To Beloved Conductor John Wilson: Eugene O’Neill and My Old Boss, Classic Film/Stage Director Rouben Mamoulian

From December, 2018. John Wilson, mi vida: You are a true musician, you command the finest magical mechanism Western Civilization has ever invented: the symphony orchestra, and you do this for a living. All life is asking you to do is be cool with it, and the fact that I’ll be continuing to make love to you long distance indefinitely.

Now, there are far more interesting exercises in the world of Schenkerian analysis  (kidding, kidding!) than one huffy American ex-porn actress taking the piss out of a popular middle-ranking, BBC-scripted, English conductor… If it weren’t for the fact that ex-porn actress happens to have fallen in love with aforementioned Conductor and longs for him regularly. Therefore she takes Conductor’s pronouncements a little more seriously, a little more discerningly than she would, say, the pronouncements of her own musical compatriots—Alsop, Tilson Thomas, Mauceri etc… Additionally, Conductor reveals in his public statements more about himself than I think he’d prefer, John.

So as much as I’d enjoy ragging you for the impudent (and ultimately self-revealing) remarks you made about Mrs Bernstein and Mrs Coates, I really should finally get down to the one single thing (aside, of course, from your tearass tempi, your overuse of percussion, your rushing of singers, your astonishing lack of color in certain critical pieces) that has bugged me since the day I first encountered it: your juvenile dismissal of my old boss, film/stage director Rouben Mamoulian, and his creative contribution to the original 1943 production of Oklahoma! Now, I know you were only riffing off info you got from some book or Andre Previn, who likely socialized with The Old Man when they were both at MGM. But, as I mentioned in an old posting, of all his stage and screen work The Old Man liked to talk about, the one he liked to talk about the most was Oklahoma! And I turned out to be his perfect audience, because early on I’d confessed to him that I was a big Rodgers & Hammerstein fan. (Filipinos are big Rodgers & Hammerstein fans, for obvious reasons.)

But before I get to the point about Oklahoma! I have to tell you a side—though relevant—story about Mamoulian and Eugene O’Neill.

John and Mamoulian 2Rouben Mamoulian and John Wilson at around the same age (40), 80 years apart.

MAMOULIAN’S AND MY EUGENE O’NEILL STORY

This is the second story Mamoulian ever told me back in 1978 when he was 81 and I was 23, which he told me in a way that was flattering as hell, which was he didn’t ask if I knew who Eugene O’Neill was, although I did say “Wow” at the mention of the name, so he might have sized up my interest that way, and just went right into the story.

Seems that when he was living an emigre’s life in New York, trying to make a go of it in stage work, he scored his greatest career triumph to date: The Theater Guild wanted him to direct a play by Eugene O’Neill. Now, O’Neill had already won the Pulitzer and he’d already had several successes, not to mention his other new play, Strange Interlude, was already generating a lot of pre-opening night buzz, so we’re talking King of 1928 Broadway here. O’Neill agrees to meet Mamoulian in his hotel room (that is to say, O’Neill’s hotel room. It seems like the best stories about O’Neill take place in hotel rooms) to talk over any directorial concerns O’Neill, the playwright, might have, and if he has any advice to give this youngster concerning his play.

“Actually, Mr O’Neill,” says Mamoulian, trying to sound like himself at thirty, you know, the brash but confident whiz-kid, “I know exactly how to fix your play.”

“You will change not a word. Not a word!” says O’Neill. And here The Old Man doesn’t bother to actually imitate O’Neill, although in time I heard him do some good impressions of other people, mostly actors.

“Look here, Mr O’Neill,” says young Mamoulian, opening the bound script of Marco Millions that he brought with him. “I can show you exactly where the speeches slow the play down, and where we can achieve the same ends using action. Here—” And here The Old Man imitates taking a blue pencil and gleefully slashing a diagonal line across a rejected page like editors do— “—and here—” He goes on to recreate his turning the pages of the script one at a time— “and here—here—here—” with a slash! slash! slash! And all the time I’m thinking with a kind of growing horror: You CUT Eugene O’Neill!!!?

“But in the end,” Mamoulian assures me, “he saw that I was right, and we got along splendidly.”

But that’s not the end of the story. About a year after Mamoulian and I go our separate ways, I get a chance to attend opening night of Marco Millions at Berkeley Stage Company up in the Bay Area, as the plus-one of some guy I was seeing. This was around the time BSC was on its “classics” kick, making it clear in news and ads and publicity sheets that this wasn’t just any old O’Neill revival, this was an extra-special homage to the master playwright of our great theatrical heritage. Scenes cut from the 1928 production had been restored in order that this fruit of O’Neill’s genius be presented intact and full; Mamoulian’s name was hardly mentioned.

Well, I watch this big lumbering thing, right through the parts that dragged on and on with their interminable speeches about the redistribution of wealth and so on, and I’m thinking, this must be where he cut, here— Then here— And here  And almost like he’s whispering in my ear “See? See?” I realize that The Old Man was right to make the cuts, and that Marco Millions probably could have been a fine piece of theater if they’d stuck to the original opening night version.

But I swear, it was not on my mind to argue this during lobby talk after the curtain. The big thing on my mind was that I had the perfect story to share at this particular time, in this particular space, and yeah, I wanted to share it. I was with the guy who brought me, a cokehead freelance lighting designer who was always hitting up people for jobs. Together we went up to the artistic directors, a married couple, my date immediately starting in with the whole buttering up thing, you know, You look fabulous what have you been doing to yourself, etc etc etc.

I break in with something like, “You know, I have a great story about this play I got straight from (and here I made sure to stress the second syllable like he preferred) Rouben Mamoulian and how he worked with—”

And here the guy, my date, takes me aside and mutters as urgently but tenderly as is possible for him, “Sweetheart, would you please shut up while I’m talking business.”

Reader, I did.

So everyone, this is the first time—the very first time—in thirty-eight years I’m telling this story.

And you, Tom Stocker. Just for that, I regret having given you the most explosive blowjob of your life, the one that made you howl like a wolf.


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The Silent Musician by Mark Wigglesworth, Richard Wagner, Cosmic Sex, and My Beloved Conductor John Wilson

In an earlier post I mentioned that, since May a couple years ago, I’ve been reading books by orchestra conductors on conducting, in order to better glimpse into the unfamiliar heart and mind of my beloved John Wilson. That classic tome written by Richard Wagner was far out, of course, and going back to some of Leonard Bernstein‘s early writings was deeply nostalgic.

But it was my treatment of a book my bonny conductor had on his public Facebook Likes list that done me in—a thin, and thinly humorous, volume written by a coeval of John’s who let out his dirigental insecurities in a tirade of snark that I answered in kind in a long, 4-star Amazon review that I thought was hilarious, which it was, although apparently only to me. I did this to get John’s attention. I got it. John did not like what I wrote. Hence, he learned how to spell my name ab-so-lute-ly correctly.

Now, Mark Wigglesworth has a 30-year career conducting a number of the great operas and a number of the great symphony cycles, to much acclaim. If there is one thing that John’s friend’s book made evident, in its perverted way, it’s the importance of a conductor being holistically grounded, and Wigglesworth is, as we used to say in the 70s, a grounded guy. Not surprising for someone who has Alan Watts on his bookshelf; and since the English-born psychedelic Zen guru of San Francisco is one of my guiding lights too, it was a deep pleasure to read The Silent Musician, Wigglesworth’s musings on his inner/outer artistic journey as a conductor. Wigglesworth, from Sussex, is an acclaimed interpreter of Gustav Mahler as well as Wagner, two creative heavyweights who positively require those who would approach their work to have had a fair look first into their own personal psychological-spiritual makeup. Consider Daniel Barenboim—one artist on the world stage I respect the hell out of—and his own moral / philosophical / logistical grapplings with the Architect of Bayreuth (download his “Wagner and Ideology” here and let me just say, if Barenboim figured it out I’m satisfied).

Speaking of Wagner, a few years ago Wigglesworth conducted the overture to a Wagner opera I’ll bet you’ve never heard of: Das Liebesverbot, or, The Ban on Love. I only know about this one because I took the mandatory survey course at music school at the university and never ran into it again till now. So this is the first and only thing I’ve ever heard from this opera:

Overture to Das Liebesverbot (1836)
Richard Wagner
Mark Wigglesworth, conductor
BBC Orchestra Wales

Or will ever hear, ever again. Just a bit…Mediterranean, wouldn’t you say?

But what amazes me more is the libretto, because Wagner—get this—chose for his source material the scuzziest, meanest sex comedy ever written, which is, of course, Measure by Measure by William Shakespeare. Yes, at the end hypocrisy is vanquished and everyone gets laid, but eeeeuuwww…

Now, think on the twenty-three year psychological-spiritual journey from Das Liebesverbot to this:

“Mild und leise” from Tristan and Isolde (1859)
Richard Wagner
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Waltraud Meier, soprano
Beyreuth, 1995

I’m sorry, but when I hear that tune I want to see John’s dear face.

The rest of you, behold Hedy Lamarr and Aribert Mog in Ecstasy (Elektafilm, 1933).

Ecstasy

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Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Greensleeves” Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli and Some Natter Between My Beloved John Wilson and Edward Seckerson; Plus Monty Python, Round the Horne and Polari

Sorry for my shaky handwriting but while listening to this I had a fantasy that gave me the giggles: John being interviewed by my favorite ohne palones—prime purveyors of the gay-gypsy-theatrical patois called polariJulian and Sandy. Played of course by the inimitable Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams on Round the Horne. (This more-than-usual musical episode of Kenneth Horne’s 1967 radio show also includes Rambling Syd Rumpo, the Fraser Hayes 4 singing off-key not on purpose, and the screamingly funny takeoff skit, “Young Horne with a Man”.)

Now John, I know that you know, and I know that you know that I know, that my long-distance lovemaking to you is being observed by a few; not many, just a few. So this rundown is for them, love:

In this very-recently posted pod chat with London-based culture maven Edward Seckerson, John talks about his idol, conductor Sir John Barbirolli; von Karajan; Leonard Bernstein; French romantic music of the early 20th century; conducting Massenet at Glyndebourne; reviving the Sinfonia of London; winning that BBC thingie for his Korngold Symphony (and confirming what I surmised in my review re his “austere” sound vs “chocolate sauce”); his other Korngold recording, the violin concerto, also with son vieil ami Andrew Haveron; Richard Rodney Bennett‘s compositional journey of self-discovery; and what we’re all waiting for, what’s up with The John Wilson Orchestra (seems like that psychic flash I had back in April has proven true).

Here are the main points I took away from this podcast: “What I do try to do as a conductor is carry my sound around with me… It’s almost—I don’t really feel comfortable talking about because you know music is basically a doing thing and not a talking thing… My deepest musical creed is wrapped up with how an orchestra sounds…” Which pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected these two years about him.

John, light of my life, fire of my loins, I respect your process.

Cantara's Beloved Conductor John WilsonAbove: John’s 44-minute podcast interview. Below, “Greensleeves” as we’ve all heard it on Monty Python.


Fantasia on “Greensleeves”
Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer
Barbirolli Conducts English String Music
RCA, 1963 first issue
The Sinfonia of London
John Barbirolli, conductor

23 JUNE UPDATE: Here’s Barbirolli again from that same album conducting Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia from a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which my beloved John Wilson will be conducting The Phiharmonia Orchestra in, in an online concert on 17 July.

EXTRA! Here are 2 interviews with John from BBC 2 Radio: one (8 min long) from 24 April 2016 with Michael Ball, and one (4 min long) from 4 November 2013 with Steve Wright.


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“In Truth”, A Piano Concerto by Lucas Richman; UK Arts Funding Cuts in the 80s; Felix Slatkin and the Hollywood Sound; and My Beloved John Wilson’s Interview with CBSO Conductor Michael Seal

There is a real-world connection here so let’s get this out of the way first. Lucas Richman is a FB friend I share with Michael Seal because Richman’s brother Orien produced my old (ex-)friend Steve Gyllenhaal‘s last directorial effort, but also because I heard “In Truth”. If you love the kind of music my beloved John is famous for conducting, you will loooove this sensually and emotionally satisfying concerto.


Lucas Richman Conducting Amadeus


Got to run out to pick up my heart pills so I’ll finish my train of thought about John’s musical upbringing in the 80s a little later. Meanwhile here’s my posting, from 2018, about the very thing Andrew Haveron introduced John to: “The Hollywood String Quartet and the Hollywood Sound“.

