Final Concert of the 2016/17 Season


The final concert of the Phoenix Symphony 2016/17 season that Elizabeth and I will be able to attend (we will be away from the country starting in late May) was a great success. Two-thirds of it anyway.

The most successful part was Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. It was greeted by a thunderous applause and a standing ovation the crowd gave the Korean-born pianist Sung Chang after his performance.

Make that two standing ovations. After the second one, he played an encore – Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” – yes, the very first piece I played the other day on my Steinway to welcome it to its new desert home. Only Chang changed it in parts to make it sound like Gershwin music. So you could say we heard Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca alla Gershwin” last night. 🙂

This magnificent piano piece, which tests the mettle of even the most accomplished pianists, was originally conceived in 1830 when Liszt was only 19. Lest we forget, Liszt was regarded as the greatest pianist of his time, some think possibly the best in history of music.

Liszt seems to have completed the his first piano concerto in 1849, yet made further adjustments in 1853. It was first performed at Weimar (Germany) in 1855, with the composer at the piano and Hector Berlioz conducting. Right from the start, it was a smashing success as it was last night.

Liszt’s concerto was sandwiched in last night’s program between the two Russian composers – Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.

The concert opened with another a orchestral piece by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy. The orchestration and nuisances of this music are so rich that they have been used in many movies. Here are just some of them:

Columbo, Kim Possible, The Jazz Singer (1927), Wayne’s World, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, Pinky and the Brain, Road Rovers, Taz-Mania, Tiny Toons, Scrubs, Seeing Double, The Ren and Stimpy Show, South Park, Clueless, A Christmas Story, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moonraker, SpongeBob SquarePants, Pushing Daisies, Sesame Street, El Chavo, The Three Musketeers, among others.

The third piece on last night’s program was Stravinsky’s “Petrushka.” Like most of the 20th century music, it did not do anything for me, even though it was a very difficult and intricate piece for an orchestra to perform. After the performance, Elizabeth told me she felt the same way.

Which is why I said that last night’s concert was a great success 2/3 of the way.

PS: Elizabeth is wearing a dress she bought at Bloomingdale’s in New York last week.

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UPDATE APR 30, 2017


Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of the Phoenix Symphony at the downtown Symphony Hall.

Today, around noon, we did something we rarely do. We treated ourselves to a delicious brunch at the newly opened Eg N’ Joe breakfast-lunch restaurant in our neighborhood (

Elizabeth had something I have never seen her eat before – a “German pancake.” It is an oven-roasted creation in the shape of a big bowl with various fruity treats inside (strawberries in her case). I had blackberry crepes, which were also delicious.

Well, after that, we needed to do something aggressive to try to work off the extra calories. So we hit the Tom’s Thumb trail on the north side of the McDowell Mtns. It was only the second time Elizabeth has attempted that steep and slippery hike. And she did great. She made it to the 3,100 ft elevation. And back to the trailhead, of course.



Elizabeth and I did not waste any time getting re-immersed into the Arizona desert cultural life. Last night, we attended a performance of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, the “Eroica,” by the Phoenix Symphony orchestra. It was another wonderful performance which the conductor, Tito Munoz, led without referring to any sheet music over the entire 48-minutes of its length.

But first, we had to endure – and I underscore ENDURE – you might even say suffer through György Ligeti’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.


Who is Ligeti? (1923-206). Exactly. Based on what we heard last night, you didn’t miss much if you have never heard of him. His music was a cacophony of disconsonant sounds. Kind of like a bunch of mice in a drunken rage partying while cat’s away. Awful.

If that’s what passes as “contemporary” or “modern” music, I’d even take rap over it.

Anyway, here’s the official bio summary for this mice music composer: György Sándor Ligeti was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as “one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century”.


And now, back to Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. Completed in 1804 and first performed in 1805, Beethoven originally dedicated the third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven believed Napoleon embodied the democratic and anti-monarchical ideals of the French Revolution.


In autumn of 1804, however, Beethoven withdrew his dedication of the third symphony to Napoleon, lest it cost the composer’s fee paid him by a royal patron. So, Beethoven re-dedicated his third symphony to Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz – nonetheless, despite such a bread-and-butter consideration, the politically idealistic Beethoven titled the work “Buonaparte”.  Later, about the composer’s response to Napoleon having proclaimed himself Emperor of the French (14 May 1804), Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries wrote:.

“In writing this symphony, Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him, and compared him to the greatest consuls of Ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Ludwig van Beethoven” at the very bottom …

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be recopied, and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia eroica.”


UPDATE March 24, 2017


Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of the “Mozart Requiem” by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus.

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“March Madness” Phoenix-style on April Fools’ Day


Our first “park and ride” experience on Phoenix light rail system

We expected this Saturday night to be a madhouse in downtown Phoenix.  The greedy city fathers – or morons, take your pick – managed to schedule at least three major events on the same day at about the same time in an already crowded city center of a major metropolitan area that’s home to nearly 5 million people.

First, and the biggest madness of them all was the culmination of NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball tournament – the Final Four.  Both semifinal games were played on Saturday, April 1.  (Never mind that “March Madness” has now spilled over into April). 🙂

Second, there was a related Music Festival featuring major rock bands.

And then there was Beethoven’s 9th and the most majestic symphony being performed on Saturday evening by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus. Beethoven would have felt rather small in comparison to the crowds that the other two New World Order crowd opiates attracted. But what Beethoven and the Phoenix Symphony lacked in numbers they more than made up in class.

It was a magnificent performance. What made it so special for Elizabeth and me was that only a week ago we had a chance to see and hear Mozart’s magnificent Requiem at the same venue performed by the same orchestral and choral ensembles.

As we were walking out after last night’s performance, I asked Elizabeth, “which one did you like better?”

“Both,” was her answer.

Indeed. They are both so very different and yet so fabulous.


As a result of all the warnings about possible overcrowding in downtown Phoenix, Elizabeth and I decided to take the Leaf on its first desert outing and park it at the Camelback Rd light rail station. We took the light rail train, which is really a tram, from there to downtown Phoenix. And back, of course, after the concert.

It was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot cheaper than driving. With gas and parking, out trips to the Phoenix Symphony Hall probably cost about $35. Last night, we spent $4 on two return tickets. And left ZERO carbon footprint for the night since we used the Leaf (our electric car) to get to the train station.

But, of course, there was also waiting and crowding in the tram car on the way back. Still, it was a good experience.

Phoenix rail