archives :||


This tag is associated with 21 posts

Concert Roundup: Hearts and Flowers Edition

Got a hot date planned for Valentine’s Day? I do! I’m having a threesome with a bottle of chocolate Zin and the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice. Scandalous! Ah, tradition.

But maybe you haven’t been able to concoct a plan as perfect as mine. Maybe you need an orchestral assist. Alternatively, you could just bake this heart-shaped pizza and call it a day, but I’d select a concert as backup.

  • Jack Everly conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra SuperPops in a Valentine-themed concert featuring singer/pianist Tony DeSare belting out shmoopy favorite like “Moon River,” “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby,” etc. etc. For another $20 they’ll give you champagne and a chocolate dessert to share, too. February 9 at Strathmore; February 10 -12 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra made me love them like Judy Garland loved Clark Gable — Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg!!!!! Playing!!!!! Shostakovich!!!!! Also: Bruckner. Most mostly: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg!!!!!!! And there’s a free discussion with her after the Thursday concert. Dear NSO: please send me tickets. Or make the tickets you offer cheaper. Either one of those would be a perfect Valentine. February 9 – 11. [ See it! ]
  • Or! Ladino singer Yasmin Levy takes the stage at Strathmore on Valentine’s Day proper (Ladino, it seems, is Judeo-Spanish music; learn and grow!). They’ll even serve you dinner beforehand if you like. [ See it and/or eat it! ]

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

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Saint-Saens vs. Grieg

Have you been paying attention? If you have, you know that I’m leaving for WALT DISNEY WORLD!!!!! tomorrow (the answer to your question is: this is my eleventh time). Two things can of course be taken for granted — I will a) be tweeting about my musical findings all throughout the trip (so follow me now!) and b) I’ll tell you all about it when I get back, which in this case will be on Tuesday, January 10.

But never you fear — I’m leaving you with a babysitter. Two, actually, because with the holidays out of the way [sad face goes here] we can return to our Composer Cagematches!

(Perhaps you are thinking, Jenn, whatever happened to the most recent match? To which I say: shhhhh. We don’t want to make Shostakovich feel worse than he already does and Bartok’s head is big enough. Okay? Okay.)

And so in this corner, he ain’t afraid of no Soviet Republic! It’s


And in this corner, he’s so literal about Herzwunden! It’s


So who would you like to see die — Ase or a swan?

Composer Cagematch!: You’re Not Going to Like It

It happened again!

Shostakovich was winning. So much was he winning, a Twitter follower who will remain nameless (nohewon’tERIC) declared it to be a fruitless battle and almost didn’t vote for Bartok. Who ended up winning by one point. Hmmm….

Anyway. I’m sensing some voter fatigue out there. Don’t worry, guys, this is your last match in the first round; next time it’ll be winner against winner! In the meantime, allow me to present to you: A Match You Won’t Like. They do not match at all. They are two composers I wanted wanted to feature, and I couldn’t think of a workable match for my love Schubert. Besides, we really need some cultural diversity up in here — do you have any idea how many Russians and Germans are advancing to round two? So suck it up, because in this corner, shhhh! Don’t mention the carnival! It’s


And in this corner, shhh — don’t mention the circus! It’s


I know. I know. They don’t match. Shut up. I like them, and they are from somewhere that isn’t Russia OR Germany. And they wrote some really good music, okay? Have you ever listened to Gayane? How about the Organ Symphony? Just shut up and vote so we can take this baby to round two, would you?

* Ha… girl’s name.

** Kal Penn in forty years? Anyone? No? Just me?

Composer Cagematch!: Bartok vs. Shostakovich

In the words of the great Bob Kelso: daaaaaaamn, Turkledawg!

Liszt had it in the bag. He really did. He was winning forever. And yet somehow…

A tie happened. Then Liszt pulled ahead. Another tie. Liszt pulled ahead again. Then another tie. And when the poll closed, Chopin took it by one. Crazy times!

We’re entering the home stretch now, guys. Just two more matches to go in round 1. And yet I ask you to travel with me again to familiar ground — we’re barreling headlong back into eastern Europe, because in this corner, ethnomusicology FTW!


And in this corner, apologies to Stalin FTW! It’s


Ha! And you thought these matches were so easy! How you like me now, sucka? This awesome dude or that awesome dude? Awesome folk tunes or awesome Jewish tunes?! Clearly this is awesomely hard.

A tiny bite of music

Let’s talk about obsession repetition.

Specifically, let’s talk about the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony, unarguably his best (and by “unarguably his best,” I mean “don’t try to argue with me; it’s his best”). Let’s talk about that last little bit in the horn section, two sets of horns in harmony. Here, skip to 8:25 and you’ll hear exactly the part I mean; it repeats, more or less, at 8:38.

