The CSO announced today that live concert broadcasting will begin in the spring of 2007. Along with that announcement comes word that the orchestra will start its own in-house recording label, known as CSO Resound. More information here, on the Time Out Chicago blog, and at the CSO website.
"String theory," Time Out Chicago, November 30, 2006. Maya Beiser brings her solo cello show to the Museum of Contemporary Art. "Bass, the final frontier," ditto. Mind-boggling bass virtuoso DaXun Zhang recitalizes. " 'There was a very small instrument, made out of plywood, that was a half-size instrument,' he recalls of his first efforts." Note to young musicians whose heads are filled with dreams of Carnegie Hall glory, record contracts and seeing your face in the pages of a weekly magazine: It helps to play a low string instrument. Just ask Yo-Yo Ma.
"Nicola Benedetti," CD review of her new Mendelssohn Violin Concerto recording, Time Out Chicago, November 23, 2006. "Martin Bresnick," review of his chamber music disc and DVD on the ever-interesting Cantaloupe label. TOC now has a redesigned, easier-to-navigate website, and all content, including listings is now FREE. There's a link straight to the Classical & Opera page from the main page, and listings are searchable. We're still working on getting all the kinks out, so let me know if you see something that doesn't make sense. Take some time and check it out.
The Chicago Police Department is more famous for shooting Black Panther leaders and torturing suspects than it is for its skills in wordplay, but the tide may be turning. In "Operation Rock Me Amadeus," a drug bust of an "open-air crack cocaine market"—not one of those popular covered crack cocaine markets which dot the city by the lake—the cops made 20 undercover narcotics purchases in the three months. The market is at the corner of 63rd St. and Mozart Avenue. The Mozart Year limps to its conclusion.
"Veni, Verdi, Vici," Time Out Chicago, November 16, 2006. Musicologist Philip Gossett's Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera demystifies the creation of critical editions of Verdi and Rossini's operas. Chances are, if you've heard a Verdi or Rossini opera in a major opera house, you've heard a performance of a score that Gossett had a hand in preparing. No dry academic, Gossett has gotten out into the real world of opera houses and seen how performers make the choices they need to in order to perform this repertoire faithfully. The story is in TOC's gift guide (99 cents on the newsstand!), and the book would make a perfect gift for that lover of Italian opera in your life. (Especially if that person can read musical notation.) An online excerpt of the book can be read here.
[Warning: Theoretical music discussion and minute comparisons below.]
With more and more rich material turning up on YouTube, the comparisons that are possible are spectacular. Here we have Daniel Barenboim playing the final movement of Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Op. 31, No. 2, and over here is Glenn Gould in the same. (Part 2 of Barenboim's take is here. Gould doesn't take the repeat, so he shaves off a few minutes.) Leave their tempo choices aside for a moment and take a look at their articulation and dynamics. (A handy score can be found on the Indiana University library's website; scroll to page 15.)
Barenboim follows the instruction for a subito (suddenly) change to piano in measure 17; Gould doesn't. The crescendo to forte that follows and the ensuing sforzando stabs in the treble are also played by Barenboim with greater conviction. Gould plays both the note an octave below the sforzando and the accented note the same. The descending chromatic scale marked espressivo flits past under Gould's finger and Barenboim takes his time with it, relaxing the tempo as he goes.
At the top of page 16, when we're now in A minor, the dominant, Barenboim's staccato octaves are merely separated, while Gould's are actually short. This is the sort of articulation that's entirely dependent on the tempo that's taken, for it would be impossible for Gould to play those octaves with any sort of resonance at that tempo. The turns at the bottom of page 15 are also dependent on the tempo, and their character changes, and changes the performance with it, enormously because of the tempo.
Finally, listen to how each plays the final descending arpeggio, marked morendo (dying away). Gould's dynamic barely changes, while Barenboim becomes almost inaudible. This isn't due simply to the means with which they were recorded, it's an interpretive decision.
Now, the piano Beethoven wrote it for may have benefited from Gould's tempo, and the modern may allow for Barenboim's slow tempo. Of the two, Gould is closer to the dotted quarter note equal 84 beats per minute in the Henle edition. Still, it's hard for me to say I prefer Gould's, because I don't.
If there are any readers in Indianapolis, please consider yourselves invited to a panel discussion on the state of arts journalism Saturday evening, in which I'm taking part. (I'm the designated blogger, I think.) The discussion is part of the Spirit and Place festival which exerted a powerful influence on me some ten (gosh) years ago when I was a wet behind the ears undergraduate at Butler University.
I had read a few books by the time I started college, but even having dusted off a bit of Albert Murray, a few of Richard Ford's novels and a one of J. Anthony Lukas' transfixing works of long-form journalism, my mind would be opened further by falling into the orbits ever so briefly of Peter Matthiessen, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Keneally and many others. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty gosh-darned thankful to be taking a small part in this festival now.
"Sonic youth," Time Out Chicago, November 9, 2006. The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra plays, or jams with, Michael Daugherty. But it's not all sun, light, and Care Bears. “Every once in a while [music director Allen Tinkham] has to get mad at us," confides violinist Emma Steele. (Do kids still play with Care Bears?)