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On the State of the Arts Today: An Emergency

Nicolas Bejarano Isaza is a young trumpeter, born in Colombia, living in LA. He specializes in new music. He also hosts a podcast: The Arts Salon. I had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas via the trombonist David Taylor, aptly described in the New York Times as a “killer” virtuoso. Nicolas is no killer – but his cultural base and depth of inquiry are exceptional among young musicians today. He interviewed me for 90 minutes and 22 seconds – and if you have 90 minutes and 22 seconds, you won’t find our conversation boring. The topic is the … [Read more...]

BURIED TREASURE: Farwell’s Forbidden “Hako” Quartet — Take Two

My most recent blog was yet another plea that the music of Arthur Farwell – America’s most important cancelled concert composer – become known. I posted the world premiere recording of Farwell’s amazing Hako String Quartet. In response, I have received an amazing comment from Curt Cacioppo. Since it’s buried in the comments section of my blog, I’m reposting it here so that it has a blog of its own. Cacioppo himself is a formidable American composer. A substantial portion of his output absorbs his profound knowledge of Native American music … [Read more...]

BURIED TREASURE: Arthur Farwell’s “Hako” — Will String Quartets Have the Courage to Perform It?

In the world of classical music, it sometimes happens that a major work lies dormant, undiscovered and unperformed, for a very long time. Consider the case of The Trojans, today known as a peak achievement in Romantic opera. Berlioz finished composing it in 1858. The first complete performance took place in 1890. Not until Colin Davis championed and recorded The Trojans in the 1960s did it become widely recognized as something more than an intriguing anomaly.  In the world of American classical music, Charles Ives is … [Read more...]

Copland and Joe McCarthy on NPR – a “Surreal Experience” “Aaron Copland and the Spirit of Labor Day” – the radio documentary I was delighted to produce for the enterprising NPR newsmagazine “1A” – is archived here. I received a wonderfully bristling response from Steve Robinson, who for more than a decade ran WFMT/Chicago when it was (by far) the best classical-music radio station in the US. Steve writes: “The Copland program was entertaining, informative and, if I can use a word that fell out of favor in public radio decades ago, … [Read more...]

Joe McCarthy Grills Aaron Copland: “As your Communist Party record is extremely long . . . “ “As your Communist Party record is extremely long, I think counsel [i.e., Roy Cohn] will want to ask you some questions. . . . Those who underestimate the work the staff has done in the past end up occasionally before a Grand Jury.” --Senator Joseph McCarthy, addressing Aaron Copland (May 26, 1953) This chilling audio re-enactment, with Edward Gero as McCarthy, is an excerpt from “Aaron Copland: American Populist,” a 45-minute NPR documentary to be broadcast as a Labor Day Special this Monday at 10 am … [Read more...]

Toradze’s Piano Stories — Take Two My recent posting of Behrouz Jamali's extraordinary film about Alexander Toradze produced a couple of comments so extraordinary that I'm re-posting them here. The first is from David Bondy, an attorney who was once in artists' management: I too have been mesmerized by Toradze’s recording of the Prokofiev 2. The first movement unfolds like no one else’s. Others who tackle this work grab it as though it will slip through their hands if they give it any room to breathe. Toradze suspends time … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s Prophecy — “Essential Cultural History”

Kirkus Reviews, which previews books for booksellers, critics, and others in the know, has just previewed my forthcoming Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music. It’s been accorded a star (good news) – and the review itself grasps my book whole. In summary: “Horowitz closes with a clarion call for American classical music to ‘acquire a viable future, at last buoyed and directed by a proper past.’ His chronicle of ‘a failure of historical memory’ is feisty and opinionated but always backed by solid evidence. … [Read more...]

Art Tatum and the “Black Virtuoso Tradition” On the heels of his film with Alexander Toradze (my previous blog), Behrouz Jamali has released another remarkable film essay dealing with the art of the piano: The Black Virtuoso Tradition. It features what the New York Times once called “piano playing at its most awesome”: Steven Mayer playing Art Tatum. The Black Virtuoso Tradition is an American musical phenomenon that I framed decades ago, inspired by Mayer’s eloquent advocacy of such Black piano geniuses as Tatum, James P. Johnson, … [Read more...]

Toradze’s Piano Stories Behrouz Jamali has created the kind of film I had always hoped to see about Alexander Toradze.  I permits Toradze to speak for an hour without abridgement or abbreviation. It abjures soundbites.  I believe it should be seen by all devotees of the piano, and to fledgling pianists at music schools and conservatories. Born in Tbilisi in 1952, Toradze graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, toured the West as a Soviet artist, defected to the United States in 1983, and has since taught and lived in the … [Read more...]

Savage Beauty — Take two Three months ago I blogged about Min Xiao-fen’s exceptional new recording, “White Lotus,” in which her pipa is mated with Rez Abbasi’s guitar. The music comes from her soundtrack to a classic Chinese silent film: "The Goddess." I’m delighted to see that NPR has now done an enterpirising seven-minute feature. Here’s an excerpt: ABBASI: And there is that scene [in "The Goddess"] where the principal comes to visit the mother and son. And we both dig into a kind of the blues . . . It's like a blue … [Read more...]

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