An article from Janet Horvath

Not only is Janet Horvath the author of Playing (Less) Hurt, a guide to avoiding and healing injuries acquired whilst playing musical instruments, she also writes bright, contemporary and amusing articles about the world of classical music! Janet has kindly let us post some of her articles.  Read more from Janet here.

 

Reach Out, Freak Out?

by Janet Horvath

There’s a storm brewing in classical music. The quandary:
#1 how far are we willing to go to achieve reaching out? Can we pursue change without freaking out our musicians and loyal concert attendees?
#2 how do we remedy the erroneous expectations and misconceptions regarding attending a performance in a concert hall or opera house?
#3 how do we entice more people to classical music concerts when knowledge about, and interest in classical music might be dwindling due to cut backs in music education?

There are two camps— those who feel that we have to reach out at all costs to younger audiences and those who steadfastly want to keep the traditions unchanged.

There certainly have been some strange goings-on in the classical world of late in both camps! The Seattle Symphony was taken by surprise when a YouTube went viral on Twitter. They, like many symphony orchestras, have been dancing on a trapeze— attempting to keep patrons happy while trying to attract new audiences. Several women were asked to come onstage to dance during a song of Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony. The short video features a 38-year-old audience member now known as “the lady in the black dress.” Needless to say, it was Ms. Shawn Bound’s first time at the hall leading to millions of views and considerable controversy. A gimmick? A spectacle? Would you see it as fun or shocking? I wonder what the musicians thought.

The San Francisco Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Pacific Symphony and the Dayton Opera have something in common— Tweet seats. Tweeting from a designated section of the concert hall during the performance is a strategy to lure young people to concerts in the hope that it will seem more interactive. (See link below for a conversation about this.) One camp certainly finds this a dastardly distraction.

Recently, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, Tom Morris, invited the audience to bring their drinks to the front of the stage during an ‘accessible and informal’ performance of Handel’s Messiah saying, “Clap or whoop when you like, and no shushing other people.” American chemist and Royal Society research fellow in London, Dr. David Glowacki, attended the concert but he took the go ahead a step too far by attempting to crowd-surf. I must admit I had to look up the term— crowd surfing, is the process in which a person is passed above everyone’s heads during a concert, with other members of the audience supporting the person’s weight.

Attendees were so irritated, that they physically ejected the academic from the performance. Morris claims it is the first such incident at a classical concert since the 18th century. What to do? He is reluctant to re-instate the oftentimes strict rules of concert etiquette, which he hoped to ditch.

A new use for duct tape in opera, the genre that can be dignified or outlandish makes me feel like we’ve now seen it all. Atthis by Georg Friedrich Haas, is an opera based on writings of the Greek poet Sappho, depicting a fraught relationship between the poet and a student. Ms. Greif, soprano, said in an interview after the end of the run of Atthis, “There could be numerous occasions to be nude in opera. But I thought this one was especially fine on so many different levels.”

“The soprano came to the front of the stage stepped out of her dress and began to tear off the metallic-looking strips of duct tape that girded her naked torso— a close-up of what must be one of the most searingly painful and revealing operatic performances in recent times,” wrote The New York Times. Sounds like it!

Several orchestras are experimenting with putting large screens onstage for projections. The Minnesota Orchestra recently performed a work by Kevin Puts, his Symphony No. 4,From Mission San Juan, a multimedia installation. Sensing devices and sonic inputs gather live data that triggers visual images specific to this music, which are projected on a backdrop behind the orchestra. A performance was free to the public— part of the Northern Sparks Arts Festival hosted by the University of Minnesota—an overnight of arts exhibits and presentations both inside and out in different venues all over the city. Even my son and his friends were talking about it!

There are several artists who are extending the boundaries of their playing, “crossing over” into world music like Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and more popular music such as Maya Beiser, cellist. Singers Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, violinist David Garrett, and Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulić of 2Cellos are the rage.

Still there are classical musicians and loyal audiences that feel degraded by the popularization of the art. Starting with the indignation of cell phones ringing in the concert hall and the ongoing subject of the dress code, behavior code, clapping code and maintaining silence code, feathers are ruffled at the slightest deviation from tradition.

