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Concert Roundup: Wednesday Edition

For some reason I keep thinking it’s Thursday; I almost posted a viola joke. Wishful thinking, I guess.

  • The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra breaks out the BSO Pops with “Music of the Baby Boomers.” So I’m not the target audience. Apparently Frankie Valli is happening; you mean it’s not spelled “Valley”? Live and learn, I guess. May 17 at Strathmore; May 18 – 20 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra counters with a very classical program: a Haydn symphony, a Weill symphony, and the Brahms second piano concerto as performed by Nelson Freire. May 17 – 19. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore, we offer two counts of Debussy, a brass ensemble, and a talented soprano. [ See the calendar! ]

Composer Cagematch! Round 4: Gershwin vs. Tchaikovsky

Oh now just what in the hell was that.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Brahms over STRAVINSKY? Whatever happened to Team Igor? I feel like I went in for the trust fall and you didn’t catch me, readership. Harrumph.

Well, fine. I have some devilish plans for Johannes in the future. For now, I must collect myself and announce that in this corner, he turned Verdi Blue! It’s


And in this corner, he serenaded Copland right out of the ring! It’s


Tchaikovsky discovers America, indeed.

Composer Cagematch! Round 4: Brahms vs. Stravinsky

And so goes the final match of round 3, as I predicted: with Brahms the winner. But Grieg, sir, let it not be said that you didn’t put up a valiant fight. In deference to your heroic effort, we are throwing Brahms directly back into the ring. Immediately! Without rest! Against one hell of a competitor!

Hold on to your hats and glasses, folks, because in this corner, he sent Grieg on a long walk off a short Peer! It’s


And in this corner, he subjugated Bartok! (‘Cause, y’know, the USSR took over Hungary, and… shut up. The Peer one was good.) It’s


Well? Are you a romantic at heart, or are you ruled by new and modern sensibilities?

Composer Cagematch! Round 3: Grieg vs. Brahms

I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

And by “shocked” I of course mean “not remotely surprised.” How about you? Are you beyond flabbergasted that, in this late-round fight, Tchaikovsky took down Copland? Although in fairness, I do want to point out that I never expected Copland to advance past his first-round competition against Dvorak, so a round of applause for a solid competitor, who still loses so that’s the last we’ll be thinking about him.

Now let’s finish up round three with a match that should be similarly fraught with suspense. But first I just wanted to point out that when criminals in this world appear and break the laws that they should fear and frighten all who see or hear the cry goes up both far and near for


(As a side note, he choreographed Saint-Saens a whole new danse; he’s also in a corner.)

And in this corner, he proved Mahler to be no titan! It’s


Battle… FIGHT!

P.S. When Polly’s in trouble I am not slow. It’s hip, hip, hip and away I go!

Andre Watts, Colin Currie, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet are always hanging in my apartment

Fun fact: Andre Watts, Colin Currie, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet hang in my apartment all the time.

HA! See what I did there?

You’ve just been afforded an exclusive glimpse into the Baroquelair, where loot stolen from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra graces my walls. Of course, when I say “stolen” I mean “Benevolent Dictator Jamie told me I could have old posters back when I was a BSO intern” but I’m trying to build up a mystique here.

What I like about the three I was given lifted in a clever heist is that they all feature a concert I attended – in the case of the Watts poster, I saw Brahms’ German Requiem; I saw Colin Currie perform Incantations and  pissed off Hannu Lintu with my thoughts on his tempi; and I saw Jean-Yves Thibaudet in “Demons, Drama, and Dance”. (I’ve linked back to my reviews for all of them, so go nuts!)

As an added bonus, check out this old playbill I legally purchased from the post office gift shop at Colonial Williamsburg.

The Beggar’s Opera! This old-timey comic opera was cause exceeding great joy in my musical partner-in-crime Bekah and I when it appeared in our undergrad listening tests. It is truly an inspiration to every parent who has ever wanted their little girl to grow up to be a prostitute.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what’s on the opposite wall:

Yeah, I know. You’re so surprised.

* Note: My deepest apologies for the deplorably shoddy cell phone photo quality on display above. It’s a super-cloudy day, I lack sufficient lighting in my apartment, and I suddenly remembered that I’d left my SLR at my parents’ house. If I haven’t replaced them with GOOD versions in a couple weeks, just poke me about it. Sorry So Sloppy!

Or Concert Roundup

The letters of the day are “O” and “R.”

  • This week the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays Elgar that ISN’T a march from Pomp and Circumstance. Crazy, right? But apparently he also wrote a Serenade for Strings. And if you can’t get behind that, how about the second Bach violin concerto? Or a Mendelssohn octet? March 8 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Or if you prefer, you can catch the BSO outside their gilded cage in the wilds of Frederick on March 10, with the exact same program only for some reason it’s got its own completely separate link. What a bunch of weirdos. [ See it! ]
  • Or! Have kids? I’m sorry; I would’ve counseled against it if you’d asked me beforehand. Ah, well, fait accompli. You’re probably desperate for a means to distract them on weekends; the BSO can help with that too. Their matinee children’s program “Sea Songs” promises shipwrecks, pirates, and Rimsky-Korsakov. March 10 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Current Cagematch! competitor Bartok in the house! The National Symphony Orchestra’s house, that is. It’s an all Bartok program, with The Miraculous Mandarin and Bluebeard‘s Castle. March 8 – 10; free discussion after the March 8 performance. [ See it! ]
  • Or! On March 9, the NSO offers a rather more varied program. You still get a bunch of Bartok, but you can intersperse it with Kodaly, Liszt, and all the Brahms you can dance, provide your dance is Hungarian. [ See it! ]
  • A smattering of upcoming Strathmore concerts: a jazz quintet, Ugandan song and dance, classical guitar, and Army and Marine bands. [ See the calendar! ]

