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Astonishing Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto


Stephen  Fine
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17 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Myself, the desire is to program unheard if not living composer music after the break/ interval as it is important for whatever reasons to introduce something new in a performance. We serve ( small amount of ) drinks before and during if allowed and lots of, after with food. Retsina if requested. Mainly to create discussions and social groupings but truly to expand on listener's musical foundations. Sometimes the composers show up at the performance but many desire not to be there as the discussions become shallow. But others will definitely be there at the after meal and we as performers learn more about the piece and its intent as we further drill the composers that arrive.

But ultimately, being open-minded about any approach, is essential these days.

Thanks for your post!  I agree.  I just ordered a couple Saariaho scores.  I've started keeping a list of good chamber music pieces I want to learn moving forward.

 

----

Philip, you'll be happy to know (perhaps you're already up on it) that the data tend to back up your criticism of Dallas's programming.  Audiences are hungry for new music.  They're enthusiastic about modern stagings. I think successful people in the arts management world have known for years that if you trust your audience instead of coddling them, you will be rewarded.  I think part of the problem is inertia. But another large part of the problem is catering to the cantankerous few.  Squeaky wheels gets the grease.

I just took a fascinating arts management seminar on Coursera a couple months ago by the guy who used to run the Kennedy Center.  It was called The Cycle.  If anyone here is serving on the board of any arts organization, or running their own arts organization, no matter the size, I highly recommend the course.

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13 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

 Ummmmno. I’ve played six or seven Donizetti operas and He’s maybe the most infuriating composer I’ve ever played. Every single aria, every single one, stops and starts and stops and starts: There are chords and fermatas, and silence and then more chords and then slow pizzicati arpeggios and “please Lord, take me now.” And then it ends and the next one is exactly the same.  Every Donizetti opera has one signature aria that includes the harp playing arpeggios, and a cello or viola or violin solo, while the rest of the orchestra goes “pluck, rest rest rest pluck rest rest rest,” For an eternity. And because the harp never plays anywhere except in the overture and that single aria, the harpist said,”maestro can we do my aria after the overture” and then he would go home while the rest of us looked after him enviously, before returning to the numbness that would fill the next 2.5 hours.

I lead a holy life, because surely Hell is one long eternity of Donizetti operas. He wrote about 70, and I’d have to play them all...

nope... 

Hah!  Good to know!  I've only ever accompanied selected arias which it sounds like is the best way to enjoy Donizetti.

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2 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

Hah!  Good to know!  I've only ever accompanied selected arias which it sounds like is the best way to enjoy Donizetti.

That is correct. The overtures are often very good too. The overture to Robert Devereaux is a masterpiece and had me looking forward to the opera itself as an exception to the rule, but his “history” operas are even worse than his comedies, because they are deadly serious. Save us!

The recently departed director of Dallas has a very forward vision and commissioned new operas and scheduled a couple other recent ones)in his brief time with the company. I applaud his vision but not his judgement. All the operas he scheduled(Therese Raquin, Moby Dick, Death and the Powers, Everest, the Sunken Garden, and Great Scott) are awful. The lyrics are bad, the music is not just bad but sloppily written and orchestrated, with multiple unplayable lines. During Therese Raquin, the composer was with us, and the flute politely asked if he really wanted a particular passage played as written, because it was too high for the flute. He blinked and said,” of course” but he was clearly surprised by the question. But he had no idea how to orchestrate.

Moby Dick could have been good but again the orchestration is impossible and the cello part at least is full of uncellistic passages that any competent composer would have revoiced. The big final scene is three pages of unplayable smears.

The Sunken garden premier was the source of the funniest review the London Times(? One of the London papers) ever wrote. Not laudatory, BTW. I was looking for it to share but it seems to be behind a paywall.

Everest was the biggest disappointment. What an incredible story! Calling your wife from the top of My Everest to say,”hi I’m freezing to death, name our child Sara.” Could have been one of the great emotional moments in the history of opera, but it was wasted. Every aspect of the opera from music to pacing to lyrics was worse than useless. Someone who didn’t know the story beforehand would be pressed to even follow the action.

So vision is important, but judgement is equally so.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

That is correct. The overtures are often very good too. The overture to Robert Devereaux is a masterpiece and had me looking forward to the opera itself as an exception to the rule, but his “history” operas are even worse than his comedies, because they are deadly serious. Save us!

The recently departed director of Dallas has a very forward vision and commissioned new operas and scheduled a couple other recent ones)in his brief time with the company. I applaud his vision but not his judgement. All the operas he scheduled(Therese Raquin, Moby Dick, Death and the Powers, Everest, the Sunken Garden, and Great Scott) are awful. The lyrics are bad, the music is not just bad but sloppily written and orchestrated, with multiple unplayable lines. During Therese Raquin, the composer was with us, and the flute politely asked if he really wanted a particular passage played as written, because it was too high for the flute. He blinked and said,” of course” but he was clearly surprised by the question. But he had no idea how to orchestrate.

