Hola a todos. Music is the international language crossing all international/human-created geographic borders and ethnic groups. Musicians from one part of the world and from various ethnicities can listen to, enjoy and perform music from another part of the world just as well as the musicians who were born or live where the music was composed.
Here in the Conservatory, they don’t subscribe to ethnic nationalism, nor would I expect them to. If they did, they would lose credibility in my mind. I don’t hear any of the professors lecturing their students that they must not work on such and such a piece because they’re not of a certain ethnic nationality. Nor have I heard any professor say, “Oh you’re French?! Then you must work on the Poulenc Piano Concerto because only a person of French ethnicity can play that piece properly. And then you can audition it for the Annual Student Soloist Competition. Would you like to do that?” No, I’ve not heard any of that ethnic nationalistic nonsense.
Unfortunately, there are some outdated fossils living among us who think otherwise and who have been brainwashed with a very simplistic way of thinking about music. There are also those people where their critical thinking skills are nonexistent so they have this disconnect: Out of one side of their mouth they will say what I’ve written above about music being the international language crossing all human-made geographic borders. Then out of the other side of their mouth they will go on about “You need a Russian pianist for Rachmaninov or Scriabin to do their music justice.” Do they not realise they contradicted themselves? You don’t need a (banging?) Russian pianist for either Rachmaninov or Scriabin! Stop repeating that lie, that myth. And I’m so tired of hearing classical music announcers — called “presenters” (Dahling) — say “We’re going to hear this piece now played by the French pianist [name of pianist]” and I’m thinking: What on Earth does the pianist being French have to do with anything? It doesn’t. It’s just another form of ethnic nationalism in music. Again, for the slow people, music is the international language, not a nationalistic language depending upon which country you’re in and based on human-created borders. In other fields of study I don’t recall people usually being introduced by their nationality or ethnicity. The audience is usually just given the person’s name. Where they are from on the planet is not usually important. On television, if the host of a programme is interviewing some “expert” in another part of the world there will usually be an identifier on the screen of where s/he is located, but that’s not his or her nationality. It’s merely the person’s location at the time, which can be different from where the person lives. Although when the announcer speaks of “the French pianist” and if the piece is by a French composer, that automatically is meant to imply to the audience — especially to the ethnic nationalists among us — that what you are about to hear is an authoritative performance because “you must have a French musician perform French music, correct?” No, that is incorrect. It’s tacky ethnic nationalism based in ignorance.
For purposes of this article, I’ll elaborate on the ethnicity of the performers — which normally I couldn’t care less about since I see people as people — for a performance I watched the other night in the context of nationalism. It was a performance of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, one of my favourite pieces. The Orchestra was from Frankfurt. They have some Asian musicians in the Orchestra (and perhaps musicians from other areas of el mundo/the world), so they are not all of German ancestry. The piano soloist was from Turkey. I looked him up for purposes of this article, although I personally didn’t care where he was from or where he was born. That’s irrelevant to his performance. He’s from Planet Earth. If people lived on other planets it would be unimportant to me what planet they were from. Where a musician was born or lives is not something I usually give any thought to. Again, people are people. The conductor was from the dis-United States. So for this Ravel performance, most of the musicians were not born in France (queer boy Maurice Ravel was French) and their performance was just as good if not better than any performance of this piece that I’ve heard from French-born musicians.
In this performance with the pianist from Turkey, the comments under the video took on the tone of an ethnic nationalistic spectator sports event with commenters stopping just short of writing, “Rah, Rah Turkey! Rah, Rah Turkey!” Reading the comments, I felt like I was in the juvenile US with its ugly nationalism and fake patriotism. In the comments, there was indeed an immature and tacky “Rah, Rah, U-S-A”-style jingoism that one hears from the stupid-is-in and willfully-ignorant Tr*mp Cultist in the dis-United States in the hemisphere called the Américas with their red baseball caps and fake-patriotism, which is really just ugly ethnic nationalism. Again, the piano soloist in the Ravel was a human being born on Planet Earth. So does it matter what patch of land on the planet he came out of the birth canal on? I should think not. Stupid people! And it’s only going to get worse at the rate we’re going with tacky ethnic nationalism.
I’m surprised that the nationalistic people in those comments I mentioned above didn’t whinge that the Orchestra should have been from Turkey since the pianist was, and that all of the orchestral musicians should have come out of the birth canal of a Turkish mother onto Turkish soil, and that the conductor not be from the dis-United States but rather Turkish-born and currently living in Turkey. And perhaps a Turkish composer should have made some slight changes to the Ravel Piano Concerto in G score so that the concerto could have some Turkish “influence” to it. And maybe some Turkish repertoire on the same programme.
Now let’s go over to Russia. Since many people are brainwashed with this ugly ethnic nationalism that “only Russians can play Russian music properly,” consider this: Suppose a Russian-born musician doesn’t really care for the music of many or most Russian composers? How would one possibly get the best performance of a piece by Rachmaninov, for example, from someone who is not into the music s/he’s having to perform?
Here’s something else to consider: Is one automatically supposed to love the music composed in the country where one was born? If so, why is that? Even if it’s really not good music? Not all composers wrote the best music.
I like some of the music of Lenny Bernstein, and I like John Adams’s symphonic choral work Harmonium, which a chorister in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus under Robert Shaw told me “It was a bitch to record, I can tell you that!” — I bet it was — when she performed it and recorded under Robert Shaw in the ASOC. We performed John Adams’s Harmonium when I was a chorister in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and yes, it was a very difficult piece even for a Chorus of the caliber and with the choral expertise of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. But my interest in a piece is not based on where it was composed. It’s based on the piece itself. Both Bernstein and Adams were born in Massachusetts. Is everyone in MA supposed to like the music of Bernstein and Adams because both composers were born there? Is everyone in the US supposed to like the music of all USian composers?
Or, what if the person born in France is not particularly hot on the music of Francis Poulenc or Saint-Saëns? How would one get the best performance of some of the repertoire of those composers? Hopefully you get the idea.
Again, with ethnic nationalism, it’s all based on “just because where one was born” which no person has any control over. It’s not based on logic or reason or rational thought. And upon reflection, logic and reason are anathema to people’s willful-ignorance and ethnic nationalism.
How can it be that just because a musician was born in a certain country that that automatically makes him or her an authority on the performance of the music of that country’s composers? I don’t understand that illogical, that simplistic thinking. Even if it were possible for him or her to go to the extreme of receiving a blood transfusion from the composer — in many cases it would have to be previously frozen blood taken from the composer before he died — how would that make the musician a supposed authority on the works of that composer?
What happened to two critical essentials for a superb performance: Talent and artistry?
Neither have anything to do with where one was born, nor are either necessarily genetic. Neither have anything to do with some people’s adoration for ethnic nationalism. For example, I’m a Conservatory-trained musician — Piano Major and Voice and Pipe Organ double minors — and began formal piano training at the age of 8. But neither of my parents were musicians.
What else would be on the list for a superb performance following talent and artistry? Musical training — regardless of which country or city someone trained in — along with skill level, one’s ear-training and other aspects. None of which have anything what-so-ever to do with the country one was born in since people are free to train anywhere they choose, if accepted upon audition.
Yet I’ve heard people mindlessly repeat that pabulum about: “A Russian must play Rachmaninov. A French musician must play Poulenc. A German citizen must play Bach. An Englishman (that’s the outdated sexist language they use) must play the music of Herbert Howells or CV Stanford or Sir William Walton.” I’ve heard that drivel many times in my past. It is such very simplistic thinking. It’s sounds worthy of a musical greeting card, something that shallow and superficial. Matching composers with their corresponding country — like one is playing some board game — sounds good fleetingly to the non-thinking person, but upon careful analysis, that thinking is absolute rubbish.
Suppose a heterosexual couple — a German father and French mother — have a child and the child is born in Finland. What is that child considered? Of Finnish nationality? Because the child came out of the birth canal on Finland’s soil? And because of that in the minds of these ethnic nationalistic idiots, this child automatically qualifies as an authority on the performance of — as a soloist, conductor or in a musical ensemble — the music of Sibelius? What rubbish. And suppose not all members of the Orchestra were born in Finland? There may be a few Latinos and Asians in the Orchestra, or of other ethnic groups. Then what do you do with your ethnic nationalistic nonsense?
