Featured Performances: A Glorious Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ MDR-Rundfunkchor ∙ Solisten ∙ David Zinman

UPDATE (February 2021): I’ve featured this stellar performance for probably up to a year now and I will continue to do so. Mi amigo/My friend and I have watched this performance many, many times. We never tire of it. He commented about this the other night. It’s so well done in every aspect. Give this piece to another Chorus and Orchestra and production crew, and you won’t get these results. This Chorus from Leipzig is just ah, choral excellence at the highest level and the same for the orchestral playing. I don’t know of a finer performance anywhere. It’s right up there with one I heard decades ago in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with Dr Paul Traver’s superb University of Maryland Chorus and National Symphony Orchestra (Antal Doráti). That one was equally exquisite. The impeccably-trained University of Maryland Chorus reminded me of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus (Margaret Hillis, Founder and Director) and their performance of the Brahms under Georg Solti.

I don’t usually think of the Brahms as “glorious” — “glorious” would apply to a superb performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the immaculately trained Chorus in that (singing with perfect intonation) — but “glorious” is indeed how this performance feels to me at times with this stellar Orchestra and Chorus, when they nearly bring tears to my eyes from their choral excellence, and brings back memories of my Orchestra Chorus experience when we performed the Brahms when I was in Norman Scribner’s Choral Arts Society of Washington (that performance was with The Cleveland Orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; they didn’t tour with The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Page – Chorus Director) and also with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (Margaret Hillis and Vance George, Chorus Directors) in Davies Symphony Hall. Read article here.

People have been brainwashed that screaming is “music”

Any damn fool can scream, and then they call that “music” or op-rah. Ha!

Hola a todos. Well, I first heard Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, a musical setting of the Catholic funeral mass, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall when the University of Maryland Chorus performed the piece — it was one of Maryland’s signature pieces at the time — with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) under conductor Antal Doráti. I think he was the conductor. He probably was since his favourite Chorus was the superb University of Maryland Chorus and he invited them as often as possible to perform with the NSO. One could have gotten the impression that they were the Official Chorus of the NSO during the Doráti years. In that performance, I enjoyed the choral parts, but the operatic-screaming parts bored me. The piece is too much like opera or — tell it like it is — screaming quite frankly. Although The Maryland Chorus fortunately did not sing like an Opera Chorus. Instead, they sang like the well-trained Orchestra Chorus that they were with perfect intonation as they always did.

I’ve asked before: Is Opera Music? With few exceptions, opera is all about screaming rather than singing beautifully. The Vibratobots will say that vocal soloists-screamers have to “sing over the orchestra.” Rubbish. Where did these morons train? Or perhaps they didn’t. That’s why they would speak from a position of ignorance. Fact: Any major symphony orchestra can play at a ppp level, so there’s no need to “sing over the orchestra.” Any major symphony orchestra is quite skilled at accompanying any soloists at any volume level. I’ve heard the finest orchestras play extremely softly in such pieces as Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, as in the third movement where the principal cellist of the Orchestra has the solo role along with the pianist (the concerto has four movements).

I don’t think I’ve ever heard any Opera Chorus sing with perfect intonation. Perfect intonation — the perfect blending of voices — is one of the foundations of choral excellence. Instead, all the Opera Choruses I’ve had the displeasure of hearing sounded like 150 divas trying to overpower each other, compete with each other with various rates of wobbling, annoying and fluttering vibrato, just like the soloists, or rather screamers in the opera and their harsh voices.

And for symphonic choral performances, opera divas (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) scream from the front of the stage with their back to all other performers on stage — they can barely even see the conductor and have to look to their side to see him — per silly tradition, rather than being seated appropriately in the string section (seat the soprano in the first violins section, the tenor in the viola section, as two examples) so they can see and enjoy the performance like everyone else, rather than being parked on the edge of the stage staring at the front rows in the hall or staring at the back of the hall or at their lap for the entire performance.

