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From:Portland, Oregon
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posted June 23, 2009 10:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for opus_125   Click Here to Email opus_125     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Philharmonic Puts Its History by the Numbers Online

Sports and classical music fall neatly into comparisons. They are hierarchical endeavors that require immense amounts of training, skill, expertise and common purpose. They are competitive, have stars and supporting casts and, now more than ever, hold an attraction for lovers of numbers.

Numbers, as in statistics. Creating a little bit of heaven for classical music geeks, the New York Philharmonic has put online an ocean of data about its concerts, dating back to the first one on Dec. 7, 1842. The Metropolitan Opera did the same four years ago, adding an archive to its Web site,, that it says chronicles each performance in its history, starting in 1883.

The Philharmonic’s site and its announcement are in keeping with an effort to present the orchestra as the oldest and most history-laden in the country. Barbara Haws, the Philharmonic’s archivist and historian, believes it is the largest performance history database of its kind, she said, simply because of the institution’s longevity.

The Philharmonic site,, is named after Carlos Moseley, a former chairman of the orchestra. Users can search by composer, artist or individual program.

So type in Gustav Mahler, a onetime music director, at the artist tab. The database lists his first concert as having taken place on Nov. 29, 1908, as director of the New York Symphony, which merged with the Philharmonic in 1928. His last was Feb. 21, 1911, three months before his death. He conducted 159 works. The piece he took up most was Wagner’s “Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” presenting excerpts 21 times. He conducted six of his own compositions, each a single time. They included the First, Second and Fourth Symphonies.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 has received 364 performances. Every place the orchestra has played is listed, from Adelaide to Zurich. Some 20,000 concerts are included: orchestra, chamber music and tour and festival appearances among them.

The database was built by examining old programs, reviews and index cards for every concert from the 1930s to the 1980s, when the concert entries were first computerized, Ms. Haws said. “I still have all the index cards,” she added. “I won’t let them go.”

The archive staff is still fleshing out information on the New York Symphony concerts, which began in 1878, Ms. Haws said, and adding data on the Philharmonic’s concerts at City College’s Lewisohn Stadium, its summer home from 1918 to 1962.

While a resource for historians, the Web site is also aimed at the average concertgoer. “We’ve put it out there,” Ms. Haws said, “and anybody can start to poke around and see where they find themselves.”


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posted November 04, 2009 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Classical music has its day at the White House
Joshua Bell, Sharon Isbin, others perform with talented students
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Classical music took over the White House on Wednesday as Barack and Michelle Obama used two concerts and a series of workshops for young musicians to send a clear message that the music of the masters isn't just for stuffed shirts.

The president told the audience at an evening concert in the East Room that classical music is "lifting hearts and spurring imaginations" all across the nation, and is something to be enjoyed by aficionados and the uninitiated alike.

The concert featured some of today's most important young and vibrant classical musicians: violist Joshua Bell, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Awadagin Pratt. And at an afternoon performance for the young musicians, the superstars teamed up with some youngsters of uncanny ability.

Pratt plunked himself down on a piano bench next to 14-year-old Lucy Hattemer of Cincinnati to perform a Schubert duet on the East Room's Steinway. Weilerstein, 27, was upstaged by her 8-year-old partner, Sujari Britt, a student at New York's Manhattan School of Music, on a duet by Italian composer Luigi Boccherini.

Bell, performing in shirt sleeves and jeans, introduced a Paganini duet with Isbin at the afternoon concert by telling the audience that the Italian violinist was "sort of like the Beatles of his time." He also showed that not even the pros are immune to the occasional flub. During his duet with Isbin, Bell inadvertently skipped a couple of lines, and jokingly pronounced it "the abridged version."

At the evening concert, Obama tried to put the audience at ease by telling the crowd that even President Kennedy wasn't always sure when to clap during classical performances and had to get a signal from his social secretary on when to applaud.

"Fortunately, I have Michelle to tell me when to applaud," he joked. "The rest of you are on your own."

At the afternoon performance, Mrs. Obama gave the youngsters a big shout-out for practicing even when they don't feel like it, lugging around heavy instruments and laboring to perfect tough pieces.

"It's through that struggle that you find what you truly have to offer to your instrument or to anything in life," she said. "You'll learn that if you believe in yourself and put in your best effort, that there's nothing that you can't achieve. And those aren't just lessons about music. These are really lessons about life."

After the first concert, 16-year-old percussionist Jason Yoder pronounced it "a very good day for classical music." A student at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts School, he performed a duet of Saint-Saens' "The Swan" with Isbin.

"In my generation, classical music is kind of looked down upon," Yoder said, adding that the White House spotlight could help change that.

The day's events were part of a White House Music Series that also has featured concerts of jazz, Latin and country music.

