Saturday, May 31, 2014

Greatness, Part Two

Yeah.  This one's easy!
There is both rhyme and reason for this series of posts about "greatness" in music.  For several months now, I've been mulling around a project considering the "ten greatest pieces" of all time.  It's probably impossible, narrowing down tens (hundreds) of thousands of works within the canon to an extremely small number of works.  One needs to establish a suitable set of criteria and then work diligently to justify a work's inclusion on (or exclusion from) the list.

In the previous post, Anthony Tomassini's ten greatest composers list was proffered.  His criteria (previously unlinked here) noted that:

I am focusing on Western classical music. There are compelling arguments against honoring this classification. Still, giants like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Stephen Sondheim are outside my purview here. And on the assumption that we are too close to living composers to assess their place and their impact, I am eliminating them from consideration.

Finally, I am focusing on the eras since the late Baroque. You could make a good case for Josquin or Monteverdi, but I won’t. The traditions and styles were so different back then as to have been almost another art form. I’m looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history.

So..........he choose a safe(r) and easier route, much simpler than I will be traveling.  I'm not going to ignore the giants of the Renaissance.  In fact, a work by Josquin--possibly the most influential work of his time--has found its way to my short list.  And, I'm going to try not to exclude the music of our time.  That said, that might necessitate a "top ten" list of its own.

There are starting points that one might consider, however.  A website greatestclassicalmusicever offers the "50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music."  While their compilation seems innocuous enough--introducing the uninitiated to classical music, it begins with many of the usual suspects.

1. Ludwig Van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op.67: I. Allegro con brio

With its immortal opening four-note theme (“Fate knocking”), Beethoven's 5th Symphony is one of the most instantly-recognizable pieces of Classical music. It is widely regarded as one of the most important works of its time and has been riffed on by everyone from Snoopy to Robyn Thicke, even being made into a disco hit!

Hmm. A reasonable argument might be made here, at least for its inclusion on any list, but not for its immediate "recognition" factor. There's a lot more to it that Snoopy and Robyn Thicke (whatever the heck that reference is).  Right now, I'm engaged in a listening/studying project framed on the string quartets:  more on that later; I'm only through the first three.  But therein, I believe, is the greatness of Beethoven.

2. Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 1 ‘Spring' (Op.8 No. 1): I. Allegro 
The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s best-known work and one of the best known pieces in all of Classical music. The opening of Concerto No. 1 "Spring" is a bouncy, cheerful tune which has been used in many forms of mainstream entertainment.

Tell me we're kidding. As the story goes, Vivaldi wrote either some 600 concertos or the same one 600 times. This is turning into a popularity contest. 
The Red Priest: the ultimate recycler?

Handel:  Rumor has it....

3. George Frideric Handel - Messiah: Hallelujah (Chorus) 

One of the most recognizable pieces in Handel's Messiah highlights and in all of Classical music, Handel's "Hallelujah" if featured in Part II of his Messiah oratorio which covers the Passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus.

Great word painting and a study in how to use texture to set a text....the ascending soprano line toward the big finish (signifying the resurrection) is a thing of wonder. 

4. Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture, Op.49 (conclusion) 
Pete: made the news in Fall 2013
Thanks, Vladimir!

Written in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense against Napoleon's army in 1812, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is mostly recognizable by its climactic ending featuring cannon fire, ringing chimes and brass fanfare.

Surely another joke. I'm certain that old Pete is probably sorry that this is his most well known composition.

5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Ave verum corpus, K.618

Mozart was unquestionably one of the greatest composers of all time, a talent unlike any other. He wrote the Ave verum corpus for his friend Anton Stoll who was the musical coordinator in the parish of Baden bei Wien, near Vienna. This piece was written less than 6 months before Mozart’s death.

One of Mozart's most beautiful little "gems." But why "Ave verum" when compared to the vast canon of Wolfie's masterworks? Anyone heard of La Nozze di Figaro or the Requiem?
Amadeus actually brought fame to Salieri...

6. Johann Sebastian Bach - Toccata: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 

The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is easily one of the most famous pieces in the Organ works - famously featured in the Walt Disney classic Fantasia (and haunted houses around the world!). The piece has a dark, spooky feel to it, particularly the striking opening motif.

Greater than the B-minor Mass?  The St. Matthew Passion?  All those cantatas?  "Dark and spooky" do not greatness make. End of discussion.

7. Ludwig Van Beethoven - 'Ode to Joy' from Symphony No. 9 in D minor 'Choral' The 'Ode to Joy' theme from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony is a stirring, transcendent melody which speaks of the spiritual brotherhood shared by all people, and the joy of life. The symphony itself is an eighty-minute journey from darkness to light, its choral finale unprecedented at the time Beethoven wrote it. The story goes that Beethoven, sitting in the front row at the premiere, was so deaf at that point that his friend had to turn him around in order to see the furiously applauding audience. 

Actually, the tune itself is rather banal; I often tell my students that any of us could have written it (unfortunately, for posterity's sake, we didn't). And Schiller's poetry? Let's not go there. All of this being said, conducting the work was among the high points of my career. 

8. Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings, Op.11
Samuel Barber

Often described as the "saddest classical work ever", Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings has an almost inexorable quality in the slow, steady upward movement of the haunting melody towards the hair-raising climax, before finally settling back to the subdued sorrow of the opening. The piece was famously featured in the film Platoon, and was played at the funerals of Albert Einstein, Princess Grace of Monaco and during the announcements of the deaths of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

A toughy, although the argument could be made that the work is actually the slow movement from a string quartet. I often wonder how it fits within the other three: I've never heard them. 

9. Edvard Grieg - Prelude (Morning): Peer Gynt

Edvard Grieg composed Peer Gynt as incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name. A short piece of this work, Morning, which depicts a sunrise, is one of the most instantly recognizable pieces in music as it has been used in many different forms of entertainment, most notably in the Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny.

Um, no. It's included here because of a relation to Bugs Bunny? That would open the door for a variety of better pieces, including "The Rabbit of Seville" and "What's Opera, Doc?" 

Grieg:  Percy Grainger's favorite
10. Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor: II. Adagio sostenuto (excerpt) 

Rachmaninov gained immense popularity as a concerto composer and this was his most popular piece. You can hear the melody used in Eric Carmen's popular hit “All By Myself.'

Again the writers are noting a work's greatness because somebody else swiped the tune for a pop song. Not good enough for me.

Good ol' Rach.  Like Fritz Reiner,
did he ever smile?
Thus the inclusion of recognition is surely not going to be a criterium for the "ten greatest."  Another problem of the above list is its "sound bite" mentality, seemingly geared for a contemporary audience with a short attention span.  But what of other potential arguments?

  • The work has stood the "test of time."  How much time?  50 years?  100 years?  Even more?  While this might be a consideration, is would also necessitate inclusion of not-so-great works such as Pachelbel's infamous canon, heard here in a completely different guise.  And how does the test of time affect much more recent works?
  • The work has been influential upon other composers and their works.  Hmm.  This is a toughy. Great arguments could be made for the impact of the wind works of Mozart on composers such as Richard Strauss, Alban Berg, and others.  But, however much I may love the Gran Partita, it doesn't hold a candle to the Mozart/da Ponte operas.
  • The work in question was either (1) highly original for its time, or (2) summed up all that could be said regarding the time in which it was composed.  What single piece ended what is known as the Romantic period?  Beethoven is considered both a Classicist and a Romantic.  Where did he turn the corner?
  • Then there is the genre question: can we (I) safely compare Josquin's Ave Maria...virgo serena to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen?  I very well may try....
Thus, it's inherently obvious that my exploration and decision is going to take time and very serious contemplation.  Oh well, another day, another list.....

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Searching for Greatness, Part One

“There are two kinds of music -- good music and the other kind.”
~Edward "Duke" Ellington

The greatest of them all?
Over three years ago, I wrote of NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini's project to select the ten greatest composers of all time.  Of course, there were caveats:  he only began with the Baroque and all his guys (yes, they were all guys) were dead.  The list, in his stated order, includes 
  • Bach
  • Beethoven
  • Mozart
  • Schubert
  • Debussy
  • Stravinsky
  • Brahms
  • Verdi
  • Wagner
  • Bartok
But one is left to ask, what exactly signifies "greatness," especially when discussing music.  From Tommasini's column:

Ah, greatness. Early on I received a friendly challenge from a reader (“Scott”) who questioned the whole notion of greatness in music. He cited the title essay in “Listen to This,” a collection of astute, lively writings by Alex Ross, the music critic for The New Yorker and my good friend, which was published last year (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). In this essay he argues that the very term “classical music” makes this vibrant art form seem dead. Indeed, as he writes, “greatness” and “seriousness” are not classical music’s defining characteristics; it can also “be stupid, vulgar and insane.”

I have even taken a less than scientific poll of two gentlemen whose opinion I greatly admire, critic, arts consultant and Juilliard Professor of Entrepreneurship, Greg Sandow and musicologist and IPR personality, Bernard "Barney" Sherman.

Greg Sandow
Greg writes:

Might be better to ask what makes a piece of music good or bad. “Great” is just a fancy, self-important way of saying that a piece is good. Or maybe it’s a superlative, meaning “Very, very, very, very good.” Also also very very very important. Anyhow, I think that if we don’t answer the simpler question, we’re left with defining “great” only as a kind of bloviating. Unless “great” is supposed to be a crown bestowed by history. Then “great” music is what people say “great” music is. Music from the past.
Makes my head ache to think about this!

I think an additional problem is that knowing a piece of music is supposed to be “great” can blot our ability to judge it with any clarity. The Eroica is a “great” symphony, so we don’t say out loud that the last two movements aren’t nearly as good as the first two.

I’m wary of greatness as a concept in art. It’s a judgment that often involves self-praise by the person making it. I’m so artistic; I recognize the greatness of this masterpiece. It’s a pompous concept. Leads to a pompous view of music, in which we revere pieces certified as great, and immediately put on a lower level things that don’t have the label attached. Stops us from hearing the inherent qualities of the music, especially if they involve frivolity or even simple joie de vivre. And stops us from playing a piece with simple love of music. We can’t do that. It’s a Great piece. Have to show that in our playing!

Somehow I've managed to misplace Barney's response(s) but I recall him "chickening out" and taking a similar tack.  It's as if we know what it is when we hear it, but can't put it into words.  I'm kind of drawn to composer Mickie Willis:

  Is the piece technically well executed? Regardless of the style, the performance - whether improvised, derived from notation, or electroacoustically produced - should be free of extraneous notes, sounds, effects, nuances of any kind that do not contribute to communication of the musical ideas.
  Does it exploit a variety of elements of music, i.e. rhythm, harmony, melody, texture/timbre? Although a quality piece of music need not have all elements equally represented (in fact, many if not most fine works do not), a piece that relies solely on any one element is likely to be less than fulfilling.
  Is the chief attraction not the music but the words? If the answer is yes, then the piece probably should be considered more as a theater piece or as poetry, than music. For music is the most abstract of arts, and although the marriage of text and music can be transcendent, the best does not need verbal associations to enhance it.
  Are the elements of the work highly integrated so that each supports the other’s function? Melody, for example, cannot exist without at least some degree of rhythm; rhythm, however, can exist without melody, as can harmony without either rhythm or melody. But it seems that most truly satisfying music exploits the elements in ways that cause the product of them to be greater that the sum of the elements, disparately.
  Does the piece appeal on a variety of levels – intellectual, emotional, spiritual? A piece can be strong enough in any one of these areas to justify being called good, but the best music somehow seems to appeal on many levels.
  Is there a feeling of "musicality" about it? That is, does the piece invoke a desire for body movement that corresponds to the gestures in sound? Musicality is distinctly human and inexorably connected to physical movement in ways that are imbedded in our psyches from the first expressive sounds uttered by our ancient ancestors to experiences as recent as our last rehearsal.
  Is there satisfying formal organization to the way the gestures are presented and developed? Since music occurs over time and for practical reasons, if for no other, music has to have a beginning and end, it seems to be our nature to expect some kind of sequence and development of the ideas that we find satisfying as anticipation and memory blend to create a mental image of form.
  Is there a good balance between familiarity and variety, appropriate for the length of the piece? Clearly, very extended pieces will need to introduce more variety than very short ones; likewise the task of maintaining coherence within greater diversity is more difficult and expected in longer pieces.
  After having been listened to many times, does the piece still have appeal, appeal that is based on some new revelations rather than solely on comfortable familiarity? Complexity in and of itself is not especially valuable, but exceptional music seems to have many facets, and holds up well and continues to interest even after many listenings.
  Do you feel positively stimulated, better, richer, fuller, or improved in some way for having heard the piece? This may seem a lot to expect, but truly great pieces (which, or course most music, even very fine music, will not be) often have a beneficial effect on careful listeners. Like the nutrition axiom "we are what we eat," (which, although obviously not literal, makes the point that our physical health is affected by our diet) in the arts we are what we consume, and what we habitually listen to affects our spirits. The best music makes us better by stimulating our minds and touching our hearts, and helps us feel better about ourselves and the world.

