Condoleezza's musical mystery tour revealed

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Liverpool, the home of the Beatles, for two days this week. On Friday she is taking in a concert featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and anti-war protesters have caused some local difficulties, including the loss of the compere.

Ms Rice likes her music. When visiting Paris she visited the Conservatoire Hector Berlioz, and reportedly plays in a weekly chamber music group. The good news is that the Liverpool gig is going ahead, but tight security has meant that the concert programme has been kept a secret until this afternoon. The Liverpool Phil's hard pressed Communications Manager, Jayne Garrity, has just emailed over the details, so here, as a little exclusive, are the headlines.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the first movement of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

The RLPO will be conducted by Principal Conductor designate, Vasily Petrenko who takes up the baton in September 2006. Recognised as one of the exceptional musicians of his generation, at 29 years old, he is the youngest person and the first Russian in the 165-year history of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to have been appointed principal conductor.

In addition to the orchestra the young voices of Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir will sing Stephen Hatfield's Las Amarillas (do follow that link, a fine young choral composer with a lot of audio files on his site), and other local music groups and dancers will perform.

It is good to see Condoleezza Rice supporting the performing arts in sharp contrast to our own Tony 'air guitar' Blair (left). Nothing too challenging in the programme, but two of the orchestral works are 20th century, and the Elgar only misses out by six months. But it is interesting that the Nimrod variation is well known as a threnody for the victims of war, and in Voltaire's Candide one of the best known passages refers to the execution of the British Admiral John Byng: 'Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres', which translates as 'In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.'

Image credit: Ms Rice - Tony Blair - BBC News. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to 'Glorious John' in New York


Pliable said…
A Stateside reader confirms Condoleezza Rice’s musical taste. He reports seeing Ms Rice at the opening of the Kirov Turandot in Washington two weeks ago - her motor escort caravan drove from the Watergate Restaurant 200 meters to the Kennedy Centre, and then again after the opera, sirens wailed as she was transported 200 meters back to her Watergate apartment enclave.
Anonymous said…
Actually, Ms Rice has quite a respectable musical background. Read about it in this interview from last year:

And altho I am in no way a supporter of her political life, it is worth noting that a failed concert pianist can go places. It's also mentioned that retired head of the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan, was an oboe player. What this all means, I have no idea. Interesting interview, tho.
Pliable said…
By complete coincidence, as I was uploading this morning's Path, BBC Radio 3 broadcast Mariss Jansons' recording of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances with the St Petersburg Philharmonic.

Every time I hear the Symphonic Dances I think wow - what a piece of music !

Forget about the political shenanigans. Great music, and great music making rules.
Garth Trinkl said…
I think that monetary economist Alan Greenspan was actually a very serious, aspiring jazz clarinetist, who had studied at Juilliard for a while. I recall that just over four weeks ago, on the day that Greenspan retired from the Fed, NPR played an old scratchy recording of Greenspan performing in a New York big band in, I believe, the late 1940s. Check your local music library (or NPR on the net).

Pliable, I will toot in here and mention that the last time I heard the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances live was a performance under Yuri Temirkanov by the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, in Petersburg, three years ago almost to the day. The second half of the program was Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), which Rostropovich is performing tonight in San Francisco with that city's fine, but underchallenged, orchestra and chorus.

I believe that it was one of the first performances of the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances in Petersburg in a very long time -- I can't recall the details. The hall was sold out and was packed with scores of music students standing in the rear and behind the surrounding balcony seats. Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko was in the audience and took a bow after the Shostakovich.

(As you may know, Yuri Temirkanov apparently has no desire to return to America and Baltimore for his final concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has cancelled a series of engagements, and it remains to be seen whether he will return for his Mahler No. 2 swan-song.)

Here are the program notes to tonight's SFO performance of the Shostakovich No. 13:
Pliable said…
The Symphonic Dances were, of course, composed for Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This flurry of comments prompted me to put the CD of their recording from 1963 on, and very fine it sounds indeed.

When Muti took over from Ormandy in Philadelphia I was involved in EMI's efforts to move recordings away from the 'dry' Curtis Institute Hall to the more resonant Met Church which had started life as an opera house. (Follow this link for the full story). But listening again to that old Ormandy recording the sound isn't at all bad if somewhat lacking in 'bloom' (someone is on holiday so I can say that).

Very rewarding that, as ever, thoughtful comments from readers have steered what looked like a somewhat off-message article back on course.

The music is everything ...
Garth Trinkl said…
Recall, pliable, that Eugene Ormandy also lead the first U.S. performance, in Philadelphia, of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 13, in 1970, eight years after its Moscow premiere. Rostropovich was reported to have smuggled the score to the work out of the Soviet Union.

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