And here’s John’s interview with conductor Seal.


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West Side Story In Concert Performed Oedipally by John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms, 2018; Lovingly by the San Francisco Symphony Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, 2013

A few postings ago (“On Conductor John Wilson’s Full Dress and The First Porn Movie I Ever Did, 1”) I said, “I’m in love with John but he plows through Gershwin like a bull moose and treats Bernstein like Bernstein’s Saruman and he’s Frodo.” Well…he was pretty respectful in his “Highlights from Candide” Proms show in 2015, and I have faith that somehow, somewhere during The Bernstein Year (2018) my bonny got through “The Age of Anxiety” with a clear conscience. But the crowning glory of my beloved John Wilson, Conductor‘s relationship with composer Leonard Bernstein is supposed to be, by his own estimation, West Side Story, which he claims he’s conducted “a lo’, I’ve done a few complete productions of it”—so he should know what it’s all about, at least musically, right?

But first, let’s get that other business out of the way concerning John’s WSS attempt of 2018. I HATE HATE HATE to see The Race Card being played. Usually I try to avoid having to address the issue but sometimes it’s right in your face. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read about it here. Then read about the outcome here.

Know what I think? In the past few years I’ve begun to believe, and I’m probably coming late to this, that when Orwell was writing about Big Brother, he was really talking about the BBC. This is probably sooo evident to a lot of people, but I’ve been paying steady attention to BBC for only about the last ten years and I’ve watched it devolve in ways previously unimaginable to me, so highly did I once esteem this radio/TV/internet broadcaster. So when I tell you I suspect that it was the Beeb behind that inane shuffling of sopranos and no one else, I do have a basis. (But not to go into that now. I’ll get to it when I talk in detail about Oklahoma!—and The Race Cardagain.)

To get back to John, The John Wilson Orchestra, and West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall, BBC Proms, 2018. Why the story above tells another possible story: One – soprano announces her withdrawal from the BBC Proms (that is, her reneging on her contract with the BBC) in April; two – five months later in August the new soprano is announced, a blatantly bogus attempt at more politically-correct casting, but anyway; three – at the same time, and only then, the show’s musical format is, for the first time in wide advertising, properly described as the official concert version. Which, let’s face it, makes the racial makeup of any of the singers totally irrelevant. Do you hear me squawking over Kim Criswell doing “Bali Ha’i”?

So in all this hoo-ha there’s John, who has absolutely nothing to do with the matter but nonetheless possibly, probably feels just a bit tainted by it, and who goes to his beloved orchestra with a “Gentlemen, ladies, let’s rise above this, shall we?” attitude, and a “Let’s give it all we’ve got!” kind of gungho-ness I last saw in Back to Bataan.

Because that’s how it came out in the music. Listening to the concert online, I got that same unsettling feeling you get some nights when you suspect your boyfriend’s unusually poundy lovemaking isn’t actually directed at you. It was almost unbearable to take. Even Mister Grumble left the room. Before leaving he pointed an accusing finger at me. “This is your John Wilson,” he intoned darkly. “He’s not mine,” I answered. “He belongs to England!” But I couldn’t quite get the Vivien Leigh delivery so that bit just died.

But you know, I think that’s the crux of the matter, my beloved John being English and a Geordie and therefore too pigheaded to truly understand the American idiom. That, and Big Brother Beeb breathing down your neck, can cramp anyone’s sense of freedom, freedom of course being the American idiom.

I’m assuming, of course, that John, vaunted musicologist that he is, truly wants to understand the American idiom.

Leonard Bernstein Hugs Michael Tilson Thomas

Of the 2013 concert, said Joshua Kosman in the SF Chronicle: “One of the great revelations of Thursday’s dynamic concert performance by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony was just how remarkable the score sounds in isolation… Bernstein’s creation stood more or less alone as a compendium of all the musical references swirling around in that great musical clearinghouse that was his mind.”

Above Lenny and MTT: Quartet from the ground-breaking San Francisco Symphony concert version of West Side Story, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Bernstein’s true heir to the podium. Below: The Dance at the Gym sequence from West Side Story. Once again, MTT with the SFSO, 2013, who released the recording on their own label in 2014.

1 Blues | 2 Promenade | 3 Mambo |4 Cha-Cha | 5 Meeting | 6 Jump


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Leonard Bernstein Hears Korngold’s Symphony in F-sharp for the First Time

I created this posting just for John Wilson, Conductor fans (and as a lagniappe for the lad himself). By the way, the third movement is the one you want if you want to hear violinist Andrew Haveron shine:

In 1988, I brought a recording of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Symphony in F-sharp to Leonard Bernstein’s country home in Fairfield, Connecticut. It was a rare event to have dinner with him and no one else. After dinner, I asked if he would be willing to hear something I had discovered and found particularly interesting.

Erich Korngold

I played the first movement of the symphony. Bernstein only knew that it was a symphony and therefore might have expected it to be in four movements. After intently listening to the twelve-minute movement, he had no idea who the composer was, but he liked the music enough to ask to hear the second movement. And so it went, after each movement I gave him a chance to beg off. The symphony’s third movement—its emotional climax—inspired him to jump to the piano and repeat its opening motif and the devastating substitution in its harmonic structure that happens twenty seconds into it. After the last movement, I told him who had composed it. I also told him that though the piece was completed in 1952, its concert premiere did not take place until 1972, fifteen years after the composer’s death.

On first hearing, Bernstein thought the symphony should have ended with the third movement, which would have made it a very tragic symphony indeed. I suspect he heard it in terms of Mahler, which is appropriate enough. He had not predicted—or perhaps wanted—its upbeat finale that takes the gentle second theme of the first movement and transforms it into a positive march, albeit with a dark warning before its conclusion.

Be that as it may…I am sure that he would have turned his attention to Korngold had he not passed away in 1990. Ironically, one of his mentors, Dimitri Mitroupoulos, had stated in 1959 that he had finally found “the perfect modern work” and planned to perform the Korngold the next season with the New York Philharmonic, but his death intervened.

from For the Love of Music:
A Conductor’s Guide to the Art of Listening
by John Mauceri (Knopf, 2019)

Now my bonny John Wilson, please note the nice review I gave your Korngold.


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The True Heir to Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas in a 2012 TED Talk: “Music and Emotion Through Time”

Excerpt: What happens when the music stops? Where does it go? What’s left? What sticks with people at the end of a performance? Is it a melody or a rhythm or a mood or an attitude? And how might that change their lives? To me this is the intimate, personal side of music. It’s the “passing on” part, the “why” part of it. And to me that’s the most essential of all…

Michael Tilson Thomas

Now that we have unlimited access to music, what does stick with us? Well, let me share with you a story of what I mean by really sticking with us. I was visiting a cousin of mine in an old-age home, and I spied a very shaky old man making his way across the room on a walker. He came over to a piano that was there, and he balanced himself and began playing something like this. [plays notes on piano] And he said something like, “Me…boy…symphony…Beethoven…” And I suddenly got it and I said, “Friend, by any chance are you trying to play this?” [plays Beethoven concerto] And then he said, [excitedly] “Yes, yes, I was a little boy. The symphony, Isaac Stern, the concerto, I heard it.” And I thought, My God, how much must this music mean to this man, that he would get himself out of bed, across the room, to recover the memory of this music! That after everything in his life is sloughing away, still means so much to him…

Well, that’s why I take every performance so seriously, why it matters to me so much. I never know who might be there, who might be absorbing it, and what will happen to it in their life.


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My Amazon Review of Waving, Not Drowning by “Barrington Orwell” and Lev Parikian

There must be 17 people in the entire world for whom this book has any relevance. I am not one of them.

I, however, have fallen hopelessly in love with an English, middle-ranking orchestra conductor, and this book was on his Facebook Likes List, and since nowadays I will follow (almost) anywhere my beloved John Wilson leads me, here we are. Why else would I not only purchase, but listen to, 58 Fanfares Played by the Onyx Brass and Geraldo’s Greatest Dance Hits—which nonetheless I have come to adore?

