If Sibelius is good, this invalidates the standards of musical quality that have persisted from Bach to Schoenberg: the richness of inter-connectedness, articulation, unity in diversity, the ‘multi-faceted’ in ‘the one’.
Theodore Adorno, 1938
Sibelius fans rejoice.
Earlier this spring I was asked to write liner notes for this fascinating CD of performances by Hans Rosbaud and the WDR Koln of Sibelius and Debussy. The disc is out now, and I encourage you to add it to your collection. Rosbaud was one of the greatest Sibelians of all time, and his Debussy is really first rate. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the essay.
ROSBAUD CONDUCTS SIBELIUS AND DEBUSSY
“I have a very clear memory of his rehearsals because I learned so much from his extraordinarily “professional” attitude to whatever he was working on. I learned the practical side of conducting from watching him, from talks with him and from him I came to understand the essential relationship between the score as written and the score as performed”
In the early 1930s, as the music world came to recognise that Jean Sibelius’s compositional silence was might be permanent (his final masterpiece, Tapiola, was completed in 1926, and in 1931–2, word got out that he’d destroyed his Eighth Symphony in despair), tributes to his importance began to pour in. New York Times chief critic Olin Downes hailed Sibelius as the most important composer of the 20th century, a figure on a par with Beethoven. Bengt von Törne considered Sibelius a more important figure than Mahler or Schoenberg, and Sibelius enjoyed a huge reputation in the United Kingdom, earning the admiration and endorsement of Granville Bantock, Constant Lambert, John Barbirolli and Thomas Beecham.
This lionisation of the unapologetically tonal Sibelius clearly irked the influential philosopher and music theorist (and long-time advocate for the music of the Second Viennese School) Theodore Adorno, who, enraged by von Törne’s pamphlet on Sibelius, responded with an all-out critical broadside in the journal Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Adorno derided Sibelius as a ‘scribbler’, someone ‘at the level of amateurs who are afraid to take lessons in composition’. Soon, other influential voices joined the chorus of derision. Composer and critic Virgil Thomson (charmingly wrong about so many facets of 20th-century musical life), writing for the New York Herald Tribune, endorsed Adorno’s assessment and as late as 1955, theorist, composer and conductor René Leibowitz went so far as to describe Sibelius as ‘the worst composer in the world’ (one is tempted to invoke the cliché about composers who live in glass houses not throwing stones). Adorno’s attack on Sibelius went beyond a mere trashing of his accomplishments as a composer: Adorno suggested that Sibelius’s palpable connection to Nature was somehow in sympathy with the ‘Blut und Boden’ ideals of National Socialism, a completely odious and unfounded accusation, but one which seemed to stick for many years in post-war Germany.
From his early years at the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in the 1920s, conductor Hans Rosbaud (1895–1962) recognized the unique potential of the radio orchestra to educate audiences, expand the repertoire and shape the way people think about music. With Sibelius’s reputation in ruins after the Second World War, Rosbaud became the single most important interpreter of and advocate for his music in the German-speaking world. Rosbaud’s modernist credentials were above reproach – his stature as an authority on the music of the Second Viennese School surpassed that of even Adorno. He was widely considered the greatest living conductor of the music of Arnold Schonberg, with whom he maintained a close lifelong friendship. In his later years, he would become an important advocate for the music of the post-war serialist school of composition at the Donaueschingen Festival. Additionally, Rosbaud was one of the few leading conductors of his generation based in Germany (along with Eugen Jochum and Fritz Busch) to avoid any ethical entanglement with the Nazis. Given this combination of reputation for moral integrity and stature as an authority on the 20th-century musical canon, Rosbaud was uniquely well qualified to advocate a reassessment of Sibelius. Rosbaud had helped to invent the model of the modern radio orchestra in the 1920s and for him, the combination of generous rehearsal time, relative freedom from box office worries and radio’s power to reach an audience beyond the walls of the studio or concert hall made a group like the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra the perfect partners for instigating such a reassessment.
The Sixth Symphony is Sibelius for Sibelians – it has never attained the popularity of works like the Second and Fifth, and in 1950s Germany, it would have been almost completely unknown to players and audiences. But meticulously prepared by Rosbaud, who understood Sibelius’s language as few conductors ever have, this performance comes across not as a one-off by an orchestra getting to grips with a work well outside their repertoire, but as music completely in their bones.
Although Rosbaud’s posthumous reputation has rested largely on his performances of German repertoire, he was a musician of deeply international tastes, who gave influential early performances of works by composers as diverse as Stravinsky, Bartók, Milhaud and Poulenc. Throughout his career, he manifested a special affinity for French culture and music. During the Second World War, Rosbaud took up the position of General Music Director in Strasbourg after the annexation of Alsace. Despite the blatant attempts of the Nazis to ‘Germanify’ the region, Rosbaud proved a sensitive musical diplomat, defending the interests and positions of local musicians, building support and trust in the community, and maintaining, even enhancing, the Strasbourg orchestra’s reputation in French repertoire. After the war, Rosbaud was the first conductor German-speaking conductor invited to perform in France.
Debussy’s music was still something of a rarity in German musical life in the 1950s, and German orchestras have not always been known for their sympathetic performances of French repertoire. There is nothing ‘auf Deutsch’ about Rosbaud’s Debussy – his tempi flow with languid ease, free of Germanic ponderousness, and the orchestra shimmers with a transparent string sound, plangent winds and a palpable sense of flexibility, agility and nuance. Who would have guessed one would encounter such stunningly idiomatic Debussy performances in 1950s Cologne?
Kenneth Woods (www.kennethwoods.net)
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky seemed to be singularly unlucky in choosing the dedicatees of his great concertante works. He wrote his evergreen Variations on a Rococo Theme for the cellist William Fitzenhagen. As always, Tchaikovsky invited Fitzenhagen to suggest improvements to the solo part, but Fitzenhagen went far further- he re-ordered the variations, cutting one entirely. Amazingly, it was Fitzenhagen’s version of the piece that was first published, much to Tchaikovsky’s outrage, and even more incredibly, Tchaikovsky’s original has only begun to replace Fitzenhagen’s version in the last fifteen years.
Tchaikovsky looking less than impressed with Rubinstein’s reactions to the First Piano Concerto
Things went even worse when Tchaikovsky presented his Violin Concerto to its original dedicatee, Leopold Auer. Auer couldn’t even be bothered to suggest improvements to the violin writing. Instead, Auer dismissed the work as an unplayable monstrosity. Fortunately Tchaikovsky knew the piece’s true value, and went ahead with a premiere by the violinist Adolph Brodsky, and the work quickly became very popular. Auer was eventually shamed into taking up the piece, but he made extensive cuts in the Finale and rewrote several passages against Tchaikovsky’s wishes. Auer was one of the greatest pedagogues of all time—his students included Mischa Ellmann, Nathan Milstein and Efram Zimbalist—and his influence as a pedagogue has meant that many violinists descended from the “Auer school,” including modern soloists as eminent as David Oistrakh, have continued to use his cuts and rewritten passagework to this day.
However difficult these experiences were for Tchaikovsky, they didn’t seem to cause him nearly the distress brought on by his abortive collaboration on the First Piano Concerto with Nikolai Rubinstein. Nikolai Rubinstein was the younger brother of the composer Anton Rubinstein, and a co-founder of the Moscow Conservatory (the Rubinstein brothers were not related to the 20th century piano virtuoso Arthur Rubinstein).
Tchaikovsky had high hopes and specific expectations for his collaboration with Rubinstein on his First Piano Concerto. He had tremendous admiration for Rubinstein’s musicianship and pianism and had every confidence that Rubinstein would play the piece magnificently. He also hoped the Rubinstein could help him to fine-tune the piano writing. Tchaikovsky was a serviceable pianist, but felt the work needed the input of a virtuoso to ensure it was as effective and pianistic as possible.
When the Concerto was completed, Tchaikovsky invited Rubinstein and a few friends for a play-through. Tchaikovsky’s description of the evening three years later to his patroness Nadezzha von Meck still brims with righteous anger.:
I played the first movement. Not a single word, not a single remark! If you knew how stupid and intolerable is the situation of a man who cooks and sets before a friend a meal, which he proceeds to eat in silence! Oh, for one word, for friendly attack, but for God’s sake one word of sympathy, even if not of praise. Rubinstein was amassing his storm, and Hubert was waiting to see what would happen, and that there would be a reason for joining one side or the other. Above all I did not want sentence on the artistic aspect. My need was for remarks about the virtuoso piano technique. R’s eloquent silence was of the greatest significance. He seemed to be saying: “My friend, how can I speak of detail when the whole thing is antipathetic? I fortified myself with patience and played through to the end. Still silence. I stood up and asked, “Well?” Then a torrent poured from Nikolay Grigoryevich’s mouth, gentle at first, then more and more growing into the sound of a Jupiter Tonana. It turned out that my concerto was worthless and unplayable; passages were so fragmented, so clumsy, so badly written that they were beyond rescue; the work itself was bad, vulgar; in places I had stolen from other composers; only two or three pages were worth preserving; the rest must be thrown away or completely rewritten. “Here, for instance, this—now what’s all that? (he caricatured my music on the piano) “And this? How can anyone …” etc., etc. The chief thing I can’t reproduce is the tone in which all this was uttered. In a word, a disinterested person in the room might have thought I was a maniac, a talented, senseless hack who had come to submit his rubbish to an eminent musician….
I was not only astounded but outraged by the whole scene. I am no longer a boy trying his hand at composition, and I no longer need lessons from anyone, especially when they are delivered so harshly and unfriendlily. I need and shall always need friendly criticism, but there was nothing resembling friendly criticism. It was indiscriminate, determined censure, delivered in such a way as to wound me to the quick. I left the room without a word and went upstairs. In my agitation and rage I could not say a thing. Presently R. enjoined me, and seeing how upset I was he asked me into one of the distant rooms. There he repeated that my concerto was impossible, pointed out many places where it would have to be completely revised, and said that if within a limited time I reworked the concerto according to his demands, then he would do me the honor of playing my thing at his concert. “I shall not alter a single note,” I answered, “I shall publish the work exactly as it is!” This I did.
The man who came to the rescue would at first glance to seem an unlikely champion for this most Russian of concerti. Han von Bulow was a towering figure in the German musical world. Early in his career he had established himself as one of the great pianists and conductor’s of his day, and had married into musical royalty, winning the hand of Franz Liszt’s daughter Cosima. He came to be Richard Wagner’s preferred conductor, leading many still-legendary first performances of Wagner’s operas, but their reputation soured when Wagner seduced Cosima, who became Wagner’s second wife. Bulow later became very close with Brahms, particularly through their work together with von Bulow’s chamber orchestra at Meiningen, where Bulow’s extraordinary ensemble offered a perfect library to prepare early performances of most of Brahms mature orchestral music.
But Bulow was no strident nationalist, and he had taken a keen interest in the music of Tchaikovsky. The two men met in 1974 and quickly warmed to each other. After the debacle with Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky sent Bulow the new Concerto, and Bulow’s response was as effusive as Rubinstein’s had been vitriolic. In the end, plans for a Moscow premiere by Nikolai Rubinstein were dropped in favor of a performance in Boston in October 1875, with Bulow as soloist and B.J. Lang conducting a pick-up ensemble. Lang’s modest band was only a distant relative of a powerhouse symphony orchestra like the St Petersburg Philharmonic, or the Boston Symphony, which was not founded until 1881. In fact, there were only four first violins available for the premiere.
The international success of the Concerto eventually persuaded Rubinstein of its merits, and he took the piece into his repertoire and played it often. After some time, his relationship with Tchaikovsky healed to the point that Tchaikovsky planned to entrust him with the premiere of his Second Piano Concerto before Rubinstein’s untimely death. Tchaikovsky did finally accept some advice on the piano writing from Edward Dannreuther and Alexander Siloti, and revised the Concerto in 1879 and 1888.
Though the work has always been popular with audiences and most musicians, it has not always been universally admired by critics and musicologists. Many find it problematic that, having conceived one of the most striking and stirring beginnings in any concerto, Tchaikovsky never returns to the music of the opening. However, a careful analysis of the work shows that almost everything that is to follow grows out of motivic cells in the Introduction. In the course of the Concerto, Tchaikovsky quotes several folk songs, including the Ukrainian song “Oy, kryatshe, kryatshe…”as the first theme of the first movement, the French chansonette, “Il faut s’amuser, danser et rire.” (“One must have fun, dance and laugh”) in the second movement and a Ukrainian vsnyanka or greeting to spring in the Finale. Finally the second theme of the Finale is derived from the Russian folk song “Podoydi, podoydy vo Tsar-Goro.” All were melodies that would have been recognizable to Tchaikovsky’s Russian contemporaries, but he also took pains to choose tunes that could be musically connected to each other and to the Introduction.
Perhaps what perplexes so many intellectuals, but has never bothered most listeners, is the subversive way in which Tchaikovsky’s iconic opening intentionally creates all the wrong expectations about what is to come. Where the Introduction is lyrical, passionate and confident, the bulk of the first movement is mercurial, stormy and full of drama and uncertainty, only arriving at a triumphant ending after much struggle.
The Andante simplice that follows is more of an Intermezzo than a proper slow movement, highlighted by a dazzling scherzando middle section. The outer sections are infused with a fluid and effortless poetry, while the middle section exudes quicksilver wit and devil-may-care virtuosity.
Critics of the work have also suggested the Tchaikovsky’s Finale doesn’t provide an adequate counterbalance to the massive first movement, but, in fact, his proportions and the weighting of the musical argument toward the first movement are quite classical. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, his Emperor Concerto and Brahms’s D minor Piano Concerto all have similarly massive first movements and relatively slight and light-hearted finales. It is the influence of folk music which is felt most keenly in the Allegro con fuoco, both in the in the feverishly driving first theme and the expansive tune which follows. In the end, it is the big tune that emerges triumphant- a perfect companion to that other big tune with which the concerto began.
c. 2012 Kenneth Woods
A new review from Andrew Aschenbach, editor-in-chief of the new app “Classical Ear”
Gál: Symphony No 2 in F major, Op 53; Schumann: Symphony No 4 in D minor, Op 120
Orchestra of the Swan / Kenneth Woods
Now here’s quite a find. Austrian-born Hans Gál (1890-1987) took flight from Nazi Germany in 1938, eventually settling in Edinburgh (where he became a much-loved figure in that city’s musical life). The Second of his four symphonies dates from 1943 after a period of great personal tragedy, yet there’s no hint of mawkish self-pity in the ravishingly beautiful, profoundly consolatory Adagio slow movement (the work’s emotional core), while the preceding scherzo positively winks with gleeful mischief. Above all, Gál develops his memorable material with the natural resourcefulness and sureness of purpose that are the hallmarks of a true symphonist. Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan (which is based in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon) lend this radiant and substantial score the most eloquent and affecting advocacy, and go on to give a comparably accomplished and invigorating account of Schumann’s masterly Fourth Symphony – a strikingly fresh-faced, spontaneous-sounding display, full of illuminating touches, personable warmth and genuine freshness of new discovery. Do investigate this bold, enormously rewarding coupling.
Buy your copy from Amazon here:
The music world has reacted this week with a mixture of genuine moral outrage and cynical Schadenfreude to one conductor’s recent take on the place of women in the conducting world.
For all the howls of indignation, what I haven’t seen from most people writing about the issue is a knowledge of the talents, achievements and potential of almost any actual women conductors other than the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony (very occasionally someone mentions the current conductor of the Hamburg Opera), whose name has been mentioned in virtually every news and opinion item related to the story so far, including the retraction/apology issued by the conductor whose comments started the whole conversation.
