Following the Ninth

A new film is out which explores the legacy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony, directed by Kerry Candaele, highlights the timelessness of the music and its political and social significance. From Pinochet’s Chile to Tiananmen Square to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the final movement’s Ode to Joy has emerged as a universal response to oppression. Its themes encompass freedom, liberation, and the universal brotherhood of man. Here …

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Jack Benny Shows Off His Strad

Following up on my post, Jack Benny and the Violin, here are two more funny violin-centered comedy clips. First, Jack Benny demonstrates the subtle differences between a Stradivarius and an average violin: Comedy aside, Strads really don’t play themselves. It takes time to learn exactly how to make these violins sing. Many violinists comment on the endless colors and expression they discover as they play these great instruments. I’m reminded of a story about …

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The Concert Hall as a Civic Icon

“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” -Wolfgang von Goethe [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]A Living Room for the City[/typography] This month marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall, the gleaming, iconic home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, designed by Frank Gehry. The hall is more than a monument to a world class orchestra in the middle of a world class city. It’s a reminder that, like …

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Remembering Douglas Lowry

As an alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, I was saddened to hear that Eastman’s Dean Emeritus, Douglas Lowry passed away yesterday. I never met Lowry, but I knew that he was a respected composer. He served as Dean from 2007 up until last week and presided over several significant building projects at Eastman. These included a renovated Eastman Theatre and a brand new wing containing a state of the art recital hall. …

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An Orchestra and Its Community

Great orchestras gradually develop a unique sound and style of playing. This process takes place over time as conductors come and go, leaving their mark and new players are gradually assimilated. In the days when I was traveling between many orchestras as a free-lance violinist I could sense the “soul” of each organization. The ongoing lockout at the Minnesota Orchestra is tragic and frightening because it may ultimately show how quickly a …

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Cheapening Broadway

Ticket prices and the profits generated by Broadway shows continue to soar but how does the experience compare with what audiences were getting fifty years ago? This question came to mind after a recent conversation I had with a student, following her attendance of Troika Entertainment’s touring production of West Side Story. Initially excited to see a live performance of one of her favorite shows, my student was quickly distracted and disheartened by the empty, …

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Jack Benny and the Violin

Here are a few of Jack Benny’s classic comedy routines featuring the violin. In his performances, Benny was know for his “bad” violin playing. In reality, he was a competent violinist and the owner of a Stradivarius. Through the years, Jack Benny’s guests included Isaac Stern and Jascha Heifetz. His show broke racial barriers in the United States with its human portrayal of the African-American butler, Rochester, as well as with guests such …

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