content! - and that is not at all a promising cast for a film.

Community, Nostalgia, and the Classical Music Blogosphere

I am an avid participant in a couple of old-school forms of communication and community. One is an amateur press association (also known as an apa); the other is The Well

An amateur press association is, to use a back-formation, a sort of LiveJournal in print. APAs originated in science fiction fandom a long time ago (the 40s? 50s?). [Update: kalimac has the real scoop. APAs the 19th. c.] You'd write a zine, copy it (on mimeo or photocopier, depending on the decade), and send the copies to a central person. That person would staple together all participants' zines into a distribution and mail them out to everybody. Then you'd read the distribution and include comments on everyone else's zines in your own zine, as well as whatever life updates or essays you wanted to include.

I've been an apa member since fall of 1988. The apa I'm in is up to distribution 160 and is published every two months. There are current around 20 members. My zines have ranged from 2 to 25 pages, typically averaging 10 or 12 pages. I've written at least a million words for the apa and I've missed very few distributions.

Over the years, members have come and gone; some have joined and dropped out more than once. Three or four original members still participate. I joined around distribution 19 or 20. I've written zines using WordPerfect, AmiPro, Word, and NeoOffice, to give you a brief history of word processing. I seriously thought about using FrameMaker for a while, too.

In the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the apa had a two-year-plus waiting list, and there were times when turnover was so slow that the editor decided to admit a new person at some interval just so we'd have new voices. People came and went for the usual reasons: a demanding job, going back to school, a new relationship, lack of interest, health, or time. In three cases, apa members died.... 
Then the blogsophere and LiveJournal took over the publishing lives of many many people, and suddenly there was less interest in apas. The waiting list disappeared. Among other reasons, why wait to join a print medium when you could set up a blog and have an audience of more than 20? And have them commenting in real time rather than two months later?

The Well, founded in 1985 as an online adjunct to Whole Earth Review, was one of the first online communities. In the beginning, you could reach it only by direct-dialing a modem pool....because the Internet did not exist yet. This made it an expensive proposition even in the Bay Area where members were geographically close to the modem pool; I remember all too many reports of gigantic phone bills to go with the gigantic bills for participating....because in 1990, when I joined, there was a $2/hour cost for using the Well. The cost issues led to creative solutions like the phone line in someone's closet that forwarded to a Marin county number and somehow greatly reduced the phone charges for the people who knew about it. Eventually, the Well joined the Internet and you could get a Netcom account with a local modem pool, log in to Netcom, and telnet to the Well, meaning your phone costs dropped to the price of the Netcom account, which was, at the time $20/month.

During the early 90s, there was immense concern about what might happen if the Well got too big. The number of concern was around 10,000 members, at a time when the Well had maybe 5,000, of whom the 250 most active probably posted 80% of the content. Owing to the total ineptitude of just about everyone who ever ran or owned the Well, this never became a problem. Now, of course, the Well is shrinking and is sadly down to maybe 3200 members. The web interface sucks; there are lots and lots of specialized places to talk about your areas of interest elsewhere on the Internet, and to lots of people the Well looks like a small, cantankerous collection of aging, leftist hippies. That's because we are a collection of aging, cantankerous, leftist hippies.

Over the years, lots of people have come and gone. They got tired of the tiny number of Well members, the shiny toys of the larger Internet beckoned, the Web took over, the blogosphere wiggled its little fingers at them, people's lives changed. And of course a few people died. Yes, I miss the departed, whatever their reasons for leaving, but change is inevitable.

I'm still a participant on the Well and in an apa. I find value in a slow-motion print medium where I can write at whatever length I like and have interesting exchanges with people. I'm still on the Well because it's a great place to chat, to get recommendations for restaurants, books, and museums to visit. (In some ways, it's hilarious to see big companies trying desperately to make money by replicating what I've had on the Well for decades: a bunch of people I know and trust who can responding intelligently to questions, requests for recommendations, and so on.) I've known many Well members for 20 years+ now; I have them calibrated; I like to talk with them, whether it's about the latest science fiction novels I should read or what's going on with their kids. The Well is my virtual water cooler, but the folks at the cooler are also my friends.

