Rock And Royal
Are you a royals rooter? No, it’s not a baseball question. What I mean to ask is whether you look forward to spending hours learning all about kings and queens?
I’m sure you’ve heard scholars who can dazzle you - or lose you - in all they can tell you about royal families and successions. And there’s so much literature that’s royalty-rich, with some of that making its way into films, television, and even classical music
I have to admit it’s not one of my strengths. I have trouble just keeping up with classical musicians who have been knighted or orchestras that have acquired the title “Royal.” And I don’t always use the titles when I identify them.
For years, I’ve been playing performances featuring the Japanese-born accordionist Mie Miki on Classic Mornings. At one point, I learned that she had been dubbed: “Queen of the Classical Accordion.” I’ve known for years that there are other classical accordionists out there. And recently, I was introduced to a new recording featuring Serbian-born Bogdan Laketic. Laketic lives in Vienna, where he spent years studying the classical accordion. The recording is titled Made in Vienna (Gramola 99264) and includes, among other works, his transcriptions of two piano sonatas by Franz Joseph Haydn.
I understand that he’s developed quite a following. And given the title held by Mie Miki, I began to wonder about Laketic’s place within in the “royal family of accordionists.” Because of my lack of expertise in the realm of the royals, it’s probably best that his fans make the decision, even though it generally doesn’t work that way in the world of kings and queens.
I heard an interview with Bogdan Laketic, which took place just last month in the studios of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF). Though he began to take accordion lessons at age 6, he did admit that at one time, he wanted to be a rock guitarist.
Interestingly, I also discovered last week that a famous classical musician, who was born in Pittsburgh, was a rock guitarist at the outset, playing the music of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Led Zeppelin in a cover band in Columbus, Ohio. So how in the world did he become one of the most famous lutenists in the world with over 100 recordings and a gig as professor of lute at the Eastman School of Music, which he’s had since 1976?
Paul O’Dette told Melinda Johnson of Syracuse.com in 2014 that he decided to study classical guitar to perfect his electric guitar technique. Then he heard the sound of the lute. The rest is history, as they say. And he went on to learn quite a bit about the history of the lute, including those who played and wrote for the instrument centuries ago.
I remember hearing that the Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly was a drummer way back when. I was assured of that in a 2015 article about him by Fiona Maddox of The Guardian. Chailly said that he played in a free-jazz band. But under the guidance of his father, who was a composer and administrator for Italian radio (RAI) and for the legendary Milan-based opera house La Scala, he became the youngest person to conduct at La Scala at age 25. Today he’s the music director of La Scala and one of the most admired conductors in the world.
As far as I know, Russian conductor Yuri Simonov had no ambitions of becoming a K-Pop star. But last week - and just by chance - I came upon an interesting item online. Around the time of his 80th birthday in 2021, somebody borrowed video footage of some of his most animated moments on the podium. After a bit of editing, they synchronized them to a famous 2012 K-Pop song – from Korea - known as Gangnam Style. Though a bit amateurish, it attracted quite a bit of attention. I hope it sparked a lot of interest in the conductor. We were introduced to him nearly 25 years ago, when a couple of his recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra arrived, featuring the music of Tchaikovsky. Without any video or even a photo, there were some exciting performances, which I’ve played over the years.
Coming upon all those stories in the course of just one week, it made me hope that young people pursue music studies with a passion. They’ll choose the direction. But the first step is to discover the joys of making music. And perhaps listening to classical music on the radio or via live-streaming might provide a bit of a spark.
Invite the young people in your life to join us for Classic Mornings whenever they can. They – and you – can tune in Monday through Friday from 9 – noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.