Why is the CEO of Boston's financially struggling Citi Performing Arts Center earning a salary that is 6.5% of his organization's budget — and receiving a $1.265 million bonus on the side? Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe tries to find out.
I've added several updates to my classical-music-and-hip-hop post below, including a crucial link to Kool Keith's "Blue Flowers" (here's a live video of the same song, with hundreds of Philadelphians waving their arms to the mad beat of Bartók). Now Andrew Lindemann Malone, who's been contributing reviews to the Washington Post and whose blog I'm happy to discover, has written in to offer yet more classical samples from the musique de rap, including a nod to the Symphonie fantastique in Just Blaze and Juelz Santana's "The Second Coming" (widely heard in a Nike ad) and RZA's brilliant production for Charli Baltimore's not so brilliant "Stand Up," where James Brown meets the "Revolutionary" Etude (starts at 1:04). By the way, why are all these sneaker commercials so hot for the Requiem Mass? It's a little morbid. And this just in from Mark Bartelt: when the CBC ran a contest for "remixes of the Ring" last year, the clear winner was Baddd Spellah, whose initially skeptical but ultimately appreciative take on Walküre (f/ MC Frontalot) drops here. "Now here comes poppa, he’s the one-eyed jack. / Brünnhilde is the daughter with the armor on her rack." The spirit of Anna Russell lives....
July 28, 2007 | Permalink
Two summers ago — a time that will ever stay dear in my memory as the Summer of Schreker — I paid a visit to Mahler's composing hut, or Häuschen, in the little village of Steinbach, on the shores of the Attersee. I posted some pictures from the expedition here on the blog. As a result, I have become a sort of clearinghouse — clearing-Häuschen? — for reports on Mahler's various composing huts. The latest transmission is the most delightful yet. Tom Neenan, who teaches music at Caltech, recently dropped by the hut in sparkling sunny weather, and his pictures radiate a mood rather different from the Sturm und Drang atmosphere that prevailed in my photos (actually the work of Jeremy Eichler). The hut abuts an RV site and campground, and on the day of Neenan's visit sun-worshippers were out in force. They were apparently startled when Neenan opened the door of the Häuschen and caused the Third Symphony to blare from the speakers. If the view from inside the hut is anything like what Mahler experienced during his summers in Steinbach — and, in truth, there is so far no evidence that it is — scholars may have to reconsider their conception of the sources of Mahler's creative inspiration. A parental advisory: these images are slightly racier than the Rest Is Noise norm, so, if you have impressionable young children reading over your shoulder, cover their eyes or send them from the room.
July 27, 2007 | Permalink
With the help of a reminder from AC Douglas, I'm listening to Wagner's Meistersinger live from Bayreuth. When I tuned in, Sven Friedrich, director of the Richard Wagner Archive, was delivering an extended intermission talk titled "'I Will Be Happy Without Masterhood': Art in Die Meistersinger Between Anarchy, Self-Realization, and Bourgeois Identity." There's plenty of information at the Bavarian Radio site, whether you speak German or not. The images from Katharina Wagner's debut production don't look particularly scandalous, despite the fact that the Meister's great-granddaughter and possible heir has been called "the 'Bayreuth Barbie' and 'Bayreuth Hilton' by some tabloids," as George Jahn writes in the LA Times. There are also pictures of Angela Merkel arriving for the gala opening. I photo-blogged Bayreuth back in 2004.
Post mortem: To judge from what I heard of Acts II and III, this was not a Meistersinger for the ages. The intermittent sound of a typewriter in Act II — is Sachs a shoemaker turned stenographer? — proved acutely annoying. Klaus Florian Vogt sang superbly as Walther — light and Italianate, as ACD says, but strongly projected, as far as I could tell. The chorus made a mighty sound, as it always does. Other than that, I didn't get too much out of the performance. Amanda Mace, the soprano, went flat in Act III, resulting in a queasy quintet. A mixture of boos and applause erupted at the end, although I believe Bavarian Radio faded out before the production team made their bows.
