Classical vs. pop reviews, June 26

There's no better way to understand why classical music doesn't speak to many people these days than by comparing pop and classical music reviews. I've chosen some from the New York Times, both because I read that paper every day and because the reviews on both sides of the fence are more than reputable. So the comparison, broadly speaking, is fair. So here's a bit of Ben Ratliff's review last Thursday of Gilberto Gil: His set was a deep fusion of pop and folk culture... The name of his band, Banda Larga Cordel, means broadband, and Mr. … [Read more...]

What the new audience wants

In the arts -- and certainly in classical music -- we spend a lot of time talking to each other, and I've just about typed myself blue in the face trying to say that we need to talk to people from the outside world. Especially if we want to reach a new young audience! One of the people I've long thought ought to be invited to talk to the classical world is J.D. Considine, a veteran pop and jazz writer whom I've known for some years, and currently writes about jazz for the Toronto Globe and Mail. He likes classical music (we used to talk about … [Read more...]

Misleading democracy

The comments so far on my post about the National Performing Arts Convention -- have been mostly very heartening. As is one private e-mai, which I hope to be able to share. The comments are well worth reading. One point that emerges from the comments is how silly it is -- to put this in plain English -- to assemble a group of well-meaning amateurs and ask them to solve a serious problem that needs the attention of professionals. Of course I mean amateurs in politics, promotion, and the planning of strategic campaigns. The democratic impulse … [Read more...]

Hall of mirrors?

I wasn't at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver last week, but I've faithfully read the strategies for the future that the conference produced. (If you follow the link, keep scrolling down to read all the strategies that were proposed.) And the whole thing, I have to say, makes me a little sad. Everyone -- and this includes friends of mine, people I respect and have known for years -- got so excited. Which is natural. You meet in a supportive environment, you've all got the same goals (boost the performing arts!), procedures … [Read more...]

Environmental Philharmonic

Because I've complained before that classical music organizations don't say or do do much about the environment (if they do anything at all), it's only fair to note something new from the New York Philharmonic. They're switching to e-mail-only press releases (except for "major items such as season announcements," to quote their e-mail). And at the bottom of every e-mail from anyone at the organization is this, in green type: "Please consider the environment before printing this email." And their annual parks concerts t-shirt is, they say, 100% … [Read more...]

Singing the real Baudelaire

A while ago, I talked about a lieder recital, at which I thought gentility stifled all meaning. My key example was a group of songs based on Baudelaire poems -- the uneasy meaning of Baudelaire didn't come through at all. For an antidote, try Gerard Souzay's performance of Duparc's song "L'invitation au voyage," which sets one of Baudelaire's most famous poems. (Dalton Baldwin is the pianist.) It's one of the art songs I love best -- no, one of the classical pieces of any kind I love most. And this performance defines it for me. Souzay goes … [Read more...]

Showboat footnote

From my wife Anne Midgette's terrific review on Musical America (you have to subscribe to the site -- well worthwhile -- to read the full text). I agree with all of this, but couldn't have put it this well: Show Boat," the 1927 musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, represents a turning point in the history of the American musical. And you'd better remember it; Carnegie Hall certainly did. The gala semi-staged performance it presented for its own benefit on Tuesday night wore its significance like the Pope his heavy golden robes: … [Read more...]

They don’t know Broadway

Last night I saw Showboat -- the grand old musical -- in what was supposed to be a gala concert performance at Carnegie Hall. I don't know how it can be very gala if hardly anyone in the cast can inhabit their roles. (Nathan Gunn was the big exception. He really knows how this music goes, and both sings and acts well enough to bring it off. He belongs on Broadway.) But let that be. What fascinated me -- and, I'll admit, made me a little sad -- was the orchestra. The musicians, in theory, were star quality, the A-list people from the … [Read more...]

Bang on a Can 2008

A year ago I gushed about the annual Bang on a Can marathon, the crucial new music event in New York that had moved to a new space and attracted a new, excited -- and exciting -- audience. This year (the performance was two weekends ago) the space was the same, the Winter Garden, an extravagant, comfortable public space downtown, with ceilings high enough to accommodate full-sized palm trees. It's right on the Hudson River, in the miles-long stretch that's been developed as a walkway (and skate- and bikeway) and a park. So you'll always have … [Read more...]

My Eastman speech

I've gotten an audio recording of the commencement speech I gave at Eastman, back on May 17, and with the school's permission, I've put it online. Just click on the link to hear it. It's 24 minutes long, and if you don't want to sit streaming it for that long, you can download it. I'm sure many Windows users know the procedure -- right click and choose "Save Link As..." (or the equivalent). Sorry that I don't know the Mac procedure. Feedback welcome. I'm in the midst of writing an outline of what I said. I make notes, and then speak from … [Read more...]