Of course that's a lot of stuff to ponder. Like all great music, it's undoubtedly worth it. There really is intended to be a finale to this convoluted tale; it just may take awhile.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One of my "kids" does (really) good...

Will Roseliep
It seems as though the former members of the Dubuque Youth Symphony with whom I maintain most contact are principal cellists:

  • Michael is working for a software firm in the Madison, WI area.
  • Margaret is expecting her first child (if she hasn't had it already).
  • Emma is deeply involved in the Berklee School in Boston.
  • Will is working for WGBH in Boston and is media director for the Cambridge Philharmonic, a small start up led by Emma's husband.
The most wonderful thing is that all are still making music, in some way or another.  I have to think that their shared first teacher, the venerable Sr. Carolyn Schlueter, is looking down with pride.  

Thus it was interesting to read a great article about Will in today's Telegraph Herald.  He just self-published a book, The Libertine's Guide to the Classical Music Revolution.  It's available on Kindle at Amazon.  Not owning the contraption (nor in any particular mood to buy one--I like actually turning pages!), Will sent me a pdf.  It's a good read--a quick read--in which the author takes on the culture and climate that classical music has created and how (basically) we can get out of the rut we've found ourselves in.

From marketing plans borrowed from successful indie and pop labels to ditching the staid dress codes of the nineteenth century, Will isn't afraid to take on anything and everything.  You see, although he openly admits to liking lots of different music, including metal, punk and hip-hop, I sense that his heart resides where mine does:  in the classics.

In the big picture, author Anthony Frenzel notes that there are three lifelines that can help to save the art form.

1.  Changing the way that recorded classical music is consumed.

2.  Making the concert experience more appealing to a wider variety of people.  A colleague from the Quad Cities recently wrote to me:   The problem with symphonies is not the music - it is the presentation. My grandson knows and likes many of the classics, because he grew up with them on TV, in movies, and video games. But you'll never see him at a QCSO concert because of the image the symphony projects, which is entirely foreign to todays' younger people.Why the hell our symphonic musicians must wear tuxedos is way beyond me. To the young, this screams ancient, stuffy behavior that they are simply not interested in. Think about it - what are tuxes for? Formal occasions. Id the music formal? HELL no!  But our symphonies will survive only in the largest population centers, where they will find enough formal-loving folks to stay in business.  Wealth and the elite are what this formality means to the young. And in a culture where many of those who run today's most prestigious, successful companies go to work in jeans, formal occasions suck.At least our conductors have managed to actually talk to and recognize that there is an audience out there, and that helps. But it is far from enough to keep our beloved musical groups alive.If they are to survive, they need to change - and fast!

3. Better preparing classical performers before they enter the professional world.

Will is a fine writer. He has great ideas for groups ranging from the Pumpkin Center Quartet to the Philly Orchestra. I hope that all of them will listen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Am I hearing this right?

I'm too tired to write lengthy tomes tonight, so a handful of vignettes will have to do.

