Classical Barn

Lou Brutus at Wikipedia

Just how much is classical music about classics? According to the 2016 Mega-Meta-List, about 80%. Yes, I'm joking when I answer a complex, subjective question with a number (trust me, it was funny in Douglas Adams), but quantifying the unmeasurable is sort of what the meta-list project does.

Michael Daugherty at http://michaeldaugherty.net

Hearty congratulations to Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty on winning not one but three Grammy Awards, for an album that includes a work written for Iowa and first broadcast on IPR. The album, Tales of Hemingway (Naxos 8.559798), won "Best Classical Compendium" for Daugherty and for the performers, the Nashville Symphony led by Giancarlo Guerrero.

In 2007, I read that the "dispute about classical recording is whether it is dying or dead," but in 2016 it seemed as frisky as kids swarming a playground. So many albums came out that trying to winnow them to a "best-of-the-year" list could make you empathize with an Ivy League admissions officer. Yet the challenge didn't daunt hundreds of critics worldwide, and their choices were fascinating. In recent years I've been aggregating all the lists I could find into a "meta-list," and I wasn't ready to stop just yet, so ... welcome to IPR's 2016 Classical Mega-Meta-List!

In 2016, Berlin and Paris released new Beethoven sets, but if you want classical music that hasn’t been recorded 100 times, you really ought to give Iowa a try. So when Charity Nebbe invited me to share favorite releases of 2016, I focused entirely on our state. As I mentioned to her, Iowa orchestras play awesome Beethoven (you can hear them on IPR's Symphonies of Iowa ), but in studio albums, Iowa musicians tend to explore less-traveled byways.

Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of Hancher

At its 1892 premiere, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker went over like a stocking full of coal. St. Petersburg critics called it a "failed experiment" and "an insult." Only in Cold War America did it become the Christmas ballet, and while that process began in San Francisco, what made it a national tradition was a refugee who had danced the Nutcracker as a teenager in Russia, George Balanchine.

(c) Marco Borggreve / Juilliard School

Has classical music become a worldwide music culture in which non-Europeans are equal, full members and no nation has special privileges? And does Japan scramble cultural storylines and stereotypes more than most countries? I make both cases in contemplating a giant of current Bach interpretation, the keyboardist / conductor Masaaki Suzuki. 

Jim Poynter

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR (Barney Sherman): Hebrew was in ancient times a living language. Then, like Latin, it “died” – it ceased to be a native tongue for everyday speech, and was instead used only in liturgy, scholarship, and literature. But in the 20th century it was brought back to life as a daily language. The revival of spoken Hebrew had no precedent and has been challenging to duplicate. Would a similar revival be just as unlikely, then, in music?

A woman in 19th-century France equaled her male peers in composing music. What can we learn from her career about how to close the gender gap today?

wikimedia commons

In researching two posts on copyright (one on a study of Italian opera composers, and the other on cases involving Jean Sibelius), I found it useful to make myself a simple chronological timeline of laws on copyright duration. Just in case you find it useful too, here it is:

http://web.stanford.edu/~pmoser/

Last week, a suit over a Marvin Gaye song put copyright into the headlines; but last year, the top copyright stories involved classical music. I wrote about one of those stories in a previous post, and now want to tell you about an even more memorable one.

Tony in Devon on Wikimedia commons

Editor's Note (by Barney): In 1951, Dylan Thomas spent some time in Iowa. Two years later, his now-classic play Under Milk Wood premiered in New York City at the 92nd Street YNow, Susan Scheid, who spent some years in Iowa before moving to New York, tells us below about a Welsh composer who recently dared to set Under Milk Wood to music.

Editor's note: it's a pleasure to offer another in our series of classical reviews by IPR's panel of guest experts - this one by Dubuque native, cellist, author, & Boston Public Radio producer Will Roseliep (who started doing radio at the University of Iowa and also worked for IPR).

wikipedia

Jean Sibelius "created Finnish national identity in music." Asked to characterize their culture, Finns "invariably mention… ‘our Sibelius.’” But

I was working on a post about a cultural puzzle - why is it that over half of America's favorite Christmas songs were written by my people, the Jews?  Before I'd finished the first draft, NPR's Here & Now aired a segment on the topic, "A Goyische Christmas to You" (here's a link):

Margareta Mitchell

In 2014, two American composers whose name begin with "John" and end with "Adams" were surprised to find themselves in front-page headlines. John Luther Adams says he never imagined winning a Pulitzer, and John Adams says he never imagined the intensity of 

uri-golomb.com

In an exclusive for IPR Classical, Israeli musicologist Uri Golomb reviews a milestone album by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, who started recording all of Bach's keyboard works in 1994. The resulting cycle won major acclaim and awards, but she says she "purposefully put off" Bach's final keyboard work, The Art of Fuguefor last.

http://ledouxclaude.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/une-annee-nouvelle-rencontre-avec-erin-gee/

In what ways could music relate to the human voice without Auto-Tune or even, necessarily, language - or, for that matter, even singing? New classical CDs are exploring a fascinating range of possibilities, and several are either by or about Iowans. In reverse chronological order, here are five standouts:

http://www.midoriandfriends.org/

To paraphrase my previous post, if you think women have it bad in classical music, take a look at supposedly contemporary arts like film, literature, rock, jazz, blues, and country

At first glance, it seems obvious that classical music is unusual among the arts in its degree of male dominance.  But a careful look suggests that its gender balance is far from exceptional.

Yuri Vedenyapin

Before there was "Who's on first?" there was the similar routine, "Weinstein? Einstein!" by the Yiddish standup team Dzigan & Schumacher.

Sean Henri from Wikipedia

I’ve put it off all week, but the clamor is getting overwhelming… would you believe a single email?... so: on to the follow-up! In my last post, I explained why my trusted ideas about “what makes music classical” now seem confused, and I promised to follow up with a more viable approach. Here's a start. I don’t want to oversell it; at best, it’s only part of the answer. But for me, it helps clear at least some of the fog. 

Quick: define “classical music.”  It may sound easy, but most of my attempts have been dead ends. They don't get you to much of the music. Later I’ll discuss a definition that I think works - it covers everything, and helps explain why classical music matters to us. But first let me give you a tour of some of the blind alleys.

Andy Doe, properdiscord.com

Why Charles Rosen quipped that "the death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition" (we'll see that it goes back to 1324), and why the latest "faux-cool journalese" obit is as silly as previous ones.