WXXI Classical Blog

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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Fashion sense

When soprano Allyn Van Dusen walked into the Hochstein Performance Hall, I half-expected she’d be wearing a full-length antique wrap that had belonged to her grandmother. (She’d mentioned it when we'd talked about her appearance on WXXI's weekly live radio show, "Live from Hochstein.") Instead, she appeared in a metallic sleeveless top, a casual, fringed broomstick skirt, and jeweled sandals. Her appearance hinted at the exotic influences in the music: Ravel’s “Sheherazade,” for example, unfolds in tri-tones to evoke the sight of a bejeweled Persian queen.

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Ravel


"It is beautiful, it is beautiful after all. I have said nothing. I leave nothing. I have not said what I wanted to say. I have so much more to say.”
- French composer Maurice Ravel

Wednesday, May 7th on Live from Hochstein, soprano Allyn Van Dusen sings Ravel’s “Sheherazade.”

Update: Hear Allyn talk about singing here.

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Are you smart? trustworthy? sober?

Ten random strangers are willing to judge you, based exclusively on your looks, when you upload your picture to Facestat.com. The site uses Amazon Mechanical Turk, an automated web service named after an 18th-century chess-playing mannequin, which turns artificial intelligence on its head by making requests of humans. On Facestat, people judge faces. Among other things, they’ll estimate your intelligence, relationship status, and whether or not you were drunk at the time the picture was taken.

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Secret Confessions from Skitty

Skitty says, "I SO dig Gnarls Barkley."

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