The so-called "Orchestra Iowa" (aka the Cedar Rapids Symphony) is holding a number of auditions for new personnel, including concertmaster, principal bass, and various substitute positions.  In order for an Iowan to audition for the bass position in Orchestra Iowa (am I being emphatic enough?), that Iowan must travel to Roosevelt University in Chicago.  For the uninitiated, that's in Illinois.  I almost which I was making this up.

* * * * * * * * * *

Gotta love this photo
This is very old news by now, but then-new Executive Director of our Dubuque Symphony (she's gone now, little more than a year after her arrival) stated that one of her goals was to increase the number of local musicians in the orchestra.  I guess she never heard about the massacre of 2002, during which most of the brass section was sacked and the principal strings departed in protest.  Of course the Board of Directors went along with the whole plan, which was intended to improve the symphony.  If you ask me, it sounds pretty much the same, although the budget has doubled, due to large increases in mileage paid to musicians trekking in from as far as Chicago.  

* * * * * * * * * * 

According to the NY Times, the most adventuresome orchestra in the U.S. is the (drum roll please) Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Dude Fever is sweeping the continent and beyond.

Gotta love his hair.  Kind of resembles my ex-wife's coif.
* * * * * * * * * *
Norman Lebrecht at Slipped Disc reports that opera in cinemas does not draw audiences to live performance.  I could have told them that years ago.  Symphony concerts at fairgrounds or botanical gardens won't cause a spike at the box office either.

* * * * * * * * * *

For the umpteenth time, the lead paragraph in a review of the NY Phil free concert focuses on the less than ideal (to put it mildly) acoustical environment (a reported 8-second reverb) at New York's Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.  To quote Anthony Tomassini:  "From a critical perspective, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is no place to hear a full orchestra perform. For all its architectural splendor, this beloved cathedral has almost impossible acoustics for symphonic music, with an excess of reverberation and echo."

William Byrd--definitely.  Tchaikovsky,

There are a plethora of summer music festivals in places like California, Colorado, even Maine and Vermont.  Read about them here.  I think that we could support some kind of mini-festival of the "good stuff" here in Dubuque.  Anyone with me?

Return post

Upon completion of my degree, I penned a note of thanks to all of my UW professors in appreciation for all that they had done for me.  My own education went far beyond mere subject matter; I learned many lessons in the art of teaching.  Here is one reply:

Many thanks for the good news and congratulations. Your message brought back many good memories of your time here in Madison and all the ways you made this a better place. It gratifies me to no end to know that the granting of the degree is now official.
I was also pleased to get the link to your website, which really looks terrific. Several sentences, of course, are suddenly in need of revision now that the degree is completed. A pleasant task, I should think.

Doesn't get a lot better than for the "good" file.

Lessons from Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan, and Frank Battisti

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am constantly buying books.  I search databases, conducting bibliographies, Amazon "Listmania" lists: in short, just about everything I can get my hands on.  I own a 1980 Grove, issued right before the 2000 edition was published, as well as a 20-volume paperback urtext of the complete works of Mozart.  This past Christmas, I limited my annual book buying to a "single" source: the monumental Oxford History of Western Music, by Richard Taruskin.  A brief sample of my own bibliography appears below:

Ardoin, John:  The Furtwangler Record.  Amadeus, 1996.

Bamberger, Carl, ed. The Conductor’s Art. McGraw Hill, 1965.

Barber, Charles.  Conversing with Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber. Scarecrow Press, 2011.

Barenboim, Daniel and Said, Edward:  Parallels and Paradoxes - Explorations in Music and Society.  Pantheon, 2002.

Battisti, Frank.  On Becoming a Conductor. Meredith Music Publications, 2007.

________.  The Winds of Change (I and II). Meredith, 2002, 2011.

Battisti, Frank and Garofalo, Robert:  Guide to Score Study for the Wind Band Conductor.  Meredith, 1990.

Bernstein, Leonard:  The Joy of Music.  Simon & Schuster, 1959.

_______:  The Unanswered Question-Six Talks at Harvard.  Harvard University Press, 1976.

_____:  Young People's Concerts.  Doubleday, 1992.

Billingham, Lisa.  The Complete Conductor’s Guide to Laban Movement Theory. GIA, 2009.