I’m reminded of the days when, as a young person, I used to find myself visiting parts of the deep South (my parents are both from Atlanta) and I’d be shocked to hear so many otherwise apparently respectable people sitting around in supposedly polite company talking about how all the ills of society, from the schools to the streets, were being caused by “the blacks.” When I finally got old enough and brave enough to call them out on their casual racism, they would always explain that they weren’t really racist because they had the utmost respect for this or that specific black person- always one off a small list of candidates. “I’m not prejudiced black people- some of them do great things! I have tons of respect for Bill Cosby!” they would protest, very occasionally substituting Martin Luther King Jr or Sidney Poitier.
Although the context and the conversation here are substantially different, too many people on all sides of this debate are too content to sit back and say “I have tons of respect for women conductors- the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony is great!”
I’ve only met the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony once when I was student, but I feel confident in guessing that at this stage of her career, being the one name everyone seems to grab for when desperate to mention a woman conductor they respect is getting old. That’s why I’ve left her name out of this blog post.
I think that many people writing about this issue, proclaiming the viability and importance of women on the podium, need to get beyond the “Bill Cosby” clause and get out there and get to know the work of some other women conductors.
The music press have been behind the curve on this issue for a long time. I think it’s the height of laziness for any journalist to ask the seemingly ubiquitous question: “why are there no women conductors?” Of course there are women conductors! Why don’t you know who they are and where they are working? “It’s not us,” say the question-askers in their own defense “We’re totally well-informed on women conductors- we love the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony!”
I thought long and hard about creating a list of great women colleagues here, but as a performer myself, I try not to get into the slippery business of ranking my peers, and I’d feel awful if I caused hurt to a friend or student by omitting their name, and it’s very awkward an probably unfair for one performer to write critically about another. This is really work for a journalist.
So, dear music journalists, here is your challenge: write a feature article profiling at least 20 to 30 women conductors working today.
Many of my brilliantly gifted female colleagues know all-too-well the frustration of trying to get a critic to come to their concert or trying to get their latest CD reviewed. Find them- pay attention to them! Get out there, dear journalists, and please get beyond the absolute top-tier of major orchestras. If you want to know who is really up and coming, you’ve got to look at youth orchestras, community orchestras, university groups, new music ensembles, collectives and people in minor staff positions. Of course, there are a lot of important and well-established women conductors in the field making major professional careers other than the current music director of the Baltimore Symphony. Don’t forget them. Your list should include conductors at all stages of career and life.
If you really want to see more gender equity on the podiums of the great orchestras around the world, ask what you can do to bring new names and new talents into the conversation.
In doing so, let’s try to avoid looking for a prototype- find a diverse array of individuals. Let’s try to avoid treating these individuals as if everyone were equally gifted and meritorious just because they were female. Far too many people in this industry are afraid to say anything critical about any woman conductor for fear of appearing sexist. This does nobody any favors- there are many, many female conductors out there capable of delivering superb performances of the broadest array of rep. You’re not helping them find their place and their path in the field if you’re afraid to constructively criticize other women who aren’t able to deliver the musical goods.
But Ken, you may say- weren’t you the one just the other day saying “don’t call them women conductors, just call them conductors?” Now you’re telling us to go hunting women conductors.
Well- here’s the thing. As long as Bill Cosby is the only black person one knows by name, it’s pretty easy for anyone else with similar skin color to simply be one of “the blacks.” I’m quite confident that if you really take the time to go to the rehearsals and concerts of a truly diverse group of women conductors, you’ll find that their gender and profession are the only things they have in common. You’ll find a group of individuals with distinct and diverse personalities and skill sets, some who excel in Elgar, others who flounder in Franck, but may persuade in Panufnik. You’ll see leaders of great personal charm and hard-nosed bullies. You’ll meet alcoholics and yoga fanatics. You may end up writing a feature piece for one of the music magazines on “thirty women conductors who are not currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony,” but next time you think of or encounter no. 17 on the list, you may just find yourself remembering them not as number 17, but as “the conductor who galvanized a county youth orchestra into a truly memorable performance of Mahler 1.”
And, hopefully, you won’t even notice that you just caught yourself calling them a “conductor,” and not a “woman conductor” after all.
UPDATE- Journalist extraordinaire Jessica Duchen has been tweeting a wonderfully extensive list of talented female conductors who are not currently the music director of the Baltimore Symphony. I’ll try to paste that list below.
