Microreview: Minnesota Orchestra and Chorale, Heitzeg, Stravinsky, Orff

Time for the last Microreview of the season! *gets weepy*

Catch this fabulous program tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 2pm at Orchestra Hall; tickets at minnesotaorchestra.org. SOTL Microreviews will return this fall as we all embark on the Best Season Evar! Feel free to contribute a Microreview of your own, too.

My word count comes from this week’s enjoyable Rob Hubbard Pi-Press review: 429. I think it’s best for everyone if we forget the Strib’s review of weirdness ever existed, so 429 words it is. Here goes!

***

This week the sacred and the sexual mix unabashedly in a program of Stravinsky, Orff, and Minnesota composer Steve Heitzeg.

I’m not so familiar with Heitzeg, although I love his soundtrack for Death of the Dream, the TPT documentary about abandoned Midwestern farmsteads. It was sparse and devastatingly effective. So it was interesting to hear his voice in this new context. “Now We Start The Great Round” has the flavor of movie music written for a Copland biopic, and it serves as a sweeping curtain raiser. But it finished before it started, especially when the stage change took half as long as the piece itself.

After the Stage Change of Interminability came Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Way too late I realized: maybe it’s irresponsible to write about a performance of this piece, especially when

  1. I’ve never heard it before,
  2. I don’t know anything about choirs, and
  3. my two instruments have left the stage (violins! violas! come back!).

So I put the critiquing ears away and just soaked in the ambiance. From that perspective, the Symphony was all melancholy angularity, lit by the glow of the sound of the Chorale. It sounded like candlelight flickering in an Escher cathedral. Lush, sacred…and very odd. Last night I didn’t grasp the narrative. It was all very lovely, but meh. Then again, I don’t find much Stravinsky seductive, so…

Oh, you're the bad boy of music alright.

Oh, you’re the bad boy of music alright

The narrative for Carmina Burana, on the other hand, hit like an anvil to the head. From the first notes it felt like straight-line winds were blowing over the radio. O FOR-TUN-A, indeed. I think the Minnesota Chorale put every single emotion of being locked out of Orchestra Hall for sixteen months into that opening phrase. The bitter sneer of those consonants! My takeaway? Do not get on the wrong side of the Minnesota Chorale. Damn.

It was immediately clear that members of the Chorale could not only sing Carmina in their sleep, but under general anesthetic. That familiarity could easily lead to a bored performance, but of course they’re above that. Their effervescent joy at being back on that stage was contagious, and so deeply satisfying to hear. The Orchestra supported them all the way, but – dare I say it? – it was the Chorale’s show last night. And deservedly so.

As for the baritone in Ego Sum Abbas, I wish I sang that well drunk.

To sum up the 2014 season:

Away with sadness!
summer returns,
and now departs
cruel winter…

wretched is the person
who neither lives,
nor lusts
under summer’s spell.

***

Addendum: An earlier version of this review misspelled composer Steve Heitzeg’s name. Awkward, and my apologies.

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Doug Kelley: Still Problematic

(Warning for language.)

***

I’m so excited about the new season and our bright future. And I seriously cannot wait to work with people at the MOA who I was unable to work with during the lockout.

But. Fault lines from a multi-year conflict remain. (No, duh.) And if anyone ever cites false or misleading claims about the negotiations, well, then I have no compunction about setting the record straight. And I’ll use a sharp tongue if necessary, kum-ba-yah-ing be damned.

Board member Doug Kelley came forward today in MinnPost to reminisce about the Petters case and…the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. (Because those two things go together…I guess…) Remember Doug Kelley? He originated the catchphrase “frolic and detour” (frolicking detour?) and was the management go-to spokesman when Michael Henson was so inexplicably unavailable. (Which was most of the time.) Kelley’s stances on the lockout have been viewed as problematic by many observers, as even MinnPost acknowledges. Scott Chamberlain has also had issues with Kelley’s claims in the past, so it’s not just me who finds Kelley so…problematic. So with that in mind…

From MinnPost:

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Lockout Stuff

Hey, friends!

