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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Tenor Rolando Villazon: "I don't think you learn anything from blogs and reviews."
Philippe Merle
AFP/Getty Images
Tenor Rolando Villazon: "I don't think you learn anything from blogs and reviews."
  • Tenor Rolando Villazon let loose during a recent Q&A with The Arts Desk: "One thing that I haven't achieved is longevity. This will come — if it comes. That said, I don't think that longevity is a necessary part of a great career." And regarding his own health problems: "[My doctor] would have told [critics] the problem was biology. I would have got it if I had sung Mozart. It had nothing to do with repertoire or technique or how much I sang. You don't have cysts in your finger because you don't know how to write." Also: "I don't think you learn anything from blogs and reviews."
  • If you followed the arrest and trial of the Moscow-based punk trio Pussy Riot this past spring and summer, you'll already know that musicians around the world have supported them. One glaring exception: conductor Valery Gergiev, who campaigned in support of Vladimir Putin. As he told Britain's Independent this week, "I don't think this is anything to do with artistic freedom. Why go to the Cathedral of Christ to make a political statement? Why with screaming and dancing? You don't need to go to a place that is considered sacred by many people. I am told by too many people that those girls are potentially a very good business proposition. Suppose that someone created all this in order to produce another touring group earning millions and millions? Anna Netrebko" — who, incidentally, also campaigned for Putin — "didn't need to do something like this."
  • Our friend and occasional Deceptive Cadence bloggeur Jeremy Denk, writing rather self-referentially on the late Charles Rosen for The New Yorker: "Charles's obituaries call him a 'polymath,' a 'scholar-musician;' they laud his 'ferocious intelligence,' his 'all-around brilliance.' Behind all these epithets lurks the unavoidable and vexing question: Should a musician have a brain? I mean, a brain over and above what's necessary to move the fingers, eat, sleep, make charming chitchat at gala dinners with sponsors, etc. We say 'thinking musician' as if it were a freakish breed, like a peacock that talks, distracting you from its glorious feathers."
  • From Minneapolis: The former Minnesota Orchestra music director Edo de Waart and former concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis returned to town to take in a concert mounted by the locked-out musicians. De Waart told the Star-Tribune: "My heart is still with this orchestra. I was here for nine years, so it was not brain surgery to show my support for the musicians."
  • And in Indiana, the owners of the Colts and the Pacers have each pledged $750,000 to support the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, reports local CBS affiliate WISH. These donations get the ensemble almost halfway to its fundraising goal.
  • Classical geek? Keep going...

  • Norman Lebrecht reads Martin Geck's new Schumann biography for the Wall Street Journal: "The Schumanns were cultivating a brand with the same determination as their ferocious counterparts, Wagner, Berlioz and Liszt ... Behind Schumann's florid exterior ticked an organized brain."
  • The late Dave Brubeck's son Chris, writing for NewMusicBox about his dad and his dad's short time studying with the father of dodecaphony: "Dave had exactly two lessons with Arnold Schoenberg in L.A. At the end of the first lesson he was told to write something and bring it back for the second lesson. Dave was proud of what he wrote and when he played it for Schoenberg the next week, A.S. stopped him in the first bar demanding to know why Dave chose the 2nd note he had written. My dad replied 'because it sounded good.' Schoenberg went on a tirade saying that that was not a good enough reason to choose a note. Dad dared to ask what made him the sole arbiter of what was a right or wrong note. Schoenberg pointed to the tall book cases filled with scores that lined his studio and said he knew more about Western music than anyone else alive and that is why he had the authority to enforce his musical opinions. For better or worse that was Dave's last lesson with the great Schoenberg."
  • Well, this headline in The Independent just about says it all: "I've Discovered Classical Music Isn't Just for Snobs."
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    Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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