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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

I have wanted for a while to do some more posts on the music of Béla Bartók. The one genre that I have never really come to terms with is his music theatre. I am reminded of this by a piece in The Guardian: Bluebeard’s Castle review – Bartók’s opera wields devastating power in contrasting performances

Two performances of Bluebeard’s Castle on the same day have left me somewhat jittery. Bartók’s only opera, examining a marriage pulled apart by the exposure of secrets, memories and past emotional pain, admits of multiple approaches, and this contrasting pair of interpretations could not be further apart in stance and intention. At Stone Nest on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue – once a chapel, then, in the 1980s and 90s, the Limelight club – the newly formed Theatre of Sound are staging a chamber version by director Daisy Evans and conductor-arranger Stephen Higgins that reimagines the opera as study of a happily married couple facing the devastating reality of the wife’s dementia. At the Royal Festival Hall, meanwhile, Edward Gardner and the London Philharmonic gave a terrifying yet astonishingly beautiful account of Bartók’s original score – a more traditional treatment, inevitably, but no less disquieting by any means.

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Something I have long wondered about is why the costs of construction or renovation of concert halls are so poorly estimated: CONCERT HALL IS FOUR TIMES OVER BUDGET

The German Taxpayers Association has slammed the city of Bonn for letting costs of renovating the Beethoven Hall run from a budgeted 43 million Euros to a present estimate of 166 million. It is also three years behind schedule

Even worse is Cologne where a 230 million Euro budget for the rebuilt opera house is now estimated at 971 million, and no end in sight.

Is it because these are government projects and so cannot be canceled?

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Musicians, the original "gig" workers:

Many musicians have watched, cringing, as the term “gig economy” has become a defining term of the national economic Zeitgeist. Not just because the word “gig” is our word—it originated with jazz musicians in the 1910s—but because, in a larger sense, we are the original gig workers. From time immemorial, musicians—from the troubadours of medieval Europe to the blues visionaries of the Mississippi Delta—have traveled from crowd to crowd, city to city, in search of the next audience with some money to pay us for the sounds and songs we have to offer. We understand the attractions of the gigging life—the sense of freedom and flexibility it often gives us—and know the costs: unpredictability, uncertainty, and an ever-present risk of economic ruin. As an increasing number of American workers are pushed into similarly precarious labor situations, we see our own reflection, darkly. We feel for and identify with these new “gig workers”—the Uber driver, the TaskRabbit laborer, all the miscategorized “independent contractors”—but at the same time, and perhaps for the first time, there is now a mass of American workers who increasingly are able to identify with us.

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I wrote about how impressed I was with one of the violinists in musicAeterna when he carried on as if nothing had happened when a string broke in a Rameau concert. Here is another incident, well-handled: Watch what happens when star soloist Ray Chen’s violin string breaks while performing with Seattle Symphony

Now, of course, this is just common sense and seasoned orchestras know what to do in a situation like this. But it is nice to see it handled so smoothly!

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This is just ... bizarreTenured, Trapped, and Miserable in the Humanities

Why are so many tenured professors unhappy with their jobs yet unable to change careers?

I am able to restrain my compassion because, as far as I can see, humanities professors have so nuanced and problematized and decolonialized their disciplines that there is almost nothing left on the carcass of what was once the pinnacle of Western Civilization.

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Here is a film of Bluebeard's Castle:

And the rest of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto:

Here is François Couperin, Troisième Leçon De Ténèbres À 2 Voix

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