Quite frankly, this “Russians must play Russian music,” and “Germans must play German music” is best left for a stupid-is-in cliché greeting card culture where one’s society is catering to the lowest common denominator.
Yet, we still have some outdated fossils among us who mindlessly regurgitate these outdated sayings and myths, such as:
“French musicians perform French music the best.”
“Russian musicians perform Russian music the best.”
“Finnish musicians perform Finnish music the best.”
“German musicians perform German music the best.”
And so forth. All based on the ethnic nationalism people have been brainwashed with.
It reminds me of “simple slogans for simple minds.”
To me, I see it as a case of musically-ignorant people who need simple slogans for their simple minds and simple thinking. These are people who engage in simplistic, jingoistic thinking, void of any critical thinking skills.
Ethnic nationalism in classical music seems to be promoted by what’s known as “the greying audience,” meaning it’s mainly an outdated generational thinking caused by society’s ugly-nationalistic brainwashing also based in ignorance and very likely some prejudice. It’s the same generation where sexism and chauvinism were deeply brainwashed into them as well, and remains with them today. Where guys have been brainwashed that they must pull out chairs for women in restaurants, open car doors for women, open building doors for women, buy women flowers, buy women candy, buy, buy, buy and all that other catering to a woman nonsense. She’s seen as “the little lady.” How feminist! Who has the patience for all that nonsense? One would get the impression that women can’t do a damn thing for themselves — helpless her can’t open a damn door! — by observing the guy’s sexism in action. Helpless her can’t pull out a chair? That’s odd, she pulls out chairs just fine when she’s vacuuming and does (what the guy calls) “woman’s work.” The sexists among us — especially sexist females who enjoy being subservient to guys and seen as “the little lady” rush to defend and excuse what I’ve just described by saying, “The guy is just being a gentleman.” What they’re really saying is: “Gentleman = sexist chauvenist, and I — as a “little lady” — am perfectly fine with that because that’s the way I was brought up and that’s the way I like to be treated. I like to be subservient to my man. I see him as daddy. (That’s her head trip). I don’t want to be his equal. That’s not how I was raised. I like to be put up on a pedestal (just like my daddy put me on a pedestal), until my man gets tired of catering to my every need, want and whinging, and gets angry with me in a rage of domestic violence and slaps me around. Then he tells his male friends that he has slapped the little lady around and put her in her place.”
That’s about the extent of it. Let’s tell it like it is. It’s the same sexist generation that sees nothing wrong with the sexist conductor walking over and slobbering over the hand of the female First Concertmaster. But when the First Concertmaster is a guy, Mr Sexist Conductor doesn’t kiss his hand. All he gets is a handshake from the conductor. Or when the sexist conductor has to trot over and kiss the female vocal soloists-screamers on the cheeks but when he gets to the male vocal soloists-screamers they only get a handshake, and notice that Mr Sexist Conductor starts congratulating the females first. The guys didn’t perform as well as the females? That’s the impression given by Mr Sexist Conductor. And with the #metoo movement, one would think that a conductor would have the sense to know that he shouldn’t be kissing any females these days, unless he already knows her intimately. I say all of this because I do indeed think that those who hold to this ethnic nationalistic thinking are also among the same people who hold to these outdated sexist, chavnistic traditions that I see in classical music performances and elsewhere. These are also the same people who attach the female gender to inanimate objects such as a ship or a motor vehicle. Such objects are referred to with female pronouns such as “she is sailing the oceans” or “her sails are high” or “Princess [name of ship]” in the case of a sailing vessel. These are also the same people who refer to “Mother Earth.” That’s odd, I’ve never seen any female plumbing or protruded mammary glands on any inanimate objects, have you? I wonder where they might be? Someone online seemed to be justifying ships being referred to as “she” and “her” because — according to the commenter — ships have been called “she” and “her” since Tudor times. So that makes it right, does it? So let’s carry that twisted thinking a bit further: Any time anyone objects to a Black person being referred to pejoratively as a “nigger” one should say, “Well now, the use of the word nigger has been used for Black people since such and such date,” implying it’s perfectly acceptable. Ludicrous thinking. Some septic people will go to any extreme to defend sexism, prejudice, bigotry and chauvinism.