Earlier Wednesday, Mrs. Obama showcased after-school programs in the arts and humanities by hosting an awards ceremony for more than a dozen recipients of the Coming Up Taller awards. The awards recognize programs outside of the schools that encourage young people to express themselves through the arts.


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posted November 30, 2009 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's an excellent blog from John Adams...


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posted July 16, 2010 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
'Resignation' bogus, musicians contend

A Honolulu Symphony Society statement holds that the players will start their own group

By Michael Tsai

The Honolulu Symphony Society announced yesterday that it has "accepted the resignation" of the 63 musicians that comprise its orchestra—much to the surprise of the musicians.

The announcement came after two separate meetings this month in which the symphony society and the musicians union failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

On Sunday the symphony society declared an impasse in the negotiations with the Musicians' Association of Hawaii, Local 677 of the American Federation of Musicians, after the union rejected the society's "best and final" offer. The union subsequently filed a grievance with the local office of the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the society had not negotiated in good faith.

According to yesterday's e-mail announcement, attributed to society Chairperson Kimberly Miyazawa Frank, the musicians are "organizing a new resident symphony orchestra staffed by Honolulu Symphony Orchestra musicians."

"Therefore, HSS has accepted the resignation of these musicians as of July 13, 2010," the statement read.

Musicians union President Brien Matson said the musicians are not organizing another orchestra and did not resign from the symphony. Matson said he was "absolutely surprised" to learn of the society's announcement.

Jonathan Parrish, co-vice chairman of the Orchestra Committee, was one of two union representatives who attended a symphony society board meeting yesterday. He said he was asked directly whether the musicians intended to form another, independent orchestra and replied that they did not.

He said he and the other representative were excused from the meeting without any indication that the society was considering severing the musicians.

Parrish said there was no basis for the society's contention that the musicians had resigned for any reason.

"It's hard to think of anything that would lend itself to that conclusion," Parrish said. "This 'resignation' is not legal or valid. It did not occur."

Honolulu Symphony Executive Director Majken Mechling said the board's understanding of the situation was based on public statements the musicians had previously made.

"There's not much more we can clarify than that," she said. "The clarity has to come from them."

As part of yesterday's announcement, Miyazawa Frank also stated that the society's board of directors approved a "financially responsible and sustainable conceptual plan that will allow it to continue fulfilling its mission of providing live, professional symphonic music for the people of Hawaii."

The plan, which will be submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Court for approval by Oct. 15, is based on an extensive organizational analysis commissioned by the society and calls for continued traditional symphonic concerts, community performances in ensemble and chamber music formats, and music education.

The musicians union has previously criticized the analysis for unreliable data collection and bias against the musicians. Yesterday, Parrish dismissed the new "Way Forward" plan as being built on concepts already successfully executed by the symphony for more than 50 years.

"There's nothing new in their plan," he said.

The long-struggling symphony canceled half of its 2009-2010 season and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. As part of its proposed reorganization, the symphony society has called for an overall budget reduction to $1.7 million in the first year of reorganization from roughly $8 million. Savings would be realized primarily through a drastic cut in concerts and other public performances.

While the symphony society had said it would retain all 63 musicians at a higher base pay, the musicians said the reduction in schedule would effectively cut their overall pay to $3,256 from $30,885 (prior to the bankruptcy filing).

Both sides say they are willing to resume negotiations, and used identical language to lay out the criteria for continued dialogue.

"We're always willing to negotiate as long as what they are proposing is financially realistic and sustainable," Mechling said, echoing similar statements by Parrish and Matson.



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posted September 23, 2010 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for EmilySachs   Click Here to Email EmilySachs     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nearly every music fan can remember their first love. That first piece of music they fell deeply in love with. The old LP that wore out, the cassette they kept rewinding, the CD switched on 'repeat.'

Two weeks ago, when we launched this very blog, Deceptive Cadence, we asked classical music fans: "What's the first piece of music you fell in love with?"

In the first week alone we had over 450 responses. Many of the stories are powerful and passionate. I also asked some prominent musicians to answer the question. Conductor Marin Alsop tells a touching story about how a specific piece by Brahms — the String Sextet in B-flat — was the inspiration that made her dedicate her life to music.

Brahms: String Sextet in B-flat (excerpt) (Amadeus Quartet et al)

Purchase: Amazon

I talked with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel about the "First Loves" stories. Turns out he had a story of his own.

"My father had an LP, back in 1952, of Beethoven's 'Emperor' Concerto," Siegel recalls. "And I wore it out, scratching it, playing it over and over again, marching around the strains of the first movement."

