Hyperbole, Literally

I've never even explored the Lafyette Daily Advertiser, although perhaps the name is intended as a warning rather than a title.

However, a loyal reader recommended this review to me.

ASO Performs the 'concert of the season'

Well. Hyperbole can be an excellent rhetorical device, but not when overused. See, the whole idea is that overstating your case amplifies your argument, right? So overstating your overstatements just...doesn't work. Lets check with Ray Blum of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser:

Make absolutely no mistake about it,


when the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra is hot, you can fry an egg on a trombone.

Whee! Hyperbole!

From the first note, their latest concert proved to redefine musical excellence

That is a strong statement! I mean, there's like lots of other outstanding orchestras in this country alone who...oh, wait, were you using hyperbole again! Outstanding!

and coincidentally cause the Heymann's thermostats to tremble.

Whee! Hyperbole! Do you know any other rhetorical devices? No? Fuck.

Focusing on the orchestral music of Russia, specifically that of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Mussorsky,

I think you spelled "Mussorgsky" wrong, but, transliteration being what it is, so be it.

Maestro Mariusz Smolij and his musicians presented as flawless a performance as any music lover could ask.

"As flawless a performance as any music lover could ask." Literally! Literally? Literally!

Beginning with the opening selection, Tchaikovsky's Coronation March, there was not a relaxed bone anywhere in the audience.

I'm not a doctor; I don't even play one on TV. But my limited biological understanding is that bones cannot relax. Muscles, sure. Bones are pretty much hard matter...wait, is this hyperbole again? Well done! There's no way to overuse that rhetorical device! (Much like snark...)

Even in those measures when the music had a pastoral calmness, the exactitude of every note

The exactitude? Really?

in the performance improved everyone's posture, somehow to mirror the superb posture of the quality to which the orchestra's efforts reached.

The...posture of the quality to which...what? I don't know what that means. I don't know if what you wrote means anything. At all.

As formidable as the musicians have become,

The musicians are scary? Foreboding? Causing apprehension?

much must be also said about the ingeniousness of the ASO's staff. These folks have done what every orchestra in the United States should do - they have taken "classical music"

Oh, I fucking love scare quotes.

off its pedestal

Off of its pedastal?

and created educational programs that balances the instrumental brilliance of its performers.

While this seems like a noble pursuit, I have to point out that "programs" agree with "balance". "Program" would agree with "balances". If you need a grammar book, Mr/Ms writer or editor, there are several I can recommend. Mrs. Arepo favors the Chicago Manual of Style.

They have brought music to the schools, to the street corners, parks and to the festivals and by doing so have markedly increased the public's appreciation of the orchestra's music.

I wholeheartedly support this kind of effort.

Even on a weekend evening when the Cajuns are playing a home game and the Tigers are on television, the house was pretty well filled. To executive director Denise Melancon and the remainder of the staff as well as to the ASO's board, bravos and bravas to all concerned!

LSU got beat down by Georgia. I don't know who the Cajuns are, presumably some local outfit. Still, it's heartening to know that during football season there are a few hundred or so Louisianians who go to "classical music" [sic] concerts.

The standout piece of the evening was the three movements of the pianist/composer Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. Featuring the enormous talent of guest pianist Antonio de Cristaphano, the performance touched every emotion in the musical lexicon.

Lexicons are usually about...words, not emotions. Still, analogy accepted, if his enormous talent actually touched (?) every emotion in the...emoticon?

Its touch was secure, bold and assured, as well as gentle. De Cristaphano is a pianist of monumental proportion.

He's...really...fat? Or...hyperbole?

The gentleman literally commanded the piano with the calm assurance of an admiral balanced by the sure power of a chief boatswain's mate.

Okay. I'm repeating myself here but LITERALLY DOES NOT MEAN FIGURATIVELY.

Regardless of the composition, Rachmininoff is a tough musical nut to crack. I know of few composers who can employ all 88 keys in one composition. He does!


Rachminoff's hands could stretch out in an interval of 13 keys, from a C to a C in the next octave and then to the A in the next octave! With his king-sized hands and peninsular fingers, technical difficulty was certainly not troubling to him at all. That was why his piano works are so difficult and impractical for those with small hands, that is, for those pianists with "normal" hands.

Um, okay? Yes, he had big hands. And again with the scare quotes?

The pianist caught the composer's "Russianness,"

I don't even want to go there.

his love of the melancholy, especially in the second Adagio movement. He did so without ignoring the lyrical, melodious, exotic and expressive aspects

Which are apparently not part of "Russianness"? Whoa. Those damn Russians are not lyrical at all.

of Rachmaninoff's musical personality so dominant in the Allegro third movement. The guest performer, in recognition of the lengthy thunder of the audience's standing ovation, then performed an encore, part of Rocky's



Opus 6 to be played with one hand. What de Cristaphano did with one hand would easily flummox a pianistic octopus.

Hey! Hyperbole!

Since the audience was so enthusiastic in their appreciation, Maestro Smolij was unable to point out the superior solo work of a pair of his musicians, oboist Perry Trosclair and horn maestro Rod Lauderdale. Their work certainly added to the performance's luster. Oh, and by the way, thanks for the "A," Perry.

Is...is he your teacher? I hope he's your horn instructor and not your grammar teacher.

As beautifully performed as the Rachmaninoff was, as an educator my favorite piece was the closing Pictures at an Exhibition.

Mussorsky's composition is wonderful, but considering its 16 movements, it can produce a drowsy stupor in almost everyone, until

Almost everyone. Not me, though. But almost everyone. Hyperbole? Mmm, on the verge, perhaps.

... well, wait, until it's performed by the ASO. Considering the fact that Mussorsky wrote his Pictures after visiting an art museum, why the heck not show some pictures?

Wow. That is a novel idea. Pictures...with pictures.

Smolij and his faithful sidekick,

Sidekick? Holy back-handed compliment, Batman!

Melancon, contacted the art teachers at Ascension Day School, Our Lady of Fatima Elementary and Paul Breaux Middle to sort of reverse engineer the Russian. Their students listened to the music and then prepared their visual images of that which the music inspired. As the musicians performed the music, visuals of the young artists' renditions were projected as a Power Point onto a screen suspended behind the orchestra. Like I mentioned earlier, these folks take their genius quite seriously.

I don't know what that last sentence means, sorry. Sounds like a cool idea, though.

Treat yourselves by attending the ASO's next performance. For that matter, it isn't too late to pick up a couple of season tickets. You'll thank yourself.

I'm all for championing "classical music" (as it were). I'm also all for writing. And even-handed use of hyperbole.

(Thanks to anzu for the tip.)


General Relativity

Einstein thought that time is a pliable fabric. But, I don’t think he meant it quite like this:

The Bayside Trio push the boundaries of modern classical music, performing works by living or recent composers.

You know, recent composers...

For their weekend of concerts the Bayside Trio will perform two works with mezzo-soprano Solange Merdinian: Maurice Ravel’s Chansons Madécasses...

...like Ravel, who has been dead, oh, since 1937. That’s right. Seventy-one years ago, Maurice Ravel died (he's certainly not living, so he must be recent, right?). Yet, Chansons Madécasses was written only a paltry eighty-two years ago, in 1926! At the time, Elliott Carter was only 17. The economy was alive and well. Herbert Hoover had a 53% approval rating (I made that up for my own satisfaction). The St. Louis Cardinals had just won their first World Series. The first transaltlantic telephone call just took place (“Uh...is Ivan Nuglibutt there?). 1926 was also the inaugural year for the National Bar Association. My how time flies when it has holes in it! Er...when it can be folded.

But I don’t blame our dear author too much. After all, there seems to be something of an all-encompassing sensory confusion thing taking place:

For some classical concert-goers, the group’s edgy program selections might be difficult to digest.

Chemical breakdown is a nice metaphor, if you’re into the campy cliché thing. (Really, is Ravel difficult to digest?) Instead, this is what I mean:

But the Bayside Trio perform for those who wish to see something different, something new, something alive. [drama mine]

So, the targeted audience is made up of...

