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A Particularly Punny Concert Roundup

  • This Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is Baroque! No, literally. They’re not inveterate pun makers, like me. As far as I’m aware. Anyway – selections from Vivaldi‘s Four Seasons, Bach, and all the Handel you can drink, including Water Music (see? Pun). July 11 at Strathmore; July 12 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra is still hanging out at Wolf Trap, offering classical and not-so-classical programs to suit your taste. For the purists, catch Orff‘s immortal Carmina Burana, plus (!!!!!) Mussourgsky‘s Pictures at an Exhibition (yay!!!!!) on July 11. Or if you’d rather, take in the scores to ZeldaFinal Fantasy, and more with the latest incarnation of Video Games Live on July 12. [ See classical! ] [ See VGL! ]
  • This week at Strathmore: Free summer outdoor concerts continue, plus kindie rockers Milkshake. [ See the calendar! ]

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


“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Johann”

Time to check in on our favorite boys! (Not that I’d be inclined to complain, of course, but – good Lord, did they really play twenty-four hours of Bach?)

Concert Roundup Cool

  • Hey, remember that bit in Amadeus where Salieri pretends to be Mozart’s dead father and Wolfie freaks the hell out and composes a requiem and then dies? The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra does! So they’re playing Mozart‘s Requiem, which even I, an inveterate Mozart skeptic, admit is pretty darn good. The Baltimore Choral Arts Society helps out with the singing; Part‘s Tabula Rasa rounds out the program. February 28 at Strathmore; March 2 & 3 at the Meyerhoff. It looks like they might also be doing some version of it at the Weinberg  Center in Frederick on March 1. [ See it! ] [ See it in Frederick! ]
  • Or! If you tend to feel jazzy in the morning, the BSO is offering a matinee performance on March 2 centered around the African American influence on music. Specifically mentioned: Duke Ellington, Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue, and a tap master. [ See it! ]
  • This week the National Symphony Orchestra gets glacial, chills out, cools it, and other puns about cold with an all-Nordic program, featuring SibeliusLindberg, and Saariaho. Even the solo violinist is Nordic – the awesomely named Pekka Kuusisto. February 28 – March 2. [ See it! ]
  • This week at StrathmoreViolinist Jennifer Koh explores the farther reaches of Bach, Parisian jazz, a snazzy marching band. [ See the calendar! ]

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

He’s not dead after all!

And now for another round of: Sh!t Clift Sends Me!

In case you need a refresher course – check out the first Sh!t Clift Sends Me here and the second here. Got a lot of video for you this time around. And don’t forget to look for a bonus piece of Sh!t Rebekah Sends Me, because you won’t want to miss it!

  • Here is Stephen Fry explaining exactly why classical music remains relevant to today’s youth, even if he does open with “Dubstep is my life.”
  • This Richter clip should be labeled ‘organ porn.'” Duly noted!
  • Here, as the narrator informs us, Siegfried’s death scene.
  • Here’s a fascinating article from the Montreal Gazette about the rising rock star status of the conductor and his current role in an orchestra.
  • Here’s an article from Scientific American pointing out that even a small amount of musical training is beneficial to your brain.
  • Here’s Don Giovanni and a condom. I don’t understand why you’re so surprised.
  • This article begins thusly: “I’m going to start with Bach the rebel. The badass.”
  • And let’s finish things off with some jazz.
  • Here’s your bonus from Rebekah! And it is beautiful, beautiful. Its source is a parody website lampooning right wing religious types, which hopefully does not offend, but COME ON: “Violins were invented by a homosexual devil worshipper.” Call your school board and shut down your child’s orchestra program before it’s too late, everybody!

This concludes this edition of Sh!t Clift Sends Me.

* “I fully expect you to include this as a footnote,” said Clift. Done.

You’re kind of awesome

This post starts out about ballet, but bear with me – I promise I have a musical point.

As you may know, I am an amateur ballerina. Key word being amateur; I’ve been doing it enough years that I am pretty good, but I can barely turn out a triple pirouette to save my life, my turnout is average at best, and my feet, while strong, could have higher arches. In short, I am an Okay Dancer.

This is not a story about proving myself wrong about that. This is a story about how a friend of mine came to ballet class with me, a friend who had never danced before in her life, and afterward she was so embarrassed because she couldn’t bend her body like I could. “I thought you were amazing,” she said.