Ariane Miyasaki — Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, "Pastorale"

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (excerpt) (Berlin Philharmonic)

Purchase: Amazon

"I was homeless, and working holding a sandwich board on the side of the road. It was so dull! I saved up for weeks and got a Sony Discman for $50.00. Now I had something to listen to while I worked. The Discman was so expensive that all I could afford was an Excelsior Gold recording of the fourth and sixth symphonies that was lying in a discount bin for a dollar-fifty. When I was playing it for the first time, in my board, pacing up and down the block — because if you stopped moving at anytime, the police would ticket you for loitering — I suddenly burst into tears. I felt like Beethoven was there with me, saying, "I know this sucks. But look— here is the whole world, outside, birds, the sky, the sun, and here you are! You are in it! Buck up!"

"Because of that symphony, that moment, I decided to dedicate myself to music. I got my GED. I went to community college and got an Associate's in Flute Performance, and another in Humanities and Social Science. Then, I went to conservatory and got my B.M. in Theory and History. I will do my grad work in composition. Maybe someday I will make something that will help somebody like the sixth helped me."

Shaul Yahil — Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (excerpt) (Igor Oistrakh, violin)

Purchase: Archiv Music

"The first classical piece I truly loved was the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, which I heard for the first time when I was eight. For four years I had been playing piano, but the moment I heard Igor Oistrakh's recording, I knew I wanted to immediately take up the violin.

"My parents were against it, they didn't think I could handle two instruments at a time. I kept insisting, and they kept refusing. For two years this went on. Eventually they asked me why I so desperately wanted to play the violin. When I told them that it was because I had been listening to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, they went silent. The next day I got my first violin, and my first lesson was that week. A few months later I learned why my parents suddenly changed their minds. It turns out I'm descended from the Mendelssohns."

Russell Franke — Barber: Adagio for Strings

Barber: Adagio for Strings (excerpt) (Philadelphia Orchestra)

Purchase: Archiv Music

"I remember the first time I heard the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. I had just deployed to Kuwait for 15 months. It was late at night. I had a CD in my laptop of classical music found in the movies. It started to play and within minutes tears filled my eyes. So powerful, so full of greatness. It was taking me someplace, I was on a journey. It stopped and I couldn't catch my breath. I knew all that I had left at home, my wife, my kids, would be waiting for me to return. My pain and anguish at our separation had just been played in a music format. I literally listened to it every night before I went to bed."

Yochanan Winston — Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

"When I was a teenager in the 1960's Bay Area, my father gave me Otto Klemperer's recording of Beethoven's 9th with the Philharmonia on Angel. I was so taken with the photo of Klemperer's bust on the cover, the mystery of the 1st Movement and the opulence of the 4th that it quickly became — along side Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones — my favorite music to drop acid to. I don't listen to the Dead very much anymore, but Beethoven is still a vital part of my life. Thanks Dad, thanks Owsley!"

Mark Loebach — Chopin: Waltz in F

"About six years ago I was in the middle of a rough divorce — completely stressed out and drained. I went to Borders Books one day and at one of their listening stations they had a Chopin compilation CD on. The first piece was his Waltz in F. I swear I felt the first note hit my knees. I was shaken. As I listened to the piece, I felt months of misery lifted note by note. I was transported and overwhelmed. The music gave me peace, inspired passion, and, not to sound too corny here, hope. At the age of 25, I was turned upside down by that single piece of music, and have never looked back. Classical music has been a major part of my life ever since."

Elliott Delman — Stravinsky: Rite of Spring

"I was nine years old and my parents took me to see Fantasia. When I heard Stravinsky's Rite of Spring I knew right then that I wanted to be a composer. I had never realized until that moment the endless possibilities of music. I pleaded with my parents to buy the LP, and after trying to pawn off a few "nicer, more relaxing" classical samplers on me, I guess I must have been pretty insistent because Rite of Spring showed up and I played it until I wore it out. I would set up a goose-neck lamp on the floor behind me, and with a chopstick in my right hand, I would "shadow conduct" for hours. To this day Rite of Spring transports me emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. It evokes memories of experiences I've never had."


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posted October 05, 2010 09:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Detroit Symphony goes on strike
From Stephanie Gallman, CNN

* Symphony musicians in Detroit, Michigan, have been on strike since Monday
* They don't want pay cuts to be as deep as board desires
* Symphony says it needs major cuts to survive

(CNN) -- Members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have gone on strike over a substantial pay cut, raising doubts about several scheduled performances, including this Friday's season opener.

The musicians walked out Monday morning, saying they would not agree to a 33 percent pay cut. They had countered with a 22 percent salary reduction.

The orchestra's board is willing to meet the musicians, but no negotiating sessions are currently scheduled, said symphony spokeswoman Elizabeth Twork. "There is no reluctance on our side to meet," she said.

No concerts have been canceled.

The Detroit Symphony is grappling with a financial crisis similar to those that have shut down or curtailed other orchestras in recent years.

