Monthly Archives: February 2009

Barber Cello Concerto = Sweeny Todd?

I think this is the first time I’ve seen playing the infamously difficult solo part of the Barber Cello Concerto compared to the murderous actions of Sweeny Todd, “the demon barber of Fleet Street.” But here you go:

This week in a theater near you, Sweeney Todd isn’t the only musical barber who dwells on the past.

Samuel Barber’s darkly nostalgic Cello Concerto made its belated Eastman Theatre debut Thursday, more than six decades after it was composed. Soloist Julie Albers and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra dispatched its cruel challenges as efficiently as Geva Theatre Center’s hero was doing a few blocks away.

Some cellists find preparing this piece murder–so the soloist is more the victim than the perpetrator.  I read somewhere that Leonard Rose played it once, and said that was enough, he’d rather live a long life.  In any event, plenty of praise in this review for Albers, who seems to be building a great career, and maybe should be nicknamed the “demon cellist of Lincoln Center.”  (Although she’s a very non-demonic looking woman.)

Nothing fazed the young Manhattan cellist: sprints across all four strings, sliding plucked notes, daredevil acrobatics in thumb position. (That’s when the player’s left thumb leaves its secure home on the cello’s neck for the dizzying upper slopes of the fingerboard.) In songful passages, she drew a lean, assertive tone from her 1872 Vuillaume instrument.

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Almost everything I’ve felt like blogging about lately

. . . has been too personal for a public blog.  I’m introspective by nature, and like writing about my inner life as well as day-to-day struggles and successes.  I’m not particularly shy about being personally open, but there are some things I don’t necessarily want students, prospective students, their parents, my parents, etc,, reading about–including my thoughts about students, prospective students, friends and family!  Since this blog is part of my professional website, I think an anonymous blog is in order.  That way I can write about whatever and whomever I want without violating anyone’s privacy.

Meanwhile, I’m delighted for the entire world to know that I’ve greatly enjoyed the questions-and-answers column by Tony Tommassini, chief music critic of the New York Times.  There is tremendous food for thought.  Turns out he has a doctorate in music and has done some performing and recording.  I’ve always liked his reviews;  he’s honest, and even when criticizing aspects of a performance, appreciative and respectful of the performers.  He writes about this, and many other issues, and it’s all well worth reading.

And Roger Bourland has been writing about would-be USC music majors.  The pieces, one about auditions, and the other about a lesson he gave to a young composer who was not accepted at USC, would be of benefit to anyone in the process of trying to get into music school.

This may be an unfair generalization, but there’s a kindness and generosity of spirit in both men’s writings, a sensitivity to and compassion for the feelings of others, that seems particularly gay to me–and I mean that in the most complimentary and proud way possible.  Strong, honest, and yet nurturing.  Both Roger and Tony are openly gay, as am I.  There’s something about the taunting and teasing and ridicule one endures as a gay kid growing up that can resul in an acute sense of compassion for just how stinging and devestating rejection can be.  I don’t mean that there aren’t a lot of genuinely nice, sensitive straight men, and there are certainly plenty of nasty gay men.  But reading Tony and Roger this week, there’s part of me that says being gay, including all the struggles, really is a blessing, and leaves me a bit prouder to be who I am.

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Daniel Lee needs just $3 million

leeelgarbanner

to buy a Montagna.

Principal cellist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, he’s performing the Elgar concerto with the orchestra this coming weekend, performing (according to the artile linked to above) on a borrowed, for-sale Montagna, the price of which is evidently beyond the reach of even a principal cellist’s salary and gig income (surprise!).  (Also beyond the reach of one living on a cello professor’s salary.)

Minor rant: the orchestra has one of those websites that drive me nuts.  On the home page, the concert is listed simply as “TCHAIKOVSKY Sym. No. 5.”  Other orchestras do this, featuring on a particular work to sell the concert.  Glancing at it, you wouldn’t know that one of the most acclaimed young cellists in the States is performing, or that there’s also the opportunity to hear a Tippet Suite.  (OK, I understand Tchaikovsky sells more than Tippet.)

On the other hand, the SLSO cello section page has a great banner (above) featuring the Elgar, with a fabulous picture of Mr. Lee. So snaps to the management for that.

But does this plugging-a-single-work strategy really work?  I have my doubts, but no data.  I’m not a typical audience member (if there is such a thing).  The Indianapolis Symphony does something similar.  “Hilary Hahn-A World Premiere!” the home page announces.  Click on the link and you discover that the composer is Jennifer Higdon (terrific!) and that the program also includes “two of Mario Venzago’s signature pieces.”  But WTF are they? Takes another click to discover they are the Weber Der Freischütz Overture and the Schumann Fourth Symphony.

And Mr. Lee really needs his own website!

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Kristina Reiko Cooper

Google Alerts are a wonderful thing.  I have ones set up for “cello” and “cellist,” among others (which is why I’m aware of the countless articles about the non-existence of “cello scrotum,” mentioned in my previous post).  Today’s “cello” alert brought this article about cellist Kristina Reiko Cooper, who has what I would call a post-classical career (i.e., one that includes but isn’t limited to traditional classical music).  Her website is terrific, with lots of audio and video clips, and some great photos, including this one.

Kristian Reiko cooper

Kristian Reiko cooper

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