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LOL! It’s Friday!

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They always do.

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ZING!

Today’s viola joke comes from Rebekah, who, an addition to having an excellent sense of humor, is a cello teacher of great renown. If you’re in the Baltimore area and are in search of a cello-tastic learning experience, email Rebekah at rlkang2@gmail.com.

If you’d like your viola joke featured on Viola Joke Thursday, send it in with your name and anything musical you’d like to plug.

Q. What do violists use for birth control?

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How adagio is too adagio?

Those of you who follow my Twitter (that’s all of you, yes? I thought so!) and were on last night may have been privy to a brief glimpse of my current musical struggle. I am on a mission: to find a recording of the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” piano sonata, marked adagio cantabile, that is both adagio and cantabile.

What I like about Beethoven is his transparency of emotion (at least for me – your mileage may vary, but they don’t call him a bridge to the Romantic era for nothin’). The “Pastoral” is stormy anger, the “Chorale” is sheer joy, and he was even kind enough to label these for us.

The second movement of the “Pathetique” is not so straightforward, but for me it is one of the most poignant pieces the piano has ever known. A “pathetique” is meant to describe passionate sorrow, but Beethoven dabbles in subtlety. His sorrow is pensive, introverted. Rather than railing against misfortune or succumbing to shocked depression, it is a piece that has accepted the inevitability of its defeat. Even that slightly faster, more upbeat modulation is a timid little rally, and is scarcely around for more than a few measures before the return of the main theme.

In short: it’s sad and I love it. Yet I find so many artists take it so fast and so… I don’t know… etude-y. People, this is not an exercise! This is a lingering longing, and should be treated as such. And that’s why I’m having such trouble finding a suitable track.

When I was looking at clips on iTunes, I saw three different versions by Ashkenazi, with lengths of 4:59, 5:00, and 5:02. Does not suggest much variation of feeling to me, and I don’t feel bad saying this because Mr. Ashkenazi is dead and probably does not care what I think (apparently he’s alive in Australia. But probably still does not care what I think). Whoever tuned Artur Schnabel’s piano before he recorded… well, I hope he was fired afterward. Joshua Leeds educated me: I thought it couldn’t go too slow, but I discovered how wrong I was when listening to the clip of his 7:50 performance, with ages between chords. And anyone who is finishing this piece in less than 4:45 – who do you think you are, Secretariat?

I finally thought I’d hit something when listening to a recording by Radu Lupu, but it turns out you have to buy the whole bloody album for it and I’m not prepared for that just yet. And so I ask you, dear reading audience: can you direct me to a slow, sweet second movement of Beethoven’s “Pathetique”?

Holst could lead to harder movements

“I think,” he said, “I’m going to download some classical music to my phone to listen to while I study.”

“Ooh!” I said. “I’ll burn you a CD! Would you like soft, relaxed stuff?”

“Yeah.” He hesitated. “But could you put that one piece I like on there?”

“‘Jupiter’? Sure, I can do that.”

Oh, what a mistake he made when he asked for Holst’s Jupiter. I first introduced him to the piece in full after hearing a snippet in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial (true story!). He loved it! It was like the classical music equivalent of a gateway drug. And by asking for it again, he completely changed the context in which I created the mix.

See, originally it was to be a quiet-music-for-studying playlist. With the inclusion of “Jupiter,” I turned it into a here’s-some-classical-music-I-think-could-pull-you-further-to-the-dark-side list, with a few soft study pieces thrown in here and there. I tailored it to a guy with a percussionist background who’s mostly into techno, and had a ton of fun pulling movements of this and that I thought might interest him.

And it occurred to me – I could do it again, or you could do it! So I offer you the following options:

  • Send me your gateway playlist, and tell me the sort of person it’s intended to entice, and I’ll post it; OR
  • Send me the sort of person you want to entice, and I’ll make a suitable gateway playlist.

Do it! It’ll be fun! In the meantime, the Studying Techno Percussionist’s Gateway Playlist after the jump:

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And now for something completely different

It’s guest artists everywhere you look this week at the BSO. Nicholas McGegan is conducting, and Robert Levin is the pianist (I’m assuming that’s the right link for the latter, on account of because the other one is dead). Incidentally, whenever I look at McGegan’s headshot, I feel an overwhelming urge to hug him. He has such an impish expression, like a little leprechaun.

But I digress (now and in life). The program is entitled “Beethoven and Mozart with a Twist,” and features – wait for it – Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro overture and “Jupiter” symphony, as well as Beethoven’s first piano concerto.

But the one that, to paraphrase the immortal words of the Oracle, really bakes my noodle is Robert Levin, who will be performing an “improvisation in the style of Beethoven.” The program notes ignore its existence. All the brochure copy has to say is “Levin then presents his own classically inspired improvisation on the piano, just as Mozart or Beethoven might have done for their audiences.” So I suppose if you come to all three performances you’ll hear something different each time? Something completely different? Or is he building off of a starting point like that scene in Amadeus?

If you want to find out, the concerts are on February 25 and 26 at the Meyerhoff and February 27 at Strathmore, all at 8 pm. And then write me and let me know how it went. (I’ll be at work. Wah.)

SHE’S DOOMED!

Thank heaven Woodstock is well-versed in Italian opera.

Honk!

This is how I imagine orchestra rehearsals really look.

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Always look grave at a pun

This week’s viola joke comes from Alan. Remember, if you want your viola joke featured on Viola Joke Thursday, don’t hesitate to send it in!

Q. What’s the difference between a viola and a trampoline?

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It’s summer camp for adults!

Heard about this one yet? The BSO is offering a new summer program called the BSO Academy, where for one week, June 13-19, amateur musicians can learn and perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Essentially, it’s Rusty Musicians, but BIGGER.

The week includes lessons, rehearsals, sectionals,  and “enrichment classes” (beats me), and culminates in a finale performance and reception. Respighi’s The Pines of Rome and Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra are on the aural menu for the concert, to which the public is invited.

The program is open to all musicians 22 and older, and applications are due by March 15; you are invited to include a CD of you playing up to ten minutes of material. Read about tuition and fees here, you can apply here, and you’ll know by April 5 if you’ve been accepted. Good luck!

Olympic “Dream”

When I was a little kid ( as opposed to now, when I am a taller and older kid) I used to get all nostalgic about the Olympics theme music. As the end of the games approached, I would mourn the loss of that stirring brass section. Of course, now I realize that I’ll hear it again in two years and should focus my attention on other things, but I still harbor affection for the theme and therefore decided to do some research on its origins.

We meet again, Mr. Williams.

Apparently John Williams is responsible for some of the music used in Olympic broadcasts. His bit is entitled “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” and was composed for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. HOWEVER. In 1996 his piece was combined with a previously used theme, “Bugler’s Dream” from Leo Arnaud‘s Charge Suite, which had been used for Olympics broadcasts since 1964 and which is considered more well known than Williams’ music. Also the medley blends suspiciously well. Just. Saying.

“Bugler’s Dream” was evidently commissioned in 1958 by Felix Slatkin (Leonard Slatkin had a father! Who knew?) as part of the album Charge! ABC was the first to use the music for the Olympics, and also employed it as the theme for Wide World of Sports. When NBC obtained the broadcast rights to the games in 1988 they briefly went with different music, but brought “Bugler’s Dream” back in 1992, where it has been firmly ensconced in our ears and brains as the official music of the Olympics ever since. (I can’t believe 1992 was a long time ago now.)

Here it is, Arnaud and Williams. No wonder the French don’t like us.