Archive for the ‘Classical’ Category

(A recent response of mine regarding the classical music works of Paul McCartney…)

Classical music listeners AWAKE!  If you can’t find “it” in the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, and all the artists before, after, or in between those I just listed, you probably won’t find “it” at all.  One thing is for sure – you will NEVER find “it” in the over-indulgent, “classical” works of rock artists – not even in the works of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (who I greatly admire).

And now, for a bit of a diatribe…

Unfortunately, when many artists become well-known, famous, sell a lot of wares (whatever those wares may be), they sometimes become a little too over-confident that their gifts will automatically transcend into ALL areas of the fine arts.  Across the board, actors become musicians, musicians become actors, painters become authors, and authors begin to paint.  There are WAY too many examples of this to list here.

It also happens when successful artists in one area of music try their hand in another.  One of the most infamous examples was when Garth Brooks released that Chris Gaines album.  Was it successful?  Eh…yes – financially.  But the album came out at a time when people would have paid money to see Garth Brooks stand alone on stage, reading from a dictionary.  Artistically, the album is tripe.

How about that foray Harry Connick, Jr. took into the world of rock?  That worked out about as well as Pat Boone’s heavy metal album.  Ouch.

How about the current trend of talented legends performing old standards.  Come on, guys – really?  Double-ouch.

This happens even in the sports world.  Remember when Michael Jordan woke up one morning and decided that he was a great baseball player?  Triple-ouch.

My beloved Beatles are not immune.  To this day, there are people who absolutely believe that John Lennon was a great artist in drawing and painting.  He absolutely WAS NOT.  To say otherwise would be like saying that artist/painter Stuart Sutcliffe was a great bass player!  Drawing on your own, in your spare time for fun or as a stress release is one thing, but to pretend even in your own mind that you are rock and roll’s answer to Picasso is just plain silly.  It’s just about as silly as the Merry Widow authorizing lithographs of your noodlings to sell to the masses at overly inflated prices.

Paul McCartney, who stated to Musician Magazine in 1980 that he would never “bore myself stiff” writing a classical piece of music seems intent on doing just that.  Only it is the public who he is boring, not himself.  To quote another fairly famous musician remarking about McCartney’s quality of work when he wasn’t really trying, “The sound you make is Muzak to my ears.”

One last thing –

Paul, dear Paul:

  • Stop feeling the need to constantly justify yourself publically regarding your role in the music world.  All those efforts are not needed, and are a huge waste of your time.  You’re one of the greatest artists of the last half century, if not all time – act like it;
  • Do what you do, and do it well;
  • That doesn’t mean that we want you to write or re-write us another Band on the Run, or Venus and Mars, or Tug of War, or even another Hey Jude.  We don’t need new ones – we already have the originals, which are perfect.  Just keep writing and recording what you do best.  It’s okay – get back to where you once belonged.  The well isn’t dry yet, is it?;
  • For the love of God, will you finally stop obsessing with misplaced anxiety over your errant thoughts of believing that the public feels that it was always LENNON and McCartney, and never McCARTNEY and Lennon?!  We’re not idiots.  We all know who did what, and other rabid Beatle fans like me probably know those things better than you remember them happening!;
  • Last, and most importantly, BE HAPPY!

 

The above represents only my opinions.  I reserve the right to be wrong.

I mean, what do I know?  I’m 47 years old and still struggling through my own Hamburg days to get to the next level.  But, hey – I’m having a blast doing it!

Respectfully submitted,

With Peace and in Love,

Tim McCarthy

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Rands – “Danza Petrificada”

Strauss – “Death and Transfiguration” Opus 24

Prokofiev – Suite from “Romeo and Juliet”

Conductor:       Riccardo Muti

Performance:   Thursday, May 5, 2011

Winding down its 2010-11 season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Riccardo Muti, gave a wonderful performance on May 5.  Exhibited on musical display were all of the elements that make the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the greatest orchestra in the world.

Most of all, it was great to see Riccardo Muti in seeming excellent shape!  Hospitalized in October for extreme exhaustion, and having recovered from a lacerated jaw, the result of a fainting spell during a rehearsal, I was concerned at the last moment that I may not be able to see him conduct this season.  It’s not a very good omen to have so much bad luck during your inaugural season as the musical director of the CSO!  My fears were immediately quashed, for Muti conducted the orchestra in his typically breathtaking style and musicality.

There would be no more fitting a piece to play on Cinco de Mayo than Pulitzer Prize winning composer Bernard Rands’ Danza Petrificada.  Commissioned in 2010 for the CSO, Muti stipulated to Rands that the work be a celebration of Mexico’s one hundredth anniversary of its revolution, and two hundredth anniversary of its independence.  Being a percussionist myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the use of multiple percussion instruments, and was glad to see that the approach Rands took was of “musical suggestion.”  The easier route would have been to whip-up a few Mexican folk songs, but Rands uniquely conveyed a Mexican village as “a banquet of forms, a petrified dance (danza petrificada) under the clouds that make and unmake and never stop making themselves, always in transit toward their future forms.”  [From 1930: Vistas Fijas, by Octavio Paz]  While it is a relatively short work (just under 10 minutes), the orchestra seemed most buoyant during the performance of this piece over the others performed that evening.  It is exciting to play a passionate, new piece from such an eminent contemporary composer!

Next to come was Richard Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration.  This four movement Post-Romantic tone poem composed by Strauss in 1890 follows the journey of a dying man as he reaches toward the “highest ideal goals” and thus reflects upon his life passing before his tired eyes.  Wonderfully orchestrated, and poignantly moving, the CSO performed it as well as its reputation for Romantic music is long.  It’s a magnificent, classic example of tone poem Romantic music.  It is such a classic enough example that John Williams…um…”borrowed” the  leitmotif as a theme in his movie score, “Superman.”

Following a brief intermission, the CSO returned to the stage to perform Suite from Romeo and Juliet, composed by Sergei Prokofiev.  While Shakespeare’s play had been the inspiration for countless works of music – including no less than twenty operas – Prokofiev’s work, first performed December 30, 1938, marks the first major ballet.  At roughly forty-eight minutes, this suite coveys in rich, floating melodies the story of the tragedy bound lovers in strongly Russian characteristics.  It is an amazing piece performed marvelously by the orchestra.

I only heard two major problems with the CSO’s performance that evening.  I comment on them in large detail only because I couldn’t believe that one such glaringly obvious problem could occur with this orchestra, let alone two.
First, I was surprised to hear the upper woodwinds – primarily the flutes – having so many intonation problems.  When I heard one of the flutes trail flat at the completion of a passage during the Danza Petrificada, I surmised that I must be hearing a ghost.  But when it occurred during Death and Transfiguration as well, something was definitely amiss.  There were actually a few glances of uneasiness in the audience.  Later, during Suite from Romeo and Juliet, the flutes were constantly readjusting their head joints after almost every passage.  Well, I thought, at least they can hear what we hear, too.  That aside, the evening’s greatest earache was committed by the snare drummer during the Prokofiev.  In my forty years of drumming, I have committed as many sins in the form of clams, flubs and miscues as anybody else.  But I can honestly say that her roll technique was that of a beginning elementary school student.  Absolutely dreadful.

Be that as it may, the concert itself was fascinating.  Executed with the musicality you can expect from the world’s greatest orchestra, It seems only fitting that the world’s greatest orchestra should have the world’s greatest string section.  Chicago always has been known for its brass section, but the string section’s brilliance, intonation, and its ebb and flow made for a wonderful pleasure, especially during the Prokofiev.

The overall performance of these works by the CSO was superb.