My love for Richard Strauss is well-documented in these parts. I’m on record somewhere sometime in saying that he composed with the greatest ease of anyone who ever lived – more than even Mozart, the most common answer given when the “who’s the most naturally gifted?” question arises. Strauss has an innate ability to make music sound absolutely bad ass that towers over everyone around him, and while this is not necessarily to suggest that it means he is the greatest composer or the most meaningful or the composer we’ll turn to in our darkest hours for solace or whatever the fuck else we laud Beethoven and Bach for, we’ve gotta take Strauss for who he was, and that’s someone so unimaginably skilled that it literally and truly boggles the mind. Continue reading
Wolfgang Sawallisch died Friday at the age of 89. I confess to have been working under the assumption that he had died years ago. Because conducting is often something that people at the highest levels do until they’re extremely fucking old (or extremely fucking dead in some cases), it’s unusual to think of a world-class maestro “retiring” to the Bavarian Alps and just chilling and playing piano and shit. But that’s exactly what Sawallisch did – his last major gig was with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which ended in 2003 and he retired “officially” in 2006 – something that, as I reflect upon that unbelievably relaxed cardigan/tie combo and wry smile, seems totally reasonable, ill health or otherwise. Continue reading
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
Of all the divisive figures in music history, perhaps none inspires as much debate as Richard Strauss. He is a genius, a schlocky Romantic, a master. Too playful, too saccharine, too heavy, not serious enough. A first-rate composer, or a first-class second-rate composer as he himself said. Excessive, simple, arrogant, profound. Truth be told, he’s all those things and then some, but above all else he’s a showman, and no one can top him for sheer listenability. Of all the great composers Strauss, to me, is the most likely to inspire someone to listen to more classical music, and it’s obvious why: his shit is entertaining as hell. Continue reading
In honor of the Christian calendar flipping over another time, here is the full video (I don’t know how they did this, but this kind soul wins some kind of YouTube Goodwill award) of the greatest thing to ever happen on New Year’s Day.
Carlos Kleiber. Vienna. 1992.
Growing up in Las Vegas was an occasionally frustrating situation for a kid who was new to the world of classical music. The Las Vegas Philharmonic has an on again/off again relationship with existence, and during most of my youth it was off again. There were occasional performances by local groups, including a B Minor Mass that somehow got messed up about 20 minutes after the chosen intermission, leading to the conductor starting the half over again. There was the Las Vegas Summer Music Festival, which had some really nice performances, but it too struggled to have a pulse. It was a pity, because there were some wickedly talented players in town (there still are, as some of the big Strip shows have reverted back to using live bands).
Every now and again, orchestras on tour would come through Artemus Ham Hall at UNLV (which supposedly had amazing acoustics, although I don’t remember thinking that exactly). But this was Vegas, and there was no way that Danielle Gatti and the Royal Philharmonic doing Mahler 5 would draw a crowd. Ditto Ashkenazy and the DSO Berlin with Shostakovich 10. I mean, I know Sammy Davis Jr. was still alive, but Jesus, you’d think a city of well over a million people could scrape together 2,000 to enjoy some of the finest music by some of the finest performers in the history of the galaxy. Continue reading
I used to watch Tosh.0 back when we had cable. I appreciate the concept of the show: someone else slogging their way through the bowels of the internet in search of the funniest and most insane videos out there so I don’t have to. Since we’ve made the move to simply using Netflix or Hulu or whatever to watch television through our computer, I haven’t seen the show in some time. If I had, I would have seen this: