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Saturday Miscellanea

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Saturday Miscellanea

One day late for your listening and reading pleasure.

The Wall Street Journal has a recurring series about artistic masterpieces. This week the work in question is John Coltrane's 1965 album A Love Supreme, a four movement suite written over five days of seclusion in the family home in Dix Hills, N.Y.
In his book “John Coltrane: His Life and Music,” Mr. Porter describes the four sections of “A Love Supreme”—“Acknowledgement,” in which variations on the theme move through all 12 musical keys; “Resolution,” which arrives like a declaration and swings smoothly; “Pursuance,” a fast-paced, minor-key blues; and “Psalm,” the recitation, for which Jones switches to timpani—as suggesting “a kind of pilgrim’s progress, in which the pilgrim acknowledges the divine, resolves to pursue it, searches, and eventually, celebrates what has been attained in song.”

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Over at The Guardian we find a trio of reviews: The week in classical: Peter Grimes; Emerson Quartet; RPO/Petrenko

Long after his encounters with Lady Macbeth, in 1960, Britten met Shostakovich. They became friends. Britten especially admired Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets, saying his fellow composer “speaks most closely and most personally in his chamber music”. The Emerson Quartet have performed these works throughout their long career. Founded in 1976, with changes in personnel along the way, the gold-standard American group have announced their forthcoming retirement next year. As part of a long farewell between now and October 2023, they played the first nine Shostakovich quartets at Queen Elizabeth Hall over three evenings. I heard the last, in which No 7, dedicated to his late wife, and No 9, to his then current wife, provided ideal context to the centrepiece, Quartet No 8 in C minor Op 110 (1960).

There is a wonderful box of all the Shostakovich quartets performed by the Emerson Quartet and recorded live at the Aspen Festival. Interesting that while Tchaikovsky has recently been banned from performance and Anna Netrebko's career seems to be on the rocks, Shostakovich and Vasily Petrenko seem to be unaffected. Could someone provide a list of which Russian artists are to be banned and which not?

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 Slipped Disc has a tiny note on Glenn Gould's early years:

The fall of 1952 was to be a major period of Gould’s life. First, he decided it was time to leave his teacher Alberto Guerrero. It was a difficult but inevitable decision that had to be taken sooner or later. Gould was torn between performing and composing. He then made another crucial decision: moving out of his parents home. Taking along books, music, a tape recorder and his dog, Gould ensconced himself at the cottage with his beloved Chickering piano to find out if he really had it in him to become a pianist of worth. This period of introspection lasted for over two years, allowing him little opportunity for public performace. From September to December he gave only radio recitals the first one 3 days after his 20th b/day. The Beethoven Bagatelles op.126 were part of the concert.

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Perhaps announcements of the death of classical music are premature: Classical stations see audience, fundraising successes as listeners seek refuge during pandemic

WDAV GM Frank Dominguez was eating lunch at his desk when he opened a monthly email report from the Radio Research Consortium, showing audience and listening statistics from January 2022.

“I had to look at it closely two or three times,” Dominguez said, laughing. “… I thought maybe they changed the format and things were being listed alphabetically.”

It wasn’t a mistake or a new format — for the first time ever, WDAV had reached number one in market share for the Charlotte market. Dominguez was stunned. Sure, they’d had some success in individual dayparts, and in a few years they’d gradually moved from number 18 to 20 in market share to number 10 or 12.

I can't be the only person to feel that classical music--of whatever flavour--can offer a certain kind of consolation, transcendence and diversion that is found in no other art form or genre.

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John McWhorter explains: Scott Joplin’s Ragtime Is Ambrosia. Here’s Why It Matters.

Joplin is more than just someone who wrote some great piano pieces, was Black and died. He is part of the story of American classical music that has never quite captured popular attention, where classical drinks in the musical substratum born here of Black and Native American and immigrant peoples and becomes something new. The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak sounded the call for such a music, wrote some examples, such as his Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” but then went home. Gershwin, as I have written, pointed the way with “Porgy and Bess” but then died young. Black composers such as William Grant Still, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds and William Levi Dawson continued the mission in the mid-20th century, but racism kept all but a few from hearing or knowing what they did.

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One little-known detail of the history of the holocaust is the existence of Terezín, a Nazi concentration camp devoted, yes, to the arts. The Philadelphia Inquirer has a review: Compositions by Jewish artists and musicians held at Terezín are revealed in new book

The focus of the book, though, is Terezín, which was not a death camp like Auschwitz, though there were many deaths among the 142,000 Jews who passed through this remote Bohemian fortress town (aka Theresienstadt), en route to Auschwitz. The fact that 23,000 survived — some living long enough to be interviewed by Ludwig — is partly due to the camp’s use for Nazi propaganda purposes. International Red Cross inspections were periodic. A documentary film that tried to tell the world that Jews were not exterminated, and possibly had adequate treatment, included a glimpse of the children’s opera Brundibár, performed in the camp (and heard in the book’s playlist). But photos of those children don’t lie: However spirited their performance, sorrow is embedded in their faces.

My dear friend, violinist Paul Kling, was interned there when a child prodigy and was later transferred to Auschwitz. He survived and we performed many pieces by Jacques Ibert, Giuliani and Paganini for violin and guitar. He once joked that when he went to Terezín he only took his violin with him, no musical scores. The reason was. "I already had everything memorized and besides, I wasn't planning a long vacation..."

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And finally, Alex Ross tries to shed some light on the subject: Listening to Russian Music in Putin’s Shadow. Referring to scenes of protest at concerts including Russian music around the time of the Soviet suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 Ross continues:

Such scenes were fairly routine in classical music through most of the twentieth century, as one country or another took its turn in the role of arch-villain on the international stage. Today, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a cultural panic of a kind that has not been seen in generations. Several performers with strong ties to Vladimir Putin—Valery Gergiev, Anna Netrebko, Denis Matsuev—have seen their careers in Europe and America evaporate. In a few isolated cases, classic Russian works have been pulled from programs. At the beginning of March, the Polish National Opera called off a staging of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” that had been scheduled for the spring. A few days later, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and his Second Symphony were dropped from a concert by the Cardiff Philharmonic—a decision that elicited worldwide mockery on social media.

This is a very fine long piece on the occasion of a mostly Russian concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with works by Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The whole is worth reading. His conclusion:

Proust wrote, “Every artist seems to be the citizen of an unknown homeland, one that he himself has forgotten.” Shostakovich carries that sense of a lost homeland through his work, its contours becoming visible in just a few bars of music. It may overlap with the Russia of his birth, but it also borders on the music of other lands and on the inner landscape of his imagination. As time passes, the artist’s private world merges with the worlds of its listeners. It no longer belongs to one land or one time. Which is why videos of high-school bands playing the Tenth at halftime give a giddy kind of delight: they mean that Shostakovich has escaped the nightmare of history.

An excellent reminder of the complexity of artists' relationship with the surrounding society.

Now to some envois and this week the choices are easy. First Coltrane's A Love Supreme:

And here, with so-so audio quality is Gould's 1952 recording of the late Beethoven bagatelles:

And Joshua Rifkin with Scott Joplin's Magnetic Rag:

Finally, Shostakovich, Symphony 10 with Stanisław Skrowaczewski conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony:

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