A great deal is often made about musical precocity, especially when it comes to Mozart and Mendelssohn (and to a MUCH lesser extent Korngold). The notion of these genius composers writing music when they’re young children is somehow a sign that their intrinsic gifts surpass those of much more “normal” composers who struggle for years mastering the art of composition (like Bruckner, for example). Is Don Giovanni MORE genius than Bruckner 9? Not really, but Mozart is regarded as a pseudo-mythological genius. And the most interesting part about it is that this perception stems from his adorable-for-a-4-year-old-but-not-exactly-amazing childhood compositions and not from his this-music-has-forever-altered-the-course-of-human-history mature compositions. Continue reading
According to the official WordPress statistics, this is the 100th post on this blog. What an achievement. What a devoid-of-financial-compensation achievement. Those are, after all, my specialty. Anyway.
I’ve started writing for a local arts journal, and I reviewed my first concert for them this past weekend (it will theoretically be posted on something called “the internet” at some point). Among the works performed was a Trio by Muzio Clementi, he of the piano exercise books and the “Sopranos” character name. I mentioned in my review that Clementi is now remembered almost entirely for those piano exercises (and for his influence on Beethoven’s piano music to a lesser degree), which is pretty unfair, really. Of course, that’s my personal connection to Clementi: he wrote something easy enough for me to pass a piano proficiency exam. Continue reading
It’s possible you’ve heard of Mozart. He wrote some symphonies, some operas, some piano concerti and sonatas, some chamber music, and some choral music. He is the subject of a movie that won 8 Academy Awards (ironically, the Best Actor award included the actors playing Mozart and Salieri, and Salieri won. Proving that historical fact always gets the last laugh, F Murray Abraham would later star in a film called “Blood Monkey.”). Mozart rests firmly on the Mount Rushmore of music.
Gabriel Faure was the foremost French composer of his day, and served as the head of the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught Ravel, Enescu, and Boulanger among others. His music utilizes inventive harmonies and really sets the tone for Impressionism. Faure rests firmly on the Mount Rushmore of mustaches.
The Requiem Mass, or Mass for the Dead, is a liturgical setting from the Roman Missal used to commemorate the repose of the souls of the deceased. It is comprised of 12 sections, beginning with the Introit and concluding with the In paradisum. Not all musical settings of the Requiem Mass incorporate all 12 sections, and many switch the order of the sections around, including the two represented in this Showdown. Continue reading
While visiting my family in Tacoma, WA this past week, we went with my mother and some of her friends to a concert with the University of Puget Sound Orchestra (one of my mother’s friends is on the faculty there). The program featured the winner of the school’s concerto competition, Daniel Bahr, in a performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 2 and the Symphony no. 40 by Mozart. Christophe Chagnard, he of the Northwest Sinfonietta, was the conductor. Continue reading
I’m on vacation visiting family and friends in the Pacific Northwest, but stay tuned because when I get back, I have some thoughts I want to share on record stores, Mozart and Haydn, coffee, Sibelius DVDs, serendipity, airplanes, and the Volga River.
Wait for me. WAIT FOR ME!
This week, Anthony Tommasini, the classical music critic of the New York Times, unveiled the culmination of his project to select the Top 10 composers of all-time. First of all, as someone who loves to rank things, I applaud the entire endeavor. Making arbitrary lists in this space isn’t that big a deal, because very few people read it. But doing it in the pages of the New York Times requires a certain amount of intellectual courage. Not only must you contend with people picking apart your arguments, but you must also contend with people picking apart the very concept of having the argument in the first place (best demonstrated by one of the comments that read, “Sorry, but top 10 lists should be beneath those who care about the arts.” Why do people think many classical music fans are uptight snobs?). A couple common criticisms emerged from Tommasini’s criteria: the limited stylistic range of composers (no pre-Baroque and no contemporary composers) and, much more elementally, the subjectivity of greatness. Continue reading
Last week’s concerts with the Kansas City Symphony were led by their associate conductor, Steven Jarvi, whose picture on the group’s website makes him look like he’s 16 years old. Jarvi might be older than that. He is unequivocally more musically sophisticated than that.
Jarvi, as far as I can tell, doesn’t appear to bear anything other than a fortunate surname in common with Neeme, Paavo, Kristjian, and however many other Jarvis are out there (think of them as the Wayans Brothers of orchestral conducting). Ironically, though, his conducting style reminded me a bit of his non-brother Paavo: maybe a little sweepy on occasion for me, but always clear, concise, and controlled. I have no problem saying that my expectations were not very high…not because of Mr. Jarvi particularly, but because of pretty much every other young conductor I’ve observed in the last few years. It was a meaty program of some of the finest music Austria ever had to offer, and a true test of a conductor’s mettle. Continue reading