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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Is it Friday again so soon? It's true, when your normal schedule is turned upside down and you are more or less quarantined at home, the days do tend to blur together. So here we are. Thanks to Slipped Disc we are alerted to what Juilliard students and alumni get up to when locked down for a few weeks:


I got a rather odd feeling from this, something like these are all the cool people and, uh, we are not.

UPDATE: Soon after posting, I ran into a little clip that shows a rather different side of Juilliard:


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Also at Slipped Disc is an item on the San Francisco Symphony. Sadly, with the cancellation of the remainder of the season, Michael Tilson Thomas' farewell after 25 years as music director is also wiped out. The new conductor will be a personal favorite of mine, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who did wonderful things with the LA Philharmonic.

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The Lucerne Festival has just been cancelled and so, it is not looking so good for Salzburg:
Lucerne, 29 April 2020. With deepest regret, Lucerne Festival announces that the Summer Festival must be cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic. It was to have taken place between 14 August and 13 September. Owing to the provisions that the Swiss Federal Council announced today, it is not possible to present the concerts in compliance with the mandatory health regulations, nor is it possible, for organizational reasons, to postpone these events. This means that, for the second time since 1940 in its long, storied history, the Summer Festival will be cancelled.
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 The 21st century is turning out differently than I expected: Police Question Shostakovich Quartet on London Patio.
Rafael Todes and his family were playing the 4th Shostakovich string quartet for the benefit of their neighbours on Alexander Street, Bayswater, when the boys in blue paid them a visit to discourage socialising on the street.
Reminds me of an occasion when I was playing an outdoors concert in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence when a jeep full of carabinieri pulled up and demanded to see our permit. Luckily we had one.

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Over at Wenatchee the Hatchet's blog he launches a long series of posts about ragtime and sonata forms with one about Ragtime as Musical Ice Cream:
Ragtime and ice cream are intertwined, for better and worse, in American history.  I have found this to be the case at both a personal and a cultural level. 
I think I first heard ragtime at an ice cream parlor my dad took my brother and I to once in Portland, Oregon when I was a kid.  It was there that I remember hearing Scott Joplin’s music.   I had no words for the melodic and rhythmic vitality of Joplin’s music I heard at the age I was, but it made an immediate and positive impression on me. I asked who wrote the music.  My dad told me the music was written by Scott Joplin, one of America’s greatest musicians. 
Throughout my childhood there was another, more regular, reason I associated ragtime with ice cream.  I, like many other children in the 1980s, heard the strains of “The Entertainer” ringing out in chimes or bells when ice cream trucks would roll through the neighborhood.  To hear Scott Joplin’s music was to hear the visits of the ice cream truck on your street.
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Here's some interesting quarantine reading: When Dvořák Went to Iowa to Meet God.
Dvořák was fascinated by New York, but he found it no place to live, and had some difficulty completing his major projects there. Just when he was getting ready to find some way to return to Europe, his student, Josef Kovařík, convinced him to come for a while to the little town of Spillville, Iowa, instead, promising its woods and people would remind him of home. Dvořák accepted the offer with excitement and soon packed his family onto a train (he loved trains) out west. Within days of arriving in Iowa in 1893, two of his most beautiful works, the American Quartet and Quintet, spilled out of him. It was here also that he refined and titled his freshly completed symphony, From the New World.
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And for something rather more disquieting, there is this article in The New Republic: When Art Becomes Self-Help.
What does it mean to be an artist in an economy that actually doesn’t allow many people to make their living as artists? The art world is in the midst of a larger inflection point at the moment, as it increasingly recognizes itself as yet another industry built on hoarded capital and exploited labor. The art economy has metastasized over the past few decades. Auction houses can sell nearly a billion dollars of art in a weekend; a few mega-galleries are taking over as global franchises, supplanting more independent alternatives; and a few superstar artists face pressure to expand their studios as quickly as possible to meet collector demand, turning into mini-corporations. “Flippers” look to resell hot artists at auction whenever their prices blow up, often damaging their long-term career prospects (since the inflated numbers often set expectations too high, like an explosive start-up). Meanwhile, art workers face the same hardships as everyone else in the cultural economy, competing ferociously for scarce gigs that tend to be temporary.
And it is rather worse for composers...

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Alex Ross has a big essay on Brahms in The New Yorker: Grieving with Brahms.
I turned to Brahms because I always turn to Brahms, in moods bright or dark. I identify with the protagonist of Wallace Stevens’s “Anglais Mort à Florence,” for whom Brahms is a “dark familiar.” People who claim to find Brahms dry or dismal—it’s not an uncommon opinion, even among otherwise discerning music lovers—are speaking gibberish that I can’t debate, because I don’t understand a word. I find him the most companionable, the most sympathetic of composers. There is enormous sadness in his work, and yet it is a sadness that glows with understanding, that eases gloom by sharing its own. The music seems in a strange way to be listening to you, even as you listen to it. At a time when an uncommonly large number of people are experiencing grief, I recommend Brahms as a counsellor and confidant.
Fair enough. Even though I am not a big fan of Brahms, I have certainly sensed what Ross is referring to here.

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Public performances by the Berlin Philharmonic were suspended from 11 March as the German capital entered lockdown. But now it has been announced that Friday 1 May will make a significant moment, as members will come together on stage again and play as an orchestra for the first time in weeks. 
Friday's concert will strictly adhere to current social distancing guidelines in Germany, with players forming a chamber orchestra, spaced apart from one another on stage. The programme includes Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, music by Ligeti, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and a chamber version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with soprano Christiane Karg.
There will be no audience present in the Philharmonie, but the performances will be live-streamed for free via the orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.
Ah yes, that's the rub: we have to get the audiences back in the halls at some point...

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And now for a multitudinous envoi. First, of course that interrupted Shostakovich, Quartet No. 4 with the Molinari Quartet:



Next the American Quartet of Dvořák with the Prazak Quartet:


And finally the Intermezzi, Op.117 - 1. In E Flat Major by Brahms, played by Radu Lupu:




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