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    Reflections on Star Quality From a Golden Age of ‘Junk TV’

    In a new memoir, a longtime casting director revels in memories of a bygone Hollywood, matching actors with the roles that made them stars.Stop to consider the movie and TV characters that are most permanently seared into the American psyche, and their impact is rarely a function of screen time. Usually, the effect on audiences is immediate: Think Tim Curry’s first appearance in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” or Stockard Channing breezing into Rydell High alongside her fellow Pink Ladies.Whether they were memorable because of their abrasiveness (Danny DeVito in “Taxi”), their rebellious streak (Ms. Channing in “Grease”) or their ability to solve a crisis with a slice of cheesecake (the titular golden girls of “The Golden Girls”), every actor who eventually went on to make Hollywood history first had to clear the hurdle of a casting department. And for many of the biggest movies and TV shows of the last half century, Joel Thurm was a central part of those teams, handpicking the actors whose performances would resonate for decades to come.In his newly released memoir, “Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director,” Mr. Thurm, 80, details what he saw in stars like John Travolta, whom he cast in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”“I knew he wasn’t Vinnie Barbarino,” Mr. Thurm said of managing to look past the actor’s biggest role to date, on the ABC sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.”Being able to spot the je ne sais quoi that many refer to as star quality is a skill, one that Mr. Thurm has capitalized on throughout his 35-year career.“The best example I have is when someone walks into a room and has something special that you haven’t seen in other people,” Mr. Thurm said in an interview this week. “Are they astoundingly beautiful? Are they so incredibly good-looking? They could be bad-looking! It’s individual; you can’t really explain it.”Mr. Thurm had a hand in casting some of the biggest hits of film and TV, including “The Love Boat,” “The Golden Girls,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Airplane!”Charles Sykes/Getty ImagesThat “it” factor is the common denominator among all the stars who go on to become household names, according to Mr. Thurm, who said he had seen it immediately in Farrah Fawcett when she auditioned for the role of a stewardess on “The Bob Newhart Show.” She didn’t get the part, but Mr. Thurm said he had known “there was something special about her.” He also instantly saw it in a 17-year-old John Travolta when he met him in New York.“He had a presence, and you can feel it,” Mr. Thurm said. “They had that little extra something.”At the time, Mr. Travolta was most popular for his role on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” and producers would not move ahead with “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” a TV movie, unless a big star signed on to the project, Mr. Thurm said. He spent a lot of time with Mr. Travolta’s manager sitting on his “back deck getting melanoma and reading scripts,” Mr. Thurm said. When the script came up, they both lobbied Mr. Travolta, who agreed to sign on. Mr. Thurm later cast Mr. Travolta in “Grease,” and the rest is Hollywood history.Mr. Thurm, who retired from a full-time casting position with NBC in 1990, hasn’t kept especially close tabs on the stars of today, but he does know enough to recognize that they tend to skew young.“They’re all 12-year-olds,” he said. “I have only seen them once they are already stars. Ariana Grande, she’s already a star.”Whether or not star quality has changed since Mr. Thurm started his career, Hollywood itself certainly has. In addition to snippets of back-room scenes detailing how some of TV’s most beloved characters came to appear on some of America’s favorite sitcoms, “Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season” is also filled with personal anecdotes that would — at minimum — raise eyebrows in a world reshaped by the #MeToo movement.It’s difficult — painful, even — to imagine a world in which Tim Curry never put on the chunky pearl necklace of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. In that sense, the most essential duty of a casting director is to save us all from what might not have been.United Archives/Getty ImagesAs a gay man living in Hollywood in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Mr. Thurm often found himself in situations that almost certainly wouldn’t fly today — like massaging the actor Robert Reed’s back after he had to undergo several hair treatments for his role “The Boy in The Plastic Bubble.”