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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Trigger Warning:

Not to mention various forms of dancing...

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I'm just finishing Umberto Eco's book on the aesthetics of Aquinas which has proven very interesting. Here is a little comment he makes in summary:
Beauty, in Aquinas's aesthetics, is not the fruit of psychological empathy, nor of the imaginative transfiguration or creation of an object. Instead, it sinks its roots deep into a complex knowledge of being. And so, intellectual travail is a necessary pathway to the knowledge of beauty. [Umberto Eco, The Aesthetics of Aquinas, p. 201]
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Jessica Duchen has part of an interview with Maxim Vengerov over at her blog. She talks about the intense shock the pandemic is delivering to touring artists:
My last face-to-face interview before lockdown was with Maxim Vengerov. Looking back on the transcript now, it's so strange to see the list of countries, venues, orchestras, repertoire that he had coming up for the rest of this year. It hammers everything home somewhat. There was much I could not put in the article by the time I came to write it, because it was clear that none of this was actually going to happen. It was supposed to trail his big anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall in June - 40 years on stage (though he's only 45). That has, of course, been postponed until next April.
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As a ticket-holder, I received an email from the Salzburg Festival this week. This seems to be the important paragraph:
The only thing that is certain is that the new health regulations mean that the Festival cannot take place as planned before the outbreak of the pandemic, both in terms of programming and duration. Therefore, the Festival will present an alternative for this extremely challenging year to the Supervisory Board on 25 May 2020. We aim to publish the newly arranged programme for the summer in early June.
So I'm not holding out too much hope! I should have become a festival regular years ago...

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Alex Ross had a piece on Igor Levit that we talked about here. One of the "Hauskonzerts" that he gave was by invitation of the President of Germany and was broadcast from the presidential palace, the Schoss Bellevue in Berlin. The President himself (a largely ceremonial post), Frank-Walter Steinmeier, introduced the program which was the Waldstein Sonata of Beethoven.

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An article about Beth Morrison, responsible for a great deal of new opera production:
The Wall Street Journal dubbed her a “modern-day Diaghilev,” while Opera News’ Henry Stewart wrote that, “more than any other figure in the opera industry, Beth Morrison has helped propel the art form into the 21st century.” Indeed, Morrison, a producer of opera theater extraordinaire, and her company Beth Morrison Projects (BMP), founded in 2005, has been the powerhouse behind numerous world premieres. Included are David T. Little’s Dog Days (2012), Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Angel’s Bone (2016) and Missy Mazzoli’s first full-length opera, Breaking the Waves (2016), a co-commission of Opera Philadelphia and BMP.
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According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, choral music is particularly dangerous these days: Two years until we hear a live choir? In COVID-19 pandemic, choral music may be too risky for a very long while.
One especially cruel cautionary tale emerged recently regarding a Washington State choir that met just as the virus was setting in. After a March rehearsal attended by 61 choristers, including a single symptomatic member, 87% of the group developed COVID-19, according to a CDC report released Tuesday. Two members died.
The problem stems from the proximity of singers, and the fact that the very act of singing propels viral droplets. Indeed, among art forms, it is choral singing that may face the most treacherous path back to normal.
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It's a topsy-turvy world and what could be more appropriate than someone turning Bach's Goldberg Variations upside down. The New York Times explains:
In March, the jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer found himself confined to his apartment in Brooklyn with all his bookings canceled for the foreseeable future, like musicians everywhere. So he decided to work seriously on an idea he had long been toying with.
Mr. Tepfer, 38, who also excels in classical music and has an undergraduate degree in astrophysics as well as sophisticated technology skills, wrote a computer program. He recorded himself playing Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, beautifully, on a Yamaha Disklavier, a full grand piano with a high-tech player piano function; his program then played back each variation, but flipped.
And here is the Variation 1, right-side up and then flipped:

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The dissolution months ago of our usual routines, modest and mundane as they may have been, has left many of us unmoored. The familiar beat of my day-to-day has degraded into something more like a circadian polyrhythm, and I wasn’t much of a dancer to begin with.
No wonder I’m listening to so much Morton Feldman.
Glacial, spectral, static yet constantly in motion, the sprawling works of the late mid-20th century composer have always been an acquired taste, despite their strange, luminous beauty and unparalleled scale. Feldman has always been a composer of shifting environments, an arranger of uncertainties. And in the disorienting stretch of this pandemic, I’m finding his most “difficult” works newly useful and uncannily accessible.
The Salzburg Festival had some Feldman programmed for this summer that I was really looking forward to. Alas...

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Looks like we are getting through this week's miscellanea without a single link to Slipped Disc! Let's have a couple of appropriate envois. First, Morton Feldman. A good friend of mine did a doctorate in composition with him at Stony Brook. Here is a chamber piece from 1987, his Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello:

Here, from pre-pandemic days, is Maxim Vengerov playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim:

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