Say, did you hear that the 2014-2015 Minnesota Orchestra season has just been announced? The lockout era of 2012-2014 is now over, and it’s time to move on. In the recent words of Osmo Vänskä: “I think that there was a time to whine, but, it’s time to cry and then it’s time to stop crying and start to work again. And I think sometimes working is the best therapy for the mind, and I think that is right now happening.”

He’s right. In that spirit, I’m finishing and then archiving this “Lockout Stuff” directory. A link to this page will always remain under the Reference Posts page, and of course the articles themselves will always stay up, but the link to “Lockout Stuff” is coming off the main SOTL header. It doesn’t mean that the past will be forgotten, but it does mean that our energies should be focused on the future. New and better things await us all! So if you want, take a moment to breeze through this, relive old times, and then set your GPS for The Future!

Thanks for journeying along with me for the past two years. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

In solidarity, Emily

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Best Season EVAR

Today the Minnesota Orchestra’s BEST SEASON EVAR was announced.

Since I don’t live in Minneapolis (…or, um, Minnesota…), every concert I attend, I deal with a two hour drive to and a two hour drive fro, and that is not nothing, especially during our eleven-month Siberian winters. So to help me decide which programs I should select, I’m going to muse out loud in a blog entry. To be clear, these are my personal picks: there are actually a lot more concerts beyond what I’m mentioning here, and you really need to check out the full schedule for yourself.

Renee Fleming Gala (September 5). This should be the hottest ticket in town, and I reluctantly admit the MOA would be STUPID to not jack up the prices way beyond what I can afford. But if you have the money, go go go. GOOOOO. Because how often do you get to hear an orchestra play great arias live? With Renee Fleming? That’s right: it happens NEVER.

Lake Harriet Free Concert (September 14). On the highlight list because it’s…well, free! And the repertoire is very fun: Borodin, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss. Great music for outdoor dancing, or dramatic slo-mo running to the love theme from the Romeo and Juliet overture. Seven thousand people attended the last Lake Harriet concert, so join the fun! (And get there early!)

Barber / Mahler (September 26, 27, 28). Alisa Weilerstein’s passion is going to serve the Barber cello concerto fabulously well. And then the Minnesota Chorale in the Mahler “Resurrection”?

original

Don Quixote (October 9, 10, 11). Cervantes’ Don Quixote is the most beautifully deranged protagonist imaginable, and Strauss’s cello-concerto-ish tribute to his story is totally lovable. Our resident cello powerhouse Tony Ross solos. Plus, the principal viola part represents Sancho Panza. Tom Turner stars as Sancho Panza. That alone is worth the price of admission for a viola section fangirl. And then the sweeping luxury of the suite from Der Rosenkavalier… This is the way you celebrate a great composer’s birthday, wowza.

Tom and Tony

Tom and Tony. I’m assuming they’ll be dressed like this for the performance

Tchaikovsky 5, and Bassoons (November 21, 22, 23). Kinda looking forward to this one because I’m studying the viola part of Tchaik 5 for a Young Musicians of Minnesota performance in August. Plus, bassoons are on the program. Bassoons. So if you’re into either Tchaikovsky or bassoons, this would be a great program. And also: Gabrieli. Gabrieli, guys. When was the last time you heard Gabrieli at Orchestra Hall? None of us have enough Gabrieli in our lives. Seriously.

Messiah (December 12, 13). If Christopher Warren-Green’s Messiah is half as good as his recent Mozart interpretations, this will be a must-hear performance.

New Year’s Eve Gershwin (December 31). Party with Osmo and the musicians at Orchestra Hall? With Gershwin? Great New Year’s Eve, or the Greatest New Year’s Eve??? Holy crap. You know what? Let’s have a black and white party like An American In Paris. I want to see all my readers in their best dice and harlequin attire.

