Saturday, January 21, 2017

Classics in Commercials: Bach meets David Ortiz

Baseball fans will probably love the new Turbo Tax commercial that features David Ortiz, also known as "Big Papi". Ortiz retired in 2016 season after a great career, mostly with the Boston Red Sox. He will likely be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In this commercial, Ortiz has started a new career as a tennis instructor. As a hitter, he was famous for hitting home runs, after which he would drop his bat a admire his work. As a tennis instructor, he waits for the ball machine to fire the tennis ball over net, just as a pitcher would throw to the plate, He takes a huge two-handed baseball swing at the ball and knocks it out of the court, only to have it land hundreds of feet away somewhere in the tennis club causing destruction and chaos. Take a look.

Pretty hilarious I think. The music is Bach's "Air" from his Orchestral Suite no.3 in D major. It is one of the most recognizable and beautiful pieces of music ever written. I am usually always happy when classical music is used in commercials, films, TV programs, etc....But the producers of this commercial got it wrong if you ask me. I understand what they were attempting to do....Big Papi is at a snooty country club. They needed music to reflect this atmosphere, so they defaulted to classical, right? That's unfortunate. I have been saying all along in this blog that classical music need not be cast in that light. But even if you go along with it, THIS is not the piece to use. It does not fit that stereotype at all. The "Air" conveys...and this is my opinion of course...grace, understanding, peace, hope, redemption, and love. It is not stuffy and pretentious in any way, shape or form.
A swing and a miss for Initiative (Agency), and Wieden+Kennedy (Creative Agency).

Monday, January 2, 2017

Glenn Gould in Kansas City 1962

I have this beautiful album from CBS Masterworks, part of a four volume set released in the mid-1980's. Glenn Gould died in 1982. He had just completed recording the Bach Goldberg Variations for a second time. His first recording of these was released in 1956 and catapulted him to fame. So much has been written and debated about Gould as a pianist, performer and person. It is interesting to hear so many different opinions about him. Was Gould crazy? Or just eccentric? Or both? I love the quote from conductor George Szell about Gould: "that nut's a genius." Funny....but maybe more than just funny.
Gould detested touring and performing. He, like the Beatles, finally just stopped. He gave his last concert in 1964. But fortunately for those living in Kansas City, he did make one appearance here, on November 23, 1962. Here is the review in the Kansas City Star from 11/24/62.

Pianist Appears Here in Program of Byrd, Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, and Berg
Intense Canadian Performs Before 2,400 Persons at Music Hall

By Clyde Neibarger
(The Star Music Editor)

    As many critics have already commented, Glenn Gould is an extraordinary pianist. For an audience of about 2,400 last night at the Music Hall, the Canadian played, in turn, works of William Byrd, J.S.Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, and Alban Berg, and a Brahms encore number in a manner that already is marking him as a legendary keyboard figure.
    His intense concentration is a thing to behold, as well as to listen to. Gould caresses the keyboard, except for the fortissimo passages, as in the Beethoven Sonata in E major, Opus 109, one of the composer's less-played numbers.
    Members of the audience felt, evidently, that his choice of music represented the classical masters but in there lesser known works. One felt that the listeners would have accorded him bravos and a real ovation, had he played a number or two that they recognized and could identify without consulting the program.
    Gould has a beautiful tone, especially in the softer passages, of which there were many. With a score before him at all times, he was an artist of remarkable gifts. His manner was somewhat eccentric, compared with the formal platform manner of most concert performers.
    His program opened with a composition by the early Englishman, William Byrd (1543-1623) that sounded much like Bach, except that it had especially melodious passages. It was evident at once that Gould has modified his keyboard mannerisms since this this reviewer heard him in 1961 in Vancouver. Gould uses little pedal, which makes the effect cleancut. His left hand bounces off the keys in climatic episodes. 
    The Bach Partita was given some of his warmest intensity. One pedal foot was always forward, but he often had one foot or the other drawn backward as a part of the interpretive drive. As he played the faster passages, his body had a sidewise rocking motion.
    The Haydn sonata, written about 1789, is in pure classical style, and Gould succeeded in making the Steinway's sound resemble that of the harpsichord of Haydn's time.
    After intermission came Beethoven's sonata, then the one-movement Sonata, Opus 1, by Alan Berg, a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. Berg's use of chords built on fourths was treated by him so that they were completely absorbed by the tonal structure.
    An enthusiastic round of applause brought the artist back for an extra number, in the classical-romantic vein, the Brahms Intermezzo No. 3, Opus 117.
    There had been times during the concert when people down front could hear Gould humming, and there were times when he seemed to be supplying words. He sat in a low chair, which made necessary arched wrists to level off with the keyboard from the lowered elbows.
    Gould has talked of plans to give all his time eventually to composing, where he believes he could get the best results. This reviewer urges him to keep on playing, and as time permits, compose, too.