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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

I don't know how I missed this in the May issue of The Critic: Before and after gould.

I first heard of the indivisible connection between Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Glenn Gould when I was around 16. It was that time in high school when people began to separate themselves by tribe: the sporty types (constantly eating), the theatre crowd (constantly screaming), the artists (constantly painting each fingernail a different colour), and so on. A member of the tribe that skipped class to read Patti Smith and Sylvia Plath over cups of burnt coffee scoffed at my copy of Trevor Pinnock’s recording of the variations and pronounced that the right recording was by someone named Glenn Gould. How could I not know this?

After recounting some unfortunate experiences the writer, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, decides to have a look at the performance history of the Goldberg Variations:

After this, I figured it was time to take apart the public perception of Bach’s work into “Before Gould” and “After Gould” (B.G. and A.G.) phases, and to examine the myths and traditions surrounding the Goldberg Variations. One would do well to ask how Gould’s association might be a result of various historical and social factors. What did the Goldberg Variations mean to the public before 1955, the year of Gould’s first studio recording?

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The Wall Street Journal has a review of the Johnny Gandelsman album by Allan Kozinn: ‘This is America’ by Johnny Gandelsman Review: A Musical American Mosaic

Mr. Gandelsman, whose last release was a superb traversal of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Violin (from 2018), brings a warm, flexible tone and an incisive interpretive sensibility to this ambitious collection. Whether you focus on the purely musical qualities of these new works, or on the set’s social and political underpinnings, the multifaceted approach Mr. Gandelsman took here is something other instrumentalists could usefully emulate.

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 A fascinating essay by Janet Malcolm at The New Yorker: My Father’s Bad Seats at the Opera

The inequality of audience experience is intrinsic to the performing arts and unique to them. Literature and painting and sculpture are mediums of equal opportunity. A rich reader’s experience of “Anna Karenina” is no more intense than a poor one’s. The hedge-fund owner and the secretary see exactly the same “Raft of the Medusa.” But only the hedge-fund owner gets to see the expression on Azucena’s face when she relives throwing the wrong baby into the fire. Attempting a fairer shake with opera are the Met’s Live in HD films of performances. Here we all have great seats, so to speak, but somehow it isn’t the same as being at the opera house. Something is missing from those films. Or perhaps, more to the point, something has been added—the gigantic closeup—which blunts the magic that wafts out to even the lousiest seats in the opera house after the lights go down and the first bars of the overture sound.

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This seems odd: Research says orchestral music is more popular on social media than in schools – one TikTok star explains why

A recent survey commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra revealed that 87% of children in the UK were engaging with orchestral music in their daily lives.

According to the research, this was more likely to be at home than in schools.

The most popular way young people reportedly engage with orchestral music is through film music. The next most popular way is listening to orchestral music on YouTube and other social media. Third on the list is by listening to orchestral music at school, during a music lesson. 

“When people ask me where to start when it comes to orchestrating, I tell them to firstly listen to as much orchestral music as possible. Then find the score of a piece you like and sync the music to what you’re seeing on the page in front of you.

“Look at the score and say, okay, what is happening here that’s making me feel this way. And then take it a step further, and apply that technique to something you're writing yourself. Try to recreate that feeling in a piece of music of your own.”

Fry believes the future of orchestral music is in safe hands and also more accessible than ever, “If you have a computer with GarageBand on it, then you can make orchestral music! You can hear the way things are going to sound without having to pay a million dollars to get an orchestra in the room.

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Opera seems to be undergoing a revival: The Best 21st-Century Operas, According to Our Readers

It’s a strange tale for those of us who grew up in the era of high modernism, but contemporary opera has become popular with audiences. Not the dense, uncompromising works, mind you: Harrison Birtwistle still doesn’t have a lot of fans, while Jake Heggie does.

But since we’re swimming in new opera — the Metropolitan Opera itself did four contemporary operas in its 2021–2022 season — SF Classical Voice decided to ask our readers and critics what they thought the best opera composed since 2000 was. And we got a range of well-written responses.

Just follow the link for the operas.

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Here is a very Canadian musical idea: Daily concert of ships' horns in the St. John's, N.L. harbour set to rumble floors

On Friday afternoon in St. John's, N.L., deep blasts of ships' horns punctuated by sharp wails from a pair of saxophones rose up from the fog blanketing the city's harbour.

It was the first of 10 daily Harbour Symphonies scheduled in conjunction with the city's biennial Sound Symposium festival, which is celebrating it 20th anniversary. Typically, the symphonies are played only on the horns of the ships in the St. John's harbour. But on Friday, it had accompaniment from Ouroboros, a beloved local band that dabbles in everything from klezmer to circus music.

To some, the Harbour Symphony is a thunderous mess of boomps, barmps and woomps that make it impossible to carry on a conversation.

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 Here is the 1955 Gould recording of the Goldberg Variations:

Here is an excerpt from Kevin Puts comic opera Elizabeth Cree:

And here is the original version of Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky:

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