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.