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A musical idea of Slava’s is taken over by media creations

In 1981, Mstistlav Rostropovich launched an Independence Day concert in Washington, D.C.

Amazing no-one had thought of it before, but there you go. Slava opened with the National Symphony Orchestra and jazz singer, Pearl Bailey.

This year, the lineup was founded on the products of television talent shows – American Idol contenders Candice Glover and Scotty McCreery, along with America’s Got Talent prodigy, Jackie Evancho.

Sic transit harmonia mundi.
slava elton photo(c)AP

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  1. Any video of Slava conducting the Pearl of Great Price with all his Glory? Would be nice to see. Also, does anyone know if Slava ever conducted any Mahler in his career? And is there phonographic or video evidence of it?

    • Stephen Cera says:

      Lloyd, during his time with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Slava conducted Mahler Symphonies 3, 6, 7 and 8. I think he may have led No. 1 as well. Am not aware of any recordings of these…

    • Stephen Cera says:

      On checking, I learned that the Mahler 8 was broadcast, so it’s entirely possible that tapes exist.

  2. James Brinton says:

    The days when Jack Kennedy would have classical groups and soloists in the White House are long gone. The implosion of cultural sensibility in the US during my lifetime has been dizzying.

    • PK Miller says:

      You are absolutely right, James. But it speaks to the quality of “entertainment” in this country. Pearl Bailey had more talent in the nail of her pinky than these pretenders have in their collective bodies. I watched the show while waiting to go down to Albany’s Empire State Plaza for Fireworks and wanted to kick the TV out the window. Barry Manilow & Neil Diamond are long past their prime. Neil Diamond BARKED his way through his songs. Manilow needs to retire graciously and let his grandchildren cry all the way to the bank. And these “reality shows,” American Idle (sic!) etc., dear God… The thud you hear is Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey, Lawrence Welk, all turning over in their graves…. (All 3 especially Sullivan & Welk–had uncanny ears for up & coming talent including then “Little” Stevie Wonder! And “Only in America” could a spoiled brat with NO discernible talent like Justin Bieber become a sensation. Beam me up Scotty….

      • Steven Honigberg says:

        These nationally televised shows do a disservice to the members that make up the National Symphony Orchestra. Last night was a nightmare (not to mention national guard policemen sporting AK 47s around their shoulders) for those of us in this orchestra who care about quality because there is no quality needed to perform these shows. Talk about retiring graciously, the brilliant directors and producers of this god awful show need to retire. Today is not soon enough! This is NOT what Slava Rostropovich had in mind when he began conducting these free programs open to the public.

        • Steven Honigberg: It is money. This program is televised in its dumbed-down form. The Boston Pops, on the year of the marathon bombing no less, are removed from the schedule. This says everything we need to know about television.

          I do not understand why the biggest US arts institutions (of all sorts) do not join together to create a cable network for the arts, similar to Opus Arte and Mezzo. It is possible.

          • Steven Honigberg says:

            I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was part of an orchestra a year ago in New York City made up from musicians around the country conducted by Gerard Schwarz. We recorded (on film) 8 one-hour programs to be aired on PBS television. Broadcasts have begun of our collective effort ( July 4 NSO programs at the Capitol need to be revamped. It is long over do. It starts at the top. NSO management is responsible for artistic content. They routinely and conveniently step aside to let all of us in the NSO suffer with a pool of directors and producers who need to find other work. The orchestra needs a higher profile on national television. Just as Rostropovich was involved (Leonard Slatkin was never involved or allowed to be involved – Leonard – please comment), we need our current excellent Music Director, Christoph Eschenbach, to demand to get involved to change it back a bit to where it once was.

  3. Steven Honigberg says:

    Actually these independence day concerts at the foot of our nation’s Capitol began in 1979. Slava’s brainchild, the following is the NSO’s first concert under his direction. Slava was in his second season as the orchestra’s Music Director.

