WXXI Classical Blog
Greenwood Books on East Avenue (near the RPO Box office) is slowly selling off about eight thousand books formerly owned by the late composer David Diamond. The books, mostly about music, are on a shelf near the entrance, facing the door. I’ve bought two so far, and the cool thing about them is that Diamond wrote in his books, reacting to what he was reading.
For example, in The State of Music, critic and composer Virgil Thomson writes about the lifestyles of musicians:
I’m no scientist, but the way I understand it, the Earth’s blanket of clouds, mist, precipitation, dust, and volcanic ash will change the moon’s color tonight. It might turn blood red, orange, or dark brown. The exact shade of the moon will reveal something about the Earth's atmosphere in a particular moment. Seeing it, you might feel inspiration or a spark of madness or the hope of attaining the unattainable. You might become a werewolf.
I’m not actually superstitious, but when a new Bridge CD of classical songs by Alexander Zemlinsky landed in my mailbox yesterday, I felt a stab of something weird. You see, many of the songs are about the moon.
“The Queen of the Night vanished into the split rock, the stage lift worked, the prince and the birdcatcher set out on their adventures. The scene changed and in a room in Sarastro’s palace lay Pamina, abandoned and afraid. And here was alchemy again as the quarrelsome, rapacious Raisa became a young girl whose simplicity and seriousness was affirmed in every limpid note.
The Middle of Nowhere is approximately halfway between Rochester and Buffalo on a windswept ridge at the edge of a frozen wildlife refuge. As in New Zealand, where sheep far outnumber humans, Canada geese outnumber people here by about a million to one. Presently it’s so icy that even the geese have fled. On Saturday afternoon, the only sign of life was a twittering flock of snow buntings on summer holiday from the Arctic Circle.
Imagine This American Life condensing 20 hours’ worth of epic Wagnerian operas into 58 minutes and you get the idea. Smart, fast-paced, and slightly droll in the Ira Glassian style, the hour-long show includes interviews with writer Alex Ross and singer Jane Eaglen, who recently performed A Sea Symphony with the RPO and ROS in Eastman Theatre. It also includes an interview with a guy grocery shopping for Ring-related items.
Alma Mahler interests me. One of the great muses of the early twentieth century, she fell in and out of love with composers, artists, an architect, and a writer. She inspired paintings, symphonies, buildings, and poetry. She even wrote her own music, suffocating artistically when her first husband, Gustav Mahler, asked her to stop.
Bruce Beresford’s 2001 movie about Alma, “Bride of the Wind,” takes its name from a painting of the same name by Oskar Kokoschka.
A new book, “Not Quite What I Was Planning," presents some of the best six-word memoirs culled from Smith magazine. You may have heard Neal Conan talking about this book on WXXI/NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Some of these are quite funny.
I made up a few fictitious memoirs.
“Secret to life: wine, women, song.” - Luciano Pavarotti
“Born in Churchville: conquered the world.” – Renee Fleming
“Got kicked out of the Met.” – Kathleen Battle
Rochester’s Ying Quartet was wise to skip the Grammy awards for a gig in Ohio. The group didn’t win in their category, Best Chamber Music Performance.
MARIA SCHNEIDER earned a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for Cerulean Skies from her new CD, Sky Blue. She beat Bela Fleck, Harry Connick, Jr. and Phillip Glass.
On the day that Mitt Romney suspended his campaign to win the 2008 U.S. Presidential race, I sat down and listened to From Afar, a fantasy for guitar and orchestra by Joseph Schwantner. I’m starting to understand Schwantner’s musical language, and I’m beginning to like it, too.
A decade ago, when guitarist Sharon Isbin recorded the lullaby "Cancion de Cuna," by Cuban composer Leo Brower, she wrote that she was in a state of bliss, remembering her experience of "floating down the Napo River in a dugout canoe with piranhas, electric eels, and glistening crocodiles afoot."
This week, when she plays the same piece with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, she'll hear it in a whole new light. Read my concert preview in this week's City newspaper here: