Tuesday, April 27, 2010

AMERICAN IDOL 6

AMERICAN IDOL is at a strange point where there are not many people left to like or dislike. I feel sorry for the singers tonight having to pick from the crappy songbook of Shania Twain.

I really don't like Lee DeWyze at all. I don't understand the judges compliments or the audience reaction. He's boring and untalented. He should really be the one going home.

Normally I would be arguing that Aaron Kelly was the worst, but tonight, he was much better than usual. Also better than usual was Goldilocks Casey James, who appeared to give the performance of a lifetime. He's safe for a week.

Siobhan, who is also one of my favorites (although VoteForTheWorst.com has picked her as the worst) gave a weak performance and is probably in trouble.

DialIdol.com has Michael Lynche on the bottom again, even though he was quite good. Crystal Boersox gave her worst performance yet but is still the best singer.

It's been tough to watch this season. The past few years have proved that the winner doesn't really matter, they don't necessarily have the best career, and after about the top 5 or 6 the show gets pretty dull.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

CAPITALISM: A Tragedy

















I finally got around to watching CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. I am a fan of Michael Moore's politics, but not of his propagandist style of movie-making. The same holds true for this film. He's right on all counts, particularly in tracing the roots of all of America's current problems to the Reagan administration, but unfortunately, he's preaching to the choir. Unlike some of his previous films, this one was not seen by enough people to make a difference.

The country is so divided that anyone who might have been swayed by the facts would not have seen this film, and his presence in the film almost certainly would have turned them away anyway. Although many of the film-making conceits were entertaining, they were not an honest presentation of the facts. (And I still can't forgive him for using a non-union crew to make a movie extolling the virtues of American unions.)

I think at this point he could do the most for the country by investing his profits by producing small documentaries made by other filmmakers, and then lend his support to them in publicity when the films are complete.

BTW, the dollar that Michael Moore is holding in the above photo is mine. When he appeared at USC a few years ago, he was asked what advice he would give young filmmakers. He told them to remember that the sound crew were the most underpaid and under-respected people on the set.

I tossed him a dollar tip, telling him it was from the the USC Sound Department, and he proudly held it up to the photographers. I do respect much of what he has accomplished, but I feel I must point out that he did indeed keep the dollar.

Aaron Cook's Big Day

Aaron Cook had an exceptional day yesterday pitching the Rockies to an 8-1 win over the Marlins. After dropping the first game of a make-up double-header, 4-1, the Rockies looked quite good. Cookie pitched a complete game with only 1 run, 5 hits, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. This lowered his ERA from almost 7 to 5.01. This is the Aaron Cook that Rockies fans have been waiting to see. Cook also got 2 hits and scored both times, and became the all-time winningest pitcher in Coors history.

The Marlins starter Nate Robertson lasted a scant 4 innings, giving up 5 runs off 5 hits and 4 walks. Marlins pitching gave up a total of 6 walks in the game.

Of course as the second game, both teams started much of their benches. The Rockies had an early error off Melvin Mora, but Cook recovered to get the out. (In previous games this year, errors have been very costly for the Rockies.)

At the plate, Fowler got 3 hits (and 2 walks) and scored twice. Tulo got 2 hits. Catcher Migeul Olivo's 3-run homer in the 3rd gave the Rockies a 5-run lead early in the game, which they never lost.

It was also a gorgeous day for a game after what had been miserable rain, snow, clouds, and cold for the several days preceding it. The 31,000 people present enjoyed it immensely.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

WAXMAN, BERNSTEIN AND THE CSO

Conductor Richard Kaufman brought a concert of film music from Hollywood's Golden Age to Boettcher Hall last night. The centerpiece of the show was the music of one of my favorite composers, Franz Waxman, but the first half of the concert was dedicated to music of the films of John Wayne.

The concert opened with a rousing version of Johnny Williams' Copland-inspired music to THE COWBOYS. I remember when Williams took over the Boston Pops, and the idea of playing film music in the concert hall was still new, this is one of the first pieces he conducted there. The action theme is a great one, and it has many of Williams' recognizable signatures, including the melody being doubled on glockenspiel.

I remember Elmer Bernstein once telling me proudly that he had scored eight of John Wayne's last films. This concert featured music from THE COMMANCHEROS and TRUE GRIT. It also featured Dmitri Tiomkin's music from THE ALAMO. Unfortunately placing so many westerns in a row resulted in a certain sameness of music in the first half, with at least three of the scores sounding like they all wished they were Bernstein's THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

But the highlight of the evening was the second half. Franz Waxman is somewhat of a forgotten composer, I think, for the reason that his music is so good: he could write in almost any style. The wide variety of cues from various scores performed at this concert pointed out what a talented man he really was. Starting with a Korngold-esque score from PRINCE VALIANT, they moved on to his brilliant score from SUNSET BOULEVARD.

I have a great recording of Waxman's scores, which includes most of the music from the concert, and which I have listened to countless times. This was the first time I had ever heard any of this music played live, and I always forget how much better orchestral music sounds when it is live. Several of these scores were literally breathtaking. VALIANT is a great brass score, but very traditional. SUNSET is such a bizarre and unique film, it's hard to explain why his music for the film is so perfect. It recognizes the plot - Salome is used for flashbacks to Norma Desmond's career - but harmonically it must be one of the strangest films scores ever written. Billy Wilder understood the importance of score and he let the music take the front row seat for many of the climactic scenes in the film.

