Watch: Bobby McFerrin Conducts — and Sings — Vivaldi's Double Cello Concerto

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 11:56 AM

McFerrin (left) and Veronika Wilhelm performing Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor. McFerrin (left) and Veronika Wilhelm performing Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor. (EuroArtsChannel/Youtube)

Bobby McFerrin possesses a malleable, fluid talent that’s allowed him to make a statement in a number of diverse musical stylings. You might be familiar with his sprawling studio discography — which includes fan favorite “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — or recall hearing his vocal contributions to Knick Knack, one of Pixar’s earliest films. Maybe your McFerrin connection is through his vocalizations of jazz standards like “Take the A-Train” or “‘Round Midnight.” The guy’s been all over the musical globe, including classical country. And his visits there can be characterized as more than a “dabble.”

In 1995 — which also happened to be his second year as Creative Director for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra — McFerrin released Paper Music, an album that included his interpretation of music from Bach, Faure and Vivaldi, among others. The following year saw The Mozart Sessions, a collaboration in which Chick Corea joined the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for a Mozart-exclusive set.

McFerrin’s versatility and connection to the classical world is made even deeper once you realize that his father, Robert McFerrin Sr., was the first the black man to sing at the Met and went on to have a successful musical career.

Now, check out Bobby conduct cellist Veronika Wilhelm and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in a performance of Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto — while vocalizing one of the cello parts.


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Comments [4]

Peter J Blume from Westchester, NY

(Part 2 of 2)

Considering Rondo Ala Turca a more important piece of music than "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”—the variations on the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (as you did in our civil disagreement regarding Yuja Wang) is a subjective judgment that you made; it’s ok that you think so, but it’s not an objective perspective—it’s not quantifiable or necessarily specifically measurable. It’s an opinion—your opinion; it’s art. Mozart found enough value and interest in the simple little piece to create his own set of variations on it. By belittling the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” melody, you are somehow affirming in your own mind that it was ok for Mozart to ‘bastardize’ the folk tune melody (that SOMEBODY wrote—even if it was in public domain) and yet slamming Yuja Wang for doing the same thing on Mozart’s own Rondo Ala Turca—which by the way, is also in public domain at this point.

The Vivaldi piece here that Bobby McFerrin sang/scatted on is also in public domain, at this point. It’s ok that you don’t like it Baron; but just because you don’t doesn’t mean that it is a novelty. It’s different and unconventional, but there is definitely some intrinsic value and something very interesting here—sorry, if you don’t agree with it. But it is this same kind of thinking ‘outside the box’, that thankfully someone dared to do despite harsh criticism (and being ex-communicated!), that finally lead us to realize that the world is not flat.


Feb. 24 2017 10:30 PM
Peter J Blume from Westchester, NY

(Part 1 of 2)

Hi Baron—nice to be in complete disagreement with you yet again! Happy New Year to you and your family.

So firstly, just because you personally don’t like something, doesn’t automatically make it a novelty. In our last discussion—which you’ve brought up yet again—you’ve seemingly dismissed Yuja Wang’s incredible skill and artistry merely because she employed 1 encore-solo that you felt did not fit into the narrow confines of a box that you think ‘real’ music should work within. Oh yeah and you didn’t like the way she dresses—again a novelty. Given your now similarly dismissive comments about Bobby McFerrin, I would assume you also take issue with his hair—?? I mean, let’s just get that right out of the way, because like Yuja’s dresses, it’s really the minor of the actual issues…but I would venture to guess that it too probably does not fit into the narrow confines of the box of how you think serious musicians should look…??

Funny, but I wouldn’t have even needed your comments here to know that you wouldn’t like this posting about Bobby McFerrin—because unlike Yuja’s minor stretch of the Mozart Rondo Alla Turca, Bobby’s ENTIRE ARTISTRY exists outside the box of what you think all REAL musicians should be confined to! His instrument (or at least his ‘main’ instrument) is his voice—but unlike the overwhelmingly majority of singers who have come through the vast conventional schools of voice training, Bobby’s vocal uniqueness comes from a very different school of thought—and it is his approach, really, that sets him apart. It is deeply rooted in ear-training; learning music intrinsically, almost completely at first through listening, rather than relying primarily on the sheet music—through the eyes. Listening over and over and over again, and then singing/scatting ALL the parts back individually to try to capture a proper emotion (or different emotions), all before actually then putting it back together and performing it all on one’s instrument. Most REAL (serious) musicians, regardless of what their instrument is or the genre medium they perform in, usually get at least SOME ear training during the course of their artistic studies. Bobby is like on his 100th Ear Training doctorate. What he can do with his voice is a mere extension of what all he can hear in his head and make out of thin air. That doesn’t make him a novelty, it makes him innovative; it should (and is!) celebrated, not pushed down by narrow-minded bullying or dismissive comments. I realize that you are more of a Classical purist—and that should be revered and celebrated too—so it’s ok if you don’t like something. But just because you don’t, doesn’t mean it is a novelty.


Feb. 24 2017 10:25 PM
The Baron from Long Island City, NY

I suppose it goes without saying in today's PC-USA that we all are supposed to go Ga-Ga over Mr. McFerrin's novelty act, even if it is at the expense of Antonio Vivaldi's sublime music.

Perhaps he should team up with Yuja Wang. One of her go-to encore pieces as of late has been a truly cringe-worthy jazz/pop "version" of Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" that might have worked better in Liberace's Las Vegas act than it does in concert halls. If Ms. Wang does decide to go the Vegas route at least she won't have to buy a new wardrobe.

Feb. 24 2017 03:23 AM
Marilyn L. George from CA

Fabulous performance of a great piece, played/sung with stunning musical phrasing.

Feb. 23 2017 01:19 AM

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