July 12, 2010

Fun — and fart jokes — in classical music

That was the sub-headline of the great feature in The Aspen Times this weekend on our Music Director.

That's right, so soon back from Oregon and Nic's off in Aspen (and we wish we could go see him conduct, but we'll have to wait until September when our 30th Season kicks off).

Here's a bit of our favorite part from the article:

"McGegan believes that injecting that sort of jollity into classical music is hardly a radical notion, or even a departure from early concert-going.

"'Mozart loved it when people clapped in the middle of a movement,' he said. 'I have no problem with people clapping between movements. If you're playing Mahler Nine, it's a different atmosphere than [Mozart's] 'Jupiter' Symphony, or Haydn, which had genuine jokes in it.' McGegan mentions a Haydn passage in which two bassoons play some loud, rude notes: 'It could only be associated with the back end of a cow. You can be sure the original audience laughed their asses off.'

"The notion that classical music is strictly serious business wasn't around at the birth of concert music. McGegan imagines a dinner party where the guests are all noted composers, and he believes there would be plenty of drinking, laughter and off-color behavior.

"'Haydn would be delightful, charming. Mendelssohn — wonderful,' he said. 'Mozart would probably tell naughty jokes and fart and throw bread rolls at the women. He wasn't well-trained for the house. Poor Beethoven — he'd probably be tortured, because he couldn't hear the conversation. Wagner would just talk about himself.'

"A review of a recent concert McGegan did with the Philadelphia Orchestra referred to McGegan and Robert Levin as 'the two naughty boys of early music.' But McGegan finds nothing inappropriate about his approach to music. When the music calls for an austere respect, he has no trouble moving into a more solemn mode. In any event, his credentials as a proper gentleman were solidified last month, when he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

"But McGegan sees his role not so much as standing erect next to the queen, but in getting the classical music world off its high and mighty throne."

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