A Cultural Comment on the late Carl Schorske.
Gods and all angels sing the world to sleep,
Now that the moon is rising in the heat
And crickets are loud again in the grass. The moon
Burns in the mind on lost remembrances.
He lies down and the night wind blows upon him here.
The bells grow longer. This is not sleep. This is desire.
from "The Men That Are Falling"
September 28, 2015 | Permalink
At long last, the nonsensical "Happy Birthday" copyright has been struck down, the Los Angeles Times reports. Judge George H. King's opinion can be read here. Stravinsky testifies in Memories and Commentaries that he was unaware of the tune's copyrighted status when he used it in his tribute to Pierre Monteux: "I must have assumed this melody to be in the category of folk music ... or, at least, to be very old and dim in origin." Evidently, he was not pursued for royalties, perhaps because he used only the melody and not the words.
September 23, 2015 | Permalink
New and recent releases of interest.
— Lutosławski, Piano Concerto, Symphony No. 2; Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, with Krystian Zimerman (DG)
— Paula Matthusen, Pieces for People; Terri Hron, James Moore, Manta Percussion, Jamie Jordan, Kathleen Supove, Yvonne Troxler, Molly Shaiken, Tiit Helimets, Abi Basch, Wil Smith, orkest de ereprijs, Wim Boerman, Todd Reynolds (Innova)
— Similar Motion: works of Glass, Kampela, Debussy; Momenta Quartet (Albany) [see also the Momenta Festival in NYC, Sept. 30 - Oct. 4]
— Montanari, Violin Concertos; Johannes Pramsohler, Ensemble Diderot (Audax)
— Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim; Anthony de Mare (ECM)
— Scott Worthington, Prism (Populist)
— Stefan Wolpe, Music for Violin and Piano (1924-1966); Movses Pogossian, Varty Manouelian, violins, Susan Grace, piano (Bridge)
September 22, 2015 | Permalink
"Unanfechtbare Wahrheiten gibt es überhaupt nicht, und wenn es welche gibt, so sind sie langweilig." ("There are absolutely no incontrovertible truths, and if there are any, they're boring.")
— Dubslav von Stechlin, in Fontane's Der Stechlin
September 19, 2015 | Permalink
On the weekend of Oct. 2-4, Laurie Anderson occupies the Park Avenue Armory with Habeas Corpus, a "meditation on time, identity, surveillance, and freedom."... At the Kitchen, Claire Chase carries on her Density 2036 project Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.... O Columbia, a new chamber opera by Gregory Spears, composer of Paul's Case, will have its première at the Houston Grand Opera next week. It's a rhapsody on the theme of exploration, drawing on interviews with astronauts and Houston-based NASA engineers.... On the Corymbus blog, Edward Qualtrough gives dispiriting statistics on gender inequality in the opera world. He writes, "I dread to think how many of those operas pass film and theatre’s Bechdel Test, where two named women are featured talking to each other about something other than a man."... "I love Italian opera but this is ridiculous," Micaela Baranello says of the new Met season.... This Friday at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, the Argento Chamber Ensemble gives the American première of Georg Friedrich Haas's Introduktion und Transsonation. Works of Murail and Scelsi fill out the program.... Tickets for The Industry's Hopscotch opera, an experiment in automotive music theatre (Oct. 31 - Nov. 15), go on sale today.... WasteLAnd opens its fall season with a program entitled The Future of Terror: works of Kurt Isaacson, Jason Eckardt, and Elise Roy.... Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, speaks grippingly on sexism, misogyny, and abuse in the pop-music world.
September 16, 2015 | Permalink
The great historian has died, at the age of one hundred. Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, published in 1980, is one of those rare books that change the direction of people's lives. So it was for me: I read it when I was seventeen, and it fired my imagination, showing me how early twentieth-century music related to surrounding cultural and political forces. My book The Rest Is Noise was written very much in Schorske's shadow. (If you see a certain resemblance between the image above and the image above right, it is not by accident.) Fin-de-Siècle Vienna will long remain a model for interdisciplinary writing, although no one will soon match Schorske's inquisitive erudition.
September 14, 2015 | Permalink
The Estonian master celebrates today his eightieth birthday. Q2 is hosting a twenty-four-hour Pärt marathon, which will include a live webcast of a New Juilliard Ensemble concert at the Met Museum. Joel Sachs, the director of the New Juilliard, and his longtime collaborator Cheryl Seltzer first presented Pärt's music back in 1981, on a Continuum Ensemble program devoted to the Soviet avant-garde. This was three years before the ECM label's release of Tabula Rasa, which inaugurated the international Pärt phenomenon. Manfred Eicher, ECM's head, has compiled a satisfying two-disc survey of Pärt works, entitled Musica Selecta.