According to reports by George Jahn, Agence France-Presse, and Kate Connolly, the production featured Meistersingers parading with "outsized penises," topsy-turvy scenes of Walther as conformist and Beckmesser as rebel, Richard Wagner dancing in his underwear, blah blah blah. It was apparently such a mess that even Christoph Schlingensief criticized it. German speakers can read a detailed critique by Die Welt's Manuel Brug. Let's hope Bayreuth comes to its senses and picks Eva Wagner-Pasquier as the next leader of the festival.
July 25, 2007 | Permalink
One of the legendary occasions in twentieth-century music, at least for those of us who treasure unexpected juxtapositions, is the 1935 meeting between Arnold Schoenberg, the pioneer of atonality, and Irving Thalberg, the head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Salka Viertel, the émigré screenwriter and salonière, describes the encounter in amusingly rich detail in her memoir, The Kindness of Strangers; Schoenberg mentions it in a letter to Thalberg dated Dec. 6, 1935, which you can read online at the Schoenberg Center. The meeting came about, Viertel says, when Thalberg heard Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht on a New York Philharmonic Sunday-afternoon broadcast and decided that Schoenberg would be just the right man to write music for an adaptation of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. "Last Sunday when I heard the lovely music you have written...," Thalberg began. "I don't write 'lovely' music," Schoenberg snapped. Thalberg's enthusiasm dissipated as the composer proceeded to demand, among other things, that the actors deliver their lines in Sprechstimme.
During a final bout of fact-checking for my book, I decided to make certain that the Philharmonic played Schoenberg as described. It turns out that the orchestra did perform Verklärte Nacht that year, but not until late December 1935, well after the Schoenberg-Thalberg summit. (According to the Philharmonic, performances previously took place under Bruno Walter in 1924, Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1926, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch in 1932 — a slightly surprising lineup of Schoenbergians.) It's possible, of course, that the mogul heard a different broadcast of Schoenberg's piece. But I wonder whether the "lovely music" in question was in fact the Suite in G for Strings, which the Philharmonic played in mid-October 1935. (Both programs were conducted by Otto Klemperer, who led ten weeks of Philharmonic programs that fall.) If events proceeded in the usual way, the Suite would have been broadcast nationally on Oct. 20; the famous meeting seems to have happened in mid-November. Viertel might have transposed these two more-or-less-tonal string-orchestra pieces in her memory. I offer this as a minor footnote to the annals of Schoenbergiana.
July 24, 2007 | Permalink
The pure-voiced soprano Teresa Stich-Randall has passed away at the age of seventy-nine. I have a weakness for her strangely "white," detached, almost neo-Baroque reading of the Four Last Songs, as heard on an old Westminster LP.... The Santa Fe Opera has scored a coup in signing Edo de Waart, a perennially undersung musician with keen instincts for the new, as its next chief conductor. He will lead Billy Budd there next summer. The outgoing director is, of course, Alan Gilbert, moving on to the New York Philharmonic. None other than Opera Chic happens to be reporting live from Santa Fe this week.... For Stylus Jayson Greene has written a fun piece on classical samples in hip-hop. That's Cheryl Evans singing the Queen of the Night on Kelis's "Like You." I didn't know about The Streets's manipulation of the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra. Where's The Rite of Spring in all this? If it's good enough for Charlie Parker (see ex. 11)....
Update: Nora Renka advises that the Beastie Boys' video for "Intergalactic" makes use of "Glorification of the Chosen One." It doesn't count as a hip-hop sample, and it uses only 4/11 of the 11/4 bar, but it's fun. Seeing the Beasties play this song at the 1998 Reading Festival from fifteen or twenty feet away was one of the better things I've experienced in life.
Yet another update: Cheryl Evans, who has been seen at the New York City Opera in Il viaggio a Reims, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and, of course, The Magic Flute, wrote in to report on her collaboration with Kelis. The sessions were recorded under somewhat top-secret conditions, she says; she didn't know what the sample was for. It was sped up on the CD, so that her high Fs ascended to A-flat. "I enjoy seeing where it pops up," she says, "like at a Louis Vuitton runway show from earlier this year."