The classical music genre has some damn silly, odd traditions cemented in stone. What conservative nut came up with that ludicrous placement of vocal soloists/screamers on stage?

The choral sections of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem are beautiful when sung by an immaculately trained Symphony Chorus. But the soloist, or rather screamers, I can’t take them, especially the soprano. And that is nearly always the case. What is it about soprano soloists/screamers? Not just that, in a Chorus, if any voices are going to come out of perfect intonation it’s a soprano voice. I’ve noticed that consistently. Some sopranos seem absolutely unable to control their voices. What’s that about? I have no trouble controlling my voice.

Where did these screamers train? What Conservatory or School of Music or private instructor is ripping people off and teaching them to scream rather than to sing beautifully?

Recently, I scanned through a performance of the Verdi, and as expected, many of the classical music armchair critics were genuflecting to and absolutely gushing over the soprano screamer and how they were “amazed” and found it “unbelievable” at how her voice overpowered both Orchestra and Chorus at one point in the score. What’s unbelievable about some female rearing back — as this one did — and let out a High C where she screamed “at the top of her lungs” above the full Orchestra and Chorus? I think most females could do that, even close to a High C in screaming mode. Think an emergency vehicle going by and the highest pitch on that wailing at you. How is that pleasurable? It’s not meant to be pleasurable. How is that music? It’s a warning sound. This soprano screamer in the Verdi looked like she was really working it too. She did not make her singing, or rather screaming, look effortless. Well-trained musicians are taught to make their performance — regardless of instrument — look effortless. She reminded me of some screamers I’ve seen who get red in the face in the midst of their screaming.

But being able to rear back and scream on a High C and overpower all other musicians on stage is something to be admired, is it? I. Don’t. Think. So. I was never taught that at the Conservatory where I trained. Where did these idiot commenters train? It’s interesting how brainwashing works. People keep being told — often by the no-nothing classical music armchair critics in comment sections — that it’s good when a soprano screamer rears back and screams on a High C with wobbling vibrato. She was mic’d but didn’t need a mic — they likely heard her several blocks away and wondered who was in pain! — because her obnoxious voice cut through both Orchestra and Chorus, and the Chorus was by my guess probably a 300-voice Chorus. They were superbly trained. Yes, she overpowered all of them too. That’s music? That’s art? I. Don’t. Think. So. No, that’s technically called tacky screaming.

Any damn fool can scream and call it “opera” or say “I have a trained voice.” Yeah, for screaming. Too bad the training didn’t include how to sing beautifully, musically, artfully and artistically, rather than harshly and trying to get your voice to stick out above all others. Nevertheless, these idiot commenters ate it up. They fell for her act.

Screaming is not music. Screaming is not art.

Unfortunately, these days in the Century of Insanity, many (most?) people can’t tell the different between screaming and singing beautifully. That’s particularly true with the mostly white opera audience. They’ll sit through anything if it’s called “opera.” Although the opera audience is especially a class-ist audience for the “well-heeled,” Dahling. Many people go to opera as a shallow status symbol. It’s about being pretentious and giving the impression of wealth and “high society” Dahling. I have no patience for such shallow and superficial people. Basura. And these are some of the same people who don’t know the difference between opera and a symphonic choral work, in part because opera divas are dragged in to perform, or rather scream, the solo passages in symphonic choral works, rather than using the finest trained non-noticeable vibrato soloists from the Symphony Chorus.

You can hear vocal soloists singing beautifully in this video from Collegium 1704 Orchestra and Chorus from the Czech Republic. It’s not opera, but does it matter? Why can’t opera be this beautiful and beautifully sung?

Why is opera = screaming ?

Below (the Zelenka) is beautiful music. The soloists are not screamers. They don’t rear back to sing their solo parts. They are genuine artists serving the role as both soloist and chorister. They all sing beautifully. No one is screaming or trying to overpower anyone else. They blend their voices together as properly trained to do. Why can’t opera sound like this where the genuine soloists blend in with the music rather than stick out as divas demanding attention?