Moby Dick could have been good but again the orchestration is impossible and the cello part at least is full of uncellistic passages that any competent composer would have revoiced. The big final scene is three pages of unplayable smears.

The Sunken garden premier was the source of the funniest review the London Times(? One of the London papers) ever wrote. Not laudatory, BTW. I was looking for it to share but it seems to be behind a paywall.

Everest was the biggest disappointment. What an incredible story! Calling your wife from the top of My Everest to say,”hi I’m freezing to death, name our child Sara.” Could have been one of the great emotional moments in the history of opera, but it was wasted. Every aspect of the opera from music to pacing to lyrics was worse than useless. Someone who didn’t know the story beforehand would be pressed to even follow the action.

So vision is important, but judgement is equally so.

Ever hear of Carlisle Floyd?  Oh, Susannah!   :rolleyes: :lol:

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16 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Ever hear of Carlisle Floyd?  Oh, Susannah!   :rolleyes: :lol:

I’m not sure what this says about me, but we frequently play arias from Susanna, And I always lean over to my stand partner and say, “I like this. I wonder what the whole opera is like.” I think he lived in Texas and died fairly recently, and even if it’s not a great Opera, I would certainly be willing to give it some stage time. Another Opera we did along time ago was “the tempest“ by Lee Hoiby. I loved it start to finish. What a wonderful opera.

The problem with modern opera is that it doesn’t start from any particular substantial foundation. Doesn’t necessarily start with a logical story, the lyrics are apparently dismissed as irrelevant, there’s no pacing no sequencing no logical flow from one event to the next, and the music has no relation to what’s happening on stage.

Another of Shaw’s wonderful articles was a review of Boito’s Mephistofole, In which Shaw wrote that a really good literary man can write a really good opera, much better than a really good musician can, because ultimately Opera is theater.

Was a Brilliant article. The problem is that most modern opera is nothing. It is neither good theater nor good music. And unless that changes, well, we can’t keep doing the magic flute forever.

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48 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I’m not sure what this says about me, but we frequently play arias from Susanna, And I always lean over to my stand partner and say, “I like this. I wonder what the whole opera is like.” I think he lived in Texas and died fairly recently, and even if it’s not a great Opera, I would certainly be willing to give it some stage time. Another Opera we did along time ago was “the tempest“ by Lee Hoiby. I loved it start to finish. What a wonderful opera.

The problem with modern opera is that it doesn’t start from any particular substantial foundation. Doesn’t necessarily start with a logical story, the lyrics are apparently dismissed as irrelevant, there’s no pacing no sequencing no logical flow from one event to the next, and the music has no relation to what’s happening on stage.

Another of Shaw’s wonderful articles was a review of Boito’s Mephistofole, In which Shaw wrote that a really good literary man can write a really good opera, much better than a really good musician can, because ultimately Opera is theater.

Was a Brilliant article. The problem is that most modern opera is nothing. It is neither good theater nor good music. And unless that changes, well, we can’t keep doing the magic flute forever.

Yup, Susannah is notable among modern operas in that it actually has soprano arias, and that it has established some traction in the repertoire may be due to that.   Floyd is still around.  His latest opera got performed in Houston back in 2016.  He's known to me because he was on the music faculty at FSU several decades ago, and they belatedly conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 2011.  His stuff, and an old interview with him occasionally pops up in the sparse local programming of their classical FM station.

IMHO, the crown jewel of American opera is Bernstein's Candide, which has little serious competition, other than Porgy and Bess.   :)                                                                                                              

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58 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Yup, Susannah is notable among modern operas in that it actually has soprano arias, and that it has established some traction in the repertoire may be due to that.   Floyd is still around.  His latest opera got performed in Houston back in 2016.  He's known to me because he was on the music faculty at FSU several decades ago, and they belatedly conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 2011.  His stuff, and an old interview with him occasionally pops up in the sparse local programming of their classical FM station.

IMHO, the crown jewel of American opera is Bernstein's Candide, which has little serious competition, other than Porgy and Bess.   :)                                                                                                              

I have played porgy three times, and it is incredible. The opening of the second act, after the storm, never fails to make me cry.

I do not know Candide, and I wonder why we’ve never done it, and the only thing I can think of is that it’s not very good. Otherwise, with Bernstein’s name behind it, and a very good original story, I can’t see any other reason why it hasn’t gotten lots of play. We also did barber’s soap opera “Vanessa” Which has wonderful music but a pretty stupid story.

A logical and emotionally meaningful story

Well told, with a well chosen libretto and without needless padding

Good music.

that’s all a good Opera needs, and sometimes, one can get away without one of those qualities.

Too often, in fact mostly, operas have none of them.

