Friday, March 30, 2012

I can top that…

In a world of superlatives it is easy to get caught up in a race for the best, the most extreme or when it comes to piano music; what is the most difficult to play.

Franz Liszt threw down the gauntlet with his compositions during his virtuoso years. His opera paraphrases are so difficult that most pianists that play Liszt ignore them and that is understandable, as they were always meant for a minority with the technical equipment and bravura to make them musical. When Liszt toured Russia the pianists in the audience found a new model and it wasn't long before they were striving to out Liszt, Liszt.

On the Piano this Sunday three knucklebusting pieces that have a common thread. First Liszt's Reminiscences of Don Juan, using themes from Don Giovanni of Mozart as a starting point and then whipping the pianist, the piano and audience into a frenzy. This work inspired Mily Balakirev to surpass these technical demands with his Islamey - Oriental Rhapsody and finally Maurice Ravel was looking to top that and most concede he did with this Gaspard de la Nuit.

Hear Ne plus ultra in music that stretches the bounds of what is possible on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, March 29, 2012

'Brief Encounter': Rachmaninoff and Doomed Romance

By Nathan Cone

This week, the Criterion Collection released a marvelous set of David Lean films based on the work of Noël Coward. Of those films (and many others), “Brief Encounter” has always been and remains a favorite of mine.  It’s also the movie that rescued Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 for me from the realm of figure skating Olympians, and put it in what I feel is its proper place, as the soundtrack to a doomed romance!
Lean uses the first two movements of the concerto throughout the film. The ponderous chords and agitated, rippling melody of the concerto’s first movement accompanies the opening title cards, setting up a mood of angst and sorrow. It reappears in the film as Laura (Celia Johnson) runs away from the apartment where she almost consummates an affair with Alec (Trevor Howard).
The second movement often plays on screen over extended shots of Laura as she silently remembers the almost love affair she had with Alec. The camera holds on Celia Johnson for what seems like an eternity as she stares, mournfully, into the silent abyss of her husband toiling over his crossword puzzle.
“Brief Encounter” was released in 1945, and to say it is from a different time is an understatement. Nowadays, Alec and Laura would have been in bed together by the time the first reel was over, but a more chaste time demanded propriety on film, and I think the film plays all the better in 2012 because of it. Some at the time complained that the lovers never received their comeuppance at the hands of their spouses, but I think the use of the Rachmaninoff illustrates well that Alec and Laura are hurting inside.
Rachmaninoff himself was emerging from a deep depression as he wrote his second piano concerto. Its first complete performance was in 1901, with the composer himself at the piano. If the Concerto in c minor established Rachmaninoff’s reputation as a master at writing for piano and orchestra, David Lean cemented the concerto’s reputation as a Romantic favorite.

L'Elisir , A Comedy of Magic and Money

The amorous farce is one of the oldest forms of drama. Despite it's endless settings and from restoration comedy to Britten's Albert Herring, whatever age or class or mismatch sets it in motion certain themes hold. There is a hopeful lover (usually hapless) a stubborn woman either distant or indifferent; obstacles follow,then a comic confusion and finally triumph over whatever pitfalls or plots try to thwart the course of true love. Gaetano Donizetti's genius was to find a musical variant that used and transcended all these expectations.The result was the comic masterwork, L'Elisir d' amore
There is a small town beauty, Adina, very self possessed and seemingly indifferent to the innocent and heartfelt pleas of Nemorino, a young farmer living with a rich relative and his confusion and frustration over her apparent indifference. What then follows are a series of perfectly paced musical numbers that have charmed the world since its' premiere almost 200 years ago. The real magic of L'Elisir is the way that the music and action turn this drama from simple farce to moving human comedy. Feelings and psychology, as in Mozart, take us beneath the surface of feelings and turn these two and the people they encounter into living people who we care for through what they sing. 
Beginning with Adina's haughty Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera, "Ask the flattering breeze" (a hymn to her knowing indifference), through Nemorino heartrending, Adina Credimi (his desperate need for her), "Believe me Adina,I implore you " and the the aria that helped establish Caruso's world renown, the show stopper, Una furtiva lagima :                 
                               A furtive tear 
                                  Welled up in her eye ...

