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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Let's start with this: Why Success in Canada Means Moving to America. I despair of finding a good summary quote. The subhead is as close as we get:

Canada’s modest institutions have lowered the ceiling on creative professionals. Is leaving the answer?

I am probably too close to this to comment, but my feeling is that Canada prefers its creative talents to move away as they make us uncomfortable. Leonard Cohen is the exception that proves the rule.

* * *

 Alex Ross has a new piece up at The New Yorker: How the South Dakota Symphony Became One of America’s Boldest Orchestras.

The S.D.S.O. celebrated its centennial this season, in ambitious style. The roster of composers included not only Beethoven, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky but also Stephen Yarbrough, David M. Gordon, Jessie Montgomery, Anna Clyne, George Walker, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, and Malek Jandali. One concert was given over to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion; another featured works by student composers from Lakota and Dakota tribes. (The orchestra has a series called the Lakota Music Project.) The season ended with a program that consisted of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra”; “The Great Gate of Kiev,” from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”; and “An Atlas of Deep Time,” a sprawling new score by John Luther Adams. I flew in for the occasion, having long admired the group from afar.

Wow, an impressive list. It kind of makes you wonder what is standing in the way of other smaller orchestras being equally creative.

* * *

The great Prokofiev specialist Alexander Toradze has passed away. I have long enjoyed his recording of the Prokofiev piano concertos with Valery Gergiev. Here is the Piano Concerto No. 2:


 * * *

The International Academy of Music and Performing Arts Vienna is to be renamed the Friedrich Gulda School of Music Vienna from the next academic year.
Gulda (1930-2000), possibly the most original and eccentric pianist ever to emerge from Vienna was shunned in his lifetime by the establishment. He took up jazz, wore funny headgear and sometimes gave recitals naked with a girlfriend. He was a ray of light in a tenebrous society.

I believe he also faked his own death. But my experience of him was through his absolutely extraordinary performances of the Beethoven piano concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic which I owned in a boxed set of vinyl, and the piano sonatas which are sitting on my shelf right now. Not at all wacky.

* * *

Simon Woods offers an essay on Questioning the Canon

As orchestras strive for greater inclusion, it’s time to finally let go of the notion of a classical music “canon”

I must have read dozens of opinion pieces critiquing the canon, with or without scare quotes, so isn't this rather stale news?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines canon as “a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works.” But sanctioned by whom? And who accepts it? Language matters, and the concept of canon unhelpfully perpetuates ideas that we are already moving on from.

Again, haven't I read something very like this many times? And if we have already moved on, why are we still talking about it? In order for this to be of any interest, I think the writer should show an understanding of the notion of a canon or repertory that extends a little further than Merriam-Webster.

* * *

More interesting is a New York Times piece on a new opera: With Her First Opera, Rhiannon Giddens Returns to Her Roots

While composing, Giddens recorded tracks, singing and accompanying herself, that she sent to Abels. “She has a wonderful gift for melody, but what people may not know is how great she is at creating character with her voice,” he said. “She would sing Omar or Julie or the auctioneer, and the personality was clear in the music.”

Abels then took those themes and orchestrated them, sometimes making the harmonic language more complex and applying the sense of pacing he’s developed writing for film. The result was a blend of their voices, and, Giddens said, “the genius of Michael is figuring out where the lines blur.”

* * * 

Here is Friedrich Gulda in his non-wacky phase, playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 with George Szell and Vienna Philharmonic in 1966:

One of the most important influences on the young Mozart was Johann Christian Bach, the youngest of J. S. Bach's composing sons. Mozart met him in London in 1764 and studied composition with him for five months--he was eight at the time. Mozart later turned this piano sonata in D major by J. C. Bach into the Concerto for Keyboard K. 107. J. C. Bach was one of the creators of the classical style in composition.





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