Author Topic: James Levine  (Read 9475 times)

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #280 on: January 03, 2018, 07:16:32 AM »
2. "Still, I believe the true reason for the disposability of even major artists today is classical music’s dirtiest secret, one so shocking that few dare utter it. Here it is: None of these people matter. After all the hype, the publicity, the PR bubbles touting their uniqueness, they are still playing the same music as their colleagues, any one of whom is ready, willing, and able to replace them on a moment’s notice"

I do think he has a point here.

It seems to be true. Standards are better than they used to be, which means you get what you pay for in a live performance or recording more often than not, but the other side of that is sanitisation—what we gain in reliability we lose in variety. There are no Mengelbergs or Scherchens or Klemperers or even Bernsteins out there any more, what we have instead is a lot of very good but highly similar talents which, were it not for their having different names and faces, you might barely be able to pick and choose between. When there is such consistency, such uniformity intra- and inter- all these conductors it makes me think that perhaps they're preparing the way for automation, the whole thing becoming so homogeneous that it can safely be handed over to AI. Maybe that would eventually encourage a reassertion of belief in the importance of the individual talent, but who knows? Most of us are content to have things the same way every time, possibly because most of our listening time is not in concert but at home, with a captured moment that is exactly and absolutely recreated in every detail each time we hit the play button. The live experience may be under some pressure to play straight to the expectation that this is natural, and so a certain amount of artificiality must be exercised in order to please the audience, which in turn reinforces the expectation. There is something of an assembly line or fast food feel to it, every Barbie doll, every Big Mac, every Beethoven symphony the same, and that's how we like it.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #281 on: January 03, 2018, 07:23:47 AM »
It seems to be true. Standards are better than they used to be, which means you get what you pay for in a live performance or recording more often than not, but the other side of that is sanitisation—what we gain in reliability we lose in variety. There are no Mengelbergs or Scherchens or Klemperers or even Bernsteins out there any more, what we have instead is a lot of very good but highly similar talents which, were it not for their having different names and faces, you might barely be able to pick and choose between. When there is such consistency, such uniformity intra- and inter- all these conductors it makes me think that perhaps they're preparing the way for automation, the whole thing becoming so homogeneous that it can safely be handed over to AI. Maybe that would eventually encourage a reassertion of belief in the importance of the individual talent, but who knows? Most of us are content to have things the same way every time, possibly because most of our listening time is not in concert but at home, with a captured moment that is exactly and absolutely recreated in every detail each time we hit the play button. The live experience may be under some pressure to play straight to the expectation that this is natural, and so a certain amount of artificiality must be exercised in order to please the audience, which in turn reinforces the expectation. There is something of an assembly line or fast food feel to it, every Barbie doll, every Big Mac, every Beethoven symphony the same, and that's how we like it.

Thought-provoking.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Online André

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #282 on: January 03, 2018, 07:54:09 AM »
I agree with the notion of interchangeability between conductors nowadays. Beside répertoire preferences it’s hard to distinguish the work of one vs the other (Petrenko, Alsop, Nézet-Séguin, Gilbert: all very proficient and reliable, but short on daring and inquisitiveness).

I don’t agree at all with the AI bit, though. What keeps me returning to a work I like is precisely the alternate viewpoints, the notion that there is still something different and thought-provoking to a work that hasn’t been said before. Therefore the need to acquire different versions of favourite works. And I think that’s precisely what feeds the reissue industry, mining as it does the riches of a time when interpretive individuality was valued and rewarded.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 07:55:55 AM by André »

