Blame it on the Rain–Err…Cold

by James Hogan

Some of the biggest classical music news last week came–no surprise here–as a result of the Inauguration, which featured a John Williams arrangement of “Simple Gifts” played by renowned musicians Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill. But the buzz was overwhelmed later in the week when the committee in charge of the program revealed that the music spectators and television viewers heard was prerecorded. The cold temperatures, the announcement said, made it too difficult to consider using the live performance.


Where are the Best Small Concerts?

by James Hogan
Back not too long ago when I was in college, I would sometimes spend Friday nights in a somewhat Bohemian way. My friend Nick rented a house on the top of a mountain, and I would drive up and start the weekend there, drinking good beer, as he would set up an impromptu jazz concert in his living room. He kept his drum set there, and there was a Rhodes piano, and his other friends–a bass player, guitarist, two sax guys named Jim and Eric, and maybe a singer would come up, light cigarettes, and play for hours.
Yes, I realize my undergraduate experience was somewhat different.


CSO Dazzles Again

By James Hogan
Two weeks, two concerts. Two soloists, two guest conductors, two atmospheres. The players on stage were the same, but many things changed this week as Rossen Milanov took the Charlotte Symphony podium as the final guest conductor of the season.
Milanov was quite a character. He appeared onstage sans typical tuxedo tails, preferring instead a sober outfit that seemed one white collar away from priestly garments. And his style…like clockwork. (I was going to say metronomical, but that would have been obvious.) Stiff, precise, formal, yet energetic, he pushed the orchestra through each selection; it wasn’t until Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of the Dead” was finished that he turned around, his face betraying a deep emotional attachment that wasn’t seen after other selections.
Good thing Milanov was, for the most part, reserved–guest pianist Andre Watts crowded the stage with his titanic undertaking of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Intricate and filled with more trills and runs than a game of Chutes and Ladders, the concerto required a good deal of endurance. Watts laid the piece flat. Tapping his leather-soled shoes along at times, audibly singing along at others, this piano rock star was the highlight of the show.
This was the last performance under a guest conductor, and I regret that I was only able to see two of the eight–Christopher Warren-Green and Rossen Milanov. The programs at both concerts included a feedback form, asking the audience’s feedback, but I wanted to extend to you an opportunity to share your thoughts.
Which conductor did you enjoy more? Which conductor might make a better fit for the Charlotte Symphony?

Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘A Musical Celebration’

By Benjamin K. Roe
mlk_150.jpgMusic in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went far beyond “We Shall Overcome.” You can find the earliest evidence in his boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, steps away from the celebrated Ebenezer Baptist Church, pastored by his father, Daddy King. Dr. King may have been the son of a preacher, but he was also the son of a choir director. When you walk in the King house, the first room you enter is an intimate front parlor, dominated by a battered old upright piano. This is the place where King’s mother would lead the Ebenezer choir through weekly rehearsals, the place where his father first noted four-year-old Martin’s fine, clear singing voice, and where he struggled through piano lessons.


Schulz’s Beethoven: Schoeder’s Muse

by James Hogan
I just had to share this article from the New York Times. Remember all those wonderful Peanuts comic strips featuring Schroeder? He would be at his piano, and often in the comic strip panel, the reader would see a stanza of music, which served as a kind of wallpaper to the scene.