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Just a funny aside - even though I'm working from home, a couple of my comfy sweatshirts have given up the ghost, so I treated myself to a couple of new ones - that I'm not embarrassed to be seen in on an impromptu Zoom call.  

One sweatshirt is mildly 'deconstructed', barely noticeable.  It had to be delivered to hubby's office city address.  He opened the package without reading the label, thinking it was company merchandise of some sort and exclaimed 'OMG!  This is the ugliest thing ever!" 

LOL.  Well, it's not.  It's totally inoffensive and a little cute.  I'm surprised he even noticed the styling.

But - it's more proof of how we immediately make a visual judgement.

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22 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I have played porgy three times...  I do not know Candide, and I wonder why we’ve never done it, and the only thing I can think of is that it’s not very good. 

You've probably played the overture to Candide.    There are reasons good stuff isn't played and worse stuff is played all the time

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22 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

You've probably played the overture to Candide.    There are reasons good stuff isn't played and worse stuff is played all the time

I’ve played the overture a dozen times. I like it very much, but that just reinforces that the opera itself probably isn’t anything to write home about.

Bizet wrote an appalling little opera called “Dr Miracle,” which is the biggest waste of time I’ve ever seen onstage. But the overture is delightful. Maybe overtures are easier than operas? Go figure.

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24 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

To write...

I’ve played the bartered bride overture once, and Loved it. It was with a really good orchestra too, so we did it justice. No idea about the opera itself, though I am assuming it isn’t a great work.

I heard an excellent version on YT a year or two ago and I eventually managed to find it again . Hope you'll enjoy it - this orch never fails to amaze me :

 

 

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43 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

For the fiddles it's an awkward moto perpetuo.  It's a common audition excerpt

 

The cellos too, but I was wise enough to choose cello, so the awkwardness is shorter and easier.

god bless cellos!

this was a very nice rendition. I would vote for him.

edit: he also appears to be using neither chin rest nor shoulder rest!

hats off!

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On 12/2/2020 at 5:07 PM, PhilipKT said:

 Ummmmno. I’ve played six or seven Donizetti operas and He’s maybe the most infuriating composer I’ve ever played. Every single aria, every single one, stops and starts and stops and starts: There are chords and fermatas, and silence and then more chords and then slow pizzicati arpeggios and “please Lord, take me now.” And then it ends and the next one is exactly the same.  Every Donizetti opera has one signature aria that includes the harp playing arpeggios, and a cello or viola or violin solo, while the rest of the orchestra goes “pluck, rest rest rest pluck rest rest rest,” For an eternity.   ( ... )

Not to introduce another tangent...

Bel Canto - style, and that style is defined by so many in so many ways, is a problematic in modern-era due to its reliance of having a vastly superior conductor. As you describe it, it is full of dramatic expression but the mood of the music may be vastly different by modern standards. Death and tragedy maybe accompanied with a bouncy allegro 6/8 in a major key.

For most companies, to have the extra rehearsals to make it more artistic, if not interesting is budget prohibitive. I have been fortunate enough to have performed semi-staged productions with a chamber orchestra on stage, that highlight singers and the dramatics through their talents. This was many years ago with a de-tuned orchestra and gut strings. Have not played very much else in that style since, though there are a few fine conductors out there that possibly have good ideas for modern audiences.

It is a bit niche and one might subscribe to a Opera newsletter as do the fans of Bruckner and Wagner to hear performances ( not now ) of a more obscure production or wait for the afterlife. 

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On 12/3/2020 at 9:45 AM, Violadamore said:

Some souflaki and baklava would be appreciated as well.  Good philosophizing requires a lot of fuel.  :)

I do not want to trivialize arts funding, because it is necessary. Personal productions have not received grant funding for 20 years and I supply most refreshments though some of it is donated. If an ensemble is hosted by a benefactor that truly helps. I just wish that some landlords would offer unoccupied or un-leased spaces to organizations at a discount. 

Though larger ensembles have mostly a European influence ( making some grant writing difficult ) the cooperative nature of the endeavour is crucial. And the run of the Nutcracker becomes necessary...

But will remark that baklava broke my finances. I get a great deal on baklava from a Persian market and probably order too much but it is easy enough to find homes for scraps. The difficulty was not the potential nut allergy but the capsule coffees that we were also requested to serve. SO have since served free drip coffee and $2 capsule coffees. The musicians or family members are nice enough to bring their units and we act as baristas for about 30min. Wine is cheaper as most do not drink more than two glasses and frankly, for many, they are not so picky when it comes to free wine.

But not an issue now. Stay resolute.

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27 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

Bel Canto - style, and that style is defined by so many in so many ways, is a problematic in modern-era due to its reliance of having a vastly superior conductor.

Interesting.

For some 45 years  I was under the exact opposite impression. But I am not to old to change my mind if I hear any good reason. :)

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

To write...

