Gold stars and red pen

It’s almost time for a new quiz (update: the new quiz is here), but before that, I wanted to revisit the last assessment. In general, I thought the level of work for this particular class was very high, although—sorry, just trying to gear up for September. The big surprise for me was #3, Ives or Ruggles: apart from one late vote from Bart Collins, Carl got no love at all. I wasn’t expecting an upset, but back in my undergrad days, I would have guessed at least a 70-30 split—the pantheon is a harsh mistress. On the other hand, I think we could all move to Europe and have thriving careers as opera directors. Anyway, here’s some of the responses I liked, along with my own:

1. Name an opera you love for the libretto, even though you don’t particularly like the music.

Dennis Mangan: The Ring.

Alex Freeman: Haydn’s “Il mondo della luna”. It may be the silliest libretto ever. That’s an accomplishment. But I do like the music.

Rodney Lister: Nixon in China (love might be a little strong)

viola power: We premiered this extraordinarily bizarre version of “Nosferatu” which contained the amusing notion of Dracula being gay. Idaho audiences went wild! The libretto qualified as entertaining, if not loveable. The music was like Andrew Lloyd Webber meets John Adams, except they were both really wasted.

andy h-d: The Consul is pretty brutal, but you really start to feel those three hours.

Lisa Hirsch: The Barber of Seville. (So shoot me, but I am not a Rossini fan.)

Stirling Newberry: While I like Auden’s Libretto better than Stravinski’s music, the final four for me would be
The Queen of Spades, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gawain, Nixon in China. And in a year with no upsets? Gawain.

Jeremy Denk: General Hospital. (The Young and the Restless has much better music.)

MG: Evita.

2. Name a piece you wish Glenn Gould had played.

Alex Freeman: My Piano Sonata.

Scott: Piano Canons by Conlon Nancarrow. Oooh, or the Stravinsky “Piano Rag Music.” Or anything I’ve written.

sfmike: A piano reduction of Strauss’ Elektra.

Opera Chic: Chopsticks. That’d be fun, and gawd knows Glenn needed to unclench.

Seth Gordon: Waltz for Debby.

charles: “Maple Leaf Rag.”

Margaret: Anything by Fats Waller.

Liz: Prokofiev’s Third Concerto. (You know he’s Canadian so I’m biased. I was very sad when he died and I was eleven years old).

M. Keiser: HA, if i liked Gould this might work. Uh, i dunno, John Cage’s Sonatas and interludes. He probably could have done those fairly well.

andy h-d: Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”. Can you imagine what that cadenza would’ve ended up being?

Charles T. Downey: Ives, Concord Sonata.

Lisa Hirsch: Something by Sorabji.

Jeremy Denk: The Goldberg Variations [zing!].

Stirling Newberry: Something I had a publishing interest in. Money is money. I can’t stand Glenn Gould’s playing any more.

MG: Rhapsody in Blue. And ragtime.

3. If you had to choose: Charles Ives or Carl Ruggles?

charles: I would choose death instead.

Seth Gordon: Anyone choosing Ruggles is a jealous hater.

Jessica Duchen: Would compromise and go to The Ivy for lunch instead.

viola power: Ives, because I need to have a serious discussion with an insurance agent!

Charles T. Downey: See above. Bite me, Ruggles, you racist bastard.

Jeremy Denk: If I’m listening to the music, Ives I think; ditto if contemplating insurance; but if I’m looking for a composer with a rugged, manly, but still somewhat snuggly name, DEFINITELY Carl Ruggles.

MG: Ives, for the songs, although I do like the Invocations a lot.

4. Name a piece you’re glad Glenn Gould never played.

heinuren: What the hell, is everybody supposed to know what Gould did or didn’t play?

andy h-d: I don’t know, “Bananaphone”? That’s not a real answer. Would “Vexations” be a more real answer? I suppose there’s that new kid who writes really awful sappy music, Greenberg or something?

jason: Billy Joel’s whatever…

robert f. jones: Glenn accompanies Barbra Streisand in Saint-Saens’ “Mon coeur ouvre à ta voix.”

Liz: None….wish he played much more. (You know he’s Canadian?)

Lisa Hirsch: Piano part in one of the Schubert song cycles.

MG: the Chopin preludes.

5. What’s your favorite unlikely solo passage in the repertoire?

Rodney Lister: not a solo, but the duet for piccolo and tuba in Symphony on a Hymn Tune.

Alex Ross: Celesta in the final scene of Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang.

benjamin: That gross FFF Clarinet note in the middle of the Scherzo of Mahler 5th.

andy h-d: I don’t know unlikely it is, but I keep thinking of the part in Symphonie fantastique right before his head gets chopped off. Who needs absolute form when the program tells you where you are in the score?

robert f. jones: The bass trombone sfp low C#s in the death scene of Boris Godunov (Musorgsky’s orchestration).

