Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I will have a sad on Sunday night...

... because that marks the end of Mariner baseball for 4 to 5 months (I don't remember when it is that they start broadcasting games during spring training). Being a west coast team baseball fan while living on the east coast means alot of late nights listening on or using the mlb streaming app on my iPhone. It's been a fun season to be a M's fan (almost erasing the 101 loss horror of last year) with the squad's MacGyver-ish gift for improvising ways to win. Sporting awesome defense, reasonably good pitching and homeopathic levels of situational hitting (at this writing they're 80-76 while having been outscored 675-613 and compiling an amazing 33-20 record in games decided by a single run), it's been an eventful ride with great moments such as the one I had walking from Joe's Pub to the Highline Ballroom a couple of weeks ago listening to Dave Niehaus' call of Ichiro hitting a 2-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat Mariano Rivera and the Yanks. I'm also a lucky fan because of the excellent blogs (Baker & Stone at the Seattle Times, Lookout Landing, USS Mariner and Shannon Dreyer) that provide plenty of time-wasting opportunities with provocative, informative, fun and uniformly well-written posts. On that note, I'm so glad to see that Shannon has captured the funniest moment from the radio broadcasts this season, which I heard yesterday while half-assedly studying the Chausson Poeme in a house in the Fire Island Pines during a rainstorm yesterday.

Another memorable moment:

Me and my Dad at an M's/Giants game last Memorial Day weekend

Dad meeting Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu before the game

Only 188 days until the Mariners' 2010 season opener!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gems from the Library of Congress -- accessible online!

The Library of Congress has made high res scans of some notable items in its collection available online!

From the Fritz Kreisler collection: manuscripts of Brahms' Violin Concerto and the Chausson Poeme

From the Copland collection: first rough sketches of Appalachian Spring & also a continuity draft; sketch/draft of the Clarinet Concerto

These holdings are bit scattered and don't always come up in the search engine as might be expected. I'll do some more digging when I have some free time.

Sadly, it doesn't look like they have the manuscript of Barber's Medea's Dance of Vengeance available online as of yet -- I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon studying it while researching my thesis awhile back; it's one of the more interesting final manuscripts/facsimiles I've seen given the amount of revisions/recompositions that can be observed based on Barber's erasures and cross-outs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A pet peeve...

Scores with unbroken barlines from top to bottom without breaks between the ww, brass, string etc. groups (e.g. The reprint of the Chausson "Poeme")

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Visualizing the 5th...

via Sullivan, an elegant graphical presentation of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symhony via color coded (by instrument), animated midi map

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What means this naming that is being called "Urtext Deathmatch"?

Well, I've clearly fallen off the ball/taken my eye off the map since the "launch" of this blog, so now that had a play day that included sleeping in, sunning out by the Christopher Street Pier (admittedly while studying Schubert 8), going to see "The September Issue" (recommended!) and listening to Miguel Batista stink it up pitching (for the Mariners, of course) against the A's, I figured I should at least finish a post that I'd started a few days ago, namely...

Why "Urtext Deathmatch?"

"Urtext" is a German word that translates to "Original Text", and denotes what has become the holy grail of contemporary music publishing for works that are otherwise in the public domain*. The musicologists who are commissioned by the publishing houses to create these editions will locate and examine every available manuscript, engravers copy, corrected proof, conducting/performing score, original orchestral part, letter with instructions to engravers or errata lists, written or oral histories of contemporaries, etc. and try to arrive at a definitive text (hopefully with variants and commentaries) that represents the composer's final version of the work.

There is an unfortunate tendency these days to take the written score/part as sacred object that is to be followed as slavishly and conscientiously as scripture by a fundamentalist or the constitution by a strict constructionist. The urtext designation on an edition tends to amplify this tendency. My attitude toward music notation in general is "take nothing for granted, take nothing at face value". A well-executed** urtext edition is an invaluable resource, but I'm leery of using it as my only reference for studying a work for performance.***

So the initial impetus for this blog and its title is my interest in using multiple editions in studying and the questions that arise. The result of these "Deathmatches" between editions will probably not be posted very often, as this comparative analysis is a bit of a slog and I'm sure writing them up will be time consuming as well. The first one on my plate is the completion of one that I started several years ago using the following sources for Schubert's Unfinished Symphony: the manuscript facsimile, the Brahms edition from the 19th century Breitkopf collected works, the Norton (Chusid) critical, the recent Bretikopf (Gülke) urtext, and the unfortunate Bärenreiter (Dürr).

