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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

As everyone knows, Austrians are just a bit more effervescent than Germans. Here to prove it are two divas with a Christmas message from a Columbian beach. Courtesy of Norman Lebrecht who titles it "Topless divas take down Christmas"

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The classical music scene in Toronto is doing very well, in contrast to so many other places in North America: Surprise! Year’s end finds classical music and opera thriving in Toronto.
In this city the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company and Tafelmusik have grown their endowment funds — money collected from lovers of classical music, period-instrument performance and opera — to total nearly $100 million collectively.
The Royal Conservatory of Music sells out pretty much every piano recital at Koerner Hall months before the performance date.
Toronto now has a half-dozen respectable miniopera companies run by people with creativity and drive, if not money.
The conservatory and the universities continue to graduate dozens of incredibly talented and capable young musicians and singers into the working world every spring.
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Here is an interesting historical recording: Stravinsky conducting the Sacre in Paris in 1929:


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Norman Lebrecht has a review of a recording of two early works by Shostakovich when he was a wild and crazy guy.


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The gretathunbergization of the media continues apace: Classical music must play its part in tackling the climate crisis.
Welcome work by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research examines all the areas of impact touring has on the environment and recognises that the issue is complex: it cannot be solved by planting a set number of trees per tour. From audiences travelling to concerts to the power required by the halls, this crisis is the responsibility of all of us. Everyone must be conscious of their behaviour and acknowledge the active part they have to play. Planning permission for all new concert halls, for example, should only be given if the buildings will be carbon neutral. Existing concert halls must make radical changes to ensure they are as close to carbon neutral as possible.
And of course, all those people who take private jets to the various international conferences devoted to the "climate crisis" are going to stop that henceforth. Right?

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At The New Yorker, Alex Ross has his list of Notable Performances and Recordings of 2019 and the Decade. But wow, he feels he has to preface it with statements like these:
Righteousness continues to wither away; evil is trending; a time or space outside the machine may no longer exist. Major classical-music institutions are generally too enmeshed in networks of power to make meaningful gestures of resistance.
He just doesn't sound happy. Odd, because from another point of view, this past decade, in terms of the reduction of poverty and deaths from natural disasters and disease, has been the best in human history.
Let nobody tell you that the second decade of the 21st century has been a bad time. We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history. Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 per cent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 per cent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline.
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Neuroscience continues to struggle with the only really important question: what is consciousness and how does it relate to brain processes? I Me Mind: The unending quest to explain consciousness
THE HARD PROBLEM, DAVID CHALMERS CALLS IT: Why are the physical processes of the brain “accompanied by an experienced inner life?” How and why is there something it is like to be you and me, in Thomas Nagel’s formulation? I’ve been reading around in the field of consciousness studies for over two decades—Chalmers, Nagel, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Jerry Fodor, Ned Block, Frank Jackson, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Alva Noë, Susan Blackmore—and the main thing I’ve learned is that no one has the slightest idea. Not that the field lacks for confident pronouncements to the contrary.
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When Opera Parallèle gave the world premiere of “Today It Rains” in San Francisco in March, the entire show was staffed with freelance artists. The singers portraying painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her friends and loved ones, the instrumentalists playing composer Laura Kaminsky’s score, the stage personnel and designers — they all worked as independent contractors on a production budgeted at around $335,000.
But once AB5, California’s groundbreaking “gig work” bill, takes effect on Jan. 1, that model could be taboo.
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For our envoi today, here is a concert from the new German Elbphilharmonie hall of the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev doing an all-Russian program ending with a terrific reading of the Symphony No. 4 by Shostakovich.




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