Why can’t the quartet in Beethoven’s Ninth — which usually sounds like a train wreck with one person screaming over the other and the deep-cleavage exposed soprano screamer usually blows everyone off the stage — sound like this?

From my years of experience in major Orchestra Choruses in the States, I never heard any conductor say anything to the vocal screamers about being sharp, being flat or about anything for that matter. He might have privately in one-on-one rehearsal, but he didn’t when the Full Chorus and Orchestra were on stage for the dress rehearsal. It was if the screamers were sacrosanct and above reproach, Dahling, because they’re from an artist management and receiving a generous salary for the screaming appearance. Even though they sit most of the time because the Orchestra and Symphony Chorus perform the majority of the work, the audience has been brainwashed to treat these screamers like gods. So they make their walk out on stage — some with their nose in the air — and the roar and whistling from the audience begins. I’m thinking: They’re just the soloist-screamers. Why didn’t they use genuine soloists from the Chorus? Because they wouldn’t sell tickets. The finest Orchestra Choruses have choristers who majored in voice and are highly-trained soloists and with extensive choral experience. They’re just not a “big name” like the screamers walking out on stage. They use their choristers voice (blending) in the Chorus just like the superb soloists of Collegium 1704 in the Zelenka performance below. They would actually sing beautifully, and not scream. But many people seem to like screaming; they don’t know any better. They can’t tell the difference because they have no ear for music.

In this performance below, the soloists contribute to the music rather than destroy it with their harsh, screaming, damn annoying voices with wobbling vibrato where you have to guess what pitch they’re singing (or rather screaming) as they do in opera or in Verdi’s Messa da Requiem. Chau.—el bario rosa

The Language of Music: It’s Ensemble. Not Cast.

Hola a todos. In music, there are very specific words and language that are used for nearly everything that I can think of.

Some examples: A quarter note is called a quarter note. It’s not called a half note, because a half note is a half note. A whole rest can’t be called a bar line and the grand staff can’t be called the treble clef. A sharp can’t be called a flat. A Chorus cannot be called an Orchestra. You can’t have instrumental accompaniment with A cappella singing. A Perfect Fifth cannot be called an Octave. Understand? A band cannot be called an orchestra because a band does not have a string section. There are very specific language and words to use in music. So it annoys the hell out of me when I hear people who should know better refer to an ensemble of musicians as “a cast.” Musicians are not a cast.

I’ve heard idiots sitting at microphones in a certain classical music station promote some symphonic choral performance and they refer to “the all-star cast of soloists.” Can they hype it anymore? (If only they would give as much attention to the Chorus and Orchestra who perform the majority of the work; they are never referred to as “all-stars”). The announcer was referring to the 4 screamers — who would be singing or, most likely, screaming — the solo sections in a symphonic choral work. What the announcer should be saying is, “the ensemble of vocal soloists.” Leave out the corporate sports language “all-star.” That’s tacky. Why apply corporate sports language to highly-trained musicians? And as often as they use it, you’d think that every musician whose music they play is an “all-star.” Jesse “Chuy” Varela at KCSM Radio uses “cast” all the time. I guess he doesn’t know that the correct word is ensemble when referring to musicians. He still uses the outdated language “album” when referring to CDs that he plays.

Go to a Conservatory or a University’s School of Music online catalogue and you’ll see their list of Instrumental Ensembles and Vocal Ensembles. They’re not called Instrumental Casts and Vocal Casts. That really sounds stupid.

Musicians are not a cast. Actors comprise a cast. Cast is language from the theatre, not from music. Even if one is using the standard dictionary definition of the word “cast,” it has nothing to do with musicians. The word cast was used in the Conservatory’s Drama Department for the list of actors in plays. Why doesn’t someone tell Chuy and some others that?

At the Conservatory where I trained, our Jazz Ensemble was not called the Jazz Cast. Our Percussion Ensemble was not called the Percussion Cast.