“I started to rub his back, then I rubbed, you know, started rubbing a little lower,” Mr. Thurm said of Mr. Reed, best known for playing Mike Brady in “The Brady Bunch.” “He was just miserable on the set because he was not used to not being the center of attention.”In his memoir, Mr. Thurm also details an encounter with his teenage idol, Rock Hudson. At a party with other gay men in Hollywood, Mr. Hudson motioned to Mr. Thurm to follow him to a room upstairs.“I was so anxious and nervous that my body below the waist could not cooperate,” Mr. Thurm wrote.It was a moment he has never forgotten.“I saw every single movie that he ever did and so even to find myself at that party, I thought was amazing,” Mr. Thurm said. “This is my introduction to Hollywood.”Besides detailing his sexcapades, Mr. Thurm also takes full accountability for “the damage you may have suffered while watching David Hasselhoff,” he wrote. He initially cast Mr. Hasselhoff as Snapper Foster on “The Young and the Restless” in 1975. He later cast him in “Knight Rider” — a high-water mark in what he described as an era of “junk TV” — after a contentious standoff with producers, who originally wanted Laurence Olivier. (“Yes, David Hasselhoff and Laurence Olivier on the same list,” he wrote.)The memoir is not just about Mr. Thurm’s dealings in Hollywood but his upbringing: growing up on a kosher milk farm in East New York. Attending Hunter College in Manhattan when it was nearly an all-girls school. Hanging out in Greenwich Village in its bohemian heyday. Flunking out of college and traveling through Italy in his early 20s.“To me, it was just my experiences — you know, growth going through life and growing up,” Mr. Thurm said. “I have no regrets. Nobody died.” More

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    Claudia Cardinale Gets MoMA Tribute for Film Career

    Ahead of a MoMA retrospective, the actress reflected on her career, which includes over 100 films and many classics of Italian cinema.On a recent afternoon in Rome, Claudia Cardinale recalled the many heartthrobs she worked with during her more than six-decade movie career, and let out a full-throated laugh.“And they also wanted to make love with me,” she said, “but I always refused.”Over the years, the fresh-faced beauty — who David Niven, her co-star in an early “Pink Panther” movie, once described as Italy’s best invention besides spaghetti — had given the cold shoulder to more than one famous screen Casanova, Cardinale said in an interview. “They tried,” she added. “I turned down seducers.”Then she laughed her mischievous laugh again.Cardinale, 84, was in Rome last month for the Italian presentation of a newly restored version of Luigi Comencini’s 1963 film “La ragazza di Bube” (“Bebo’s Girl”), about a small-town girl who stands by her man, even after he is convicted of a crime and goes to jail.“Bebo’s Girl,” which earned Cardinale her first prestigious acting award, Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for best actress, will be shown on Friday at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first in a 23-film retrospective honoring the Tunisian-born Italian actress that runs through Feb. 21. It is one of a handful of times that the museum has presented a tribute to a living actor in its more than 90-year history.“Beautiful actresses come and go,” Joshua Siegel, a MoMA curator, said in video message shown at the Rome screening. “But they usually don’t endure over a period of some 60, 65 years.”Cardinale with Fabio Rinaudo at the opening night of “8 ½,” in Rome, in 1963. Archivio Luce CinecittàCardinale said she would not be in New York for the retrospective; she no longer travels like she used to. It tires her — she now uses a cane to get around — and she prefers to stay out of the limelight.Cardinale was in the public eye long enough, starring in more than 100 films since 1956. For many film buffs, she is best remembered for her roles in Italian cinema classics: as the young wife Ginetta in Luchino Visconti’s “Rocco and His Brothers”; as Angelica, a commoner whose vitality and beauty seduces Sicilian aristocracy in Visconti’s “The Leopard”; as the enigmatic Claudia in Federico Fellini’s “8 ½,”; or as the feisty Jill, the widow with a ranch to protect in Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.”She also has boasting rights from her star turn in Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo,” a legendarily difficult movie that was shot in the Peruvian jungle and described in The New York Times as a favorite of “connoisseurs of production disasters,” and the movie and its making as “fables of daft aspiration.”Cardinale has said that “Fitzcarraldo” was the adventure of her life, but during an interview last