Today's Classical Music Video

Monday, October 28, 2013

Orchestras Celebrate the World Series

The Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals are fighting it out to see which is the best team in baseball. The brass sections of the Boston Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony are doing their part to bring victory to their cities with this good-spirited musical competition.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Play the Didgeridoo

Ever heard of a didgeridoo? It is a traditional instrument of the aboriginal people of northern Australia. It is little known outside Australia and many of those who have seen and heard it are baffled by it. You can't play conventional "tunes" on it and the sounds coming out of the instrument can be downright ugly to our ears.

But the instrument and its players have a lot to tell us about human expression. In this excellent video David Hudson demonstrates how sounds are made on the instrument. And if you think it is easy to make those sounds just try to imitate what he is doing.

About half way through the video he demonstrates a technique that is very important for wind and brass players to learn but very difficult to master: circular breathing. The Australian aboriginals have been doing it for hundreds of years.

Incidentally, some studies have shown that playing the didgeridoo helps reduce snoring.

Paul E. Robinson


Monday, October 14, 2013

Jansen and Gergiev Play Szymanowski

Valery Gergiev recently wowed audiences in Montreal and Toronto with his Mariinsky Orchestra. He is also music director of the London Symphony. With the LSO last month at the Barbican in London he collaborated with violinist Janine Jansen in the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Karol Szymanowski (1883-1937). To judge by this video it was a beautiful performance of a neglected masterpiece. The work was composed in 1917 when Szymanowski was 34.

Note that Gergiev appears to be using the shortest baton ever used by a major conductor. Why bother with any baton at all?

Paul E. Robinson

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Vanska Resigns From the Minnesota Orchestra

The battle between management and musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra has gone on so long that music director Osmo Vanska has resigned. I don't blame him. A conductor without an orchestra can't get much done. I sympathize with the musicians as they fight back against a management determined to eliminate its deficit by downsizing the orchestra. On the other hand, downsizing is probably exactly what is needed, in Minnesota and elsewhere. The cost of running the Minnesota Orchestra has simply grown too great for its community. Few orchestras can do what the Cleveland Orchestra has done in similar circumstances. It now spends several months each year in Florida giving concerts because Cleveland won't support enough of the orchestra's concerts.

No doubt about it. Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra have done great things together. In this video they deliver the goods in excerpts from Sibelius' Second and Fifth symphonies at a special concert given earlier this year.

After announcing his departure Vanska returned to Minneapolis this past weekend to conduct the orchestra - or what is left of it as musicians depart for other employment -in three concerts. These were concerts organized by the musicians and not by management.

Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tom and Jerry at the Proms

The Proms are over for another year and it is time once again to tip our hats to the BBC: this is perhaps the world's greatest music festival. And in the form of live television broadcasts - with video to follow - it is more available than ever to millions of people. Every night during the summer months the Proms fill the Royal Albert Hall and bring in world class artists in a vast repertoire of the familiar and the all but unknown.

This past summer one of the quirky highlights was music from the Tom and Jerry cartoons. Not great music? Perhaps, but as played by the John Wilson Orchestra this music by Scott Bradley was enormously entertaining. Remember that there was hardly any dialogue in these cartoons. That meant that there was continuous music and it had to not only underscore the action but also be consistently imaginative. Bradley had a gift for this kind of thing as you will see in the video - even without the pictures! A touch of Spike Jones in the proceedings? Sure. But for me that is a good thing.

Thanks to my friend Stephen Aechternacht for bringing this delightful stuff to my attention.

Paul E. Robinson