Concert alert!

If you find yourselves within range of Oxford, Ohio, please consider setting aside the date of Friday, October 7, 2016. At 7:30 PM, the Miami University Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ricardo Averbach will be performing a concert with music by an actual living musical legend, Samuel Adler, who will be in attendance at the performance, along with Beethoven’s legendary Eroica. You can read more about the concert here.

No pressure, readers from Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati, Columbus, or Dayton, but I mean…it’s right there!

Europe: Still better than us

Jaap Van Zweden was selected to be the next conductor of the New York Philharmonic, taking over in a couple years. Another prime American orchestra gig goes to another medium-profile European dude. In the wake of LA’s Gustavo Dudamel appointment, the trend seemed to be towards young, energetic guys, even if they lacked Dudamel’s charisma and escaped-mental-patient-plotting-to-destroy-the-dam haircut, which is how we ended up with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Andris Nelsons, Ludovic Morlot, et al. Alan Gilbert was in this wave, too.

I was happy at the time to see an American get arguably the most prestigious conducting post in the States (friendly reminder that it’s a spot previously held down by the likes of Mahler, Toscanini, and Bernstein), even if it came with the even more American appearance of flagrant nepotism, rightly or wrongly. I thought it might be something of a turning point for American orchestras in general. Continue reading

The Shostakovich Chamber Symphony op. 110a: the greatest cover song ever (even including the Clapton Unplugged “Layla!”)

I had the great pleasure of conducting the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony on my Master’s Conducting Recital (followed by Plink, Plank, Plunk by Leroy Anderson, just to give you an indication of my inability to take anything seriously). I knew enough about the whole DSCH motive and his relationship with Stalin and the Volkov-ish idea that the string quartets said everything that the symphonies couldn’t and all that shit, but I never really appreciated just how God damn cool a piece it is. Continue reading

In which I use the words “sesquicentennial” and “fucking,” one of which may have been in my 7th-grade spelling bee

640px-DBPB_1954_124_Richard_StraussIn spite of whatever I have going on this month, I couldn’t let today pass without saying something about the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of one of music’s all-time legendary figures, Richard Strauss. The great Mark Berry, of whose talent I am supremely envious, wrote a piece for The Conversation that is a must-read for anyone who likes good writing and Strauss. Deutsche Welle has an alternate perspective that touches on a couple of the same themes with admittedly less journalistic pizzazz. I certainly don’t have anything to add from a scholarship perspective. I will gladly, though, talk about the important place Strauss holds in my life. I’ve written about the man many times before, so if some of these obviously salient points are repeats from days gone by, please accept my apologies, or just be polite and pretend like they’re new. Continue reading

Five marginally-connected thoughts on Sergei Prokofiev

If this wasn't an ill-conceived press photo at the time it was taken, it surely set the stage for those that came generations later.

If this wasn’t an ill-conceived press photo at the time it was taken, it surely set the stage for those that came generations later.

On Saturday night the first words out of my mouth after the final note of the excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev’s epic ballet Romeo and Juliet had sounded were “Jesus Christ.” Guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto had led our fine local band through a concert that was, to me, a tale of two halves. The opening half was OK – a decent performance of Silvestre Revueltas’ Redes suite and a pleasant though perhaps character-deficient reading of the beautiful Concierto de Aranjuez – but the return from intermission brought with it a deadly combination of music and players that were made for each other. Prieto’s conducting was straightforward and wonderfully uncomplicated, the band’s greatest strengths were highlighted, and, most importantly, Prokofiev is really good at music.

It’s that last one that got me thinking as the rest of the weekend wore on. It had been awhile since I had listened to Prokofiev, and it had been even longer since I had heard his music in concert (in fact, it was probably the concert here a few years ago when Gil Shaham played the second concerto). As I was reminded of just how much of a bad ass he is, I thought it might be appropriate to share the five recurring thoughts that have been kicking around the infinite void that is my brain. Continue reading

Stephanie Pittman: Pride. Power. Bad-ass mother who won’t take no crap off of nobody.

1000 bonus points to anyone who gets that reference, by the way.

I owe my interest in music to a number of people. I sat next to Chris Castellanos, one of the best horn players in the world, for two years in high school which went miles towards my involvement with classical music. Mentors like Ken Woods and Rob Baldwin got me exploring all kinds of interesting orchestral repertoire in new and exciting ways. Close friends like Dan and James were there to experience live concerts, marathon listening sessions, and the general exchange of ideas. More recently, my friend Dave McIntire has gotten me investigating musical worlds I didn’t know existed. But before I ever knew any of these folks, my first musical experiences came from listening to and being around my dear mother. Continue reading