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Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince (Natioinal Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, CBS-TV, aired April 21, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I turned on the TV last night for one of CBS’s Grammy specials, this one called Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization that puts on the Grammy Awards, has done a number of these retrospective specials before — notably on The Beatles and Stevie Wonder — and they timed this one to air on April 21 because that was the fourth anniversary of Prince’s death. I went through a Prince phase in the mid-1980’s — I was as impressed by the Purple Rain soundtrack as anyone else and I bought some of the Prince albums on either side of it chronologically. When I finally caught up with the movie it was ostensibly a soundtrack for, via a VHS tape in the 1990’s, I was considerably less impressed; aside from the moving scenes between Prince and his father, played by the tragically under-used Black actor Clarence Williams III, it see…

Addressing the Pandemic, Honoring the Past

Two-Hour Multi-Network Global Citizen telethon repurposes classic songs for insights into today’s health emergency.

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Yesterday, April 18, 2020, a number of major networks collaborated on a two-hour semi-telethon called “One World Together at Home” co-hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert that, interestingly, was not designed to raise money for SARS-CoV-2 and its victims but to build awareness and hopefully shake loose some donations for groups that are helping mobilize the response. (According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the virus causing the current pandemic is called “SARS-CoV-2,” indicating it’s not an entirely new organism but a relative of the original SARS-CoV that caused a medical scare in 2003, and COVID-19 is the name of the disease it causes.) It was sponsored by a number of organizations, including one called Global Citizen that has …

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis (Soli Dei Gloria, Idéale Audience, 2010)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night at 8 p.m. Charles and I watched the other Soli Dei Gloria DVD I had ordered a while back from arkivmusic.com as part of a close-out sale including a lot of interesting items, like an eight-DVD boxed set of Walter Felsenstein’s productions at the Deutsche Oper in what was then East Berlin (all in German even though only one of the operas, Beethoven’s Fidelio, was actually in German). This was a 2010 performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon — and it helped that it was in a real concert hall, not a cramped old church in The Netherlands like the Soli Dei Gloria (the name means “Only for the Glory of God”) production of Haydn’s The Creation we watched on Good Friday. The blurbs on the DVD box include a comment from critic Ian Swafford that the Missa Solemnis, “which Beethoven considered the crown of his music, may be the greatest piece most listeners nev…

Haydn: The Creation (Soli Dei Gloria, Idéale Audience, 2010)

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by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

On Good Friday evening I looked for an appropriate video to show and found it in a box of clearance items I had bought a while back from ArkivMusic.com, including two DVD’s from a troupe called “Soli Dei Gloria” performing massive religious works. The one we watched last night was a 2010 performance of Haydn’s The Creation — though actually they performed it in the German version, Die Schöpfung (it seems a little less “immediate” that way — the original publication gave the text in both German and English and, though the first performance was given in Vienna in 1800 and was therefore presumably in German, Haydn’s inspiration was the oratorios of Handel, which were composed for a British audience and were therefore in English) — in a performance led by American-born conductor John Nelson in the Grote Kerk of Naarden, The Netherlands. The orchestra was the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic (cont…

Berlin Swings!

German Orchestra, Russian Conductor Do Justice to American Show Music in Berlin New Year’s Concert
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Until 1989, when Herbert von Karajan’s tenure came to an abrupt end in April just three months before his death that July, it would have been unthinkable for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to have a principal conductor who wasn’t German or Austrian. Throughout the 20th century three conductors — Artur Nikisch (who made a fascinating recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with Berlin Philharmonic musicians in 1914), Wilhelm Furtwängler (who had the dodgy, to say the least, task of leading the orchestra through the Nazi years) and Karajan — had ruled the orchestra and dominated the German musical scene. But times changed quite abruptly after Karajan left the orchestra in April 1989 and the planet three months later. His first replacement was Claudio Abbado, an Italian. When Abb…

Billie Eilish, Demi Lovato Shine at Troubled Grammy Awards

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Last night CBS-TV telecast the 62nd annual Grammy Awards from the Staples Center in Los Angeles — billed as “the house Kobe Bryant built” because the arena was originally built at least in part to host the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team when Bryant was one of its stars. By a freak of timing, Bryant had just been killed in a helicopter crash that day along with his daughter and seven other people. So the Grammys largely became, in a weird but appropriate way, a tribute to a celebrity and his tragically premature demise even though the music world the Grammys supposedly honor and the sports world in which Bryant thrived are normally miles apart. If nothing else, this gave the Grammy participants and organizers something legitimate to mourn over and took attention away from the latest scandal surrounding the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which puts…

Conductor Nelsons Shines in Vienna New Year’s Concert

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved
Right now I’m listening to a download of the complete Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concert, of which Charles and I watched a cut-down digest version on KPBS on New Year’s night. The Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concerts were performed sporadically since the orchestra was founded in the 1830’s but the tradition we know today was actually launched by conductor Clemens Krauss and Nazi Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach, who had been put in charge of Austria following the Nazi takeover in 1938, at the end of 1939. The first concert was a war-relief benefit and also a pleasant diversion from the war news for the Viennese audience. Krauss decided to focus the concert on the music of the Strauss family: founder Johann Strauss, Sr. (whose “Radetzky March,” written as a parade-ground piece for the army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, always closes the concert); his three composing children, Johann, Jr. (by far…