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30.5.10

In Brief: Lord Stanley Edition


Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to good things in Blogville and Beyond.
  • Pierre Boulez turned 85 back in March, and the man himself led two concerts in his honor this week, with the Orchestre de Paris and the Ensemble intercontemporain in the Salle Pleyel. Unfortunately, both Boulez (in a public interview at intermission) and critic Renaud Machart pronounced these concerts "interminable" because of the length of seating changes from work to work, causing Boulez to declare that a concert hall suited to "the music of tomorrow" would have a revolving stage for such changes and an acoustic setup suited for the "spatialization" techniques heard in music by Boulez, Dalbavie, and others. Machart notes with some humor, "What other major musician of today would hold 'spatialization' up as a cardinal virtue of the music of the future and would dare to claim that that consideration requires one to rethink completely the setup of classical music venues? Only Boulez, as far as I know, could argue this point in such an opinionated way." [Le Monde]

  • It's that time of the year: "NHL Needs to Raise $5,000 in 24 Hours if it Wants to Hold Stanley Cup Finals." [The Onion]

  • The concern about hockey's popularity, or lack thereof, is so marked that Greg Wyshynski actually has a list of assignments for hockey fans to help raise awareness of the sport during the Stanley Cup finals. [Puck Daddy]

  • Last Sunday in one of those inspired bits of wackiness that could only happen in France, a project called "Nature capitale" transformed the boulevard des Champs-Élysées into a garden. From the Place de l'Etoile to the Rond-point des Champs-Elysées, farmers hauled in 8,000 agricultural displays -- orchard trees, swaths of grass and other grains and other plants, enclosures of livestock -- and covered 1.2 km of the broad avenue. The pictures are whimsical. You can walk around and see everything for free, but you can also buy all sorts of agricultural products. Two million visitors are expected. [Le Figaro]

  • The last two finalists in the piano competition of the Concours Reine Elisabeth played last night: American Claire Huangci and Russian Denis Kozhukhin. The announcement of the winner was made early this morning, and apparently the best was saved for last: the jury awarded first prize to Kozhukhin. (You can watch online videos of the competition.) His semifinal round performance of Mozart's K. 491, with fine cadenzas by Alfred Schnittke, was excellent, and his semifinal recital program was equally striking (especially the compulsory work, Back to the Sound by Belgian composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps). In the final round, he chose a Haydn sonata (!) and Prokofiev's second concerto. [Queen Elisabeth Competition]

  • Classical music: "I'm not dead yet!" Thierry Hilleriteau reports that a new film by Radu Mihaileanu, Le Concert, has enjoyed record sales in France: 1.9 million tickets sold in theaters, huge sales on DVD and Blu-Ray (and selling, at the moment, at a rate of 4,000 DVDs per week). The entire final scene is given over to a performance of (part of) Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, and the effect on sales of CDs of that work and others by the same composer has been surprising, even leading to pirated CDs appearing in some shops. A successful film, even if it is not entirely about a composer but features a work prominently, can reignite interest in classical music among people who are not die-hard fans. Will Stephen Fry's new biopic on Handel next year have a similar effect? [Le Figaro]

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Downey, you sure are a short-sighted man. I was able to obtain tickets at Dumbarton Oaks in March of this year for a recital of the up-and-coming harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, whom I just caught yesterday in recital at the Library of Congress. Too bad you don't get to things which everyone already knows about. Been provincial lately?

Charles T. Downey said...

For the record, Esfahani's LoC recital was in the May calendar and his Dumbarton Oaks concerts were both listed in the March calendar. Are you angry because I wasn't able to review your friend's recitals? That's actually kind of sweet of you, although you have a strange way of inviting me. Sadly, I cannot actually attend everything that appears in the calendar.

Anonymous said...

That may be so, but you have a funny way of attending many bad things, and a funny way of not seeing what's obvious to the eyes of many European critics at the moment. This one's the next big thing that happened to the harpsichord.

Incidentally, he's not a friend! But maybe you need to open up your eyes a bit.

Henry Holland said...

Thanks for the Boulez clip. Wow, to hear that music played by a top-flight orchestra makes all the difference. Boulez even smiles at the end! It's not likely, but I hope he finishes orchstrating the Notations.

herman said...

Re: the Boulez video, I cannot wonder why Boulez, directing his own music, is apparently so wrapped up in the score, turning the pages &c, that he has no time to spare to make eye contact with the orchestra. Is the music that unfamiliar to him?

His idea that new stages should be built to suit his music, i.e. the music of the future is so typical. Build more buildings. Spend more money on institutions.

Charles T. Downey said...

Henry, I agree that it is a great performance.

Herman, given how complicated the score is, who could blame any conductor for using a score? The issue, I would guess, is not unfamiliarity with the score but Boulez's punctilious attention to detail.

Charles T. Downey said...

And that's why you Googled "Mahan Esfahani" into Safari on your Mac and came upon our calendar listing but did not find a review. In the future, Esfahani will just have to do a better job of scheduling his performances so that they match up with my schedule. It was not a matter of me covering another concert, just having a typically busy Memorial Day weekend. But thanks for the comments: unfortunately, they will probably be the first thing I think of when I finally get a chance to hear Esfahani play.

jfl said...

Here's a European critic perfectly oblivious to Mahan Esfahani. And like Charles said, now I, too, have a shitty first impression of him without even having heard the poor sod. Courtesy some overly eager jerk. How does the saying go: With friends (fans) like these, who needs enemies.

Henry Holland said...

This one's the next big thing that happened to the harpsichord

That's rather like being The Next Big Thing on kazoo for all the general musical public gives a damn about the harpsichord.

"The harpsichord sounds like two skeletons copulating on a tin roof"

Sir Thomas Beecham

His idea that new stages should be built to suit his music, i.e. the music of the future is so typical. Build more buildings. Spend more money on institutions

I'd love it if the rotating stage became common. I went to the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert at Disney Hall on Saturday and the changeover of the set up for the Sibelius Violin Concerto (lovely playing by Julius Rachlin) and Dutilleux's wonderful Metaboles took almost 10 minutes because of all the tuned percussion used in the Dutilleux.

jfl said...

How did you like Bringuier's conducting?

Henry Holland said...

Loved his conducting. He let Mr. Rachlin lead the way in the Sibelius, really brought a sense of structure to the fab Dutilleux piece and hit all the big points in the Stravinsky. He has a great sense of color but doesn't stint on punching out rhythms either. I wish he'd have conducted the whole ballet though....

He's only scheduled to conduct one weekend in 2010/11 :-(

Feb. 2011
Smetana The Moldau
Schumann Cello Concerto
Dvorák Symphony No. 5