Classical Music with John Rittmeyer

Weekdays 3-7pm

John Rittmeyer will ease you through the afternoon and evening from 3 to 7 pm.

Rainy Day Instruments / Etsy

Classical 101's musical instrument drive, Replay!, continues until 4 p.m. Friday. It's designed to get musical instruments into the hands of young people in Columbus by collecting donations of instruments no longer needed or being used. The response has been fantastic, so thank you and keep them coming.

With all the great stories of first experiences with music and musical instruments we've heard this week, I tried to recollect my first memories of music. Up until then, I had pretty much forgotten about what actually must have been my first musical instrument—a Mickey Mouse guitar!

Louis Kahn Estonia Foundation Facebook page

Anyone want to buy a floating concert venue that looks like a spaceship?

As recently reported in the Chicago Tribune, cellist Yo-Yo Ma is on a mission to save an unusual music-related architectural anomaly: Louis Kahn's floating concert hall, Point Counterpoint II.

Ma made the plea in The New York Review of Books, responding to a review of "A Mystic Monumentality," about the American architect Kahn.

bopsymphonia.org.nz

English composer Gustav Holst took us on a musical journey across the solar system, from Mercury to Neptune, in his symphonic suite The Planets.

In an unexpected part of our own planet, more down-to-earth original manuscripts by Holst that were missing for more than 100 years have been found in New Zealand.

And they were almost thrown out.

color photo of Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany
Christoph Behrends / Flickr

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral" is one of the crown jewels of the symphonic repertoire, and has, from very early on, been recognized as such.

The crown jewel of Hamburg, Germany's cultural life at the moment is the newly opened Elbphilharmonie concert hall which, when you come to think of it, looks somewhat like a crown.

Felix Broede / kentnagano.com

Just recently, it was announced that conductor Alan Gilbert will be leaving the New York Philharmonic to go to Hamburg, Germany. Now it looks like the music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano, may be spending more time in Europe as well.

Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic
Chris Lee / New York Philharmonic

After eight years as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert is leaving to become chief conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra.  

Interestingly, just as the New York Philharmonic's home, David Geffen Hall, is about to undergo a major renovation, Gilbert is moving into a shiny new facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Katie Hawley / Storyful

OK, we've all heard about Nora, the piano-playing cat, or numerous other cats at the keyboard. There have been other musical animals caught on camera as well, but this is a new one.

PBS

"They've been going in and out of style, but they're guaranteed to raise a smile."  

But have the Beatles really ever gone out of style? Much of the iconic rock band's music seems to endure in a timeless realm and shows no sign of being forgotten.

June 1967 marked the U.S. release of one of the most influential albums of popular music ever produced, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Cincinnati World Piano Competition Facebook page

The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is closing its doors after 60 years. It was recently announced that they were unable to raise the $300,000 needed to keep it going.

Founded in 1956 by Gloria G. Ackerman, the annual event became the longest-running piano competition in the country and an important opportunity to further the development of outstanding young pianists.

Moritz Nähr / Wikimedia Commons

Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler is one of the longest symphonies in the standard repertoire. There may be a few longer ones out there, but this "hymn to life, love and nature" is special. It's a musical journey that can last up to one hour and 45 minutes uninterrupted, but it is a trek well worth taking — especially if you enjoy big, late-Romantic orchestral music.

Sim Canetty-Clarke / ravishankaroperaproject.org

Last September, I wrote about the opera by Indian musician Ravi Shankar that was left unfinished when he died at the age of 92 in 2012 and about its recent completion. Sukanya premieres in England in a series of performances beginning tonight and leading up to a London performance at the Southbank Centre on May 19.

Carnegie Hall Archives / Wikimedia Commons

This Sunday is the birthday of the most popular of all Russian composers, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840). And on today's date in 1891, he made his Carnegie Hall debut during his only visit to America, appearing at the grand opening of what would become one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

I'm not sure how much he had to practice to get there (to paraphrase the old joke), since he was already one of the world's most famous composers when he was invited to participate in this event.

Paul Sherwood / Wikimedia Commons

Here's a doozy: Bill Murray is going classical.

The actor and comedian who never ceases to surprise has, according to the New York Times, teamed up with cellist  Jan Vogler, who has performed as a guest artist with the New York Philharmonic, and a group of chamber musicians for a projected album and touring show. Murray will sing Gershwin and Bernstein and recite Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Ernest Hemingway.

