Brenda Tremblay's blog

Days are where we live

I’ve been busier than usual at work and pretty happy about it.

This week I filed a feature story for NPR, interviewed guitarist Sharon Isbin, and listened to about forty audio tributes to homicide victims. The last thing was not at all fun, and I still have ten more to go. I’m preparing to interview photographer Will Yurman, who spent 2007 documenting the lives of all the murder victims in a single year in Rochester, NY.

Imagine. Everytime someone was murdered, Will drove his gear to the neighborhood, the house, the cemetery.

Watching people talk about death for hours on end brought to my mind this short Philip Larkin poem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2bNl91MrQo

Will Yurman’s multimedia project is here:

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Review time

“She sang equally well lying on her back or kneeling atop her lover. This technique reduced Masetto to an obedient puppy – and probably many Eastman Theatre patrons as well.”
- the D & C’s Stuart Low, writing about Mercury Opera’s recent production of Don Giovanni

What do you want to read about in a review? Background info on the musicians? What about the hall, the crowds, or the color of the conductor’s hair? Critics debate about this stuff all the time. Some say they should stick to the music and only the music. Others want to capture the flavors, sights, and smells of the hall.

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Cracking the Joseph Schwantner Code

I’ve been trying to cozy up to Joseph Schwantner’s music in preparation for an hour-long, national special I’m producing about the composer. But it’s been harder than I expected, and recent blogs I’ve read about approaching classical music from the outside give me new sympathy for those who can’t drum up much enthusiasm for it.

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My mildly desultory life

The problem with reading so much is that I can never remember where I read what. Or did I hear it on NPR? I can only guess. I guess that I read in Time magazine that 65% of Americans are on a diet. So, since popularity (a phenomenon quite removed from the actual merit of anything, I read somewhere) drives me in the opposite direction of any activity, I recently decided to emulate the life of composer Darius Milhaud, who (I read somewhere) lived a mildly desultory life. I like the sound of “mildly desultory.” Sounds like a plan. Or not a plan, which, when everyone else is sweating it out, sounds appealingly contrary. So I’ve settled on becoming mildly desultory myself.

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From the Top

Hearing so much about NPR’s “From the Top” this week has filled me with parental angst. Why aren’t MY kids writing symphonies, knocking off Chopin etudes, or sawing at the cello like little Yo Yos? What magical pills are other parents giving their kids to make them WANT to practice?

To dig deeper into these mysteries, I randomly polled my colleagues at WXXI, asking, “How hard do you push your kids to do well in music, arts, and sports? How do you encourage your kids to succeed?”

Here’s a sampling of responses:

J.P., mother of three, writes:

“I don't push, AT ALL. They hate that.

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Jane Austen on WXXI/PBS

"The one claim I shall make for my own sex is that we love longest, when all hope is gone."
— Anne Elliot in Persuasion

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A Brahmsian Scoop

The recent post on Jon Nakamatsu's new Brahms CD sparked this revelation from violinist Edward Klorman,
Executive Director and Co-Artistic director of the summer's Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival. He writes,

"We're not officially announcing the summer programs for a few months, but I'll let you in on a secret... Juliana [Athayde] and Jon are indeed playing Brahms, the Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 78. It's an extremely tender work, and they'll play it beautifully together. The finale quotes Brahms' famous "Regenlied"(Rain Song), and this concert is all about music inspired by water. As for the rest of the program, well, I'll tell you more later on!"

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Maestra Barbie

Barbie’s promoting symphonic music.

If you have young children, you’ve probably seen the animated movies starring Barbie with classical soundtracks based on famous orchestra works such as Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The first release came in 2001, when Owen Hurley directed an intelligent, charming adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet.

But it was all downhill from there.

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A subtly shifting balance

I have always loved Johannes Brahms’s clarinet sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 and was therefore delighted to see pianist Jon Nakamatsu’s name on a new recording of these works with another h-less Jon's, clarinetist Jon Manasse's.

In Sunday’s New York Times, James Oestreich describes the appeal of the Brahms thus: “the clarinet and the piano are thoroughly, sensuously intertwined in a subtly shifting balance.” If you listen, you'll know exactly what he means.

(Scroll down for the full review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/arts/music/13reco.html?_r=...)

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Reading material

[On Debussy’s Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”] “It is music of physical release, even of sexual orgasm, as Vaslav Nijinsky demonstrated in his undulating dance of the Faun at the Ballet Russes in 1912. ‘I hold the queen!’ Mallarme’s faun exults.”
- from The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

“By [20th] century’s end, intellectuals had deserted classical music; compared to the theater, cinema, or dance, it was the American performing art most divorced from contemporary creativity, most susceptible to midcult decadence.”
- from Classical Music in America by Joseph Horowitz

“Since Jazz music is a laid back genre of music, students will wear jeans with no holes, a solid colored shirt (long or short sleeve) and sneakers will be okay.”

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