Angela Stratiy, Andrew Foster, Ann Marie (Jade) Bryan, Bernard Bragg, Betty Miller, Christy Smith, Chuck Baird, Clayton Valli, Deanne Bray, Dummy Hoy, Heather Whitestone McCallum, I. King Jordan, Linda Bove, Marlee Matlin, Phyllis Frelich, Pinky the Deaf Juggler & Unicyclist, Terrylene Sachetti, Trix Bruce, etc.?

I don’t know about y’all, but I generally go to concerts to hear “something different, something new, something alive”--that's what usually happens when I go to a concert of music.

Then again, maybe I’m in my own strange dimension, because everyone seems to be seeing things out of whack.

“So many of my favorite modern composers came to classical music from a different place, like jazz or folk music,” says pianist Anastasia Antonacos. “The first classical composer they all seem to discover is Stravinsky and then they travel backward in time from there.”

(enter Rod Serling here)


Title Fail

I’ve no problem with this review—Kyle MacMillan of the Denver Post is, as usual, on his game. But the editor, or whomever gave this piece a title was off in a seedy motel sucking down qualudes with vodka. To explicate, Kyle starts off thusly:

The Colorado Symphony and Friends of Chamber Music sometimes include unusual offerings on their lineups, but fans typically have to look to smaller niche organizations for large doses of such repertoire. [italics mine]

But the title giver gives us this gem:

An eclectic offering from chamber group

Did I miss the memo? Last I heard, “unusual” does not mean “eclectic.”

See, the performance included pieces such as Paul Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1, Op. 24a, for 12 Solo Instruments (1922), Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 (1940), and Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 2, "Company" (1984). Generally speaking, pieces written within 62 years of one another don’t necessarily make for an eclectic offering. That’s like saying, “The Philharmonic played an eclectic concert that included pieces by Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms.”

Whatever, this is more of a public service announcement: You should not take qualudes, especially if you plan on drinking copious amounts of vodka—it makes you forget how to interpret chronological timelines and it makes you write inappropriate synonyms. There are other, less damaging side effects, too. There is nothing wrong with seedy motels, however.


By the way, if you’re thinking that the title reflects the eclectic styles of the pieces, save your commentary, because I disagree. Beethoven to Schubert to Brahms would be very eclectic, too, then. I’d argue that their styles are just as normative as Hindemith, Shostakovich and Glass’ styles given a 62-year long, evolving Zeitgeist. Also, I take it back. Don’t go to seedy motels for any reason—most no longer honor frequent flyer miles, which could lead to qualudes and vodka. I speak from experience.


Turning the Vernacular Academic?

On one hand, the pop industry has been under the influence of the free-market since the first commercial recording. Is it so far out of bounds, then, to consider institutionalizing pop music in academia, too?

On the other hand, what might fall under the rubric “classical music” has always been taught in academic settings (for better or worse, one could argue, I suppose). If worse, however—that is, if its institutionalization stunted its growth, or even drained it of life (and I remind everyone that “academia” is almost always used in the pejorative these days?)—then why this:

USC's Thornton School of Music will make room starting next year for singers and instrumentalists who play pop music, breaking a long-standing tradition in higher education that requires students to dedicate themselves either to classical music or jazz.

Today the school is announcing its new bachelor of music degree in pop music performance, said to be the first of its kind at a major university.

"Why shouldn't a program like this start in Los Angeles?" said Robert Cutietta, dean of the Thornton School. "I've been in higher education for 20-some years, and it's been talked about, but everyone has been afraid to do it. No one wanted to be first."

Sure, there have been successful programs, like the Berklee College of Music, in Boston. But...

I guess my question is this: What happens when the vernacular is systematized, dissected? Does it lose its identity? Is this a good thing or a potentially bad thing?

I’m not so sure I’m willing to take a stance on this one. You?

And really, they consulted Randy Newman and Steve Miller?


Ever hear of the Polish augmented-sixth chord? It's a minor triad. Pah-dum. Tss!


If good argument follows, I might be willing to think USC's idea might be the best thing ever.

Twister Master, Beethoven

Of all the ways to describe Beethoven’s music...