There has always been a place for experimental music, which at times has caused riotous reactions as far back as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring premier, but other genres have been able to evolve into contemporary arts. How does classical music shed the label of being stuck in tails in the distant past? This May there was proof that it is possible—even without the gimmicks, technologies and stunts. Washington D.C’s Kennedy Center Concert Hall was packed with all types—young and old, dressed up and dressed down, novices and aficionados. The audience roared with joy after the performance. Arvo Pärt’s music, performed by the superlative Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, is proof that contemporary music can be riveting and moving. So it is possible. The two opposing camps can unite.

How My Cello Found Me

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude.

My Cello and Me — We Were Made for Each Other

I was smitten from the first moment. Finding an instrument is like finding your soul mate — you know it instantly.

I was twenty- two- years old and had just been accepted to Janos Starker’s elite class at Indiana University. My parents understood that I needed a better instrument. With trepidation they sent me to New York with a long list of dealers to see. (The only reason they even considered the idea was that my aunt lived in New York. I would stay with her.)

I decided to start at the top — why not? I happily traipsed to the famed dealership Jacques Français known to have the best selection of quality instruments. He was elegantly French — over six feet tall, impeccably dressed and haughty. A vast carpeted showroom appeared before me. The walls were lined with instruments and virtually all the small rooms to try them were filled to overflowing. Well that didn’t stop me. I introduced myself unabashedly to Mr. Français saying I wanted to try cellos — telling him a price-range that was higher than my parents intended.

Français brought me several cellos. I grabbed a chair, parked myself in the enormous anteroom and started to play. The place was packed — what else could I do? The first instrument I tried — Italian, honey colored, with a rich golden tone to match — was the one.

Keep reading on Interlude

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Paris Ballet Now

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her post at Interlude, detailing her experience at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

The atmosphere was electric! We were at Paris’s Palais Garnier to attend a ballet performance just five days before the one-hundredth anniversary of the riot surrounding the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in May of 1913. To top that off, we would be seeing another world-famous work of Stravinsky — The Firebird —music that I had played countless times but had never seen danced. The excitement was palpable. To be where the ghosts of performances and premieres past was quite a privilege.

The Palais, considered one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is breathtaking. It is one of the historic emblems of Paris. The architect, Charles Garnier, was chosen to design the astonishing opera house by Emperor Napoleon III in 1861. The interior of the hall is entirely gold and marble with deep burgundy seating. The balconies and pillars are exquisitely crafted and decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, some of which portray deities of Greek mythology, as well as gilded bronze busts of many of the great composers. The dome ceiling took my breath away— a huge colorful fresco painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall depicting scenes from the operas of 14 composers. A gold border and small lights outline the painting. From the center hangs an immense 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier designed by Garnier. It was difficult to stop craning our necks to look at the ceiling. Just being in this historic theater was a feast for the senses and the performance had yet to begin!

The number of performances that take place in the Palais Garnier is astonishing. It is the home of the Opéra National de Paris, which performs no less than 16 operas a season, as well as the ballet, which this season presented 14 ballets. Other series include The L’Orchestre de L’Opéra National de Paris, recital and chamber music evenings, special events and “new productions.” One could go every night of the week if one could only get (and afford) tickets. (Most events are sold out months in advance!)

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

 

Paris Ballet Then

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog, at Interlude.

Paris Ballet Then

What was the Paris Opéra Ballet like six decades ago? My Uncle Arnold was posted in France after the Second World War in 1946. A dedicated music aficionado, he could hardly wait for his furlough to attend the ballet. This is what he related about his experience:
(written in early 1946 by Arnold Rosenberg)

Although hunger is stalking the arts in Paris today, one cannot help feel the drive and persistence of Parisians to get back on their feet again. The French are remarkable despite war, enemy occupation, severe rationing and hunger, they take great pride in their outstanding cultural achievements. Call it escapism if you will, but to those who know the French people it seems rather indigenous courage and determination to preserve their culture and way of life, despite all handicaps.

Artistically, Paris is now as brilliant as ever. True, musical and artistic organizations have suffered somewhat in quality, but they still manage to turn out an almost perfect product even in 1946. Top-notch Jewish performers were ousted during the war from their posts with orchestras and ballets, and afterward, artists were forced to leave because of their collaboration during the occupation. Of those who remain, besides endeavoring to do first class artistic work, many are forced to seek other employment in order to maintain a living wage. Rehearsal hours are short and inadequate in number, but these dedicated artists take it in stride.

Despite everything, Paris can boast five first-rate symphony orchestras, two grand opera companies and one of the finest ballet companies in the world. Concert halls and opera houses are packed every night with enthusiastic audiences. Of course people are starved not only for bread but beauty.