month, she said she had no particular favorites. “My God, I’ve done some many, I don’t know which one I prefer,” she said, and laughed again. “Maybe ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’” she said, “and then so many others.”Cardinale in “Once Upon a Time in The West.”Paramount Pictures, via Everett CollectionThe MoMA tribute, organized with Cinecittà, Italy’s national film company, includes some of Cardinale’s better known performances. But for the occasion, Cinecittà also restored three works less likely to be known to American audiences: “Bebo’s Girl,” but also Marco Ferreri’s 1972 “The Audience,” about a man’s obsession with meeting with the pope, and Pasquale Squitieri’s 1990 “Atto di Dolore,” about a widow whose son is a drug addict.Though Cardinale’s name will forever be associated with classics of Italian cinema, she spoke little Italian when she first set foot there in 1957.Cardinale was born in Tunisia in 1938, into a family of Sicilian immigrants that had settled there decades before. “I still feel a little bit Tunisian,” Cardinale told the news agency ANSA in May at a ceremony to name a street in her honor in the port town La Goulette, near Tunis.In 1957, she won the Most Beautiful Italian in Tunisia contest, which came with what turned out to be her ticket to stardom: a trip to the Venice Film Festival.Cardinale on the set of the film “Austerlitz” by Abel Gance (1960).Archivio Luce CinecittàIn “Claudia Cardinale: The Indomitable,” a book published by Cinecittà and Electa to coincide with the MoMA tribute, the author and critic Masolino D’Amico recalls being at that festival and seeing Cardinale for the first time, “splendid in all her youthfulness,” wearing an emerald green bikini and posing for the paparazzi.“She seemed to think that small shower of camera clicks was like a game,” Masolino writes. “She was not — I understand this clearly now — trying to be sexy, and maybe not even attractive. She was simply happy to be there.”In Venice, she caught the eye of Franco Cristaldi, at the time one of Italy’s most important producers, who, in Pygmalion fashion, transformed the young ingénue into an in-demand movie star. He also became her life partner, adopting her son, Patrick Cristaldi. Now 64, he was initially passed off as her brother so as not to crack her “virginal feel and glow,” or to scandalize society, Cardinale’s daughter, Claudia Squitieri said.Stardom had a price. Cristaldi demanded hard work and discipline, and in 1962 drafted a contract that oversaw every aspect of the actress’s life, professional and private. She accepted, if reluctantly: Her family depended on her, and she had a child to raise.That life ended when she met the director Pasquale Squitieri in 1973 on the set of “I guappi,” (“Blood Brothers”) and the two fell madly in love. Their careers took a hit: Cristaldi was a powerful producer in Italy whom industry people feared crossing.“Claudia Cardinale: The Indomitable,” a book published by Cinecittà and Electa to coincide with the MoMA tribute. via Puntoe VirgolaCardinale would make nine films with Squitieri, even after she moved to Paris and he remained in Rome. Never married, they eventually split, but remained close.Claudia Squitieri and Patrick Cristaldi now live with their mother in a house near Fontainebleau, France, where Cardinale has created a foundation to support two causes close to her heart: women’s rights and the environment. Cardinale has been a UNESCO good will ambassador since 2000, for campaigning work to improve the status of women and girls, and she is the honorary president of Green Cross Italy, an environment advocacy group that sponsors an award for sustainable films at the Venice Film Festival. The foundation is “something to continue her shine,” said Squitieri, who runs the organization for her mother.Cardinale said she was very close to Squitieri. “I am lucky to have this daughter, who I adore,” she said. “She looks after me; she looks after everything.”Because Cardinale won’t be in New York this week, Squitieri will do the honors. On Friday, the “Bebo’s Girl” screening will be followed by “Un Cardinale donna” (“A Woman Cardinal”), a whimsical short featuring the actress, produced for the retrospective by Manuel Maria Perrone.Speaking at the film’s Rome premiere, Perrone said that “dealing with an idol, with such a strong icon, is something extremely difficult, even fragile.”“She’s been doing this her whole life,” he said. “Being an icon is her job.”Claudia CardinaleFeb. 3 through Feb. 21, at the Museum of Modern Art; moma.org. More

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    Facing Death, a Pianist Recorded Music of Unspeakable Emotions

