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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

I'll get back to the new Gandelsman album on the weekend, but for now here is the usual Friday Miscellanea. First up, The Guardian has a preview of the Proms with ‘We hear things no one else notices’: Proms composers on their extraordinary new music:

‘I undo dense, solid knots – and release a living thing’

Thomas Adès

Tell us about your Proms piece … I composed these four Märchentänze (“dances from fairytale”) in 2020, originally for violin and piano, then a year later made this orchestral version. The first movement is a fantasy on the folk song Two Magicians, immortalised by Steeleye Span, about the immemorial generative dance of the sexes. A hushed movement follows, the chant-like tune presented as a round. The third movement, A Skylark for Jane, is an outpouring of birdsong, each individual orchestra member freely echoing the soloist to create an “exaltation” of skylarks. The final dance begins with an energetic elfin theme, and grows into a writhing dance. Many themes grapple, twining around each other like otters, towards a decisive conclusion.

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A recent study by WolfBrown, a California-based consulting firm that conducts market research for nonprofit cultural groups throughout the United States, says that 26% of former orchestra attendees nationwide say they’re not yet ready to resume live performances — and many of these reluctant music lovers may never return to the concert hall.

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The most recent stage in the long history of musicians in exile: Far From Kabul, Building a New Life, With Music and Hope

In Portugal, the Afghans enjoy newfound freedoms. The boys and girls can go swimming together. They can date. The girls can wear shorts and skirts without fear of judgment. The older students can drink alcohol.

But life in Lisbon has also been a challenge. The students spend their days largely inside the military hospital, where they eat, sleep, rehearse, wash clothes and play table tennis, nervous about venturing too far or making new friends. Unaccustomed to Portuguese food, they keep bottles of curry, cardamom and peppercorn in their rooms to add familiar flavors to traditional dishes, like grilled sardines and scrambled eggs with smoked sausage.

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Also in the New York Times a review of a fascinating new album of string quartets: A new boxed set of string quartets by Wadada Leo Smith, an anchor of American experimental music, reveals his sustained engagement with the form.

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Some of the best and most secure jobs in classical music are in orchestras and Van asks the question Are orchestral trial years a fair way of assessing musicians?

On June 3, 2021, Czieharz had won the audition in Wuppertal for the position of Wechseltrompette (meaning that he would be expected to play every trumpet part except principal). Orchestra auditions are incredibly grueling processes. Many fantastic players take dozens, even hundreds, before winning a spot, and it was a major accomplishment for such a young trumpet player to win this one. But the application process wasn’t over. Over a full season of concerts, Czieharz would have to prove that he had what it takes to become a full-fledged member of the Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal. 

Most jobs come with probationary periods for employees, but the orchestra trial year is an unusually rigorous, fraught process. Job openings in orchestras are rare, so chances are the most recent audition winner will be the only musician on trial. The trial period lasts for at least a season, sometimes longer. Orchestras are not known for their clear human resource structures, and a trialist, as they’re sometimes called, will not receive corporate-style feedback meetings. Instead, they’ll receive hints on their musical performance and social integration in passing, on rehearsal breaks and after concerts. When the trial year is up, all their colleagues—somewhere from 70 to 100 people—vote on the trialist. Not their technique; not their musicality. Them.

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 Let's have a listen to that orchestra. Here they are in Richard Strauss' Sinfonia Domestica under conductor Toshiyuki Kamioka:

 Here is the String Quartet No. 3, "Black Church" by Wadada Leo Smith played by Southwest Chamber Music:

And to end, one of the most astonishing feats of harmonic wizardry ever attempted, the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde by Wagner:

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