It accrued a $3.9 million deficit in 2009 and would face a $6.5 million deficit without changes to the three-year contracts, Twork said Tuesday.

Without the changes, "we can't survive as a business, there is no way," she added.

Under the current contract, the base starting salary for a musician is $105,000 with nine weeks of paid vacation. The new contract would change that base salary to $70,000, with an increase to $72,000 in the second year and $73,000 in the third year, with three weeks of paid vacation.

Haden McKay, a cellist with the DSO, said the board also wants pension and benefit cuts.

The quality of the orchestra would suffer with cuts of this magnitude, McKay said, adding it would have a tough time recruiting new members.

"Detroit is, fortunately or unfortunately, one of the best symphonies in the country, and therefore we compete with talent in other big cities with acclaimed symphonies," said McKay. "Under their proposal, DSO would be out of the running in competition for talent."

"We can move numbers around, but there's no real change in their offer," McKay said.

Unless an agreement is reached, the sounds of Schumann, Bruch and Berlioz will not be heard Friday night.

"We hope the Players will be realistic as negotiations progress, that a hurtful, lingering strike can be avoided, and that together -- musicians, board, and audience -- we will once again make and enjoy the majestic music that has come to be the signature sound of the DSO," the board of directors said in a statement.


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posted October 07, 2010 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm surprised any orchestra can survive. Maybe I understand the big city ones because of the old money that is in all those towns and support the arts but it's just a dying art form.



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posted January 10, 2011 09:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for EmilySachs   Click Here to Email EmilySachs     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the NY Times - the Top 10 Composers in History:

The Greatest

YOU know that a new year has truly arrived when critics stop issuing all those lists of the best films, books, plays, recordings and whatever of the year gone by. These lists seem to be popular with readers, and they stir up lively reactions. Like other critics I enjoy recalling the pieces and performances that struck me as exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad, during the year in classical music.

Yet in other fields, critics and insiders think bigger. Film institutes periodically issue lists of the greatest films of all time. (“Citizen Kane” seems to have a lock on the top spot.) Rock magazines routinely tally the greatest albums ever. And think of professional tennis, with its system of rankings, telling you exactly which player is No. 1 in the world, or 3, or 59.

Imagine if we could do the same in classical music, if there were ways to rank pianists, sopranos and, especially, composers. The Top 10 composers of all time. Now that’s the list I have secretly wanted to compile. It would be absurd, of course, but fascinating.

Hold on here. I don’t do ranking. As I see it, the critic’s job description does not include compiling lists of greats in order of greatness. What I do is champion, demystify and describe the composers, works and artists I admire, and, as appropriate, puncture inflated reputations.

I am eager to share my enthusiasm for, say, my favorite Britten opera (I think I would pick “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) or my favorite recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto (Jascha Heifetz, with Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony: a minority opinion, I suspect, but what a thrilling performance). To say that something is your favorite is not to insist that it has to be anyone else’s or that it belongs at the top of a list of all-time greats.

My thinking about this was shaken, though, last spring, when Mohammed e-mailed me. That’s Mohammed Rahman, then a freshman at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He was writing a paper on why people have different musical tastes, and he wanted to interview me. His questions were so thoughtful that I met him at a cafe.

Mohammed picked my brain about how my tastes had been formed, about what I looked for in good music. Inevitably we came to the question of how it gets decided that certain music, certain composers are the best. And of course some really are. I’m open-minded but not a radical relativist.

So if you were to try to compile a list of the 10 greatest composers in history, how would you go about it? For me the resulting list would not be the point. But the process of coming up with such a list might be clarifying and instructive, as well as exasperating and fun.

What criteria might you apply? Would a composer’s influence and popularity factor in? Schoenberg was arguably the most influential composer of the 20th century. That he pushed tonality past the brink and devised a technique to supersede it completely shook up the music of the era. Every composer in his wake had to come to terms with Schoenberg. But on the basis of his actual pieces, many of which excite and move me, does he make the Top 10?

What about a composer whose range was narrow but whose music was astonishing? Chopin, a staggering genius, wrote almost exclusively for the piano. And what do you do with opera? Is that a separate thing entirely?

Do you break music down by the elements and analyze, for example, who was the greatest master of counterpoint? The most inventive rhythmically? And then, of course, there is my personal take on things, which will, of course, factor in strongly but not be determinative.

Anyway, between talking with Mohammed and going through the annual “best of the year” ritual, I have been emboldened. So here begins an open deliberation leading eventually — in later articles, online videos and posts on ArtsBeat ( — to my answer to this irresistible question: Who are the 10 greatest composers in history? My editors urged that if I went down this path, I should go all the way and rank the Top 10 in order. But first I have to narrow the scope, so here are the ground rules:

I am focusing on Western classical music. There are compelling arguments against honoring this classification. Still, giants like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Stephen Sondheim are outside my purview here. And on the assumption that we are too close to living composers to assess their place and their impact, I am eliminating them from consideration.

Finally, I am focusing on the eras since the late Baroque. You could make a good case for Josquin or Monteverdi, but I won’t. The traditions and styles were so different back then as to have been almost another art form. I’m looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history.

So to get things going, let’s start with an easy one: Bach. He would probably be the consensus choice among thinking musicians for the top spot. But why?

Bach came at an intersection in music history. He was born in 1685, when the Baroque period was thriving yet vestiges of the Renaissance age of polyphonic music were lingering. By the time he died in 1750, opera, for which he had no interest, was a century and a half old, music was getting hipper, and elegantly decorous styles like the Rococo were widespread. Even some of Bach’s sons, who revered their father, thought he was a little old-fashioned as a composer. Bach did not care how he was perceived. He was too busy being a working musician, a composer who wrote pieces to order for whatever his job at the time, whether in a church or a court, demanded.

Bach stood right in the middle of this historical crossroads. His music is an astonishing synthesis of what had been and what was coming. Elements of the high polyphonic tradition run through his work. Yet the era of simpler Baroque textures and clear, strong tonal harmony had arrived.

In just the collected Bach chorales — the four-part, hymnlike settings of church tunes that crop up in his oratorios and cantatas — he codified everything that was known about harmony and anticipated the future, including wayward chromatic harmony à la Wagner. In the opening measures of the chorale “Es Ist Genug,” the one Berg incorporated into his final work, the Violin Concerto, Bach even anticipates atonality.

The 48 preludes and fugues of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” are the ultimate exploration of counterpoint in all its complexities, yet also a dazzling collection of quirky, sublime and sometimes showy character pieces.

What composer before or after Bach could have written the opening Kyrie of the Mass in B minor? It begins with choral cries of “Lord have mercy” (“Kyrie eleison”) as harmonically wrenching as anything in Brahms or Mahler. Then, with transfixing calm, the winding Kyrie theme is heard in the orchestra over a steady tread of a bass, as the inner voices build up. One by one the sections of the chorus enter, until Bach has constructed an intricate web of counterpoint at once intimidating in its complexity and consolingly beautiful.

Another candidate for this list was also born in Germany the same year as Bach: Handel, who lived nine years longer. Whereas Bach came from generations of musicians and was expected to go into the family business, Handel’s father was a barber and surgeon with aristocratic clientele who was determined to see his son become a lawyer and discouraged his studies of music. But Handel’s talent could not be denied.

After receiving thorough musical training in Germany, Handel learned the ways of Italian opera in Italy. In one of the curious twists in music history, he wound up living in London and writing Italian operas for English-speaking audiences who were wild about this exotic art form. Handel was a masterly composer in this genre and a savvy businessman who eventually became an opera-house manager and made more money than Bach ever could have imagined. When tastes shifted and box-office receipts dwindled, Handel found a new career as a revered purveyor of oratorios in English.

Thanks largely to the early-music movement Handel’s operas, which had mostly lapsed into obscurity, have been rediscovered and championed by formidable conductors, directors and singers. They are now rightly seen as psychologically astute and musically rich. Handel’s instrumental and large-scale choral works were well known to Mozart and Beethoven, who admired Handel tremendously.

Still, at least in the operas, Handel mostly hewed to convention. In less-than-inspired performances, the operas can come across as pro-forma works, with dialogue in recitative to advance the stories and set up the inevitable strings of da capo arias (structured with a Part A, a contrasting Part B and an embellished return of Part A). I prefer the operas in which Handel took more risks, as in the astonishing “Orlando,” which has as wrenching a portrait of a man’s descent into madness as you will find in any art form of any era.

Handel is a giant. A music theory teacher looking for a perfect example of three-part contrapuntal writing, with basso continuo, can do no better than to show students the main allegro section of the instrumental sinfonia that begins “Messiah.”

Still, does Handel make the cut for the Top 10? I don’t know. I think he should pay a price for churning out all those da capo arias.

Including Bach is a no-brainer. But remember, the point is to come up with a list. Move ahead a bit in history, and we are in danger of having four places among the Top 10 given to composers who worked in Vienna during a period of roughly 75 years, from 1750 to 1825. What was going on in that town at that time to foster such awesome creativity?

Let’s see.