Keep reading on Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Conductor “Quips”

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt, talks about some famous (or infamous) conductors on her blog.

Audiences have little comprehension of the nuances that are determined by the conductor and the musicians in the rehearsal process. The audience sees elaborate gestures that somehow result in exquisite music making. What actually goes on? It is no exaggeration that every note is discussed.

Musicians come to the first rehearsal quite prepared to play every note perfectly since there is little time together before we actually perform. It is our job to react to the interpretation of the conductor. Sometimes it requires the intervention of the concertmaster or the principal players to discern what the conductor is trying to achieve musically. These details might include: adjusting the phrasing or bowing, varying the dynamics, changing the length of notes, balancing sound levels so that a particular musical line is featured, and playing precisely together and unified in approach. A musician’s job includes playing exactly as the conductor indicates no matter how you feel about his or her interpretation.

Conductors vary in their technical style. While some are demonstrative others are spare in their motions. Their approach to the musicians varies too! Maestros can be respectful and agreeable or insulting and raging.

I remember a rehearsal with Sir Neville Marriner who quipped, after hearing a plucked line in the violins, “Those pizzicatos sounded like golf balls landing on dead sheep!”

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, when he was the Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, often shouted in frustration at the strings when he wanted a passage to be played extremely softly, “Play with one hair!!” After years of hearing this, a bass player showed up to rehearsal with a bow actually strung with one hair.

To finish reading the article, go to Janet Horvath’s blog at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her music blog, Interlude.

Beethoven’s love life is a mystery. He wrote a series of passionate letters — a total of 10 pages written in pencil — to a woman, his “Immortal Beloved.” These heartbreaking letters were found after Beethoven’s death. To this day the debate rages as to who the intended recipient might be of these unsent letters.

There were several women in Beethoven’s life including Giulieta Guicciardi, Thereza von Brunswick, Amalia Seebald and Antonie Brentano. In the 1950’s a watermark was analyzed which clarified the year and the place the letters may have been written. They were written during the summer of 1812, in Teplitz.

Historians believe the woman may be the latter — the daughter of a diplomat and the Viennese wife of a Frankfurt businessman, mother of five children. Beethoven and she met in 1810 and did spend quite a bit of time together. Beethoven dedicated his Diabelli Variations Opus 120 for piano to her and she was “in the right place at the right time” giving birth nine months later. A flurry of speculation surrounds the idea that perhaps Beethoven fathered a child.

Czech and American music scholars published an essay in 2000, claiming that a woman heretofore unmentioned is the true Beloved.

“This candidate has never before been suggested and is the strongest to date,” says William Meredith, head of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University in California, that houses the largest collection of editions of Beethoven’s music, over 3,000 books and a large collection of recordings. They also have the famous lock of Beethoven’s hair, which was purchased at Sotheby’s.

Keep reading at Interlude!

 

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them. Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Envy the Cellist

JanetHorvath_019Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Read more about cello envy on her blog at Interlude.

Why I Love the Cello

Because it is me. Because it is the closest sound to the human voice. Because I can engulf it with my body in an embrace. Because when I tell people that I play the cello they say, “ Oh! I love the cello. It makes me cry.”

The demeanor of the cello is complex and varied. The room resonates with the low baritone counterpoint notes; sears the soul with amorous melodies. The cello can dazzle with virtuosic flights of fancy in its uppermost range. The cello soothes and inspires; stirs and arouses.

Our playing position is quite natural. We don’t have to contort our bodies to play the cello — not like poor violinists who must unnaturally twist their left arms, and on top of that, hold the instrument under their chins.

Other performers have cello envy. They even steal our repertoire. It is not unusual to hear the Bach Solo Cello Suites on — heaven forbid — the trombone, or The Swan, from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens on the double bass. (Shouldn’t they just stick to The Elephant?) The piccolo player must play shrill high passages; some people snicker at the bassoon players — leaving so bassoon?
If your electronic device goes off you will be forced to play the bassoon! 

The violists are typically relegated to play the oomm- pah-pah of a piece of music and other boring accompaniment figures. Rarely does a composer throw them a bone — a short melody once in a while. Viola players are the brunt of jokes too — How is lightning like a violist’s fingers? Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

And pity the pianist who has to learn a vast repertoire of music, performing entirely from memory.

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.