U S Heraldic Registry, 2017.03.27-29
The conductor Riccardo Muti is the subject of a feature article by Andrew Clark this week in the Financial Times. Muti has been one of my favorites for a long time: a intelligent, principled musician whose interpretations are thoroughly considered and executed. His technique is extraordinary.
Muti, now thriving in his native Italy, conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra for twelve years. In Philadelphia he made a number of recordings with the orchestra and played a leading role in securing a new concert hall. He was often distressed, though, with the consumeristic misunderstandings Americans tend to hold about art. As he describes it to Clark:
'I always felt the accent was more on entertainment than the cultural experience,' says Muti. 'When I made tours around the US, I was shocked to find reviews written on a page called 'entertainment': topless shows next to Bruckner Seven. That says it all. It says culture is something to consume, not to engage with. When I go to a concert or opera, my attitude is to go to a place where I make my mind work. But in some theatres these ladies sit and wait for an Italian singer to bring an atmosphere of pizza and tomato and sunshine. E un lavoromusic is a work of the mind. That's why I don't like programmes with a selection of arias and choruses. This has nothing to do with culture.'Muti will be conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra's 60th Anniversary Concert this week in London. In February he will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in a benefit concert.
(Quoted by Andrew Clark: 'Muti's Way,' Financial Times, 2005 January 21)
A number of prominent composers are either writing or awaiting premieres of new band works, including John Corigliano (from the University of Texas), Christopher Rouse (University of Florida), Richard Danielpour (College Band Director's National Association), and Bright Sheng and Michael Daugherty (both University of Michigan). Still others are enjoying successive performances of recent works, notably David Del Tredici, Michael Torke, Augusta Read Thomas, Joseph Schwantner, and Joan Tower, among others.
Many music professionals believe that bands and wind ensembles offer composers distinct advantages over orchestras, like vast amounts of rehearsal time, the potential for multiple performances (thanks to a well-connected network of university band directors), opportunities to reach new audiences, and sometimes significant financial incentives. But there are also questions about the character and quality of new band music. Can bands inspire composers to write their most innovative, complex, or demanding work? Is the influx of "name-brand" composers helping to put the band field on the path towards mainstream acceptance?
"This is one of the most composer-friendly communities that exists," says Todd Vunderink, director of the publishing firm Peermusic Classical. "That makes sense, since the conductors at the major universities, who have large budgets, are consciously trying to build the repertoire. It's a great contrast to the orchestra world, which is much more beholden to earlier centuries."
The band world has long been dogged by an identity crisis; for every Holst Suite or Hindemith Symphony in B-flat, there are associations with parades, football halftime shows, and military services. But according to Frank Korach, a band specialist at Boosey & Hawkes, over 1,000 concert band pieces are written annually, and band programs are bigger and stronger than orchestral programs at U.S. educational institutions. "Bands are more liberal than orchestras. They'll accept more than orchestras," he says. "The college band world's audience is more open to new things and non-standard repertoire."
Taiwan is home to several professional wind ensembles. All have been formed in the last decade. British and American band music represent the staples, but one also hears new works by Taiwanese composers and attractive settings of Taiwan folk songs.
Today specialists at the Chinese Academy of Arts and related organizations hope to prevent further loss through documenting every aspect of the art form. One result will be a comprehensive online library of traditional Chinese opera.
Here in Taiwan the art form has enjoyed an unbroken history, thanks in large part to programs like that at the National Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy. The Academy schools students in all aspects of traditional Chinese opera. The Academy's museum of traditional masks and costumes regularly attract international visitors.
A more indigenous art form, Taiwanese opera, shares some conventions with its traditional Chinese cousin as well as with Japanese theater, but it uses the Taiwanese language and relies on Taiwanese folk elements in music and story. The shows are more likely than Chinese opera to be performed outdoors. Visitors are more likely to encounter this theatrical form during summer months, particularly around the time of the Dragon Boat Festival. The styles of Taiwanese opera exist, a 'northern' and 'southern' style. The repertory for both continues to grow and expand.
Think of all your life up to this point. You lived through many moments. Now you look back and see all of them complete in one picture. That's how musical memory works. You want an image of a work that sees the music whole.
The goal of musical training is to become an artist. Not a good student. There's a difference.
Smile with your mouth but not your eyes.
I keep a list of new compositions I want to conduct. I sort them into two categories: Audience Applauds and Audience Walks Out. The first kind can be put anywhere. The second kind must be played just before intermission. The audience can satisfy its urge to walk out, then it will return for the big symphony it paid for and the concert will still end with applause.
The worst conductors in the world are those trying to prove they're good conductors. No, forget that. The worst conductors in the world are those trying to prove they aren't bad conductors.
The most challenging audience is made up of your students.
I would much rather be a guest conductor than an orchestra builder. You go into a town and the timpanist needs to be fired? Enjoy the concert. You'll be rid of that timpanist next week. Someone else has the headache.
My wife says I spoil the dog. Why shouldn't I spoil the dog? I'm not preparing him for grad school.
More conductors have lost jobs because they made a mistake wearing formals than because they made a mistake in Mahler's tempos. Your board members don't know Mahler's tempos, but they know how to dress. Mind even details you know are trivial. People are watching.
Some people mark up one score and always use that one. I can't. I get a new score every time I return to a piece. I consult the notes I made in earlier scores but often find myself arguing with them.
You're talking to players, not instruments.
There's no end to the repertory. Conductors have to take responsibility for everything. You can't conduct eighteenth-century concertos and twentieth-century serial pieces and sacred choral works in Hebrew, Latin and Greek and mixed-meter ballets and Renaissance dances and full-length operas in Italian, French, German, English, Russian, and Czech and electronic-acoustic theatre pieces and aleatoric works and then say 'I don't do Tchaikovsky.'Frederik Prausnitz has three generations of trained conductors to testify to his art. Farewell, Maestro, and thank you.
Welcome to my blog. I look forward to sharing ideas here about music and beauty and airplanes and who-knows-what. Here's wishing you many joys in the new year.
I must launch my boat...
Do you not feel a thrill in the air
as the tones of the distant song
float from the far away shore?
- Rabindranath Tagore