Was I amazing, to the full extent that ballerinas can be amazing? Hell no. But compared to a non-dancer, I could do a thousand things other people could never dream of doing – simply things that felt so easy to me, leaps and jumps and lifts of the leg imperfectly executed but nonetheless executed, that I’d been doing for so long that I took them for granted.

And I think musicians are like that too. I think we forget that there are so many people who look at a piece of sheet music and see a random assortment of dots and lines. They compose a foreign language; they have no meaning.

To those who haven’t studied music, the ability to play a scale is a miraculous thing. Understanding of arpeggios? Genius! Bach’s “Minuet in G”? Astounding! All these tiny little things we’ve learned over the years that mean nothing to us because we’ve known them so long and the fingerings are ingrained in our muscle memory and a D# is a D# is a D# and how could anyone not know that?

But there are a surprising number of people who don’t know that. But you do. And it sounds really dumb, but I think it might be nice if, next time you play an instrument or read a score or parse a complicated symphony in your head, you think, “It’s pretty cool that I can do this. Not everyone can.”

Dear composers: You’re going to Hell

And now it’s time for another edition of Classical Music Popping Up In Otherwise Unrelated Works of Fiction!

Have you ever read Good Omens? Well, you should. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett with their powers combined! To give you some context, the plot centers around the approach of the Apocalypse and the rise of the Antichrist (did I mention it’s hilarious?). Which is not to say no one’s trying to stop it – two people are, or rather, one angel named Aziraphale and one demon named Crowley are, working in tandem – really.

In this scene, Crowley is making arguments as to why, exactly, the Apocalypse would be a bad time for all of them. Among his points:

Listen,” said Crowley, “how many musicians do you think [Heaven has] got, eh? First grade, I mean.”

Aziraphale looked taken aback.

“Well, I should think – ” he began.

“Two,” said Crowley. “Elgar and Liszt. That’s all. [Hell’s] got the rest. Beethoven, Brahms, all the Bachs, Mozart, the lot. Can you imagine eternity with Elgar?”

Aziraphale shut his eyes. “All too easily,” he groaned.

Well, there you have it. Turns out all those unmusical people in the world are just trying to avoid eternal damnation. But I do rather wonder how Liszt got there and Bach didn’t, you know?

In which it is proven that I am an innovator

I just want to point out that I got there three years ago.

Please turn on your cell phones

I’m pretty sure this is what Tchaikovsky always had in mind anyway.

I just want you to be prepared

Hey, remember a month or two ago how I picked out some Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts that tickled my particular fancy? Let’s do the same thing for Strathmore, which offers such a dizzying array of concerts over the course of the season that I’m sure attempting to process it all can be daunting. Never fear – I’ve picked out all the classical concerts that have so far been announced, so you’ll know what not to miss in advance. You’re quite welcome.

  • Duo Amaral, Oct 12 – Classical guitar featuring composers like Rodrigo and Albeniz.
  • Guido’s Ear, Oct 18 – Pre- and early Baroque – think Monteverdi, Zanetti, Merula.
  • Dali Quartet, Oct 28 – Spice things up with some Latin American chamber music.
  • Jennifer Koh’s Bach and Beyond, Part 1 (Nov 14) and Part 2 (Feb 28) – Bach violin partitas and sonatas mixed with newer works influenced by the great composer.
  • George Li, Jan 12 – A prodigal pianist, playing Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.
  • China National Symphony, Feb 1 – A bunch of new works by Chinese composers plus BEETHOVEN’S SEVENTH SYMPHONY.
  • Mattias Jacobsson, Mar 21 – The classical guitarist plays the Bach Lute Suites.
  • Kristin Lee, April 4 – Gershwin’s Three Preludes on the violin! Fun!
  • Cameron Carpenter, April 12 – Well. I dare say I’ll never look at the organ quite the same way again.
  • Maurizio Pollini, April 14 – As if I needed to introduce this one. Not sure what he’s playing, but my money’s on some Chopin.
  • Marian Anderson String Quartet, April 25 – Prize-winning and Dvorak-playing. Nice.
  • Mak Grgic, May 9 – Another classical guitarist, this one has put together a bunch of neato transcriptions of works written by Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, and more, plus traditional guitar pieces.

So there you have it – all the straight-up classical music programs in the Strathmore season. SO FAR. Don’t worry; I’ll keep you apprised of these and other concerts as the year goes by. Good heavens, is it almost autumn already?