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posted September 06, 2011 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for opus_125   Click Here to Email opus_125     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
James Levine Withdraws From Met Fall Season

Daniel Barry for The New York TimesJames Levine, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, at Carnegie Hall in April.
James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, has withdrawn from all performances at the Met for the rest of the year after falling while on vacation in Vermont and damaging a vertebra, the house said on Tuesday. Mr. Levine had emergency surgery on Thursday and was to have begun rehearsals on Monday. The injury comes on top of a series of back operations followed by periods of rehabilitation to correct a painful spinal condition, called stenosis.

While the Met said Mr. Levine would remain music director, it immediately elevated its principal guest conductor, Fabio Luisi, to the title of principal conductor and handed over to him most of Mr. Levine’s fall conducting assignments. They include a new production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” opening on Oct. 13, and the third installment of a new and expensive “Ring” cycle, “Siegfried,” on Oct. 27. Louis Langrée was engaged to conduct some “Don Giovanni” performances and Derrick Inouye was assigned a Nov. 1 “Siegfried.”

Mr. Levine, the Met said, “hopes to recover in time to return to the Met in January, for the new production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” which opens on Jan. 27, and for the complete “Ring” cycles in April and May.


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posted October 16, 2012 01:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for opus_125   Click Here to Email opus_125     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A great TV show from 1962 hosted by Glenn Gould about the genius of J.S. Bach.



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posted November 06, 2012 01:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for EmilySachs   Click Here to Email EmilySachs     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Elliott Carter, Composer Who Decisively Snapped Tradition, Dies at 103
Elliott Carter, the American composer whose kaleidoscopic, rigorously organized works established him as one of the most important and enduring voices in contemporary music, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 103 and had continued to compose into his 11th decade, completing his last piece in August.

His death was announced by Virgil Blackwell, his personal assistant. Mr. Carter died in his Greenwich Village apartment, which he and his wife bought in 1945 and where he had lived ever since.

Mr. Carter’s music, which brought him dozens of awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, could seem harmonically brash and melodically sharp-edged on the first hearing, but it often yielded drama and lyricism on better acquaintance. And though complexity and structural logic were hallmarks of his works, the music he composed in the decade leading up to his widely celebrated centenary, in 2008, was often more lyrical, if not necessarily softer at the edges.

Mr. Carter, a protégé of the American modernist Charles Ives, acknowledged that his works could seem incomprehensible to listeners who were not grounded in the developments of 20th-century music. Even trained musicians sometimes regarded his constructions as too difficult to grasp without intensive study. Yet he had many advocates among players, and his works were frequently performed and recorded.

“As a young man, I harbored the populist idea of writing for the public,” he once explained to an interviewer who asked him why he had chosen to write such difficult music. “I learned that the public didn’t care. So I decided to write for myself. Since then, people have gotten interested.”

Mr. Carter never lacked for commissions from major orchestras, soloists and chamber groups, and late in life he was able to impose conditions on those who sought his works. He refused to be held to deadlines, saying he would release his compositions when he felt they were ready. And for many years he would not accept commissions from orchestras that had not played his earlier music.

Long before he began enforcing that rule, however, many of Mr. Carter’s works had found their way into the active repertory. In the mid-1980s, he observed that hardly a year went by without at least one New York performance of his Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano With Two Chamber Orchestras (1961). His Cello Sonata (1948) is considered one of this century’s finest additions to that instrument’s repertory, and his solo keyboard works, the Piano Sonata (1946) and “Night Fantasies” (1980), are performed regularly and have been recorded several times.

Mr. Carter continued to explore new ground into his later years. He avoided opera for most of his career because, as he put it in 1978, “American opera is a novelty, to be played once and that’s all, even when they’re good pieces,” and because he doubted he could find a libretto that interested him. Yet when he was 90 he completed his first opera, “What Next?”

The opera, with a Dadaistic libretto by Paul Griffiths, a former music critic for The New York Times, had its premiere in 1999 at the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, with Daniel Barenboim conducting. It had its American premiere in a concert version at Symphony Center in Chicago in 2000 and its first staged performance in the United States at Tanglewood in 2006 — an event filmed and released on DVD.

As Mr. Carter’s centenary neared, the frequency with which his music could be heard only increased, making it clear that for at least two generations of young performers, even his thorniest works held little terror. In the summer of 2008, for example, the entire Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center was devoted to Mr. Carter’s work, with performances of dozens of pieces from every stage of his career (including several premieres). Mr. Carter attended most of the concerts. There were many such tributes that year, and the attention unnerved him, he said.

“It’s a little bit frightening, because I’m not used to being appreciated,” he said in an onstage interview at Zankel Hall the night after a celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “So when I am, I think I’ve made a mistake.”

Despite his years, he remained vital almost until the end. His last composition, “12 Short Epigrams,” a piano work for Pierre-Laurent Aimard, was completed on Aug. 13. Another piece, “Instances,” for Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony (commissioned with the Tanglewood Music Center), was completed in April.

