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Metcalf on Music

Steve Metcalf has been writing about the musical life of this region, and the wider world, for more than 30 years. For 21 of those years, he was the full-time staff music critic of The Hartford Courant. During that period, via the L.A. Times/Washington Post news service, his reviews, profiles and feature stories appeared in 400 newspapers worldwide.

He is also the former assistant dean and director of instrumental music at The Hartt School, where he founded the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series. Steve is also keyboardist emeritus of the needlessly loud rock band Duke and the Esoterics.

Reach him at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Bullet dodged.

Crisis averted.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has managed to pull itself back from the edge, and for that there should be quiet thanks, as opposed to loud rejoicing.

Piano Piano! on Flickr.com / Creative Commons

I was literally jotting down a few thoughts about Pierre Boulez – the modernist French composer/conductor/musical tastemaker, who died last week at 90 – when the news arrived about David Bowie.

Metcalf's Musical Wish List for 2016

Jan 7, 2016
University of Illinois Library

The page turns, and I offer herewith my annual New Year’s musical wish list.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

So it’s down to this: the Hartford Symphony Orchestra -- which was born in the 1930s in the depths of the depression, which has weathered repeated fiscal crises and work stoppages, but which, in the end, has been our community’s shining flagship musical organization for three generations -- is declaring it will shut down if management and the musicians can’t agree on a contract in the next few weeks.

Demetri Mouratis flickr.com/photos/dmourati / Creative Commons

Last year at this time, I foolishly offered my choices for the ten best pop Christmas songs. I say foolishly because these list things are always a bad idea for so many reasons. In fact I’m working on a piece that will list the ten biggest reasons why list stories are a bad idea.

Ian Douglas Photography / Yuja Wang/Facebook

The calendar has just flipped over to December, CVS has stockpiled its ineffective windshield scrapers up near the cash registers, the newspaper food sections are starting to feature hearty soup recipes, and recently for the first time in many months I found the word “sleet” in the ten-day forecast.

Photo courtesy of Concora / concora.org

On Saturday night Christopher Shepard will, at long last, make his debut as the new conductor and artistic director of Concora.

Winston Vargas

A few days ago, quietly and with an irritating minimum of details, we learned that Martin Scorsese has committed to directing a full-length biopic about Leonard Bernstein.

taupupua.com

When I see a press release about a guy who started off being drafted into the NFL as a defensive end and then decided to become a professional opera singer instead, I reflexively think headlines:

"Former Gridiron Star Tackles Verdi."

"Defensive End Calls an Audible, With Vibrato."

"Now He's Holding High Cs Instead of Wide Receivers."

Please, somebody stop me.

Mark Garten / United Nations photo

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma turned 60 the other day.

That’s as good a reason as any to reflect for a moment on a life and career that seems about as well executed as that of any classical performing artist in our time, maybe ever.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

Maybe it's that my two older daughters have both gotten married in recent weeks. Or that my youngest daughter (married two years ago, for the record) is about to have a baby. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that Donald Trump -- Donald Trump -- is being taken seriously as a presidential candidate. 

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

A new arts season dawns. And despite the lingering cloud of the Hartford Symphony labor impasse – it originally looked like the HSO season-opening concerts might be lost, but in fact they will go on as scheduled – the new cycle brings a reassuringly plentiful supply of music, both familiar and challenging.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra contract impasse staggers along.

As anyone reading this is likely to be aware, the HSO musicians continue to be engaged in a dispute with management over the number of services they will be contracted for and therefore the amount of money they will earn next season.

Cuatro Puntos

When we think about the major agents of social change we don’t immediately think of classical chamber music.

Thanks to groups like Cuatro Puntos, we need to perhaps start changing our thinking.

Hugh Burkhardt / robertblack.org

Whatever airline horror story you have about lost or mishandled luggage, I’m pretty sure Robert Black can top it.

Robert, as many of you around here know, is a brilliant, nationally recognized double bass player and teacher. He is perhaps best known for being a founding member of the avant-garde music ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a group that regularly plays all over the world. Robert has also been a faculty member at The Hartt School for many years, and is currently the chairman of the school’s string department.

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