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Spalding Gray
Christopher Hogwood
Van Cliburn
Jorge Mester
Roger Norrington
André Watts
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Nicholas Slonimsky
Laurie Anderson

Christopher Hogwood


Christopher Hogwood is a unique individual. If you looked into Doug Ordunio’s blog, (located in his section of the Poetry Plaza in the Grand Salon) he talks about seeing him perform and meeting him for the first time around 1980. When Hogwood was on tour in the States with his ensemble, The Academy of Ancient Music, Doug interviewed him for American Airlines, and you can hear it here. Hogwood talks about the orchestra, how it came into being, and he gives us some interesting insights into the modern performance of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Listen!

Van Cliburn


Born Harvey Lavan, Jr., Van Cliburn was a tall soft-spoken Southern gentlemen who became one of the great American heroes of the 1950s. Just look at the admiring ladies watching him play in the photo above. When he traveled to Moscow in 1958 to participate in the First Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, little did we know that he would win the First Prize, launching an international career that would go on for decades. Then of course, an international competition was begun in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas, and it has continued for over 40 years.

Our microphones caught up with Cliburn several years ago when he was exploring the idea of a classical comeback. He was in the penthouse suite of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, and he spoke with us for a few minutes about music, the experience of winning the Tchaikovsky prize, his brief sojourn into conducting and other musical subjects. The interview runs a little over 12 minutes. Listen!

Jorge Mester


Jorge Mester is a marvelous conductor who has had extensive experience around the globe. For many years he conducted the Louisville Symphony Orchestra which specialized in the commissioning and performance of contemporary music. Currently he is in the midst of his twenty second year as the music director of the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra. At the time of the interview he was also the conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic.

In the interview we will hear, he presents us with many insights into the classical music situation south of the border. His discussion is quite lucid and surprising especially when he talks about the public’s attitude toward classical music, especially among children. He also discusses the amazing forty-week festival of contemporary music he produced in Mexico.

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Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray was one of the more interesting people on the planet. I first encountered him in the movie "The Killing Fields," but I had no idea of his significance until I saw the movie "Swimming to Cambodia." If you haven't seen it, make it a point to do so, for then you will see him doing what he always did best--talk! That's what he does for the entire length of the film, but what magic he creates...

I met him when doing an interview for Delta Airlines, and that's what you're going to hear. It's only 20 minutes long, but in that time. it's obvious he felt comfortable enough to peel away a few layers of the onion and let us inside that wonderful mind. He was a warm gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor.

And if you just dropped by to hear him talk, please inventigate the Classroom. If you like mental gymnastics, it's where you can take your GRAY matter out for some exercise. Was that a pun?

Listen to interview!


André Watts

André Watts is a great concert pianist, born in Nuremberg, Germany, the product of a black American service man and a Hungarian woman. He became known to the public as a result of the famous Young People's Concerts which were spearheaded by Leonard Bernstein during the 1950s. At the age of 16, he played the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 on one of these broadcasts. His career has led him to perform around the world.

This interview was recorded for use on United Airlines, and it was conducted backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, around 1995.

His best line is given, talking about the way some people play Liszt: "Very often, you go to concerts, and they slam their foot down and tear through this stuff, and you know, clip the fenders, knock off the corners, and shmeer this and shmeer that, and they think it's OK..."

Listen to André!


Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen (EH-sah PEH-ka SAL-oh-nen "SAL" pronounced as in "salad") has been one of the world’s finest musicians for quite a number of years. Born in Helsinki, Finland, at first he turned his back on music, but eventually came around and turned into a superb and insightful conductor. He is also an active composer. He made his American conducting debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1984, and became the principal conductor there in 2002. At the end of this season, his reign in L.A. will come to an end, and he will take over the conductorship of the Philharmonia Orchestra in England. Here is an audio collection of his thoughts about his musical career, and among other things we learn how much he admires Stravinsky, and how, when he was growing up, he hated the music of Jean Sibelius.

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Slonimsky in his mid 80s


Formerly the world’s most famous musicologist, Nicholas Slonimsky was born April 27, 1894 and died December 25, 1995 (not an inappropriate day for someone named Nicholas). He was an amazing and at the same time a rather tragic individual. As he put it, he was a failed wunderkind, meaning I guess that his parents expected him to be a child prodigy but he never made the cut. He was born in St. Petersburg and as I understand it, he taught the last Russian czar's nephew the piano.

I remember the look on his face when I asked him about being in the search party that found the body of Julian Scriabin (Alexander's son) in the Dneiper River near Kiev. He became very sorrowful and talked about finding "that poor little boy." A few years after that event, he decided to get away from the Russian Revolution. He went south to Constantinople where he became a pianist in a silent movie orchestra. A few years later he found himself where all artists in Europe eventually found themselves—Paris.

It was in this city that he met the Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1925 when that man came to the U.S. to take over the leadership of the Boston Symphony, Nicholas came with him as his secretary. Suddenly he was in heaven, for two of the most famous contemporary composers of the early 20th century in America lived in New England—Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles. He got to know both of them and he became quite a champion of Ives' music. In fact he was responsible for creating the first performance edition of Three Places in New England by Ives. He met everyone and anyone, even Edgard Varese. Slonimsky even conducted the premiere performance of that composer's Ionisation. On top of that he was THE classical music lexicographer in the world, editing Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians for many years. I didn't meet him until he was 85 years old and living in an apartment on Wilshire Blvd. near Westwood in 1979.

The interview excerpt you are about to hear was recorded at that time, and Nicholas was surprisingly energetic. This chat was recorded for a program which aired for about a year on KFAC, called “At Home With,” where I would go to a famous musical figure’s home and interview them. This is several excerpts that will be put up here. Regrettably, this is the only portion of the show that survives today.

Listen!

Laurie Anderson


Laurie Anderson is a famous contemporary composer and American performance artist. To see her website, click here.

A room is devoted to Laurie Anderson in The Classroom. You can read more about her at Recess 15 on the Second Floor. The following is a portion of an interview with Anderson that was recorded in the late 1970s, and she talks about her most famous piece, O Superman. First, if you are unfamiliar with the piece, here is the work as taken from her monumental release, United States Live. Listen to O Superman.

Listen to interview with Laurie Anderson.


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