Monday, May 22, 2017
Sandra Hyslop has sent us a beautiful account of the life of the violinist and concertmaster Hugh Ewart, who died this week, aged 93: HUGH WINCHESTER EWART Bellshill, Scotland, March 19, 1924 – Portland, Oregon, April 22, 2017 Hugh Winchester Ewart was born near Glasgow, in the small town of Bellshill, Scotland, on March 19, 1924. His parents, James Ewart, a violinist, and Margaret Mann Ewart, a pianist, separated when he was a small child. On April 28, 1928, Margaret Ewart, along with her mother, Elspet Mann, and four-year-old Hugh left Glasgow on the Cunard liner Cameronia to take up permanent residency in the United States. Upon their arrival at Ellis Island nine days later, they were momentarily detained until their stated destination and host could be verified. Grandmother Elspet’s brother, the Rev. Hugh Sinclair Winchester, in Joliet, Illinois, provided the necessary certification, and with the thump of a rubber stamp, “ADMITTED,” Hugh Ewart’s extraordinary life in America began. The two women and the boy ultimately moved into an inexpensive cold-water flat at 168 N. LaSalle Avenue in Chicago. There, Margaret taught piano lessons, and Hugh learned the art of gathering spilled coal from nearby railroad tracks to provide heat for their apartment. Despite their meager income, Margaret saw to it that Hugh had violin lessons, and she was his pianist as he began to perform in public as a young teenager. Graduating from the Harrison Technical High School, where he had been both treasurer and secretary of the school orchestra, he entered the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, on full scholarship. From there he was accepted to The Juilliard School, where he acquired the polish that characterized his violin-playing ever after. His principal teachers were three great violinists of the mid-twentieth century: Joseph Fuchs, Ivan Galamian, and Nathan Milstein. Hugh Ewart’s orchestral career began at the top. Upon graduation from Juilliard, the 22-year-old auditioned successfully for the Minneapolis Symphony and its music director, Dimitri Mitropoulos. His experience under this great and generous conductor, playing with one of the era’s most significant orchestras, provided a model for his career as a concertmaster. As fate would have it, Hugh’s father, James Ewart, had also left Scotland and had settled in Portland, Oregon, where he was a violin teacher and a member of the Portland Symphony. Establishing a connection with his son, James encouraged him to audition for the concertmaster position that had become vacant in his Oregon orchestra. Hugh—never one to shy away from adventure—took the challenge. In 1948 Hugh Ewart won the position that he would hold for thirty years, concertmaster of the Portland Symphony Orchestra (renamed in1968 the Oregon Symphony). He retired with the well-earned title “Concertmaster Emeritus.” From the moment Hugh arrived in Portland, his career and his life went into high gear. As a performer, entertainer, teacher, conductor, and entrepreneur, he was a complete musician. Always in motion, with his violin—and, sometimes his viola—at the ready, he sought out musical experiences of an extraordinary variety. Sober and challenging chamber music, his own arrangements of Scottish reels and strathpeys, great works of symphonic repertoire, show tunes and humorous medleys—all commanded Hugh’s delighted and meticulous attention. Audiences loved him. So did his family. Not long after arriving in Portland, Hugh met a pretty young school teacher, Esther Fichtner, and on June 14, 1952, they married. From that day on, Esther Ewart—Essie—became not only the love of his life, but the glue that kept his professional life on schedule and in balance with their growing family activities. How Hugh loved his life as a musician: a public school teacher for three decades, an adjunct professor of violin at Pacific University, Reed College, Multnomah College, and others, and the orchestra conductor at Young Musicians and Artists for 40 years, he also maintained a private studio that over the course of 65 years trained scores of violinists and other string players. Exacting and particular in his teaching and conducting, Hugh was also a kind and respectful mentor to young people. In addition to his demanding role as the concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, Hugh served several decades as the concertmaster for Portland’s annual Singing Christmas Tree; in the years before the Oregon Symphony offered full-time employment, he served as concertmaster of the Portland Opera orchestra; he sat—and stood—as the violin leader for annual Viennese balls; and he made many international tours as the violin soloist in pops concerts. For 40 years he was the featured violinist for annual celebrations of “Robert Burns Night” in Portland. Hugh was Norman Leyden’s favorite violin soloist during Leyden’s three-decades reign as the Oregon Symphony’s principal pops conductor. As the contractor for many ensembles large and small, Hugh and his violin were essential to weddings and