Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Digging Bartók with the Emerson Quartet

The good folks at Carnegie Hall have published a fascinating video (mostly) guide to the string quartets of Bela Bartók. The guide is hosted by members of the Emerson String Quartet and is called, fittingly, The Emerson String Quartet: The Bartók Quartets, A Guide for Performers & Music Lovers.

It's a little like watching a well-produced bit of television on the subject. The Quartet's members are talking heads throughout and, when examples are played, the appropriate section of the score pops up for your viewing pleasure.

All six Bartók quartets get a going over, including No. 3, which the Emerson will play on their Celebrity Series program at Jordan Hall on May 12 with pianist Leon Fleisher (No, Mr. Fleisher hasn't taken up the violin, he'll play Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, Opus 34 with the Quartet). The May 12 concert date should give you plenty of lead time to get up to speed on Quartet No. 3...

A mild note of warning: in my experience, the Performance Guide requires a very speedy connection to be viewed adequately. This isn't really Carnegie Hall's fault, of course; but though the developers have included some controls to let you goose the quality/speed ratio a bit, the video and audio were still choppy for this user. I'm sure others will have a better experience.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Planning accidents at Harvard Business School

As good as their articles are, I don't usually think of Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge for Business Leaders as a place to find subjects for this blog, but I found one that I think is worth passing along. Sarah Jane Gilbert conducted this Q & A with Robert Austin, an associate professor in the Technology, Operations and Management unit at HBS, about accidental innovations, the subject of a paper he recently co-wrote. Austin interviewed artists for the paper, querying them about how they more or less "plan" to have "accidents."

Here's a snippet from Austin:

"One artist showed me how one of his important pieces came out of some experiments with unusual tools; he wasn't trying to do a piece of work, he was just trying out the unfamiliar tools, and something interesting happened. Another, a potter, showed me how he would create beautiful pots and then, while they were drying, whack them with a stick. Sometimes they just broke, but other times he'd get an interesting shape that he'd never seen before."

Thanks to the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston (the link to this article came from their newsletter) and Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge for Business Leaders.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I guess Holst was right...

Gustav Holst: Little Respect for Pluto, either

For those living under rocks: The International Astronomical Union has redesignated Pluto as a "Dwarf Planet."

"Honk if Pluto is Still a Planet" is a fun bumper sticker gaining popularity. Another good line is on a t-shirt: "Not so Fast Pluto." Links for both with appropriate credits can be found here on Boing Boing (where else?).

And then, as if this story wasn't already rich enough fodder for comedians, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pluto. Yup. Read about it in the blog, Bench Conference.

The Sol of Brevity

"For good artists, there are no bad acoustics. For bad artists, there are no good acoustics."
                                                                                  Sol Hurok

Thursday, August 24, 2006

UK Luggage Ban Stops the Show


We have been talking for some time around the Celebrity Series offices about the new carry-on baggage check-in requirements in Britain and what it means for touring musicians (a few years ago it was the problem of touring artist visa waiting times). For those that don't know (although it seems like common knowledge in today's world), musicians that play, say, very old and very expensive violins or cellos, especially those instruments whose value can be measured in millions of dollars, typically buy an extra seat for their instruments or take them into the cabin as carry-on luggage. With that option removed (in Britain, at least) musicians that don't want to check valuable instruments into the luggage compartment are scrambling to find ways to get themselves and their instruments to their concerts without getting on planes; or, as in the case of some musicians interviewed for a story on BBC Radio, they are canceling those concerts altogether. Read Cabin Baggage Ban Hits Musicians from the BBC News web site (from August 11). The article lists comments from musicians and others about their individual plights.

Update: Since I wrote and saved this post, the list of those impacted has been narrowed somewhat. In Baggage Advice for UK Passengers, we learn that some carry-on bags are being allowed on board. Presumably, this will allow some smaller instruments to be carried-on. Cellists, I fear, are out of luck in the UK until further notice.

Look to Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog for her posts on the subject: Violin - or out? and Out? Her blog is where I found the BBC links when I went looking for info on the radio story. Jessica is also receiving some good comments on the subject.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Orleans Rebuilds and Bingo joins Pres Hall


Over the course of the last year (I forget exactly where or when) I saw someone, some talking head on television, prattling on about how America doesn't have any ruins, yet (very debatable, I say). And maybe, he went on, New Orleans would be the first of them. To which I say, "Read this article, please."

The article is primarily about a couple - a family, actually - rebuilding their house and their life in New Orleans just blocks away from where a levy was breached by Hurricane Katrina's flood waters a year ago. Artie Folse and Tonja Osborne decided to reclaim their lives in their old house. It was a year-long building process, requiring Herculean labor under obscenely difficult physical and emotional circumstances. Perhaps this is anniversary journalism, but even so, by putting this article on the front page (above the fold), The Times is doing valuable work keeping us from forgetting about The Crescent City in its hour (year? decade?) of need.

Read A New Orleans Home Is Reborn, With Grit and Persistence (login required). Artie Folse and Tonja Osborne  are remarkable people, optimists with an incredible capacity for hard work in an atmosphere that, even as the flowers bloom in their front yard and the house no longer smells of mold and rot, is still not very encouraging. But they have not given in and they are rebuilding. And others are, too.

Say, aren't you guys having...? YES! We are doing a benefit with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, special guest Ellis Marsalis and vocalist and mutli-instrumentalist Clint Meadgen and his band Bingo! The show is called "A New Orleans Revue," and it comes to Symphony Hall on October 15.

Bingo! at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

"A New Orleans Revue" will benefit the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund as well as the Celebrity Series' Arts, Education and Community Program. It will be a wild party with great music and great food and you will read more about it here and elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reuters at AileyCamp Boston

The Reuters news agency recently visited AileyCamp Boston and filed this photo story (slide show format). This year was no exception, they were (and are) a great bunch of kids. Not surprisingly, these are some great shots of them.

"Classical Music, best of times? worst of times?"

I neglected to put this up until now, though it was completed almost a month ago. has uncorked another worthy blog-based discussion, this time it's Classical Music, best of times, worst of times? A Debate (July 22-July 26, 2006).

The participants are/were:

Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer
Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Janelle Gefland, Cincinnati Enquirer
Klaus Heyman, Naxos
Barbara Jepson, Wall Street Journal
Josh Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
Lowell Noteboom, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hilary Hahn has an IM chat with The Boston Globe

Violinist Hilary Hahn presumably waiting for an electronic instrument delivery

Michael Hardy of The Boston Globe had an AOL IM chat with violinist Hilary Hahn last week in advance of her BSO/Tanglewood appearance. Here's a wee sample:

Hahn: ...Hang on one sec, someone knocked at my door.

Globe: Sure.

Hahn: The hotel just delivered an electronic keyboard! Hooray! I can practice in my room! I'm trying to get back in touch with piano but I like practicing in my room in general. Which is difficult with piano.

I include this clip not so much to inform as to give me the opportunity to ask, "Electronic keyboard? What hotel is she staying in?" Seriously, though, it is a nice chat with an interesting young performer who is on many a radar screen already and will eventually be on everyone's radar screen (assuming they have a radar screen). Hilary will be in recital at Jordan Hall on January 12. I'll have info on the program when it becomes available.

And here's the online journal Hilary talks about in the article.

Frank Rich in New York Magazine

Frank Rich's Celebrity Series debut was rescheduled last February (snowstorm) into the coming season. He'll be at John Hancock Hall on October 22. If you are a New York Times reader, you can bide your time by reading Mr. Rich's column there (not something I can offer as a link here). You can also get a snapshot of the fiery Rich in the August 21 issue of New York Magazine: What If 9/11 Never Happened?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

By the way, 14k

Zipped right past 14,000 page views the other day and didn't even notice. One of the four of you is going to do some carpal tunnel damage if you aren't careful.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ayla's Big Day

Ayla Throws Out the First Pitch at Fenway Park

Ayla, the capuchin monkey from Helping Hands that accompanied David Sedaris at Symphony Hall back in May (and looked for bugs in my hair), keeps getting bigger gigs (meaning literally bigger, it doesn't get much bigger than a Celebrity Series date, does it?). Last Wednesday, she threw out the first pitch for the Red Sox/Tigers game at Fenway Park, charming the Fenway Faithful in the process. The BBC's children's web site is even running a caption contest around the Associated Press photo at the top of this post.


Ayla with her "new friend" Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland

Clearly, Ayla's celebrity status is beginning to accelerate. I just hope she remembers who her real friends are...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A GlobeToast in the Virtual Workshop

In an unspeakably kind post yesterday, Geoff Edgers on The Boston Globe's The Exhibitionist raised a virtual glass of champagne for this blog's 1st anniversary. It was darn nice of him, I must say. So a shout out right back at him (shoutback?) is clearly in order.

