Charles Dutoit/Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Ravel – Dpahnis et Chloe
There is perhaps no musical relationship of the last 30 or 40 years married to its specific time and place more than that of Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, or as they’re known in Quebec, the (insert accent that sounds like an alcoholic with a head cold and a mouthful of brownie – WHAT!). Like two relatively bright stars passing in the night sky, they found each other and subsequently embarked on a 25-year relationship that raised both of their respective profiles immensely. And as can be the case in many 25-year relationships, things ended sourly and abruptly (shout out to parents everywhere!). Dutoit, attempting to fire two musicians, instead was the subject of an open letter from a union rep alleging that he had verbally and psychologically abused everybody during his tenure. He left immediately. He hasn’t conducted in Montreal since. Continue reading →
The suit says “fashionable artiste,” but the hair says “blowin’ hella chronic smoke.”
Hector Berlioz is an interesting character in music history, the first real Romantic in the “it seems shockingly apparent that this guy, aside from his genius as a writer of music, is dangerously fucking unstable” way that would dominate the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He’s the first great example of a musician who found new avenues of expression in the realm of drugs and alcohol, showing the way for a group that includes the likes of Mussorgsky, Dr. Dre, Amy Winehouse, and that one guy who overdosed after making that one good album. Berlioz redefined the orchestra and wrote a book about it, shaping the way in which all future composers used the orchestral palette (by way of example, listen to the trombone parts in Beethoven 9 and then listen to the trombone parts in Symphonie Fantastique, works written 6 years apart). Continue reading →
If the last 30 seconds of the symphony doesn’t make you leap into a karate stance and put your foot through a window, you need some kind of transplant. Four important things to dig:
Seiji’s hair looks like a sheepdog fucked one of those plasma balls that you see at science museums.
Of the two bass drummers in the coda, the one who looks most furious is the cute woman; she was clearly wronged her in some way, because she’s going at that thing like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. That drum head is having all the fun. HEY-O!
Epic amounts of horsehair splayed everywhere on the bow in frame on the last chord. There’s nothing to indicate that it’s true, but something about that gives you the impression that they were playing with reckless abandon.
The relationship between the tempo and the clarity of the repeated descending low brass line is not entirely human. Then again, these people have vending machines with used panties and live lobsters in them.
The rest of the performance, which you can find in the related videos one way or another, is every bit as good. A perfect demonstration of orchestra as godless killing machine from the future.
Anyone who knows my personal tastes in conductors knows that my favorites are a bit of an obscure lot. I honestly don’t consider myself a contrarian by nature, nor do I think there’s any sort of cachet in appreciating some hidden gems. I love the big dogs, too. Early on in my classical music life, I was drawn in by Leonard Bernstein, then I hated him because I thought he deviated from the score too much, and now I love him again because he reaches musical and emotional peaks no one else has been able to. I love Gustavo Dudamel’s enthusiasm and charisma if not his music-making (he has PLENTY of time to get there, though). But there are some really wonderful musicians who spent their entire careers in the shadows of more famous contemporaries (as my boy Otmar Suitner did with Karajan), and their legacies have become obscured. Continue reading →