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Cue Sheet


About 20 years ago, I was chatting with Robert Bernhardt, who was then the music director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and noted that with his strong interest in Mahler it was a little surprising that he showed little inclination to perform Bruckner (who actually has more in common with Wagner than with Mahler, but never mind). Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, I suggested, might be a good choice to do with the TSO, since it's one of his most admired symphony and has good tunes, but is relatively compact, compared to the composer's Fifth and Eighth. Bob demurred, pointing out that the score requires four Wagner tubas, which would be hard to get in Tucson. This argument was a little bit of a dodge, since it's common to substitute euphoniums for the Wagner tubas, but what, you may ask, is a Wagner tuba, anyway? Barbara Jepson of The Wall Street Journal explains all.



Since I never developed an interest in following team sports, March Madness and the attendant brackets and office pools are beyond my experience, but there is one bracket scheme I can develop some enthusiasm for. KPCC in Southern California has devised a poll it calls NPR Bracket Madness, pitting public radio programs against each other, some advancing and others falling by the wayside through listener balloting. At this writing they're down to the final eight, with perhaps the most interesting opposition being Talk of the Nation against Fresh Air. You don't have to listen to KPCC to participate; cast your ballot here. I wonder how things would shake out if we pitted classical composers against each other ...



Our library database holds 171 items associated with the keyword "spring." Of course, some of those are duplicates of popular pieces like Strauss' Voices of Spring and Schumann's "Spring" Symphony, but even so, spring has inspired composers more than any other season. With Wednesday, March 20 bringing with it the new season, we'll devote most of the day on Classical 90.5 to springtime music, beginning appropriately enough with The First Day of Spring by Leroy Anderson, and continuing with seasonal contributions by the likes of Delius, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Copland, Piazzolla, Grieg, Haydn, Verdi, Respighi, Stravinsky, Vivaldi, and many, many other composers. So many, in fact, that we have an overflow of spring music, and we'll be devoting the first three hours or so of our Thursday schedule to vernal music as well. You can find the complete Wednesday schedule here--scroll down past the KUAZ program grid for the classical music listings--and the Thursday schedule here.

One reason we have "leftover" spring pieces is that on Wednesday we're also dropping into the schedule several short items to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto Nazareth, a composer of many breezy piano pieces in various Latin American styles; think of him as the Brazilian Scott Joplin, and you'll have an idea of what his music is like--not at all ragtime, but piano miniatures in the popular dance styles of the composer's time and place.

By the way, in case you're wondering, we have 145 "summer" pieces in the music library, 66 "autumn" items, and 90 "winter" pieces. If it weren't for all those multiple recordings of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," we'd have far fewer entries under each category.



Here is an interesting thought piece on the (so far limited) trend of encouraging audience members to tweet during performances. Author Tom Jacobs frames the basic question well: "Who, really, is more engaged? Is it the audience member holding a screen and responding to the action with his thumbs, or the one sitting silently in the dark with her eyes glued to the stage?" If you're not patient enough to read the entire article, I'll reveal that Jacobs finds an expert on each side of the issue, so you'll have to draw your own conclusions.

It occurs to me that tweeting can be rather like what I did during my years as a music and theater critic. Instead of zapping out 140-character observations to a handful of Twitter followers, I would jot down notes that within a few hours I would incorporate into a formal review for publication. Of course there are huge differences, in terms of depth and length, between tweets and reviews, but the common ground is the act of jotting down the note. Some of my colleagues would take page after page of notes; I tended to fill up only whatever white space I could find on the printed program with a few phrases. I would write down some idea as it came to me, so I could get it out of my head and continue to focus on the performance. If I spent too much time trying to come up with some nifty metaphor on the spot, that's what I'd wind up concentrating on, rather than the performers on stage. So note-taking for me was a quick distillation of something I'd noticed through close focus on the performance, and something to which I devoted as little time as possible; the sorting-out would come later, when I'd have more time (and fewer distractions) for reflection and mental organization.

Tweeting during a performance could serve the same function ... or it could be just another way for an individual to center the event on his own shallow moment-to-moment reactions. When you go to a performance, is the occasion about the art, or is it about you? That's a question that can be asked about critics as well as about Twitter users.



Getting legitimate foreign artists into the United States and Great Britain has been ridiculously difficult during the past decade of paranoia, and now even Israel is getting into the act of impeding the travel of well-known musicians. According to this report, conductor Gustavo Dudamel was recently detained while entering and exiting Israel. But there's a suggestion that the harassment stems from Dudamel's Venezuelan citizenship, and Israeli officials hate Venezuela because Venezuela is cozy with Iran, which Israeli officials also hate. Read the blog post and follow its internal link for more on the conspiracy theory, but while you do that, pause to wonder if the Los Angeles Times bothers to copyedit its bloggers. This fellow twice refers to the "Israeli" Philharmonic (it's Israel Philharmonic, which he at least gets right in a quote), and Norman Lebrecht's name is not spelled "LeBrecht." I do wish newspapers would take as much responsibility for their blog posts as they do for print articles, and for that matter police their comments sections as carefully as they do published letters to the editor.



Last weekend, I had such a bad coughing fit at the beginning of a Chamber Music Plus performance that I had to go home and take some Mucinex before I was fit for the second half. It turns out that I'm not the only culprit: A German economist (appropriately named Wagner) has determined that people do, indeed, cough more at classical-music concerts than at other performances, and especially during certain kinds of music. “It is the more modern pieces of 20th century classical music, it is the more quiet and slow movements that are interrupted by coughs,” Wagner says. “It is also non-random, in that coughing sometimes appears to occur in sort of avalanches or cascades through the audience so there are some patterns.” There isn't much to go on, but you can read this news item and think about carrying cough drops to your next concert.


About Cue Sheet

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