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Charles Rosenkavalier: Jeremy Denk and Steven Stucky's 'Classical Style' Gets Funny Premiere at Ojai Music Festival in California

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Jun 22, 2014 01:41 PM EDT
'Classical Style' Takes a Humorous Approach Thanks to Steven Stucky's Latest 'Opera (of Sorts)' at the Ojai Music Festival There's nothing more fitting than an opera performance that satires the greatest composers in history, and thanks to Ojai, they clearly have made a mark. (Photo : Barbara Davidson/LA Times)

The musical stylings of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven come under a close lens at Charles Rosen's The Classical Style.

The Ojai Music Festival last Friday, in all its 68-year history, made a valiant attempt at bringing Rosen's never out of print, 43-year-old book from its dusty decay to a new form, this time on stage via Steven Stucky's The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts).

The concept and libretto are by a brilliant pianist and writer, someone you may have heard of, Jeremy Denk, the new Ojai music director.

A festival geared towards reinterpretations of the Classical era has a profound centerpiece to the gala, and something so side-splitting that a rehearsal, according to Mark Swed at the LA Times, was halted after a conductor could keep it in (his laughing stopping the show).

The Classical Style took the festival by storm, a mash-up of Glenn Gould, Bach and Rosen all hysterically contorting their theories on musical form into a blend of priceless satire.

From harmony lessons to sonata form, the show stops all enthusiasts in their pontificating tracks, begging them to let loose and take form to a basic and humorous bottom floor, that is, beside them as they are holding in their guts from laughter.

As Swed puts it:

All of that is characteristic of Stucky's score to "The Classical Style," but a good deal of the Stucky style here is necessarily a pastiche. He subtly interweaves quotes of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven with made-up classical riffs and elements of Stucky's own music, adeptly moving us not only back and forth through history but also through reality and fantasy. There are musical jokes aplenty, some intended for a general audience, wonkier ones setting traps for Spano.

So while the form of musical comedy contrived on the Ojai stage makes for a side-splitting mockery of standard form and its heavyweight contributors, the performance transcends the confines of stuffy musicality and takes on a greater role that Swed remarks as "a fleeting instant of transcendence, namely a miracle."

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TagsMozart, Bach, Haydn, Steven Stucky, The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), Charles Rosen, The Classical Style, Mark Swed, The LA Times, Glenn Gould, Rosen, Ojai Music Festival