This is my favorite part. Of the whole movement, of the whole symphony. Like ten seconds worth of music. Don’t get me wrong — I love the whole piece — but I can and have listened to that little section eight, ten times in a row. One little bit.

I don’t think she rewinds specifically for the spot, but my mom has a similar fondness for a mini-glissando in the fourth movement of Shostakovich’s piano trio no. 2. Listen to it at 8:14.

Just one little bit. A tiny bite. And it’s a favorite part, something you’re waiting for the whole piece even as you enjoy every other note.

A familial tic, or have you experienced a similar phenomenon? Say you can only listen to a max 15 seconds of music the rest of your life. Sure, it would suck, but would would you choose to make the madness more bearable?

Speaking of mother Russia…

This week the BSO offers you your choice of how you want your Russian music done. Do you prefer it, shall we say, full-fat or light?

If you’d prefer the heavy version, “Robustly Russian” is for you. It features Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and his first piano concerto and finishes out with Shostakovich’s fifth symphony (obligatory bah! Rachmaninoff! goes here). You can see that on Thursday, January 20 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff — which makes it a Thursday Wine Night! — or Sunday, January 23 at 3 pm, also at the Meyerhoff.

In the light version, a Rachmaninoffectomy is wisely performed (oh look, I got one in there anyway!) and it’s Shostakovich’s fifth symphony Off the Cuff style — you’ll learn all about what into Shostakovich’s creation of the piece. See it at Strathmore on January 21 at 8:15 pm or at the Meyerhoff on January 22 at 7 pm.

Kirill Gerstein is your pianist, Marin Alsop is your conductor, and this is your student discount:

$10 Advance Student Rush Tickets!
Login to BSOmusic.org using Promo Code STUDENT to purchase your discounted tickets to Off the Cuff: Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. You must login before adding tickets to your cart to view discounted ticket price. This offer is for online purchases only.

Uhhhhh… just kidding!

This is posted on the BSO’s web site.

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan to Replace Midori for BSO Concerts,
October 21-23

Due to a sudden back injury, the BSO regrets to announce that violinist Midori has cancelled her upcoming engagement to perform with the BSO in the concerts on October 21-23, 2010. Conductor Gilbert Varga is still scheduled to lead the program.

Midori expressed her regret, “I’m so disappointed to miss the opportunity to play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Varga! I have strained my back and have been strongly advised against physical exertion at this time. I greatly appreciate the graciousness and understanding of the BSO, and look forward to re-scheduling our collaboration at the earliest opportunity.”

In her place, the BSO is pleased to welcome Russian-Armenian violinist Mikhail Simonyan, who will perform his BSO debut. The program will remain unchanged and features Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto.

View this program

So, yeah. This week’s BSO concert is NOT “Midori Plays Shostakovich.” It is, however, still Shostakovich. And Stravinsky’s PETROUCHKA. But that Midori discount post I made a couple weeks ago isn’t so helpful anymore. Apologies. At least it says she wants to reschedule.

My friend Bekah told me that Midori was also supposed to do a master class at Peabody. Wow, I said, that would SUCK if you thought you’d be playing for Midori and it fell through. No, said Bekah, I’d probably be relieved. If I were playing for Midori, I would puke. To which I said, dude, you would be psyched to PUKE for Midori. You’d be like, Midori-sempai, am I puking loud enough? Do you want me to play with the dynamics? Is my puke the right shade of brown? How fast do you want me to puke? How do I add more vibrato without my throat spasming?

I mean, that’s how you’d react, right? I’m not weird.

Dashing! Rush!

I got an exciting email from Benevolent Dictator Jamie this morning:

$10 Advance Student Rush Tickets!

Login to BSOmusic.org using Promo Code STUDENT to purchase your discounted tickets to Beethoven and Shostakovich. You must login before adding tickets to your cart to view discounted ticket price. This offer is for online purchases only. [Ain’t Baroque notes: ya gotta use these links on this blog post!]

And what Beethoven and Shostakovich is this, you might ask? I mean, besides two of my favorite composers ever? Why, it’s Beethoven’s second piano concerto, Shostakovich’s first symphony (written when he was 19!), and then also Mahler’s Blumine and Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture.

The pianist is Markus Groh, and the conductor is Ilyich Rivas, whom the concert page described as 17-years-old and “dashing.” I’m not entirely sure what qualifies him for the latter, but sure, why not. I understand those Latin guys have all kindsa rhythm.

If you like symphonies or piano concertos or dashing men or whatever, you can have you fill on Thursday, October 14 and Friday, October 15 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff and Saturday, October 16 at 8 pm at Strathmore.