Allan Warren / Wikimedia Commons

April 22 is Earth Day and a time when I'm more inclined to reflect on how interconnected the natural world and all life really is. I'm not referring necessarily to the economic or political world. Sometimes it seems hopelessly divided as 7 billion people try to figure out how to live together on this planet with its ever-shrinking natural resources.

In the world of nature, however, there are no such boundaries and divisions. It's one vast system, and we are all a part of it. Earth Day reminds me of that.

Poets, writers, artists and musicians have always been inspired by the natural world. In classical music, you can go from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Johann Strauss' The Beautiful Blue Danube to An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss or Mysterious Mountain by Alan Hovhaness and many, many, more works.

Wikimedia Commons

Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Paul Hindemith: two Russians and a German, one a repatriated son of Mother Russia and two permanent exiles from their homelands. These three important 20th century composers journeyed far from their countries and also lived for a time in the United States.

This weekend, the Columbus Symphony presents a program featuring music by these well-traveled composers.

David Debalko / kenshowatanabe.com

Classical music has a new rising star. According to a story published Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the young assistant conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra stepped in to lead a concert at the last moment for an ailing Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and it was a great success.

Cincinnati Ballet YouTube

If someone tries to tell you that going to the symphony to hear orchestral music is for "old dinosaurs," show them this video of a T-rex conducting. That should change their tune.

Graeme Richardson / Ice Music

Some of the "coolest" music being made this time of year is heard at a mountaintop ice igloo concert hall in Lulea, Sweden, presented by the ICEstrument Orchestra.  

The instruments are made of ice, and the music is played at subfreezing temperatures so the instruments don't melt. This is apparently not much of a problem at this northern latitude.

carnegiehall.org

German bass Kurt Moll has died at the age of 78.

It was Moll's voice that most entranced me when, many years ago, I bought my first opera recording, Mozart's The Magic Flute. The sound of his deep and resonant voice as the fatherly and wise Sarastro impressed me so much. It made me realize that it isn't all about just the tenor and the soprano.

color photo of Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian and Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood
Warner Bros. Pictures / Wikimedia Commons

The first Academy Awards given for music in films, a practice that began in 1934, named only the head of the music department of the studio instead of the individual composer.

Max Steiner (see the first in this pair of blog posts), who wrote the music for King Kong (1933), was the head of the music department for RKO Pictures when his score for the 1935 film The Informer won that year, so technically he may have been the first composer to be named for the awards.

black-and-white photo of Fay Wray as Ann Darrow in 1933 King Kong film
Radio Pictures / Flickr

With the Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, I got to thinking about music in movies. This first of two blog posts offers a few personal—and maybe quirky—reflections on music from the early days of sound movies and a few old classic films that made innovative use of sound, especially symphonic music from three very talented composers.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann / Wikimedia Commons

If Ludwig van Beethoven's longing for love was not completely fulfilled in his life, except through the great music he left us, there were other composers who were perhaps a bit luckier in love during their lifetimes.

Every January, when I take down the holiday decorations that adorn my apartment walls, I’m always struck by how abruptly empty my home feels in comparison. A similar feeling comes when I look at my calendar, which seems to shift from endless holiday parties and seasonal social engagements to not much of anything overnight.

A Tuscan vineyard at sunset.
Pixabay

It's been reported again, this time by CBS News.  We already knew classical music was good for humans and animals and can soothe the savage beast, but Mozart's music can encourage the noble grape.  I had heard Mozart was supposed to make your kids smarter, but apparently his music can help grapes reach their full potential too.

Bob Rhubart

I was recently reading "The Face on Your Plate" by Jeffrey Mousaieff Masson, who has written eloquently about the emotional lives of animals in other books, such as "When Elephants Weep" and "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon."

In his most recent book, he makes a strong case for not eating meat (or eggs or dairy products, for that matter) based largely on ethical concerns about the exploitation and mistreatment of animals (but he also discusses the environmental and human health issues involved).

Although this is not the forum for discussing the pros and cons of vegetarianism versus meat-eating, I couldn't help but wonder whether this issue was of concern to any classical music composers or performers in the past and if it affected their art. I was a little surprised where that led me.