Classical Music Round-Up: January through March 2016

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (photo via)

Classical Conditioning presents recent worthwhile reads.

It was announced that Gianandrea Noseda will take over the helm of the National Symphony Orchestra next season, while Jaap van Zweden will join the New York Philharmonic at the podium.  Two more white men in charge of major American orchestras?  No big surprise there, but Marin Alsop might have something to say.  Meanwhile, in Britain, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be the City of Birmingham Symphony’s new leading lady, at only 29 years old.  *applause*  And another young conductor on the rise: 25-year-old Jordan de Souza will be heading up Komische Oper Berlin.

We lost some greats in recent months: business mogul turned self-taught conductor Gilbert Kaplan; pioneering composer Pierre Boulez; Pulitzer-winning composers Leslie Bassett and Steven Stucky; Dallas Symphony leader Louis Lane; conducting pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller; and — just today — maestro Nikolas Harnoncourt.

Now some feel-good stories: a Berlin horn player reflects on collaborating with Simon Rattle before the conductor relocates to London; Tafelmusik’s rendition of Beethoven 9 left one Toronto critic with nothing to criticize; bassist Jane Little just became the longest-serving orchestral musician ever, after 71 years with the Atlanta Symphony; and Ennio Morricone just won his first Oscar after working on the scores for over 500 films.

Mahan Esfahani’s harpsichord recital was interrupted by Baroque-head “rioters,” while scholars have discovered that the taxi horns in Gershwin’s An American in Paris might be pitched in the wrong key, and the Yale School of Music launched its first ever MOOC on Coursera.

As 2016 got off to an alarming start (Donald Trump, anyone?), diverse voices shone — from a powerful performance in a Harlem crypt in solidarity with Black Lives Matter; to violinist Rosemary Johnson and the UK’s Paramusical Ensemble making music through disability; to Julia Wolfe’s big-deal commission — a piece about American women in the workforce — for the New York Philharmonic’s 2018-19 season; to composer Georg Friedrich Haas’ open sexuality.

In U.S. politics, WQXR explored classical music on the campaign trail, while Bernie is, apparently, a gifted maestro.  And in the classical crime beat, an opera singer’s “screams” alerted Amsterdam police, a former St. Paul cellist was caught in a massive drug bust, and a rare French horn stolen six years ago was reunited with its owner.

In Iran, the women of the Tehran Symphony face oppression.  In Germany, an emergency refugee camp is filled with the music of a children’s choir.

Gustavo Dudamel led the Youth Orchestra L.A. at Superbowl halftime.  Grammy-winning violist Kim Kashkashian shares the woes of her name.  The Telegraph had a really interesting conversation with Renée Fleming, Anne Midgette profiled musicians who take time off from performing, and drama continues to unfold in the Buffalo Philharmonic oboe section.

A new Mozart opera was discovered and performed, while for the rest of the opera world, it’s same-old, same-old.

And finally, to end this round-up with a smile: watch a Bach duet played by a 90-year-old husband and wife.


Classical Music Round-Up: 11/1/15

Classical Conditioning presents this week’s worthwhile reads.  (Actually, two weeks’ worth of worthwhile reads — I forgot to post last week!)

Breaking News

Live performances of video game soundtracks, such as ‘Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses’ (above), promise to offset declining ticket sales for U.S. orchestras, according to the Wall Street Journal article linked below.  (image via)

Deep Thoughts

In the Spotlight

Historical Proportions

Just for Fun

You Won’t Believe These 7 Amazing Last-Minute Classical Music Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween is right around the corner!  No costume?  No problem.  Classical Conditioning is here to help — complete with mediocre Photoshopping and some horrible, horrible puns.

1. Bach to the Future

Bach to the Future
(images via: 1 | 2)

You will need: An orange vest; a fancy wristwatch; a powdered wig; fourteen children and a penchant for counterpoint.

2. Rite of Spring Break

Rite of Spring Break
(images via: 1 | 2)

You will need: Sunglasses; a bathing suit; your favorite weapon to bring to a music-incited riot (suggestions: frying pan, pitchfork).

3. Hector Berli-O’s

(images via: 1 | 2)

You will need: A cereal bowl; a spoon; a 19th-century French overcoat; plenty of opium.

4. Mozar-ella Cheese

(images via: 1 | 2)

You will need: An apron; a chef’s hat; a pizza box; a powdered wig; a pauper’s grave.

(Shout-out to my roommate for this one!)

5.  Hildegard-ians of the Galaxy

(images via: 1 | 2 | 3)

You will need: A nun’s habit; green face paint; a toy raccoon; intergalactic weaponry; divine hallucinatory visions.

(See also: Hildegard von Bangin’)

6. Serial(ism) Killer

Serial(ism) Killer
(images via: 1 | 2)

You will need: A plain T-shirt and a fabric marker (to draw a twelve-tone matrix); fake blood; a fake knife; a hockey mask; a superior intellect.

7. Baroque Ornaments

(images via: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5)
(images via: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5)

You will need: Dark green clothing; tinsel; Christmas ornaments and a Sharpie (to draw trills, mordants, appoggiaturas, etc.).  Bonus points if you go around telling other people that their costumes aren’t historically accurate.

Suggested Listening: “Prelude No. 1 in C Major” from the Well-Tempered Clavier by J. S. Bach

Ah, Bach!  (Any M*A*S*H fans?  Anyone?)  This week’s SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC introduces Prelude No. 1 in C Major, BWV 846, from Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, composed by J. S. Bach and performed below by Glenn Gould, piano (Canada).

About the Composer:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) — Jay-S, The J-Man, Johann Sebastian I’ll-Be-Bach — needs little introduction.  His compositions can be heard all over the place in popular culturecommercials, movies, literature.  Bach literally defined the Baroque period: music historians agree that the Baroque period ended the year he died, even though his Baroque contemporary Händel — who rivals Bach as one of the most important composers in history — outlived him by nearly a decade.  Throughout his life, Bach did not once leave Germany — in fact, he spent his entire career in a small region of central Germany, around Weimar and Leipzig, working as a church organist and music teacher.  He was not very well-known during his lifetime, and his small fan club lost its zeal not long after his death, causing his music to fade into obscurity.  Then, in 1829 — nearly a century after Bach’s death — the composer Felix Mendelssohn conducted a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passionand the public was hooked.  Today, Bach is widely considered the single most important composer in the history of Western music.

About the Piece:

The Well-Tempered Clavier is a set of teaching books, with forty-eight movements traversing every key signature and style imaginable.  Bach wrote Book 1 while working for Prince Leopold of Cöthen, in 1722.  The prince died in 1723, so Bach then accepted a prestigious job offer in Leipzig; there, he composed Book 2 in 1742.  The Prelude in C Major is the first section of the first movement of the first book.  On the title page of Book 1, Bach inscribed, “For the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning” — and indeed, there is a very teachable simplicity to this prelude.  It sounds sunny and nostalgic, and makes me think of black-and-white movies and Jane Austen novels.

The video embedded above is one of the seminal performances of this work.  Glenn Gould is easily one of the greatest pianists of recent history.  He was known for singing along while he played — you can hear it faintly in this video.  Through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to Gould play the entirety of Book 1 and Book 2 for free, whenever you want — I highly recommend it.  (: