Branching out

I’ve started writing a bit for symphs.com, a website after my own heart if there ever was one. My first article is up now, an exploration of what makes a great symphonist. Check it out, and check out the rest of the site. It’s pretty cool and obviously filled with people with good taste in music and writing.

Vacation

For those wondering, I’m on vacation visiting my family. That’s why there is no riveting material being posted here. It’s not the usual reason there is no riveting material being posted here (because I don’t write well). Stay tuned and stay cool.

Also, RIP Hans Werner Henze. One of the great ones.

I was at a concert: I was at two concerts – Part 2: St. Louis

Allow this picture of Rams RB Steven Jackson stiff-arming Chiefs LB Andy Studebaker to symbolically represent my weekend

A week ago Saturday, fresh from a great but aurally-limited performance of Brahms 4 in Kansas City, Sandy and I hopped in the car and went down I-70 towards St. Louis for a double bill featuring the St. Louis Symphony in Powell Hall followed by Louis CK at the Fox Theatre. On our way, we stopped for lunch in Columbia, MO, home of the University of Missouri, a pretty delicious natural foods restaurant, and the worst coffee in this and presumably any other galaxy. Seriously, I’ve had coffee twice there, at places recommended by people that I otherwise respect, and both times the cups have ended up in the trash after one sip. On the plus side, I bought this shirt, which I’ve had my eye on for years. There was also an inexplicable traffic jam that held us up for an hour or so leaving town, but we made it to St. Louis in one piece, took a nap, and got ready for a long night of awesomeness. Continue reading

Something to listen to: Andante tranquillo from Barber Symphony no. 1

Ever since hearing this awesome symphony last Friday night at the Kansas City Symphony concert, I’ve been listening to this movement on an almost endless loop. I don’t know that I can think of a better 5 minutes of music off the top of my head – this has more pathos and raw emotion than a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and in 1/25th the time! Plus, the oboe finally gets a chance to play a decent melody, something they get to do in virtually no other work with roughly 500,000 exceptions. This performance is by Leonard Slatkin and his St. Louis Symphony at the height of their musical powers, and this combination is ground zero for Barber done right. Enjoy.

I was at a concert: I was at two concerts – Part 1: Kansas City

Allow this picture of Rams RB Steven Jackson stiff-arming Chiefs LB Andy Studebaker in his face to symbolically represent my weekend

“Everything in moderation” is a maxim that I generally try to apply to my own life as often as possible. There are exceptions that I allow for, such as chocolate-covered pretzels, sports, and Oxycontin, but for the most part I find that moderation is indeed a functionally useful life tool. Sometimes, though, life presents a grand opportunity to tell moderation to go fuck itself and bask in the warming glow of too much of a good thing. Last weekend Sandy and I embarked on a two-city musical odyssey between Missouri’s two major cities that was a study in contrasts in a lot of ways except one: there was a shitload of good music to be heard. Continue reading

Something to listen to: Eivind Gullberg Jensen FOR THE WIN!

Commenter Aparna S alerted me to this performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 2 conducted by the notorious-around-these-parts Eivind Gullberg Jensen and posted it in the comments section of the infamous “worst conductor in the universe” post under the auspices of strongly disagreeing with my position. After watching it from start to finish, I wanted to make sure that it didn’t just get buried in the comments of an old post, because it is an outstanding performance on every level. Gone is the unnecessary and intrusive bullshit I felt pervaded Jensen’s conducting, and in its place is a tremendous feel for the nuts and bolts of a piece that can degenerate into useless noise in the wrong hands. I am tremendously impressed – this is one of the finest Rachmaninov 2’s I’ve ever encountered. I hope that this is just the beginning of my NEW Jensen experience.

Thank you for bringing this performance to my attention, and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Something to listen to: Requiem and Resurrection

Everyone knows I dig Hovhaness. If I need to feel better, he’s one of the first guys I turn to for solace, mostly because his music often possesses an ethereal quality that allows me to remove myself from the vagaries of human existence, which is necessary much more often than I ever assumed it would be when I was 10. Requiem and Resurrection certainly fits that description. Scored for brass choir and percussion, it is an episodic mix of mysterious chants and smooth temple dances and majestic chorales, all employing the mixed meters and aleatory that Hovhaness is known for. It does exactly what it needs to do, much like Mysterious Mountain, the Mount Saint Helens Symphony, and his other most popular works: dissolves your sense of time and replaces it with something like meditation. It would be nice if music like this wasn’t needed to soothe and save the soul, but thank God it’s there, because I would probably be punching furniture were it not.