What the argument of the esteemed late fictional dirigent, Barrington Orwell speaking through his still-living amanuensis, Lev Parikian—son of the noted violinist Manoung Parikian—seems to be is that the career of an orchestral conductor is not a happy one. It is of course a hazardous profession, notorious for causing insanity, emotional instability, ruined health and, in at least one case I read about in Slipped Discwhen a woman in Brighton rushed the stage during a performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein and stabbed the conductor with a no. 2 Dixon-Ticonderoga shrieking, “You have desecrated the music of my people!”—homicide. But Orwell, or Sir Barry if you prefer, so reverences the lofty position he himself holds that he places the blame for dirigental woes everywhere but on the dirigent himself: on the uncooperative/disrespectful weather; or concertmaster; or soloist; or composer; or entire orchestra—choose one. Or all. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up Bernstein vs the BBCSO, but maybe the English were right on that one.

Unfortunately, in no way has this slight volume helped me better grasp the mind of my beloved, although it managed to identify his type. When not on the podium he wears neither Armani nor Hugo Boss but rather attires himself in jeans, trainers, horn-rimmed glasses and, because of his preternaturally long arms, blue bespoke shirts. I think he’s about 11 stone. Apparently off the podium he’s a combination of The Scholar and Mister Shouty-Scary. On the podium, in full formal dress, he is a god.

Waving Not DrowningFind my review on Amazon here

Which brings me to the theory of which I am the author: The conductor exists not for the orchestra, not for the composer living or dead (Good grief! Whoever had that idea?), but for the audience. Whether from a box at the opera or from the floor at the Royal Albert, the conductor is the friend, philosopher and guide we require and as such (except for that dishy second-desk violinist with the golden locks) ought to be our sole focus. Yes, it is a weighty role that demands an enormous amount of conviction and honest purpose in those foolhardy enough to accept it. But remember that it is We, the People, aka The Audience, who ultimately hold a conductor’s success or failure in our own sweaty hands.


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Alondra de la Parra Conducts The Orchestra of Paris in Darius Milhaud’s “Le Bœuf Sur le Toit”, Philharmonie de Paris, 2015

Have you ever seen a conductor so much in the heart of the music as 38 year-old, New York-born Mexican-American Alondra de la Parra? Bernstein yes, definitely. Carlos Kleiber was also known to joyfully respond to a joyful chord. And this girl, like those fine blokes, has got it all—joy, knowledge and consummate control. On the road to being one of the greats, she is.

Chopin Polonaise in A flat Op 53 Lang Lang - YouTube.png

The title “Le Bœuf Sur le Toit” is that of an old Brazilian tango, one of close to 30 Brazilian tunes, or choros, quoted in the composition. The piece was originally to have been the score of a silent Charlie Chaplin film; its transformation into a ballet was the making of the piece, with a scenario by Jean Cocteau, stage designs by Raoul Dufy, and costumes by Guy-Pierre Fauconnet. There is no real story to speak of, but is a sequence of scenes based on music inspired by Brazil, a country in which Milhaud spent two years during World War I.

The ballet’s premiere was given in February 1920 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and in turn gave its name to a celebrated Parisian cabaret-bar, Le Bœuf Sur le Toit, which opened in 1921 and became a meeting place for Jean Cocteau and his cronies.


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Andre Rieu and The Johann Strauss Orchestra Come Home to Maastricht, 2018

This is the video on YT I’ve been waiting for, for two years: the complete annual summer concert of the greatest festival orchestra in the world, The Johann Strauss Orchestra, led by Andre Rieu, in the town square Vrijthof in their home town of Maastricht, The Netherlands, 7 July 2018.

Love in Maastricht André Rieu 2018.jpgAbove the Maastricht audience: An audio recording of the entire Rieu & JSO 2018 concert. Don’t you wish you could be there with a glass of beer in your hand?


From their rousing entrance to the tune of “76 Trombones” by Meredith Willson (that’s two l’s, thank you) to their invariable sign-off pieces: the Maastricht city anthem; Strauss Sr’s “Radetsky March”; “An der schönen blauen Donau” (of course); Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz No 2; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (from “Plaisir d’amour” by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, 1784); Austrian composer Robert Stoltz’s “Adieu, mein kleiner gardeoffizier”; and the Rocco Granata standard “Marina” (which we used to hear every year at the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, NYC), there’s two hours here of sheer delight, drinking and dancing. It’s always a special afternoon when I get to play the entire Maastricht concerts for me and Mister Grumble, I open a bottle and dance around the room and he just grins intermittently and drinks. Just like in our old commune back in San Francisco in the 70s.

