Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Magic American Musical Moment

A wonderful and auspicious inauguration of President Obama today included a magic moment of chamber music from a diverse and stellar ensemble that we can only hope will give us more in the future. Perlman and Ma need no comment. They are stars of the highest magnitude. The impressive pianist was Gabriela Montero, a Venezuelan born American classical pianist. I particularly admired the clarinetist, Anthony McGill, who I've heard many times in his role as a co-principal at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He's only 29 and is already one of the finest clarinetists I have ever heard - and I used to play this instrument professionally. In fact, as an orchestral player, he may well be the very finest. Here's an article about him in the NYT. He's about to leap from being a star to a superstar. I greatly look forward to hearing him as a chamber musician and a soloist. And he too happens to be an African American. There are still extremely few African Americans in the ranks of the major symphony and opera orchestras. Hopefully, this too will now change.

BTW, it's very difficult to play outside in cold weather. These artists made it seem easy.

And here's the performance of arrangement by John Williams of an Aaron Copeland arrangement of a Quaker song, Simple Gifts.

President Obama's good taste and America's capacity for excellence and beauty are an auspicious beginning for a new era.

PS - It turns out as confirmed by the NY Times that the artists were "faking" and doing a "Milli Vanilli" finger synching version of of their own recording done a couple of days earlier in anticipation of the cold weather. So, there was "magic" afoot in several senses.Frankly, that's fine - it was them synching their own recording and I was totally skeptical that they could play that well in sub zero weather. Or that they would take their Strads outside in those circumstances. At least they didn't flub any notes... ;-)

PS - The plot thickens. Apparently, they were actually playing according to AP but the sound wasn't amplified. Those nearby heard them live. The rest of the world heard the tape. That makes sense - and accounts for why the "faking" seemed so real. It's probably more evident on HD, but it looked good live on the computer CNN stream.


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