                                      She loves me , yes , she loves me
                                           I ask nothing more
                                                I could die of love
The tears welling in her eyes is our seeing the iceberg melt under the warm sun of his sincerity and good humored and unselfish persistence. In between we meet a quack who swears he has the answer to Nemorino's shyness and fear, a potion, the Elixer. Which is really watered down wine. A rival, a soldier, who is all boldness and presumption, how could she resist him and a wonderful comic reversal. The death of the rich relative and all the girls now finding the heir the man of their dreams, which he is certain must be the elixir! Now it is Adina who must confront her true feelings of jealousy and the impossibility of marrying anyone else. This self knowledge closes the circle of their affections and gives the 'happy ending' a depth that surprises and moves.
Tune in this Saturday at noon for the Met's production of Donizetti's very humane and lyrically inspired comedy, L'Elisir d'amore, here on KPAC and KTXI.  
by Ron Moore

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Latin Americans at Tanglewood

Beginning in the period immediately following WWII, many prominent Latin American musicians began to be invited to spend time at the Tanglewood MusicCenter in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Tanglewood was founded in 1940 by Serge Koussevitsky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His vision, in addition to providing a summer home for the BSO, was an institution where students would work closely with faculty members of the BSO and guest artists, as well as with each other. Koussevitsky and others, especially Aaron Copland, also saw Tanglewood as an opportunity to create an important cultural bridge between the United States and Latin America. Thus the generous welcome mat which greeted a veritable who's who of composers from throughout Mexico, Central and South America. This photo gives a fascinating glimpse of one year's group. 10 prominent Latin American musicians are seen here with 3 of their American counterparts.
 On this week's edition of Itinerarios, music with Latin American roots, we feature music by several composers in the above picture, contrasting the better known figures, such as Alberto Ginastera with the lesser known, such as Juan Orrego-Salas. Itinerarios airs Sunday evenings at 7 o'clock, hosted by James Baker.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

David Amram: Playing within one's Boundaries

James Baker recently caught up with the ageless 81 year old David Amram for this brief conversation about how David has found his voice as a pianist. David also recalls the influence of Clifford Brown and Dizzy Gillespie.
The film, David Amram: The First 80 Years is featured this weekend at the Jewish Film Festival at Austin's Regal Cinema. This is the Texas premiere of the film. -James Baker-

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can we bury the Hatchet?

One of the most often told stories in Classical Music is the time that Peter Tchaikovsky played a bit of his now famous Piano Concerto No. 1 to his friend and mentor Nicolai Rubenstein who, unexpectedly, advised a whole sale revision of the work. Heated words were exchanged with Tchaikovsky promising not to change one note (he did eventually) and a close friendship was damaged, possibly forever.

What isn't mentioned is what came afterward. On the Piano this Sunday I follow the rest of the story with Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein regretting their harsh words and the brilliant music that followed; Tchaikovsky inspired by Nicolai's stunning virtuosity and gifting the word with amazing and difficult works for piano and orchestra.

Hear that and the composer's heartfelt tribute to Rubenstein on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Verdi and Shakespeare

 It's difficult for us to imagine now what it was like in the early and middle nineteenth century when for the first time people in non-English speaking countries could begin to read in good translations and see on stage superior performances of Shakespeare. Hector Berlioz who chronicles something of these events in his critical journalism, describes the effect  as revolution and revelation. Almost all the major composers of the musical theatre of that time would try their hands at a Shakespearean dramatization. Romeo and Juliet's coming from Berlioz  and Gounod, Wagner's early adaptation of Measure for Measure (and the Bard always before him as a model to be emulated), Bellini's Capulets and Montagues, Otto Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor and most extravagantly Giuseppi Verdi with Otello, Falstaff and early on Macbeth, like many he would dream of a Lear, but never complete it.
Verdi's approach in his early work with the tragedy of Macbeth was both meticulous and humble, "If we can't do something great, let's at least try to do something extraordinary", he exhorted his librettist in a letter. He would revise it in detail over the years. He nearly drove his writers to distraction in the extent of his personal interventions and objections, clearly he was determined to get it as right as he could. To a greater extent than would have been expected, coming as it did before his internationally acclaimed great works of the next decade of the 1850's that saw the arrival of Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata. Despite what is known as the " years in the galley" as he struggled toward mastery, which would come, and the dream of an early retirement like Rossini, which never would.
The great moments in Macbeth are all there: the premonitions of the witches, the dream of power and tragic belief that one can "read the future", as if one saw more than the vainglorious self; the doubling of the scope of ambition by Lady Macbeth's encouragement and collaboration; the regicide and then the slow descent into guilt, madness and finally utter defeat. It's as old as the Bible and as modern as Hitler's defeat in the snows of Russia and final suicide, railing at the world and the fates and oblivious to personal failings and individual guilt. Verdi meets these great moments with music of high power and extraordinary inspiration. He revels in the "supernatural aspects" of the witches appearances, the murders of Duncan and Banquo and the return of the ghost at dinner. Near the end in the fourth act he outdoes himself, in Lady Macbeth's ' Una macchia e qui tutora' :
                                                  Yet, here's a spot !
                                                     Out I say damned spot ...
                                                          Here's the smell  
                                                             of the blood still ... All the perfumes 
                                                                of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand 
The music is hallucinatory, affecting, tragic and pathetic simultaneously and points the way to the supreme masterpieces to come, culminating in the great diptych that caps his career. Armies of aspiring baritones have tried their hand at Macbeth and endless ambitious mezzos as the Lady; most famously in our time Nilsson, Verrett and the towering figure of Maria Callas whose sleepwalking scene haunts audiences to this day . 
Two great masters compliment each other in Verdi's Macbeth, tune in this Saturday at noon for the Met's live broadcast here on KPAC and KTXI.      

