Tuesday morning radio featured a discussion of the Future of Classical Music on the Diane Rehm Show. Tuesday evening radio features a live broadcast of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA from Carnegie Hall. David Robertson conducts. Gil Shaham plays Britten’s Violin Concerto. Also on the program: Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Samuel Adams’ Radial Play (a Carnegie commission) and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Robertson and Shaham will be touring with the National YO across the U.S. this summer, with St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra alumnus Sean Byrne in the viola section. You can tune at at 7pm Central Time via http://bit.ly/1u7RIb0.
Tuesday morning on the Diane Rehm Show you can hear a discussion on The Future of Classical Music with guests Alex Ross, Greg Sandow, Orli Shaham and Fred Bronstein, former prez of the St. Louis Symphony and current dean of the Peabody Institute. Tune in at 10am Central Time on St. Louis Public Radio.
I will delay my anti-history screed to wish David Robertson a happy birthday. Saturday is the actual day. Thanks for making history with the St. Louis Symphony since your first concert with the orchestra in 1999.
With the storming of the Bastille recently celebrated, I thought this to be a good time for some provocation. Mid-July, as the French established, calls for mind and manners to be stirred up, rebelled against, or at the very least confronted.
Proposition: Classical music is mired in history. Even the name, “classical music” comes from a brief sliver of the music’s history, and yet it continues to burden our understanding, appreciation and recognition of that music in the present. Moreover, one cannot enjoy a “classical” music performance without a past performance intruding on the present—even when, especially when, that performance was heard by someone a few chairs over. “Oh, yes, this was good, but back in the ’70s Maestro Magnifico did it better.” The present experience is thus diminished by the rude interruption of the past.
I can’t think of an art form more burdened by history. Visual art, movies, literature, pop music—the question is always “What’s new?” In classical music, “Why aren’t you playing Schubert this season?” We are stuck on the oldies station.
So for mid-summer provocation, “La Marseillaise” in our heads, let’s consider an idea of history and how it might apply to classical music. It comes from Henry Ford: “History is bunk.”
Returning to the office after a lengthy vacation, I first went at the e-mail, making use of the delete button enthusiastically–except for those messages from Symphony musicians who left me their lists of Hot Picks for 1415.
It has become an annual summer ritual, in which I ask the musicians to tell me which concerts they are most eagerly anticipating. I try to catch them before they go to festivals in Aspen and Sun Valley and other magical summer places. Their responses are always illuminating.
Here are the top 5 picks of the 1415 season according to the musicians who are playing the music:
1) Rite of Spring – Feb 27-Mar 1
2) Opening Weekend – Sep 12-13
3) Mozart Sinfonia concertante/Shostakovich 8 – Apr 10-11
4) Prokofiev 5 – Sep 27-28 & Symphonie fantastique – Oct 17 & 19 (tie)
5) Schumann Cello/Mahler Das Lied von der Erde – Nov 22-23
Time for summer vacation. My next blog post will be Monday, July 14.
The big summer repair project at Powell Hall has begun. The original windows on the face of the building have long needed changing, and this summer it’s happening. New windows have been fabricated off-site and scaffolds have been set into place to take the old ones out and put the new ones in. The building will retain its 1925 elegance after all is done. Plus the windows won’t leak anymore.
The last concert of the season at Powell last Friday, the last free community concert was Cortango at the Siteman Center last week, a few opera performances left at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this week–somebody start singing “running from the grand ennui.”
Piano tuner Tom Zasadny usually has one piano to fret about, to torment over, to delicately adjust and readjust to the touch of virtuosos as varied in style and temperament as Yefim Bronfman, Jean Yves-Thibaudet, Andre Watts and Orli Shaham (who are all performing in the 1415 season, by the way).
For all that, no one seemed the least bit harried. Just do what is normally done, times five.
SymphonyCares goes to places not known for a lot of joy. But once musicians from the St. Louis Symphony have played for just a few minutes in those places, joy fills the rooms.
Thursday afternoon Cortango visited the atrium of the Siteman Center at Barnes Jewish Hospital. Cortango is made up of Symphony musicians Cally Banham (English horn), Asako Kuboki (violin), Dave DeRiso (double bass) and from the Sarasota Orchestra, where he is principal oboe, pianist/vocalist Adam De Sorgo. For this gig the Symphony’s Melissa Brooks joined on cello as well.
Wherever Cortango goes, tango dancers follow. And that included the Siteman Center on Thursday.
Before long the Siteman atrium had become a dance floor. Patients with their families and friends laughed and swayed to the tango rhythms. Hospital staff smiled and laughed and watched and took pictures. An oncologist hung her jacket on a tree and tangoed. You could feel anxiety empty out of the space, with that emptiness filled by the rhythms of tango. Of life.
SymphonyCares, under the direction of Maureen Byrne, brings clown acts to children’s hospitals, string duets to the infusion room. At Barnes Jewish she partnered with Sarah Colby, who is the hospital’s Arts & Healthcare Program Coordinator.
As there are more and more medical studies being published showing the benefits of such activities for improving health and well-being, we all know intuitively–music makes you feel better. Tango makes you feel better than that. You could see people in their wheelchairs feeling the rhythm of the dance. A little Piazzolla, and no one feels confined.