Four scores

Four scores from my collection. I’ve been collecting since I was in college. I like the look and feel of these particular four publications. I include shots of the covers and first pages of the music. Click on the jpegs for larger views if you like.

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Four books on conductors

All worth reading. All from my collection.

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Review: André Previn, Tom Stoppard and ‘Star Trek’

The cast of Previn and Stoppard’s ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.’

(Dateline: Garden Grove! I came close to meeting and interviewing André Previn, who passed away yesterday at 89, several times in my career, including standing across the aisle from him when I worked at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. in the 1980s. I reviewed and wrote about him many times, though, including this review below, penned for the Los Angeles Times when I was a relative youngster. Judged by the length of the review, it only appeared in the OC edition of the Times, which means it is being read my millions for the first time now. Well, uh, many. Anyway, it’s a good play and a good piece — orchestras should still consider it for a different type of program — and it was a most unusual evening, directed by and starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. TM)

MUSIC / STAGE REVIEW : A Starry Staging of ‘Every Good Boy’
GARDEN GROVE — “He has an identity crisis,” says the doctor. “I can’t remember his name.”

The doctor is speaking of one Alexander Ivanov, a patient in a Soviet mental hospital, a lunatic triangle player with a symphony orchestra in his head. In Tom Stoppard’s play “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,”–with music by Andre Previn, an orchestra sits onstage with Ivanov, and we hear what he hears (even if none of the other characters does).

A new production of the play at the Don Wash Auditorium in Garden Grove Saturday brought out an unlikely cast: the crew of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Patrick Stewart, who plays Capt. Picard in the TV series and who took part in the original London performances of “Good Boy,” was making his directorial debut and enlisted fellow “Trek” cast members Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden and Colm Meany. It proved a very strong ensemble.

The orchestra was the rough and ready Orange County Symphony, led by its music director, Edward Peterson. The musicians surrounded the center stage and through the clever scenario became a virtual seventh character.

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For André Previn, 1929-2019

André Previn died today, may he rest in peace. The New York Times obit is here.

Review: Pacific Symphony’s ‘Madama Butterfly’

Review: Pacific Symphony’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ takes flight in Costa Mesa. Voice of OC, Feb. 22, 2019.

Photo: Doug Gifford

Dudamel, LA Phil, to perform at the Oscars

A friend in the orchestra writes:

“This Sunday evening, a large group of Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians (about half of the orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel) are performing during the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars Show which is being broadcast live by ABC. It is not clear to me at this point how much screen time we are getting, but even if the TV audience will not see most of us for more than a few seconds, our playing should definitely be clearly heard by all listeners and viewers. Enjoy the show!”


A brief defense of reviewing

What’s wrong with finding out what happened at a concert the night before last?

Recently, I pitched a concert review of a celebrated orchestra to a local publication that shall remain nameless. The celebrated orchestra would be in town for one day, but its appearance was part of a long-standing series, and at a major concert hall here. The arts editor replied in a way that arts editors tend to reply these days.

“In general, if concerts are only going on for a day, we prefer previews over reviews, unless there are multiple dates and readers could still attend the show after reading the review,” the editor said.

When, exactly, did the job of reviewing (anything) become a shopping service? I wanted to reply. When did it become the responsibility of arts pages to sell tickets to the events that are written about there?

Is it the job of the baseball writer to sell tickets to Dodgers games, or to report on the game that happened the night before, with critical commentary?

Do we love the week full of previews to the Super Bowl more than the game itself?

Is the preview of the State of the Union Address more interesting than the commentary after it?

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On recommending things

Recommending things to other people — movies, books, music, scotch, soap, what have you — must be one of the more underrated pleasures of life. It’s something we all like to do because it makes us feel like an expert in that particular thing we’re recommending, or at least in the know. It is also a hopeful boost to one’s status. One rarely recommends downmarket items; it’s not Bud Lite you push on friends, but that expensive double IPA made in La Jolla.

Perhaps there is a bit of snobbery in recommending things, or at least often there is. It’s like name-dropping, recommending is — sometimes we do it to look better than we are. But more often, I think, recommending things is a purely friendly gesture of sharing an enthusiasm with friends. There’s hardly a day when any of us don’t do it. Note how good you feel the next time you recommend something (my recommendation).

Music critic George Bernard Shaw

Of course, being on the receiving end of a recommendation isn’t always so fun. I’ve never particularly liked having books recommended to me, for instance. It’s probably simply because, after a lifetime of reading, I know my own tastes, they are particular, and few people share them. I know what I don’t like too (popular thrillers, for instance). I don’t mind having someone recommend, say, a wine or a scotch to me, however, because though I already like both of those things, my experience with them is fairly limited. The trouble with wine and scotch recommendations is that they’re usually too expensive.

Critics are in the business of recommending things, you could say. Even a critical slam is in its way a recommendation — the thing being slammed doesn’t live up to some more ideal example that it is either implicitly or explicitly being compared to. One thing that most people don’t understand about critics — the very word “critics” is generally sneered — is that they went into the profession out of a deep, encompassing love for the thing they are criticizing. The deeper the love a critic has for the object of his criticism, the more common the negative review from his or her pen: It’s a proposition worth pondering. Nothing can live up to the best, and only the best will do.

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Review: ‘Lullabies From the Liszt Chamber,’ Nov. 14, 1994

(Here’s another of the pithy reviews I wrote as a freelancer for the Los Angeles Times back in the day. I’m surprised at how fearless I seem to be, but Bernheimer created an atmosphere where we felt safe to do this type of thing, where we were actually encouraged to. I don’t really remember this concert, not even after re-reading the review. — TM.)

MUSIC REVIEWS : Lullabies From the Lizst Chamber
COSTA MESA — The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra is for people who like to listen to classical music with their feet up in an easy chair while reading a book. Then they fall asleep.

It is a highly stylized type of playing. The Franz Liszt’s sound, under its longtime leader and concertmaster Janos Rolla, is polished to a lustrous sheen, but is never brilliant or steely, or golden or burnished for that matter. It is a distinctly silken sonority, the violins sugary sweet and soft-edged, the violas, cellos and bass of this 17-member string ensemble acting as poised foundation. Homogeneity is striven for at all costs, and achieved. Pizzicatos become puffy satin pillows of sound.

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Review: Los Angeles Philharmonic plays Messiaen in Costa Mesa

Review: LA Phil Visits OC with a Demanding Modernist Program. Voice of OC, Jan. 21, 2019.

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