other ceremonial occasions throughout the Northwest. When his children, David and Duncan (violins), and Barbara (cello), became adept with their instruments, Hugh would switch to the viola, and the Ewart family string quartet would perform together, often playing Hugh’s own arrangements. Hugh was an indefatigable traveler, taking his violin with him even on private vacations. He would take it out wherever he was, from Provence to Peking, ready to entertain in a village hall or a small-town church, where he would inevitably make friends through his music. When he was not on a music stage, Hugh could be found on a tennis court, or in his violin studio, putting together a massive wooden ship model, or on the roof of his house attending to its maintenance, or on his meticulous lawn, tidying up the edges. Above all, Hugh was devoted to his family and his church. Hugh is survived by his wife, Esther; his son David, his son Duncan, and his daughter, Barbara; and by eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Already as a music conservatory student Hugh had joined the Juilliard Christian Fellowship and had performed frequently under its auspices in the New York City area. Hugh and Essie were active members of the Tabor Heights Methodist Church, where a public Celebration of Hugh Ewart’s Life will take place on Sunday, May 21, at 5:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, gifts to the Oregon Symphony, or to Young Musicians and Artists, in memory of Hugh Ewart, will be gratefully accepted. The family would also welcome fond memories and recollections of Hugh; please send them to Leslie_Garman@yahoo.com . —Sandra Hyslop
"You will not mess with my First Amendment, my Bill of Rights, my Declaration of Independence, my Constitution. I underline the 'my' in terms of the way I feel about it. That's the way this country was born, that's what it's dedicated to. It has not served up equal justices yet, ... but under the law, we are promised equal justice under the law, equal opportunity. So I think that's as conservative as you can get."
In a reflection of the zeitgeist Slipped Disc trumpets 'All male winners at the Katheleen Ferrier prize' but overlooks the equally obvious headline of '75 conductors at the Proms and 74 are white'*. A comment by Kevin Scott on my post 'Grammy-winning conductor says please exploit me' offers a more informed view of how classical music can rectify its plural inequalities. So Kevin's comment now gets the solo spot it deserves: Look, folks, let's get real. John McLaughlin Williams is one of the best conductors out there, period! But this man DOES need to get more work, and so do many other black men and women who have graced the podium! (yes, and that includes this poor schnook!) But in all seriousness, John has a vast repertoire that he wishes to conduct. Not just the standard repertoire, but also music that deserves to be heard, and not just on recordings or in some concert hall in Europe. He has been invited by the likes of the Colorado Symphony and the Detroit Symphony, but on one-off concerts, so why hasn't he been invited by these major orchestras, and others, on a subscription series? Now in recent months many people have asked "who is that wonderful black conductor we see on the GMC commercial?" [see below] and the answer is Kazem Abdullah, but apart from a gig with the Westchester Symphony last June, and a recent appearance by the Detroit Symphony performing, among other works, Jeffrey Mumford's Cello Concerto, he has, to my knowledge, not been invited to conduct major orchestras here for the '17-18 season. This also applies to Kirk Smith who, if you have read some of my posts and his, has recently made a recording of works for string orchestra by American composers (this one included :) ), but apart from an appearance with the Houston Symphony last year, I don't see American orchestras clamoring for his services. And though his reputation is lauded by many in the business, André Raphel does get plum gigs, but in my opinion he should be guesting with more first-tier orchestras in this country, and that's a no if's, and's or but's statement right there! This also applies to Bill Eddins, who is one marvelous conductor in his own right (not to mention a dynamite pianist!) Ditto Julius P. Williams, Leslie B. Dunner (and he's a MD candidate for the Erie Chamber Orchestra), Vincent L Danner (also a candidate for the Erie position), Jeri Lynne Johnson, Brandon Keith Brown, Marlon Daniel (and he's been invited to conduct Cuba's National Symphony in Havana!), Joseph Young, Roderick Cox, Joseph Jones and most likely a few others who escape my mind at this moment (Please, please, please shout yourselves out!) Now...as Bob hinted, if DGG can sign what they say is their "first female cellist" and wish to "exploit" her, then why isn't a major label hooking up with some of these conductors to grant them the exposure they deserve? Is it because they don't want to break the glass ceiling and show the world that black conductors are capable of performing both the standard repertoire