The pastness of the past (3)

Lucia di Lammermoor at opening night of the Metropolitan Opera -- a perfect example of a piece that ought to feel more like the era it comes from. And would be more exciting if it did. The performance, by the way, was dreary, up until the stretta at the end of the second act. Then all at once it heated up, and the third act, especially the last two scenes, had some emotional punch. But don't believe what you read in some of the reviews! For most of the first two acts, the orchestra sounded like it was sleepwalking. The director clearly hadn't … [Read more...]

The pastness of the past (2)

I want to restate here some things I wrote in answer to Gabriel Solis's comment on my last post. Thanks, Gabriel, for getting me thinking. Classical music performances -- even of music of the past -- are always contemporary. That is, they smell of the present more of the past. That's because the style of performance has changed over the years (as anyone can hear from recordings). So any performance we hear of anything in the classical repertoire is going to be done in one of our contemporary performance styles. (I say "one of," because by now … [Read more...]

The pastness of the past (1)

I didn't write my "Capitano Sangue" post as well as I might have, and maybe some things weren't clear. I especially should stress that I'm not objecting to art from the past, including classical music from the past. This year I think I've read six Trollope novels, just for instance (the first four from the Barchester series, and the first two Pallisers.) And I've listened with pure happiness to two Verdi reissues from the LambertoGardelli series that came out on Philips in the '70s , I masnadieri (Carlo Bergonzi is such a joy to hear) and … [Read more...]

Il capitano sangue

If you want to know why classical music has receded from our culture, just watch some of Captain Blood, the classic (and wonderfully silly) 1935 pirate film, starring Errol Flynn. It might as well be an opera. Its plot, dialogue, and aesthetic are almost operatic, and so is its score, by Erich Korngold. Which meant that in 1935 you could go to the opera, and go to the movies, and see practically the same thing. So opera was close to everyday life, in a way that it just can't be now. Why not? Because the horizons of our culture have … [Read more...]

Music in my heart

I took a long trip over Labor Day, to attend anniversary celebrations for a marvelous art project my wife's stepfather has funded for the past 40 years. And while I was there, I made my debut as a free improviser, either on piano (when one was available), or else with anything that might make sound -- chairs I could drag along a concrete floor, my voice, resonant steel stairs I could stamp on -- when we improvised inside a sculpture as large as a house (larger than many houses) that my stepfather-in-law commissioned on the land near his … [Read more...]

My book — final version

I've posted the new first chunk of my book, Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music.  Comments on it are welcome. Long-time readers know I've been working on this book for quite a while, and that drafts of it have appeared here earlier. But what's on the blog now is the final version. Only a little to start, but there's a larger second chunk coming shortly. In the book, I'm saying that our culture has changed, that classical music hasn't kept up, that this is why there's a classical music crisis, and that the only solution to the crisis is to … [Read more...]