Saturday, October 09, 2010
Last weekend I had the pleasure of recording an in-studio performance by composer Van Dyke Parks, which will broadcast on my WNYC show Spinning On Air this Sunday evening at 8 pm. My first exposure to Parks's work was when I heard The Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains” on the radio while a kid back in the 1960s. Parks wrote the lyrics for that song, and subsequently worked on The Beach Boys’ “Smile” and his own 1968 album “Song Cycle,” and many projects since. Back when I first heard his music I knew it was new, exciting, and different, but I probably didn’t recognize that it was such an effective, natural blend of folk, pop, and classical influences.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Kraft has finally come to New York, carrying with it the local, found-object flavor that composer Magnus Lindberg requires when installing this legacy-defining piece.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
On Thursday morning, composer Magnus Lindberg and the New York Philharmonic held the final rehearsal before the New York premiere of his 1985 industrial work Kraft. That piece features an arsenal of noise-making instruments augmented by various found objects, including scrap metal, an oxygen tank and other junk, all of which were picked up from a Staten Island junkyard.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
If there is an audience for it, what difference does it make if a classical artist decides to cross over into the world of popular music every once in a while? I’ll grant you that it suits some singers better than others, but I really don’t see the harm in it. And, if a few more people get turned on to classical music along the way, why not?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Up until a few weeks ago, you'd hear a generous amount of recordings from pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev. But now that Pletnev is under investigation for child rape in Thailand his voice has been silenced in concert halls and on the radio – in the U.S. and U.K that is. But back home in Russia, and elsewhere his beat marches on. Pletnev founded the Russian National Orchestra 20 years ago and its season kicked off this month as planned with Pletnev on the podium.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The Metropolitan Opera season opens tonight with Das Rheingold, the first opera in Wagner's epic Ring cycle. My guest today is James Jorden, who is most famous - or should I say infamous - for his alter ego La Cieca on the e-zine Parterre.com. He also writes about opera for the New York Post.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Glenn Dicterow has been a concertmaster or associate concertmaster in major symphony orchestras for nearly forty years, thirty of which have been at the New York Philharmonic. He talks with Jeff Spurgeon about the job.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
As our month-long ViolinFest proceeds on WQXR, I’ve been reading about the violin, and talking with some violinists and other violin experts. Curiously for me, though, learning about the violin has not made me interested in the slightest in learning to play the thing. I say “curiously” because usually when I study something, I feel an urge, however small, to experience it. But for some reason, the violin hasn’t grabbed me in the least. It looks not only difficult to learn, but uncomfortable, too. I love listening to it, and deeply admire the people who study it, play it expertly, and understand it. But it’s not for me.
If I were to study a string instrument, it would be the cello. There’s something about its tone quality, its warmth, and the intimacy of holding it in an embrace – as opposed to tucking the violin under the chin, as if it were napkin – that draws me to it. There’s nothing rational about any of this, of course. Speaking of irrational, I also have long had a desire to play the accordion. I love the sweet rusticity of the French bal-musette sound. But the accordion instead of the violin – what’s wrong with me? Please don’t answer that, but do answer this: What musical instrument have you always wanted to play, and why? If you’ve fulfilled your ambition, what was it like to meet the object of your musical desire?
Friday, September 10, 2010
On September 11, 2001, I was home and glued to my TV set, like everybody else. My two main gigs that year were hosting Breakfast With The Arts on A&E and being one of the voice-over guys on CNN. I was not scheduled to shoot for A&E, but I was expected to work for CNN. As the day unfolded it was clear I was not going to get into Manhattan since the bridges were closed. But at that time, I had all the technology I needed to voice for CNN from home. ISDN Lines, still used today, are basically broadcast-quality telephone lines. So late in the afternoon, I was emailed my script and I voiced my pieces. A clip from the night of the attacks is on my web site.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Erich Kunzel, long-time conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, died a year ago, at the age of 74. Kunzel wasn’t just Cincinnati’s conductor -- for nearly two decades, he led the National Symphony Orchestra in A Capitol Fourth and Memorial Day concerts on the lawn of the Capitol Building that were broadcast around the country on PBS.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
My turntable broke about 15 years ago. It was around the time of the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. I went to see the show and came home eager to put on my original cast album to ‘compare’. The turntable died in the middle of the title song.
Monday, August 30, 2010
This is the last week of the traditional vacation season. I love the terms associated with vacation. To “vacate” means to “get out.” “Relax” means to “loosen.” We also “take a break,” have “time off,” and “get away.” In all of those words or phrases is the idea of relief from everyday routine, and there are myriad ways to escape quotidian matters.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Leonard Bernstein was a man of supreme charisma and fantastic talent. A conductor, composer and educator, Bernstein was an undying advocate for composers, new works, new ideas, and the concept of music as a living art in the modern world. For all of these reasons, Bernstein seems a sort of spiritual antecedent to Q2.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
We at WQXR are putting together a very special CD. The theme is New York. So if you live in New York, used to live in New York, wish to live in New York or have heard of New York – we want to know what classical music you’d want on such a recording -- and why?