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Friday MIscellanea

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Friday MIscellanea

Some of the greatest musicians have lived under tyrannical regimes. Some, like Shostakovich, survived by making public efforts to satisfy the demands of the rulers while hiding works that might not be well-received. His Symphony No. 4, which he withdrew when his music was attacked in Pravda, was not premiered until twenty-five years after it was written in early 1936. Alas, not all musicians were so lucky. Here is the story of a promising young pianist who was summarily executed by the Nazis for criticizing Hitler in private: The tragic story of pianist Karlrobert Kreiten: how speaking one's mind in private could be fatal in the Third Reich.

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The JACK quartet are going to premiere a really dark work next month. And by "dark" I mean in total darkness. Should be fun. And, of course, they could optionally perform it nude as well, I suppose.

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These are not happy times if you are Jewish. Via Slipped Disc we learn that pianist Igor Levit has had to have police protection due to a death threat.

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There is a new book out about "socially conscious music" or, protest songs. Music is Power: Popular Songs, Social Justice, and the Will to Change. I have a list of titles of protest songs I would like to see:
  • "This Land Is Privately Owned"
  • "We Shall Continue Lobbying Until Everyone Gets a Subsidy"
  • "A Hard Climate Change Is Gonna Fall"
And so on...

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Alex Ross has a large piece up at The New Yorker: Opera Against the Patriarchy, in which he reviews the European premieres of three new operas, two by women composers.
Notwithstanding the conservatism of the opera business, many top houses offer a world première every season or two. On a one-week swing through Europe in early December, I caught three such productions: Hans Abrahamsen’s “The Snow Queen,” at the Royal Danish Theatre, in Copenhagen; Chaya Czernowin’s “Heart Chamber,” at the Deutsche Oper, in Berlin; and “Orlando.” One suspects that, in many cases, commissioning work plays a palliative role: a company can applaud itself for having acknowledged contemporary reality and then scurry back to the safe space of the past.
Isn't the opera business conservative because the people that buy the tickets are conservative? And it seems to me that the European opera houses are more adventurous than North American ones. Or is that just my limited experience?

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Musicology Now has come to life for the first time since September and I must confess that the only reason I mention this rather humdrum article on Christmas music is because the author, Jake Johnson, assistant professor of musicology at Oklahoma City University's Wanda L. Bass School of Music, has absolutely fabulous hair:


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Over at his website, Wenatchee the Hatchet is working his way through all the preludes and fugues for guitar by Nikita Koshkin. There is a lovely new recording by Asya Selyutina on Naxos.


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For our envoi, let's have a brand new clip just uploaded from the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. This is David Afkham conducting the Three Pieces for Orchestra op. 6 by Alban Berg. Blogger won't embed:


Berg is the most fin of fin-de-siècle composers is he not?


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