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Dr. Bortrum

 

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04/07/2004

Great and Not So Great

I want to go back to Marco Island! We returned home to New
Jersey on April Fool’s Day after spending five hours at the Fort
Myers airport thanks to a technological breakdown. It seems the
radar network in certain areas of Florida was down and, rather
than fly off with no air traffic control, we had to wait for the
system to be reenergized. Now we’re back in balmy New Jersey
and, as I write this, the temperature is 35 degrees with wind gusts
up to 45 miles per hour. Oh for those “breezes” in Florida.

As I mentioned last week, Brian Trumbore is giving me this
week off to get acclimated to my new surroundings. However, I
thought I would just give a quick review in my role as self
appointed, totally unqualified music critic. Why is it that the
New York Philharmonic insists on scheduling performances of
orchestral pieces written after about 1920? The first half of last
Friday’s afternoon concert was “Metamorphosen (Violin
Concerto No. 2)” by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The
soloist was a very talented fellow by the name of Julian Rachlin
and I’m sure that he elicited the best possible outcome for
Penderecki’s work. While I’ve certainly heard worse, the work
contained no passages that I will remember and certainly nothing
that I will find myself humming in the shower.

The audience responded with polite applause and sustained it
long enough to avoid the embarrassment of not having at least
one curtain call. Thankfully, the response was deservedly much
more enthusiastic after the performance that followed the
intermission. This was Schubert’s Symphony in C Major, D.944,
also known as his “Great” Symphony. I was interested to find in
the program notes that in the past this symphony has been
referred to as either Schubert’s Ninth, Eighth, Seventh or Tenth
Symphony. It seems that not one of his symphonies was
published during his lifetime and, except for this one, none was
published for 50 years after his death in 1828.

It was the New York Philharmonic that introduced the Great
Symphony to America back in 1851. Since then the orchestra
has performed it some 158 times and we were fortunate to be
present at conductor Lorin Maazel’s first “Great” with the
Philharmonic in over 60 years of appearing as a conductor with
the orchestra.

Last Sunday, on the program Sunday Morning with Charles
Osgood, there was a segment on a current trend for performing
classical music with an “edge” to it. I think one group was called
Opera Babes (?) and the edge was the fact that the young ladies
playing the classics were all quite attractive. Other groups or
soloists performed in a manner designed to attract the younger
audience.

It occurs to me that the Philharmonic might adopt a similar
approach when they play the modern, avant-garde works. If
these pieces were played by beautiful women in scanty costumes
at least the works could be visually appreciated if not sonically.
Well, I think you can see I need a week off, so I’ll stop here and
start working on my income tax. Ugh! Next week it’s back to
science and technology, hopefully.

Allen F. Bortrum



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Dr. Bortrum

04/07/2004

Great and Not So Great

I want to go back to Marco Island! We returned home to New
Jersey on April Fool’s Day after spending five hours at the Fort
Myers airport thanks to a technological breakdown. It seems the
radar network in certain areas of Florida was down and, rather
than fly off with no air traffic control, we had to wait for the
system to be reenergized. Now we’re back in balmy New Jersey
and, as I write this, the temperature is 35 degrees with wind gusts
up to 45 miles per hour. Oh for those “breezes” in Florida.

As I mentioned last week, Brian Trumbore is giving me this
week off to get acclimated to my new surroundings. However, I
thought I would just give a quick review in my role as self
appointed, totally unqualified music critic. Why is it that the
New York Philharmonic insists on scheduling performances of
orchestral pieces written after about 1920? The first half of last
Friday’s afternoon concert was “Metamorphosen (Violin
Concerto No. 2)” by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The
soloist was a very talented fellow by the name of Julian Rachlin
and I’m sure that he elicited the best possible outcome for
Penderecki’s work. While I’ve certainly heard worse, the work
contained no passages that I will remember and certainly nothing
that I will find myself humming in the shower.

The audience responded with polite applause and sustained it
long enough to avoid the embarrassment of not having at least
one curtain call. Thankfully, the response was deservedly much
more enthusiastic after the performance that followed the
intermission. This was Schubert’s Symphony in C Major, D.944,
also known as his “Great” Symphony. I was interested to find in
the program notes that in the past this symphony has been
referred to as either Schubert’s Ninth, Eighth, Seventh or Tenth
Symphony. It seems that not one of his symphonies was
published during his lifetime and, except for this one, none was
published for 50 years after his death in 1828.

It was the New York Philharmonic that introduced the Great
Symphony to America back in 1851. Since then the orchestra
has performed it some 158 times and we were fortunate to be
present at conductor Lorin Maazel’s first “Great” with the
Philharmonic in over 60 years of appearing as a conductor with
the orchestra.

Last Sunday, on the program Sunday Morning with Charles
Osgood, there was a segment on a current trend for performing
classical music with an “edge” to it. I think one group was called
Opera Babes (?) and the edge was the fact that the young ladies
playing the classics were all quite attractive. Other groups or
soloists performed in a manner designed to attract the younger
audience.

It occurs to me that the Philharmonic might adopt a similar
approach when they play the modern, avant-garde works. If
these pieces were played by beautiful women in scanty costumes
at least the works could be visually appreciated if not sonically.
Well, I think you can see I need a week off, so I’ll stop here and
start working on my income tax. Ugh! Next week it’s back to
science and technology, hopefully.

Allen F. Bortrum