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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Alex Ross' article on Richard Taruskin is up at The New Yorker: The Monumental Musicology of Richard Taruskin.

The imperiously brilliant music historian Richard Taruskin, who died on July 1st, at the age of seventy-seven, combined several qualities that are seldom found together in one person. He was, first of all, staggeringly knowledgeable about his chosen field. His near-total command of the history and practice of classical music engendered “The Oxford History of Western Music,” a five-volume, forty-three-hundred-page behemoth, which Taruskin published in 2005. His ability to hold forth with equal bravura on Gregorian chant, polyphonic masses, Baroque concertos, and Russian opera was grounded not only in profound learning but also in deep-seated musicianship. A Queens native and a graduate of the High School of Music & Art, Taruskin played the viola da gamba for many years on New York’s early-music scene; as a choral conductor, he made fascinating recordings of Renaissance repertory with the New York group Cappella Nova. Later, ensconced on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, he stepped away from performance, but a fundamental musicality animated everything he wrote.

That in itself is a formidable introduction. The writers on music I have most respected and learned from over the years include Donald Francis Tovey, whose many analytical essays were originally written as program notes. Joseph Kerman was a brilliant writer whose purview included criticism of opera as well as a superb volume on Beethoven quartets and another on Bach fugues. Charles Rosen's work meant that our understanding of Classical style was forever transformed. But Taruskin loomed larger than all of these. I'm re-reading his Oxford History of Western Music and it is a narrative that one can derive endless pleasure and knowledge from. After this I may well re-read his two volume monograph on Stravinsky, very likely the finest book on a single composer ever written, rivaling the Philipp Spitta volumes on Bach and Thayer's life of Beethoven. Towards the end of the essay Alex says:

What I took most to heart was his edict that love should never devolve into worship. The intensity of his own passion for music compelled him to grapple with the darkness that dwells in all man-made things.

Yes, indeed.

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Over at Slipped Disc Norman Lebrecht manages to dismiss the quality of all the music festivals in one fell swoop: THE SUMMER ENDS WITH A FESTIVAL WHIMPER

Salzburg has staged its last major premiere of the month and the feeling is the festival has been well below standard.

The Bayreuth Ring  was booed off the stage.

Edinburgh has managed one secondhand opera and failed to put on a Beethoven 9th. Its classical content has seldom been duller.

The BBC Proms this week consist of an Aretha Franklin tribute, an Australian orchestra, Rattle conducts Mahler again,  a BBC Brahms-Franck concert, a drop-in from Finnish Radio and music from the BBC’s natural history series. Nobody’s rushing to buy tickets.

The lack of managerial energy is palpable.

What can be done to restore it?

Well, there's always next year...

* * *

From the New York Times:  It’s Alive! It’s With the Band! A Computer Soloist Holds Its Own

Two guest soloists, each skilled in the art of improvisation, appeared in New York City on Friday night with the cutting-edge chamber group Ensemble Signal.

One soloist was human: Nicole Mitchell, the veteran flutist, composer and bandleader whose albums and performances are regularly (and rightly) celebrated by jazz critics.

The other soloist was a computer program — called Voyager — that can listen to live performances in real time and offer improvised responses. Originally programmed in 1987 by George Lewis, the composer, performer and computer-music pioneer, Voyager’s discography is slighter than Mitchell’s, but likewise thrilling.

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I think it will be years before we fully realize what the pandemic cost us: 'Singing is my life, but Covid took away my voice'

A young singer has described how her dreams are on hold after Covid damaged her voice.

Ani Goddard, who is studying at Manchester's Arden Theatre School, said she could no longer sing and sometimes struggled to speak.

The 21-year-old contracted Covid in December, but now believes she has Long Covid.

She is on the waiting list to see a vocal specialist, but said accessing treatment had been "frustrating".

"When I sing, just nothing will come out," she said.

* * *

Here are some creative performers: ‘The Rite of Spring’ by the Vesna Duo Review: Stravinsky Distilled.

The Vesna Duo—named for a Slavic goddess of youth and springtime—consists of the pianist Liana Pailodze Harron and the percussionist Ksenija Komljenović, from the Republic of Georgia and Serbia respectively. Now based mostly in the U.S., the two had planned to present a concert together at Carnegie Hall right before the Covid-19 virus shut down New York and then much of the world.

Ms. Komljenović made the arrangement. She had played in a Belgrade Philharmonic performance of “Rite” many years earlier and had always wanted to explore the music further. “I was not sure whether I was capable of producing anything worthy,” she wrote in notes for the recording. “The only thing I was certain of was that I loved this music dearly and that I had plenty of time on my hands. Several months, emails, phone calls, recordings, and travels-to-rehearse later, our version of the ‘Rite of Spring’ for marimba and piano was born on stage—fully memorized and blister-causing for both of us.”

And here is a performance:

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As an homage to Richard Taruskin, here is one of the most unusual works by Stravinsky, Les Noces, based on folk traditions of Russian weddings:


And because I was just reading the chapter discussing Puccini in the Oxford History, here is "Un bel di" from Madame Butterfly:

And finally here is Hélène Grimaud playing the adagio from the Piano Concerto No. 23 by Mozart:

And if that doesn't make you feel better, I don't know what would!

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