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Archives for May 2010

Not getting any younger

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Anthony Sayer Anthony Sayer | 09:14 UK time, Thursday, 13 May 2010

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The Simon Bolivar band has outgrown its moniker, 'youth'. There's rumours about cutting apron strings and setting out as a regular orchestra. Well, true or not, this throws up some interesting questions. What if they advertise a vacancy and some old codger like me applies......? Imagine the job description: "The applicant will be young, incredibly enthusiastic, uninhibited, and boundlessly energetic. The successful applicant will play as if their life depends on it, while radiating sheer joy in performing." Given that ageism is a no-no hereabouts, how would this stuff balance against basic accuracy with the notes? Actually, and very seriously, what is going to be most important in the final assessment?

There's a tradition, particularly in some German orchestras, that auditions are competitions in which mistakes are meticulously counted - note perfection being the over-riding criterion - to be settled by a final round 'play off'. Another tradition, particularly in America, is that the candidates play behind a screen, so that the panel can't be biased by colour, age or sex. Both approaches leave us with the question: How would we go about judging those additional subjective ingredients? Should music be subjective, or objective and measureable? What's better: a player who inspires you to get up and dance, who moves you in bits that you didn't know moved, but who plays the occasional bum note, or a player who reliably nails every note? What's music for? Is music a performance, a community event, or is it notes on a page? Who matters most: the producer with the engineer who edits the tape, or the live audience? I know these aren't 'either-or' questions - but there's fun to be had exploring ideas. By now, you'll have heard the clip clop of my hobby horse. And, as always, I'm also looking for ways to detract attention from my own mistakes. Well......don't be hard on me......self criticism, navel contemplation, rampant paranoia - an artist without these is probably not an artist at all.

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Discovering Music - Mozart Linz Symphony, "Disco Linz"

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | 17:35 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

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Want to learn about Mozart?

Well... we did... and we did just that by creating a whole new piece... In March this year the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performed and recorded Mozart's wonderful masterpiece - the 'Linz' Symphony (he wrote it in 1783 whilst stopping for a few days in the town of Linz in Austria, when travelling from Salzburg to Vienna). He was 27 years old, and this was his 36th Symphony (K.425).

He needed to put on a pair of concerts for his patrons at short notice - and finding himself with out a symphony in his baggage - wrote one... in 4 days flat.... !

So we decided to unravel his composition techniques a little - giving ourselves the same time - 4 days! .... and involving not only players from the BBC SSO, but also (because at present the so-called "poco adagio" movement from the 'Linz' Symphony sits on the Scottish Higher reference works' list) Glasgow School Students and National Youth Orchestra of Scotland players, the result was that we created a whole new mini-symphony... and we called it "Disco Linz"...

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