Berlin Musicians unload as Rattle leaves;
Kid Composers Make it Big
It’s “This Week in Classical Music”; an update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.
Conductor Simon Rattle leads the Orchestra with his whole body. He grits his teeth, flares his nostrils. He raises his eyebrows, opens his mouth…and bounces his baton in the air.
While these are his ways of expressing how the music makes him feel, They are also the tics that bother some of the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Part of the orchestra finds him tense, nervous, controlling. They want their space to play. At the end of Rattle’s 16-year tenure as music director of the orchestra, their relationship is kind of like a couple that’s been married for too long.
A former member said, “There are some members who take off as many weeks as they can” when Rattle conducts.
“The orchestra doesn’t look at him anymore,” one string player said.
The Berlin Philharmonic is famous for making things unusually difficult for its conductors. The orchestra expects a conductor to impress them. “After half the rehearsal, the orchestra makes up its mind: let’s just do it ourselves,” a wind player who substitutes with the Philharmonic said.
Rattle is “the nicest and most diplomatic guy on the planet,” A former member said. “But particularly with this orchestra, if the conductor isn’t demanding something bigger than themselves, it’s a free-for-all.” Rattle echoes this by saying “This orchestra doesn’t make life easy for itself, But when you’ve reached your goal, and the blisters are healed, then you know that it was worth it.”
Now, Rattle will focus his energies on the London Symphony Orchestra while Kirill Petrenko, the music director designate starting in 2019, will lead the Berlin Phil in Strauss and Beethoven in their season opener this August.
It was the kind of debut most musicians only dream of: a world-class orchestra, tens of thousands of listeners.
At its outdoor parks concerts last week, the New York Philharmonic played works by two 11-year-old girls, Camryn Cowan and Jordan Millar — newcomers to the world of composing. They won over the crowds and the critics.
Ms. Cowan and Ms. Millar — two students from Brooklyn who are part of the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers initiative — are hopeful for their futures: “I think I have more things ahead of me,” Ms. Cowan said, “So I hope that I will continue doing what I love, which is making music.”
Ms. Cowan’s “Harlem Shake” was an exercise in layering, with saxophone improvisations that nodded to the neighborhood’s past. Ms. Millar’s “Boogie Down Uptown” is about stepping out of the subway onto the streets of Harlem for the first time, with musical textures inspired by the shadowy movement of Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas’ paintings.
Participants come from 15 partner schools in New York. They start from scratch, Eventually writing complex scores that they workshop with each other and try out at Young People’s Concerts.
Outside the program, Ms. Cowan is a violinist and pianist; Ms. Millar plays piano and clarinet, and has sung with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. At home, though, neither listens to much classical music. Favorites include Bob Marley, Beyonce, and Cardi B.
the two face an uphill battle in classical music, not only as people of color, but also as women in a field that is hard to break into for female composers.
Ms. Cowan said, “Women are sometimes put down in orchestras, or they’re not noticed enough for their great talent,” she said, “so I think that me being onstage is a good change. Other people, other kids or adults — maybe they don’t have this same opportunity. I think we can be inspiring for them.”
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