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Recently in Analysis, Criticism & Commentary Category

Passing of a Cinncinati Icon

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Erich Kunzel - Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Erich Kunzel Dies at 74

By Janelle Gelfand
Cinncinati.com

An era has ended. Erich Kunzel, 74, Cincinnati's music man for more than 44 years, has died.

Orchestra members learned today that Kunzel died this morning at a hospital in Bar Harbor, Maine, near his home on Swan's Island. Information about memorial services was not immediately available. The Pops maestro is survived by his wife of 44 years, Brunhilde. The couple's homes are in Newport, Ky.; Naples, Fla.; and Swan's Island.

"The world has lost a musical giant and we have lost a dear friend," said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra President Trey Devey in a statement released today by the orchestra. "Erich Kunzel built the Cincinnati Pops into one of the best known orchestras in the world and is not only beloved in Cincinnati, but around the globe. Today we honor his tremendous legacy and offer our deepest sympathies to Brunhilde and their entire family."

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and colleague Erich Kunzel," said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Paavo Järvi in the same statement. "He was a remarkable spirit and a tremendous musician. His many years of music making with the Cincinnati Pops brought joy to literally millions, and I join with our community in Cincinnati as well as his fans around the world in mourning the loss of this great musical icon."

Read more about this at the Cinncinati Enquirer website:

   news.cincinnati.com/article/20090901/ENT03/308120005/

Pianist Geoffrey Tozer Dies

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Farewell to musical prodigy Geoffrey Tozer

Obituary: Geoffrey Tozer. Pianist. Born Mussoorie, India, November 5, 1954. Died Melbourne, August 20, age 54.

By Anna Goldsworthy
The Australian

Pianist Geoffrey Tozer was one of the most gifted musicians this country has known. Born in the Indian Himalayas, he began piano lessons with his mother before moving to Australia at the age of four. A child prodigy, he gave his first public performance at age five at the St Kilda Town Hall; at eight he appeared on ABC television with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, playing Bach's Concerto in F minor. By 12 he had performed all five of Beethoven's piano concertos across Australia; two years later he was the youngest semi-finalist in history at the Leeds International Piano Competition.

In 1970, Tozer made his BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall, performing Mozart with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Colin Davis. During the following years he performed widely across Europe and the US, receiving a host of awards, including a gold medal in the Arthur Rubinstein competition in Israel in 1980 and Hungary's Liszt Centenary medallion in 1986.

Read more about this at the The Australian website:

   www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25985836-16947,00.html

Fictional Composers

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Music

Imaginary Concerts

By Alex Ross
New Yorker

The most potent sensual jolt in the first book of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time is felt when Charles Swann falls under the spell of "a little phrase" in a violin sonata by a provincial composer named Vinteuil. In creating Vinteuil, Proust ventures into an esoteric subcategory of fiction-stories about composers who exist only in the pages of books.

To read the literature of fictive music in sequence is to see the rise and apparent decline of classical music as a medium of cultural power. Writer describes the work of E.T.A. Hoffman and his fictional composer Johannes Kreisler, who affected the real music of the nineteenth century, inspiring Robert Schumann. Tells about Balzac's 1837 novella Gambara about Paolo Gambara, an Italian composer living in Paris. In the second half of the nineteenth century, composers achieved almost godlike status in Europe and America. The cult of musical genius turned feverish in Romain Rolland's Jean Christophe, published in installments between 1904 and 1912, which tells the story of the German composer Jean-Christophe Krafft. Krafft fashions a synthesis of French and German musical values, but Rolland fails to give us a clear idea of what this sounds like. "In Search of Lost Time" traverses much of the same territory with far greater authority. Writer describes the inspiration behind and the music of Proust's fictional composer Venteuil.