He called this blog informative, literate and playful, to which I say . . . well, thank you very much is what I blushingly say.

On the negative side, Mr. Edgers knocked this blog's name. Wait, does it actually have a name? Oh, maybe that's what he's talking about. Many refer to it as The Celebrity Series Blog (clever branding, I thought). Hmmm. I admit, "The Bloviator" had occurred to me (and probably to others as well).

Perhaps "The Blog With No Name?" - kind of a Clint Eastwood tribute . . . no?

"Celeblogerty Series?"

I'll head out to the workshop with my virtual champagne and think about it awhile. Read on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

NHK to bring an Enigma wrapped in a mystery

Edward Elgar in 1904

The man who made it possible for millions to graduate from the school of their choice every year by composing Pomp and Circumstance, also had a mystery up his Victorian sleeve. After a full day of teaching, so the story goes, composer Edward Elgar daydreamed a melody at the piano. Alice, his wife, asked him to repeat it. So, to entertain her, Elgar improvised thirteen variations on the theme, each one a musical portrait of a friend, or the style of music that friend might have chosen themselves. Elgar subsequently expanded and orchestrated the originals and they became his famous "Enigma" Variations.

There are two puzzles that give the piece its name. First, is to guess to whom each variation refers(this has been solved to the satisfaction of most, and, no the Eleventh Variation is not Tony Randall); and the second, a deeper mystery, is that of the secret theme that underlies all the variations. Here is a bit of commentary by the composer on this deeper mystery:

"The enigma I will not explain - its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme 'goes', but is not played.... So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some late dramas ... the chief character is never on stage."

"Enigma" Variations was performed for the first time in London in 1899 by Hans Richter conducting the Hallé Orchestra.

A few Enigmatically related links:

Enigma Variations page on

Information on Patrick Turner's book, Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations, a Centenary Celebration

"Enigma" Variations' wikipedia page

Edward Elgar's wikipedia page

The Elgar Society and The Elgar Foundation

The NHK Symphony Orchestra will perform Elgar's "Enigma" Variations under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy, at Symphony Hall in Boston on October 20.

This blog just turned 1!

1st Anniversary and the ride continues...

Yup, started 'er up on August 15 of ought-5. So it's time to say thank you to all of you for...

...humoring me
...your fanaticism
...all the cash
...caring so very deeply
...your cards and letters
...not reporting me
...the love
...making this blog your home page
...paying attention
...using Google Image search
...not smoking
...being traffic
...clicking on whatever you clicked on to get here
...not interfering
...reading this blog
...your support!

There. Time to slide into another year!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A typically lovely post from fullermusic

Cathy at fullermusic has posted a typically absorbing meditation (plus photos) on her perusal of bound copies of manuscripts by Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin. Have I officially recommended fullermusic, yet? Cathy is as thoughtful as anyone writing about music online these days. I hereby recommend it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More AileyCamp shots

I can't resist. Here are a some more photos of AileyCampers that were taken over the last 6 weeks.





All photos are by Brian Snyder except the one of the shoes, I took that one...

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

AileyCamp Boston 2006 gets ready to bring down the house


All of AileyCamp Boston is getting ready for tomorrow evening's Final Performance at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University (7:00 p.m.). Family and friends will pretty much take up the available seats, but I just had to give you a peak at these amazing kids getting ready.

Here's the press release on the 2006 Boston incarnation of the camp.

It Happened One Night

When Elisabeth Schwarzkopf gave Maria Callas a mini-master the middle of a restaurant . . . an anecdote from The Standing Room.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Mostly Beethoven at Kaplan Penthouse

Vivien Schweitzer, reviewing for The New York Times, writes that pianist Garrick Ohlsson played only Beethoven on his recital atLincoln Center's "Little Night Music" series at its Mostly Mozart Festival, just as he did last year:

“Lincoln Center hinted they’d like some Mozart this year,” Mr. Ohlsson said,
laughing, but told the organization it could have “anything, as long as it’s
Beethoven sonatas.”

Presumably with a wink, Ohlsson did slip in Mozart's Sonata in C (K. 330) as an encore.

Read Schweitzer's complete review of Ohlsson's recital (login required).

