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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: May 26, 2006 Archive

Instrumental karaoke

Posted at 3:30 AM on May 26, 2006 by John Zech
Filed under: The blog

Q. What's the best recording of the William Walton Viola Concerto?

A. The Music Minus One version.

It's an old viola joke, but a short one (the longest viola joke: Harold in Italy...but, seriously folks...).

For musicians of my generation, there were these records called Music Minus One. They were typically sold in music stores, along with the scores of concertos, and the album gave you a recording of say, the Walton Viola Concerto on one side, with a good player as the soloist, and on the other side was the same recording without the soloist, so you could turn up the stereo and play the solo with the orchestra. They're still around, as a matter of fact.

Now there's a website that wants to get people to pay them a couple bucks for the chance to play along with the rock groups of their choice in much the same way. You can read about it here.

It also appears that commercial classical releases are getting into the act.

I got caught the other night on the air when I unwittingly played the wrong track on Nicola Benedetti's new CD. I intended to play her recording of the Meditation from Thais, but played what they called the "performance track" instead. Turns out that's what they call the version without her playing, so you can play along with the orchestra and pretend you're her (or Heifetz).

I kept waiting for the soloist to come in, and finally checked the CD booklet more closely and saw there were 2 versions of the Massenet Meditation and I got the Music Minus One by mistake. Oops! It happened at about this same hour of the overnight, when I could barely see straight anymore and wasn't ready for a curveball like that.


No Comment

Posted at 7:26 AM on May 26, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

Presented without comment, and with many complex layers of irony intact, this list of Conservative Classics, as well as another list from a Classical Conservative.

Quiet Please!

Posted at 11:04 AM on May 26, 2006 by Bob Christiansen
Filed under: The blog

I've toned down my original ambition to convert most of my LPs to CD and just have been working on those that will NEVER be commercially available. "Swingle II: Love Songs for Madrigals and Madriguys" is one of them, and thanks to eBay and a factory-sealed record, "Traditional Welsh Songs by Meredydd Evans" is another.
The problem is the noise...I have to go down to the subatomic waveform level with my pencil tool to take out the most egregious pops, and leave the lesser ones because I'd be working forever! It's amazing how much noise we put up with in the LP era, or turned around, how we have come to expect the background silence of the CDs.
Speaking of silence, I saw that Clarabell died last week. I was watching that final Howdy Doody Show when, at the end of the show he whispered, "Good Bye Kids!" The effect was astounding: it was like Marcel Marceau getting in a sudden shouting match with Teller!

For Elise

Posted at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2006 by Rex Levang (28 Comments)

Beethoven’s “Für Elise” is one of the best-known pieces of classical music in the world. It's practiced by millions, stored on cell phones all over the world – in Taiwan, it’s said, garbage trucks use it as a signal for people to put their trash out.

But there’s still a certain mystery about it. As far as we know, Beethoven never knew a woman named Elise. Did he intend the piece for another woman, whom he fancifully addressed by the name “Elise”? Or did he really call it “Für Therese” (for his friend Therese von Brunsvik), only to have his messy handwriting misinterpreted by a later editor?

A look at the manuscript could clear that one up -- except that the manuscript has been missing for over a century.

All of this prompted by an engrossing story on the blog of composer Derek Bermel, all about a hard-to-reach kid, a young music teacher at loose ends, a Big Event looming in the future, and Beethoven. It’s a long story, so be advised.

I hope Bermel copyrights his material -- this one could have screenplay written all over it. (To check out some of Bermel's music, listen to
Tied Shifts and Soul Garden on the Saint Paul Sunday website.)

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