My old pal Ken Woods posted a great piece in response to a Boston Magazine article that I’m not going to link to because their servers are already toast and wouldn’t be able to handle the tens of additional readers from this space about orchestral auditions and the unnatural toll they take on musicians. This of course got me thinking about my own former “career” and the nature of the music business and politics and fairness. Continue reading
There are thousands of examples throughout history of otherwise “normal” people stepping up their game and achieving a greatness normally reserved for those who we ascribe “legendary” status to. This happens all the time in one of my other favorite interests, sports – perhaps the most famous is Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Any Golden State Warriors fan can tell you about “The Sleepy Floyd Game,” where Floyd dropped 51 on the mighty 1987 Lakers in the playoffs and set a record for points (29) in an epic 4th-quarter comeback that still stands (all against the greatest defensive wing player of his generation, Michael Cooper). The greatest comeback in NFL Playoff history was executed by Buffalo’s backup quarterback, Frank Reich. What makes someone a legend is that these moments occur with startling regularity, but anyone can be legendary in a given instance. Bob Dylan is perhaps the greatest folk songwriter that ever lived, but Don McLean wrote “American Pie.” Continue reading
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
Colin Davis, New York Philharmonic, 2006
Jesus, the New York Philharmonic really plays the living shit out of this. The 3rd gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but it’s as brilliant as anything Sibelius ever composed, and the finale has more energy than Richard Simmons on cocaine and Red Bull, or the passionate truck stop glory hole sex that I don’t really care to talk about right now. Also enjoy the kinda weird anime situation. This YouTube uploader, whoever he is (magischmeisjeorkest), is a Godsend. What a fucking hero.
Um…………………. Continue reading
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