The status-quo people who don’t care about language or are willfully-ignorant of such and who don’t want to change their own behaviour and word usage, will say it doesn’t matter what things are called or what words are used to describe things. With that attitude, I can assure you that you would not do well in music. Well-trained musicians are language people, because as I said earlier, in music there are very specific words and language used.

But it’s not just in music, the medical field and legal field both use very specific words and language in their fields, just like well-trained musicians. Using the correct and consistent language as we’ve been trained to do is how we communicate with each other in our respective field when in rehearsal or in performance.

When I lived in the District of Columbia, it was the law students studying to be attorneys at Georgetown University School of Law and George Washington University School of Law who gave me the friendly lecture given to new DC residents: You don’t call our city “Washington DC” they told me. That’s what the tourists call it who don’t know any better. The official name of the nation’s capital is the District of Columbia, and we call it the District or DC or Washington, but not Washington DC because there is no Washington in DC. They mean the same thing. That’s like saying “Boston, Boston” or “Chicago, Chicago.” (I already knew all that from watching newscasts from the District, but they enjoyed giving me the lecture anyway, and they were such nice guys. We became best of friends).

Those who have not been trained with a mind for detail and language say that it doesn’t matter what you call anything, unless it’s something they care about of course then it’s another story. Their hypocrisy is noted.

In national politics, there is little consistency in language. Well, with few exceptions such as superb Representative Jamie Raskin, considering the redneck hick white trash corrupt scum running the US Congress (I’m thinking of the backwater cesspool hicks in the Senate particularly) — who can’t pronounce the simple word “president” correctly — it’s a three syllable word, yet they say “praysden” or “present,” — there’s no wonder that genre is such a mess. (Think that M*tch McCo**ell piece of hick garbage.) Politicians in the House of Representatives are called Representatives. Doh. But those who don’t know any better or don’t care about language refer to them as “congress member(s).” Is that because they can’t say or don’t know the word Representative? That’s their official title. Technically speaking, everyone in the congress is a “congress member.” But Senators are never referred to as “congress member” even though senators are just as much “congress members” as the Representatives. Last month (January 2021), I was on one “progressive” website and very politely and delicately corrected a couple of people — former progressives who still live under illusions that they still are progressives — about their sloppy language regarding “Representative” and not “congress member.” Can you take a guess how that turned out? They hated being corrected, even as politely and diplomatically as I corrected them. They thought they were above reproach and infallible. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the maturity to say, “Thanks for the correction, you’re correct and I’ll keep that in mind. My mistake.” That would have been a kind and gracious response. But instead, they hated on me (they used the old “Attack the Messenger” approach) for my politely correcting them. They said it didn’t matter what you call things. Oh really? Well you wouldn’t do well in the field of music, or in medical or legal, I can assure you. One former-progressive who bragged about being a socialist was using the same language as the far-right. One example: They saw no reason why they should stop using the word “foreign” and use the word international. (Music is known as the international language, by the way. It’s not known as the foreign language). That person would have trouble at world airports where the sign reads, “International Arrivals” and not “Foreign Arrivals.” There’s a reason for that. I gave up with the former progressives. I don’t have the patience to deal with them. People pretending to be something they’re not. No one supported me and they all think they are still progressives. Since 2000, I have found that most “progressives” and most liberals have become an empty shell of their former selves.

So if it doesn’t matter what you call things — as some people have told me when I politely corrected them or tried to get them to use the correct language (usually they were former progressives) — and if one is too damn lazy to use the correct language and or change one’s own behaviour, I’ll call you Sam instead of Sarah. How’s that? I’m sure you won’t mind that considering you think it doesn’t matter what things and people are called. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 4 – pianist Simon Tedeschi – Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Here is a splendid performance of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 4 in g minor, Op 40 (1941 Version) with pianist Simon Tedeschi and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey in the Sydney Opera House. This is a performance from 2017 and overall the best one I’ve heard. Read article here.

Why do they use the word “maestro?” I think it’s to give the appearance they know something about music.