Ethnic nationalism — with its “us versus them” agenda/mindset — is at an all-time high in various parts of the world today. It’s being heavily promoted by septic, elitist, mostly wealthy, white supremacists/nazis, hate-based, ignorant and insane politicians with their class-warfare agenda intended at scapegoating other groups of people to cater to their equally septic base of bigoted, stupid, prejudiced and anti-ethnic (usually white) cultists. El hombre naranja comes to mind as one example of that.
With ethnic nationalism, it’s become a very simple-minded slogan that some listeners in classical music like to repeat. They say:
The musicians of a certain country perform that country’s music the best. That is rank nationalism and it completely overlooks what is really required for the best performance of any piece of music which begins with:
1. A musician’s level of talent and artistry, regardless of where in the world they were born or where they currently live
2. A musician’s musical training, including ear training and one’s keen ear
3. A musician’s skill level
4. A musician’s interest in the repertoire s/he is performing, which may or may not include the music of the musician’s country, as well as other factors.
Just because a musician pops out of a vagina on a certain plot of land in a country does not at all guarantee that s/he automatically — because of birthplace — likes the music of the composers of his/her country or performs it the best. And anyone who thinks that is engaging in rank ugly, ethnic nationalism.
I don’t think any serious, well-trained, seasoned musician would repeat this ethnic nationalistic drivel because from their training and musical experience, they know it’s not true. It’s a myth. It’s a lie.
From my experience in working with well-trained musicians over decades, they don’t believe in ethnic nationalism because they know, and correctly so, that they themselves can perform a piece of music just as well as someone who was born on a certain plot of land in a certain country. When you think about it, doesn’t that sound ludicrous that just because someone came out of a vagina on a certain plot of land somewhere in some country, that somehow that makes that person an expert, an authority and the “best performer” of the music written in that country? That’s insane thinking. It’s ludicrous. But fortunately, I never once heard a well-trained, seasoned musician say, “leave Russian music to the Russians” or similar shallow and superficial thinking. And in U-toob comment sections, I think it’s often the conservative (what I call) classical music armchair critics who mindlessly make ethnic nationalistic statements when they’re serving as self-appointed judges, authorities and arm-chair critics of Classical Music performances, nit-picking someone’s performance to death, sometimes giving their measure-by-measure “analysis” of what was wrong with someone’s performance, according to them of course.
Here’s an example of ethnic-nationalism and willful-ignorance:
While writing this article, I watched a performance conducted by a Latino conductor. He lives in Austria. One ignorant commenter wrote about the performance: “Spainards make the best conductor [sic].” The conductor is not Spainard. (roll eyes/sigh) Someone wrote in response: “With respect, I think that he is bi-national: Colombian/Austrian.” That commenter is correct. The conductor is Colombiano but lives in Vienna. He’s not Spainard. And I think until a certain generation dies off, people will continue to write this rubbish. I won’t have it!
Cultural factors can indeed influence musicians but cultural differences and influences are not the topic of this article. And those differences and influences don’t produce a better performance either. An example of cultural influences is that Sergei Rachmaninov was very influenced by Russian Orthodox Church bells, so much so that one hears the tolling of bells throughout some of his pieces. In 1913, he wrote a choral symphonic cantata called “Колокола, Kolokola,” Op. 35/”The Bells.” If you give that piece to some of the finest Orchestras and Choruses en el mundo/in the world, they will perform it just as well, if not better than, an Orchestra and Chorus from Russia. Personally, I’ve not been that impressed with some Russian choral ensembles I’ve heard perform “The Bells” — depending upon the ensemble — because they were not singing with perfect intonation or clear diction. Their voices did not blend perfectly. And that and many other factors determine “the best performance” for a symphonic choral work. Although unfortunately the Classical Music armchair critics often decide “the best performance” solely on their favourite celebrity conductor conducting the performance and they engage in their conductor-worshipping routine and name-dropping.