    Lars Vogt, for one of his final albums made before dying from cancer, turned to chamber music by Schubert with Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff.There are recordings that are meant for the ages, that are intended to sound definitive. There are recordings that document a fleeting interpretation, that inspire or provoke, that accept the impossibility of a final word. And then there are the rare recordings whose circumstances defy the ordinary routines of an artist, that capture a high or a low moment in that person’s life and, matched to the right music, transcend it.In February 2021, Lars Vogt probably should not have traveled to Bremen, Germany, to join his close friends, the violinist Christian Tetzlaff and his sister, the cellist Tanja Tetzlaff, in recording Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat. Vogt, a widely beloved pianist and a conductor on the rise, arrived in pain; his doctors had asked him not to go, but to check into a hospital to await a conclusive diagnosis of the cancer that would take his life, at just 51, last September.Instead, Vogt sat down at a keyboard.“He did the most incredible things,” Christian said in an interview, adding that Vogt, his colleague of 26 years, suddenly played as if he had reached a kind of fulfillment or liberation. “Even on a technical level,” he continued, “I’d never heard him in this kind of perfection, exuberance, lightness. He was everything at the same time.”Vogt, who spoke openly about his illness, continued to perform until not long before his death; he was making plans for a U.S. tour with the Tetzlaffs this spring, on which they will now be joined by one of Vogt’s dearest students, Kiveli Dörken.Vogt’s remaining recordings include concertos by Mendelssohn and Mozart, as well as a Schubert album with the tenor Ian Bostridge.Anna VogtThe Schubert — to which Vogt and the Tetzlaffs added an earlier trio and other works by the composer for a double album, out on the Ondine label this week — was far from the pianist’s valedictory recording. With the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, of which he was music director, he taped Mendelssohn and Mozart concertos; with the tenor Ian Bostridge, Schubert’s “Schwanengesang.”But the E flat trio — a piece in which Schubert, a year short of his own death, peers into the darkness yet finds joy — became particularly significant to Vogt. “Feels a little bit like everything, at least in my life, has developed toward this Trio in E flat major,” he wrote after hearing the recording, in a message to the Tetzlaffs that is quoted in the album’s liner notes. “If not much time remains, then it’s a worthy farewell.”Schubert: Piano Trio in E Flat, finaleChristian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt (Ondine)As Tanja tells it, an awareness of mortality was not entirely new in Vogt’s personality or artistry, though he necessarily felt it more strongly as his cancer treatment progressed.“It was always this strange mixture of feeling, ‘OK, there is death somewhere, and there is despair, frustration, whatever, it’s there because we’re human beings’ — and then, next moment, he would be the most silly and joyful person,” she said. “That’s what always made his playing so incredibly touching, because you see the whole range of the human tragedy, and the lightness of life.”Judging by his recordings, Vogt was a heartfelt soloist, excelling in the Bach-Schubert-Brahms lineage, yet he was arguably at his finest as a chamber musician; even the tone he gleaned from a piano — compassionate, never domineering — seems to invite collaboration. The Schubert album is the latest in a peerless series of releases with the Tetzlaffs that bears witness to a relationship not just between three artists of stature, but among intimates with a common, fearless commitment to expression.“It’s something that’s a bit hard to understand totally from the outside; there was a very strong symbiosis,” Reijo Kiilunen, the founder and managing director of Ondine, said of the trio’s recording sessions, in which they appeared to speak “a special language” with one another. “You simply hear it in their playing.”Before the Schubert, Vogt and the Tetzlaffs had essayed the three Brahms trios, as well as two by Dvorak; with Christian alone, there were accounts of sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. There is never the feeling, in any of those interpretations, that the instrumentalists are competing for the limelight or trying to impress anyone, least of all the listener; they are sharing the music with one another.One of those recordings has become especially poignant since it was made in 2015: a searing reading of Brahms’s Violin Sonata in G, which was also the last piece that Vogt and Christian played together, as