Posted at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2007
by John Zech
Filed under: The blog
So what do classical music and bombs have in common? No we're not talking about opening night failures at the opera, but it's a weird bit of synchronicity that in the past few days two different stories have come out about classical music and "the bomb."
Composer John Adams recently said he is not going to be able to finish his "Doctor Atomic Symphony" in time for its scheduled March 31 Carnegie Hall premiere. That piece is based on his opera "Doctor Atomic," about Robert Oppenheimer, the developer of the A-bomb. (The making of the opera is also the subject of a documentary film that was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, which just wrapped up yesterday. It's called "The Wonders Are Many: The Making of Dr. Atomic." )
Meanwhile, there's this headline from an Iranian news agency: "Nuclear symphony to commemorate Iran’s Islamic Revolution victory." Well, it's not about a bomb, apparently. It's actually the "Nuclear ENERGY Symphony," but with American skepticism running high about Iran's nuclear program, there may be some eyebrows raised in the classical music division of the State Department about that one. You can find more background in this story from Yahoo news. Jeff Esworthy was wondering if they would open the program with "Mars, the Bringer of War," from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst.
And for you trivia buffs, there was also a symphony called "Atomic Bomb" by Japanese composer Masao Oki, which premiered on November 6, 1953, one year to the day after the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll.
The Chicago Tribune reports: After 48 years in the Chicago Symphony, including 34 years as concertmaster, the legendary Samuel Magad is to retire this month, at the age of 73. Magad says he could have stayed on, but with Daniel Barenboim having made his exit, the violinist says now is a good time to step down. Magad was hired by Fritz Reiner in 1958, at the age of 25. Georg Solti appointed him concertmaster in 1972. No other player in CSO history has been concertmaster post longer. The legendary Adolph Herseth, who retired in 2001 after an unprecedented 53 years in the first trumpet chair.
Herseth, btw, is a native of Bertha, Minnesota. His story is a remarkable one, and I had the pleasure of talking to him just before his last concert. That became a feature on NPR's "Morning Edition," and you can listen to it here.