Dallas, Texas and the surrounding area is a God-forsaken hellscape, and is likely as close to a prison as I’ll ever get. Consequently my eyes have constantly been on the lookout for diversions on the weekends, and one such diversion is the potential allure of the Houston Symphony, a scant 3 or 4 hours away. According to my internet research, they are performing Mahler’s massive Symphony no. 2 this weekend, at least in part because it is the end of Hans Graf’s reign as Music Director. What better way to celebrate one’s tenure than with the “this is a death but we’ll all be resurrected” vibe that isn’t self-indulgent in any way? Continue reading
Much of the history of the twentieth century is some variation on the idea of exile, occasionally self-imposed. Music’s portion of that history is filled with musicians and composers who fled the Nazis or the Communists for safer environs. But there was a small subset of prominent musicians who remained firmly entrenched in the cultural life of these regimes, and they are often the figures that are the subject of some controversy (the obvious archetype being Wilhelm Furtwangler). Sergei Prokofiev was one such figure. Continue reading
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
Today’s forecast in Kansas City calls for Siege of Leningrad temperatures with wind chills below zero, so what better way to spend one’s time than by reliving one of the most horrific events in human history through the sounds of Dmitri Shostakovich? Valery Gergiev and the Marinsky Theater Orchestra provide the performance. Crank that volume up.
Inspired by a Twitter live blog involving Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony and a string of Esa-Pekka Salonen insults from two of the raddest “follows” a person could have, @loganvw and @hamtron5000, hidden deep within this message is a superb performance of the the Fourth to counterbalance whatever monstrosity they heard last night. Presumably a brief diatribe on the work in question is in order, and as a tribute to my overwhelming laziness I’m simply going to copy and paste my thoughts on Sibelius 4 from my moderately interesting countdown of the 10 best Symphonies no. 4.
Quoth myself: Continue reading
Last Friday night the Kansas City Symphony awoke from a long winter’s nap to perform Mahler’s massive Symphony no. 6. Dubbed “Tragic” by someone who wasn’t Mahler but endorsed by someone who was, the Sixth is an emotional tour-de-force that provides the ultimate musical test for both conductor and orchestra. Like a kid who eats tuna and listens to Mozart the night before the SATs and like the opposite of an Amy Winehouse toxicology report, conductor Michael Stern and the members of the Symphony passed with flying colors. Continue reading
Last weekend guest conductor Nicholas McGegan ventured outside the world of early music for performances of Haydn and Orff with the Kansas City Symphony. We arrived an hour early under the auspices of soaking in the Saturday night ambience (and finding parking that wouldn’t involve us waiting 45 minutes to wade through a gerontological sea of humanity on the way out) and figured we’d enjoy a cup of coffee and a glass of red wine. Urgent bulletin: they don’t serve red wine. Of any kind. At any point. And the coffee, while possibly delicious, is marred by the use of sketchy-ass creamer that erodes any semblance of good flavor. Kansas City’s Roasterie makes tremendous coffee, so why waste it with cream that would be better served at Waffle House? It’s like playing a Mahler symphony on keytar. Did I mention that I am an elitist prick when it comes to food and drink? And now you know!