Thomas Mann, driven into exile by the Wagner-loving Hitler, decided to dismantle the myth of the Tragic Artist in Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend, published in 1947. Writer describes Mann's use of sketches by Theodor W. Adorno in constructing Leverkühn, and Leverkühn's influence on real composers. Discusses Randall Jarrell's 1954 academic satire Picture from an Institution, which signaled a change in how novelists depicted composers and classical music. Contemporary novelists tend to see this world in tragicomic terms. If the present state of imaginary music seems bleak, science fiction suggests a brighter future. Kim Stanley Robinson's novel The Memory of Whiteness looks ahead to 3229 A.D., when a mechanical orchestra is the star act of the solar system.

Read more about this at the New Yorker website:

   www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/08/24/090824crat_atlarge_ross

Distinguished Critic Dead At 80

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Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg 1928-2009

Michael Steinberg, among the pre-eminent music critics of our time, died on Sunday, 26 July 2009 at the age of 80. Despite the onset of cancer more than three years ago, he continued to live a full and vigorous life. He was revered by professional colleagues – the musicians, conductors, fellow writers, composers, educators, and orchestra executives with whom he collaborated over the course of a six-decade career – and loved by hundreds of thousands of audience members whose ideas and feelings about music were shaped by the unerringly lucid and insightful commentary he provided in program notes and pre-concert talks. A teacher of music history and criticism, a chamber music coach, a narrator, he was also the premier writer of program notes for audiences of orchestral, choral and chamber music, his works appearing not only in symphonic program books, but also on recordings, most notably those of John Adams' operas Nixon in China (1988) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1992).

Steinberg was born on October 4, 1928 in Breslau in the last years of Weimar Germany and spent his adolescence in England, his mother having campaigned successfully to get him to safety via the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that saved nearly 10,000 children in the months leading up to World War II. By the end of the war, Michael, his mother, and a brother 15 years his elder, Franz, had emigrated to St.Louis, Missouri. Steinberg studied at Princeton with Strunk, Babbitt, and Cone, graduating in 1949 with a degree in musicology. On a Fulbright scholarship, he spent two years in Italy, where he met his first wife Jane Bonacker (they divorced in 1977). Upon his return from Italy to the U.S., he was drafted and spent two years in the Army stationed in Germany in the 1950s. He served as head of the music history department at the Manhattan School of Music (1954-55; 1957-64), and taught at Smith College, Hunter College, Brandeis University, and the New England Conservatory. During these years, he was appointed music critic at the Boston Globe; his tenure in that position is the stuff of legend among serious writers about music.

Steinberg's first staff position at a major orchestra was Director of Publications for the Boston Symphony (1976-79). In 1979 he joined the San Francisco Symphony as Publications Director and Artistic Adviser (1979-1989), which combined the tasks of writing program notes and designing the season's repertoire, in close consultation with then music directors Edo de Waart, followed by Herbert Blomstedt. In 1983 he married Jorja Fleezanis, the Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony; when she was named Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1989, they moved to Minneapolis. He became program annotator to the New York Philharmonic in 1995, while continuing to serve as pre-concert lecturer in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. He took the post of Artistic Adviser with the Minnesota Orchestra, while maintaining the positions of program annotator for both the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.

Even after announcing his formal retirement in 1999, Steinberg kept working. He wrote for the San Francisco Symphony. For the West Coast chamber music festival Music at Menlo, he introduced programs, coached ensembles, and led several evenings of their "Encounter Series." He also coached students at the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, Texas. Each summer, public poetry readings were highlights of both the Menlo and Round Top festivals, where Steinberg not only gave his own memorable readings but also selected poems and lovingly coached both students and faculty in their readings. He believed poetry to be a vital component of music-making, and that performing musicians could arrive at a better understanding of musical phrasing and impulses by reading poetry aloud. In Jorja Fleezanis' words, he believed that "rhythm, the gait, and the expression required to read poetry well are intimately linked to what is required to play music well."

A frequent narrator, he gave the first performance of Aaron Jay Kernis' La Quattro Stagioni dalla Cucina Futerismo (The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine) in 1991, and was often heard as the narrator in Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, Survivor from Warsaw, and Ode to Napoleon, as well as Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait.