In June, in what Steve Smith, writing in The Times, called a “miracle of continuing miracles,” the New York Philharmonic performed the premiere of “Two Controversies and a Conversation.” (Mr. Smith called it a “pocket-size double concerto.”)

“The applause for Mr. Carter, wheelchair bound but characteristically animated,” Mr. Smith wrote, “resounded thunderously.”

Elliott Cook Carter Jr. was born in Manhattan on Dec. 11, 1908, the son of a wealthy lace importer. While he was a student at the Horace Mann School, he wrote an admiring letter to Ives, a New Englander with a crusty manner who nevertheless responded and urged him to pursue his interest in music. When Mr. Carter attended Harvard, starting in 1927, Ives took him under his wing and made sure he went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, who programmed contemporary works frequently.

At Harvard, Mr. Carter completed a bachelor’s degree in English before deciding to study composition seriously. He studied with a group of celebrated teachers, including Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame Hill and Gustav Holst. He also received advice from Ives, although their friendship cooled after Mr. Carter made the mistake of showing Ives some compositions he had written in a neo-Classical style.

In 1932, after completing his master’s degree, Mr. Carter went to Paris for three years of study with Nadia Boulanger, both privately and at the École Normale de Musique. While in Paris in 1933, he was commissioned to write incidental music for a production of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes” at the Harvard Classical Club. The work was his first to be performed in public.

Mr. Carter returned to the United States in 1935, settling first in Cambridge, Mass., and then in New York City, where he began writing criticism for the influential journal Modern Music. In 1937 he began a two-year term as music director of Lincoln Kirstein’s Ballet Caravan, for which he wrote the ballet “Pocahontas” (1939), a work with echoes of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and the residue of an early interest in the music of the Elizabethan virginalists.

He also wrote incidental music for Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater. A choral work, “To Music,” won a 1938 contest sponsored by the Federal Music Project of the Works Progress Administration.

In 1939 he married Helen Frost-Jones, a sculptor and art critic. She died in 2003. Their son, David, survives Mr. Carter, as does a grandson.

Mr. Carter’s works of this early period are in neo-Classical and neo-Romantic styles, their modernism kept in check because, as he later explained, the acidic experiments of the avant-garde seemed wrong for a world that was gripped by the Depression. Trying to write music that would appeal to a wide public, he composed an amusing setting of “The Siege of Corinth” (1941), to a Rabelais text, and his First Symphony (1942), an essay in a melodic, almost pastoral style.

By the mid-1940s Mr. Carter had won several prizes but had made little headway with the public, and he began to regard his consonant style as an unrewarding compromise. In the Piano Sonata (1946) and the Woodwind Quintet (1948), he began writing with a sharper edge, and in the Cello Sonata he started the investigation of contrasting materials that remained a fascination. In this case the contrast was between a freely flowing, lyrical cello line and a disciplined, almost marchlike piano part.

Desert Interlude

The turning point in Mr. Carter’s style came in 1950, when a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters allowed him to leave a teaching post at Columbia University and spend a year in southern Arizona, outside Tucson. During that year in the Sonora Desert he wrote a single 45-minute work, his First String Quartet.

Recalling his desert sojourn, Mr. Carter said in a 1960 interview: “I had been waiting for just such an opportunity to give form to a number of novel ideas I had had over the previous years, and to work out in an extended composition the character, expression and logic these ideas seemed to demand. I felt that I was constantly pushing into an unexplored musical realm.”

Internal Oppositions

What he came up with was a process he called “metrical modulation.” Each instrument has a distinct personality and moves at an independent rhythm. The effect is of a constant change of tempos. Thereafter, virtually all of Mr. Carter’s works were driven by the tension between independent and starkly contrasting elements.

In the Second String Quartet (1959), for example, each instrument is given its own distinct vocabulary of intervals and rhythms. In the Double Concerto of 1961, the piano and harpsichord, each allied to its own chamber orchestra, speak in languages appropriate to their timbres. In the first half of the work, the opposing groups move toward consensus; in the second, they split apart.

Between the 1950s and the late 1970s, Mr. Carter typically spent several years on each new work and saw every piece as an opportunity to overcome new challenges, some purely musical and others narrative and dramatic.

“I just can’t bring myself to do something that someone else has done before,” he said in 1960. “Each piece is a kind of crisis in my life.”

Starting in the late 1980s Mr. Carter’s production picked up speed, and by 2005 he was routinely producing streams of works, albeit short ones, every year, sometimes at the request of musicians who admired his work and sometimes spontaneously for musicians he admired.