@jessicaduchen Claire Gibault is both conductor and MEP (any others?): http://clairegibault.fr/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claire_Gibault … #womenconductors
.@jessicaduchen And the wonderful if deceptively named Laurence Equilby. A brilliant choral conductor. #Accentus
@TobyDeller @jessicaduchen @hollyjmathieson Did anyone mention Tania Miller of Victoria (Canada) ?
@Capriccioblog He’s doing Rosenkavalier next summer – will be really interested to hear that.
@jessicaduchen @kennethwoods Anne Manson. Iona Brown(RIP).
@jessicaduchen Sarah Ioannides was born in Oz but grew up in the UK and now is based in the US. http://sarahioannides.net/ #womenconductors
@JohnofOz Got ‘em both. Interested that more people have tweeted back with Jessica Cottis’s name than anyone else’s.
Another queen of the early music sphere: Jeanne Lamon of Tafelmusik http://www.tafelmusik.org/about/orchestra/bios/jeanne-lamon … (thanks, @JohnGilks)
@jessicaduchen Ewa Strusinska spent some time @the_halle and now works internationally from Poland http://www.ewastrusinska.com #womenconductors
@jessicaduchen also Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and Kristiina Poska http://www.laphil.com/philpedia/mirga-grazinyte-tyla … http://www.rbartists.at/en/dirigenten_dtl.php?id=486&TACookie=rv3a0901nslhali2lc4gai8035 …
Odaline de la Martinez! http://www.lorelt.co.uk/lontano/odaline.htm …
And please welcome, from Australia, the amazingly named @KellyLovelady http://kellylovelady.com/
The extraordinary and incredible Emmanuelle Haim! http://www.leconcertdastree.fr/ (thanks again, @JohnBroggio)
Next, meet Alondra de la Parra http://alondradelaparra.com/ (thanks, @jjohnstonmezzo)
@roannedods @chiggi yup, we got her already, and here she is again: http://jessicacottis.com/
Susanna Malkki, principal conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, Portugal: http://www.harrisonparrott.com/artist/profile/susanna-malkki … (thanks @JohnBroggio)
Here is Sian Edwards’s website. She is head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. http://www.ingpen.co.uk/artist/sian-edwards/ …
@JohnBroggio you just beat me to it as I found Jane Glover’s website!
Let’s not forget arch-Mozartian Jane Glover: http://www.janeglover.co.uk/
@chiggi thanks, Charlotte!
@prima_donnaanna brilliant. Proves there are plenty of them to tweet about!
And there’s @niallewelynj, young conductor being nurtured by CBSO among others
Here is JoAnn Falletta’s website: http://www.joannfalletta.com/
And there’s Eve Queler of New York: http://www.evequeler.com/
@jessicaduchen Let’s not forget that the Ulster Orchestra has a female music director, JoAnn Falletta?
@nfmusic yes indeed.
@prima_donnaanna yes, she was absolutely up there in my second tweet!
So, that was 7, without even trying very hard.
Simone Young is extremely well-established on the international circuit http://www.simoneyoung.com/titel/
…and the also brilliant Xian Zhang. http://www.harrisonparrott.com/artist/profile/xian-zhang …
The brilliant Julia Jones: http://www.oper-frankfurt.de/en/page652.cfm
Next, the Estonian Anu Tali http://www.harrisonparrott.com/artist/profile/anu-tali …
Next, 2 Brits: Monica Buckland Hofstetter http://www.buckland.ch/english/news.htm … and Jessica Cottis http://jessicacottis.com/
Yes, we need more women conductors. How about some orchestras booking them? I can suggest some. First, Zoi Tsokanou. http://www.zoitsokanou.com/
@kennethwoods @KellyLovelady Great post! Add Rosemary Thomson, Music Director @OkSymphonyOrch (British Columbia, Canada)
Hans Gal’s Violin Concerto was premiered in 1933, just weeks before Hitler came to power. The concert was conducted by the great Fritz Busch, and Georg Kulenkampff, then the most famous violinist in Germany, was the soloist- at that moment, Gal stood atop the musical world.