Larry Rothe, Publications Editor of the San Francisco Symphony and co-author of Steinberg's last book, For the Love of Music (Oxford University Press, 2006) noted:

0195370201
"In the last years Michael defined what it means to battle an illness. He continued to hang tough, determined not to let anything keep him from doing what he had always done, which was to put listeners in touch with the music. In his writing and in his talks, Michael knocked down walls with intelligence, wit, and a broad sense of culture. He was a great storyteller. He expected much from his readers and offered much. You get a taste of all this in his books: The Symphony, The Concerto, and Choral Masterworks, three compilations of his program notes. …
"In the way he lived, Michael mirrored music at its best. He was affirmative and honest and uncompromising, elegant and ornery. He spoke in beautifully-paced full sentences and paragraphs. He wrote with the eloquence and generosity and fierceness he believed the music demanded. He knew that what happens between music and listener is a kind of love, and that music, as he said, 'like any worthwhile partner in love, is demanding, sometimes exasperatingly, exhaustingly demanding… [but] that its capacity to give is as near to infinite as anything in this world, and that what it offers us is always and inescapably in exact proportion to what we ourselves give.'
"Writers have many reasons to write, but all writers share one goal: to remind readers what it means to be human. Not every writer gets there. Michael did."

Michael Steinberg is survived by his wife, Jorja Fleezanis; his sons Sebastian and Adam, both from his first marriage; his granddaughters Ayla and Rae; his grandson Julian; his first wife Jane Steinberg; his nephew Tom Steinberg; and his nephew Andy (and Val) Steinberg. Concerts to celebrate Michael Steinberg's life will be presented in San Francisco and Minneapolis at times to be announced.

The family will be receiving friends at home in Minneapolis on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 from 4pm-8pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to:

The Michael Steinberg & Jorja Fleezanis Fund to Spur Curiosity and Growth through the Performing Arts and the Written Word
attn. Shelli Chase
CHASE FINANCIAL
7900 Xerxes Avenue South
Suite 910
Minneapolis, MN 55431
PHOTO BY TERRENCE McCARTHY COURTESY OF KATHRYN KING MEDIA

Curious Timing

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Krystian Zimerman's controversial appearance at Disney Hall

By Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times

In 1978, an unknown, soft-spoken, 21-year-old Polish pianist appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its newly appointed music director, Carlo Maria Giulini, in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The performances of Chopin's two piano concertos were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon. Krystian Zimerman's eloquence went far beyond his years, and a major career was launched.

In the '80s, Zimerman became Leonard Bernstein's favorite pianist, the conductor's choice to record the Beethoven and Brahms piano concertos. In 1992, the summer before Esa-Pekka Salonen became music director of the L.A. Philharmonic, he selected Zimerman to perform with the orchestra at the Salzburg Festival.

And now, Sunday, making his Disney Hall debut in a recital sponsored by the Philharmonic, Zimerman, who has become arguably the greatest pianist of his generation, made the surprise and shocking announcement from the stage that in protest to America's military policies overseas and particularly in Poland, he would no longer perform in the United States.

Read more about this at the Los Angeles Times website:

   latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/04/krystian-zimermans-last-us-appearance-at-disney-hall.html

Goodbye to an Institution

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Swan Song for a Music Store and Clubhouse

A crossroads of maestros and tyros, the venerable Joseph Patelson Music House in Manhattan has been like a living room for the classical music world.

By Daniel J. Wakin
New York Times

For more than six decades its shelves bulged with the fruit of Mozart and Bach, Stravinsky and Strauss, to be plucked by shoppers who wore its wooden floors black and sought counsel from expert and sometimes cantankerous sales clerks.

Yes, you know it is coming: Goodbye, Patelson's.

Marsha Patelson, the daughter-in-law of the founder, said she planned to close the store and sell its home, an 1879 carriage house that sits a baton's throw across 56th Street from the Carnegie Hall stage door. It is falling victim to a transfigured world, in which the power of digital retail has made places like used bookshops, record stores and sheet-music dealers little more than quaint relics.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

   www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/arts/music/13pate.html

Manipulating Recorded Music

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Glenn Gould

Pianist Gould foresaw tech role in music

Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who gave his last performance for an audience in 1964 in Los Angeles, foresaw that listeners would be able to use technology to manipulate recorded music in various ways.

By Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times

Forty-five years ago this month, the great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould stepped off the stage of the Wilshire Ebell Theatre and became the prophet of a new technology.

Gould's act was an act of omission, not commission. That April 10, 1964, recital in the Los Angeles hall was the last concert he ever gave – a forsaking of the tradition of public performance that was unprecedented for such a young (31) and eminent interpreter of Bach and Beethoven.

Read more about this at the Los Angeles Times website:

   www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik6-2009apr06,0,1861405.column

Juilliard String Quartet by Nana Watanabe/SONY Classical

A First Goodbye to a Departing Violinist

By Steve Smith
New York Times

The Juilliard String Quartet, among the most august and respected of American chamber music institutions, began a farewell of sorts before a sizable audience at Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday night. It was no occasion for remorse: the quartet, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006, will go on. But Joel Smirnoff, the first violinist, was making one of two final appearances with the group before departing to become president at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

The configuration featured on Tuesday was not the group's original lineup: Mr. Smirnoff, who joined in 1986, became the first violinist when Robert Mann, one of the founding members, retired in 1997. Ronald Copes, the second violinist, joined at that time. Samuel Rhodes, the violist, came aboard in 1969; Joel Krosnick, the cellist, in 1974.

But this particular alignment has had more than a decade to develop its own chemistry, and it showed in occasionally rough-hewn while always authoritative and lively performances. The program opened with Mendelssohn's Quartet in E flat (Op. 12), in honor of that composer's bicentennial.

Read the complete review at the New York Times website:

   www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/arts/music/10stri.html

Rozhdestvensky Upset with BSO

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Miffed at BSO, famed maestro backs out

By Jeremy Eichler
Boston Globe

There is an eminent Russian conductor encamped at a private home in Brookline, and he is fuming.

In an extremely rare public flare-up in the outwardly genteel world of major symphony orchestras, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, the 77-year-old maestro who is one of the last living links to a golden era of Russian music, has pulled out of the entire run of four concerts he was scheduled to conduct with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which began on Thursday.

He is outraged, he said yesterday, at how disrespectfully, in his view, the BSO administration had marketed his appearances to the public.

In an emotional 40-minute interview at the home of a friend, Rozhdestvensky and his wife, Viktoria Postnikova, explained the maestro's abrupt decision to withdraw from the performances, including concerts scheduled for tonight and Tuesday, and to return today to Moscow. He began with a pointed clarification.

"The BSO told its audiences I was 'unable to conduct this performance as planned,' " he said, referring to an announcement that appeared in a program insert and on the BSO's website. "I must say that I was able to conduct." Full stop. "And how."

Read more about this at the Boston Globe website:

   www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2008/11/22/miffed_at_bso_famed_maestro_backs_out/

Guarneri Quartet Passes Torch

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Johannes Quartet, Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Fiery Finale for Guarneri

By Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle

There may be no classier way to exit the public stage than by handing off the baton to a young successor - and the Guarneri String Quartet has always been the classiest of acts.

For at least part of its current farewell tour, the Guarneri is being accompanied by the Johannes Quartet, a young and – to judge from Thursday's performance – splendidly dynamic ensemble that needs to come back again soon as a headliner. In the potent performance of the Mendelssohn Octet that occupied the second half of the program, a listener could witness the mantle of chamber-music greatness being passed along.

The venerable ensemble made its final visit to San Francisco on Thursday night, playing to an enthusiastic crowd in Herbst Theatre under the auspices of San Francisco Performances. But the players weren't there alone.

Read more about this at the S.F. Gate website:

   sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/22/DDGF149J4R.DTL

Trumpet