The top 10 greatest notes of all time

[First published in 2011 on Classical Life, but still true.]

Top 10 lists are big these days in the sophisticated world of the internet and its readership. Even the august New York Times (in January) got into the act recently by naming (or taking a deep breath and beginning to try to start to name) the 10 greatest composers of, like, forever. But never before has the world seen a list like the one we attempt today: The Top Ten Greatest Notes of All Time.

A word on our methods. First, we ate dinner. Then we started to think about doing the dishes but decided to do them later. They can wait. The food won’t stick, not with the dishwasher we have. (We paid a little extra.) Secondly, or thirdly, it’s hard to keep track, we got a committee of the world’s leading musicians together at a retreat in the mountains of Nevada, fed them lavishly and then corralled them all into a small meeting room without heat or air-conditioning and told them not to come out until they had settled on a list of the ten best notes ever. We took the resulting list and compared it to our own and decided to use ours. Theirs was totally wrong, a product of “group thinking” and “political correctness.”

We won’t claim that our list will be approved of by all. We’ve made some controversial choices, for sure, but, in sum, we stand by them. At the very least, we hope that our list of the Top Ten Greatest Notes of All Time will serve as a teachable moment, the start of a further and fruitful discussion, nationally and globally, on this most important topic. Without further ado, then …

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Miscellany

(Curated classical music news and views from around the internet.)

Take a hike with composer John Adams in the Sierras, the setting for his new opera on the Gold Rush, “Girls of the Golden West.”…

The artistic director of the venerable Ojai Music Festival is stepping down.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has a new CEO, with some tough shoes to fill….

A Pulitzer Prize-winning composer writes a Symphony for a Broken Orchestra so that a school district can get its instruments repaired….

R.I.P. Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Carol Neblett….

In the wake of Brexit, the European Commission has cancelled the UK’s opportunity to host the European Capital of Culture….

OC Music & Dance community arts school has created a partnership to enhance The Artist of the Year competition for local high school students….

A new box set of Glenn Gould’s brilliant 1955 recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” also includes, controversially, the outtakes of the recording sessions.

Pacific Symphony: December concerts

Here’s your quick, mobile-friendly guide to December concerts at Pacific Symphony, with links to buy tickets online.

Estonian conductor Anu Tali, recently picked by The Washington Post as one of the top “Female conductors to watch,” makes her debut with the orchestra in a program of Czech and American music (Nov. 30; Dec. 1-2). Smetana’s cherished tone poem “The Moldau” opens the proceedings, and Dvorák’s powerful and undervalued Symphony No. 7 caps them. In between, Gershwin’s Concerto in F gets a ride with noted Chinese pianist Xiayin Wang in the solo seat. Tickets here

Then the holiday programming gets underway. First, there’s “Nutcracker for Kids!” on Dec. 2, a condensed version of the classic ballet featuring Festival Ballet Theatre, Pacific Symphony, conductor Roger Kalia and a visit from Santa Claus. Tickets here

The annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” (Dec. 3) is this year led by a very special guest, conductor John Alexander, recently retired from Pacific Chorale after 45 years as its artistic director. He leads the Symphony, Chorale and soloists in a complete performance. Tickets here

Pacific Symphony will be in the pit at Segerstrom Hall for 13 performances of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” with American Ballet Theatre between Dec. 7 and Dec. 17. That’s a lot of sugar plums. Tickets here

The “Holiday Organ Spectacular” rumbles in Dec. 19. Todd Wilson, head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music, takes charge of the mammoth Gillespie Concert Organ and Symphony musicians Ben Smolen (flute), Elliott Moreau (bassoon and saxophone), Barry Perkins (trumpet), Mindy Ball (harp), Robert Slack (percussion) and Timothy Landauer (cello) make guest appearances. Tickets here

Finally, the multi-talented Seth MacFarlane arrives (Dec. 22-23) to sing holiday tunes and selections from the American Songbook, all in the cool style of the Rat Pack. Actor Gavin McLeod is also on hand for “The Night Before Christmas.” Richard Kaufman conducts. Tickets here

Miscellany

Herbert von Karajan

(Curated classical music news and views from around the internet.)

  • Classical musicians the world over know IMSLP (the free International Music Score Library); now the founder speaks….
  • The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition is well underway; performances are about to begin….
  • You, too, can help save the house of Georges Bizet (in French)….
  • The soon-to-be-released complete recordings of Herbert von Karajan on Decca and Deutsche Grammophon are poised to set a Guinness record….
  • The Albany Symphony has just received a donation of $7 million; meanwhile the Detroit Symphony gets $15 million….
  • Critic Tim Page writes a review of the massive new biography of Toscanini….
  • Sarasota Orchestra’s music director Anu Tali is stepping down; her next stop (in December) is Pacific Symphony….
  • After 25 years as a trail-blazing music director of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas will retire….

Pacific Symphony: November concerts

Anton Bruckner

Here’s your roundup of Pacific Symphony concerts in November, on the quick, mobile-friendly, with links to single tickets. There are 11 concerts in all during the month.

It starts with a tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald on the pops series. Guest conductor Larry Blank leads the orchestra and vocalists Aisha de Haas, Harolyn Blackwell and Capathia Jenkins in an evening of music made memorable by The First Lady of Song. The concerts are Nov. 3-4. Tickets here.

On Nov. 6, community musicians ages 22 and up gather in Samueli Theater for the chamber music edition of OC Can You Play With Us. Pacific Symphony musicians conduct five ensembles. Flutist Cindy Ellis, clarinetist Joshua Ranz, cellist Ian McKinnell, percussionist Rob Slack and conductor Roger Kalia direct homogeneously-instrumented ensembles of amateur musicians in this free concert. Tickets required; tickets here.

In one of the big concerts of the year, Carl St.Clair will lead the orchestra in its first-ever performances of Anton Bruckner’s giant Symphony No. 8 (Nov. 9-11). As prelude, organist Christoph Bull plays music by Bach and Bruckner and the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey sing Gregorian chant. The performance, dubbed “Cathedrals of Sound,” will include a design element by the Prokop brothers of Dusseldorf that will evoke St. Florian Cathedral in Linz, where Bruckner served as organist and is interred. Tickets here.

Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble gives its first concert of the year Nov. 12. Gregory X. Whitmore conducts a program that includes by band classics by Wagner, Grainger, Gordon Jacob and others, as well as a rare performance of John Philip Sousa’s early “President Garfield’s Inauguration March.” Tickets are free but required. Tickets here.

In the first of three concerts this season at the beautiful Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo (Nov. 12), St.Clair and the orchestra offer Mozart’s final two concertos, the Piano Concerto No. 27 (with Benjamin Pasternack as soloist), and the Clarinet Concerto (with new principal clarinetist Joseph Morris as soloist). Also on the program, the Papagena/Papageno duet from “The Magic Flute,” with Yllary Cajahuaringa and Mark Peng. Tickets here.

Roger Kalia and Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra perform a program of Berlioz, Austin Wintory and Stravinsky (“The Firebird”) on Nov. 12 (tickets here); and Irene Kroesen and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings get their season underway with music by J.C. and J.S. Bach, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Brian Balmages on Nov. 19 (tickets here).

The month winds up (and the next begins) with the Symphony debut of Estonian guest conductor Anu Tali. Her program (Nov.30 and Dec. 1-2) bookends a pair of Czech masterpieces — Smetana’s “The Moldau” and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 — with Gershwin’s snazzy Concerto in F as centerpiece. The noted Chinese pianist Xiayin Wang is soloist. Tickets here.

–TIMOTHY MANGAN