I will be disappointed if the lobby doesn’t look like this come New Year’s Eve. Can someone resurrect Oscar Levant? I’d kiss him.

Future Classics (January 16). This is an important show to catch. There’s nothing else like seeing brand new music, seriously. Even if new music is not your thing, think about attending this one anyway. The joy of discovery will be palpable, and it will be a showcase for the orchestra to boot.

Walton! (January 22, 23, 24). I don’t know a lot of Walton, but I’m crazy over what I do know. His first symphony is amazing, and his violin concerto is probably my favorite underrated work for that instrument. (And there are a lot of underrated violin concertos.) So I’d love to catch Henry V. And then…….

Bruckner 4.

Haha. Wow.

So. We meet again, Herr Bruckner.

Shakespeare Stuff (January 30, 31). A series of Romeo and Juliet themed blockbusters.

And then!

AUGUSTIN FRICKING HADELICH (February 5, 6) comes to town toting what will no doubt be a completely kickass Tchaikovsky concerto. Fun Factoid: I’ve never seen the Tchaikovsky concerto, the piece that inspired me to take the violin seriously, live. (…) If I can’t see Ehnes play the Tchaik, I’m not exaggerating when I say my next choice would be Hadelich. He’s a god, as I observed last time he came to the Twin Cities. Plus!: the New World Symphony. This is overplayed repertoire, maybe, but Who Cares. Sometimes even the most devoted music fans haven’t seen some of these pieces live (cough). And the Minnesota Orchestra excels at bringing new revelations out of overplayed repertoire.

GIL FRICKING SHAHAM (February 12, 13, 14) in the Korngold. Shaham’s sound and style are perfectly suited for Korngold. If I could hear him play one piece, it would be either Korngold or Elgar concerto, no joke. (And yeah, I do often sit around, musing which artists I’d like to hear in what concertos…) And then!: in the same program!: the teenage Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream overture. And the Faure Pelleas et Melisande suite. (Faure, the composer I love the best by far.) And then the second Daphnis et Chloe suite. DAPHNIS ET CHLOE.

DAPHNIS ET CHLOE.

Did the musicians steal my dreams, Inception-style?

I dunno, something like this happened during the season planning, I think

Next big highlight: Erin Keefe Starring In The Piece She Was Born to Play (April 2, 3, 4). Yup, you read it here first: Erin Keefe was born to play Lark Ascending. Every time my mom and I have heard a performance by Keefe we look at each other afterward and sigh, “Oh, wouldn’t she be amazing in Lark Ascending?” I love this piece. And I love Erin. And I have a thing about larks.

sotl heading

In case you hadn’t noticed

There is some other cool repertoire on the program too. And then afterward in the lobby: Quartet for the End of Time, with Osmo on clarinet. And candlelight. Might want to pack some Kleenex in the handbag. Wow.

***Acadia!*** (April 30, May 1, 2). The perfect way to greet spring: a performance of Judd Greenstein’s Acadia, which I wrote about on the blog a lifetime ago (AKA March of 2012). My heart is melded to this piece, now more than ever. My mom – who isn’t even an orchestra musician! – frequently says to me that the premiere of Acadia was the most moving concert she’d ever been to, and we’ve been to some pretty moving concerts over the years. So you all need to come. To see it live is a fabulous journey that will be made all the richer for what we’ve all endured. Look for me: I’ll be the sobbing mess somewhere on the main floor! Yay!! You can listen to the piece here to see what I’m talking about. Need more convincing? Burt Hara is returning for Copland clarinet concerto. Plus, Steve Heitzig and Bernstein.

Beethoven 7 (May 21, 22, 23). Yup, they definitely stole my dreams. Get out of my dreams, musicians!! My dreams should be PERSONAL SPACE, thanks. But if I could have programmed one piece this season, it would be Beethoven 7, for reasons explored here. It’s my favorite Beethoven…maybe even my favorite orchestra music, period. And then the gripping first piano concerto of Brahms, the piece in which he explored his feelings for Clara Schumann… (Those two independent, unconventional spirits are definitely my favorite couple in music history. Go, Team Johannes!) A program simply doesn’t get much better than this. And dear Stan, leading a weekend of Brahms and Beethoven at the age of 92!

Sibelius Cycle Wrap Up Part 1! (May 28, 29, 30) and Sibelius Cycle Wrap Up Part 2!! (June 5, 6). I can only assume Osmo’s thought process went something like this: “You know, defying all odds by finishing a historic Sibelius recording cycle that most people gave up for dead is simply not going to be enough. I think we need to add on a Mahler symphony, and also – why not – Andre Watts in Brahms 2.” And God bless them, the musicians said, “Sure!” Quick etiquette question: do we start writing the 2017 Grammy acceptance speech now, or would it be good manners to wait until the performance is actually put down on disc?

So, um. I wanted to write this to clarify which set of five or so shows I want to go to, but turns out I JUST MADE MY DECISIONS EVEN MORE DIFFICULT ARGH. How am I going to choose? Seriously. How – am – I – going – to – choose? I DON’T KNOW. I should just set up a heated tent in Peavey Plaza over the winter or something. Or figure out the whole teleportation thing.

Or...a wormhole...hm

Maybe a wormhole…

Anyway. It will be a yearlong musical masterclass like you’ve never seen before, and I urge everyone visiting the blog to take a look at the schedule and budget for as many shows as you can. Sold out houses will help ensure that the 15-16 season will be just as incredible.

If you have any ideas about how SOTL can make your 14-15 season special, let me know. I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from YOU what you want to see on the blog…and maybe before or after certain concerts. So to that end, let me know which concerts you’re most excited about, and why!

Before I sign off, one quick question: have you stopped to realize what a miracle this season is? Like, a dictionary-definition miracle? As in “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”? Okay. That’s good. I’m so happy you remember.

***

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Microreview: Minnesota Orchestra, Mozart

This week’s Microreview is of the Minnesota’s Orchestra Mozart 39 – 40 – 41 concerts. Apparently the Strib was too exhausted from kissing Richard Davis’s tap shoes to send a critic to this week’s Minnesota Orchestra concert, so my word count standard for this week will come from Rob Hubbard’s Pioneer Press review, which clocked in at 359 words. As per usual for Microreviews, I wasn’t in the hall: I was on my couch listening to MPR. So the suspected disclaimers apply.

***

I like Mozart. I respect him. I don’t love him.

But if more people played Mozart like the Minnesota Orchestra did last night, my heart would reassess.

Every section shined, but to me, this was the strings’ night. Rob Hubbard mused in his review that the string complement might have been too large, and I can understand the concern, because the string sound was certainly big. But strings are my things, so I didn’t mind one whit.

Endless tiny moments to savor, all night long. The ringing of the open strings at the end of descending scales in 39. The unfussy phrasing of the opening of 40. The batsh*t crazy tempo of the finale of 41 (how did the back of the firsts and back of the seconds stay in synch at this tempo from across the stage?).

And this ascending line in 40. What the hell kind of magic is this? It’s a simple ascending line, for God’s sake. It shouldn’t make me want to squeal in bliss like some kind of Mozart-loving pig.

ascending line

And the breathlessly gorgeous phrases just kept coming. One phrase would end, and an equally luscious one would spin in to take its place.

This is a strange analogy, but I’ll make it anyway. The Minnesota Orchestra sounds like a splendid grande dame. She has the wisdom of decades combined with all the mischief of youth. She may be impeccably dressed, but fashion is only important to her within the context of self-expression: her motivations are pure, always. She knows when to be bold and brassy and when she can underplay her hand. Her sense of humor is sharp and biting and more than a little black and snarky. She can stay out later and party as hard as any twentysomething. She has been through more triumph and tragedy than anybody, and accordingly, she won’t stand for bull. She is an amazing 111-year-old lady.

And I love her.

There’s no doubt in my mind: this was the best played concert since the lockout ended.

***

341 words. Ha. I’ll cure you yet, wordiness.

If you don’t have your tickets for tonight, go! Buy them at minnesotaorchestra.org.

***

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Advertising Beethoven’s Crotch

Whenever I need a break from music, I log on to Tumblr, scroll down, and zone out.

Then the other day in the midst of mindless scrolling I saw this.

...

……..

Of course I immediately wondered if this was the work of a trickster with too much time on his hands and a grudge to bear against the Dallas Symphony, so I opened a new tab and Googled “dallas symphony beethoven festival brochures.”

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Microreview: Minnesota Orchestra, Mendelssohn, Wagner

We all know I can write long. Even Alex Ross knows this.

rosstweet

I remember when this happened… *dreamy sigh*

But can I write short? Uh… Not really.

So to practice, I’m going to take the Strib’s review word count and work within that limit. This week’s Minnesota Orchestra Strib review belonged to Michael Anthony and clocked in at 456 words, so I’ll try to stay under 450. I do like to go long when I’m actually in the hall – in-person, I always see and hear a lot I want to write about – but when I’m just listening over the radio, I don’t see any harm in going short. I’m calling these micro-reviews. For lack of a better term.

If anyone wants to join in on the micro-review fun, do. The more the merrier when it comes to discussing concerts.

***

You know the best way to listen to a Minnesota Orchestra concert?

Livestreaming on a laptop!

/sarcasm

Well, it’s better than nothing. After a fashion report from Brian Newhouse (apparently Erin Keefe was wearing a “beautiful dark blue sleeveless gown”), Friday’s concert began with the Mendelssohn violin concerto. It was disorienting to jump into a concerto without an overture, but there was a 70-minute ~WAGNER EXTRAVAGANZA~ after intermission to consider.

The orchestra played with fine, elegant understatement. And I’m not sure I cared for that. I usually like my Mendelssohn with icy aristocratic soloists and wild-eyed accompaniment. It was the opposite dynamic here: Erin was providing all the fire, and the orchestra the cool restraint. Maestro Wigglesworth was completely justified musically, historically, and philosophically in taking this approach, but I need more time to decide if I liked it or not.

Lest you think I’m bitching, I thought the orchestra played beautifully, and the wind section in particular made some of the most stunning contributions I’ve heard in any Mendelssohn, ever. The single bassoon note linking the first and second movements startled me with its character.

And need I say that Erin Keefe played flawlessly? Silver tone, searing vibrato, character to burn… She’s perfection.

Next came the Wagner adaptation and its attendant harps and horns. Also, horns.

I admit that when it comes to opera, I’m a philistine. I find it hard to take this music seriously. Any story that goes remotely like this…

…has me skeptical before a single note is played.

But of course the performance was first-rate. The wild, Romantic, edge-of-your-seat quality I was missing in the Mendelssohn was here in spades. (Possibly because there were a lot of players literally on the edges of their seats. Don’t think I haven’t seen those string parts. What kind of sadist writes four nights of that?)

This guy

This guy

There were times when the arrangement was successful. The Ride of the Valkyries, for instance, took on a whole new meaning inserted into a larger narrative. Here the character of the strings almost stole the show from the brass. (Almost.)

But after a while, it all turned into a bit of a…blur. Albeit a heavy, horn-y, supremely well-played blur. I had two antithetical impressions: certain ideas seemed truncated, yet everything was so long. Call this the “Paradox of the Orchestral Adventure.”

Hey, did I mention there was brass? There was, and they played gorgeously, majestically, with a rich, plummy sound.

But one detail made it tough for me to truly enjoy this piece: namely, it was by Wagner. Apparently the Minnesota Orchestra has played this extravaganza every ten years since 1994. Maybe in 2024 I’ll go see the next performance.

Or….maybe not.

***

453 words. *dusts off hands*

Just because I’m wary of Wagner doesn’t mean you should be. You can still buy tickets for tonight at minnesotaorchestra.org. Erin’s Mendelssohn is worth more than the price of admission. If I was in Minnesota this weekend, I’d be going in a heartbeat. Enjoy yourself!

***

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We Finnished It

The last time I was in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis was in March 2012 to see the premiere of Judd Greenstein’s Acadia. This is a work for full and fabulous symphony orchestra, and it explores a narrative of change, loss, and redemption.

I left the hall that night happy – and completely oblivious to the fact that I’d be living those themes for the next two years.

Eight weeks after that concert, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) quietly fired the first shot in its aggressive PR battle, months before the work stoppage they were planning for even began. This shot at audiences and donors was completely unprovoked and completely indefensible. Presumably assuming that the wider world would never discover their dirty underhanded trick, somebody at the MOA authorized the purchase of a variety of domain names based on variations of the phrase saveourminnesotaorchestra.com. Why? During the Detroit Symphony strike, audience advocates there had created headaches for the board and management by creating an organization named Save Our Symphony to protest the direction the DSO was going. And consequently, the power players at the MOA wanted to make it harder for any Minnesota-based upstarts to start a similar group. This paranoid purchase proves that they were afraid that Minnesota audiences might try to derail the plans they had to choke the organization and remake it in their own image.

I can confirm that their fears were well-founded.

***

But there was no time to reflect on any of that as I stepped for the very first time into the Rorschach test of a new lobby. (Do you see a brand new $50 million boondoggle symptomatic of a dysfunctional organizational culture that values bricks and mortar over world-class orchestral music-making, or a badly needed remodel that will strengthen the Orchestral Association in a myriad of ways and foster community engagement and goodwill? Your answer will remain confidential between you and your therapist!) I immediately was in the arms of a musician friend, tearing up on a tux shoulder. Screw reflection; we’ve been to hell and back and we survived, so let’s celebrate. His words came out in a rushed tumble. We’re playing well, he said. Each week we’re sounding better. We need him back.

Of course, “him” is Osmo Vänskä: the beloved Finnish music director who brought the already great Minnesota Orchestra to even greater heights during his ten year tenure. He’d resigned during the sixteen-month-long lockout, and it is obvious he won’t bother to return unless and until the MOA board of directors demonstrates a renewed commitment to world-class orchestral music-making…a goal they, to be blunt, didn’t show any commitment to in 2012 or 2013. (Thankfully, 2014 is going a little better. So far.) What exactly that commitment might consist of, and what their terms might be, I don’t know, and of course it’s none of my business to know. But now that the lockout is over, there are at least some board members who want Osmo back. They’ve taken the first step to getting him back by overseeing the…completely voluntary resignation of the orchestra’s controversial CEO, Michael Henson. Osmo and the Orchestral Association are now in negotiations to see if they share enough of the same goals to make his return worthwhile. If the stars align, part two of our beloved Osmo’s tenure could be on its way. Plus, so many audience members are relieved to see the architect of the lockout packing his bags. Hence the electric buzz in the lobby.

Speaking of the audience…

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Henson Out

Michael Henson will be leaving the Minnesota Orchestral Association at the end of this fiscal year. Here’s the MinnPost story.

Perhaps surprisingly, I find I don’t have much to say.

In some ways, our relationship, such as it was, felt like a weird chess game. (Albeit one Mr. Henson never acknowledged he was playing. Or believed he was playing.) Nonetheless, moves were made…and a lot of people ended up watching. He’d testify in front of the legislature; I’d write a blog entry dissecting his testimony. He’d quote talking points in an outrageously misleading press release; I’d send him a sparkly homemade Advent calendar (as you do). And later, once Save Our Symphony and other groups and other writers got in on the game, the chessboard, along with the number of pieces, expanded exponentially. Action, reaction, etc., for eighteen long hard-fought months.

As the game begins to wind down, I survey the chessboard. In an appropriately bizarre ending to an equally bizarre game, I find I have approximately zero interest in complaining about Michael Henson today. At this point, his record speaks for itself. Quite loudly. And heck, truth is, I owe a lot to this man. More than he’ll ever know, certainly.  I owe my attendance at a lot of great lockout concerts to him. I owe a lot of new firsthand knowledge about how government and non-profit processes work to him. Without Michael Henson, Alex Ross would not know I exist (please note: I am still extremely pumped about the fact that Alex Ross knows I exist). But most importantly of all, I owe readers – and therefore friendships – to him. I’m so lucky to have you, my readers, as my friends. You are irreplaceable, and to be honest, I don’t remember what life was like without you. Without him, I wouldn’t have you. Michael Henson may be leaving Minnesota via golden parachute, but I walk away from the game the richer woman. By far. So thanks. Seriously. Bon voyage, Mr. Henson. I’ll be watching your career with ~great interest.~

So. Where do we go from here?

Mr. Henson’s departure is a big step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. I feel an odd kinship to the poor besieged Concorde in Airport: 79. We’ve evaded drones, dodged F-15s, and the landing strip is now in sight. On the other hand, there are gaping holes in the plane that have caused explosive decompression. But! This week’s news, and the potential change of organizational direction it could possibly theoretically maybe? signify, means that despite everything we’ve been through, we still might be able to land this thing. That’s not nothing. I’ll continue my volunteer work behind the scenes. I hope you continue to do what you can, too, whether that means writing comments online, sharing information with friends and family, buying tickets, etc. Even just staying informed is an important thing to do.

I think the moral of the saga is: Minnesota Orchestra leaders, listen to your audience and to the community both. Listen closely. Because we’re watching you, every little thing you do, and if you try taking any step that we feel goes against this organization’s best interests, forgive us when we trip you up. And if you do the right thing? We will help you. With everything we’ve got, 100%. A community of passionate people is a lot easier to work with than against.

So. Onward to the Grammy celebration concerts! What celebrations they’ll be, too! (Remember to wear blue and white, as per the instructions of Save Our Symphony Minnesota’s Finnish It Campaign!) Of course nothing is guaranteed, but my fingers are crossed that another big announcement might come soon. It would be quite the surreal ending to an extraordinary chapter of American music history…

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Maddalena, Musicology, & Me: Prologue

There is an elephant in the room, and that elephant is the fallout from the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

Unfortunately, I can’t do much about that elephant right now. Crucial portions of the future of the elephant, which will determine how I ultimately react to the elephant, are being decided in closed door meetings. My poking the elephant could easily turn counterproductive. And rest assured, I work with friends behind the scenes every – single – day to do what I can to help the elephant; and I imagine many of you do, too. So until there is more concrete information about the state of the elephant, or the state of elephants in general, I want to move onto another topic that brings me joy, namely:

Discovering the work of a forgotten composer – resurrecting one of her compositions – musing on the (dangerous?) nature of our Sacred Canon of Western Art Music – learning what I can about period performance practice of the 1770s – taking up a new violin concerto – and writing about the journey for anyone who cares to read.

***

9606094

Meet Maddalena Laura Lombardini Sirmen. According to Wikipedia, she was born in 1745 (roughly a decade before Mozart) and she died in 1818 (roughly a decade before Beethoven). We don’t know a lot about her. What we do know, though, is fascinating. She was a violinist, composer, harpsichordist, singer, and businesswoman. When she was 21, she married another violinist and composer named Ludovico Sirmen. Ludovico eventually became involved with a countess, while Maddalena traveled across Europe with a priest. She performed in many of the cultural centers of her day and her work was widely praised. But unfortunately, if predictably, her extraordinary career was largely forgotten in the intervening centuries. In fact, if her name is ever mentioned today, it is invariably because her teacher Tartini (he of Devil’s Trill fame) once wrote her a famous letter about violin technique. But Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen was so much more than a Tartini student. In later blog entries, I’ll try to fill in some more of the details. But it’ll take some time and detective work. Continue reading

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