...those flirtatious back-and-forth games Beethoven loves to play: major to minor, forte to piano, one key to another.

...that one takes the shortcake. I mean, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that describes Beethoven--and only Beethoven--perfectly. Right? Nailed it. Couldn’t do better. Eat your heart out E.T.A. Hoffmann!

By the way, Mary, ever consider turning this unique and profoundly powerful insight into a dissertation? Maybe one could contrast Beethoven with Mr. One-Key Mozart, or possibly Mr. Mono-Amplitude Haydn, just to show exactly how much of a flirty game player he really was (“Major to minor?” Wow, that’s incredible! Unheard of!). That would be a super-interesting, publishable study. In fact, I could be coaxed into providing grant money for this wonderful thesis, as long as it has a cover with a cartoon of Beethoven playing Twister, in He-Man jammies, with Mozart and Haydn, both wearing Strawberry Shortcake SS Dance Co T-shirts and tidy-whities.



Beyond mere description of the event, Mark Swed adds his own brand of cynicism, which I think speaks volumes about the state of classical music. Here, on András Schiff:

Schiff's intimate playing can be nervous-making. He has had a hard time in Disney in the past. He creates such an atmosphere of attention that any little thing can be a disturbance...

Now, I’m not so sure that “nervous-making” is really a thing, but Swed’s point is clear. In fact, it sounds like Schiff’s on-stage presence is rather transcendental.

...and listeners can get so wrapped up in his sound that they forget themselves, drop canes and the like.

Damn. Pwned, old people! And also, pwned, young people who don’t go to concerts and miss awesome performances by awesome performers like Schiff!

If only he said, “they forget themselves, become incontinent and the like...” That would’ve been super cool times like a trillion.


Composer of the Day!

Today's Composer of the Day! is György Kurtág!

(1926- )

Kurtág is a prominent Hungarian composer.

While in Hungary as a student, he studied with composers
Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas. He also met Ligeti, with whom he developed a long friendship.

Following the Hungarian uprising against the Soviets in 1956, he fled to Paris. There he studied with Milhaud and Messiaen, and discovered Webern. Messiaen, Webern, and Ligeti turned out to be very influential to his style.

A prolific composer, he is also an accomplished pianist. Also a pianist, his wife Márta frequently performs his works. Indeed, his excellent seven-volume piano four-hands cycle of pieces/exercises Jatekok (games) they often perform together; the link features them performing together at his 80th birthday party. (The linked excerpt is called "Quarrel")

He uses playful techniques in these pieces, and often graphic notations (recalling Cowell). Here is a score from the same set that is fun to look at (click to enlarge):

He has won several awards, and is well-known in Europe, although less so in the States. You should listen to his music. Here is some more music for you:


Karlheinz Does Dallas

OMG! Stockhausen in Dallas? An interesting review:

See this review by Scott Cantrell.

It was the 1960s again for an hour Sunday night.

Missed that. Must've been watching baseball.

Six robe-clad figures sat on a circle of pillows in a dim crypt, swaying and chanting arcane sounds. Occasionally the name of a deity – Osiris, Artemis, Wotan – would surface from the oohs and aahs, wah-wahs and luh-luhs. Strands of erotic German poetry wafted on rising and falling slides of pitch.

It was...in a crypt? Oh, figuratively, like the way it was the 1960s again. I get it.

We lacked only fumes of patchouli and pot smoke.

Dude, you live in Dallas. Head on down to the Winedale Tavern on Greenville Avenue. (I know a guy.) It's not far from the theater...

Figure 1: Winedale Tavern, Dallas

This was, however, a legal affair: a concert presented by Dallas' modern-music group Voices of Change, at the Undermain Theatre in Deep Ellum. And the sound effects, all produced by amplified live singers, were artifacts of a work called Stimmung, by the late German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Figure 2: Voices of Change

Figure 3: Stockhausen

In a performance organized by University of North Texas composition professor Joseph Klein, the singers were sopranos Heidi Dietrich Klein and Tracey Deen, alto Katrina Burggraf-Kledas, tenors Kevin Sutton and Ryan Lungwitz, and bass Tim Johnson. Dr. Klein gave a fast-talking introduction to the work and managed the amplification.