Less than 100 days later, he was unemployed and unemployable. His music was banned. The Violin Concerto was not played again for over 70 years.
Your donation can help right that wrong.
And, you’ll love the disc!
Last night, BBC Four gave us one of the richest evenings of television I can remember seeing in the 10 years or so I’ve lived here. A digest of the best of this year’s contemporary music offerings at the Proms, it was a diverse and exciting array of great pieces really well performed. It did a fantastic job of showcasing the virtuosity and irreplaceable value of the BBC orchestras, the unique power of the Proms to take new music to vast audiences, and, most importantly, it was all first rate music.
It’s a pity that some pieces were only excerpted, but the BBC has, in this case, made great use of their online capabilities by making complete performances of some pieces that were not shown in full available on their website
If you’re in the UK and missed the live broadcast, do catch it on iPlayer in the next 6 days
If you’re abroad, keep an eye on YouTube- most televised Proms seem to end up there within a week or so.
Congratulations to John McCabe, David Matthews, Colin Matthews, Thomas Ades, James MacMillan and the rest of the gang.
Update time- only 72 hours left. That’s just 3 days until Ken’s crowd-funding days are over for ever
This has been a great week overall- so many generous donations have come in from all over the world, and we’ve had a tidal wave of tweets, likes, blog posts and shout outs. We’ve made amazing progress.
But today was a set back- very slow on the donation front in spite of lots of encouraging efforts from supporters to get things going. Another day like this, and we’re going to be in dire shape.
I can’t believe we won’t be successful- I just know there are more than enough people out there who have enough musical perception and moral center to see the urgency of giving a composer like Gal a chance at the listenership history and the National Socialists managed to deny him. I can’t believe we can’t find a few hundred people who would give £10 each or a few dozen who would give £100 each to make this CD happen.
Believe me, there’s nothing I want to do more now than take a long vacation from all social media and email, but I can’t believe there aren’t enough folks out there who care enough to make this campaign a success. Somehow, in spite of all of our work so far, we’ve either not reached your heart, or we’ve made you tune out.
If you’ve tuned out, please remember- we’re just hacks at this stuff. We’re musicians, not marketing gurus. Don’t hold our lack of communication skills against us. If you’ve like us to shut up, just give us some cash so we can put this thing to bed.
If we haven’t reached your heart yet? Well, we’re going to give it our all for 72 more hours. Maybe you should start with the music? Follow the link here to the “Bobby and Hans Listening Room” and check out the stream of the first movement of the Concertino for Violin and Strings (near the bottom of the page), written during Gal’s difficult years between becoming a “non-person” in Germany and settling into a new life in Scotland. It was written with no prospect of performance, and sat in a drawer until after the war. This was the first recording.
If it doesn’t reach your heart, I worry for us all!
Sorry to bother you again!
By now, I’ve been in touch with most, if not all of you about the Orchestra of the Swan’s campaign on Indiegogo to fund the fourth and final volume in our series of the symphonies of Hans Gal and Robert Schumann.
Hans Gal (1890-1887) was one of music’s good guys- one of the best and brightest of the generation of Viennese composers who succeed Richard Strauss and Mahler. Had he not been pushed into exile and obscurity by Hitler and the Nazi’s in the 1903′s, I’m sure he’d be a standard repertoire composer. As it is, this project will not only be the first complete cycle of recordings of his symphonies, it is also the first time any orchestra has played all the symphonies in concert. Ever. When we performed his Second Symphony last December, it was the first time that amazing work had been heard live since the early 1950′s. When we finish the cycle in December, with your help, it will be the first live performance of the First Symphony in over forty years.
We’ve made great progress in the campaign so far, and attracted a lot of media attention, but we need to seal the deal.
Orchestral recordings are incredibly expensive- before even launching this campaign, we’d raised more than 3/4 of what we need. If we don’t succeed in raising the approximately £6k we still need, we risk losing the +£30k we’ve already got from other sources, and missing our window to record in December. It would be heartbreaking and a huge setback for the cause of this wonderful music.
