Kaija Saariaho

Charles T. Downey of ionarts posts about the cancellation of last night's premiere performance of Kaija Saariaho's second opera, Adriana Mater. He includes some good comments about some of the composer's music that is available on discs, compact and digital video.

My understanding is that the premiere is scheduled now for Monday evening. Still enough time to get there.

Takács Quartet



This and that

Terry Teachout has provocative posts up, one about criticism and the other about the standard repertoire and multiple recordings thereof. I agree with the larger points of posts, if not with some of the particulars. For example, I agree w/r/t Gatsby over The Sun Also Rises, but not with the statement about accessibility in new music. The point being, of course, that opinion is what opinion writing is all about.

I've added M. Keiser and PWS to the blogroll.

Workshop note: I've finished a pair of piano nocturnes. If you would like a copy, drop me an e-mail.


Here and There

I've added Bart Collins and Adam Baratz to the blogroll. Enjoy!

Helen Radice notes connections between two 101 pieces, Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Connections between pieces of different styles are any important part of the 101 project, and Ms. Radice shows in her post how it works. Granted, the difference between Mahler and Britten is not all that large, but the gap in time and history is telling, and further connections, to styles more far afield, are waiting to be heard and remarked upon.



Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra

For those of you in the Greenville, SC area, my for John Boda: What stays with me II (for flute, clarinet, and marimba) is being performed Wednesday evening at Furman University at 8 o'clock.


Magic, etc.

Far be it from me to speak for Greg Sandow, who is capable and willing to do so for himself, but I still think A. C. Douglas is misreading Greg's post about Brahms' orchestration. A. C. reads Greg's analysis of the practical reasons that may have motivated some of Brahms' choices as an attempt to deny the "magic" of the music, the "magic" of other composers of the past, and thereby to raise the composers of today to their level. It's very clear from this post and others that the only way contemporary composers can be on the level of the greats of the past (in A.C.'s ear) is to denigrate the past.

I don't find that in Greg's post. Not at all. He fully acknowledge's the greatness of Brahms' music. Hell, he spends a lot of time, thought, and virtual ink on a couple of measures of a symphony in order to show part of how it's done. A. C. writes that these the magical results of the masters of the past is part of the result of these practical choices, which is not substantially different from what Greg finds, though he comes at it from a different direction.

A. C.'s approach is essentially to use the past to bludgeon the present, but that only works if you accept his assumption that high quality, magical music isn't being written today, at least not by today's "visible" composers. If one listens and reads from that assumption, then one can find support for it, even if it isn't there.

Finally, A.C. criticizes Greg's analysis as "simpleminded at best, not to say approached from the wrong direction", which comment I find baffling. It was a narrowly focused article, treating it's subject in great detail, and from a variety of angles. It also inspires further thought, like the notion I've had for some time that one of the indications of a great tonal composer is how that composer handles the middle voices, which is one of Brahms' strengths (Mozart's as well, for that matter). As to the "wrong direction" comment, the house of art has many mansions, and many ways to approach. Any critical/analytic approach that helps you hear the piece or repertoire in question differently/more clearly is most assuredly not from the "wrong direction".



I may be wrong, but I think A. C. Douglas may be misreading me in this post about this post. In my post I praised Marc Geelhoed's use of the word "cool" to describe a piece after he had done a more traditional discussion of it. I then ended my post with a comment about pieces by Elliott Carter that are "cool" and "bitchin'". Mr. Douglas seems to read that as my definitive statement on the pieces. It isn't. That's coming in the review I'm working on for Sequenza 21.

I think Mr. Douglas is also misreading Greg Sandow's fine and fairly technical post on Brahms' orchestration. Far from belittling or diminishing Brahms' achievement (as Mr. Douglas clearly thinks he is), Mr. Sandow is showing how it's the details, often the very practical and seemingly mundane details, that reveal how great art works. Musical instruments cannot play notes outside their ranges (normally), and how composers handle that bit of craft/technique is revelatory of their greatness as artists.

Finally, I would like to amend yesterday's post regarding the Carter Dialogues: I meant to say that the piece is "totally bitchin'".



Marc Geelhoed, music critic for Time Out Chicago magazine and the proprietor of the blog Deceptively Simple, posts about how an art critic at the Chicago Tribune had objected to Mr. Geelhoed's use of the word "cool" in a review of a piano concerto by Marc-Andre Dalbavie:

the article[. . .]closed with the sentence, "Oh, yeah—and the concerto sounds cool, too." This was after a fairly detailed description of how Dalbavie alters the patterns that comprise the work and how he ties his style to [medieval composers] Leonin and Perotin.
This seems perfectly resonable to me. It's important for concert music to expand its audience (given the pay for play world we inhabit) and using language that is understood by the public-at-large is a perfectly legitimate way to communicate. I don't see how it cheapens our art in the least.

I'm working on a review of two recent Elliott Carter discs for Sequenza 21, and I'm happy to say that, while my personal jury is still out on a couple of the pieces/performances, the Boston Concerto is actually very cool, and Dialogues (piano and orchestra) is bitchin'.



I've posted a review of music by George Crumb at Sequenza 21.

I listened to a lot of Crumb as an undergraduate. I kind of overdosed on it, but not before I was able to attend a great concert of Crumb's music by performers including the great Jan DeGaetani, Gilbert Kalish, and others. Eventually, it started to sound like strung together sound effects.

So it was with some interpidation that I began to listen to the two Bridge discs for that review. I wanted to be able to give it a fair hearing. It turned out to be a revelatory experience, and I'm glad I got the opportunity.

I overdosed on minimalism at the same time. Maybe I need some hair of that dog, too.