November 28, 2015

A Polish musical joke

Does one have to be a Pole or just plain fucking nuts to sit through a full-length piano recital (see below) with nothing but Chopin's nocturnes on the program? This being Warsaw, and with Chopin being the only Polish-born composer of universally acknowledged genius, I can understand the collective lunacy of the audience as a masochistic expression of patriotism.  But I can think of no excuse for the (sadistic? delusional? dim-witted?) pianist Maria Joao Pires who has maintained a decades-long career with tidy, small-scale performances of the same two-three dozen pieces, all written before 1850 and learned by her in early childhood.  If there ever will be a poster announcing the death of classical music, I think this poster may well have Ms Pires' face on it.

21.00 Special piano recital
Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall
Maria João Pires Maria João Pires (piano) - Portuguese pianist - soloist and excellent chamber musician, appeared all over the globe with all the major orchestras. more »

news Julien Brocal (piano) - French pianist more »


Fryderyk Chopin

  • Nocturne in B flat minor, Op. 9 No. 1 Op. 9 No. 1
  • Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2
  • Nocturne in B major, Op. 9 No. 3
  • Nocturne in F major, Op. 15 No. 1 Op. 15 No. 1
  • Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2
  • Nocturne in G minor, Op. 15 No. 3 Op. 15 No. 3
  • Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1 Op. 27 No. 1
  • Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2
  • Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1
  • Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2
  • Nocturne in B major, Op. 62 No. 1 Op. 62 No. 1
  • Nocturne in E major, Op. 62 No. 2 Op. 62 No. 2

November 13, 2015

A cure for the common cold

Well, maybe not a cure but, in my case at least, a very effective remedy: the gentle and surprisingly sweet Clarinet Quintet composed by Elliott Carter in his 99th year.

Recorded live in Strasbourg on July 3, 2013, the affectionate performance by Armand Angster and Ardeo Quartet made me forget not only my sore throat and clogged sinuses, but also my earlier encounters with the studio recording by Charles Neidich and the Juilliard Quartet for whom this piece was originally written.

November 1, 2015

When musical America sided with Hitler and Stalin

LIFE Magazine, Nov. 22, 1943, reporting on the fee for first performance rights paid by Columbia Broadcasting Corporation for Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony

The first performance rights fee of $10,000 [1] paid in 1943 for Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony may not seem impressive in relation to a single concert fee of $3,000-4,000 commanded in the 1940s by top performers like Vladimir Horowitz and Jascha Heifetz [2].  However, when compared to the typical first performance fee of $100 paid at that time for the music of American composers [3], the Shostakovich fee seems downright astronomical.

I have never encountered an explanation of this shocking disparity, but I am sure it cannot be explained by supposing that the princely sum paid for Shostakovich's symphony was a deliberately over-generous show of support for the music's role as a symbol of  struggle against Nazism.  Such an explanation would be doubtful for at least two reasons.