On the Air This Week

Highlights from Feb. 1 to 7

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: Writer and director Joan Potter

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight

Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra plays Beethoven and Sibelius

Saturday, 11 am noon: Metropolitan Opera: Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Concertos

Sunday, noon: From the Top, from Opelika, Alabama

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with Gil Shaham

Monday, 7 pm: Roll Credits

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: American chamber music, and a string symphony of Mendelssohn

Roll Credits: 01/30/2012

Listen

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Playlist:

Rachel Portman – Emma Prague Philharmonic – Silva 6018

Elmer Bernstein – The Great Escape -Royal Philharmonic Pops – Denon 75288

Paul Anka – The Longest Day: March -Cincinnati Pops – Telarc 80175

John Williams – The Adventures of Tintin: selections – Studio Orchestra – Sony 97588

Charles Williams – The Apartment: Main Theme – Boston Pops Orchestra – RCA 60393

Ludovic Bourse – The Artist: selections – Brussels Philharmonic – Sony 97895

Frank Loesser – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: I Believe In You – Original Broadway Cast

Miklos Rozsa – Madame Bovary: Waltz – Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – Philips 438685

Mychael Danna – Moneyball: selections – Studio Orchestra

Continue reading Roll Credits: 01/30/2012

The Short Version: Self Assessment

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Any prolific composer could surprise us with how they rank their own works. Perhaps it’s as simple and as compelling as “What have I done lately?” This 19th century Titan might have dismissed one of our favorites with, “That’s so 1808.”

Paavo Berglund, 1929-2012: Bravo, Paavo!

Paavo Berglund died Wednesday, age 82. He was one of Finland’s most important conductors. Berglund was internationally known for his Sibelius recordings. He recorded the complete Sibelius symphonies — three times!

Another great Finnish conductor just embarked on his second cycle of Sibelius Symphony recordings, here in Minnesota. Osmo Vanska’s new CD with the Minnesota Orchestra includes Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5. You can hear No. 2 in it’s entirety, in its broadcast premiere tonight at 7pm here on Classical MPR. And get a guided tour right now from Julie Amacher’s New Classical Tracks.

Meanwhile, in memoriam Paavo Berglund, conducting Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5:

The Liberating Invitation from the Artworld

“With its stylization and its larger-than-life emotions, opera has never been about unbroken narrative or cinematic realism. It is about going in and out of the drama, in and out of realism.”

(Zachary Woolfe, New York Observer; October 5, 2011)

To bridge the gap, to break through the translucent historical and pedestal’d barrier between the stage and the commonplace, is seen as something of a taboo in the classical world. As an artistic audience, we don’t know how to handle incorporation and conversation with the stage world, the world of moral fragility, the world of the dilemma that pries us from any comfortable choice, a world perfect in its scenarios. We like to sit cozy, knowing that these experiences are at a distance, thinking that the stage world couldn’t possibly portray our own daily experience and struggle with the world, meaning and purpose… But it does.

By all of this I simply mean the act of breaking character on stage, a small aside or reaction that emerges from within the production and addresses the outside world. Throughout history there has been disdain circling this issue.

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Recently, Metropolitan operatic star René Pape, while acting the role of Méphistophélès (the Devil) in Charles Gounod’s Faust, broke character by parting with the French language and addressed the audience with an aside in English.

Let me paint the picture: It is Act 4, a scene in Marguerite’s garden. She has just sung the famous “Jewel Song” after having received a box covered in jewels, which happened to have been from Faust through Méphistophélès, who is helping Faust gain the love of Marguerite. After Marguerite’s aria Faust and Méphistophélès reenter the stage and begin their recitative. Amid one of his French sighs Méphistophélès (played by René Pape) turns to the audience and says, in English, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” The laughter that followed seemed strained with an underlying current of judgment.

You can see how this would outrage the public, and it did. The concern is duly noted and understandable; classical art should not be tampered with or tarnished. However, allow me to play the part of Méphistophélès’s attorney for a moment (Devil’s advocate, if I may).

The living aesthetician, Arthur C. Danto, rocked the art world in 1981 with the publication of his book “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art.” The mission, as the subtitle suggests, was to create a philosophy of art, which he thought, up to that point, had been slightly ambiguous and undefined. (Claim to fame: That the history of art is finished. A disturbing statement likened to Nietzsche’s “God is dead. And we have killed him”.)

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His book was a reaction to the history of art, which in the decades previous to its publication brought what some might consider strange artistic developments and freedoms. He philosophically addresses these controversial pieces of art, namely Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (a urinal with “R. Mutt 1917” written on it), Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” (a stack of boxes with the logo of the Brillo soap pad brand), among other Avant Garde works.