Online Baron Scarpia

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #283 on: January 03, 2018, 07:56:53 AM »
It seems to be true. Standards are better than they used to be, which means you get what you pay for in a live performance or recording more often than not, but the other side of that is sanitisation—what we gain in reliability we lose in variety. There are no Mengelbergs or Scherchens or Klemperers or even Bernsteins out there any more, what we have instead is a lot of very good but highly similar talents which, were it not for their having different names and faces, you might barely be able to pick and choose between. When there is such consistency, such uniformity intra- and inter- all these conductors it makes me think that perhaps they're preparing the way for automation, the whole thing becoming so homogeneous that it can safely be handed over to AI. Maybe that would eventually encourage a reassertion of belief in the importance of the individual talent, but who knows? Most of us are content to have things the same way every time, possibly because most of our listening time is not in concert but at home, with a captured moment that is exactly and absolutely recreated in every detail each time we hit the play button. The live experience may be under some pressure to play straight to the expectation that this is natural, and so a certain amount of artificiality must be exercised in order to please the audience, which in turn reinforces the expectation. There is something of an assembly line or fast food feel to it, every Barbie doll, every Big Mac, every Beethoven symphony the same, and that's how we like it.

Certainly there is much more uniformity in standard performance, and a bias towards more energetic, crisp performance. I find myself with very little curiosity about new recordings, unless the repertoire is new to me. Mostly I find myself interested in re-release of very old recordings from forgotten artists which present the possibility of something different. The historical informed movement is the only area where I regularly find new performance ideas that interest me.

Offline Crudblud

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #284 on: January 03, 2018, 08:22:46 AM »
I don’t agree at all with the AI bit, though. What keeps me returning to a work I like is precisely the alternate viewpoints, the notion that there is still something different and thought-provoking to a work that hasn’t been said before. Therefore the need to acquire different versions of favourite works. And I think that’s precisely what feeds the reissue industry, mining as it does the riches of a time when interpretive individuality was valued and rewarded.
I mostly intended that as a joke. I think the AI/robotics craze means we are going to see a period of automation for automation's sake in many different fields, but I don't think it would be sustainable in music for any great length of time, with or without a counter-push for greater individuality of interpretation.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #285 on: January 03, 2018, 09:31:10 AM »
Certainly there is much more uniformity in standard performance, and a bias towards more energetic, crisp performance. I find myself with very little curiosity about new recordings, unless the repertoire is new to me. Mostly I find myself interested in re-release of very old recordings from forgotten artists which present the possibility of something different. The historical informed movement is the only area where I regularly find new performance ideas that interest me.

I can certainly see all of that.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Online Baron Scarpia

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #286 on: January 03, 2018, 09:44:36 AM »
I can certainly see all of that.

With the death of Harnoncourt (a great favorite of mine) I think the epoch of the lunatic conductor has drawn to a close. :(

Offline Todd

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #287 on: January 03, 2018, 10:03:21 AM »
With the death of Harnoncourt (a great favorite of mine) I think the epoch of the lunatic conductor has drawn to a close. :(

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Online Daverz

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #288 on: January 03, 2018, 01:44:41 PM »
Hurwitz has posted an editorial on this topic.

https://www.classicstoday.com/editorial-sexual-shenanigans-classical-musicians-recordings/

He lost when he brought up Goosens.  Some people are still confused about the difference between a "sex scandal" and sexual abuse.

Online Baron Scarpia

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #289 on: January 03, 2018, 02:13:20 PM »
He lost when he brought up Goosens.  Some people are still confused about the difference between a "sex scandal" and sexual abuse.

My lord, Hurwitz is despicable. A writer who conflates a "sexual peccadillo" with felony sexual assault on a minor deserves to loose his career, IMO.

Offline Ken B

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #290 on: January 03, 2018, 02:52:35 PM »
This just in: Hurwitz clueless.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #291 on: January 04, 2018, 05:59:45 AM »
This just in: Hurwitz clueless.

Man, did I need that laugh!  Blessings upon your head.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #292 on: January 04, 2018, 08:52:19 AM »
From today's Wall Street Journal by Terry Teachout:

Quote
First James Levine, then Charles Dutoit and Peter Martins : The world of high art continues to be rocked by accusations of sexual misconduct by major figures, and no one doubts that more are on the way. The case of Mr. Levine, however, remains at the front of the queue, with two of his most notable critical admirers, Alex Ross of the New Yorker and Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times, having gone so far as to apologize for previously defending him as the victim of unfounded gossip.