Obviously, I stopped with the Bs, a musical homage.  A caveat must appear:  I've not read all of these, BUT, I have them at my fingertips when the need (or simply want) arises.

Of late I've cracked open Frank Battisti's On Becoming a Conductor.  Battisti, formerly of the New England Conservatory, was among the earliest "master conductors" I had the opportunity to work with.  I'll never forget trying to "rehearse" the Egmont Overture and having Frank continually shouting at me to "Look At The Players," especially in the opening sostenuto, during which there is a different woodwind entrance on every beat.  I was a young pup who thought he knew everything, especially since I'd actually conducted a performance of the piece with the Olivet College Symphony five years previous.  Never would I step in front of an ensemble with that level of hubris or lack of real preparation.

Battisti's book is interesting for many reasons and I'm sure this is only Part 1 of many illuminating sessions with his inspiring text.  In discussing the many things a conductor requires, among the first is work ethic.  But in that chapter, he chooses to elaborate on sports figures rather than conductors.

An interesting vignette on former Detroit Lion great Barry Sanders illustrates what work ethic is all about:

(Before the final meaningless game of the 1996 season) someone in the media made a last-minute request to interview Barry Sanders....(he could not be found in the locker room).  Lions V-P decided to go our to the practice field to see if Sanders was there.  It was dark--the field lights had been turned off--but Sanders was there, all by himself, running gassers.  When Sanders did not appear as promised 30-minutes later, he (the V-P) heard sounds coming from the weight room so he went in to see if Sanders was there.  He was, again all by himself, lifting weights.

Then there is the story of the baseball-playing Michael Jordan, who worked hours every day in vain with his hitting coach.  Arguably among the best players to ever grace a basketball court, Jordan couldn't transfer his athleticism to the diamond.  It wasn't for a lack of trying.  Bob Greene, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote,

The great moments--whether you are an athlete or businessman or an artist--are not the moments that count.  The moments that count are the ones when it's just you, and people have stopped believing in you, and the work you put in comes with no guarantee that there will ever be a reward.  The work you are putting in may very well be wasted.  But there is no waste in that kind of work--that's the secret.  Far from being wasted, that is the kind of work, those are the kind of moments, that define a person.

I've learned a lot in this short chapter about what I must continue to do with regard to my own journey, wherever it may lead me.  And I think I'll start today by sampling the Beethoven quartets--one a day--with recording and score, and see where that journey will lead my intellect.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What's News? There's a bit of good and lots of bad....

An 11-day (May 28-June 7) festival of contemporary music in--of course--New York.   The Philharmonic and several "partners," including Bang on a Can and the Gotham Chamber Opera, among others, are offering the NY Phil Biennial.  Will this fill the void created at the demise of the Spring for Music Festival?  One can only hope....

* * * * * * * * * *

Nothing has really been heard from the to-be-shuttered Green Bay Symphony because nothing has been changed.  Despite a "Save the GB Symphony" Facebook page, Executive Director Dan Linssen has convinced the board that this "professional" orchestra (with of budget just clearing $600K) is no longer viable.  “The bottom line is the Green Bay market is not large enough to sustain a symphony,” stated Linessen in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

One has to seriously question the actions of the organization nearly two decades ago.  The article goes on to report that the symphony has been in existence for more than 100 years but became an entirely professional operation 18 years ago.  “For the past 18 years, the Green Bay symphony has struggled financially," Linssen said.  Sounds like an inadequate business model.  But the fallout of the symphony's failure may affect youth music education in the Green Bay area as well, for the GB Symphony is the parent of three youth orchestras.  No one knows what's going to happen to them either.

In April, Woods Bowman wrote in the Non-Profit Quarterly on how Chicago has embraced a growing proliferation of opera companies.  This is addition to a 15% increase in ticket sales at the Lyric, and a 20% subscription uptake in subscriptions at Chicago Opera Theater.  The secrets?  According to Bowman:

Success requires solid management.   When Green Bay decided to hire an Executive Director with no experience in the non-profit sector, it was immediately in trouble.

Success requires first-class artistic talent.