Over at Musical Assumptions and On an Overgrown Path, Elaine Fine and Bob Shingleton are in mourning, it seems, over changes in the classical music blogosphere. I suggest reading the comments as well as the postings, to get some different perspectives. This posting will be an expansion of some of what I say in my comments on those blog postings.

Elaine mentions a number of changes in the world of classical music, including how music is now published, choices she has made about publishing her own music, and the collapse of classical radio. The existence of IMSLP is both a reaction to problems in music publishing and a reason for its collapse: if renting out parts to out-of-copyright symphonies and selling Brahms and Lassus vocal works to universities support publishing new music, a publisher who has less of that business because of IMSLP has less money available to publish new music and promote composers. Mid-list authors, who sell steadily, but not spectacularly, have to do an awful lot of their own book promotion because publisher publicists are available primarily to best selling authors. The same is true in music publishing, I am sure. If you're John Adams - or you can pay your own publicist - you're in luck. Otherwise, you're doing your own publicity.

Elaine also discusses the camaraderie of the early-ish CM blogosphere, that is, the grand days of 2005 or so. I agree; there is somewhat less camaraderie, fewer comments on each others' blogs, fewer blogosphere-wide discussions. I'm somewhat sorry about this. On the other hand, how many times can we discuss applause between movements? Or whether classical music is dying? I've completely stopped wrestling with Greg Sandow over this because he is so obviously wrong about so much. Yes, some classical music institutions will die, but most will not. When was that ever not true? It would be interesting to see what happened during the Great Depression as a comparison to what's happening now. And how many times can one arm-wrestling with AC Douglas about anything??

There's plenty of camaraderie left, from my perspective, at least in the Bay Area: we read and comment on each other's blogs and even get to see each other in person. (San Francisco is a small town for a big city.) I sat at a table at a press conference yesterday with Patrick Vaz, Sid Chen, and Axel Feldheim. We would have invited Josh Kosman to sit with us if only he were still blogging regularly if we'd had room. I think I saw Opera Tattler there too, but maybe that was the previous night at Matthias Goerne's incredible recital. (More about that later.) During the American Mavericks Festival, one dinner included me, Brian from Out West Arts, John Marcher, and Maura Lafferty. We saw Patrick later. And several of us have been known to peek into the pit for a chat at intermission with Patty Mitchell.

I still comment on plenty of blogs around the blogosphere, too. And I wouldn't hesitate to contact the bloggers I read if I were to visit London, NYC, or Vienna.

A major point that both Elaine and Bob make seems to be that somehow the classical music blogosphere is becoming commercialized: Elaine mentions commercial or commercially-minded bloggers and obviously thinks this is a bad thing - but the only name she names is Norman Lebrecht

What? Lebrecht is an author and journalist, and one who is and has always been controversial. He makes his living writing (I think). He's blogging as an adjunct to the rest of his career. 

I'm hard-pressed to see what's wrong with this, per se. I started my blog, among other reasons, to draw attention to my writing in hopes of expanding the number of paid outlets for which I write. (It sort of worked; the major limiting factor is time. Also, blogging has taken on a life of its own for me, because, well, I like to write about music and I like having an audience that can talk back.) 

If Lebrecht has turned to simply spouting press-release-ese, that's unfortunate. If it were a trend, it would be a bad trend. But one blogger isn't a trend, and, well, it's Lebrecht. 

Now, I have some points of sadness about people who are no longer blogging (or no longer blogging much) because of time, work, performing, writing, or having said what they have to say, including Sid (The Standing Room) and Jonathan Bellman (Dial "M" for Musicology). Luckily, there are hundreds of people now blogging about classical music, and lots of them are well worth reading. There's just no shortage of good writing about music out there. (And that's another reason why there's less commenting, etc. We can't keep up.) 

