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Cue Sheet – November 2010

CLASSICAL LISTINGS, AGAIN

A lot of people recently have been unable to find the classical listings online, and in truth the system put in place during the site redesign several months ago doesn't take into account what people ask about most. Until a few days ago, you had to scroll down the KUAT-FM home page to find the listings info at the bottom. Clicking that would take you to a page that displayed only the syndicated programs--for the most part, the concert shows we air at night, when we have the fewest listeners. The listings for the rest of the day, when we have the most listeners, are available only when you take an extra step: clicking on the individual date line. Now, it says right at the top, "click a date to see full listings," but a lot of people just don't see that.

So, for instance, you'll find the rundown of the month's syndicated shows here, but you have to click on a date to get a full listing of what we're playing the rest of the day. Drilling down through the site will take you to a page like this, which will give you most of the detail you need.

Obviously, that's not user-friendly for a lot of our friendly users, so some changes are in the works. Already, the Web guys have moved the basic listing info up to the top of the page. Re-doing the deeper listings displays will take more work, though, so don't expect that to change very soon. In the meantime, keep digging away--or feel free to call me while I'm on the air, and I can look something up for you.

radio-life,

LARGE AUDIENCE, NOT MASS AUDIENCE

Here's the most sensible thing I've read in a long time about the classical audience:

So much effort goes into trying to find a mass market for classical music, all with remarkably little success. Could it be that there is a large market for classical music, but not a mass one? Could it be that classical music is granular and is made up of lots of connected but different niche markets? Could it be that there is no such thing as 'one size fits all' classical music? Could it be that when classical music is homogenised for the elusive mass market it loses its essential appeal? Could the mass market fallacy explain why so much classical music today is bland and unappealing? Could it also explain why creativity continues to flourish in genres such as world music and jazz which have shed their mass market pretensions?

That's courtesy of the blogger known as Pliable. He offers some fodder for argument from a British perspective here.

Classical Music,

MUSIC IN THE MAIL

The Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival won’t arrive until March, but this is the time of year when we start distributing music to the participating musicians. They usually already own all the standard-rep scores, except for some of the solo string players who have been recruited to participate in a quartet or quintet especially for the festival. Still, there’s a fair amount of unusual material that these people have never played before, but have been persuaded to try through the sweet-talking of the festival’s artistic director, Peter Rejto.

It used to be Peter’sjob to make sure the scores got into the right hands, but since he moved to Australia a few years ago, antipodal mailing rates have proved exorbitant, so for the past few years Peter has had me send the material to our musicians scattered across North America. Usually, I make a photocopy of each part before I put it in the mail, because inevitably some musician will claim not to have received a score and will need a backup. (Said score usually turns up behind her couch a few months later.) This year, Peter has directed me to send the copies and keep the originals, because some of the scores can be rather expensive ($53.95 for the Henle urtext edition of three Mozart quintets) or difficult to track down (Harry Freedman’s Trois Poèmes de Jacques Prévert, which is available only from the Canadian Music Centre, not the usual music shops). Peter just doesn’t want to run the risk of losing any of this material—or, rather, letting the musicians lose it.

Now, you can say what you want about irresponsible, immature musicians not being able to keep track of some of the basic tools of their trade, but I’m inclined to be more forgiving. These people have a lot more on their schedules than the Tucson festival. Many of them teach and/or tour, which means their juggling a lot of other scores and responsibilities. Some have even more to deal with. Cellist Antonio Lysy, besides teaching, also runs a summer music festival in Italy; violinist Joseph Lin, who has spent the past few months on sabbatical in China and Japan, exploring and composing, will soon have to return to the U.S. to put in the last few months of his professorial gig at Cornell before becoming the new first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet. They have a few things on their minds.

So I’m packing up the photocopies and sending them off to Bardonia, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Ithaca. Next question: How many of the musicians will actually practice the music before March?

Classical Music,

BLU-RAY REVIEW: LES TROYENS

Something I wrote for a recent issue of Fanfare:

BERLIOZ Les Troyens • John Eliot Gardiner, cond; Susan Graham (Didon); Anna Caterina Antonacci (Cassandre/Clio); Gregory Kunde (Énée); Ludovic Tézier (Chorèbe); Laurent Naouri (Narbal); Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Ascagne); Ch du Théâtre du Châtelet; Monteverdi Ch; O Révolutionnaire et Romantique • BBC/OPUS ARTE OA BD 7059 D (2 Blu-rays: 312:00) Live: Paris 10/2003

& Documentary and interviews

Fanfare’s resident Berlioz maven, Adrian C. Corleonis, cautiously welcomed the DVD release of this production back in 2005 (Fanfare 28:4). He was especially impressed by the sonics: “in mere stereo the sonic grasp of these DVDs is an encompassing marvel of detailed spaciousness, rendering Les Troyens’s sweep, its epic grandeur, and its intimate moments with equal brilliance.” And that’s even more true in DTS surround, on this new Blu-ray version.

He wasn’t particularly impressed by Gregory Kunde’s Aeneas nor Susan Graham’s Dido, both of whom, he rightly observed, lack authority in their stage presence and vocal delivery (to me, they are not poor, but they’re not as good as they should be, although Graham does improve toward the end). Otherwise, we agree that the casting is generally fine to superb: “The strongest acting and the surest, sheerest vocalism belongs to Anna Caterina Antonacci’s Cassandra, though one must immediately accord kudos to her partner, the Corebus of Ludovic Tézier. Their duet, which too often drags and sputters in other performances, here lifts into the stratosphere of the dramatically true and intensely moving. … The subsidiary roles, too, are all strongly cast.” Antonacci, in my opinion, is the real star on stage—not only a fabulous singer and good looker, but a performer who knows how to make Cassandra seem not the lunatic suicide-cult leader she can be in other productions, but a clear-headed tragic heroine. The other star of this production does not appear on stage; he’s conductor John Eliot Gardiner, who, uniquely among early-music specialists, knows how to put across Romantic-era music. (He’s always approached the French Romantics with particular verve; his old recording of four Massenet orchestral suites remains the best they have received.) In my colleague’s words, “Gardiner’s direction is an incandescent arch radiant with poetry.” Richild Springer’s choreography, though, is a rickety bridge between vocal numbers; in act I it neatly emulates ancient Greek wrestling, but later it seems more like Isadora Duncan trying to emulate ancient Greek maidens, without much success. The oddity here is an alternate, more elaborate ending, compiled by Hugh Macdonald from the composer’s sketches. It has no effect on the action, aside from introducting a quasi-supernatural element that the libretto otherwise eschews.

As far as I can tell, there’s no competition for this production on Blu-ray. There are DVD alternatives, though. Corleonis dismisses Sylvain Cambreling on Arthaus as weak in terms of singing and perverse production concept. But both of us do approve of the Levine/Met version on DG with Troyanos, Domingo, and Norman. Quoting my colleague: “Despite overupholstered costuming, occasionally dorky stage business, and clever staging often leaving Berlioz’s mise-en-scène in the lurch, the upshot, winged by sheer star power, is hugely whelming and deeply moving.” So if you’re of a traditionalist bent and not wedded to the most recent technology, you’ll probably want to stick with the DG. But the item under review is the only Blu-ray version available right now, and it looks and sounds gorgous—better, frankly, than the far less sharp DG. Despite the poor choreography and the adequate-but-no-better Aeneas (and, at times, Dido), I would not hesitate to press this upon collectors for its many other merits. James Reel

Classical Music,

About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.