Take the Cello Challenge

Here’s a neat example of classical interactivity: the Berlin Cello Challenge.

My first score was truly abysmal. My one excuse is that the instructions were a little vague. What you want to do is move the big white circle with your mouse. But your cursor can be anywhere on the screen–you don’t have to place it directly on the circle.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your cellos.

O, for what??

The opening chorus of Carl Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana seems to be the soundtrack of choice to suggest all things Big and Fateful. But just what is that chorus singing, anyway?

Various English adaptations run the gamut from the Completely Whack!

To the ridiculous:

To the straightforward, just in case you want to know what they’re really singing:

Shrimp a la Pavarotti

Here’s Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, creating an original seafood dish, Shrimp a la Pavarotti. No recipe given, though perhaps Lynn Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift could recreate it.

Pavarotti might well have enjoyed it, judging by this anecdote:

After their separation, [Princess] Diana came to New York, and she and I were both invited to a dinner. . . At dinner we all ordered different things, and she ordered broiled shrimp that looked wonderful. I said to her, ‘Princess, these shrimp must be very good, yes?’ She said they were excellent. Later I said they must be really delicious. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. Finally, I said, ‘Listen. I tried twice with no success. Now I ask you directly. May I have one of your shrimp?”

She got flustered and very apologetic. ‘I am so sorry. . . .I didn’t realize . . . ‘ Then she smiled in a shy way and said, ‘I am not accustomed to sharing my food.’ If that is true, she would have a terrible time at my family table.

–Luciano Pavarotti with William Wright, My World

Down to Earth Genius

A nice profile of soprano (and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient) Dawn Upshaw was in the English newspaper The Guardian on Sunday, talking about her involvement in the creation of new music:

Her grateful colleagues often call her a muse, though this pedestalled status makes her giggle. ‘No, it’s not, “Come, let me inspire you,”‘ she said, with a parody of a dizzy diva’s self-importance. ‘It’s more like, “Hey, I really connect with your music and if you like the way I sing it, then let’s do business!”‘

See the whole piece here.

I was disappointed that in this discussion of Upshaw as a co-creator, they never mentioned her status as Artistic Partner with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra….

She’ll be doing two sets of concerts with them in April–see our Events Calendar for more info.

Conductors=Greedy Egotists?

Violinist Nigel Kennedy has earned (cultivated?) the image of “bad boy” of classical music for decades now. He’s been something of a bomb-thrower in the past, too, and that hasn’t changed.

In a recent interview with the London Times, Kennedy decries conductors as greedy egotists:

“How many will develop an orchestra rather than feeding off its achievements? They’re straight off for the dollar. Round the corner to get a better job. All they’re interested in is strutting about, wielding a bit of power.

“A conductor can galvanise the troops and evolve an artistic programme and identity of style. If they only give five or ten weeks a year [to an orchestra], how can they do that?”

I must say Kennedy’s own ego strength seems pretty high, but I wonder if he has a point. Any thoughts?

P.S. Julie Amacher recently reviewed a recent Nigel Kennedy CD on New Classical Tracks. Find it here.

Peter Grimes

There’s something about Peter Grimes, the opera by Benjamin Britten, that inspires writing, in a way that Il Trovatore or Madama Butterfly don’t, always.

Here’s the latest entry, an essay by the young composer Nico Muhly. It’s interesting to see a composer’s reaction to music–it wouldn’t occur to just anyone to compare two singers, singing the same note, to “a piece of fruit, lit in two different ways.”

(Peter Grimes is on the air and in movie theaters this Saturday at 12:30 Central.)

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

Some especially interesting articles in the paper this weekend.

Item: “Doctor in the House” profiles Dr. Jon Hallberg, a physician who works with several arts groups, including the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Guthrie Theater. Dr. Hallberg is also a regular commentator on Minnesota Public Radio News.

Item: The Guthrie Theater is highlighted in a Sunday New York Times profile of important regional theater companies.

Item: Grammy winning jazz composer (and Minnesota native) Maria Schneider talks about her new piece for Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.