Recently I read this comment on a U-toob video of a performance of a work by Sibelius. The person wrote:
“I always wanted the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 conducted by a Finnish conductor”
Oh here we go again with the small-minded ethnic nationalism. Did you ever meet the man (Sibelius) to talk with him in detail about his music and or his Symphony No. 2? I suspect not. (Sibelius died in 1986.)
But see what I mean? I suppose it’s easier to engage in this simplistic thinking of “Finnish goes with Finnish” — the same as if one is matching colours like it’s an easy-to-do board game or something — than to actually use critical thinking skills. I wanted to ask this ethnic nationalistic-brainwashed person, “Why? What would make a Finnish conductor’s performance of Sibelius any more special or unique to that of any other conductors of various ethnic nationalities?” The conductor who often conducts the Orchestra where the comment appeared was born in Colombia. He’s the same conductor I mentioned above who lives in Vienna. Aside from some interpretation differences which vary between musicians no matter where they were born, if el Colombiano conductor and the Finnish conductors were using the same score how would the Finnish conductor’s performance be different overall from that of el Colombiano, just because of where the two conductors came out of a vagina? Doesn’t that seem like trite silly thinking?
I watched the Sibelius performance that commenter was referring to and enjoyed it, but I didn’t know the nationality of the conductor — nor did I care about that — until after I watched the performance. Again, someone’s nationality/ethnicity is not something I usually give any thought to because I see people as people regardless of their ethnicity or skin colour pigmentation. To me, the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 was pretty much conducted the way any other conductor would conduct it. And why wouldn’t it be? Conductors are all using the (same) conductor’s score of various Authentic/Performance Editions, meaning Editions Peters (Urtext) or Editions Bärenreiter Verlag and so forth. It’s not like a Finnish conductor has access to some special “Finnish” conductor’s score that’s kept locked up and that only Finnish conductors are allowed to peruse and use to perform the “secret wishes” of Sibelius. It’s not as if in order to access this “secret” score that the Finnish conductor is requested in fascistic style to “Show us your papers, please, to confirm to us that you are indeed Finnish and that Finnish is in your blood.” It’s not as if the Finnish conductor has to give a DNA sample in order to use that “secret” Finnish score. Ludicrous.
All human beings bleed red regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
And with hateful, anti-migrant, anti-ethnic nationalism being used these days by septic, fake-Christian, deranged, hateful, insane, white supremacist self-serving political scum — who are the new messiah figure to a bunch of stupid, gullible, willfully-ignorant in many cases, easily-manipulated (mostly white) people — who divide people into this “us versus them” mentality throughout much of el mundo/the world, I suspect ethnic nationalism is only going to get much worse leading to increased violence and civil wars around the world.
Each conductor conducts a piece slightly differently based on their interpretation of the piece, but still that’s within the context of honouring the wishes of the composer (hopefully) indicated in the score. Conducting or performing a piece has nothing whatsoever to do with the conductor or performers being Finnish, Russian, German, Asian, English or Latin American or born in any other country or area of the Earth. That is silly ethnic nationalism which has no place in the international language known as music.
At the Conservatory where I trained, I don’t remember ethnic nationalism ever being talked about. I never heard anyone say, “For Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, you must have a British Orchestra, Chorus, conductor and soloist-screamer” because William Walton was British. Or “For JS Bach’s Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244, you’ve got to have a Deutsch/German Orchestra and Chorus and conductor, and soloists.” No, I never heard any of that ethnic nationalistic rubbish.
When I was a chorister in Orchestra Choruses, I never heard any ethnic nationalism there either. When we, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, performed Rachmaninov’s Колокола, Kolokola, Op. 35/The Bells with the National Symphony Orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, I remember Norman Scribner, the Chorus Director, briefly working with the bass section particularly looking for the authentic low-rumbling “Russian bass” sound he wanted from the basses. He got what he was looking for in a few minutes and told the basses something to the effect that “whatever you just did, do that, that’s what I’m looking for” although he didn’t use those exact words. And most of the Choral Arts Society basses — because of their musical expertise and level of talent and choral experience — knew exactly what Norman was talking about when he asked for an authentic “Russian bass sound.” But that really had nothing to do with ethnic nationalism — but rather more of a cultural difference as I see it — as opposed to this nonsense about “Russians must perform Russian music.”
If you think about it, most music would probably never get performed if you had to leave it up to the musicians from and of the country where the music was composed. I think repertoire selections would be rather thin.
Musically speaking, I think this ethnic nationalism comes from amateurs. People who don’t know any better. Wannabe-musicians, the musically-untrained and musically willfully-ignorant that one can often find in some U-toob comments. Musical compositions speak to people worldwide and can be performed by the finest musicians worldwide regardless of their ethnicity, cultural differences and countries of origin.
Orchestral Management: An Accomplice in the Promotion of Archaic Ethnic Nationalistic Thinking for Their Financial Interests
It’s all about the dinero/money. Whether most or all of orchestral management and or performing arts organisations still agree with or believe in this archaic ethnic nationalistic thinking or not, they continue to promote it and use it to their financial advantage. And by doing so they are complicit and serving as an accomplice to ethnic nationalism by continuing to promote it. They exploit it, they play on it to bait a certain bigoted segment of their audience having long ago been brainwashed — probably earlier in their life — with ugly ethnic nationalism. Again, I do think it is the older generation that continues to believe in this nonsense, adheres to and mindlessly repeats this outdated myth of ethnic nationalism. Most people were likely brainwashed with ethnic nationalism and other “us versus them” thinking decades ago.
For example, one will hear this type of ad promoting a concert of Rachmaninov’s Sinfonische Tänze, as one example:
“Come and hear Rachmaninov’s Sinfonische Tänze/Symphonic Dances conducted by the Russian conductor, [name of celebrity Russian conductor]. He will be conducting the National Orchestra of Russia in this amazing and vibrant performance. You won’t want to miss it. This concert is an all-Russian music performance featuring an all-star cast of Russian musicians. Tickets are limited so order now!”
As if they can perform the music better than anybody else! What Rubbish. Well, despite all the sales hype (including the overused word “vibrant”), the only thing they didn’t say in that advertisement is to outright lie and say:
“And as we all know, only Russians can play Russian music correctly and authentically.”
But that’s an example of a type of hyped promotion that one hears and sees from the pro-ethnic nationalist crowd who enjoy promoting this lie and myth of ugly ethnic nationalism.
With them, their limited, child-like world view seems to be very simplistic:
A person born in France plays Poulenc or some French composer the best. A person born in México plays the music of Manuel Ponce or Carlos Chávez the best. A person born in England plays Herbert Howells’s music the best. A person born in Russia plays Rachmaninov the best. And so forth.
It’s terribly lazy thinking as well as archaic. As I’ve written before, my favourite recording of the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 is with pianist Cristina Ortiz who was born in Brazil, not in Russia. And the Orchestra she performed with, The Philharmonia, is from the UK. But doesn’t the Orchestra consists of some musicians from other countries? I should think so. The conductor, Iván Fischer, was born in Budapest.
As I said earlier, I’ve heard radio announcers — conservative BBC Radio 3 and their ethnic nationalism being among the worst; they seem to be obsessed with this stuff or at least they were when I was listening to them — say, “Next, we’re going to listen to a piece played by the [name of birth country-born] pianist.” I would ask: Why is it important for us to know where the pianist was born? What does that have to do with anything, BBC Radio 3? Are you going to give us his mother’s grave site address too and where his father and mother were born? How about the grandparents? Do these radio networks look up the name of everyone whose music they’re playing to see where the artist was born? Who has the time for that? If only they would spend as much time looking up the correct pronunciation of some composers’ names they mispronounce, such as Manuel Ponce (the accent is on the first syllable of PONce and not the second syllable). They, at the BBC, have an español-language division so they could easily pick up the phone and call over there and ask for the correct pronunciation of Ponce and other español words. But no, that would require some preparation. Instead, they are more comfortable with mispronouncing español words — or at least they were when I listened to R3 regularly — and didn’t bother to check for accuracy and not caring what listeners they offended. I won’t have it! “Just trying to bring a little happiness to people’s sad lives.”