July 23, 2007 | Permalink
This week the San Francisco Symphony hosted Blogger Night, inviting Bay Area web-based commentators to experience the power of Awesome Music live at Davies Hall, whether for the first or hundredth time. The results of the experiment can be seen here. Such familiar bløgòsphëric personalities as Patricia Mitchell, SF Mike, and M. C_ participated. There's an especially interesting response from Emergence Media, who writes: "The atmosphere was far more casual than I thought and had none of the Old World pretentiousness that I feared." The "classical music is stuffy" cliché is generated largely by TV commercials and movies; it has little or no relationship to reality, unless you're at an opening-night gala or coming down with a cold.
July 21, 2007 | Permalink
With Götterdämmerung last night, the curtain came down on Cycle 2 of the Mariinsky Theatre's Ring of the Nibelung — which actually finished in advance of Cycle 1. Almost every aspect of the cycle was similarly convoluted, from the constant rotation of singers in and out of parts to the often profoundly befuddling action onstage. Nonetheless, the week had its vocal highpoints; three for me were the Loge of Vasily Gorshkov, the Brünnhilde (Walküre) and Waltraute of Olga Savova, and the Sieglinde of Mlada Khudoley. More observations will follow in The New Yorker, alongside reports on other Lincoln Center Festival events (Philip Glass's Book of Longing, George Benjamin's Into the Little Hill) and the first week of Mostly Mozart (looking very strong this year, with Paul Lewis playing Beethoven concertos, the St. Lawrence Quartet playing late-night late Beethoven, Mark Morris reprising his Mozart Dances, and Golijov's St. Mark Passion descending on the city once again). Above is another image of David Michalek's Slow Dancing, juxtaposed surreally with Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing.
Another highlight from the back pages of New Masses magazine: "Banquet and Dance. Celebrate the appearance of China Today and hear T. A. Bisson, Earl Browder, Malcolm Cowley, Gen. Yakhontoff, Frederick V. Field, Hansu Chan, and enjoy Native Chinese Food (Served Chinese Style). Dance to the music of the well-known CLUB VALHALLA ORCHESTRA. Sat. Nov. 10th , Irving Plaza...." Curious to know more about the Club Valhalla ensemble, I put the name into Google, but all I came up with were 1952 hearings by the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws. Apparently that ad from New Masses was entered into the record.
Previously: In a Nazi Garden.
Laurie Anderson, in liner notes to the re-release of her debut album Big Science (Nonesuch), reminisces about New York in the seventies: "It was communal, democratic, and experimental, with almost no boundaries between art forms.... It seemed like everyone I knew was working on an opera. You'd walk down the street, 'How's your opera? Mine's going OK.'... New York was dark, dangerous, and poor. Unlike now, there was no money in the contemporary art world, although occasionally the rich Italian collector Count Panza would drive through town looking for art for his collection, and artists would get on the phone — 'Count Panza's on Houston going east!' And we'd run out and try to flag him down. We knew we had to get out somehow."
July 19, 2007 | Permalink
You be the judge. Here are the ages of New York Philharmonic music directors or lead conductors when they took the job:
Ureli Corelli Hill, 1842-1847: age 40
Theodore Eisfeld, 1848-1865: age 33
Carl Bergmann, 1855-1876: age 34
Leopold Damrosch, 1876-1877: age 43
Theodore Thomas, 1877-1891: age 41
Anton Seidl, 1891-1898: age 41
Emil Paur, 1898-1902: age 43
Walter Damrosch, 1902-1903: age 40
Wassily Safonoff, 1906-1909: age 54
Gustav Mahler, 1909-1911: age 49
Josef Stransky, 1911-1923: age 39
Willem Mengelberg, 1922-1930: age 51
Arturo Toscanini, 1928-1936: age 61
John Barbirolli, 1936-1941: age 37
Artur Rodzinski, 1943-1947: age 51
Bruno Walter, 1947-1949: age 71
Dimitri Mitropoulos, 1949-1958: age 53
Leonard Bernstein, 1958-1969: age 40
Pierre Boulez, 1971-1977: age 46
Zubin Mehta, 1978-1991: age 42
Kurt Masur, 1991-2002: age 64
Lorin Maazel, 2002-2009: age 72
Alan Gilbert: 2009 - : age 42
The bias toward elder-statesman directors at the erstwhile Big Five orchestras is a quite recent phenomenon. Peter Dobrin points out that both Eugene Ormandy and Riccardo Muti were younger than Gilbert when they began their tenures with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He might have added that Stokowski was all of thirty. For most of the twentieth century — 1912 to 1993 — the Philadelphia was led by conductors who were under forty when they first took over. What really makes Gilbert stand out in the above list is not his age but the fact that he's American. Sad to say, that's still news in these parts.More links: Steve Smith covers the press conference. Terry Teachout concisely sets forth the challenge that the new director faces in reaching out to a wider public. (His "pop quiz" is a trick question; there never have been indisputably major conductors under the age of fifty. Disputation surrounds all conductors until they advance to an invincible old age.) Tony Tommasini drops critical detachment and writes, "Hooray! At last!"