The program (with comments, if any, as they come to me):

  • 0:02 : 01. “76 Trombones” / Meredith Willson
  • 5:38 : 02. “Old Comrades” (Alte Kameraden) /  Carl Teike
  • 10:25 : 03. “Granada” / Ernesto Lecuona
  • 15:47 : 04. “Tiritomba” / Guglielmo Cottrau
  • 20:20 : 05. “Nessun Dorma” / Giacomo Puccini
  • 27:07 : 06. “Snow Waltz” (Schneewalzer) / Thomas Koschat
  • 34:39 : 07. “Pie Jesu” /  Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • 41:18 : 08. “Olé Guapa” / A Malando
  • 47:40 : 09. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” / Rodgers & Hammerstein
  • 53:45 : 10. “Clog Dance” / Traditional
  • 56:21 : 11. “Trompeten Echo” / Slavko & Vilko Avsenik
  • 57:41 : 12. “Anton aus Tirol” / Vili Petrič
  • 1:00:33 : 13. “You Raise Me Up” / Josh Groban
  • 1:08:05 : 14. “Lara’s Theme” / Maurice Jarre
  • 1:12:27 : 15. “Meadowlands” (Poliushko Polie) / Lev Knipper, Viktor Gusev 
  • 1:16:24 : 16. “Kalinka” / Ivan Larionov
  • 1:20:12 : 17. “Caro Nome” / Giuseppe Verdi
  • 1:29:05 : 18. “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” (An der schönen, blauen Donau) / Johann Strauss Jr
  • 1:36:21 : 19. “Amigos Para Siempre” / Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • 1:41:44 : 20. “Radetzky March” / Johann Strauss Jr
  • 1:44:26 : 21. Strauss & Co. (medley) / Strauss Jr, Franz Lehar, etc
  • 1:47:54 : 22. “Libiamo” / Giuseppe Verdi
  • 1:52:28 : 23. “Zorba’s Dance” (Sirtaki) / Mikis Theodorakis
  • 1:56:04 : 24. “Macarena” / Los del Río
  • 2:00:18 : 25. “La Bamba” / Ritchie Havens
  • 2:02:32 : 26. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” / Peretti-Creatore-Weiss (from “Plaisir d’amour” by Martini)
  • 2:05:39 : 27. “Het Wilhelmus” anthem of Maastricht / Adrianus Valerius
  • 2:07:40 : 28. “Maastricht, City Of Jolly Singers” / Armand Preud’homme 
  • 2:10:28 : 29. “Adieu, Little Captain Of My Heart” (Adieu, Mein Kleine Gardeoffizier) / Robert Stoltz, Ralph Benatzky)
  • 2:14:11 : 30. “Marina” / Rocco Granata

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Second Rhapsody by George Gershwin: Wayne Marshall Piano, John Mauceri Conductor, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; Plus Rhapsody In Blue and the Gershwin Brothers’ Pulitzer-Prize Winning Musical Of Thee I Sing

Premiered at Symphony Hall, Boston, on 29 January 1932, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Serge Koussevitzky, Conductor and George Gershwin, Piano.

Gershwin Second Rhapsody
George Gershwin
NBC-Radio Studios (with pickup orchestra?)

In November 1930, George and Ira Gershwin arrived in Hollywood to write the score for their first movie, Delicious. Besides the songs, George was asked to compose an instrumental piece to underscore a sequence where the film’s immigrant heroine wanders through a somewhat menacing Manhattan. In the end, only six minutes of what was originally entitled “Rhapsody In Rivets” was used but George, never wanting good work to go to waste, believed that his score deserved an additional life as his next work for the concert hall. Upon his return to New York, while also working on the score for Of Thee I Sing (which was to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1932; charming setup and title song at 33:00) he completed the Second Rhapsody and prepared it for its Boston debut under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky (Leonard Bernstein’s mentor and first lover).