That’s a quote from Ms Councillor Nugent when she was in the charity shop, with a very sour look on her face, “Just trying to bring happiness to people’s lives” as she puts the purse she was price-tagging to the side, which turned out to be Hyacinth’s purse, which was not for sale. I’m talking about the British comedy Keeping Up Appearances, with a slight adjustment to the original script. After that, Ms Nugent went on about how, “I won’t have it, our forefathers went through generations without getting all dolled up for the opposite sex.” That was an all-time great comedy. Patricia Rutledge (Our Hyacinth) said she enjoyed doing it because she can’t stand pretentious snooty people. Neither can I. Upon reflection, the snooty pretentious people can be the same crowd I’m writing about who have been brainwashed with ugly ethnic nationalism. That generational outdated thinking. Keeping Up Appearances ended after 5 seasons. Patricia said she got tired of doing it. It would get tiresome to spend five years mocking pretentious snooty people, even if one is getting paid for it. Sadly, several members of the cast have died: Our Rose (the second Rose), Ms Concellor Nugent, Onslow and Richard. I suspect The Pillsworth Sisters have died too (remember them?) but I don’t know for sure. And I think Hyacinth’s “Daddy” died.
Ugly ethnic nationalism — one of the tools of the far-right these days — is at an all-time high around the world, but particularly in the dis-United States and in the EU.
I suspect this ethnic nationalistic thinking will not disappear until a certain generation dies off. Especially in the current political climate of hate of one group or another, the older generation and some of the Millennials see no problem with using sexist and anti-ethnic language. They use terms such as “rice burners” and other pejoratives based on one’s ethnicity and or skin-colour pigmentation.
Then there will still be a few stragglers with their ethnic nationalism going on about “leave Poulenc to the French.” Why? When a pianist in Hong Kong or in Buenos Aires can play Poulenc as well as or better than some French musicians.
I can’t remember ever hearing these ethnic nationalistic comments made about legendary pianist Marta Argerich. (I spell Marta the way it’s pronounced in español). I suspect most people think of her as “European” or born in the EU. She was born in Buenos Aires. That’s in Argentina for the stupid-is-in crowd who may show up here. And Argentina is in América you know. Just like the dis-United States is in América (North América specifically) and Argentina is in South América. If I’m correct, I think Marta Argerich lives in Brussels, the headquarters of the EU. With ethnic nationalistic thinking one would say: We’re performing some Belgian music on the programme, so let’s get the Belgian pianist, Marta Argerich. But Marta is not Belgian. Again, she was born in Argentina. Yet I’ve never heard anyone say that she shouldn’t be playing certain music because “she was not born in [fill in the name] of said country.” See how silly this ethnic nationalism is? Or take Nelson Friere, who was born in Boa Esperança, Brazil. I don’t see anyone avoiding him when they want him to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto in a, for example.
Two of the finest performances of the Fauré Requiem I’ve heard: The first by the Danish Radio Orchestra and Chorus from Copenhagen, not by a French choral ensemble or conductor. And the second performance by the Collegium Vocale Gent and La Chapelle Royale, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées conducted by Philippe Herreweghe. The Chorus is from Belgium and the Orchestra from Paris. I think Philippe lives/is from Paris. In both performances the Chorus was superb, as well as the Orchestra which is what I look for in symphonic choral performances, how well-trained the Chorus was/is.
But I live under no illusions that this outdated ethnic nationalistic thinking will disappear in my life time. In fact, at the rate things are going, I expect it and other things just like it will only get worse as people worldwide seem to be rushing back to the Dark Ages in many ways.
On the topic of outdated traditions, another commenter on U-toob, a traditionalist, was complaining about Marta Argerich using her score with a page turner in her performance of the Beethoven Choral Fantasy Op 80, for Orchestra, Chorus and piano soloist. I was glad to see Marta using her score and she should do what she’s most comfortable doing. I thought it looked good and gave a more chamber music feel to the performance (since per tradition a pianist is allowed to use his or her score in chamber music performances). This silly commenter said, “I would have thought that she would have known that piece well considering her experience” or words to that effect. She did know it well. She played it superbly. Just because a pianist uses his or her scores does not mean that s/he does not know the piece. What is wrong with people? Where did this guy train not to know that? It meant that she felt more comfortable using the score, as I would have. I prefer to see pianists using their scores. Everybody else does, meaning everyone else uses their scores, why shouldn’t the pianist? Pianists and organists play the most notes of all. Related: Pianists: Use your scores. Screw these outdated traditions.