as well as new music? Are they afraid that they don't know how to "market" them? First - we need to be seen as conductors, period. The color should not matter whatsoever, but for those who have made up their minds that black men and women should not hold grace at the podium because...well, this music is not a part of our history, we beg to differ. Second, there are many of us who are guardians of this music and defenders of its faith, and in some cases even more so than one is led to believe! Third and last...because audiences seek new faces, and we are the makers of generations to come and to aspire them to explore this vast repertoire of music. I said enough! * Norman could also have said that the one black conductor - Kevin John Edusei with Cheneke! - is consigned to the late-night BBC Proms ghetto. Ungrateful? No, can you imagine the social media outrage if the only woman conductor at the 2017 Proms was consigned to the 10.15pm slot. Then there is the question of whether black conductors are only going to be allowed to conduct BME orchestras at the Proms. And Cheneke! must beware of being annexed as a BBC sub-brand. But like Kevin, I've said enough. Black conductors in my header montage are from top left clockwise, André Raphel, Kazem Abdullah, Jeri Lynne Johnson and John McLaughlin Williams. On An Overgrown Path is also on Facebook and Twitter.
"Bernstein’s heyday was in a time of high hopes. John F. Kennedy’s Camelot was meant to usher in a new world order; Norman Mailer was supposed to write the Great American Novel. Bernstein, similarly, was expected to catapult American music to a new level of excellence and prestige. But high hopes are invariably bound to be dashed. Kennedy was assassinated; Mailer petered out; Bernstein scattered his energies. Still, perhaps more than Kennedy or Mailer, Bernstein made an enormous contribution to American culture. His tragedy lay in the human fact that he was not the musical messiah that he came so close to being."
Deutsche Grammophon has spun the story of signing its first ever female cellist Camille Thomas, and the news has dutifully been re-spun by clickbait master Norman Lebrecht. Why is such a story circulated when anyone with a cursory knowledge of classical music knows that Anja Thauer in 1968 - see above - and Jacqueline du Pré in 1986 - see below - not to mention other soloists and chamber players have made recordings for DG, for which they must have signed a contract? Not to mention the countless rank and file female cellists in orchestras contracted to record for DG over the decades. And coming to that, why would Vladmir Spivakov's Moscow Virtuoso Orchestra promote a concert of male composers' music as a celebration of International Women's Day? The inconvenient truth is that #female has become just another exploitable marketing gimmick in an industry that is addicted to marketing gimmicks. Now before the music thought police take further sanctions against me, let me point out that On An Overgrown Path was arguably the first blog to start arguing the case for female musicians in a 2006 post titled BBC Proms 2006 lacks the eternal feminine. (In the same year Stormin' Norman was still deprecating music blogs, quite presciently as it turns out, as a corrupt form of journalism.) And over the past eleven years OAOP has championed numerous women musicians; for instance I recently highlighted the completely forgotten Kathleen Riddick who was the first woman to conduct at the Festival Hall. But I have always tried to champion the cause of women in music in a balanced way. I have also tried to put their cause into the context of other inequalities that also urgently need correcting, but which do not have the same clickbait appeal. The current gender imbalance in classical music is unacceptable and must be corrected, and others have done far more important work than me in arguing the female case. Undoubtedly the battle for gender equality is still a long way from being won. But the correction of this legacy imbalance is going to take time to work through the classical music ecosystem. It will be damaging if the correction proceeds too slowly. But it will also be damaging if the correction is forced through and championing female musicians is exploited as no more than a short-term marketing opportunity. As has been seen too often recently, the female cause is being cynically exploited by the music industry in a way that is damaging all the invaluable work that has been done, and must continue to be done, to give women their rightful place in classical music. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
"While older utopias often were predicated on returning to the virtues of an imagined past, a key figure behind this utopia of the new was Norman Bel Geddes, a theatre designer turned industrial designer. Bel Geddes is best known for designing the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, a huge and hugely celebrated vision of the world of 1960, full of towering modernist skyscrapers in new cities and lots and lots of cars."
Great opera singers