Celebrity Gossip, Classical Style

A man dies in poverty, never knowing who his father was. Years later, his daughter learns from a stranger that her unknown grandfather was actually one of the great opera composers of the age. But another granddaughter disputes the story. How will it all end?

Well, the fat lady hasn’t sung on this one yet. It’s the true tale of Giacomo Puccini, his two illegitimate sons by two different women, and the granddaughters now fighting over his fortune.

My favorite part is how the first illegitimate granddaughter (and sole legal heir at the moment) says she wants “to protect [Puccini’s] memory from…local gossip.” You can read the rest of the story here.

Thanks to MPR Web Producer Monique Francesca for the tip.

A Little Class(ical) for Your Cell Phone

Mozart embraced the newfangled fortepiano, Herbert van Karajan embraced all the possibilities of recording technology, and now composer Max Richter has embraced…the cell phone?

The Scotland-based Richter has created a new CD (out now in the UK, available September 23 in the US) called 24 Postcards in Full Colour which comprises newly-composed ring tones, specially designed for the medium.

“Who says ringtones have to be so bad?” Richter asks. “It’s like saying LPs or CDs are bad – it’s just a medium.”

Read more about it here.

Raisin Brahms! Part of this complete breakfast

It’s goooood! And good for you:

And lest we forget, the all-American breakfast table has been visited by classical music before. Below are two vintage Rice Krispies commercials from the 1960’s. The first one was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the ten greatest commercials of all time. The person who posted it on YouTube writes that there were a total of three operatic spoofs for Rice Krispies. Anyone remember the third one? I can’t find it…

On Musical Authenticity

Conductor Philippe Herreweghe specializes in “early music,” but tonight in Edinburgh, Scotland, he’s conducting a Mass by late-19th-century composer Anton Bruckner. He talks about how his experience in the “early music” movement informs how he conducts more recent pieces of music:

But what I am searching for is not “authenticity” in the way this term is usually understood. We cannot hear Bach’s cantatas as the congregation in Leipzig heard them because we are very different people, just as we cannot hear Bruckner’s music as he heard it. But what we can hear, or can help to communicate as performers, is an authenticity in the sense of allowing the music to be true to itself.

Read the whole essay here.

Happy Birthday, Lenny!

Actually, I just learned from reading his 1990 obituary in the New York Times that Leonard Bernstein got irritated when people who didn’t know him well called him “Lenny.” No disrespect intended, Maestro Bernstein. He was born 90 years ago today.

The obituary gives a rounded portrait of this remarkable (and indefatiguable) American “hopelessly fated for success.” For example, who knew he once sang the title role in Carmen in his teens? Or that he came this close to being a movie star, too? Read the whole thing here.

Bye Bye, Beaux Arts

It was the end of an era Thursday night, when the Beaux Arts Trio played their final concert at Tanglewood. With some different personnel, they’d played their first concert there 53 years earlier–only pianist Menahim Pressler has stayed the whole time.

Performance Today’s Fred Child had the honor of hosting that final concert (lucky!), and the coverage of it on the Performance Today website is so fabulous that I didn’t want you to overlook it.

Whose Anthem Is It?

It turns out that Ward Jacobson isn’t the only one wondering about the arrangements of the Star-spangled Banner and other national anthems that are being performed in Beijing.

A spokesman in Beijing says that they’re the work of Chinese arrangers. A Western musician, Peter Breiner, says he’s “100% positive” that the arrangements are his work, being used without acknowledgment.

The Washington Post reports on the fracas here.

Mozart by Osmo-sis

Last week the New York Times ran a terrific feature about Minnesota Orch music director Osmo Vanska, who took both his baton and his clarinet to the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City this week. New comes this review of Osmo’s Mozart in today’s New York Times:

“On the podium Mr. Vanska was, as always, far more assertive. Mozart’s Symphony No. 38… benefited from grandly operatic opening gestures, carefully configured string and woodwind balances that gave chords a real bite and kept passage work transparent, and, most of all, a zesty approach to phrasing that kept the music fresh and vibrant. There were moments when some of Mr. Vanska’s frequent shifts of balance might almost have seemed manipulative or contrived. Yet the results…made such concerns seem beside the point.”

Read the whole thing here.

Olympic Music Fever

Like millions of others, I caught Olympic fever about the time Michael Phelps was on his fourth or fifth gold medal. Isn’t it amazing how every four years you find yourself really getting into beach volleyball, water polo or the 400 meters? Now if only they showed more table tennis.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I can never hear enough of Leo Arnaud’s classic Olympic theme, “Bugler’s Dream.” My only frustration is that NBC never seems to let it play out from start to finish. They’re using the John Williams arrangement from several years ago, and it’s fantastic. I just want to hear all of it!

Oh, and one more thing……anyone out there with any information about the arrangement being used for the Star Spangled Banner during the U.S. gold medal ceremonies? It’s one I’ve never heard before – a bit different, for sure.

Stealth Advertising

If you’re interested in this stuff, you’ll notice that opera shows up in advertising with some regularity. Often it’s one more recycling of the Ride of the Valkyries or the William Tell Overture.

Here’s one that’s a little more subtle. From publicity material from the technology company Lockheed Martin:

Between the idea and the achievement, there is one important word: how.

And it is the how that makes all the difference.

And from the 1911 opera “Der Rosenkavalier”:

These things are mysteries, so many mysteries.

And we are put here so that we may endure it.

And in the “how” — there lies all the difference.

Where do people come up with these ideas?