Crowdfunding is a very mixed blessing- yes, it can make great projects like this possible, but it also means we all have more worthwhile projects and ideas vying for our attention. I wouldn’t be coming to you if we didn’t need your help.
The hours are slipping past. Just five days remain. Please help.
I’ll end with a collection of recent press so you have some idea about how important this project is.
If everyone who gets this email gives something, whatever you can, and forwards it to a friend, we can finish this campaign in hours rather than days.
Thank you so much, and I promise, after this, I am done with crowdfunding
If you don’t know Gal’s music, you can listen to samples of all the CDs so far here.
An extensive review released yesterday from MusicWeb which talks extensively about the importance of this series of recordings ”Hans Gál is gradually becoming better known. It is quite shameful that a composer as good as he was should have lived amongst us, and taught so many students, for forty years, yet should still have to be brought out from the shadows into the light of recognition.”
A blog post from Jessica Duchen, music critic for The Independent ”Hans Gál is one of music’s most scandalously undersung, underplayed, under-recognised good guys. I first saw his name as a child, as my dad had his admirable books on Schubert and Brahms – yet scarcely heard a note of his music”
Blogger and critic Robert Hugill ”Since then Gál’s name has cropped up periodically, but his music still does not receive the recognition it deserves. Like a number of other Jewish musicians Gál and his family fled to England in the 1930′s but his music never recovered, though he went on to have a career as a distinguished academic at Edinburgh University, his works were not played very much. Now the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan are recording all of Gál’s four symphonies conducted by Kenneth Woods. ”
A news item from ClassicalSource ”The first three recordings of Gál’s symphonies have been broadcast in their entirety countless times, reviewed and discussed in outlets as significant as National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Performance Today, BBC Radio 3’s CD Review, the Sunday New York Times, the Sunday Washington Post, the Guardian, the Saturday Telegraph and all the major musical journals, review magazines and websites. For the first time in generations, Gál’s symphonies have been reaching a broad international audience.
Recent review from Gramophone Magazine
Recent review from International Record Review
Composer and Guitarist Gerald Garcia lends his voice
Former Gramophone editor James Inverne already has vol 4 pegged as a highlight of 2014 ”…the first recorded cycle of symphonies by the much neglected (though slowly, perhaps, now returning to fashion) composer Hans Gál. Woods, the Orchestra of the Swan and the label, itself, have really done their reputation no end of good with this series, with Gal played alongside Schumann symphonies.”
I finished writing the slow mvt of my new quartet today. Very excited and relieved to reach the double bar.
The restorative power of reconnecting with one’s creativity, however massive or meagre it may be, always astonishes me. It’s sad that too often, we drive people to set aside their creative gifts on the grounds that their are more important things to be done, there’s no market for their work, or there are greater talents about. Everyone has the right to create. Everyone has the right to find space in their life to create.
Fellow Earthlings- go forth and write your poems, paint your pictures, play your blues and work out your fugues! And when you’re done, take a second to check out that which your child, your friend, your spouse or your neighbor has been creating in the meantime. If we all did these things more often, life would be richer, our tread would be lighter and smiles would be easier to come by.
In preparing for this vlog, it’s been really interesting to see just how selective coverage of Amanda Palmer’s “not paying the musicians” coverage has been. First, agree with her or not, she does seem to have a philosophical basis for her original decision to ask people to volunteer, nicely outlined in her famous TED talk (when are they going to let me give one of these talks?:) )
It sounds a lot like her real mistake was not realizing how differently everyone sees you and interprets your actions when they consider you to be rich. I remember when I was about to “come out” as a conductor- a violinist friend of mine wisely warned me that for many people, once they see you as an authority figure, they can’t see you as a human being any more. Anyway, not paying the players when you can (or when people assume you can) is always a bad idea.
What I like about Amanda Palmer is her willingness to speak truth to power while simultaneously channeling the spirit of Tom Lehrer. (Would TL ever have dropped the kimono?)
(Warning- Contains nudity)
Read more from the Guardian here and here. An extended piece in the New Yorker (less positive) is here
Support the Gal/Schumann campaign here:
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