by Ron Moore

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SASymphony Intern

Tomorrow we will share a great story of Alexandra Kirschsieper on Classical Spotlight at 1pm on KPAC & KTXI, but wanted to give you this hd video preview today!

Classical Spotlight: Alexandra Kirschsieper from John Clare on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bargain Bach!

Tomorrow, March 21th, 2012 eOne Music relaunches the storied Bach Guild label with Big Bach Set – 120 tracks of Bach’s works, equaling NINE hours of music. In celebration of Bach’s birthday, March 21st, Big Bach Set will be sold for 99 cents at’s MP3 store. On March 22nd, the price will be $9.99 for the collection, available for download at all digital retailers. Big Bach Set will include a cross section of J.S. Bach’s most beloved works including the entirety of the Mass in B Minor, the Harpsichord Concerti, Orchestral Suites and all six Brandenburg Concerti. Artists include Joseph Szigeti, Anton Heiller, Paula Robison, Kenneth Cooper and András Schiff. Conductors include Johannes Somary, Antonio Janigro and Felix Prohaska. The Big Bach Set is the cornerstone of the return of The Bach Guild, a label devoted to Bach and the music of the baroque era. With the revival of the imprint, the classic recordings of the Bach Guild catalog will be made available, many of them for the first time in digital format, while new recordings of the great master are also a priority. Five additional new releases from the original Bach Guild will also be released on March 21st. The Bach Guild will continue to evolve on eOne with new recordings and releases, first with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers’ chart topping Air: The Bach Album, and cellist Charles Curtis’ genre bending Bach: An Imaginary Dance, due for release on March 27, 2012.

Also, the American Bach Soloists are offering many of their recordings at a special price, $2, only on March 21st: ABS cd website

Friday, March 16, 2012

So you think that's funny?

While living in Vienna and shopping around his unique talents, Robert Schumann so missed his 15 year old girl friend Clara that he would meditate on her features and sometimes when everything was just right her vision would speak to him - scaring the composer.

The young Schumann found that it takes half again more time to do things in Vienna as at home and that politics are part and parcel in the Viennese music world. In other words they play "hardball" when it comes to their music and their turf. 

On the Piano this Sunday music composed in Vienna; a great place for Mozart and Beethoven, but to Schumann the "city of music" was a living hell. It is from this turbulent time that his Humoreske was born. This work encapsulates Schumann's fevered imagination and projects his hopes and dreams for a happier life to come.

Hear music that laughs on the Piano, this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Unknown Mussorgsky

