NPR’s music critic Tom Manoff had a few choice observations in this week’s Oregon Arts Watch having to do with the firing one year ago of respected English conductor Matthew Halls : “Oregon Bach Festival: Lacking a Coherent Artistic Vision, Venerable Festival Flounders“. I think the title of this piece says it all.
See my blog posting from 25 September 2017.
I can’t sufficiently convey to you how miserable that hippie graveyard (Eugene, Oregon) is for musicians—in fact for artists of all types. I came up from California to run a cabaret show there several years ago and the arts infrastructure was non-existent then as it is now—not to mention they still lack an acoustically decent concert hall. And the pretension! And the hypocrisy! And the narrow-mindedness! And—gasp—the racism! (Yes, there’s still plenty of it there. Don’t get me started. Two stores refused to serve me because of my race.) I am never, never bringing a show to that city again.
Performed at the 1800-seat Fairfield Halls in Croydon. If you look fast you’ll notice 2nd violins leader Sir Neville Marriner (at the time former professor at the Royal College of Music, recent founder of the chamber orchestra St Martin in the Fields, and to-be music director of the Minnesota Orchestra). Note that touching moment at the end when the members of the LSO refuse to rise, at Bernstein’s insistence, for the applause of the audience, instead remaining seated and applauding Bernstein themselves. Now that’s respect.
Just a passing insight, but as I watched this clip again recently it struck me that this history-making performance may quite likely represent the ultimate secret aspiration of my bonny, my darling, my beloved John Wilson. Oh laddie. You’ll get there.
Counted among one of the greatest cellists in the Golden Age of String Players, George Neikrug is still with us at 99(!), teaching and playing—all the more remarkable for the fact that two years ago he was completely bedridden due to compression fractures in his back. Wonderfully his students, past and present, have rallied around him with financial help and words of encouragement, gratitude and praise. A student himself and chief proponent of the revolutionary string methods of DC Dounis, Neikrug’s students consider him to be the Einstein of string teachers.
Here he is performing “Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque”, the final work in Swiss composer Ernest Bloch’s 1916 Jewish Cycle. Stokowski recorded it with him and called Neikrug’s work “unforgettable”. (Part 2 here.)
Thanks to old friend, violist Vivi Erickson, for remembering her former Boston University teacher for me.
This is what the greatest film composer of the 20th century looks like conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall (2:24). From Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Piece is a chorale entitled “The Storm Clouds Cantata” by Australian composer Arthur Benjamin.
John’s striving for “The Hollywood Sound” may be a new thing for his popular audience in England, but over here it’s been part of our musical history since before the Second World War. In 1939 when violinist Felix Slatkin and his wife, cellist Eleanor Aller Slatkin, founded the Hollywood String Quartet. Their uniquely American style of playing strings quickly won the HSQ recognition and praise from critics around the world when they essayed works from the classical repertoire.
Every member of the HSQ was also a member of one of the studio orchestras. Besides Slatkin, who was the concertmaster of the 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra, Eleanor was first cellist with the Warner Bros Studio Orchestra; violinist Paul Shure was also assistant concertmaster at 20th Century Fox; Paul Robyn was also principal violist at Warner Bros; Alvin Dinkin was also violist with the 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra; and Victor Aller, Eleanor’s brother, pianist, was also manager of the Warner Bros Studio Orchestra.
Said the Gramophone Classical Music Guide of their 1951 recording of Arnold Schoenberg‘s piece: “This was the first ever recording of ‘Verklärte Nacht‘ in its original sextet form and it remains unsurpassed.”
In the liner notes of one of their other recordings, Paul Shure remembered: “Dynamics were a very big part of our work. Our discussions were always about dynamics and a little bit about tempi, and nothing else. We played with vibrato except where there was a particular effect to be had—no dead left hands were allowed.” This sounds so similar to what JWO concertmaster John Mills said in the web series Sarah’s Music (above): “John asks us, the strings, to play with so much vibrato that people’s family photos should fall off the TV sets. We’re effectively trying to recreate the sound of the studio orchestra.”
Embedding this clip here so I can watch it whenever I start to forget why I’m in love with John. This is part of his demo reel filmed by his management and shows off his performance style very nicely. At the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, 23 January 2014.
John, I’m sorry for what I said about your nose. You are, actually, the angel glow that lights a star, the dearest things I know are what you are…
More from that performance reel from 2014. Said the Irish Times: “Wilson sustains a narrative sweep based not on notions that the music creates pictures of London, but on the inherent musical qualities of its vivid contrasts.” Sehnsucht, my bonny.