M. Keiser: hm. these questions are getting harder. Define solo and repertoire. haha. does the flute in the begining of the orchestral version of Ravel’s Barque sur l’ocean count? i think thats several flutes anyway. The opening to the Rite of Spring but i don’t know how thats unlikely.

Joe Barron: Ives, “Washington’s birthday,” jaw harp.

Tim Mangan: The ocarinas in Ligeti’s Violin Concerto.

Joshua Kosman: Haydn, Symphony No. 93, slow movement, m. 80: the original bassoon fart joke.

Jessica Duchen: The tweetybird unaccompanied violin passage in Enescu’s Impressions d’enfance. The cuckoo ain’t bad either.

Barnet Bound: This isn’t really an answer to the question, but I just want to state that despite the fact that Schubert apparently hated the instrument, the viola lines in everything he wrote are truly beautiful.

Liz: For me it’s the *tiny* viola solo in Gershwin’s “American in Paris”. It is *eight* notes (after the English horn solo) but I love it. Although my violin-centric husband never seems to notice…..

Peter: The Carmen intermezzo STILL bewilders me. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s your emotional journey: death, betrayal, death, death, lilting pastoral flute solo, death. Wha?

Charles T. Downey: The siren in George Antheil’s Ballet mécanique.

Jeremy Denk: Well I’d say I have a 12% record of playing the ending of the 2nd movement of the Schumann Fantasy with all the right notes, so … that seems pretty unlikely.

MG: The pizza delivery in Steven Mackey’s Eating Greens.

6. What’s a Euro-trash high-concept opera production you’d love to see? (No Mortier-haters get to duck this one, either—be creative.)

Alex Freeman: I guess it would have to be Neuenfels does Susannah. Not because I would REALLY want to see it, but I think the horrific taste would make me feel more alive…like drinking a cup of hot fat or sticking my face in a fan. Which I don’t do. Much. Any thoughts on how he might do it?

Elaine Fine: Turnadot with Ping, Pang, and Pong dressed as members of the Blue Man Group.

Alex Ross: An all-male Dialogues of the Carmelites, set in the Mine Shaft in 1980.

heinuren: Salome, where they actually cut off heads.

Opera Chic: I’ll quote myself here.

Opera Chic herself has a weakness for 1970s p9rn star ‘stache, and she hopes Juan Diego decides to one day do a 1970s style Elisir d’Amore, where Nemorino is decked out with big fat mustachioes all Starsky & Hutch-like, in bell bottoms and bushy sheep hair and nylon shirts like the Beastie Boys in the Sabotage video and Adina is all Daisy Dukes and platform shoes and dirty, frizztastic hair.

andy h-d: A tie between Poppea in the Clinton White House and Peter Jackson’s Ring Cycle.

Tim Mangan: “Ariadne auf Naxos” as an episode of the original “Star Trek.”

robert f. jones: Parsifal set in post-nuclear-apocalypse Australia. Parsifal as Mad Max, Klingsor as Lord Humungus, Kundry as a feral hermaphrodite, the Flower Maidens as topless biker baybz. No dead rabbit.

indiana loiterer iii: The Peter Konwitschny production of Lohengrin set in a German schoolroom…oh, you mean a Euro-trash high-concept production that doesn’t yet exist? How about a Trovatore set in post-Civil War Kansas/Missouri a la The Outlaw Josey Wales?

Seth Gordon: Marie Stuarda, only make it about girl gangs and set in high school, starring PJ Harvey as Marie and Diamanda Galas as Liz, head of the Cheerleading Squad.

Joe Barron: Either a Star-Wars Ring, or Rigoletto with everybody but the title character played by dwarf.

Lisa Hirsch: The reverse of Alex’s nomination: an all-woman Billy Budd, with the sailors all dressed as Catholic schoolgirls, and let’s see if we can work some sex into it.

M. Keiser: again with the opera. ok, Puccini’s Manon, sung and acted while suspended from bungee chords. Imagine the chorus. heheh.

MG: Two—L’elisir d’amore as a John Hughes high school comedy, or an Albert Herring that takes full advantage of the lovers’ names being Sid and Nancy.

7. Name an instance of non-standard concert dress you wish you hadn’t seen.

charles: Anything Josh Bell wears.

Alex Freeman: John Marcellus in a pink jumpsuit. Ok, I admit I don’t really wish I hadn’t seen it, but I do wish I could get the image out of my head.

Opera Chic: Anything worn by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Scott: Let’s just say that nobody wants to see an elderly woman’s cleavage over and over while trying to focus on her piano playing. Well, maybe some people do, but not me.

Elaine Fine: Actually it was kind of quaint, but ultimately a little disturbing: a string quartet of four teenage girls wearing white summer dresses and not wearing any shoes.

benjamin: The tux I currently own has been embarrassing me on stage for years.

jason: Concertmistress of my undergrad orchestra: Topknot, black tutu, white sneakers. Or, same university, new music ensemble conductor in bolo tie and hendrix tee.