One of the most amazing things about classical music is that its' hundreds of years of archives is so vast and so far flung that year by year there are endless revelations of lost masterpieces newly completed versions or recovered or reconstructed variants from living or historical figures. This is true of so eminent and well known a figure as Beethoven; the case of the symphonies and piano sonatas of varying number of Schubert and in the realm of opera the gigantic and chaotic figure of Modest Mussorgsky.There is no telling except in the most general sense exactly what the Met will be presenting this Saturday,except that the exquisite Olga Borodina will be singing (I assume the mysterious fortune teller Marfa) and that the music will be by one to five of the greatest musical composers and that one of them will be music generally unknown of Modest Mussorgsky.
So many hands have attempted something like a complete or performable Khovanschina or the Khovansky Affair that the list itself is self recommending. There have been at least three premiers: St. Petersburg 1886; Paris, 1911 and finally Leningrad 1960. The first by Mussorgsky himself with  amendments by Rimsky-Korsakov; the second with additions by Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky as part of a season by the Russian Ballet and then another resurrection by no less a figure than Dimitri Shostakovich
As an aside one of the more interesting aspects of the drama is the composer as one of the central fictive characters, a scrivener, a secretary cum civil servant that relates the story. Mussorgsky having lost the family fortune with the liberation of the serfs he held just such a governmental post himself.
What drew such an array of genius to a single score? Inspiration and incompletion on an epic scale. It was discovered among the papers at Mussorgsky's death that he had written a six scene epic drama drawn from Russian history, with whole sections unfinished. Too beautiful to be allowed to linger in obscurity, too fragmentary to present as it was. What is the plot? In general terms nothing less a turning point in Russian history: the Westernizing of Russia, the rise to power of Peter the Great and the struggle and result of these affairs in Russian society. What Khovanchina sets itself to dramatize is nothing less than the cultural transformation of a people. The result is a mortal struggle between historical and fictive figures that represent the reactionary nobility that plots Peters replacement or murder; the church scandalized and in revolt by the prospect of societal reform and the loss of power and the army and militia attempting to foment a family rivalry by the Romanov siblings themselves. Ironically Peter the Great, the figure at the center of this cataclysm, could not be represented on stage! To bring a Romanov to dramatic representation was against the law. Political intrigue,class conflict, secular-religious antagonism, feuding aristocratics and finally an ending hinting at mass suicide by the defeated. At the center of this rival lovers and a fortune teller who moves between and connects these disparate sections of society . 
Tune in this Saturday at noon for a musical representation of a whole world in conflict, Mussorgsky's Khovanchina, here on KPAC and KTXI.
By Ron Moore

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Artistry of Michael Rabin

There are two new ways to get to know the wonderful playing of Michael Rabin - a new paperback edition of "Michael Rabin America's Virtuoso Violinist" and also a digital download of "Icon: Michael Rabin Young Genius of the Violin."

Sadly, it has been forty years since his death at age 35. These are both excellent chances to learn more about the violinist.

The book is an interesting look at Rabin, with insights from family, friends and colleagues. This paperback edition follows the original edition by six years and corrects some errors from the first publishing. I recommend reading it, and hope it will be made for digital platforms as well. In the meantime, at just under $18 it is well worth it!

The digital download of the six cd set of Michael Rabin has nothing new from the 1991 EMI Classics set, nor has it been remastered. But the convenience of having all of the great concerto and classical recordings with Rabin so portable, AND at a bargain is a complete no brainer to own. It is also a chance for a younger generation to hear the amazing artistry of Rabin, especially in the Paganini Caprices, Wieniawski's Second Concerto and Engel's Sea Shell.

Neither of these releases are groundbreaking or completely new, but are staples of classical music - especially for those violin lovers - and now easily available, I think you should pick them up before they are not widely available!
-John Clare, KPAC Host of Classical Spotlight

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras: RIP

Juan Arturo Brennan
The estimable music critic and commentator Juan Arturo Brennan, writing in La Jornada (Mexico City) this past March 10, noted the passing of the Mexican composer and teacher Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras. "Adios, Joaquin," he wrote. Gutiérrez Heras was 84 years old.

 Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras (1927-2012)
Brennan goes on to note that Gutiérrez Heras’ own composition, Postludio, would likely resonate in concerts and memorials across Mexico as tributes are voiced to the memory of Gutiérrez Heras. But Brennan, as much social observer as music critic, goes on:
“The ritual is well known, and the cycle is repeated once more: the death of an important composer unleashes a series of tributes and memorials, including, yes, performances of his works. It happens, however, that such interpretations often ring hollow, not for lack of quality in the music, but for an obvious lack of conviction on the part of the organizers, promoters and performers of such tributes.”

Brennan further notes a general lack of respect for our living composers and their music. This is a point well taken, and applied to Gutiérrez Heras points to the fact that although his output was modest, there is still only a handful of his music played with any regularity, principally Postludio. Brennan is right to scold. And his scolding might apply well outside the limits of the borders of Mexico. The music of Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras remains largely unknown here in the United States, despite its amiable personality. Gutiérrez Heras was no modernist. He spoke often of the courage it took to be a Romantic in the 20th Century.

I interviewed Maestro Gutiérrez Heras nine years ago (Listen Now), at the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico. Along the way, I was impressed by the respect shown Maestro Gutiérrez Heras by all those around him. Although no flags are today flying at half mast and, as Senor Brennan contends, the tributes might lack full commitment, there are, nevertheless, many who are mourning the death of Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras as the loss of a great musician and an even greater gentleman.