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The pinnacle example is a short, passionate dialogue regarding the statue of a cat that was located in a rotunda on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. For a long time this statue sat there, unmoved, sitting near a staircase. He passed this everyday with little notice. However, one day as Danto walked by he noticed that the statue had been freshly chained to the stair case railing. This provided him a door into the question of where the artworld line is drawn and the ambiguity of the border between art and commonplace.

For Danto, the chained cat could have meant one of two things: an attempt to counteract possible burglaries of the statue, or an attempt by the artist to gift some morsel of artworld status into and onto the commonplace. He chose the latter.

Like the chain, the broken character is an invitation to incorporate the audience in the artistic experience, as a way for the actor to connect their own character to the audience as if to say, “Yes, I am here with you. Let us see the world together. Isn’t this fascinating?”

Of course, it is easy to say that when an actor breaks character they are breaking the tradition and sanctity of that particular artwork. However, under the Dantonian lens it seems that the breaking of one’s character truly is an invitation for involvement, an acceptance between the audience and the artist, a most liberating and inclusive characteristic of art.

Art speaks on behalf of culture, it follows our desires and passions, opening doors, and with such an invitation we as an audience are transcendent up and into the artworld, living, breathing and drinking every morally fragile theme.

Roll Credits: 01/23/2012

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Playlist:

Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, arr. Alfred Newman – The King and I Overture

Original Soundtrack Recording

EMI 27351

Jerry Goldsmith – The Generals March

London Symphony

Telarc 80433

Randy Newman – Ragtime

Studio Orchestra

Rhino 78245

Randy Newman – She Loved Me from Toy Story 2

Nonesuch 79689

Jerome Moross – The Big Country

Philharmonia Orchestra

Silva 1048

Irving Berlin – There’s No Business Like Show Business

Philips 439 070

Dmitri Tiomkin – Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling

Telarc 80141

John Williams – War Horse: Dartmoor

Original Soundtrack

Sony 97528

Alfred Newman – How the West Was Won

Cincinnati Pops

Telarc 80141

Alfred Newman – Cathy’s Theme from Wuthering Heights

National Philharmonic

RCA 184

Max Steiner – Gone with the Wind Main Theme

Boston Pops

Philips 411 037

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Jan. 25 to 31

Wednesday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Opera performs Donizetti’s Mary Stuart

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: The Summer Singers

Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra: Prokofiev, Kalevi Aho, and Brahms

Saturday, noon: Metropolitan Opera: Puccini’s Tosca

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Sassy Brassy

Sunday, noon: From the Top with guest Gunther Schuller

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Vienna Philharmonic in Mozart and Richard Strauss

Monday, 7 pm: Roll Credits

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: The Four Seasons (Astor Piazzolla and Antonio Vivaldi)

Osmo Vanska Sibelius: 7 outta 10, but…

Let’s put this right up front: numerical ratings of record reviews are specious at best. But relatively speaking here’s a not-so-perfect 7 for the new Sibelius recording by Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra. And it comes from a critic who, in fairness, has in the past awarded many perfect 10’s to Osmo’s recordings.

Say what you will about critics, but I will credit David Hurwitz with giving very specific details about WHY he feels Osmo’s performance doesn’t work. Hurwitz even goes so far as to explain why Bernstein’s recording is superior — even tho Hurwitz doesn’t like that one either. Point being, this review contains real insight and nuance.

Osmo has said the new CD is the best he’s ever done, and Osmo is one of the most thoughtful musicians around. I’d love to sit Osmo and Hurwitz down at a table to hear them discuss the merits of this Sibelius. THAT would be really interesting.

Meanwhile, you can judge for yourself; the disc is Julie Amacher’s next feature on New Classical Tracks tomorrow!

And here’s a sneak preview from the recording session:

Hahn-Bin, or, "Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick," as the song says…

Art museums have always appealed to the eye. Many appeal to the ear as well with music concerts. This Sunday, the North Dakota Art Museum offers both, with an unusual recital.

This young violinist appeared up in the New York Times Style section last year; his name is Hahn-Bin, and you can check him out here:

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Or is that just Grace Jones?

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What’s your take on this Xtreme dress-up stuff? Isn’t there enough distracting superficiality in the world already? Hahn-Bin, your teacher Itzhak Perlman never needed to act like Lady Gaga to get his point across.

Then again, perhaps Gypsy was right: Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick: