BBC Proms

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by michaelab, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. michaelab

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    About Tchaikovsky's (or Çiaikowski, or whatever way his name is really spelt) I once watched a TV program that suggested the following.

    Apparently Tchaikovsky wasn't ashamed of his homosexuality as such; but he felt disgusted because of his uncontrollable urge to seek young male prostitutes in the slums of Moscow, almost every night. Now it seems that you can catch cholera by kissing an infected person (or was it oral sex? I don't quite remember).

    Be that what it may, it seems there were a lot of inconsistencies about his brother's story – the polluted water one, and there were reasons to hide the real cause of his death.

    I'm probably mixing stories now (Wilde and Çiaik), but I think Çiaik. was threatened because of a relation with a very highly placed aristocrat.

    This is a muddled post, I know. Anyway, it seems the glass of water story is rather flawed.

    More, anyone?

    P.S.: The gay lobby is now trying to identify Händel as a homo, too. Gay musicians (there are a lot of them – and lesbians, too – in early music, I can't imagine why) are very fond of this interpretation. But the gay lobby would like every influent person to be homosexual, so I don't really believe this. The article was published in Journal I don't read (Gay and Lesbian Musicians Quarterly, or something like that), so I cannot comment any further.

    P.P.S.: This is a completely futile post. I just ramble and make no contribution whatever. Must be the heat!
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Aug 11, 2003
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  2. michaelab

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Re: Justice for Pjotr

    When I was about 8 my parents took me to see Swan Lake; I was stunned. I couldn't take it out of my head for weeks and was immensely impressed by the end - the drowning prince and such incredible music.

    Also, I can still - not having listened it for at least 20 years - the haunting beggining of the 2nd piano concerto (and the first, of course, but so can everybody).

    Combining the musical and personal treads on Çiaikovski, I learned, rather early (in Hugo Riemann's dictionary, if I'm not mistaken), of his homossexuality. That actually prevented me from being a homophobe later during adolescence: a man who could write such beauties must have had a beautiful soul.

    Regarding melody, yes, I agree: Ciaik, Schubert, Mozart, but let's not forget Bach (even if his melody is rather 'counterpointy' - but see the middle mov. of the Italian Concerto, for instance) and also Schumann: his Lieder are among the most beautiful melodies I ever heard.
     
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    Rodrigo de Sá, Aug 11, 2003
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  3. michaelab

    Herman

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    Why don't we just drop the issue whether and how Tchaikovksy was gay / depressive / or something else? Half of what he wrote is absolutely gorgeous, and the same, incidentally, goes for Schubert, Mozart and Dvorak - i.e. they just had to create music, even if they weren't totally ready for it.

    All these guys had weird stuff going on. Perhaps the mistake we make is we are so citified and monitored we don't realize how weird people are.

    Apart from the beautiful music I just can't forget the picture of Tchaikovsky at his favorite sister's place, while he was composing the Belle Au Bois D material and he was showing his little cousins what it was going to look like. I.e. he was singing his stuff and doing weird amateur pirouettes. Isn't that just wonderful?

    Herman
     
    Herman, Aug 11, 2003
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  4. michaelab

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Herm:

    I understand what you say and, in fact, agree with you. But the homossexuality bit is rather important as it lead many critics to consider his music 'minor', which just happens not to be true.

    The same, by the way, happened (to a far lesser extent) with the last Schumann. He was loosing his mind, and some pianists - Kempff, for one - didn't play his last pieces just because they 'stemmed from a deranged mind'.

    Now homossexuality was thought to be a perversion, a serious trouble of the mind - much as paedophilia is considered today. His music was therefore considered under a bad light.

    It is, therefore, important to say that his music should be considered by itself.

    And, anyway, we are all gossipers: why do we pry into someone's biography? Therefore, although I think the matter may be dropped, it is entirely natural that it came up.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Aug 12, 2003
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  5. michaelab

    Herman

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    Before that time German-music professors and critics used the 'fact' that Tch. was so 'Russian' as a handle to put Tch.'s music down - his counterpoint was not too great, he worked better outside the sonata form and hey, didya ever notice J.S. Bach fathered sixteen children (or whatever) and Tchaikovsky none? So that's why his music was 'hysterical' (i.e. effeminate) and he committed suicide in the end. German music wins! That basically is the subtext of the kind of criticism you're referring to, and I don't see why any of it is 'important' in any way. It's just nationalism in musicological guise. It tells us nothing about the music, and shows that, at the time, music criticism wasn't too much about the muisc either.

    Herman
     
    Herman, Aug 12, 2003
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  6. michaelab

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    You are certainly right concerning xenophobia in German musicologists. The best example I can think of is Vivaldi's 'L'Estro Armonico'. As you know for sure, Bach transcribed a lot of the pieces for organ solo and even for 4 harpsichords and orchestra.

    Now, more than once, I've read that Bach has made serious music out of very simple one. The Vivaldi concertos were supposed to be crap, but when Bach transcribed them he modified to such an extent as to render them sublime music.

    Only thing is: listen to the Vivaldi originals and to Bach's transcriptions. They are just that: transcriptions. One might say perhaps that the handwriting of Bach enriches the work – that is about all there is in terms of difference. Of course there are differences, orchestral writing and organ writing are different, and Bach abhorred vacuum. But the aural effect is quite similar, and I think (with a single exception) that Bach remained quite close to Vivaldi's originals.

    So, to that extent, it is true that many German musicologists seem extremely stupid, conceited and plainly arrogant.

    But Ciaick is another matter. Compare his academic prestige with Mussorgski's. Mussorgski was an alcoholic, but everybody recognizes the value of his music. Ciaik is considered decadent and frivolous. As you say, effeminate, unGerman, but I still think the tonic (or the dominant? – bad pun) is on effeminate and superficial. (the claims on lack of structure are, perhaps, true, and I personally do miss it, but then, structure was dissolving more and more in the 19th Century).

    That's why I think it is important to reveal the real reason for abusing Ciaik's music.

    If we were talking about Rachmaninov, I would hold the same kind of argument. People decried him because he was a romantic throwback, but his music is still phenomenally interesting and beautiful. These are extra-musical considerations which should be ignored and denounced. Same thing with Ciaik.

    P.S.: I'm going to be without the internet for about a fortnight. So if you answer this and I don't reply immediately, that only means I am away.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Aug 12, 2003
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  7. michaelab

    Herman

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    I guess Tchaikovsky's huge popular success may have been another reason why he is derided for being hysterical and superficial at the same time. However his influence on major 20th C composers has been tremendous - close to the way Beethoven influenced all German composers in the previous century, either in what they did, or what they stayed clear of.

    Stravinsky had a picture of Tchaikovksy on his desk. Shostakovich tried to emulate his big tunes all the time (just as Rachmaninov did). The choreographer Balanchine: his entire life and work was an attempt to recreate the magic of the time when he was a boy in the original pre-Rev Sleeping Beauty.

    Of course the funny thing is so much of Tchaikovsky's lyricism is linked to Robert Schumann's*. Just like Shostakovich tries to write one more Tchaikovsky melody in homage to the true master, there's stuff in Tchaikovsky that's almost quotes of Schumann melodies Schumann never got to write - the ultimate tribute. Perhaps the best example is the wonderful slow passage in c minor just before the development section, starting with a solo in the clarinet, taken over by the piano solo. After some hushed strings the whole kaboodle rushes up, and the theme turns into a soprano melody in B flat minor (in the piano and the woodwinds) and you're smack in the middle of a posthumous Schumann piano cto. Love it.

    Herman

    *OK he went crazy, but at least he was straight and German.
     
    Herman, Aug 12, 2003
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  8. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Party, party!

    End-of-term party (AKA "The Last Night") tonight. To summarise, it's been an interesting season; not a lot of out-and-out stunners, but several pretty good ones, and just a few howlers.

    One of the high points was actually on Thursday: Tones/Titian's local band, the Zurich Tonhalle. They actually tried the "Coals to Newcastle" bit, bringing Elgar to the Proms with Yo-Yo Ma - and I guess his fan-club were part of the reason for the huge turn-out with several hundreds not getting in. The Elgar was not at all bad, maybe a bit slushy but certainly deep-felt. I've actually never seen an orchestra quite so involved in the music themselves as this lot. In particular, the strings front desks were playing together as if in chamber music (and I concentrated particularly on the 2nds co-leader - very easy on the eye) - to watch the 2nds and violas playing catch with the figurations in "Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells"(?) from "Pictures at an Exhibition" was quite wonderful. They also seemed to really enjoy being here - I heard a back-stage report that they felt even more appreciated here than on their home ground; they clearly enjoyed the sort of "hi y'all" in Swizzerdeutch they got from the Arena :D. And to cap it all, they were cheeky enough to give us a very good "Pomp and Circumstance" march (No 4) as an encore.

    The Swiss having fun? Shurely shome mishtake! (I can hear passports being rescinded as I type!)

    Anyway, must run shortly to avoid losing my place in the queue :rolleyes: , I'll post up some more bouquets and brickbats later.
     
    GrahamN, Sep 13, 2003
    #48
  9. michaelab

    HenryT

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    Hi Graham,

    Looks like you managed to get yourself a very good spot then. 3rd row of promenaders, just slightly off centre towards the cello side of stage! :D Or at least someone who looked very much like you that I kept on spotting on the numerous camera pans around the arena last night. Swaying to the beat along with a wink at the camera during the Sailor's Hornpipe!! :ffrc:
     
    HenryT, Sep 14, 2003
    #49
  10. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Yep, that's where I was. Not sure about the "wink at the camera" though - I do remember peering around to look at the orchestra leader to get an idea of where the beat was though as it was impossible to hear anything above the rather poorly synchronised clapping that was the audience participation at that time.

    Overall quite a good evening - not deep and meaningful, but that's not what it's about. Gheorghiu was great in the "Jewel Song" and the "Habanera" (and I got a nice eyeful of quite a lot of leg as she bent down to pick something up) - although I was less impressed by her other songs (given that she's supposed to be the best soprano in the world at the moment). Really liked the commission in the first half - although lots of it was quite a rehash of Bernstein's 1st symphony and "On the Town" - and the "Polovtsian Dances" is always good and rousing when the full choral version is used - even if the performance wasn't quite as dynamic and incisive as it could have been.

    My favourites of the season:
    - Strauss Rosenkavalier excerpts, made espercially poignant as it was Anne Evans' final "gig".
    - Halle/Elder Elgar 1st symphony
    - Andrew Manze AAM/EC Handel Dixit Dominus
    - ENO/Daniel Prokofiev War and Peace. Seemed only about half the 4 hours I was standing for, so that says volumes on its own.
    - Musiciens du Louvre/Minkowski playing dances from obscure 18th cent operas by Rameau, and with Anne Sofie von Otter singing arias from Handel's Ariodante.
    - Vanska/Lahti playing Sibelius' 3rd Symphony. Absolutely revelatory. Colin Davis gets deserved plaudits for his Sibelius (particularly in this one), but this was in a different league - with shades of light and shade Davis' more muscular approach flattens out.

    Others that I really enjoyed
    - The "Late Junction" prom
    - BBCSO/Runnicles doing Strauss' "Elektra"
    - the "British Film Music" prom, with some wonderful film scores mostly from the '30s and '40s, and particularly the superbly dark music written by Sir Arthus Bliss for Korda's 1935 film on HGWells' "The Shape of Things to Come"
    - Barenboim's "West-Eastern Divan Orchestra" playing Beethoven's "Eroica". This mixed Youth Orchestra of Israeli-Jewish and Arabs from all over the Middle East played with genuine skill and musicianship, and Barenboim does a very good Eroica. Maybe missing the last in depth and energy, but one of the most committed performances this year.
    - Rattle/BPO "Rite of Spring" - magical/mysterious rather than visceral, but very involving
    - Rattle/BPO "Heldenleben" - again a love or hate reaction from most, but he took away some of the overweening bombast and showed be subtleties I'd not heard before (despite some rather dodgy playing in places)
    - Beethoven 7 from Harding/Bremen
    - Britten Sinfonia doing Thea Musgrave's "Helios"
    - Tonhalle concert - for their infectious enthusiasm
    - most of the Tchaikovsky :eek: as in:
    - 4th symph from Pittsburg/Jansons, as their rather dry approach toned down the overwrought hysteria that so puts me off this piece
    - 5th symphony from BBCPhil/Sinaisky: genial and entrancing rather than soupy and sentimental
    - Manfred from CBSO: wonderfully committed performance of one of his more uneven pieces, gorgeous in the first 3 movements, but nothing can redeem the banality of the first few minutes of the last - rivalling Shostakovich

    Big disappointments
    - having to work on bank holiday Monday rather than seeing Colin Davis and the LSO do Berlioz' Trojans :mad:
    - Adams "On the Transmigration of Souls"
    - Frittoli singing Strauss' "4 last songs"
    - Slatkin/BBCSO Vaughan Williams "London" Symphony. Slatkin is one of the best RVW conductors in the world, but this was all a bit ordinary and really didn't stir the cockles. He and the BBCSO really don't lilke each other.
    - Gergiev/Rotterdam Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. This was quite the worst performance of SF I've heard. The orchestra was really lacklustre, it sounded like only the front desks of the string section were playing, and the interpretation was the most mundane I've come across. For the first time ever it sounded like a disjointed and banal piece to me.
    - Israel Philharmonic Orchestra: clearly very competent and make a lovely noise, but so unengaged with what they were doing.
    - "The Clerks' Group". Some lovely music by Josquin des Prez, Busnois, Tye and Byrd, and some excellent new motets by Robert Saxton ruined by some dreadfully ordinary/appalling voices.

    and easily the worst....
    "The Bach Choir of Bethlehem" (that's Pennsylvania not Palestine). I'd be surprised if they were any better than our local choral society. Truly appalling in the first Bach cantata they tried (and the soloists were little better), and I have no ideas what they were like in the second as I'd walked out by then.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2003
    GrahamN, Sep 14, 2003
    #50
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