Who are these people? Wanna-be pianists? Who didn’t possess the talent to train as a pianist? Ah yes, the classical music self-appointed armchair critics. I find them damn annoying, and I can’t relate to them.

The Lully Te Deum performed by Collegium 1704 and Vocale 1704, conducted by Václav Luks (they’re from the Czech Republic): One of my favourite pieces. It’s for Double Chorus. Sometimes the Chorus is visibly split but in this performance it is not, unless you say it’s split with the Children’s Chorus in the middle. The video of their performance is on a third-party site so I’m not embedding the video because I don’t want the copyright nazis at G**gle to delete it, so you can watch the performance here. There’s not much information about the performance. I don’t have any information about the trebles (boys with girl choristers). Perhaps they are from the parish or cathedral church where the performance took place. It’s quite a setting. It’s a superb performance. Most, if not all, of the soloists are from the Chorus as it should be. They blend their voices beautifully together, which I rarely say about any other soloists, especially soloists dragged in to symphonic choral performances from the screaming opera genre who seem to have never been trained how to blend one’s voice with another voice. All they seem to know how to do is to scream over each other, with few exceptions to that. Sad. Václav always selects the best soloists. His musicians are genuine artists, as is he. He’s a wonderful musician and I think he would be a pleasure to work with.

The Oslo Philharmonic’s outstanding Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 in e minor

Yes, you can turn off vocal vibrato. Real musicians do it all the time. As heard in this performance of Zelenka’s Missa Omnium Sanctorum by Collegium 1704, conducted by Václav Luks.

Read article here.

Collegium 1704 perform Zelenka’s Missa Divi Xaverii conducted by Václav Luks

Read article here.

Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat major, with pianist François-Frédéric Guy, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, conducted by Adrien Perruchon

Read article here.

Here are two interviews with Nicolas Baldeyrou, Principal Clarinetist of L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He played in the above performance of the Brahms:

Ravel: Concerto pour piano en sol majeur (Ingo Metzmacher/Francesco Piemontesi)

Read article here.

The Encore: Debussy’s Clair de Lune. I forgot to mention that after his performance of the Ravel, Francesco’s encore was the well-known piece Clair de Lune (which translates as Light of the Moon or Moonlight) by Debussy. It’s the third movement from his Suite Bergamasque. I’m glad he played it because I don’t think it could be better played than the way Francesco played it here (video below). His playing of this piece was also aided by the Hamburg Steinway & Sons’s Model D piano he was playing. The orchestral musicians seemed to enjoy it by the looks on their faces. The Debussy begins at around 23.50 into the video. And what was with some in this audience? There were school kids on the front row — nice that they could be there — and some of them seemed to be sleeping, including the girl sitting about a foot away from Francesco. Perhaps the performance was at night and they had had a long day and were tired, and they found the music very soothing and comforting. The most annoying person in the audience was that woman with short hair and glasses and a floral shirt whose face could be seen at the keyboard end of the piano. She was sitting on the second row. What was her head trip? She was damn annoying. She was laughing and talking and doing other annoying gestures all during the performance of the Ravel. It appeared that the guy she was there with was the real “entertainment” for her and not the superb musicians on stage. At one point she had to put her hand over her mouth (laughing). Whatever he was saying, she listened attentively. Often when Francesco was playing she wasn’t even looking at him. Loca./Crazy. One sensed her friend was doing “commentary” throughout the performance and she found it all funny. What is funny about the Ravel Piano Concerto in G? People like that are damn annoying and need to learn concert etiquette. If you have something to say to the person next to you, take the pen that you brought with you per concert etiquette and write your comments in the margins of your programme and covertly slide it over to the person for them to read. That way you are being considerate of others who came there for the performance, and not for you to ruin it for them with your talking, laughing, giggling and other childish, inconsiderate gestures. What is wrong with people today? Sigh. Nobody has that much time!

Liszt – Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major, S.125

Read article here.

Mendelssohn: Elias – Radio Filharmonisch Orkest en Groot Omroepkoor

Read article here.