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Osmo Vanska
Osmo Vanska
(Minnesota Orchestra)

Last year at about this time, unable to reach a contract agreement with the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians, the orchestra’s board took extraordinary measures: they locked out the players and cancelled the 2012-13 season.

As the 2013-14 season looms, the two sides are no closer to a resolution, making Minnesota’s the longest labor dispute in US orchestral history. With the upcoming season now in doubt, many music lovers fear for the Minnesota Orchestra’s future.

On Tuesday (1 October 2013), the musicians voted to reject the board’s fourth contract offer. The board promptly cancelled this Friday’s season-opening concert, and two Sibelius programs set for Carnegie Hall in November.

In 2003, noted Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska moved from Finland to the Twin Cities to take the helm of the Minnesota Orchestra. Over the last decade, Vanska has raised the orchestra’s status worldwide and has helped them win Grammy nominations for recordings of Beethoven and Sibelius.

"The Carnegie Hall project represents for me one of the most significant goals of my entire Minnesota Orchestra tenure," Vanska said in a letter to the orchestra’s board in April. He said he would resign if the Carnegie concerts were cancelled. Tuesday he made good on that vow, casting a still darker cloud over the orchestra’s future.

Last summer, former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell tried to mediate the dispute between the orchestra’s management and the musicians. He proposed a compromise which would have kept the music flowing while negotiations continued. However, the orchestra’s management rejected his proposal.

According to the musicians’ union, the board’s fourth contract offer Tuesday (1 October 2013) bypassed the mediation process altogether. Their proposal called for pay cuts spread over 3 years, from the former contract’s $135,000 to an average of $104,500. (Earlier proposals from the orchestra had included salary reductions of 30%.) The musicians said "No thanks."

In addition to the regular season and the Carnegie Hall concerts, Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra were scheduled to record for the Swedish label BIS next spring. That’s now in doubt.

Orchestra Hall may be dark, but Minneapolis won’t be musically muted – at least not yet. The orchestra’s musicians will play their season opener as scheduled, this Friday and Saturday – but not at Orchestra Hall. They’ll perform at the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall. Pianist Emanuel Ax will solo in Mozart and Beethoven, just as originally planned. Who will be at the podium? That’s not yet clear, but rumors point to Vanska as a strong possibility.

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When Whoopi Goldberg moved into the convent as Sister Mary Clarence in the 1992 film Sister Act, the abbey was forever changed – or at least changed until Sister Act 2 a year later.

The music world might have seen a similar revelation and revolution, if not for society’s limitations on women in centuries past.

Consider two highly musical sisters, Maria Anna Mozart and Fanny Mendelssohn. Both received outstanding musical instruction. Both impressed thoughtful, unbiased contemporaries as immensely talented – equal to or perhaps even superior to their more famous brothers.

Maria Anna Mozart
Maria Anna Mozart

As a child, Maria Anna Mozart (Nannerl) studied with her father Leopold. She and younger brother Wolfgang were both on show as prodigies, touring Western Europe and Vienna with their father.

Maria Anna developed into a thoroughly capable composer, an accomplished keyboardist, and a fine improviser. Her father proudly touted her talents: "My little girl plays the most difficult works with incredible precision … although she is only 12 years old, [she] is one of the most skillful players in Europe."

And yet, as little brother Wolfgang rapidly progressed, Papa Leopold put the brakes on his big sister’s career.

Despite her father’s restrictions, Maria Anna served as Wolfgang’s agent, inviting Haydn to her home and playing some of Wolfgang’s quartets for the older composer. And in one of her letters, Maria Anna said that she had been Wolfgang Mozart’s only music advisor. Indeed, Wolfgang sent her most of his piano concertos, at least up to #21. He expressed amazement at Maria Anna’s skill as a composer, and – despite Leopold’s admonitions – encouraged her to write more. Alas, none of her compositions survives.

As the decades passed, although no radical changes developed, the climate improved somewhat for women musicians.

Fanny Mendelssohn

In the early 1800s, another dynamic sister-brother duo appeared on the scene. Both prodigiously talented siblings in the prominent Mendelssohn family, Fanny and Felix, studied with the finest instructors that Berlin could offer, thanks to their father’s encouragement (and his substantial financial resources).

Fanny Mendelssohn wrote a significant amount of music. But if her brother Felix encouraged her to compose, he drew the line at publication. He wrote that publishing her music "would only disturb her" in her "primary duties" of managing the home.

Of course, he was just echoing the cultural norms of the day – and papa Abraham’s exhortation to his 14 year old daughter: "You must become more steady and collected, and prepare more earnestly and eagerly for your calling, the only calling of a young woman — that of a housewife … music will perhaps become [Felix’s] profession, but for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the root of your being and doing."

Despite these restraints, Fanny persevered. Her surviving works include over 250 lieder, a string quartet, an overture, a piano trio, 125 solo piano works, and four cantatas.

In one of her late songs, Dein ist mein Herz, Fanny Mendelssohn quotes the poet Nikolaus Lenau. She bares her soul to many of those who held her back – perhaps most pointedly to her brother, whom she adored: "The dearest thing I may acquire in songs that abduct my heart is a word to me that they please you, a silent glance that they touch you."

– Sylvia Docking

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September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s dedicated to folks with roots in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Spain. But it’s also a time for all of us in this great melting pot to celebrate who we collectively ALL are.

PBS Western Reserve Public Media (Channels 45/49) is airing a month long series. Latino Americans is six one-hour documentaries featuring interviews with nearly 100 Latinos – and more than 500 years of History. (See times and dates here.)

I. Foreigners in their Own Land (1565-1880)
II. Empire of Dreams (1880-1942)
III. War and Peace (1942-1954)
IV. The New Latinos (1946-1965)
V. Prejudice and Pride (1965-1980)
VI. Peril and Promise (1980-2000)

Uncounted musicians from Central and South America have transformed lives round the world through their artistry. Here are just a few:

Manuel Barrueco is a Cuban classical guitarist, born in 1952 in Santiago de Cuba. He has toured in the US, Europe and Japan, and serves on the faculty of Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
Manuel Barrueco
Manuel Barrueco (ML Films)
Carlos Bonilla
Carlos Bonilla
Carlos Galo Raúl Bonilla Chávez – better known as Carlos Bonilla – was born in Quito, on March 21, 1923 and died there on January 10, 2010. He was one of the pioneers of the Ecuadorian classical guitar and an important figure in 20th-century Ecuadorian music.
Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida was born March 1, 1939 in Havana. He is a Cuban composer, conductor, and guitarist. He usually goes by the name of Leo Brouwer.
Leo Brouwer
Leo Brouwer
(Wikimedia Commons)
Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel
(Music Education UK)
Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez is a rising Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He is the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and honorary conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony.
Antonio Lauro (August 3, 1917 – April 18, 1986) was a Venezuelan musician, one of the foremost South American composers for the guitar in the 20th century.
Antonio Lauro
Antonio Lauro
(WVPM)
Tania Leon
Tania Leon
(Wikimedia Commons)
Tania León (born May 14, 1943 in Havana) is a composer, conductor, educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been profiled on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, and Telemundo. She’s also been the subject of independent films.

— Sylvia Docking

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Leonard Bernstein
(Wikimedia Commons)

For all the years that I’ve been doing classical radio (and it’s been a few), I’ve pushed back against this idea that somehow only folks with music degrees can Truly Appreciate classical music. It just isn’t so. At the same time, I have to say that music is like almost anything worthwhile – say, baseball or ballet – in that the more you understand about it, the more you love it.

So, about 6 months ago, I wrote about a few ways to build up your music chops. As I suggested then, one of the most enjoyable ways is through Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. These were – and are – not just for kids!

