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A gig’s a gig

Q. What does a violist say when he gets to work? Continue reading

A Concert Roundup My Mom Won’t Like

  • This week, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra wants to ravish you with Rachmaninoff, so get ready for that. Yes, folks, it’s an all-Rachmaninoff program – sorry, Mom! Isle of the Dead, etudes, and his third piano concerto performed by Garrick Ohlsson. January 17 & 20 at the Meyerhoff.  [ See it! ]
  • Or, if you’d rather get just the piano concerto, the BSO is performing another one of their Off the Cuff concerts, wherein in addition to playing the piece you get history, context, and commentary on its creation, form, and place in the musical pantheon from none other than Marin Alsop. January 18 at Strathmore; January 19 the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra returns and counters with its own pianist – Tzimon Barto, and I think it it is fair to say he has one of the coolest names ever – playing the Bartok Piano No. 2 – and I think we can say he’s one of the coolest composers ever. So there’s that. Also Beethoven‘s Egmont Overture and Brahm‘s second symphony. January 17 – 19. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore: a rock-n-classical string quartet; jazz singers. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Is it possible to kill an entire musical genre?

Because I WANT TO DO IT.

Man, it feels like forever since I last did an opinion post! And in honor of the occasion, let me lay some disdain on ya. (Well, no. Not on YOU. I really like YOU. But you know what I mean.)

Part of my job involves standing at a concierge desk before concerts, giving out press tickets, directing people to the closest bathroom, etc. There is a bit of overlap, in deference to stragglers and people who got stuck on the beltway, where I’m doing this about ten minutes into the concert itself. The music is piped into the lobby during this time, which is why I am always sure to beg off the smooth jazz concerts, because seriously, what is up with smooth jazz?!

Really, I’m asking. Because I’m worried – why do I find this particular genre so distasteful? Is it something about my ear? My right brain? The musicians are perfectly talented individuals, and my GOD to people flock to their performances, but for some reason the instant I hear that mellow saxophone I’m in full on MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP mode.

Okay, I’m trying to articulate exactly what bothers me about it. It’s so… even-keeled. And calm. And peaceful. Soft and lulling. Which is to say nothing ever really happens. I feel like splicing a bunch of late-era Schoenberg into all the records just to liven things up (and come on, that would be pretty funny, don’t you think?).

I’m sorry, smooth jazz fans. I don’t mean to rag on you – okay, I did mean to rag on you, a little. I hope you can move past that, though, because now I’m opening the floor to you, or at the very least the people who understand you. What is it I don’t get about smooth jazz? Why do you love it so much? You can tell me. This is a safe space, I swear.

And while we’re on the subject: is there any genre of music or even era of classical that you can. Not. STAND?

My God, what are these children doing to the Moonlight Sonata?!

Hmmm. Well, as music education goes, it certainly is trying.

I must admit, the Jurassic Park/”Gangnam Style” bit made me laugh.

Musicians’ shorthand

This should be of great help to your stenographer.

You do need to tell them twice

A violist calls the orchestra office and asks for the conductor. The receptionist picks up and says, “I’m so sorry, but haven’t you heard? The conductor died last night.” The violist apologizes and hangs up, but a moment later calls back and asks for the conductor again. “I told you,” says the receptionist, “he died last night!”

“I know,” says the violist. “I just Continue reading

Concert Roundup Goes to the Movies

Concerts! They’re back!

  • The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra kicks off the second half of the season with another one of those nifty movie combinations – they’ll show the Russian movie Alexander Nevsky while the BSO plays Prokofiev‘s movie score live. January 11 & 13 at the Meyerhoff; January 12 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra is too busy wandering around the neighborhood to perform a concert this week.
  • This week at Strathmore: An enormous collection of fiddlers including Alasdair Fraser, pianist George Li, progressive soul vocalist Deborah Bond. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Composer Cagematch!: Williams vs. Goldsmith

It’s baaaaaaack! Yes, my friends, it’s time for another round of Composer Cagematch!, that spectacular series of cutthroat fights between composers that asks not the question, who is a better composer? but rather, who do you LOVE?

That’s right – throw out all your notions of musicology based merit and vote based on your heart, because the winner is not musicology’s champion – he is the people’s champion!

So where are we starting on this spectacular journey? Well, we were going to start with Schubert, but I still haven’t figured out who’s strong enough to take on Schubert, and I really don’t want to repeat composers, so… we’re starting with two of history’s most successful film composers, folks! And as such –

In this corner, entering the ring with in an imperial march, it’s



And in this corner, he brings honor to us all! It’s



Hey, I know I complain about Williams a lot, but I’ve always liked his Jurassic Park score, and then yesterday I watched Memoirs of a Geisha and found the theme beautiful and looked up the composer and said “Oh.” So you can vote for him; I won’t judge. And Jerry Goldsmith? The Voyager theme? Mulan? The Omen? The Mummy? I mean, this is hard.

But you still have to make your choice.

One man’s trash is another man’s cello

Think finding a good violin at your local luthier is hard? Try searching through the trash for the parts to build one yourself. Meet the Landfill Harmonic – pretty neat, huh?

Your band director has no interest in you marching to a different drummer

But I wouldn’t know, because it’s so hard to get the wheels on the cello.