Summer Music

Gas prices or no gas prices, it seems we’re still getting in our cars and driving to the lake, to the weekend getaway, etc., etc, etc. With that in mind (and with apologies to the high-profile Twin Cities events that I’m skipping over), here are just a few classical music events coming up in the next few months, either in Minnesota or within driving distance.

Duluth is offering Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in July, and there’s also opera in Des Moines (Mozart, Stravinsky, and Verdi). On the U.P., opera makes up part, but only part, of the Pine Mountain Music Festival. Surfing the Net, I also noticed the flashily named Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society in Madison and environs — if you’re a devotee of the Twin Cities’ big-name orchestras, you’ll notice some usual suspects among the musicians.

To be continued. . . .

Fishin' music

The past few days a lot of people have tried to cool off in or near some body of water.

When Antonin Dvorak visited the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa in the summer of 1893, he cooled off near the Turkey River, where he liked to walk and listen to the birds. He said they helped him come up with musical ideas

Quiet Please!

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!

Instrumental karaoke

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.