WXXI Classical Blog

The Sound and the Fury

O Fortuna! Kodak’s ten million dollar gift earmarked for renovations to Eastman Theatre have sparked two debates. The first has to do with the future renaming of the space “Kodak Hall.” The second centers on whether renovations, scheduled for this summer and next, will actually improve the sound of music.

The morning after the Rochester Philharmonic and Oratorio Society performed Carmina Burana, two rather technical e-mails on the subject landed in my box. They are reprinted below the line.

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Secret Confessions from Skitty


Skitty says, “I had a fab time hearing the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra play for visiting U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi this week.”

See video here!

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Music for a Recession

"When times get tough, as in America during the Great Depression and the Second World War, music gets soft."

L.A. Times critic Mark Swed refutes that generally-accepted theory in an encompassing think piece, “Tough times call for tougher music.”

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The Singing Revolution

About once a decade, my mother announces she wants to see a movie on the big screen. The last one was “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford. Before that, it might have been “In Search of Noah’s Ark.” She’s no film buff. So when she said she wanted to see “The Singing Revolution” over the weekend, I dropped everything and went to the Little Theater with my mom, my sister, and her Estonian friend Maarit.

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Andre Rieu thrilled audiences

Last night the Blue Cross Arena was transformed with the glitter, lights and elegance of a Viennese Ballroom, while Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra delighted the audience with a spectacular show of waltzes, opera and musical favorites. Rieu's showmanship exudes energy and enthusiasm, and flows through each member of his group.

The audience, which filled the Blue Cross Arena about two-thirds full, swayed in their seats, and danced in the aisles when the traditional Blue Danube was played. By the end of the evening the audience had been completely transformed into (as Andre referred to Rochester) "the happiest audience in the world."

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A conductor's last lark

Singers and audience members expressed mixed emotions before Madrigalia’s final concert of the season. It was the last one conducted by the choral group’s long-time music director, Roger Wilhelm. He received a standing ovation before anyone sang a note.

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Party like it's 1499

Sex is yummy, drinking is fun, and we’re all gonna die, so party like it’s 1499. That’s the basic message in Orff’s Carmina Burana. Since it comes wrapped in Latin, you get a veneer of respectability. Click here to hear conductor Christopher Seaman talk about Carmina and the womanizer that inspired composer Richard Strauss. You’ll also hear Christopher's advice for the pure of heart attending next week’s exciting, final RPO concert of the season.

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Ownership

Starting Monday June 2 at 8:00 p.m., WXXI will broadcast weekly concerts from the 2007-2008 season of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s my privilege to prepare them by writing scripts, editing, hosting, and mixing the performances, which are donated by the musicians after they approve them. I attend each concert, take notes, and then hear it in the studio months later.

I can’t explain why, but performances that electrified the live audience occasionally sound flat on record. In person, the RPO’s Bolero (Ravel) had me on the edge of my seat, even though I’ve heard it a thousand times. On tape, though, it seems a bit ragged.

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Wheel of Fortune

Update: The New York Times has eliminated five full-time jobs in the culture department. One name stands out -- that of long-serving and much-beleaguered classical critic Bernard Holland. He's taken a buyout and is on his way out. His last day will be May 23rd. Read more.

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How to win friends and influence singers

Regular readers may recall that when I started this blog, I was the choir director and organist at a small town Episcopal church in Upstate New York. I loved the creative work and the core singers whom I now consider some of my dearest friends.

But certain aspects of the job were tedious. I used to spend a fair amount of time cajoling volunteers into showing up for choir practice. Palestrina is sunk without participation, and you can’t pull off Mozart’s “Ave Verum” without at least a couple of basses and tenors. So I used to compose a weekly e-mail, such as:

“Dear St. Luke's choir member,

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