Chapter 8 talked about the experience of meeting Aaron Copland after hearing him conduct his composition, “Quiet City” at Tanglewood, on a summer evening. Tanglewood can be better appreciated by pictures than by verbal descriptions, so here is a LINK for seeing how beautiful a place it is.
People often would bring candelabras and elaborate lunches or dinners to spread on a blanket on the lawn before concerts. In the 1970’s, a very popular dish was borscht, a cold beet soup that was purchased at Alice’s Restaurant, made famous by the Arlo Guthrie song and movie.
“Quiet City” was discussed on an NPR program with portions of the piece played, and here is a LINK to listen to that. The NPR program does not play the entire piece, so here is a LINK so you can listen to it in its entirety. If you don’t click on any other link in these blogs, this is the one to listen to. It is remarkably beautiful. You can hear the contrasting sonorities of the trumpet and English Horn throughout. As you listen, you might imagine it played outdoors on a beautiful summer evening in the Berkshire Mountains. I always do.
Thank you for your interest in beautiful music.
Arthur Fiedler was 80 years old when we performed with him in 1974 at Christmas at Pops with Arthur Fiedler. He lived only 5 years longer. Conducting three performances in two days would be a major feat for a much younger person. Here is a LINK to information about him.
Also, here is a LINK to some pictures of him as the POPS plays their signature piece, Sleigh Ride.
It was a privilege to have worked with him, and to have seen how he managed an orchestra, both in rehearsal and in performance.
Pavarotti was 6’2″, but he seemed to not be very tall, as he was extremely wide and solid as a brick. Between scenes of the opera, he would consult with a coach in the side wings of the stage. The coach would express himself in a very animated manner, and strike Pavarotti on the chest with the palm of his hand. It was like hitting a brick wall. Pavarotti did not move a millimeter. He just stood there and engaged in the discussion, while this coach was hitting him with significant force right in the chest. I imagine they were discussing technique, but I do not speak Italian. Pavarotti has posted entertaining videos on technique, one of which you can watch HERE. Also, Ron Howard has made a documentary of his life, which is available HERE. Additionally, HERE is a very entertaining conversation about embarrassing moments in his opera career.
HERE is a summary of the career of Magda Olivero. I did not find any links for recordings of her singing. She seems to have been overlooked by the recording industry. One explanation may be that she was from an earlier era that valued melodrama, which did not go over well in the modern era.
The friend who hired me to be a Super in the operas was Don Palumbo. (I used a different name in the book, as I changed the names of most people who were not famous.) Don is the one who took over as director of the Chorus Pro Musica when Alfred Nash Patterson died. He put in years of work to improve his directing, working with the Dallas Opera, and traveling to Salzburg, Austria every summer to take part in the music festival there.
He also worked with the Boston Opera when they hired the Chorus Pro Musica to be the slave chorus in Aida. Part of the score calls for the chorus to sing off stage. The problem would be how to direct the chorus to sing in time with the orchestra. It was solved by having a video camera on the orchestra conductor, with the image placed on a TV monitor back stage. Don was standing on a step ladder, so the chorus could see him. As he watched the video, he directed us to sing in time with the orchestra. It is a very vivid memory for me, because I was so proud to see my friend directing as part of the Boston Opera. Little did I know how far Don would go.
I lost track of Don after I moved from Boston to California. Then one Saturday decades later, I listened to the credits at the end of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast, and they announced the Chorus Master of the Metropolitan Opera, Don Palumbo. I had no idea. I looked up on the internet, and sure enough there are videos of him teaching how to prepare opera choruses. HERE is an interesting recent interview.
For me, dressing up in a costume and being part of an opera, leaves very enjoyable memories. I especially liked being part of the Aida performance, because I did it with about 80 friends. It makes it a lot more fun to do it with a lot close friends. I have back stage pictures that were taken of us in costume and makeup, showing us having a great time.
Chapter 24 related tuning for a delightful concert by an extraordinary group of musicians. The pianist, Jon Kimura Parker, has many Youtube videos of him playing. I think the most interesting is a video of him discussing The Grieg Piano Concerto, and playing portions of the piece to illustrate his points. Here is the link:
The conductor, Bramwell Tovey, has a resume that is astounding. He has led all the major orchestras in the world and conducts opera in his spare time. Here is a LINK.
I found in the biography of Parker that he has played with Peter Schickele, who satirizes all that classical musicians hold dear.
My favorite piece by Schickele is his performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with two sportscasters giving the play-by-play and a referee enforcing penalties. Here is a link:
If you would like to watch other videos of Schickele, here is a link for a video of him playing with Itzhak Perlman:
Here is a link to another wonderful video by John Kimura Parker, this one about playing Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff: LINK
I hope you enjoy these performances.