Sounds awesome!

(Here is a link to an excerpt from Stimmung for you.)

Stockhausen, who died last December at age 79, was one of the agents provocateurs of post-World War II music. Stimmung, composed in 1968, was something of a signpost of the avant-garde.

All true.

The vocal sounds are, you might say, life imitating art, or at least the artifice of electronic music, in which Stockhausen was a pioneer. But the piece is also an example of aleatory music: the performers are given 51 musical gestures, plus the "magic names" (as Stockhausen called them) and poetry, to combine as the spirit moves.

"...as the spirit moves."? Is that a word-count filling way of saying "choice"?

Either hypnotic or maddening,

Why not both?

depending on your mindset, the piece lasted one hour. (Other performances have run closer to 70 minutes.) Although it's supposed to remain rooted in the note B-flat and its overtones, understandably it did drift here and there.

Understandably! Certainly.

Personally, I was glad to experience a work more often cited in music-history books than actually performed.

I am very, very happy to read that. Wait...what's that I hear? Is it...is it a "but" coming?



for this listener, its hour-long duration occasioned every stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Sounds like ol' Karlheinz has got your number, to me.

As Voltaire reportedly said of a late-in-life trip to a house of ill-repute, "Once a philosopher, twice a pervert."



Do Not Want!

Aw, man. For all the fun we've had, I'm really sad to see Charles Ward retire.

NOTE TO READERS: This is my final review as a full-time critic. After 33 3/4 years of writing about classical music for the Houston Chronicle, I am retiring. I thank all my readers for their interest, loyalty and comments. Organizations wishing to submit releases for calendar listings or other purposes should send them to preview. features@chron.com. Please include the words "Classical Music" in the subject line in addition to any other description you have.

Happy retirement, Mr Ward. We wish you well. I only hope you weren't forced (get it?) out, or Empiricus will post that dirty underwear picture again!

'Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers

How much do I dislike poor hypophora? I dislike poor hypophora with great zeal.

With a premise so heartbreaking and at least one protagonist so difficult to sympathize with, why has "Madame Butterfly" been one of the world's most beloved operas for 100 years?

Well shove me in a stagnant pond and poke me with a pink cattle prod. I mean, the author already has an answer. Such is the nature of hypophora, sure (also known as anthypophora). But often enough, they’re smug, assumptive, idiotic and, well, lazy answers (mostly of the smug and assumptive sort). It’s like the author is just lying in wait, stalking his/her prey, saying, “you don’t know the answer, do you? But I do.” Furthermore, if the answer is too confident, too assured, it can seem like a self-congratulatory wank or a “this is why I’m writing this article and not you” uppercut in the kidney that I plain don’t need. That is to say, its rhetorical function has been locked away in a closet and forced to smoke a carton of cigarettes.

Or not. Sometimes it’s just an innocuous, yet banal, device to waste space, which is equally annoying.

Once you read the answer below, just ask yourself, “Did the author really need to ask this?” “Was any greater purpose served?” “Was it effective?” “Did it lure you in?” And, in this case, “How did you come up with that not really insightful question one might expect from a third grader?”

As is the case with so many Puccini operas, it's the music.

For crying out loud. Go figure: the answer—the unimpeachable I-know-the-answer-which-is-why-I-asked-in-the-first-place-because-I’m-the-expert universal answer (the "desperately needed because the reader is stupid" answer)—why we can tolerate the “depressing” story is...

...because it was set to good music. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

And really, Madame Butterfly is a favorite just because it has good music? That's like saying, "Schindler's List is a great movie, except for the story."


No Modern Music Allowed!

[Replete with pictures that are fun to look at!]

Sarah Bryan Miller has a fair, if somewhat confusing piece up (on the vestigial blog to which they've relegated her at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) about their recent guest-conducted concert.

Symphony in A Cheerful Mode.

Is that cheerful mode...major?