The Celebrity Series will present Garrick Ohlsson in an all-Beethoven recital at NEC's Jordan Hall on February 10. No word on any possible Mozart encores, yet.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf dead at 90


Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf died August 3 at her home in Schruns, Austria at the age of 90. Ms. Schwarzkopf was one of the leading operatic voices of the twentieth century. Like many who stretch artistic boundaries, she courted controversy, but the most notable controversy of her life came when her early membership in the Nazi
Party was revealed in a 1970s biography. It haunted her reputation thereafter.

The Celebrity Series presented Ms. Schwarzkopf in recital on 4 occasions; first in Jordan Hall in 1954, and three times susequently in Symphony Hall in 1955, '56 and '60.

Boston Globe, Richard Dyer (obit.)

The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini (obit.)

Washington Post, Adam Bernstein (obit.)

Washington Post, Tim Page (appreciation)

Reuters (obit.)

Playbill Arts, Vivien Schweitzer (obit.)

The Independent, UK, Thair Shaikh (obit.)

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Garrison Keillor on the Heat Wave


The Chicago Tribune is the source for Garrison Keillor's latest column, a tongue in cheek look at how the heat wave gripping the nation this week is turning Minnesota into a cartoon version of the South:

"Up here we associate heat with degeneracy. Once the temperature gets above 100
for several days in a row, you expect to see the minister canoodling with the
church secretary and getting jazzed on joy juice, and the deputy shooting the
sheriff over a hand of euchre, and the night before Jimmy Joe goes to the
gallows he learns that his daddy was not his daddy. And you expect to come to
church and see some snake-handling."

Read Well, shut my mouth if this ain't what you would call a heat wave in its entirety.

Oh, yes, and we get Garrison Keillor in the flesh at Symphony Hall on February 11.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Summer Slump Worse Than Usual in The Big Easy

Not that it's surprising, but New Orleans musicians are having a particularly tough summer. Musicians in the Crescent City usually find business slumping in the hot summer months, but in this post-Katrina year things are particularly bad:

“It’s not easy being a New Orleans musician now,” said tuba player Woody Penouilh. “It’s never been easy during the summer but the lack of tourism is really hurting a lot of musicians. The ones who are regulars in nightclubs or playing the streets, they’re hurting terribly. We’re used to making more money in the convention business but that’s not here either.”

Read the complete article in New Orleans City Business: Musicians Grateful for All Gigs During Summer Slump.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

David Cleary on Matt Haimovitz and eighth blackbird for New Music Connoiseur

New Music Connoiseur, published under the auspices of the New York-based Composers Concordance, and calling itself "The Magazine Devoted to the Contemorary Music Scene" has just published a couple of reviews of Celebrity Series concerts from 2005-2006. Boston-based writer David Cleary reviewed Matt Haimovitz's Sanders Theatre performance from this past February 3 and Eighth Blackbird's Sanders Theatre show from March 26.

From this blog, here is my blog post on the Haimovitz show and my post-performance blog post on the eighth blackbird concert from March 28. The eighth blackbird post features some decidedly non-award winning photos (by yours truly) of the performance.

Cleary also reviewed Boston Modern Orchestra Project's (BMOP) February 7 performance at Boston's Club Cafe for New Music Connoiseur. BMOP comes to the Celebrity Series on May 19, 2007.

Lang Lang videos, ping pong pics abound


Lang Lang ready for table tennis

OK, so a lot of them are grainy, badly lit, or have atrocious sound, but the video posting web site You Tube has to date 19 - count 'em: 19! - video clips of pianist Lang Lang available for viewing. The clips range from 55 seconds to almost a half an hour and feature mostly performance footage, though the longest clip is of an interview from Chinese television (which I'm guessing is not available with your cable package, either). Lang Lang certainly has some fanatical fans: YouTube Lang Lang clips.

I also came across Lang Lang on this oddly wonderful non-commercial site dedicated to photos of celebrities playing table tennis. Other ping pong photos featured on the site include actor Alan Alda, musicans Daniel Barenboim, Luciano Pavarotti, Thelonious Monk and Bob Marley, architect Walter Gropius, Henry Kissinger, Bill and Hilary Clinton, and Mr. Ed. The photo of Lang Lang used above comes from this site.

Lang Lang returns to the Celebrity Series (un-grainy, with the impeccable acoustics of Symphony Hall and sans ping pong paddle) for a recital on Sunday, January 28.