I don't see problems with people deciding to blog at advertising-supported sites, because people have to eat. Earning money from your writing isn't evil, just difficult. Not to mention, anybody can commercialize their blog with Google AdSense. My recollection is that ACD made just enough from AdSense and maybe Amazon Affiliates to pay his site hosting fees; I think that James Jorden might be making more than that from ads on Parterre Box. I do not think this automatically makes people suspect; better to judge them on what they actually write.

Yeah, if you're just reposting press releases, well, zzzzz. You're boring and don't deserve to be read. What's interesting is your reactions to press releases, music news, concerts, etc. But where are all these people reposting press releases? Not in my RSS feed.

I don't particularly understand the sideswipe at The Rest is Noise. I dislike some of the particulars of the book and have one serious beef with it, but a book on 20th c. music that sells like hotcakes and gets translated into a dozen or so languages is doing us all a favor.

On to Bob's remarks. He says that...
classical music blogging in both micro and macro formats is losing its appeal because a number of high profile bloggers have sucked the genre into a vicious downward spiral. This spiral means blogs are fast becoming no more than an echo chamber for industry press releases and salacious gossip leavened occasionally by that perennial fallback for the creatively challenged, a YouTube video. Let's not forget that yesterday's corporately-cooked lunch is unappetising even when reheated by syndication and aggregation.
Okay. He says "a number of high profile bloggers" without naming names. I'd really like to know who he's talking about. As a fan of Parterre Box's heady mix of criticism, news, gossip, and bitchiness, I hope that's not who he's talking, wait. I don't actually care if he means Parterre Box, where readers know exactly what they're getting. But I'd love to know who he does mean.

I myself passed on an opportunity a year or so back to syndicate my blog to another site, one that's rather less visible than HuffPost. My reasons had a lot to do with my own independence and the hazards of moving your blogging site. See Unquiet Thoughts: it didn't take Alex long to revive The Rest is Noise, the blog, after saying he was moving to The New Yorker's site.

I also think that Twitter is not the devil, unlike Bob (and apparently Elaine). Sure, there's plenty of retweeting in my stream. Does anybody actually read their full Twitter stream?? I don't think I could; there's just too much pouring out of everyone. But most of what I see - or pay attention to - consists of links to material I might not otherwise have seen. And I see plenty of tweets directed to me personally.

I was a huge Twitter skeptic for a long time, and also - just not very interested. So it took me until last year to open an account, and I have found Twitter useful for a number of things:
  • Getting an answer from a performing arts organization much faster than I would have if I'd used email. ("When is your season announcement?", for example). 
  • Links to blog postings and article I haven't seen in my RSS reader and might not have found.
  • Breaking news reports
  • Spreading the word about a new blog posting (self-promotion, yes!)
  • Public instant messaging
  • Teasing people
Getting back to where I started - yes, things change. Change is a constant, change happens very, very quickly these days, and some people will always regret the change or be nostalgic for the way things were. I am sure that when the printing press was invented, there was panic in some quarters over loss of control over the written word, the dissemination of which had previously been limited by the great expense of hand-copying every text. But the invention of the printing press spurred a giant increase in literacy, an explosion of translation of and interest in old books, and the spread of knowledge. True, the production of books like the Hours of Catherine of Cleves dropped precipitously.  (Today, you can view the Hours up close and personal on the World Wide Web. Just click the link! How cool is that?) I'm glad there are surviving examples of those magnificent creations, and even more glad that the printing press exists. Electronic books are disruptive in their own ways, of course, and we'll see how they work out in the long run. In the meantime, I'm in a position to read Trollope on my phone or in print.

