Thursday, September 30, 2010

The latest Web logger

I am woefully behind!! It has been weeks since I wrote my last post. Fie. Fie on me! That must needs change.

But here is a comfort. Look at Alan Gilbert. He is the conductor of the New York Philharmonic!

And he is a Web logger, as of the other day. He has just launched a Web log on the Musical America site.

Lots of luck, Alan Gilbert! It ain't as easy as it looks. Note that he has already missed a few days. That is what I mean about his being a comfort.

Alan Gilbert's first post is a kind of dutiful and boring account of what he does during the course of a day, drop his kid off at pre-kindergarten, look over scores, drink coffee, whatever. I sort of skimmed over it.

"(I) spoke with Larry Tarlow, the Principal Librarian, asking him when I could expect the final installment of Wynton Marsalis’s revision of his piece that we are performing on Opening Night (September 22)..."

Better you than me! That is what I was thinking.

I am glad I am not the music director of the New York Philharmonic, you know?

It would be fun if Alan Gilbert relaxed into his Web log. If he started dumping on people who annoyed him, giving us little secrets on what really goes on at the New York Philharmonic, tells us the stupid stuff he is listening to that he would not normally admit to, why, then, we could get to like Alan Gilbert, our new Web log buddy.

My advice: Go for it, Mr. Gilbert.

Name names!


Settle scores!

We will be wishing and hoping.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The music of heaven

Pope Benedict XVI made some moving comments the other day about Mozart after hearing a performance of the Requiem. The priest at my church hipped me to them.

There is also an interesting essay on the Pope's thoughts on Mozart that touches on Benedict's feelings for how Catholic liturgical music has gone to pot in our current day and age. (That is my wording, not his. But it has gone to pot, I am sorry.)

In that essay here is one thing I love: seeing someone addressed as "Reverend Kapellmeister." It is like being back in the 18th century! That someone by the way is the Pope's brother.

Another thing I love: the name Hans Urs von Balthasar. That is a great name. It is like being back in the 16th century!

But seriously.

Anyone with deep feelings for Mozart has to deplore some of this modern stuff that I have seen described as folk-y or light Broadway. When you go to Mass you are challenged to believe what your brain is telling you is impossible. I will tell you this, I find it more difficult to do that when I am listening to crummy music. Maybe people smarter than I am can do it but I need that leg up I get from listening to something wonderful.

I loved Pope John Paul II but music has always mattered to me and in that respect, Pope Benedict is the answer to my prayers. The Catholic Church definitely needs a clean-up in the music department.

Tell 'em, Your Holiness!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Overrated? Underrated?

British concert pianist Stephen Hough, no stranger to this Web log, has a great thing going right now on his Web log about which composers are overrated and which are underrated.

That is a discussion that never grows old! We did a whole Sunday story about it once in The Buffalo News. That was when I got in trouble for writing I thought the Beatles were overrated. Wow, just the memory of that kills me. Before the story ran I went into the editor's office asking if I could pull it. I did not want to deal with the fallout.

She said, "No! That stays."

She was right. What the heck, you know? Sometimes you gotta be brave.

I like how Stephen Hough starts out his discussion, by defending Tchaikovsky. I was just thinking the same thing the other day, remember, about the "1812 Overture." Darn good piece, darn good composer. Not overrated in my not so humble opinion.

There are something like 100 comments on the Hough Web log as people weigh in. It is a lot of fun and in general the discussion is smart and entertaining. Although you know what, don't go on and say Mozart or Beethoven is overrated, you know? Glenn Gould sounded like an idiot making statements like that and anyone else does, too.

What an overrated/underrated composer discussion usually comes down to is distinguishing the first-tier composers from the second-tier. This is a parlor game that can eat up whole days. My mother and my brother George and I sometimes play that game.

George says that when push comes to shove, Mom thinks that Chopin, pictured above, is second-tier.

"Ask her," he says. "She doesn't like to admit it but that's what she thinks."

I like the one guy in Hough's discussion who declares that the modern minimalist composers are overrated. Say it! Tell 'em! To my way of thinking a lot of contemporary music will go down in history as a quaint fad that lasted longer than it should have.

It is fun to sling around opinions.

If you do not watch out it will eat your whole day!