Now what? Few doubt that Mr. Levine’s performing career is over, regardless of whether he is in legal jeopardy. But what of his artistic legacy? Will his musical achievements be forgotten as a result of his disgrace? Not only has he recorded extensively for the past four decades, but audio and video recordings of his broadcast performances with the Met continue to be widely available. Will this continue to be true—and should it? Or is Mr. Levine’s work destined to vanish into the memory hole?

We will, I feel certain, be a long time in sorting out the wider implications of the Levine scandal. Just before Christmas Mark Swed made a preliminary but surprisingly mild attempt to do so in a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Notebook” essay whose operative passage read as follows: “The question is not whether the bad outweighs the good…but whether the bad destroys the good. Levine has left us with a lot that matters.” Mr. Tommasini, writing in the New York Times, made a similar point in a similar way when he mentioned that he owns two boxed sets of Mr. Levine’s opera recordings, and that his personal response to the scandal will be “to move them out of my living room.” To be sure, extreme caution is needed in weighing Mr. Levine’s achievements against his conduct, not least because the charges against him remain unproved. But such rhetorical mildness inevitably smacks of temporizing. Stronger words are needed, and a historical comparison—one of the utmost relevance—may help to fill in the blanks.

The headline of Mr. Swed’s essay refers to “the age-old debate of separating the art from the artist.” This is the heart of the matter: It is mostly taken for granted by aesthetes that the creative achievements of a morally flawed artist can and should be judged separately from his offstage conduct. (Two words: Pablo Picasso. ) According to William Faulkner, “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”

Laymen have always been understandably uncomfortable with this belief, for the very good reason that it encourages us to treat great artists as privileged creatures inhabiting a moral realm above and beyond that of the rest of us. For me, Faulkner’s oft-quoted apothegm is at the very least arguable—but with one essential caveat: No matter how beautiful or profound the results may be, the artist who robs his mother should do time for it. He must be subject to the inexorable operation of the moral law.

Consider the case of Herbert von Karajan. He was one of the greatest orchestral conductors of the 20th century. He was also in his youth a member of the Nazi party, which he joined in 1933 to further his career. How should that affect our feelings about his work? Karajan took part in the Allied “denazification” process after World War II, and was authorized to resume his conducting career. But when his Nazi past was rediscovered by reporters in the ’50s, it became a permanent part of his legacy, prominently mentioned in his obituaries and recalled whenever he is discussed today.

All this, it seems to me, is just as it should be. I love many of Karajan’s recordings and listen to them often—but I also believe that his party membership should forevermore be a blood-red stain on his reputation. He deserves to pay that price for the opportunism of his youth.

If any of James Levine’s recordings are good enough to survive him, I’m fine with that. I don’t think they should be removed from circulation, or that his name should be scrubbed from the Met’s website. But if it should eventually be proved that he abused teenage boys, then that foul fact, over and above whatever punishment the law may prescribe, should also be remembered to the end of time, and cited unequivocally whenever his name is mentioned. Only then will Mr. Levine, like Karajan before him, earn the privilege of having his art judged apart from his personal conduct.


See:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/seeing-a-legacy-whole-1515015239
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #293 on: January 04, 2018, 08:54:26 AM »
Good.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Online Baron Scarpia

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Re: James Levine
« Reply #294 on: January 04, 2018, 09:17:07 AM »
From today's Wall Street Journal by Terry Teachout:

See:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/seeing-a-legacy-whole-1515015239

I generally agree. I don't think the work of artists found guilty of abuse should be suppressed. Among other injustices, that would be suppressing the work of those who suffered the abuse as a condition of participating in the artistic enterprise. The priority is protecting people from the abuser, so the abuser should be removed from a position of power immediately, without regard to any loss of future artistic output or revenue. Levine should have been thrown out and turned over to the authorities, and some other conductor should have had the privilege of leading the Metropolitan Opera and making great performances all those years.
 

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