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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea


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I'm starting to have just a trace of hope that Salzburg will go forward: Bregenz Festival: We're Going Ahead.
The Austrian lakeside festival, which begins late July, has issued an ebullient statement:
As things stand at present, the Bregenz Festival should go ahead as planned from July 22 to August 23 2020. As last year’s production, ‘Rigoletto,’ is returning for its second run on the lake stage, considerably less preparation is needed than for a new production. Rehearsals are due to start in mid-June.
This note also fosters hope.
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British orchestras are pretty much screwed, though: British Orchestras are in Critical Position.
Dire warning from the director of the Association of British Orchestras, Mark Pemberton:
There’s no easy way of saying this: the Covid-19 emergency has placed the UK’s orchestras in a critical position.
Unlike orchestras in continental Europe and other parts of the world, which receive significantly higher levels of public subsidy, British orchestras are heavily dependent on earned income from ticket sales, international tours and commercial activity such as recordings, at an average of 50% of turnover. And for the many ABO members that do not receive public funding, the level of earned income is that much higher. With the forced closure of entertainment venues and recording studios, that income has plunged to zero.
It isn’t just in the past few weeks that this has hit the orchestras hard. Tours to Asia, a crucial revenue earner for our members, started to be cancelled back in January, and it has escalated from there, with first international touring, and then concerts in the UK, grinding to a halt. This in turn threatens the financial sustainability of our members, and the livelihoods of the musicians who work for them.
The 65 member orchestras of the ABO have different employment models for their musicians, with some, such as the BBC, regional symphony and the major opera and ballet orchestras being in salaried employment, and the rest, including the London self-governing orchestras and the chamber orchestras, operating on a freelance basis.
There are over 2,000 members of the UK’s orchestras, of which 50% are self-employed, plus 12,000 engagements annually of freelance extras….
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One of my particular pleasures is intellectual humor. Here is a tasty example (quoted in Taruskin's latest Cursed Questions):
There is an old East European joke, concerning the differences between science, philosophy, and Marxism. What is science? It is trying to catch a very small black cat in a very large, entirely dark room. What is philosophy? It is trying to catch a very small black cat in a very large, entirely dark room, when it is not there. What is Marxism? It is trying to catch a very small black cat in a very large, entirely dark room when it is not there, and pretending that one has caught it and knows all about it.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
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I think that the realization is starting to dawn that shutting down the whole classical music live performance world for a few months could result in inconceivable damage. Some musicians will simply not return. So some orchestras, like the Calgary Philharmonic, are working out a compromise: CPO musicians to work part-time from home during COVID-19 crisis.
Two weeks after temporarily laying off staff and musicians, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is offering them reduced hours. Everyone will be able to work 70 per cent of regular hours per week at home while the CPO is shut down.
“Our musicians and staff have shown incredible dedication over the past two weeks, continuing to work hard and connect with audiences online even while facing layoffs,” says CPO president and CEO Paul Dornian. “We are so relieved to be able to give them a chance to earn more than they would be making on EI during this difficult time.”
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Amid the welter of bailouts, at least one voice is asking to Bail out classical music!
Classical music is just as important in Cincinnati and Kalamazoo as it is in Washington. At a time when most of the 1,224 symphony orchestras scattered across the United States were already struggling financially, the cancelation of the spring musical season is nothing short of a disaster. When it finally becomes possible to hold public concerts again, it is likely that nearly every major orchestra and opera company in this country will be struggling to reopen the doors. 
If it is worth bailing out restaurants and bars and other places where people congregate together for merriment and diversion, we must not neglect those institutions in which men and women come together for something that satisfies all the deepest longings of our species.
While I applaud the initiative, I doubt that going to the symphony necessarily satisfies the deepest longings of our species. I think food, drink and sex might come first.

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Standard punk, but maybe there’s more I should have picked up? He was the first number: Deal Wiv It. I was surprised he had his shirt off and trousers down so quickly. It takes a bit longer for a symphony orchestra.
And the pop critic on the symphony:
My initial thoughts about the Philharmonia doing Mahler’s second symphony? There was an entire city on stage. 245 people in total. And two harps! It was fascinating enough solely from the point of view of economics – how on earth does the money work? Like a bumblebee seems too big for its wings, this sort of orchestral piece should be too big to stage. The vastness of the endeavour, so many parts pulling together, conducted by Jakub Hrůša, a conductor straight out of central casting, was truly impressive. I loved that there were “surprise” brass instruments playing from the circle. The massed voices of the choir had a humbling dynamic range.
Well, a whole village, at least. And the short answer is no, the money doesn't work. No performance of a Mahler symphony has ever earned enough at the box office to actually pay the musicians.

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Since we have so much time at home these days, let's have a bouquet of envois. First up, some lovely Couperin on piano. It is not only Grigory Sokolov who makes it work. This is Iddo Bar-Shaï:


In 1982 Ligeti wrote a Trio for violin, horn and piano, an "Hommage à Brahms"! This was a bit of a turning point for the post-war avant-garde in that it marked the turn, if not to traditional tonality, then to a less dissonant harmony. The performance starts just after the 5 minute mark.


And here is the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Saint-Saëns with Gautier Capuçon, Violoncello, 
Alain Altinoglu, Conductor and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.




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