Why go to this trouble? I believe that close and thorough study of a score is more about finding the questions than the answers -- and conflicting editions help me doubt more and think harder. Only then do I find myself contemplating the deeper issues that guide me to a strongly held point of view and a greater appreciation of the composer's struggle to transmit the fully realized work using the imperfect, inadequate of notational means at our disposal.

* This is an important distinction -- given classical publishers' (especially Barenreiter, Breitkopf and Henle, less so Boosey, which has a catalog of still-under-copyright cash cows such as Puccini's Turandot, Britten's operas, and post-1926 Stravinsky and Bartok) reliance on sales of music that has passed into the public domain, the creation of copyright-protected critical/urtext editions is key to preserving revenue streams that would otherwise be lost to reprint houses such as Dover, Kalmus/Masters/Belwin, and Luck's.
** "Well executed", in my mind, means that the edition provides all the information available from the sources to enable the performer to make an informed decision on the musical text given the range of possible interpretations of the source materials. That means that all editorial additions and adjustments are clearly indicated as such in the text and variants are catalogued as footnotes or endnotes. There are too many cases (e.g. the Bärenreiter Schubert editions) where the need for a particular publication to also function as a performing edition leads to editorial interventions of a type that obscure the range of possible of interpretations. By their nature, true urtext editions should retain a certain amount of ambiguity (unless the composer his/herself serves as the final editor.)
*** Three footnotes in a blog post is two footnotes too many. But the applicable aphorism for this is "A man with two watches never knows what time it is." For performers, it's a good thing not to be too certain at the very beginning of the study process -- it can foreclose too much.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

If you know someone going to China...

...or are going yourself, one of the best bargains to be had is the Mandarin edition of the Bärenreiter Urtext Beethoven Symphonies, edited by Jonathan Del Mar.

Here's the cover of the 9th Symphony:

These are fully authentic publications, with all frontis matter and footnotes translated to Mandarin. Below, the instrumentation list and catalog of sources used to by the editor:

and the first page of the score:

The plates are identical to the European edition; the covers and bindings are of similar quality to the European counterpart. The paper is actually a bit heavier and smoother (to my fingers, at least).

You don't necessarily need to find a music specialty store to find these - I found them at one of the large bookstores in Shanghai.

Why would you want to make your luggage significantly heavier for the return trip?

The cost of the full score of the 9th Symphony via is $158.95.

The cost of the Chinese edition is.....

RMB 78, which equals $11.42 as of this writing.

You can bring home the entire set of 9 full scores for something less than $50! Leaves plenty of money to buy tea, fans and mooncakes for the person who fed your cat and watered your plants while you were traveling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Official launch...

I could keep this blog under wraps forever until I thought I'd written all of the types of posts I wanted, but then, what's the point?

So here we go...

As you'll  see below, the topics range from fairly technical/specialized to very mundane; I hope to keep up that mix and to incorporate the types of posts that relate most closely to the title -- an assessment of the newer urtext/critical editions of orchestra rep relative to each other and to the traditional editions. I've been doing this as a part of my performance preparation for some time now but haven't  documented my findings/opinions in a systematic manner. If all goes as planned, this blog should become a decent resource for conductors looking for information about the editions available and whether it's worth spending the money to upgrade from that ratty old Dover or Kalmus reprint they've been using.

That's the plan... but who knows what will happen? Check back from time to time and find out!

Junior wasn't playin...

they really did use the Nutcracker March for Adrian Beltre's first at bat coming back from his injury.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What not to do at a staff conductor audition...

For a several years in the middle of this decade, I was the unofficial king of staff conductor (assistant/associate/resident conductor) auditions, with an amazing yield of invites to the semifinal or final round. Unlike instrumentalist auditions, which can accommodate dozens and dozens of live auditions in the first round, staff conductor auditions have to be limited to as many candidates as can be fit into a single orchestra service, which represents a cost of many thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Subway Club Card type deal where they just automatically gave me a job after my 10th audition. I suppose I was typecast in the conducting equivalent of the Ralph Bellamy role in the 1940s romantic comedy vein -- would have been nice to be Cary Grant just once.