Success begets success, and failure, or even the perception of failure, begets actual failure.  Too many empty seats at Green Bay Symphony performances offered the perception of failure.

Good managers and talented performers live everywhere. 

To me, the bottom line is, if communities like Dubuque, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, and even Clinton can support an orchestra, so can Green Bay.  Maybe someone needs to borrow a page from the management playbook of the hometown Packers, a publicly owned team playing in the NFL's smallest market.

* * * * * * * * * *

The city of San Diego, CA continues to support its municipal organ (and a municipal organist playing regular concerts at Balboa Park).  Here's a photo:

Like to see this survive a Polar Vortex...

* * * * * * * * * *

Too many arts organizations are in serious trouble.  The Philadelphia Orchestra is the largest, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.  Orchestras have failed in Syracuse (NY), Honolulu, New Mexico, while Milwaukee averted a potential crisis with a sudden influx of donations.  24/7 Wall Street reports dire straights for the Louisville Orchestra, Houston Symphony and the Columbus (OH) Symphony, which plays in the opulent Ohio Theater right across the street from the State Capitol.

And, unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Really....I'm trying

The annual "Huey's" for innovative orchestra programing are being held up.  It's all about the failure of my local orchestra (the Dubuque Symphony) to come out and announce next season's classical concert series.  All that I can gather is a blurb from their website, which includes:

  • Holst:  Planets
  • Beethoven:  Erioca
  • Tchaikovsky:  5 (didn't they just do that under guest N. Palmer a couple of years ago?)
  • Liszt:  Concerto No. 1 (ho-hum....)
  • "The best of opera!"
  • "And more"
So even though it looks like more and more of the same ol' stuff, almost guaranteed to put butts in the seats (and a chance for a conductor to simply brush off old scores), I'm trying to give them the benefit of the doubt....but I am an impatient man.

* * * * * * * * * *

Looking to the Lord for guidance?
The recordings are now available from the Quad City Wind Ensemble's triumphant performance at the Iowa Bandmasters Association conference.  Initial reviews (ok, from me) are, "Hats off, gentlemen, the ultimate performance!"  All kidding aside, the recordings demonstrate to me that this truly was one of the most inspired concerts of which I've ever been a part...

* * * * * * * * * *

The Tri State Wind Symphony of Dubuque has fired up the band for its twentieth concert season.  Who would have thought that we'd still be in the business when we had our first rehearsal with a group of 15, nine of whom were clarinets.  First concert is May 29.  Here's the lineup:

Cole Porter, arr. Moffitt:  "Another Op’nin’, Another Show," from Kiss Me Kate 

Franz von Suppe/Takahashi: Poet and Peasant Overture
John Cacavas:  Burnished Brass
Clare Grundman:  Hebrides Suite
David Holsinger:  On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss
Leroy Anderson:  The Wearing of the Green
Alan Menkin/Nowak:  "Under the Sea," from The Little Mermaid
Andre Waignein:  Czardas 
John Williams, arr. Curnow:  Olympic Fanfare and Theme 
Encore:  John Philip Sousa:  Semper Fidelis

* * * * * * * * * *

The following week (6/6) the Bettendorf Park Band starts its summer schedule at the Bill Bowe Bandshell at Veteran's Memorial Park.  Our first show includes:

Alfred Reed:  Alleluia, Laudamus Te
Karl L. King:  Alhambra Grotto March
David R. Holsinger:  On an American Spiritual 
Gustav Holst:  Suite in E-flat for Military Band
George Gershwin/Moss:  Strike Up the Band 
G. H. Huffine:  Them Basses
Herbert Hazelman:  Short Ballet for Awkward Dancers
Marvin Hamlish/Edmondson:  Selections from A Chorus Line 
John Philip Sousa/Fennell:  Washington Post March 

* * * * * * * * * *

He deserves a bigger image...

In the meantime, I'm taking some of my own advice and am starting to work my way through the Beethoven string quartets.  I've recently purchased two sets, both recorded in the 90s, at amazing prices:  Emerson and the original Tokyo.  It should be one hell of a ride!

Now, about that job....