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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The New York Times has an article on a new recording of C. P. E Bach by Marc-André Hamelin:

C.P.E. Bach was a prolific composer and an important pedagogue, a significant influence on Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. (Hamelin’s new album is a welcome companion to the three volumes of solo Haydn that he set down, with ideal panache, a decade and more ago on the Hyperion label.) But if he was more widely appreciated than his father well into the 19th century, that has certainly not been the case more recently.

I have a box of C. P. E. (sometimes called the "Berlin" Bach) that is a delight. His symphonies and concertos are often surprising in their unusual phrasing and harmonies. The path from the late Baroque to the early Classical style took two roads, the southern one with Haydn and the northern one with C. P. E. Bach.

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Slipped Disc has a piece on Angelo Gilardino whose passing was mentioned in a comment here: ITALY’S ‘HEIR TO SEGOVIA’ DIES AT 80. Of course Gilardino, a very fine composer for guitar, was not really Segovia's Italian heir, that honor belongs to Oscar Ghiglia. However, the Slipped Disc item does have three YouTube clips of his music.

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Over at Musicology Now an item titled Music Writing Reconceived seems to imply that they are interested in every kind of music except the classical canon. Hmmm... It seems the American Musicological Society has lost its way.

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Ted Gioia has a new essay out: Is Old Music Killing New Music?

The people running the music industry have lost confidence in new music. They won’t admit it publicly—that would be like the priests of Jupiter and Apollo in ancient Rome admitting that their gods are dead. Even if they know it’s true, their job titles won’t allow such a humble and abject confession. Yet that is exactly what’s happening in the music business. The moguls have lost their faith in the redemptive and life-changing power of new music—how sad is that? Of course, the decision-makers need to pretend that they still believe in the future of their business, and want to discover the next revolutionary talent—but that’s not what they really think. Their actions speak much louder than their empty words.

A friend of mine once said that music has been in constant decline since 1733 (the death of François Couperin). Well, maybe he was right. The one thing that Ted does not mention is that popular music has been turned into an industry of mass production with less and less creativity and real character. Might that have something to do with it?

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Alex Ross has a hefty piece on Thomas Mann in The New Yorker: Thomas Mann’s Brush with Darkness.

It is impossible to talk seriously about the fate of Germany in the twentieth century without reference to Thomas Mann.

In America, however, one can coast through a liberal-arts education without having to deal with Mann. General readers are understandably hesitant to plunge into the Hanseatic decadence of “Buddenbrooks” or the sanatorium symposia of “The Magic Mountain,” never mind the musicological diabolism of “Doctor Faustus” or the Biblical mythography of “Joseph and His Brothers.”

Doctor Faustus is one of the most important novels ever written about music composition and it made a large impact on me when I read it decades ago. A copy sits on my shelf and every year I promise myself that I will re-read it.

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The Nightingale's Sonata has a piece musing about the contents of the standard repertoire: What is Lost When Musical Tastes Change? by Thomas Wolf

In my own life time, I have watched as so-called cornerstones of twentieth century repertoire have been superseded, much to my dismay.  When I was a presenter of string quartet concerts in the second half of the 20th century, for example, it was assumed that I would cycle through all six of the string quartets of Béla Bartók over the course of several seasons, only to repeat the cycle when it was completed.  These works were considered masterpieces in the tradition of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven string quartets.  Today, Dmitri Shostakovich’s quartets have largely replaced Bartók’s as a core component of that period’s string quartet masterpieces.  Similarly, today, one is far less likely to find seminal twelve-tone compositions from the twentieth century—so prevalent a generation ago—on concert programs as works by women composers and composers of color have come to be much more common, almost all written in very different styles.

Of course tastes are constantly changing and as they do they offer us two lovely opportunities: to discover new repertoire and to revive older repertoire that has been recently neglected. Hence the interest in C. P. E. Bach.

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The Guardian offers a paean to Hamburg's new concert hall: The modernist marvel that Hamburg took to its heart: ‘Elphi’ turns five

When the building opened it was mired in controversy. More than six years late, it was many hundreds of millions of euros over budget – costs had risen tenfold, taking the final bill to €866m, of which €789m came from the city. None denied its architectural splendours, but had its long and agonising birth ensured that it was toxic, an eye-wateringly expensive white elephant funded by public money, programming classical music concerts for an elite; or would Hamburgers take it to their hearts and learn to love this modernist marvel perched on the banks of the Elbe?

The answer seems to be a resounding vote for the latter. With “Elphi”, as it is affectionately known, the city has a new centre of gravity. More than three million concert-goers to date have visited; concert audiences in the city have tripled and subscription concert-series subscribers have quadrupled. And, 80% of these audiences are from Hamburg itself. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that by spring of this year, 15 million will have visited the Plaza, the viewing platform 37 metres above ground level.

This tends to confirm my belief that while classical music may be suffering in North America, it is hale and healthy in Europe.

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This seems an absurd project: Decolonising Shakespeare: setting Othello in Ghana and Pericles in Glasgow.

Decolonising Shakespeare, with its historic links to English national identity, language and culture is a particularly knotty challenge. Shakespeare was writing in a country that had begun to trade in slaves just two years before his birth, and the racist attitudes that enabled slavery to flourish can be seen in many of his plays. However, Shakespeare remains central to many national education systems around the world, including nations with historic colonial links to Britain.

The paragraph begins with a grammatical howler: it is not the decolonising of Shakespeare that has historic links, it is Shakespeare himself. Isn't the project one of simply denying or erasing simple historic truth? How ironic that those that complain about how some artists's roles have been concealed or "erased" now are attempting to do the same to Shakespeare.

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We really have to start with C. P. E. Bach, don't we? Here is a little teaser from the Hamelin album:

And here are two of Gilardino's Studi di Virtuosità e di Trascendenza played by Cristiano Porqueddu:


They do make the Villa-Lobos sound a bit rudimentary, don't they? Next, a really fine performance of the String Quartet No. 4 by Bartók from the Quatuor Ebène.




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