If you’re one of those sometime St. Louis Symphony Orchestra patrons who has complained about unfamiliar works and dissonant (or sort-of dissonant) new music on programs,

Ugh. Open your minds, people! What freaking year is it?

you need to get over to Powell Symphony Hall this weekend, pronto. They’ve given you what you’ve been asking for.

The fine arts are merely for pandering to the audience.

Friday night’s concert was a light, bright, major-key

I was right! Yay!

crowd-pleasing delight;

A light, bright...crowd pleasing delight? Was it also at night? And out-of-sight? Ah, I kid because I love. (But that doesn't mean I'll stop...) All right! Night Flight!

Plight blight fight! Slight might!

it was filled with familiar music in a Classical or Neo-Classical mode, all beautifully played. Guest conductor Hans Graf was dressed like an apparatchik, in a quasi-military black Nehru-style jacket, but he led his musicians with a sense of fun.

It had a sense of fun...despite his jacket? Also, the modernist-haters probably don't know what apparatchik means. Just guessing. Also, Nehru jackets are outstanding.

The concert opened with a sparkling reading of Prokofiev’s

witty Symphony No. 1 in D major, the “Classical.”

Okay. The nickname of the piece gets quotes, but not the title. Got it.

Thoroughly enjoyable, if not super-subtle (there’s a time and a place for profundity, and this wasn’t it), it benefited from particularly good work from the winds.

Classical music concerts are not the time and place for profundity?


is good for what ails you even an historically noxious week in the financial markets and this performance of his Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364, was enough to lift any mood and stop any worrying.

I seriously doubt that those homeowners that were foreclosed upon were that cheered up by the Mozart. (However, your point is taken.) Thanks, though, for providing the Koechel number! That rocks.

Its soloists were drawn from the orchestra: concertmaster David Halen and principal viola Jonathan Vinocour. They proved well-matched, and demonstrated yet again what terrific players the SLSO has performing in its ranks, week-in and week-out. Both were spirited and accurate, and they were perfectly in sync, particularly in their duet sections. Graf led this cheery score with a light touch.

In Sync! (Okay, 'N Sync. It was just an excuse to post a pic that is fun to look at.)

The concert’s second half opened with Stravinsky’s

“Scenes de ballet.”

Is that...is that the nickname of the piece? Because I thought we'd established that the titles of pieces (Prokofiev, Mozart) don't get quotes, only the nicknames. Thanks, editor!

Written for Broadway, it didn’t really mesh with prevailing tastes there, but its slightly sarcastic humor fit well in this program. A series of brief vignettes, each featuring different instruments, its highlight was a cello duet, played by associate principal Melissa Brooks and assistant principal Catherine Lehr.

Stravinsky, why that's *Gasp!* Modernism! Neo-Classical modernism, sure, but I was lead to believe there wouldn't be any of that...that not-completely major stuff on this program. The horror!

The evening’s finale was Bizet’s

youthful, joyful Symphony in C. Oddly enough, it hasn’t been performed here in nearly a decade, since the last season of “Classics in the Loop;” its return is most welcome.

I have nothing to say about this sentence. Oh, except that the title of the piece is back to having no quotes. The symphony series, though, apparently does. What?

The strings executed the perpetual motion of the fourth movement with elan; the horns were in terrific voice throughout. Performed with a combination of meticulous musicianship and soufflé-light execution, it was all infectious fun.

First: soufflé-light execution is delightfully silly, and I love it. Second, why does soufflé get its accent ague, but not elan? Thanks again, Mr Editor!

In fact, the only disappointment of the evening was the inexplicably small size of the audience for such an accessible program.

Accessible = not modern. And small audience sizes are disappointing regardless of program.

It’s a little bit like the political system: If you can’t be bothered to vote, you really have no right to complain.

So, the accessible major-key programming failed to bring a large audience despite the fact that Mozart makes you forget that you lost half of your 401K. Might as well have been atonal music, I guess.

But I Thought You Had A Major Orchestra...?

Me, trying to navigate the website of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Your search - classical music review - did not match any documents.

  • Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
  • Try different keywords.
  • Try more general keywords.
  • Try fewer keywords.
Really, Cincinnati?


A Question

Quickie post; but can someone tell me what the hell this means?