Barnet Bound: When I was undergraduate, my university had a very strong world music performance program, and there was lots of great concerts by the resident gamelan ensemble. However, invariably, there would be a smattering of (always white men of a certain age) audience members who would show up wearing traditional Javanese tunics, and would sit cross-legged during the performance with beatific smiles on their faces. That was very unfortunate.

Tim Mangan: Igor Kipnis’s dentist’s smock.

Seth Gordon: I’m far less fond of standard dress, to tell the truth.

Joe Barron: Me, in a suit and tie.

Rebecca: Flourescent pink dress with fru-fru bow for a performance of a Haydn mass at a little Pfarrkirche in Burgenland. I might mention it was part of a Mass service. Nothing says solemnity like day-glo.

Lisa Hirsch: Either the orange paisley Anne-Sofie von Otter turned up in a couple of years back or that monstrous quilt Jane Eaglen wore at the Levine Gala in 1996.

Stirling Newberry: Sorry, the individual’s wife is still alive.

MG: Barbara Bonney dressed as a Dairy Queen parfait for a Mozart Exsultate at Tanglewood. I spent the whole piece thinking about ice cream.

8. What aging rock-and-roll star do you wish had tried composing large-scale chorus and orchestra works instead of Paul McCartney?

David Svoboda: Hey, what’s wrong with Paul’s compositions?!? Put up your dukes!

Rodney Lister: Captain Beefheart.

heinuren: Freddie Mercury. If he wasn’t dead and all.

robert f. jones: Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row: The oratorio.”

Tim Mangan: Joe Strummer.

Rebecca: Eddie Van Halen. Does he qualify as “aging?”

Opera Chic: Ringo Starr. He’s sadly underrated.

Elaine Fine: Carole King.

Barnet Bound: Patti Smith!

Liz: I prefer none. However, Mick Jagger could prove interesting. For chorus works.

benjamin: After seeing “Trapped in the Closet,” I must say R. Kelly.

andy h-d: Yeah, not Paul McCartney. How about Zappa? Whoops. Did you know that Roger Waters also makes mediocre neo-classical music? Also Stewart Copeland! There was actually a Times article about how when rock stars approach traditional forces they always end up sounding like Haydn (Zappa excluded). I wonder what Robert Fripp would come up with, except he’s busy still being a rock star.

Stirling Newberry: Danny Elfman does pretty good film score work. Brian Wilson could be interesting.

Charles T. Downey: Brian May (and Queen).

Lisa Hirsch: Yes. Or maybe Al Kooper.

Steve Hicken: Ugh. Jeez. Hell, I don’t know. Crap. The guy that sang for the Ides of March, I guess.

Jeremy Denk: I do not comprehend this “rock-and-roll” word; is this some sort of genre or style designation? Me dinosaur of dead music. No, really.

MG: Yeah, gotta go with Brian Wilson—but Sly Stone is a close second.

9. If you had to choose: Carl Nielsen or Jean Sibelius?

Alex Freeman: Dude. I live in Finland.

viola power: Nielsen, because my musical partner would kill me if I said otherwise.

Joshua Kosman: Per Nørgård. Don’t push me, man.

Tim Mangan: Sibelius, by a nose. It might be different tomorrow.

Rebecca: How about throwing myself in the River Guden or Torne (respectively) instead?

Opera Chic: Come on, it’s not even a question, Sibelius 4evar.

Charles T. Downey: Sibelius, as Opera Chic would say in that trendy slang of hers, is teh kicka$$ bomb, fer real.

MG: Sibelius, although that Nielsen snare drum narrows the lead every time I hear it.

10. If it was scientifically proven that Beethoven’s 9th Symphony caused irreversible brain damage, would you still listen to it?

Alex Freeman: Wihout a doubt. In my case, that is a smaller price to pay than it might be for many.

Alex Ross: Too late — Lorin Maazel’s 2002 season-opening performance of the Ninth partially lobotomized me.

robert f. jones: Probably. Could it cause worse irreversible brain damage than vodka?

Joshua Kosman: Never again, not even once. The Schubert C-Major Quintet stays on my playlist even if it brings a slow gruesome death.

Jessica Duchen: Yesdht3icbeutnaoehfgbnauedw278r&!*

Charles T. Downey: Yes, I would ignore the warning labels and then sue the recording company that sold me the CD.

Jeremy Denk: What, this hasn’t been proven already?

MG: I’m just afraid the cure would involve the Ludovico technique.


  1. I thought I’d posted favorite unlikely solo passages: something from the Britten violin concerto, and that accordian & something passages from Ades’s Chamber Symphony.

  2. I wish I’d seen this earlier…My Eurotrash opera – From the House of the Dead, with an a girl cast and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The apotheosis of the Women-in-prison genre…

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