    JOHN STAFFORD SMITH The Star Spangled Banner

    MIKHAIL GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila

    LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84

    JEAN SIBELIUS Finlandia, Op. 26, No. 7

    ANTONIN DVORÁK Husitská Overture, Op. 67

    CHARLES IVES “The Fourth of July” from A Symphony: Holidays

    RANDALL THOMPSON The Testament of Freedom

    Oratorio Society of Washington

    JOHN PHILIP SOUSA Stars and Stripes Forever

    • BrianFromDC says:

      I couldn’t agree more with Steven Honigberg’s sentiments. What a dreadful waste of a superb orchestra.

      Mr Honigberg may remember a few other highlights of the NSO’s capitol concerts in the early years: Maxim Shostakovich’s US conducting debut with his father’s 5th Symphony and Aaron Copland conducting a full concert which included the first time he narrated his own Lincoln Portrait – an unforgetable experience (a substitute conductor stepped in for that piece.)

      • Steven Honigberg says:

        Bernstein conducting his West Side Story and Songfest in 1985 stands out as well. Slava conducting Sarah Vaughn…James Galway…Henry Mancini…

  4. Mark Stratford says:

    == if Slava ever conducted any Mahler in his career

    ISTR he did that Benjamin Britten transcription of one of the middle movements from Symph #3.
    You know the one I mean ?

  5. Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      No, I can’t (feel the love tonight), I was hoping to hear Pearl Bailey with Slava, There used to be a movie theater in Philadelphia (on Ridge Avenue, I think) called the “Pearl.” Named after Pearl Bailey. Here she is with the muppets:

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        A quick PS: There was a Pearl Theater in Philadelphia on Ridge Avenue and that is where Pearl Bailey performed very early in her career. The relationship between the name of the theater and Ms Bailey’s name is apparently a coincidence. Anyone else have further info on that?

      • Pearl Bailey is dead. Capitol Fourth is a live performance.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Slava is dead too. But I think they will both live longer artistically than the performers on the most recent concert/broadcast. But that is only my opinion.

          • I want to thank all of the above commenters. Robert, you are not the only one who thinks this way.
            I firmly believe, it is up to those of us with standards and memory- in other words, who love the music and respect it to make sure our voices and our actions are heard. The military bands are comprised of excellent players, and they could be featured, for openers. The words in the introductions exemplify what has happened throughout our culture, for instance the appellation “genius,” ” greatest of all time, ”
            Thank you, again.

    • The Capitol Fourth program was headlined by Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. Broadway was represented by Megan Hilty and cast members from the current show “Motown”. I am certain that the organizers would love to have someone with the talent of Pearl Bailey fill one or more of those slots.

      Jackie Evancho was at the bottom of the list of performers and sang the above song (CYFTLT) which is from the animated Disney movie “The Lion King”. I am sure this song was requested by the organizers to appeal to all the children present. In any case I am also sure that Ms Evancho did not displace anyone with the talent of Pearl Bailey.

      I suspect Ms Evancho is featured on this page because of ongoing dissatisfaction with the popularity of the Classical Crossover genre. This popularity with audiences such as the one for Capitol Fourth will be evident on the next Billboard Classical chart. Although already on the chart for 39 weeks the album containing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” will shoot back to the top as a result of this performance.

      • The Billboard charts are about money, not talent. See Justin Bieber, One Direction, and every other Simon Cowell creation.

        This latest was not one of Ms. Evancho’s best performances (even putting aside the banal song). There is considerable talent to be found there, however. I hope she will seek out a teacher with the talent to help her develop it. The Bridge Over Troubled Water gives us a glimpse of a possibility.

        • Yes, the charts are about money, a measure of popularity. I made no claim they are an indication of talent. My claim is that her popularity and success are what drives the incessant criticism hereabouts. She is no threat to classical music but envy of her success is often cloaked in those terms.

          As far as developing her talent with a teacher I fear there is little hope of that. Her mother has stated that she would have to stop performing for that to happen and that if she is not performing she has no desire to sing. I suspect at some point she will move into the alternative music to which she likes to listen. Maybe then some around here will be able to put down their pitchforks and rest for a spell.

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