Not all luxury dissolved in the atmosphere.

Read it in context here.

Did...did some of the luxury dissolve in the atmosphere? How do...does that happen? Is he talking about the fireworks? That's my best (lame) guess.

It still makes no sense to me. Perhaps I'm dense. Perhaps I'm merely drunk. You'll never know.

Okay, I'm not drunk. Yet.


Why do you keep saying that? I do not think it means what you think it means.

When pianist Yefim Bronfman steps onto the Walt Disney Concert Hall stage Thursday night for the first of four consecutive concerts with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the moment will be weighted with musical history.

...as with everything ever done by every musician ever. Except musicians from Xiglot-2—they have no short nor long-term memory formation capacity. I feel for them, but they don’t know what they’re missing. (By the way, that would be some odd music!)

Nonetheless, I’m curious, David Mermelstein: Since when have “moments” supplanted “events?” For me, it’s rather disturbing. If you’ve seen any baseball this season, you’d have seen this transformation take place as clear as day. Take, for instance, the All-Star Game, to name one. Part of the pre-game ceremonies had a number of Hall-of-Famers introduced, by position, at which time they ran onto the field. It was kind of a gigantic self-masturbation for baseball fans who probably remember some things, especially pertaining to baseball history. What threw me for a loop was the sportscasters’ proclamations that it was an historic “moment,” (not to mention the pre-pre-game shows’ proclamations that said it "will be” an historic moment) as if it were (or will be) one, lonely instant on the time continuum, like all the HOFers suddenly appeared on field, and that was a historic “moment,” then they disappeared.

See, as I understand it, time is experienced in a roughly linear fashion (don’t get me started about how the brain tends to fill in missing gaps of memory and how it often rearranges bits of information on the timeline). So, if moments in a continuum are the carriers of historical weight, exactly which moment of the “first of four consecutive concerts with Esa-Pekka,” will be weighted by history, in your estimation? Don’t you mean “event?”

No. That would be too easy.

And that's saying something for a man who was a protégé of Isaac Stern, studied with Rudolf Serkin and Leon Fleisher, roomed with Yo-Yo Ma and made his first major orchestral appearances in the U.S. under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

Those performances were when Bronfman was 18. Now, at 50, he is famous throughout the world.

Yes. A lot of historical baggage, weighing down everything he does.

But the Philharmonic concerts, at which he will perform Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, will be his last Disney Hall dates with Salonen as the orchestra's music director.

So that’s why it’s significant. Guffaw! That’s like saying, “A moment of George Bush’s fourth-to-last day in office will be weighted down by history, because it will be the fourth-to-last day he will have Dick Cheney as his vice-president.” While technically correct, the significance lies elsewhere, namely, the fourth-to-last day, not a particular moment from that day. See? And the significance of that fourth-to-last day is rather dubious, too.

Remember Peter Serkin’s last concert series with Seiji Ozawa in Boston? Me neither. Thankfully, you’ll be able to see them together again in Boston this November 28th.

So much for historically weighted last moments and stuff. Can't wait for their second "fourth-to-last" performance together five years from now, too.


A Classical Orchestra Does Not Classical Music Make

Let’s say you’re itching to go out to dinner. (Don’t worry about the money, it’s on me. Besides, you never invested in those failing mortgage companies. So, I guess you’re doing pretty well. Wait! Screw that. You’re paying!) So, like I said, you’re itching to go out to dinner and you want to try that cute little French fusion place on the corner of Main Street and Six-Pack Boulevard. It’s name, in huge neon lights, is Chez Empiricusoise. Below its name, it says, “French Fusion Family Ristorante.” (Remember, it’s “fusion,” after all.) You happily step inside, where you’re taken to your table. Looking over the lengthy menu, you become even more excited. “This is exactly what I wanted. Ooh, look! Coq au vin with pineapple!” The waiter, with a smile, takes your order and brings over some bread and water to whet your appetite. After a good twenty minutes, the waiter returns with your food...a large, uncut pineapple sans coq au vin. Bewildered, besmirched and a little pissed, you begrudgingly take your knife and begin cutting through the tough rind of the pineapple. It’s certainly not what you expected, but it tastes kinda good, anyway.

