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Classical Notes: February 14, 2006 Archive

Enough Mozart, cont.

Posted at 1:35 PM on February 14, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

Albert Einstein said that while Beethoven created his music, Mozart's "was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master." That's what is so remarkable; it exists on the human scale and the infinite scale at the same time! And it reveals the infinite in humanity. It's all there. Question for my friend Don Lee: what's missing in Mozart that you find in Bach?

New Blood at the Met

Posted at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2006 by Don Lee
Filed under: Musical philosophy

Over the past couple of days The New York Times has run stories about soon-to-be General Manager Peter Gelb’s adventurous plans for the Metropolitan Opera. Times article Gelb plans to commission new works from two of today’s most talked-about composers: Osvaldo Golijov and John Adams. He also intends to hire directors known for their work in other media: Academy Award-winning film director Anthony Minghella will stage Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and choreographer Mark Morris will do Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

In themselves, the plans are not especially startling. They’ve earned headlines because the Met is a pretty conservative place; many of its longtime patrons are wary of change. Gelb’s history with crossovers may make them especially wary. One of his signature accomplishments as head of the Sony Classical record label was the soundtrack for the movie Titanic, a cash cow he seemed not at all embarrassed to milk.

While we may not consider Titanic classical music and we may suspect the purity of Gelb’s motives at Sony, we should be open to efforts to expand and contemporize our definition of classical music. Puccini and Gluck will survive. It’s their successors we need to worry about.

Ich habe genug

Posted at 6:32 PM on February 14, 2006 by Don Lee

John Birge asks me, “What's missing in Mozart that you find in Bach?” When I imagine the Mozart that affects me most, I hear the slow movement of the Clarinet Concerto or the “Elvira Madigan” Piano Concerto, or “Ave verum corpus.” The usual suspects, for good reason; they’re achingly lovely. I feel the ache as Mozart creates tension and then grants me release. The thing is, it’s only a slight ache; he leaves no doubt that the release will come. With Bach, I’m less sure about that. In the final chorus of the St. Matthew Passion, after an intense three-hour journey, music and text hold out the hope of soft rest but not the promise. The ache is profound.