-James Baker-

Friday, March 9, 2012

Now that's Aussie!

Think of an Australian pianist and Percy Grainger might come to mind, but that was so long ago. Now days there are plenty of pianists from that country; many of them with huge repertoires' touring the world, so how did Australia make the transition?

On the Piano this Sunday I highlight two woman pianist/ composers that helped set the standard for the many musicians to come. Both born in 1913, these talents studied at home and Britain and returned with enough experience, insight and talent to help train the next generations of Australian musicians.

Hear the music of Dulcie Holland and Miriam Hyde as well as a knockout fantasy on Waltzing Matilda on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Magic of Don Giovanni

The endless amount of ink and print (and in future I guess 000000's and 11111's of computers) expended concerning Wolfgang Mozart's Don Giovanni is essentially a battle of superlatives. For the last 150 years or so the central debate, that continued into my childhood in the 60's, was whether Don Giovanni was the the greatest and most perfect artwork of all time; the greatest opera ever written or all of the above. It has cast a magical spell since its' premiere in Prague October 29th 1787. By any measure that's quite a run. 

By the nineteenth century Don Giovanni passed from musical history into philosophy in the hands of Soren Kierkegaard and his Diary of  a Seducer. Like Wagner's Ring, Don Giovanni became a symbol for the great struggles of good and evil,darkness and light, sexuality (the endless seducer) and divine retribution against heavenly and moral transgression (the Commendatore returns from the dead to call him to account); the battle of the sexes, the trials of fidelity on the part of the loving couples tempted by " the glamour of evil ". Still, it all begins with the music .

From the first chords to the end it never stops, flags or stumbles in the search for inspiration and the illumination of human foibles and virtues. Two characteristics shine above all others, relentless, breathless forward motion and the ability to fuse the comic and tragic with the name Shakespeare not following far behind. Beginning with a failed (or not ?) seduction, followed by a peerless ensemble of dramatic power and gravity ending in a fathers death as he attempts to protect his daughters honor, Notte e giorno faticar, "Slaving night and day for one whom nothing please " . This servant's comic complaint is followed immediately by a one sided sword fight and without skipping a beat he is on the hunt again with the Commendatore dead, Donna Anna in tears, the ineffectual Don Ottavio promising revenge and Don Giovanni? Indifferent. This in about 12 minutes counting one of the greatest overtures ever written. In the two acts that follow to the conclusion he will at times attempt seduction and evasion of three women at once and endless numbers of furious and fearful men. Much of this including pranks and mockery of those who fruitlessly try to stop him. By the time of the meeting with the Commendatore in the graveyard it seems that only an otherworldly force can restrain him. Then the wildly comical and horrifying dénouement of inviting the dead man to a late supper, with musical accompaniment and in the face of divine wrath unrepentant to the end!

The ensembles, solos and orchestral /melodic writing is equally relentless. In Act One alone we get : Ah, chi mi dice mai ; Madamina, il catalogo e questo;  La ca darem la mano;  Ah, fuggi il traditor; Dalla sua pace ... it goes on and on. The daimonic character is accompained by equally daimonic and inspired music and vocal writing - the result is nothing less than magic. Mozart and his librettist DaPonte created a model of creative cooperation that resonates to this time. Often imitated, always admired, but perhaps never equaled. Tune in one hour earlier this Saturday at 11:00 am for the magic of the Metropolitan Opera and Mozart's Don Giovanni, here on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pure Poetry

Renee Fleming - the beautiful voice - sings this Wednesday in San Antonio, kicking off a tour across the western United States and Canada. It will feature some selections from her brand new album, Poèmes on Decca.

Host John Clare spoke to the stunning soprano about her new release, involvement at Chicago Lyric Opera, touring and reality tv! Listen to their conversation here. [mp3 file]

Sample some of her French songs here:

Wednesday's concert is at the Majestic Theatre with the San Antonio Symphony, there is more information here.

YOSA puts fun in run

Later this month you can try to beat Beethoven's Fifth at the YOSA 5k/10k Fun Run - and the kids are getting ready as seen in this video:
and this one!

There's more information at The event is March 24th, 2012.

Friday, March 2, 2012

There's a flow

Next week, SOLI Chamber Ensemble presents FLOW, a program of new music at Trinity University and Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. You can also hear them present a family show this Sunday afternoon at 4pm at Musical Arts Center of San Antonio (De Zavala location) that is more in depth.
On the program is composer Augusta Read Thomas, who was just in San Antonio last March. Thomas spoke to host John Clare in this video:

She also discussed Rumi Settings (a chamber piece from 2001) with Clare in this interview: mp3 file.

A life immersed in music

Francis Poulenc was quite gifted and modest. He was taught piano by his mother and soon found himself at the heart of the musical world of Paris. Music came easily to the young man, composing his famous Trois mouvements perpétuels at the age of nineteen. While he had some training with Charles Koechlin, for the most part Poulenc was self-taught. His music shows this easy grace and ability plus the composer's unique harmonies make for interesting listening.

On the Piano this Sunday a program from 1999 to celebrate the centennial of the composer's birth, the tunes are still graceful and poignant and the gift is always appreciated. The Musical life of Francis Poulenc on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

New Universal Logo, New Jerry Goldsmith Arrangement

Two of Hollywood's major film studios are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, Paramount and Universal.  Along with a studio's storied film history comes decades of musical cues, including the famous fanfares that accompany the logos on-screen before a movie begins.  Franz Waxman wrote for Warner Bros., and Alfred Newman's 20th Century Fox Fanfare is perhaps the most widely recognized of all of these brief musical moments.

Today, Universal Pictures introduces a new version of its classic "globe" logo, along with a new arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith's classic score.

From Universal's press release trumpeting the new logo:

Award-winning film composer Brian Tyler (Fast and Furious franchise) provided a new arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score, which has accompanied the logo since 1997.  The iconic theme of Goldsmith’s original composition remains, but the orchestration has been bolstered with a choir, new string parts and drum cadence utilizing world percussion instruments.

“We wanted to utilize the classic melody that we all know and bring it into the 21st century, while still being very respectful of what Jerry Goldsmith did originally,” said Tyler.  “I wanted it to be a celebration of all the great movies Universal has done over the years—connecting the past to the present.”  

You can see the logo "in action" at screenings of DR. SUESS' THE LORAX, beginning today, and at subsequent Universal Pictures releases throughout this 100th anniversary year.

--Nathan Cone

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Verdi in Egypt

Marlon Brando once remarked when asked why he had taken a certain, very unlikely, assignment that "I just didn't have the moral fiber to turn down all that money." Giuseppe Verdi after twice being approached about  a very far away matter, finally accepted the very generous offer of the Khedive, Ismail Pasha. Whatever the amount, I no longer remember, it embarrassed him so much that he protested anyone leaking the figure to the public. Still, Verdi drew the line at attending the premiere, he did not go to Cairo. For all of that, Aida is magnificent. All the musicological slight of hand about 'conservative style' and decline in critical perception is I believe finally irrelevant. Like film critics who don't seem to remember how to have a good time or what it was like to be young, Aida is the grandest of grand operas and that rare thing - a great work, with the popular touch.Thank goodness he took the money and ran.
The plot has it all and like an over the top romance,which also has 1950's Cecil B. DeMille effects in its stunning transitional music, it is irresistible and one of operas most satisfying 'guilty pleasures'. Heroic Captain of the Guard meets beautiful slave girl and falls hard. Eligible and domineering noblewoman and girlfriend is driven crazy. Then come religious fanatics out for blood and a rebellious enemy who just won't stop making war. Beside the great triumphal scenes and the mass choruses at prayer (often staged in an arena, because - well what opera house is big enough ...) there is an endless series of reversals. The wonderful tension of the endless shifting relationships and some many portmanteau arias you lose count; Celeste Aida, Ritornar Vincitor, Numi pieta, O patri mia and of course music to be entombed by, O terra, addio. 
Still the most amazing part,the miracle is that it all works. This is an opera that began as an romance written by a Frenchman working as a Egyptologist. This was then rendered into a condensed prose plot by du Locle (who wanted it for the Paris opera) and then translated into  Italian at Verdi's insistence and was 'versified' by Antonio Ghislanzoni who Verdi micro-managed in a stunning series of no less than thirty-three letters. Before it was over Verdi even included the then current Franco-Prussian War as a transposed Egyptian-Ethiopian conflict of the opera! The result is one of the most popular, musically thrilling and beloved works in all of music and it requires no apologies. 
This Saturday, tune in at noon for the Metropolitan Opera's performance of Verdi's magnificent confection, Aida, here on KPAC and KTXI. Just pass the popcorn and remember, Resistance is futile.
by Ron Moore