Columbian musicians mix up a classical gas

A mocking “ha, ha,” to the editor. Still, though, the concert sounds kind of appealing.

Mixing high and low, folk and fine art sounds appealing -- bring the energy and empathy of pop culture to the depth and formal beauty of classicism.

Dangerous thing to insinuate: “the energy and empathy of pop culture” and “the depth and formal beauty of classicism” are mutually exclusive. Still! Fusion fun!

And Vallenato Sinfonica, the union of popular vallenato act Jorge Celedón and Jimmy Zambrano with a classical ensemble, presented Friday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, sounded like a particularly intriguing version of this mix.

So, how’d it go? This Columbian/Classical fusion concert thingy? (skipping to the end)

It wasn't classical, but it was plenty moving.

But, but, but...you and your editor tricked me into thinking it was this fusiony concert, when it was actually Columbian music with some instruments that one might find in a classical music ensemble. It wasn’t even a pops-like concert, just Columbian music. How was this ever mixed up in the first place?


Also, this oddity:

Roll over Apollo, there's a hoedown at the symphony!

Setting aside the fact that this wasn’t a symphonic concert, where in the world does this expression come from? Columbia?

I tried my best to find this expression via Google, Jstor, Socrates and even PubMed. I don’t think it exists. Any help? Sure, I know of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” but “roll over Apollo?” Is our author—knowing that Apollo, among other things, was the god of music—insinuating that the Columbian music was, I don’t know, not music Apollo would like? That it’s inferior to the symphony? That this music will not fix the economy? Any guesses, dear Detritusites?


Mad Libations

Here’s the latest Detritus Review Mad Lib™, brought to you by the NY Times’ Anthony Tommasini, who may have been a little adjective drunk.

Directions: (First of all, humor me and read the excerpt below with the missing adjectives...I know, right? Though I have to admit, if you substitute "blank" for the missing adjectives, a nice rhythmic non-pattern emerges. I digress.) Arrange the extracted adjectives into their appropriate positions. Good luck!


In the ______ movement he brought such ______ richness to the ______ melodic lines that the music seemed at once ______ and ______. And the finale, taken at a ______ but never ______ tempo, was ______ and ______, though always threatening to turn ______.

Whew! That was fun, wasn’t it? How’d you do? ALL RIGHT!


The First Five Sentences


No opera has music more gorgeous – more brilliantly colored, more lusciously textured, more passionately yearning – than Die tote Stadt.

No opera. Has music! More gorgeous.

So why is it so rarely performed?

Good question, being that it’s the most best opera ever, ever. In fact, if Die tote Stadt was a planet, it would be the only planet in its own solar system--that's how more good it is. Its inhabitants wouldn't need to evolve any further, because they already attained genetic perfection. This makes them herbivores, since predation is futile. Also, they laugh at aliens--especially illegal ones.

Well, the title, "The Dead City," may be a little off-putting.

Personally, the title “Salome” is a little more off-putting. There’s something about necrophilia that doesn’t sit well with me.

Anyway. To each his own.

And Erich Wolfgang Korngold's youthful masterpiece needs two lead singers, a soprano and a tenor, who can sing – and sing and sing...

Don’t all operas require singers who are trained to do this?

...and sing and sing – over high-cholesterol orchestrations that make Wagner sound like Mozart.


The soprano also has to be visually plausible as a dancer.

...as opposed to olfactorally plausible.


[Edit Empiricus] I almost forgot the "necrophilia" tag.


Composer of the Day!

Today's Composer of the Day! is Horatiu Radulescu. (1942-2008)

(Apologies for the lack of diacritical marks.)

Radulescu (who died last week) was a Romanian-born composer with ties both to Paris and the Darmstadt school.

His sort of mystical, spectralist approach was distinct from his contemporaries Grise and Murail, but was related in that he was interested in innovative scales and sonorities.

He was also interested in Bhuddism and Romanian folk music. This varied and fascinating confluence of influences made for an unique style of compositions.

Here is some of his music:

You should listen to his music.