CGF Newsletter 20: Mountain Air
A movie's rep gets further tárnished; a solid documentary for in-flight viewing; Will's wild and wacky weekend
Name That Tune
This week’s Name That Tune is a Maestro Will special. Your hint is that, to the extent that he’s really known at all, this composer is a one-hit wonder, whose one hit is an orchestral rhapsody about a country that’s not his homeland.
As always, your goal is to provide as much accurate analysis as possible. First try to get the nationality, year, and genre, then make educated guesses about the composer and — if possible— the piece. If you know the piece immediately, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org instead of commenting so the rest of us can have fun guessing.
Last Two Week’s Results
CGF Newsletter 18
Rudolph Johann Joseph Rainier, Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, Cardinal-Archbishop of Olomouc: Violin Sonata in F minor
The revelation of this week’s NTT is old news (since I included it in CGF 19) but what you all don’t know is that Listener Jeremy emailed in correctly identifying the piece and its composer, calling it “an easy giveaway if you know the trivia.”
CGF Newsletter 19
Franz Schmidt, The Book with Seven Seals
I have to say, you all are a very canny crowd. Listener Eric wagered a guess with Zemlinksy; I chimed in with additional Viennese fin-de-siècler Korngold and the offbeat guess of Victor Herbert.
However, the silver medal goes to Listener Kevin who wrote that it “must be Schmidt” (it must??) and of course the gold once again goes to Listener Jeremy who guessed in the comments that it was Schmidt’s The Book with Seven Seals, which is a sprawling 2-hour long oratorio from 1937 on the Book of Revelation.
Listeners Kevin and Jeremy: you are insane. And to Listener Jeff, who submitted this excerpt: if this is a sideways programming suggestion, you can forget it!
Think you can stump your fellow Listeners? Go ahead and try!
Head to our Google Form to upload a 30-second clip of an unidentified piece of classical music for us to try to identify.
More news from the tármac
The reviews are in and Marin Alsop is NOT pleased! From an interview in the Sunday Times with the absolutely glorious headline “I’m offended by Tár as a woman, as a conductor, and as a lesbian”:
“So many superficial aspects of ‘Tár’ seemed to align with my own personal life. But once I saw it I was no longer concerned, I was offended: I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian.”
“To have an opportunity to portray a woman in that role and to make her an abuser — for me that was heartbreaking,” she continued. “I think all women and all feminists should be bothered by that kind of depiction because it’s not really about women conductors, is it? It’s about women as leaders in our society. People ask, ‘Can we trust them? Can they function in that role?’ It’s the same questions whether it’s about a CEO or an NBA coach or the head of a police department.”
“There are so many men — actual, documented men — this film could have been based on but, instead, it puts a woman in the role but gives her all the attributes of those men. That feels antiwoman. To assume that women will either behave identically to men or become hysterical, crazy, insane is to perpetuate something we’ve already seen on film so many times before.”
Tár’s director, Todd Field, was interviewed in this week’s episode of the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, which was an all-around great episode, but my big takeaway is that I got an actual answer to my lingering question from the movie, namely: did Todd Field set out to make a movie about classical music, and this is the story he made through researching the art form; or did he want to make a movie about power, gender, and politics and found that classical music was a useful setting?
According to Field:
“I’d been thinking about this character for about 10 years. Not in classical music, just as a character, just sitting atop some kind of power structure.”
He then goes on to explain that he had been hired to write a different script about a conductor, but that the project fell through, so he used his research on that project to create TÁR. He also talks a lot about how he collaborated with John Mauceri to get the orchestra lingo right so that the depiction of the classical world wouldn’t come off as “wrong” to the classical musicians watching it (he should have talked to him more — or better yet, talked to me!)
Finally, there is now a Lydia Tár spoof account on Twitter.
This week in Films About Actual Conductors That I Can Genuinely Recommend, there’s a new(ish) documentary about Gustavo Dudamel called ¡Viva Maestro! and it’s really good! It covers about 3 years in Dudamel’s life, including the year 2017 when he found himself walking a political tightrope as music director of Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra during the most fraught days of the Maduro administration (so far.)
He comes off as a great guy trying to navigate a complicated world, and I think it’s worth watching. You can watch it on Amazon Prime or, as I did, on the Delta in-air entertainment system.
I pray your indulgence as I relay the story of my own concert this past weekend, which resulted in a rather extraordinary turn of events. I’m loathe to indulge in self-mythologizing, but I did have a chance to do something equal parts ridiculous and valiant (at least, I thought so.)
I was in the mountain town of Sedona, AZ, not far away from the Grand Canyon.
Sedona is home to a chamber orchestra called the Verde Valley Sinfonietta, with whom I was making a guest conducting appearance.
The thing about Sedona is, it’s a very small town (pop. about 9,500) that sits at a relatively high elevation (3,500 ft.) Most of the musicians in its orchestra come from the larger city of Flagstaff, about an hours’ drive through the mountains. Flagstaff sits at 7,000 ft. This means that, though they are only separated by about 30 miles, the two towns experience drastically different climates and weather patterns. Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.
I had my final rehearsal with the orchestra on Saturday evening; the concert was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Overnight, Flagstaff was walloped with 10 inches of snow and as the morning dragged on, the precipitation showed no signs of abating. Meanwhile, Sedona was barely affected at all — just a little drizzle and slightly cool temps.
This resulted in rather a pickle of a situation as far as the afternoon’s concert was concerned: the audience would have no trouble getting to the hall, but the orchestra would be unable to assemble.
A decision had to be made, but it was getting very late by the time we could contact the musicians, because the orchestra’s personnel manager is a preacher, so he was in church until 11:45 am. The concert began at 2:30.
As soon as he got out of church, I told him to cancel the musicians, and I offered up my own plan B: I would sightread the accompaniment to the featured concerto (José Silvestre White y Lafitte’s violin concerto in F# minor) with the guest soloist, Rachel Lee Priday.
But then, another thought occurred to me about how I could round out the program. You see, I have a one-man show at the ready, a performance of a song cycle that I composed during May of 2021, which I have now performed several times, singing from the keyboard. I keep an accompanying slideshow in my Google Slides, which makes it very easy to send to the technical staff for projection.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the symphony-loving crowd of Sedona, AZ came to a concert expecting music by Rossini and Mendelssohn, but instead they were treated to a solo performance of my song cycle on the instagram poetry of Martha Stewart, La Bonne Chose.
William White, La Bonne Chose
This is the demo video that I made a while back; I’m realizing now that I need to make a parallel video that includes the music along with the slide show. I’ll include an update, hopefully in next week’s edition.
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Stumped for the NTT as well. One-hit wonders are hard to think of!
But just wanted to say that I can't think of a more bizarre and excellent story than Will's Arizona experience. I wish exit interviews had been conducted on the symphony-loving public of Sedona.
I don't want to say I'm certain this week's NTT is Enescu, I am struggling to think of anyone else it could be based on the hint and the excerpt. It sounds like it could be from any of his symphonies, but no specific one comes to mind.