Recently I heard an excellent Asian male pianist, Seong-Jin Cho, play the Tchaikovsky PC #1 with Myung-Whun Chung conducting the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra. I said to mi amigo/my friend: Clearly, the boy can play and this should put to rest that rubbish about “only Russians can play Russian music.” He played just as well or better than anyone else — regardless of their country of origin — I’ve heard play the same concerto. The conductor is also a former piano concert artist but went into conducting. So you had the Asian pianist and Asian conductor with the Orchestra from Paris. Were there any Russian-born musicians in the Orchestra? That’s the pressing question that the ethic nationalistic-brainwashed basura will want to know.
I don’t know if they still have it, but some years ago a local concert series in San Francisco had a month-long Russian Festival. Now you might think that such a festival would be full of Russian music, no? Well, that wasn’t the case. The festival only featured musicians with a Russian surname playing Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Schumann et al. I thought it was damn odd because when they started the series (it was an annual event) I was looking forward to hearing lots of Rachmaninov. But no, one didn’t hear much Rachmaninov at all. Instead it was Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Haydn, and other non-Russian composers. In fact, they seemed to go out of their way to not programme Rachmaninov or other Russian composers on a Russian Festival. Insane. I remember thinking at the time: This is a damn odd festival. There’s hardly any Russian music on this thing. What nut came up with this? Well, probably the head of the series who had a Russian surname who I take was heavily into ugly ethic nationalism. It was the same person who encouraged pianists to play from memory although when she performed she used her score. It was all about where the musician was born: Russia. I went to some of the performances and didn’t find that the Russian musicians played the non-Russian repertoire on the Russian Festival any differently than anybody else on the planet. This festival was all about the ethnic nationality of the musicians. It had to do with where on the planet they came out of the birth canal. And again, what does that have to do with anything when music is the international language?
Along with ethnic nationalism, in the dis-United States many people are noticing how racism and anti-ethnic thinking is now considered acceptable by many. Of course this attitude has been set by the current White House occupant and the basura around him, and this will continue since he’s not going anywhere unless he dies in office. He, and the basura around him, are now considered to be above the law.
One can certainly appreciate the superb musicians in various parts of the world — just as they have some outstanding choral ensembles in the Nederlands and other parts of the EU — but don’t take it to the extreme by saying that “Nederlands choral ensembles are the best” when there are many “best” Choruses, Orchestras and other musicians around the world. A bit about the Nederlands (Dutch spelling). For some reason, once again, English felt the need to disrespect another international language and change the spelling to “Netherlands.” I use the original. Too often, unfortunately, people refer to the Nederlands as Holland. Holland is only part of the Nederlands. Referring to the Nederlands as Holland is like referring to the US as California. Within the Nederlands, there are 12 prefectures or provinces. Two of those 12 prefectures are Holland. So it’s best to use the name of the country: Nederlands to be accurate. The City of Amsterdam is in Noord-Holland or North Holland. Hope this helps.
Up near the top of this article I referred to “banging” Russian pianists. I want to clarify that. Russian pianist have this undeserved reputation for banging the keyboard when they’re playing. In reality, that can be said about anybody of any ethnic nationality. Some pianists — Russian and other nationalities — bang (at times) when they play where others do not. I did hear a well-known pianist of Russian ethnicity play the Rachmaninov Third and he banged his way through the third movement, raising his hands up to the top of where the music rack would be if he were using his score. So I didn’t really enjoy his third movement but enjoyed the rest of the concerto. Then I heard Yuri Favorin recently play the Rachmaninov 4 and he played beautifully throughout. No banging whatsoever, and he’s Russian by the way. I only mention that in the context of “banging Russian pianist.” I think it’s a blanket, undeserved reputation that Russian pianist have unfortunately been tarnished with, perhaps by people who don’t really care for or are jealous of the Russian School of Piano Playing. Chau.—el barrio rosa