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Live Review / Preview: BSO Season Closer, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3…And Summer Music Preview (2009.06.12)


The BSO tackled the great Rach 3, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minorwith the help of soloist Yefim Bronfman.  The 1996 Jeffrey Rush film, Shine, made a modern plug for its popularity, but Vladimir Horowitz was the master (and master propagandist) of the work, which earned him rapturous applause and television specials.  Rachmaninoff offered this testament of Horowitz: “He swallowed it whole. He had the courage, the intensity, the daring.”

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Live Review: Prayer and Bath of Benediction – Mahler and Bernstein with Marin at the BSO (2009.04.05)

Mahler's Ninth -- a Dance of Life

Mahler's Ninth -- a Dance of Life

I thought I could walk away from three Sundays ago’s BSO performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and wash it all away with a little leftover Dom Perignon down at Sotta Sopra.

But I couldn’t. The Ninth haunts me. I’m walking down the street on a Tuesday, and suddenly, the first movement swells in my ears once again…flooding my brain. The very sidewalk under my feet seems to transform into an immaterial wave of string-song — I lose my bearings.

To quell the swoons, I’ve picked up a prescription: Lenny Berstein’s recording, as well as Mahler protégé Otto Klemperer’s take. But here’s where Marin Alsop started me off…

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2008 Wrap-Up (Alex) – Live Performances

Luckily, my editor is on in-between semester break. Otherwise, I’m sure he would be in T.A. mode and grade my late post accordingly…

However, I dragged my feet somewhat deliberately. What’s the point of a 2008 summation if you don’t have at least a little critical distance between current time, and the past year? One doesn’t write a book report until the book is actually finished. A conclusion about a hypothesis can’t be reached until the experiment is actually completed. You don’t say, “Wow, baby…that was some good sex,” until the deal is sealed–unless you’re an ego-tripping moron with a teenager’s maturity level.

January 29, 2008 was my emergence from the world of sub-par print music journalism into the realm of much more serious online music writing. I don’t take credit for the upgrade; that goes solely to Greg Szeto, the music editor at my former publication, and the founder and managing editor of Aural States. I know good coat tails when I seem them, and I was really excited to jump into this venture with Greg. 

The results have been unthinkable, really. Much of the work I’ve felt the best about, and been the most proud of in the past several years has been for Aural States.
For me, 2008 has been a year of amazing music–recorded, live, and starting recently, making it again. To be accurate this journey’s proper beginnings are in the fall of 2007, but isn’t it weird how events usually arise from prior events in sequential order? Event chains, I think they are called.  I have been into music all my life, but 2008 is unique in the fact that I actually, in some small way, took a spot in a broader network of music, and culture-of-music people. I began blogging, and people were actually reading what I wrote.

This status of blogger doesn’t feel quite like it fits yet. Around Baltimore, indie/hipsters types (definitely loaded words, which are commonly mistaken for being synonymous with “music types”) don such close-fitting clothes. Perhaps, feeling as though this is a role I need to grow into is a healthier stance, than having skin-tight clothing restricting, and inhibiting movement (read: critical movement, and development).

Also, clothes being the signifiers that they are designate people into one group. I personally don’t fit into one single group musically, and probably not socially, either. From my understanding (and I think it’s an accurate understanding) the same goes for Aural States. To be clear, this does not mean AS has to be everything musically to fulfill our eclectic mission statement, but we simply need to be who we are, and only who we are.

And who are we? Music geeks: pure, unabashed, genuine music geeks.

My (Highly Subjective) Most Memorable Live Performances of 2008 (in no order, and it’s more than 10)
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Happy 90th B-day, Bernstein!

To start ringing in the occasion, Marin Alsop (pictured left) led the BSO in a rousing take on Leonard Bernstein’s Jeremiah, Symphony No. 1. After that, she followed it up with Mahler’s first Symphony, affectionately named Titan. In case you think Bernstein was nothing but a show pony for Broadway, think again.

We got Prophecy, Profanation, and a Lamentation from the biblical seer: Jeremiah. – as sung by lovely mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor (pictured far right). First off, Marin cemented us in the context of the work with her “common man” charm; she likened the demise of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians to our present day. The Profanation movement, she said — with the BSO backing her with fierce musical flourish — was like our “ bankers passing off those bad loans.”

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Alsop and the BSO Take On The New World

My first thought was: What’s the least necessary “new” recording to add to classical stacks? Dvorak’s New World Symphony would be tops. But the Baltimore Symphony’s recent album just might prove a naysayer wrong…

This won’t be a rant against pandering to the gray old guard who pay up for the $90 seats… I’m fond of the New World, however ubiquitous it may be. Grew up on a recording that paired it with his Slavonic Dances. A much better post-New World dessert than the BSO’s appetizer of his Symphonic Variations.

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