When asked why his early works took so long to complete, Mr. Carter explained that his method of composing dictated his speed. “I like to sound spontaneous and fresh, but my first sketches often sound mechanical,” he said. “ I have to write them over until they sound spontaneous.” Many of his scores were completed only after he had filled thousands of pages with sketches. He meticulously dated and saved these, an idea he said he got from Igor Stravinsky. Mr. Carter intensified his use of contrasting forces in works like the Third String Quartet (1971) and the Symphony of Three Orchestras (1977). In these compositions the main ensemble is divided into subgroups, each of which is given a distinct set of movements. The movements are played simultaneously with those performed by competing groups. But they are not played in a conventional way, from start to finish. Instead, the players may be asked to play part of a first movement, all of a second and part of a third before returning to where they left off in the first.

In works like “Syringa” (1978), a vocal setting of the poet John Ashbery’s updated version of the Orpheus legend, the internal oppositions are set forth more clearly. As a mezzo-soprano offers an understated account of the Ashbery text, a bass vehemently sings fragments of Greek classical texts.

“I regard my scores as scenarios,” Mr. Carter said in 1970, “for the performers to act out with their instruments, dramatizing the players as individuals and as participants in the ensemble.”

That interest remained with him. His String Quartet No. 5 (1995), for example, conveys his fascination with a quartet’s rehearsal methods, including the debates between players about phrasing and coloration. The work is in 12 connected movements, five of which are interludes that describe the discussions, with one player offering a phrase from the section just heard and the others responding with embellishments, humorous turns or consternation.

Some listeners found his music cerebral, elitist and devoid of emotion. Even some who respected Mr. Carter’s erudition and the detail inherent in his compositional method were unmoved by his music.

Reviewing the Concerto for Orchestra (1969) when Leonard Bernstein led the New York Philharmonic in the work’s world premiere, Harold C. Schonberg wrote in The Times, “It may be a tour de force of its kind, but to me it is essentially uncommunicative, dry and a triumph of technique over spirit.”

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Carter’s music began to return to forms that he had not addressed since the 1940s.

With “A Mirror on Which to Dwell” (1975) and “Syringa,” he began reconsidering the voice, and he continued his exploration in “In Sleep, in Thunder” (1981) and “Of Challenge and of Love” (1994), vocal chamber works that in retrospect seemed steps on Mr. Carter’s path to opera.

Around the same time, “Night Fantasies” (1980), an evocative description of the fleeting states of thought one experiences between sleep and wakefulness, was the first in a stream of solo instrumental pieces for guitar, violin, trombone, flute, harp, clarinet, cello and piano. He also composed a series of concertos for various instruments, including oboe, violin and clarinet, and a 50-minute orchestral triptych, “Symphonia: Sum Fluxae Pretium Spei.” Indeed, Mr. Carter began composing at a brisk pace in the mid-1980s. Instead of spending several years writing a single piece, he was writing a handful of pieces a year.

Moreover, they seemed to reach out to listeners in a way that the earlier works had not. The Oboe Concerto (1987) and the Violin Concerto (1990) were decidedly lyrical, even though Mr. Carter’s harmonic language remained essentially dissonant. And in the “Triple Duo,” (1983) the dialogues within and between the three independent instrumental groups are slyly witty and even overtly comic.

Two Decades, Two Pulitzers

Mr. Carter taught at several American conservatories and colleges, including the Peabody Conservatory, Queens College, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cornell and the Juilliard School.

He was awarded Pulitzer Prizes for his Second String Quartet in 1960 and his Third String Quartet in 1973. A recording of his Violin Concerto won a Grammy Award for best contemporary composition in 1994.

Among his many awards was the National Medal of Arts, bestowed in 1985. In September, France awarded him the insignia of Commander of the Legion of Honor. Mr. Carter was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963 and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1969.

Mr. Carter did not seem bothered by objections to the difficulty of his music, and he expressed confidence that it would eventually be understood.

“There are many kinds of art,” he said in 1978, when asked what he had to say to concertgoers who felt that great music should have tunes that could be whistled. “Some kinds are hard to understand for some people, and easy to understand for others. But if the works are very good, then finally a lot of people will understand them. And it seems to me that if a work has something remarkable to say, then someone who wants to whistle it will find something in it to whistle. But these things are very subjective.

“Just this morning, I had a call from Ursula Oppens, who is playing my Piano Concerto. She said, ‘I finally know all the tunes in your concerto.’ I said, ‘Which tunes are those?’ And she whistled one. So there you are.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 6, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the given name of the musical director of the Seattle Symphony, for which Mr. Carter composed the piece “Instances” this year. He is Ludovic Morlot, not Pierre Morlot. It also misstated where the American premiere of Mr. Carter’s opera “What Next?” was performed. It was at Symphony Center in Chicago, not at Carnegie Hall. And because of an editing error, it misstated the year that Mr. Carter’s wife, the former Helen Frost-Jones, died. It was 2003, not 1998.


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