Wash some dishes to Brahms, and for one brief shining moment, you’ll feel like your life is being directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This week, three stories from the orchestra pit, the rehearsal hall and the studio.
Up Close With Aja Gabel and The Ensemble — 2:20
Author Aja Gabel’s first novel, “The Ensemble,” tells the story of four young musicians — Henry, Jana, Britt and Daniel — who are trying to find success for their string quartet while they unravel the messy threads of their young lives. The dramatic unfolding of romances, fist-fights and power plays made for an engrossing read, what really had us excited was the way Gabel wrote about the experience of playing chamber music. We met up with her at Portland Book Festival 2018, along with a quartet of musicians from the Oregon Symphony: Shin-young Kwon (violin), Samuel Park (violin), Charles Noble (viola) and Trevor Fitzpatrick (cello). They played selections from the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 3 in F Major Op. 73 — music that figures into a pivotal scene in Gabel’s novel. They also shared observations about the musical life they’ve chosen.
In 2018, many sectors were obliged to come to terms with sexual harassment and abuse. In the performing arts, few incidents created bigger ripples than the firing of William Preucil. Concertmaster to the Cleveland Orchestra and a longtime instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he was named in a July Washington Post article about abuse in the classical music world. The story that subsequently unfurled in the Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed a string of young women and girls who said Preucil had made inappropriate passes, groped them, and threatened retribution if they spoke out. Portlander Raffaela Kalmar, assistant principal second violin for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, was part of the cohort of victims who went public with their stories.
The Metropolitan Opera’s Aria Code — 42:11
In December, a joint project between WQXR, WNYC and the Metropolitan Opera burst into the podcast world. “Aria Code” is a series of lovingly conceived explainers for some of the most famous music in the Western canon. Host Rhiannon Giddens (co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and a former Oberlin Conservatory student) guides listeners through Puccini, Verdi, Saint-Saëns and others. Guests include world-class Met Opera veteran singers like Plácido Domingo and Diana Damrau, but also wild card guests, such as Rufus Wainwright and the London call-girl-turned-forensic-pathologist Dr. Brooke Magnanti. The result is an accessible and often surprising exploration into what makes opera such a captivating medium for both classic narratives and very modern problems.