For anyone feeling nostalgic, I also recommend a reading of The Victorian Internet, by Tom Standage. The invention of the telegraph in the 19th c. meant a great increase in the speed of communication. Predictions about the effects of the telegraph on society bore a remarkable resemblance to predictions about the Internet, all the way down to the dire warnings, nostalgia for the hand-written letter, etc. I expect you could find similar predictions when the telephone became popular. Yes, things change. And we live in interesting times. Better than being bored, I say.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Stephane Deneve guest-conducted the San Francisco Symphony this week. I caught the last performance of his mostly-French program and thought he hit a grand slam, performance-wise, whatever you might happen to think of the works he conducted. He got an exceptionally transparent and layered sound from the orchestra, even in the loudest work on the program, Stravinsky's 1919 Suite from The Firebird, and he communicated a great sense of the ebb and flow of the music. Rubato, yes! He's a regular at the BSO, which has past strong connections to French music. They should be considering him as a possible music director (and maybe we should, too, in the years to come).

The program led off with a brisk and colorful performance of Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, which was also played earlier this season by the visiting Boston Symphony under Ludovic Morlot. After this came one of the "big" works on the program, Saint-Saens's Piano Concerto No. 5, Egyptian. It has a fairly tenuous connection with Egypt and Egyptian music and only occasionally even attempts to evoke Middle Eastern music.  It's not the best of the S-S's piano concertos, though I believe it was a late-night hearing of the piece on radio some years ago that sent me off to buy a set of the composer's piano concertos. That said, sometimes a girl just wants to have fun, and this concerto is plenty of fun. Yes, certain persons we know just can't stand the composer or this piece; I think I just like camp more than certain persons do. I also have absolutely no idea what led Jeff Dunn to write that the concerto is short on melodies. My girlfriend found the S-S fun too, and told me that she thought the Berlioz was a little cheesy! Sorry, Joshua!

Soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet played the heck out of it, with plenty of panache and quite a broad range of tone colors. Balances between the orchestra and soloist were superb; I'm not sure whether to blame credit composer, conductor, my seat in row N, or all three, but whatever. The orchestra never drowned out the soloist and every note was always audible; considering the problems I've heard in the past (for example, in a pretty poor Bartok performance by Yuja Wang last year, with MTT conducting), this was especially impressive. Thibaudet played a short encore, a piece by Ravel from 1911, and that was ravishing. I somehow had gotten the impression that Thibaudet was something of a lightweight, but he was so good in this program that I'd love to hear him in other repertory, especially Debussy and Ravel.

Next up was a genuine rarity, Albert Roussel's Symphonic Fragments from The Spider's Feast. I rather think almost everything by Roussel is a rarity in the US, but after hearing this piece, I'm going to run off and pick up a few CDs from Deneve's ongoing Roussel cycle on Naxos. It is absolutely gorgeous, a lush thing of gossamer and moonlight - and I practically jumped out of my seat when, out of the gossamer came a motif from Psycho. I guess Roussel got there first! The orchestra sounded especially great in this work.

Not that there was anything wrong in how they sounded in the Firebird suite, which I expect they can play more or less in their sleep. But it was a terrific performance, lush and forceful at the same time; graceful and tender in the Lullaby, majestic at the close. A big hand for Robert Ward's handling of the big theme in the last movement.

"You're stuck with me whether you like it or not."

Wow. Unbelievably, that's what Robert Lepage said to Dan Wakin, who does the Met and all opera audiences a great favor by printing the most hubristic quotation I have ever seen, out-Jonathan-Millering Jonathan Miller by about the length of a marathon.

He is clearly clueless about what critics have been objecting to, and somehow manages to twist things around to blame the audience for its conservatism. No, Robert, mon ami, the problem is that your production is utterly brainless and in fact profoundly conservative. Audiences want more than that.