I’ve played the bartered bride overture once, and Loved it. It was with a really good orchestra too, so we did it justice. No idea about the opera itself, though I am assuming it isn’t a great work.

Marcia Davenport (OK-- not a pro, but the daughter of Alma Gluck) raved about the whole opera.  But largely because Gustav Mahler conducted it at the Met.  Eons ago, I saw Jon Vickers sing in it.  I think that production is available on DVD from the Met, assuming they will touch anything with Levine's name on it now.

Oh, and that Czech Philharmonic performance of the Overture is fantastic.  I'd done some of the dances, I think, back in youth orchestra.  But the Overture is several steps above, and they really nail it.

 

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34 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

Interesting.

For some 45 years  I was under the exact opposite impression. But I am not to old to change my mind if I hear any good reason. :)

In the past, so many conductors were brutal and singers, with the exception of the celebrity singers, kept many singers in check. This was done for practical reasons as if one were to give to much reign to a group of singers, the overall arc of the composer's work would dissolve and the artistic choices of the company would be compromised at the least and at worse become a chaotic.

Was Solti the last of that breed? One of my instructors worked for Szell and said it was a very difficult place to perform. I started performing in ensembles in the 80s where musicians were not putting up with dictator-like conductors. This was also the era that the music union was less supportive of their members. So smaller ensembles formed with little fear of being pulled off union lists out west. It was also a time when the quality of ensemble were inconsistent and the artistic gap between the big city bullies and the regional ensembles were increasing leading to many groups folding. Then big name conductors started travelling regionally ( to sell tickets ) but picked up checks without serving the communities well.   

Most singers, still, are happy to get work so most listen and work intently. But for a large company to charge what they do, the production must be vastly superior. I have been to several productions where the lobby talk was that the singing was good but generally the show was boring. The drama tends to go limp.

As PhilipKT had described, that the ensemble experience can be halting and unpleasant at times. Comic operas of the period were pleasant enough and audiences audibly laugh throughout the performance and Rossini can be a blast to perform. But darker themes require a deft touch. I do not want to qualify this with an example, but would remark that both Pavoratti and Callas ( regardless of general opinions of their lifetime of work ) - and many others - have produced respected Bel Canto-style recordings. Passionate or understated, a thoughtful conductor is a better conduit for the better singers to bring to the stage.

The ensemble I performed in had a conductor who was a minimalist ( in size of stick movement, though his body said so much either loose, free, crouched or tense - and he's on stage ) and forced us to listen, to taper. His facial expressions, grimaces, smirks, heads-up eyes closed horizontal "please keep pausing" sweeping, truly helped in keeping the ensemble in check. No Harp and a period piano. He also spent many extra hours at the piano with each singer and the staging required dramatic pauses. That's been my experience as there are many adequate conductors or leaders out there, but as per price of each seat in the hall, the standards should be higher to have that better experience whatever that might be for the audience.

I do have to agree with you in that singers who prepare recitals of a particular style are more likely to make their way to the Bel Canto stage and their inexperience in the role require a more marked, if not a predictable approach to performance.

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55 minutes ago, Ernee said:

Oh, and that Czech Philharmonic performance of the Overture is fantastic. 

Most everything with them, if sufficiently prepared, it's truly fantastic. I stepped over the sound of that string section 40some years ago with Paul Kletzki's Beethoven Symphs.  Something conductors should be compelled to listen to under pain of death. 

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1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

In the past, so many conductors were brutal and singers, with the exception of the celebrity singers, kept many singers in check. This was done for practical reasons as if one were to give to much reign to a group of singers, the overall arc of the composer's work would dissolve and the artistic choices of the company would be compromised at the least and at worse become a chaotic.

Was Solti the last of that breed? One of my instructors worked for Szell and said it was a very difficult place to perform...................................................

.............................................................

You know what ? I think you might just be right. I have a tendency to position everything into a historical context.  200 years ago there were a couple of fine opera houses but most opera was heard from small ensembles of barely competent musicians and the entire drive was to showcase the singers. Opera composers knew it and I suspect that a lot of mannerisms helped accommodate just that. Also, it seems the public was acutely interested in singers and very little in the orchestra. That might explain the horrendous brass "orchestras" we hear in many early opera recordings.   

I don't know how difficult Solti was but he was definitely an authoritarian. Hungarian conductors  were, in general. But we shouldn't blame them - they were and still are GREAT conductors. In the same time I got the impression (  only from recordings ) that Solti wasn't prone to an absurd level of micromanagement. Something a couple of German conductors were known to indulge in. When you stop the orchestra 20 times on a bar no wonder the musicians lose the will to live. Completely OT but for many years I avoided Hungarian conductors and pianists because to my ear they tended to sound too bright. I think I am almost over it... :)   And now, that we were talking of him, here's Solti :

 

 

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