The Greatest

Note: By the end of this post I will ask you to create your own list of the top ten composers. I’m ruining the ending for you because I think it might be neat if you do it now, before you’re corrupted by my list or the NYT list or your grocery list or what have you. Just a thought. Thank you; good morning!

Hey, remember how I said the lynchpin of the Composer Cagematch! is not who you feel is the better composer but rather who you love more? Well, put a pin in it. We’re playing a new game now.

A couple weeks ago while at my grandmother’s house my family got into a discussion about who the greatest composers of all time were — greatest, not our favorites. (Yeah, my family has random chats about classical composers — just wait until I tell you about the great Dvorak’s Origins Argument of Thanksgiving 2011. That one still resurfaces from time to time.) My mom pulled up a list from The New York Times music critic to get his top 10. Take a gander here.

His list began with the traditional top three but then had me ducking a few curveballs — Brahms? Really? Then he said in his article he would expect such skepticism — and it got me thinking as to what MY top ten would be. Naturally I don’t mean to say I’m a completely impartial judge (I’d say the immediately preceding sentence already knocked me out of contention for that title), but in making such a list I think one would have to look at quality over blind adoration. You’ll see what I mean.*

So… for now, here’s my top ten. I betcha my list could change as early as tomorrow, but in this moment, here are what I call The Greatest:

  1. Bach
  2. Beethoven
  3. Mozart
  4. Stravinsky
  5. Schubert
  6. Bartok
  7. Shostakovich
  8. Handel
  9. Haydn
  10. Prokofiev

What I find most interesting about this exercise is less about who made it but who didn’t — or rather, which sorts of composers didn’t. I didn’t name a single composer outside the Austro-Hungarian or Soviet area; nary an opera composer to be found. This is the hole in my classical understanding; this teaches me where I need to go next to expand my repertoire — and maybe revise my list once I have.

Well? How do you feel about my list? I expect some fightin’ words as opinions must always create. And what about you? For bonus points, how has your list evolved? If I can remember, I want to make this list up again next year and see if it’s changed. Someone remind me in 11.5 months, okay?

* Do you SEE that? Do you SEE how I put Mozart at number 3, even though he makes me want to sic a fictionalized Salieri on him? He’s there because he was a genius, and even if I don’t dig most of his works, I can recognize that. Incidentally, this is also how I feel about Faulkner.

Concert Roundup: A Letter

Dear BSO,

I refuse to speak to you until next week. Here’s why:

  • This week the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs a program entitled “The Genius of Mozart.” They tried to distract me from the truth with Brahms, a Wagner overture, and Strauss, R., but you can’t hide Mozart and his big ol’ piano concerto from me. Especially when you put it right in the title. At least make an effort, sheesh. February 16 at Strathmore; February 17 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Perhaps you’re wondering if I love your siblings more than you. Well, the National Symphony Orchestra is rolling out Beethoven‘s fourth symphony, so clearly the answer is yes until you shape up. Also Strauss, R., but as a welcome accompaniment this time instead of a sin-covering condiment. Maybe you should try following your brother’s example. February 16 – 19. [ See it! ]
  • And Strathmore is offering a whole day of free Duke Ellington stuff! Come visit me at Strathmore’s free open house on President’s Day from 11 am to 4 pm.  There’ll be gratis concerts, lectures, and more surrounding the life and works of Duke Ellington. I’ll be there; come visit me! [ See it! ]

Don’t be too downcast, BSO. I still love you. I just don’t like you very much right now.

Love (see?),

P.S. If you’d like me to include your upcoming concert in next week’s concert roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Verdi vs. Handel

Well. Part of this complete breakfast, indeed.

In yet another decision I simply cannot in good conscience cosign, Raisin Brahms knocked Mahler right out. Guys, you’re killing me.

But at least Mahler put up a decent fight and no one complained about poor matching. I warned you last week, so believe me when I tell you this — I fear for the last two second round fights. I’m staking out potential hiding places as I speak. Tell me, if an angry mob is as intelligent as the stupidest member’s IQ divided by the number of participants, should behind the couch be sufficient? Keep in mind it’s not pushed against the wall.

So, anyway… in this corner, he wiped the Monte right off his name! It’s


And in this corner, he showed Haydn who’s really Papa! It’s


Okay, look. Verdi excelled in opera. Handel was sorta the father of English opera. Okay? Will you accept this logic? Will you at least admit it makes more sense than pitting either against Gershwin?

Part of this complete breakfast

I think this one provides all the entertainment it can without any assists from me. But thanks to Pam with an assist from CMcGo. GUTEN TAAAAAAAG!

Okay, off to my first day of work at Strathmore. Wish me luck!