Wayne Marshall Conductor
Pictured above is Lancashire-born conductor/organist/pianist Wayne Marshall, 57—with credits as Chief Conductor of WDR Funkhausorchester; Organist and Associate Artist of the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester; Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; and as an acclaimed interpreter of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. His 2nd Rhapsody was snatched from the internet so here’s his Rhapsody in Blue with the Orchestre national d’Île-de-France.


Gershwin Second Rhapsody
Michael Tilson Thomas
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

The form most commonly heard today is a re-orchestrated version created fourteen years after Gershwin’s death. Since this version is the only one offered by the publisher, it has been almost impossible for orchestras to perform the piece as Gershwin envisioned it. However, the 1931 recording (above) of a run-through of the music, with Gershwin playing the solos and conducting the orchestra, gives some idea of the original version. Michael Tilson Thomas has been a promulgator of Gershwin’s original 1931 version. He sought out the original manuscript in the library as the basis of his 1985 recording and for his later performances.

My bonny John Wilson‘s latest CD release, The Best of The John Wilson Orchestra, recycles some of the song hits from his BBC Proms shows—but it also includes his never-heard-before version of Gershwin’s Second (here called “New York”) Rhapsody. A bit ham-fisted all around.


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“The Emperor Waltz” by Johann Strauss II, Conducted by Daniel Barenboim with the Berliner Philharmoniker, 2013

In the Revolution of 1848, Johann Strauss II (or Jr) had sided with the dissidents—the anti-Habsburg faction—while Strauss Sr his father had been an avowed royalist, composing the Radetsky March in honor of the great general who played a large part in suppressing the Revolution. For some time the court looked with misgivings and suspicion at Strauss Jr, however important he proved to the Austrian image.

There’s a file of a police interrogation where the younger Strauss was asked why he had dared to play the Marseillaise. In an Austria of strict censorship, that was a loaded question. Strauss answered, “Because it is good music and good music is what concerns me.”

But the wounds of the revolution gradually healed. Soon Austria had a new emperor. When the emperor celebrated the 40th anniversary of his accession in 1888, Strauss composed a waltz in honor of Franz Josef.

My signal, my flame, my beloved John Wilson conducted this piece in Stockholm 29 March 2019.

daniel-barenboim-strauss.jpegDaniel Barenboim conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Strauss’s grandest waltz.


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Sir Malcolm Arnold Conducts Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic in Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, 1969

Mister Grumble, who’s of an age and knows everything about English Progressive Rock, had no idea this piece existed. (He attributes it to having been distracted at the time of the 1969 concert, getting out of the US Army as he did, after spending 13 months overseas.) So when I played the live recording for him for the first time on Sunday he went to the moon.

malcolm-arnold-and-deep-purple.jpeg

The Concerto for Group and Orchestra was composed Jon Lord, lyrics by Ian Gillan. It was first performed by Deep Purple and the RPO conducted by Malcolm Arnold on 24 September; the record came out that December. The performance at the Royal Albert Hall was the first ever combination of rock music and a complete orchestra and paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances.


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Two “Summertimes” from The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, One Conducted by John Wilson, 2018

…The other conducted by John Mauceri in 2006 with the Nashville Symphony & Chorus, in a production based (in part) on the original score markings of composer George Gershwin:

“For those who are familiar with the score, the very opening will seem slower. It is clear from Gershwin’s metronome markings and from the articulations in the orchestral parts that he intended the opening to be moderately fast (marked ‘Risoluto e Ben Marcato’ in the composer’s hand), exposing its inner syncopation and then accelerating. ‘Summertime’ is faster than we are accustomed. It is not a sad song, after all, and ‘A Woman is a Sometime Thing’ is slower. In fact, these two ‘lullabies’ by the mother and the father of their nameless child, are at the same metronome marking. In other words, Gershwin wanted to link the daddy and the mommy to each other by the speed of their music, even if their words and styles are quite (humorously) different.” On Porgy & Bess ©John Mauceri

john-wilson-conducts-porgy-and-bess

Anthony Tommasini in his New York Times review of the English National Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess described my bonny as the “excellent John Wilson, who led a performance that had sweep, shape and vitality, as well as rarer qualities: precision and restraint”. Here’s our John from this past summer rehearsing “Summertime“. Performances of ENO’s Porgy and Bess run to 17 November.


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