tidbits for monday morning

• I just caught Robert Levine’s latest blog entry about the Milwaukee Symphony’s recent concerts with Hilary Hahn.  Robert is one of the smartest guys out there, I’m coming to appreciate, and reading this post had me scratching my head and wondering “why couldn’t I have said that?”.  I like the way he clearly expresses what’s on his mind, and gets to the crux of the matter with minimal equivocation.  Hahn was in Milwaukee playing the Tchaikovsky concerto, and Levine really hits the nail on the head about this piece (which is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, by the way):

But I found myself not really convinced by her version of the piece, which surprised me, as I hadn’t felt that way about the previous times she’d played with us. I spent all week trying to figure out why. The best I could come up with was that she was trying to find more in the piece than was actually there. She was making wonderful and interesting phrases all over the place. But it’s not that kind of piece. In a funny way, her great strengths as a musician – her intelligence and imagination – were not really relevant to the piece, and even got in the way. One doesn’t think of semplice and Tchaikowsky as ever being coupled – but I think that’s what it needs. Perhaps that’s why the last movement consistently worked the best, because all it needs – all there’s time for, really – is technique and a kind of inexorable rhythmic stability, which of course she has in spades.

• In other news, my joint recital with Heather Blackburn went pretty well – I’ll have more thoughts on it when I have a little more distance from it.  For now, my alarm clock is off until further notice, however!

• Last Friday evening I went to hear a chamber concert organized by cellist Justin Kagan, and it featured some top local players in works of Shostakovich (his Piano Quintet), Gerald Cohen (a trio for viola, cello and piano), and Schoenberg (his sextet Verklärte Nacht).  Every work was played with conviction and assurance, with kudos going out to everyone involved, as to single out one or several would be unfair to them all.  

I hope that concerts such as this become more of a regular event in Portland.  We have plenty of high-powered out-of-towners that come in and play chamber music on the various series in town, but little opportunity to hear our high-powered locals play the same.

aren’t critics supposed to be critical?

I just discovered a new music blog, courtesy of Jason Heath’s Arts Advocate blog, called Mahler Owes Me Ten Bucks. It’s written by Chantal Incandela, a double bass player who has changed her career from being primarily a performer to writing as a classical music critic for NUVO, an alternative print publication in Indianapolis. The latest post caught my eye, as it deals with her thoughts about the direction the ISO is going with their relatively new music director Mario Vengazo. Continue reading “aren’t critics supposed to be critical?”

interesting cello site


Tim Scott, one of my cellist colleagues from the Oregon Symphony, emailed me a link to the labyrinthine web site of Italian period specialist cellist Claudio Ronco. He looks a bit like Lucian Pavarotti after a few months on Jenny Craig, and he’s clearly got a lot going on with baroque cello. Lots of sound files, instrument pictures and other stuff that defies categorization.

Claudio Ronco site.