So, learn from my experience! (or have a laugh or two at my expense) Here is a list of suggestions (well, mostly "dont's") based on those many lonely marches onto unfamiliar stages filled with strangers:
  • Read the info carefully that you get in the period leading up to the audition and in the packet at the hotel/at the audition site (it wasn't an audition, but I once learned the wrong Mozart symphony for an ASOL conducting workshop). Know with absolute clarity what the audition rep is and how the audition will be run
  • If you have carte blanche as to how to use the time, know exactly where you're going to start and stop and how much time you will use for each excerpt
  • Don't go out on stage without having attended to your bodily needs (including eating) first
  • Don't change your game plan based on what you hear the candidate before you doing
  • Don't forget to take a moment to see where exactly the brass, percussion, harp, piano etc. are located once you're out onstage
  • It's like having a blind date with 80 people at the same time -- you just have to hope you connect with enough of them that they'll want to shack up with you for a few years
  • Don't wait for them to play after your first downbeat -- if you've never conducted an orchestra with a big-time lag, you just have to keep going. You really have to have the music inside you to keep your shit together, though
  • Don't forget to study the scores ahead of time
  • Don't do a halfassed (or even 3/4-assed) job preparing the preconcert lecture/educational program etc. presentation(s) that you'll undoubtedly be asked to deliver. I slacked on this once (I'd always done well with previous ones), and the result wasn't pretty
  • Don't be distracted by the obvious hatred between the concertmaster and principal cellist -- it actually has nothing to do with you
  • Don't give in on your tempi -- stop and start again if you don't get what you want
  • Don't try to save money by staying with a friend who lives further than walking distance away from the audition site
  • Don't stay up late drinking wine and discussing the vagaries of life with said friend the night before the audition
  • Don't assume the next morning that the cab will show up at the time you asked for it 
  • Don't mumble on the podium
  • Don't start conducting without taking a moment to be still and focus
  • Don't forget to breathe
  • Don't explain why you want to modify a phrasing/articulation/bowing, etc. 
  • Don't make jokes (unless, like me, you can't help it)
  • If forced to "rehearse",  focus on "quick wins" -- don't get bogged down by minutae. Fix as many things as you can on the fly with your "conducting technique" such as it is...
  • Just make music! If you have a good experience in that dimension, you can't go wrong

Everyone should play!

via Frank Almond's blog:

If you believe that making music with others is an essential part of the human experience (as the anthropological evidence suggests), it's clear that, while this orchestra may be "terrible", it's immensely valuable given what it provides its members. The tragic byproduct of the technical advances that made recording sound and disseminating those recordings possible is that the experience of hearing music has become almost completely separated from making music -- we get flavor without nourishment. Karaoke and music-based video games do get people active in making music themselves, but the communal experience of making music with others is still neglected.

Classical music is culturally relevant!

...and serving useful purposes for my favorite team, the Seattle Mariners, according to onetime prodigy turned grand old man Ken Griffey Jr:

Yeah, I always have fun. Our third baseman is out after getting hit in the nuts. When he comes back next week, his first at-bat, his theme music is going to be the Nutcracker Suite.

And I worry about the music I study and perform being disconnected from the larger culture!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gmail, why must you taunt me?

... by putting this link at the top of my mailbox periodically when opening emails that touch upon music...

Mozart Opera Manuscripts - - Full-size,
Color Facsimiles of Mozart's Autograph Manuscripts

At $175 per set on the linked site (the price on is 248 Euro), the offer brings on the "I have to buy it, it's on sale" mentality that one can be infected by at the Barney's Warehouse sale when coming upon a $400 t-shirt that's been marked down to $250...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Addendum to last post....

... and eating, can't forget that. Have fallen way off the wagon into the stagnant sewage filled ditch when it comes to sweets this week. Found in the Whole Foods shopping bag tonight while putting away groceries: carrot cake, dried apples, Darrell Lea Australia liquorice (addicted!), a dark chocolate bar, as well as a chestnut pastry bought after work at Cafe Zaiya and forgotten. Similarly, the inspiration of speculating about some programming ideas put me on an online score shopping binge. En route: the Dover Daphnis Suites (is there any difference from the score of the full ballet? I guess I'll find out...) , Adams' Violin Concerto, Rach Paganini Rhapsody (somehow the ex-library hardbound pocket score with yellowing pages bought ~20 years ago at a used bookstore doesn't cut it anymore), large Breitkopf Schubert Unfinished (apparently got an older copy, price has gone up), the Dover complete Nutcracker, and finally, a rather extravagant item that I'll write about once it arrives.... 

Time to switch to Ramen noodles in advance of the bills showing up!