Update: Galen Brown has run some statistical tests showing that when you factor in changing life expectancy Gilbert is indeed "young" after all. He writes: "The life expectancy for a 40 year old white male in 1850 was an additional 27.9 years, for a total of 67.9 years. So [Ureli Corelli] Hill was at about 58.91% of his life expectancy. Alan Gilbert will be 42 in 2009. The life expectancy for a 40 year old white male in 2004 was an additional 38 years, for a total of 78 years. So Gilbert will be at about 53.85% of his life expectancy when he starts in 2009." I am sure the new maestro will be cheered by that! Galen concludes: "Only 3 of his 24 (12.5%) predecessors were younger as a percentage of life expectancy than Alan Gilbert: Theodore Eisfeld, Carl Bergmann, and John Barbirolli."
I feel we might have wandered off on a tangent. The point isn't that Gilbert is relatively young or relatively old. It's that he made Ligeti resound through all the delis in Manhattan.
July 19, 2007 | Permalink
A great find: Ethan Iverson links to a YouTube excerpt from the Soviet-era cartoon Ballerina on a Boat, with music by none other than Alfred Schnittke. Mr. Plus mentions several favorite Schnittke works, all of which I endorse; but for me the composer's masterpieces are the First Symphony, the String Trio, and the Faust Cantata (later adapted as Act III of his Faust opera, which deserves a second chance). If you're looking for more information about Schnittke, you won't find it at AlfredSchnittke.com, but it's fun to check in there anyway.
The New York Philharmonic, throwing off its accustomed caution, has named Alan Gilbert as its next music director. Forty years old, schooled in Philharmonic culture practically from birth, Gilbert will be, alongside Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta, among the youngest directors in the orchestra's recent history. (The youngest of the twentieth century was John Barbirolli, who was thirty-seven when he became sole conductor in 1937. Theodore Eisfeld was thirty-three when he took over back in 1849.) Gilbert is also the first native New Yorker to hold the post. Riccardo Muti will have a supporting role, conducting six to eight weeks of concerts a year. Thus end years of speculation, rumor, second-guessing, and ambiguous half-announcements. And it's as several of us had hoped. I've heard Gilbert give several powerful performances of late, notably of the Ives Fourth, the Prokofiev Fifth, and the Ligeti Violin Concerto. He is a man with an inquisitive, contemporary mind. If all goes well, the Philharmonic will be a markedly different, more vibrant organization in a few years' time.
Crowds in Lincoln Center Plaza are gawking at David Michalek's mesmerizing film installation Slow Dancing, which you can read about here. Stopping by after the Mariinsky Theater Rheingold, I heard someone say, "Well, that's what Peter Sellars wants you to think...." Another summer night in the city.
The New Yorker's Leo Carey pointed me toward this remarkable obituary for the pianist Natalie Karp, who survived Auschwitz and lived to the grand age of ninety-six.... Jerry Hadley has been taken off life support. Comment #8 on La Cieca's post says everything that needs to be said, if anything needs to be said.