And thanks for the general insult to audience members who care about the music. If I were a Met donor, I'd be writing letters about how the company wasn't going to get a penny until it fires Lepage.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Scheduling Conflict"


[Metropolitan Opera] Casting Update News

Alain Altinoglu will conduct next season’s spring performances of Verdi’s Otello, replacing Plácido Domingo, who has withdrawn due to a scheduling conflict. Altinoglu will lead the performances on March 11, 15, 20, 23, 27, and 30.

Altinoglu made his Met debut in the Met’s 2009-10 season, conducting Bizet’s Carmen. Earlier this season, he led his first Met performances of Gounod’s Faust, an opera he will conduct again in the 2012-13 season.

The spring performances of Otello star José Cura as Otello, Krassimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, Alexey Dolgov as Cassio, and Thomas Hampson and Marco Vratogna as Iago. The opera will also be performed five times in October 2012, under the baton of Semyon Bychkov and starring Johan Botha as Otello, Renée Fleming as Desdemona, Michael Fabiano as Cassio, and Falk Struckmann as Iago.

Here's One Documentary I'll Have to See

The Curse of the Gothic Symphony:

H/T Alex Ross for the link. And aren't you happy to live in a world where you can hear three competing recordings of the thing? Links are to MDT:

White Smoke Does Not Rise Over Boston

The BSO season announcement is here; 17 conductors for the season, no new music director. I'll eventually have a full report.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Right Place to Announce Cast Changes

Via Intermezzo comes the news that Diana Damrau won't be in next fall's ROH performances of Robert le Diable. That news is unobjectionable, given the long notice and the soprano's pregnancy.

What's wrong is that the ROH announced this on Twitter, but there's no press release as of the publication time of this posting. Ahem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Don't Do What the ROH is About to Do

Their Premium Friends, who pay a small fortune for the privilege of premium and advanced ticketing, will (temporarily) only be able to order tickets using the ticketing system's Best Available option. Later on, Choose Your Own Seat will become available.

Read all about it at the ROH blog and at Intermezzo.

And don't, just don't, insult your audience members this way.

UPDATE: Intermezzo reports on the major testing (and testing plan) failure that led to this situation.

Compare & Contrast 21: FW-M Edition

Franz Welser-Möst brought the Cleveland Orchestra to San Francisco and points south, and there is some disagreement out there about the performances and the specific works!

It's Short, but It's a Season

NYCO announces a four-opera, 16-performance season for 2012-13. Big sigh at the tiny scope, but it looks as though their model is edging toward Long Beach Opera's model, and LBO is one of the most interesting small companies around. (That is, they only do rare/unusual opera.) I can't link to an announcement on NYCO's web site, because the last press release posted is about casting for 2011-12 (rolling of the eyes, with thanks to Louse Barder for the press release).

Here's the lineup, anyway; casting TBD:

Thomas Adès: Powder Her Face: new production by Jay Scheib 
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House 
Feb 15, 21, & 23 at 7:30pm; Feb 17 at 1:30pm

Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw: new production by Sam Buntrock 
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Feb 24 at 1:30pm; Feb 26, 28, & March 2 at 7:30pm

Gioachino Rossini: Moses in Egypt: new production by Michael Counts 
New York City Center
April 14 at 1:30pm; April 16, 18, & 20 at 7:30pm

Jacques Offenbach: La Périchole: new production by Christopher Alden
New York City Center
April 21 at 1:30pm; April 23, 25, & 27 at 7:30pm

Oh, yes, I would buy tickets for this season.

Revoke His Degree

Once upon a time, I was proud that Thomas L. Friedman, who was then a reporter rather than a pundit, had graduated from Brandeis. He's probably the school's single most famous grad.

Now I'm waiting for Krugman and DeLong to start sputtering with rage over Friedman's Times column today. I am, so they will too.

He's calling for Michael Bloomberg to run for president, to bring some sense to American politics.


Because if Bloomberg enters the race, he'll split the moderate/left vote with President Obama, and guess who we'll get as president! Also, dammit, the current Democrats are the centrist voice of sanity you claim to seek. I wish they were more Socialist, but they're not.

UPDATE: Alex Paeene at Salon is even meaner - quite rightly - to Friedman than I am. (Thanks to Patrick for sending me the link.)

UPDATE 2: Joshua Kosman points me to Eschaton and Matt Taibi on the vile Friedman.

UPDATE 3: Tom DePlonty points me to Digby. Gosh, everybody hates Tom Friendman this week, as well they should!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Big Sigh

So tired that I turned in my ticket to tonight's Cleveland Orchestra program.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Everybody Has an Angle

On the RMS Titanic disaster, that is: a press release from the BSO tells me they are going to spotlight a memorial plaque honoring the musicians who played as the ship went down, down, down. Here's the story, which (my cynicism aside) is legitimate:

In conjunction with this weekend's commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Boston Symphony will spotlight a memorial plaque in honor of the musicians who drowned while still playing (famously alleged as “Nearer, My God, to Thee”); the BSO tribute will take place during performances at Symphony Hall April 12-14.  Boston philanthropist and arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner, a close friend of BSO founder Henry Lee Higginson, was so moved by the story of the musicians who continued to play while the ship was sinking that she commissioned a marble plaque in their memory. Though the musicians were not members of the BSO—nor were any of them connected to Boston (all Europeans, they were employed through a company out of Liverpool)—the poignant plaque was hung in the main hallway of Symphony Hall, where it remains today, in honor of their bravery.  A press clipping from the Boston Postdated September 23, 1912, describes the plaque, and states that the donor preferred to remain anonymous. It wasn't until many years later that her identity was revealed.
The BSO is also presumed to be the first institution to do a musical tribute honoring the lives lost (this fact was referred to in a news clipping a day after the tribute), which took place on April 26, 1912  (see program page here). The BSO performed the Funeral March from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Symphony No. 3, under the direction of Max Fiedler. 
From April 12 through 14, the Boston Symphony will place flowers near the plaque, and a display case in the main hall of Symphony Hall will offer information about the installation of the plaque and the BSO's musical tribute. 

[You can see the memorial plaque here.]

Mavericks on the Radio

If you've been reading the Times or various NY bloggers, you know that SFS's American Mavericks programs were a huge hit in NYC. (I only wish I'd been there, wait. I'm actually very glad to have been on vacation elsewhere.) If you  missed the SFS and NY shows (and the other landing places in between), or you want to hear everything again, KDFC is your friend. The station is broadcasting three Mavericks programs, on April 15, 22, and 29; all Sundays, all at 8 p.m. Not sure why these aren't in the usual SFS Tuesday-night time slot...oh, probably the perceived hatred of their typical audience for anything out of the ordinary (sigh). Anyway, starting this Sunday, there you go.

Feature Restored

In my absence, Blogger evidently pushed a new version of the software. The new post editor looks much better, with more contrast; importantly, the feature where you check a checkbox and comments subsequent to yours are mailed to you is back, after some weeks of being away. Thanks, folks!

I'm Back.

No posting for most of the last two weeks because I was on vacation in Oahu. I'm back, now, browner and a whole lot more relaxed. I'm on vacation the rest of this week and will be at Reactions to the Record starting tomorrow. Expect lots of new photos to turn up at Flickr as soon as I do some machine swapping in the study. (My nine-year-old Dell died a week before we left; buying a new computer in December turns out to have been a very good idea.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Reactions to the Record III, Stanford, April 12-14

The third Reactions to the Record symposium is coming up fast! Be there or be square; the first two (2007, 2009) were fantastic:

Stanford University
Campbell Recital Hall
April 12-14, 2012

Full details here. George Barth and Kumaran Arul are the organizers (and will both participate); guests include Jonathan Bellman, Richard Taruskin, Patricia Mitchelll (whom I presume to be oboist Patty Mitchell!), Jose Bowen, Nic McGegan, and many,many others).