Can we talk?

I heard a wonderful concert by The Cleveland Orchestra a few weeks ago. Soloist Richard Goode performed Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto on a program that included Carl Maria von Weber's Overture to Der Freischütz and Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. Goode was eloquent in the Beethoven, and the orchestra played nuance upon nuance to help create an unforgettable accompaniment. Ivan Fischer conducted, although that hardly seems an adequate term. It might be better to say he prodded, seduced, led and inspired the orchestra - first to remind all of … [Read more...]

Public Concert, Private Music

When Doug McLennan asked me to write this blog, he told me that the most successful ones connect the writing to the experiences the blogger has in daily life. I write about building arts communities, and for several weeks I've been thinking that the following story should be told. It certainly grows out of real life, and the lives involved are close to me and involve a musician whose artistry is legendary. Last April my brother, Jim, copied an e mail he had sent to the great pianist, Andre Watts. Since it says everything better than I possibly … [Read more...]

Drive-by Opera

In the Epilogue to Alex Ross's marvelous book, The Rest is Noise, he writes "Extremes become their opposites in time." Although he is making a completely different point than I want to focus on, I agree with him entirely.Opera began in the privacy of the upper crust of society: Baroque Italy's artistic patrons and political leaders provided the settings for the Florentine Camerata and the Italian madrigal to merge into a new genre. Cavalieri led to Peri and Caccini. Monteverdi and Cavalli followed, and in time opera's high production costs … [Read more...]

A Battle with (and for) Bruckner’s Music

This entry continues my exploration of Bruckner's Fourth as revealed by two recordings by Bruno Walter, along with a little bit of thinking about remembering to keep "art" first in "arts communities." You can read the previous entries on this subject here and here. Last time I finished with: It isn't hard to love Bruno Walter, and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra's recordings reveal him to be a musician in the center of good taste. The tempos are not surprising, nor are the climaxes overblown. The whole CSO series is consistently satisfying, and … [Read more...]

Having Coffee with Bruno Walter

In my last entry I wrote the following:I want to start this series of blogs on personal artistic development and its relationship to building communities. Naturally, there are many interpretations of the word "community" - ranging from shared geography to any group with a shared interest. Recently, I have been thinking of the community which formed around Bruckner's music - and of one conductor's role in helping establish and foster it over a very long lifetime: Bruno Walter. I've come to understand more clearly what his personal journey … [Read more...]

The End of Summer – This Time

The evening chill announces that the Michigan summer is ending. Even on sunny days there is a little spark in the air that, somehow, connects itself to October more closely than to June.  The economic convulsions of last year are still fresh, but there is hope that, someplace on the horizon, better days are coming. A lot of arts organizations got scared last spring. I read of Boards in a panic, suddenly confronted with no cash, smaller audiences, and dwindling donations. The crisis served as a wake-up call for many, and there were … [Read more...]

The Art of the Turnaround from Two Points of View

Sometimes you just need a little perspective. Sometimes you need a way to look at things, a prism through which you shine an idea so that on the other side it reveals a new aspect, previously hidden but clearly latent within. Today I experienced both: a prism and then a little perspective. This morning Kennedy Center's acclaimed President, Michael Kaiser, spoke to a roomful of arts leaders in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I drove two hours to get there and, upon arrival, found that the room was full and the mood was surprisingly upbeat. In the … [Read more...]

Finding a Tibetan Voice in Beijing

In June of 2006 there was a concert at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music devoted to new works by young Tibetan composers. Four of them were students while the fifth was their teacher from Lhasa, Professor Jorgar. This multi-year program was his dream - a way of taking a promising generation of composers from Tibet and training them in the music of both the Western and Eastern traditions at the highest levels China could offer. Replanted back home some of them would surely teach, and a home-grown Tibetan school of composers might then … [Read more...]

Change or Die

You might remember from an earlier post that I was in Chicago this month at the League of American Orchestra's National Conference. Going to the conference revealed the current issues, unspoken fears, and magnitude of the challenge being faced within the field. The elephant in the room was the current financial meltdown and its impact on precarious institutions like symphony orchestras. But the implication was that the problem was larger than the bleak economy. The problem is us. Darwin was right: When circumstances change, we have to … [Read more...]

Oh Baby, I’m about to lose control!

It's a concert week for me. Tomorrow night, the Adrian Symphony Orchestra will present a pops concert to end the season. As of early in the week we had seven seats left to sell and none of them were "two-together" in the hall. Mid-week I stopped by the local radio station to meet with the station manager who was going to do the narration for this concert when he surprised me with, "Hey, today the phones lit up when we gave away two tickets for the concert. We couldn't believe how quickly people were calling in!" Excuse me? We hadn't offered a … [Read more...]