Following this with Waxman's unique music from BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a brilliant contrast. James Whale deliberately set out to make a film as different as possible from the original FRANKENSTEIN, and tuned the film into a dark comic romance. Waxman's score recognizes all aspects of this, with is simple but dissonant motif for the monster, and his harmonically rich theme for the bride.

SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS used a couple of interesting ideas for the landing in Ireland, including an Irish dance playing against the lush romantic theme for the plane, as well as a clock-like percussion motif to create tension for the landing. The love theme from SAYONARA was one that I did not know. It was a beautiful theme.

The evening ended on a high note with an overlooked score from TARAS BULBA. As the conductor pointed out, music can often make a terrible film almost watchable, and this is one of those great cues ("Ride of the Cossacks") that surpasses anything the movie could ever do. Reminiscent of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance," it's almost impossible to avoid tapping your foot to this music. The audience for the concert was quite good and was on its feet after this performance.

The only thing lacking was visual images. I wish they would put together video montages for some of these pieces, but I'm sure the rights clearances would be a nightmare.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

AMERICAN IDOL 7

It was a tough night on Idol, we're at the point where everyone is pretty good. There are only two I truly dislike: Lee Dewyze, who was actually pretty good tonight, and Aaron Kelly, who was terrible regardless of what the judges said. I expect he will be in the bottom 3 but may not go as he has a strong following.

Tim Urban will probably be in the bottom 3 as well and may be the one to go. Casey was pretty weak on a easy crowd-killer song, but I suspect he's safe. Michael Lynche was pretty good, and I like Siobhan a lot, even though she was weaker tonight than in a while.

Crystal Bowersox have a master class tonight. One of the best performances on Idol, ever.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A BRAVE NEW WORLD SYMPHONY

Douglas Boyd let the CSO in another strangely programmed concert last night. A CSO premiere of a Sibelius work, four movements from Pelléas and Mélisande were the find of the evening; beautiful, moody short pieces that set a nice tone for the evening.

Unfortunately the centerpiece of the evening was the Shostakovich Cello Concerto #1, a work that is more intellectual than emotional, which is usually a problem in music. It also made the concert quite long, probably the longest concert I've seen there. Ralph Kirshbaum played masterfully, but there is only so much emotion one can try to force into the piece. The first movement is quite good; it's practically a duet for solo cello and horn. The second movement is long, with a particularly self-indulgent cadenza, but the long harmonic section is quite beautiful as well. The third movement has rhythmic interest but by this point I think the patience of the audience had wavered completely.

After a long intermission the orchestra played the New World Symphony of Dvorak. Like Gershwin's piece An American in Paris, this should have been titled A Czech in America, as it's much more Czech than American, but nonetheless it is a thrilling piece no matter how many times I hear it. Boyd did some nice things in conducting it, including some sprightly tempo changes, especially in the scherzo, and a few tempo breaks that are not written into the score but worked nicely nonetheless. I do wish that he would not take such long breaks between movements. It stops the flow of the piece. Otherwise he was very good.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Rockies Opening Day!








The Rockies had a great opening game against the Padres today, shutting them out 7-0 on a picture-perfect day for baseball. Apparently the crowd of 49,500 agreed!

The best aspect of the game was the pitching of Jorge de la Rosa, who may be developing into one of the NL's best lefties. He pitched 7 innings and gave up only one hit, a walk, and a hit batsman. He struck out nine, mostly with is surprise change-up. He fell behind on quite a number of batters but still got the outs and made it through seven.

The Rockies looked pretty good at the plate, especially in the late innings. It looked like a close game for the first four innings, but a 4-run 8th, including a 3-run homer by Clint Barmes, blew the game open for the Rockies.

Let's hope this is a sign of things to come!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

AMERICAN IDOL

Listening to the Idol wannabees crucify the Beatles was strangely enjoyable. Thank you Tivo for allowing me to zoom through the 2 hour song show and the hour results show very quickly.

Tim Urban has grown on me. His singing stinks, but I like him as a person. There are at least three singers on the show who are worse than him anyway. Of all the singers, he has developed the most. And he plays the guitar better than several of the good singers.

Michael Lynch was voted off, apparently because the show's viewers are all celebrating Confederate History Month. Thankfully the judges used the one save on him. Unfortunately this means the bottom 2 will be voted off next week, and it will be tough for him to leap out of the bottom two.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

ANDREW LITTON and the CSO

Conductor Andrew Litton came to the Colorado Symphony tonight for a strangely programmed evening. The evening opened with a forgettable performance of Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture. I'm not much of a fan of Wagner, and this is far from his most interesting work.

This was followed by a great performance of Bernstein's Serenade, which I did not know before coming in. It's a much more difficult piece than I imagined, both for the performers and the audience. The violin soloist Karen Gomyo was fantastic, but the audience was not into it at all, unfortunately. The program was odd, and the Serenade did not fit well in the middle. It's a little long, which made the whole night feel a bit long, even though it wasn't. I was unsure about Litton's conducting on the Wagner, but he started to win me over on the Bernstein with some nice can-shaking in the faster, more rhythmic parts.

The highlight of the evening was the Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony, one of the first orchestral pieces I fell in love with. One of the most beautifully melodic pieces ever written, the CSO brought it to life wonderfully tonight. Litton won me over for good in the third movement when he leaped about five feet in the air at the beginning of the climax. At the end of the movement, the audience was ready to leap to their feet, but because he paused for less than half a second to start the fourth movement, he cut them off at the pass. It was brilliant and made me see a much stronger musical relationship between the movements.

I like Litton. I don't know if he is under consideration for the open position here, but I kinda hope he is.