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Would you please for God’s sake hold still?!

Have I mentioned this before? I can’t remember. Anyway, in high school I had a violin teacher who gave me a big ol’ lecture about how I was far too staid in my performing style. He wanted drama! He wanted me to stamp my foot and toss my head and wave my violin around in the air. None of this was remotely within my personality, but he insisted it was vital to giving a good performance, not only to engage to the listener’s visual senses, but also to enhance my own visceral feel for the music.

I can only assume that this particular speech is popular among music teachers, because I see so many performers positively flailing on stage, or engaging in completely unnecessary histrionics. I once saw a pianist who began every piece by lifting her shoulders, throwing back her head, taking what was clearly a VERY VERY DEEP BREATH, raising her hands hiiiiiiiiiiigh over the keyboard, AAAAAAAND… hunching over the piano as she began to play. By the beginning of the third piece I wanted to put her in a straitjacket.

At least she was a soloist. I find it particularly distressing when members of an orchestra wave their arms around like they’re seizing. I once pissed off Hannu Lintu by expressing my displeasure with his particularly physical conducting style. I realize the conductor heads the orchestra, but that doesn’t mean he should distract from it. And oh Lord, does the principle violinist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra drive me nuts sometimes. He, too, is of the sway-and-swoon school of music performance, and I DO NOT LIKE IT.

Okay, sometimes I DO like it. I adore Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg largely because of her stomps and forceful pulls of the bow across the strings, in a fight she’s winning. But here, I think, is the difference: her antics have always struck me as an expression of fun. She is enjoying herself up there. By contrast, the vast majority of the theatrics I’ve witnessed seem to communicate little more than what a seeeeeerious undertaking the musician has taken on. Oh, music is SO HARD and I must THROW MYSELF INTO IT because I just feel so much DRAMA. My soul is in PAIN, damn it, PAIN, and I want you to know!

Oh, shut it. You love what you do. If you’re dealing with a particularly twiddly bit, a frown of concentration will do it, thanks. This is not about you. This is about the music. And if it’s causing you such emotional angst, maybe you should see a therapist.

So, whaddya think? Do you agree that musicians tend to heavily toward theatrics when they play? Or am I totally off base here? Certainly there are exceptions to every rule – tell me about them!

“Tell me, what comes after the sixty-eighth measure of diarrhea?”

Remember when Beethoven took on the Biebs and rap battled him right out of the music world? Seems Mozart recently caught the rhyming bug. You have no idea how many potential post titles I rejected before I settled on this one. Did I make the right choice?

The man who wasn’t horny

I’m not sure if this is vicious commentary, poor self-placement, or some combination thereof.


Holy music

Q. What makes the viola a divine instrument? Continue reading

Concert Roundup, Shaken Not Stirred

  • The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra offers you multiple options this week! Item one? A performance in Frederick on April 12, with a very interesting combination of violin, viola, and bassoon. I don’t even know what repertoire there is for that – intrigue, anyone? [ See it! ]
  • Or perhaps the BSO Pops are more your speed – or maybe James Bond is? The Pops play a concert featuring extracts from fifty year’s worth of Bond soundtracks. April 11 at Strathmore, April 12 – 14 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • OR! Perhaps you have one of those “small child” things I keep hearing about? The BSO performs a special concert just for them, featuring works by composers such as Mozart and Haydn. No word on whether the musicians will watch your kid while you sneak off to the bar, but at least the music should be good. Two performances on April 13 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • By contrast, the National Symphony Orchestra has nothing for you. SO FAR.
  • This week at StrathmoreRevolutionary organist Cameron Carpenter; legendary pianist Maurizio Pollini. [ 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!: Reich vs. Cage

Good morning, campers! It is finally nice and warm outside, which is significantly improving my outlook on life and subsequently allowing me to forgive you for letting Hindemith best Vaughan Williams even though the latter was holding a cat and therefore clearly should have won. Sheesh. I can’t believe you guys didn’t pick up on that. But ah well; let bygones be bygones. Let’s try this again, shall we?

Maybe you thought the last match was pretty darn modern. Well, b-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet, because in this corner, clap your hands! It’s



And in this corner, SHHHHHH. It’s


Let’s see. John Cage is a legend of weirdness, with his moments of silence and his crazy dance scores and his chance music. Then you’ve got Steve Reich, was his minimalism and his clapping and his pendulums and my God is there a lot of innovation of up in this match!

And so, Ain’t Baroccos, I ask you: of these two composers who were/are alive in your lifetime, who do you love?

It’s so hard to face an empty piano bench

Somebody posted a link to this video on Twitter (was it you? I bet it was you!), but the original link’s embed code wouldn’t work. Luckily I was able to dig it up on YouTube, and with Spanish subtitles, no less! Now you can improve your language skills while pondering why it’s so hard to face an empty page, and it’s so hard to face an empty piano bench.

For the full video in one piece, check it out here.

Quick! To the bass signal!

Notice that, meanwhile, the violists are wearing the masks of super-villian henchmen.

You mean it’s not just a really big violin?

Q. How many violists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Continue reading

Covetous Concert Roundup


  • It’s not faaaaair. I want to go hear the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Prokofiev‘s Peter and the Wolf! I don’t see why I’m not invited just because I neither am nor possess a small child! Does anyone want to lend me a small child? Preferably a used one that could come back slightly damaged without causing incident? April 5, 6, 11 & 12 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • It’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaair. I want to go hear and see the BSO play the score to Fantasia AND Fantasia 2000 while the movies are projected on a screen! Do they not realize how I feel about Disney? Did they not read this article? Or this one? Why does no one ever send me tickets to things?! April 5 & 6 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Meanwhile, over at the National Symphony Orchestra, it’s none other than renowned pianist Emanuel Ax, everybody, with a concert of AlbertChopin, and Dvorak. But who cares what he’s playing? He’s Emanuel Ax. April 4 – 6. [ See it! ]
  • This week at StrathmoreKristin Lee busts out a program of modern solo violin; drummer Isabelle De Leon. [ See the calendar! ]

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