Extra perk on Thursday: Wine Night! Have I ever mentioned this? Every Thursday at the Meyerhoff they have tasting menus for ten bucks. Nifty. You should do that; it’s very dashing.

On Shostakovich and why I hate standing ovations

Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending — along with so many others there weren’t enough programs to go around because these guys are that good — a performance by the Gemini Piano Trio at Howard Community College. The concert was the first in a series of “dress rehearsals” of sorts before their big night at Carnegie Hall next weekend (hotcha!). They opened with a Beethoven piano trio with a slow movement as only he can write and ended with a nice Mendelssohn concerto that I couldn’t really concentrate on. This is because what happened in the middle was, much like an Oreo, the best part.

Shostakovich’s piano trio no. 2 in e minor. It is brilliant. It is astounding. It packs so much of the human condition into little more than twenty minutes. If you haven’t heard it, you have spent your life seriously deprived. It is intensity in music form. If you half-ass this piece… you can’t. You will collapse in a pile of broken strings and failure. Look it up; there are a thousand renditions of various dynamics, tempi, and expressions. It has meaning:

One of the major stimuli to writing this work becomes frighteningly apparent in the fourth movement. Much of this movement features music that sounds like Jewish dance music, but somehow grotesquely twisted. Shostakovich, beside writing this trio in his friend’s memory, had wished to express in music his reaction to the then newly-released information about Hitler’s barbarous treatment of the Jews. Shostakovich may have been motivated to write these cynical passages by reports that the Nazis made their victims dance on their graves before execution. After a tremendous climax, Shostakovich brings back the themes from the third and then first movements of the trio, this time rushing them before us at frantic pace. The effect is that of seeing a person’s whole life pass before us. [from the program notes, written by Benjamin Myers]

The Gemini Piano Trio’s recorded version is spectacular, and the performance on Saturday was excellent. Indeed, it had even more fire — more hidden rage — more anguish at a higher intensity than ever before. Music with a gun to its head. As the fourth movement approached its big climax I could feel it rising in my chest and giving me the shakes.

However, this is where I hop up on my soapbox, because while all the needed passion was there, it was also pockmarked with intonation problems and flubbed chords. Not a lot, mind you, but they were there, probably more because of nerves than anything else. And yet somehow they got a standing ovation.

Okay. I don’t mean to single the Gemini Piano Trio out here. Of the concerts I’ve been to in the last… years, really, it was one of the best. But this is the culmination of what I consider to be a disturbing trend. At every single one of those aforementioned concerts, THERE HAS BEEN A STANDING OVATION.

GUYS. Guys! The standing ovation is not something you should be throwing around like a gold star sticker you can buy in sheets of fifty. It’s a big deal. It’s supposed to mean something. And yet every time the performers do a great job you give them one. A great job is not ENOUGH. The standing ovation should be reserved for the exemplar, the apex, the acme, the untouchable, the infallible, the supreme.

Like it? Good. Really like it? Nice! Love it? Fantastic! Did it change your life, move you to new heights, make you feel the way you have never felt before and may never feel again? The confluence of perfection and a musical moment where time stands still – THAT deserves a standing ovation. No less.

If Shostakovich had been there that night to take his composer’s bows, I would have given HIM a standing ovation. What he created is perfection in time. For those who choose to perform his work, I expect you to match him note for note. Until then, you will receive only my sincere applause (take heart – I give this grudgingly enough as it is).

And for the musicians of those concerts I shall attend in the future, if I do not stand up, it does not mean I didn’t truly enjoy it. You see, until such time as the rest of the concert-going crowd decides to take my view of things, I shall be grading standing ovations on an even harsher curve. Someone’s got to keep the universe in balance.

Midori! Get your discount Midori here!

Speaking of hooking you up, did you ever think you could get 40% tickets to hear and see friggin’ MIDORI play live with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra? No? I DIDN’T THINK SO. And that is why you have me – to inform you of these things. Read it and weep (tears of joy):

Special Offer: $25 Tickets

Share this event with your friends and instantly get a Promo Code for $25 Tickets to Midori with the BSO. All you have to do is click the share button.

Easy! Magical, even!

Never mind Midori, even; the program is killer by itself. You’ve got your Glinka, you’ve got your Shostakovich (!!!!!!), but most importantly, YOU HAVE STRAVINSKY’S PETROUCHKA. Ack ack ack ack ack! I LOVE Petrouchka. It’s all at once dark and whimsical, clever and comic and brooding. Very Russian, no?

Thursday, October 21 at 8 pm at Strathmore. Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff. That’s three opportunities. Two locations. $25 tickets. No excuses.