Bernstein’s YPCs were originally broadcast on CBS television from 1958 to 1972. Stop and think about that for a second. We’re talking classical concerts – with music education, no less! – on prime-time commercial television. Let that sink in, and ask yourself where you might find the equivalent today. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Back to Bernstein. Over the years of YPCs, he answered the kind of questions that make a real difference in understanding music, for people of all ages: What does music "mean"? What makes music symphonic? What’s a melody? What’s a mode? What’s sonata form?

When last I wrote about the Young People’s Concerts, some were available on DVDs – but only about half of them. It wasn’t at all clear what had happened to the rest, or whether we’d ever get to see them again.

Many of these programs are over a half-century old. It’s apparently taken some sleuthing to locate them. (I can understand that. I’d rather not discuss the state of my own personal audio archive, and it’s not 50 years old – yet.)

There are technical considerations, too. These programs were produced for the 1960s, when a 23 inch screen was as much as anyone needed for the living room. With today’s 6-foot wall mounted screens, viewers are more demanding than they used to be. The programs are no doubt suffering a little middle-age physical deterioration, too (aren’t we all). Thus they’ve had to undergo some digital alchemy in an effort to reverse some of that aging process, and bring them as close as possible to modern video standards.

I’ve just learned that the folks at Kultur, who brought out the earlier YPC set almost a decade ago, have finally finished rounding up and polishing the programs for a second volume. They say that they’ve now located and restored all the original YPC episodes. The second volume comprises 27 hours on 9 DVDs, bringing the total to a whopping 52 hours. List price for the second volume is $150. The new set will be released in about 7 weeks’ time (19 November 2013).

Further Exploration:

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, Volume 1 at Arkivmusic

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, Volume 2 (pre-release) at CD Universe

Leonard Bernstein’s The Unanswered Question (Harvard Lectures) at HB Direct


Disclaimer: WKSU receives no financial advantage from your use of any for-profit vendor(s) cited in this message. Recordings are available from a variety of sources, both local and online. Links are provided for your information and convenience. They don’t signify an endorsement.

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Teresa Carreño
Teresa Carreño

Maybe you’ve seen Jonathan Goldsmith as "The Most Interesting Man in the World," promoting a certain liquid product on television. It’s sheer fantasy, of course. But how about "The Most Interesting Pianist of the Present Age"?

That title went to a Venezuelan pianist in the late 19th century. The noted critic Hans von Bülow bestowed it. He declared that this pianist "sweeps the floor clean of all piano paraders who, after her arrival, must take themselves elsewhere."

Did you notice that pronoun? In an era dominated by male musicians, von Buelow said "her."

This phenomenon of the piano was Teresa Carreño. Rossini was mesmerized by her. The great American pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk called her a genius. Claudio Arrau remembered hearing her in his youth: "I don’t think I ever heard anyone fill the Berlin Philharmonic, the old hall, with such a sound."

As a child, Carreño took a few lessons from Gottschalk. Anton Rubinstein tutored her for a time in London. When she was a teenager, Liszt heard her in Paris and offered her lessons on the spot. Strong-willed even then, she declined his invitation, refusing to follow him to Rome.

Not only was Carreño an accomplished, powerful virtuoso pianist, she was quite attractive and possessed a gorgeous mezzo-soprano voice. She even conducted, and, for a time, ran an opera company.

Carreño wowed President Lincoln in a White House performance – but not before expressing her disapproval of the piano! As a virtuoso in Europe, she was just shy of canonization.

But Carreño was rather less than a saint in her private life, which really wasn’t very private at all. One German publication reviewed the "Walküre of the Piano" thus: "Frau Carreño yesterday played, for the first time, the second concerto of her third husband at the fourth Philharmonic concert."

In fact, Carreño eventually married four times. Two of her husbands were brothers. Legend has it that she kept a loaded pistol on her piano to ward off unwelcome guests.

A most unlikely friendship and mutual admiration developed between this enchantress and the staunchly conservative New England-born composer Amy Beach. Beach even dedicated her Piano Concerto in c sharp minor to Carreño.

Teresa Carreño may indeed have been one of the most interesting pianists of all time.

— Sylvia Docking

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