September 11, 2015 | Permalink
At the White House today, President Obama bestowed a National Medal of Arts on Meredith Monk. Something about the picture above gives me great delight. Monk is an internationally celebrated artist, but she has never come close to achieving the sort of mass-market stardom that now seems required for, say, the Kennedy Center Honors. The National Medal committee, which this year also honored George Shirley and the University Musical Society, is less driven by pop-culture triumphalism, even if a bestselling author and a movie star were on hand to collect prizes and dominate the media coverage.
From the Daily Alta California of Aug. 15, 1853. Friedrich Wilhelm Wedekind fled Germany after the revolutions of 1848 and found his way to San Francisco. Having made a small fortune speculating in real estate during the Gold Rush era, he set up a successful gynecological practice and lived in comfort on Simmons Street, now called Sixth Street. "The ground of Dr. Wedekind is a very beautiful and even romantic place," the Alta California reports. Alas, this can no longer be said of Sixth Street near Harrison, although a certain nocturnal romance attaches to The EndUp.
Dr. Wedekind ended up marrying one of his patients, the singer Emilie Kammerer, who had been appearing regularly with the Bianchi troupe, pioneers of Italian opera in San Francisco. Above is a review of an 1859 performance of Lucrezia Borgia. Their second son, Benjamin Franklin Wedekind, author of Spring Awakening and the Lulu plays, was conceived in San Francisco but born in Hanover. Arguably, a fleck of Gold Rush San Francisco remained embedded in him.
Images from the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
Wagner's sketch for the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin is for sale, at the heady price of $3.6 million. According to the listing offered by the seller, the manuscript was presented by Siegfried Wagner to a friend. It would be interesting to know who received this rather lavish gift.
More: The invaluable Matthew Guerrieri advises that more information can be found in a footnote to John Deathridge's essay on the Lohengrin drafts in Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker's collection Analyzing Opera. This same Bridal Chorus manuscript went up for sale at Sotheby's in 1988; it seems that Siegfried Wagner gave it to an Italian friend, "Signor Zamboni."
Reviewing Andris Nelsons's first concerts as the music director of the Boston Symphony last fall, I wrote: "What Boston requires most from this hugely gifted, still maturing conductor is his full attention." With the announcement today that Nelsons will become the Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 2017, it's clear that Boston won't be getting it. I concur with the Twitter reaction of my New Yorker colleague Leo Carey: "Stars too powerful. Music needs wider pool of performers considered bankable. Orchestras need committed directors."
Adorno, in his Versuch über Wagner, states that Kaiser Wilhelm II's auto-horn honked a motif that was a "simplification of the Donner-motiv from the Ring." After a somewhat exhaustive search, I found a notation of the horn-call in the Münchner illustrierte Wochenschrift für Kunst und Leben, of 1911. I haven't tracked down any contemporaneous sources linking Wagner to the Kaiser-Hupe, which was well known in the streets of Berlin and elsewhere, but the intervals of Donner's "Heda! Hedo!" are indeed there. As Henry F. Urban's text notes, Berliners heard the motif as "Bald hier, bald da" ("Here today, gone tomorrow"). The Kaiser was somewhat infatuated by Wagner in his youth, although he never warmed to the atmosphere at Bayreuth and ultimately took more enjoyment in lighter music, not to mention cars. It may be pure coincidence that a falling major sixth and rising fourth also appear in George M. Cohan's famous WWI song "Over There." In a fine display of historical irony, Erich Wolfgang Korngold interpolated that tune into his magnificent Symphony in F-sharp, written in memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
September 05, 2015 | Permalink
On the topic of neglected symphonies, Gavin Plumley, in the Guardian, gives a nuanced portrait of Franz Schmidt, in advance of a Proms performance of his Second Symphony, and Bob Shingleton adds another plea in favor of "Forgotten Music." I've loved the Schmidt Second since hearing the astounding live recording by Neeme Järvi and the Chicago Symphony, released by Chandos in 1992. This is one of those symphonies, like the Tubin Fifth, in which you essentially wait for one stupendous moment; Schmidt's coda is obviously inspired by the ending of Bruckner's Fifth, but déjà vu is rarely more glorious. What's wonderful in the Järvi recording is the sense of the great Chicago players discovering and exulting in an unfamiliar score: it's a wordless argument for diversifying the repertory. I wrote about Schmidt, Zemlinsky, and Schreker for the New York Times in 1993; I remain proud of having described one passage in Schreker's Der ferne Klang as a "midnight dance of the orchestration manual." I had recently read Adorno's marvelous essays on Zemlinsky and Schreker in Quasi una Fantasia. Unsurprisingly, Adorno seems to have had no time for Schmidt.
September 05, 2015 | Permalink
Anne Midgette on the downside of the Steinway monopoly: "Western piano technology has thrived on competition and innovation — witness the Classical period, when Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and their contemporaries were constantly trying out different instruments, and manufacturers were constantly adapting them."
September 04, 2015 | Permalink