Robert Mann on Making Music

(Photo: Brian Hatton)

Elsewhere I have written about Robert Mann’s extraordinary gift for teaching. At 93, he remains the indefatigable teacher, still smiling and joyous. Indeed, if you didn’t know who he is, when he walks into a room, your first thought would probably be, “Why does this man seem so happy?” Soon it becomes obvious that there is a rare kind of balance at play here: accomplishment, family, and continuing curiosity about what is happening right now, especially as it relates to music. All of this was on display this week at Manhattan School of … [Read more...]

Diva on Detour

Photo by Scott Wall

Most people know soprano Patricia Racette as one of the reigning operatic divas of our time. She appears around the world singing signature roles like Jenufa, Madama Butterfly Violetta, Desdemona, Tatyana, Liu and Micaela – to name just a few. With such a career in the opera house, it might surprise many to hear that she is currently engaged in a project recording cabaret songs in a live studio setting. The CD, which will be titled Diva on Detour, will be released on the GPR label later this spring. With songs by Stephen Sondheim, Cole … [Read more...]

Mingus Lives

charles mingus

Charles Mingus was recognized in his lifetime as a virtuoso bassist, accomplished pianist and bandleader. Today his enduring legacy may be as a major 20th-century composer. To grasp some sense of his growing importance, consider the fact that his entire body of work has been acquired by the Library of Congress.  This is not only a first for jazz, but also for an African-American composer. At this death he left behind more than 100 albums and over 300 compositions - music that is still considered far ahead of its time. In the field of jazz, his … [Read more...]

Masur on Beethoven

Kurt Masur

At the beginning of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony the entire orchestra begins with an enormous stroke of an A major chord. As it dissipates, a quiet, single oboe emerges, outlining a lovely melody, gently supported by strings. Conductors see such a passage in myriad ways. You ask so many questions as you imagine the music. What does the tempo indication really mean? How short is the staccato of that opening chord? When should the oboe appear from the decay of the chord? How should we shape the oboe melody? Should the oboe line LEAD to the chords … [Read more...]

Field Trip!

Ormandy

Throw a stone in a lake and watch the rings dance. They last a long time. Ray Sommerfield threw a stone over fifty years ago. Back in 1960 he loaded up nine of his students from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania and drove them off to hear a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. There wasn't a school bus available, so he borrowed a hearse. Yes, a hearse. Not the most elegant way to go to a concert, but it would do. It seems that Mr. Sommerfield was a man of strong convictions. He thought his students, even though they lived in a small … [Read more...]

“Must See” Streaming Internet

mann

This afternoon I watched as a great master passed on everything he could leave to the next generation of musicians. Robert Mann, at 91 years old, was teaching a master class in Miller Recital Hall at the Manhattan School of Music. The founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet for over fifty years, Mann has been a driving force in the world of music for more than seven decades. He is on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music and has been president of the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation since 1971. He received the Lifetime … [Read more...]

Penny for your thoughts

postit

In a Q & A session at the end of a presentation I made to arts leaders not long ago, a question came up about getting feedback from audiences in real time. Many of the participants said that their audience members wouldn't fill out surveys that were inserted in the concert programs. Nor would they go online after the event. How was anyone to get timely and accurate feedback? How could you initiate a conversation if no one would talk BACK to you? I thought for a moment and came up with an inexpensive, low-tech idea. Later, I found out … [Read more...]

After the Last Kiss

JSB

I met Julia Kurtyka in winter. She had worked to invite me to guest conduct an orchestra that she was involved with, the Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra, just outside of Detroit, in a special concert that would feature her protégé, violinist Caroline Goulding, in a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5. Julia had been the concertmaster of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra long before I became its music director. Since then she had moved on to other projects, but we shared mutual friends and that led to the invitation to guest … [Read more...]

What are we doing here?

hector

When I was little, my father used to tell a story of a little boy from long ago. He was walking among many people engaged in a flurry of activity. "What are you doing?" he asked one man with a chisel and hammer in his hand. "I'm cutting this stone down to a particular size," he answered. The little boy walked over to another man and asked the same question, but he received a completely different response: "I'm building a cathedral." Sometimes I don't think we have any idea what we're actually doing. We only see the stone in our … [Read more...]

Discovering the Baroque Above a Torture Chamber

patio

On a narrow street in the Colonial City area of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, there is a building called Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance. A converted home, with a central patio surrounded by two stories of walkways and rooms, its walls are covered with quotes from the heroes and survivors from those who resisted against many oppressive governments during the Twentieth Century, including the government of Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic from … [Read more...]