nurses gathered to hear them perform a week or so before the pianist’s death.There is one passage, in the first movement, that movingly illustrates their partnership. It seems simple enough — the violin strums, like a guitar, as the piano adopts the searching main theme — and most duos play it simply, as a basic question of foreground and background. Yet Vogt’s tone is soft, withdrawn, as if he does not want the attention to fall entirely on himself, but would rather draw the ear to the support that Christian is offering, the essential accompaniment to his mournful song. There is no ego.Brahms: Violin Sonata in G, first movementChristian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt (Ondine)“In Lars’s words, which I think we all share,” Christian said, “the incredible difference between Schubert and Brahms is that Schubert shows you the absurdity, the horror and the beauty of everything, and Brahms actually takes you by your hand, and tries to give solace.” With Brahms, he added, “you have somebody at your side who is very much like you, and suffering like you. Whereas you are next to Schubert, and say, ‘Who is this giant?’”For the Tetzlaffs, Schubert’s E flat trio represents Vogt’s emotional landscape, as well as the strength he showed in the face of his illness. Finished in November 1827, the piece dwells on Beethoven’s death earlier that year: It is in the same key as Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, and it likewise centers on a funeral march, in C minor, whose shadow is cast off only in a finale that takes consolation, of a sort, in compositional virtuosity, delighting as it layers themes on top of one another.“This is like a psychodrama with Lars dealing with the situation,” Christian said. “He would still have the loudest laughter and the wildest demeanor, engaging with us. But this is also what Schubert is doing in that slow movement: dealing with pain in a way that is not hiding, and not getting smaller, but getting bigger.”The funeral march, with moments of dignified hope that are interrupted by outbursts of extreme turmoil, is clearly a reckoning with the abyss, so much so that Schubert demands the impossible from the people playing it, much as grief asks of its sufferers. There is one point where the string lines are marked triple forte, yet crescendo from there, accents spiking the way. It’s unplayable writing, for unspeakable emotions.“He says, ‘Deal with it; say something,’” Christian explained of Schubert in those moments. “But how?”Schubert: Piano Trio in E Flat, Andante con motoChristian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt (Ondine)For Vogt, music remained, to the end, a means of saying something. The Tetzlaffs said that he timed his chemotherapy treatments to fit his concert and recording schedule, and that playing helped keep him going.“It reminds me of a Ukrainian woman I know,” Tanja said. “She said, in Ukraine — because from one side, from the other side, it was always conquered by different people — there is a saying: When things get bad, we start laughing, and when things get unbearably bad, we make music; we sing.”Making music, “you are away, somehow, from real tragedies, but you can canalize everything that you are feeling and suffering from into something that becomes a moment,” Tanja continued. “It’s so incredibly important that we have this. I mean, what a miracle.” More

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    ‘Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over’ Review: A Trailblazer Gets Her Flowers

    This documentary tries to do justice to a six-decade career in 95 minutes, which proves challenging.Before a late-career revival as a Twitter powerhouse, Dionne Warwick cultivated a music career that changed the game for Black people in America. Her influence as a crossover artist is brought to light in the new documentary, “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over.”The film’s directors David Heilbroner and Dave Wooley admiringly chart Warwick’s musical ascension from childhood gospel singer to multiple Grammy Award winner. But doing justice to a six-decade career in 95 minutes proves challenging.As the film winds down, Warwick’s experiences are presented like footnotes on a page: a little about how she scolded Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur for their misogynist lyrics, a little less about her cousin Whitney Houston’s death and a lot less about her involvement in The Psychic Friends Network.Throughout, Warwick offers amusing and amused commentary on her long history. Alongside Bill Clinton and Elton John, she looks back on her AIDS activism in the 1980s, when other stars stayed silent about the virus. Another part shows her holding up her 1963 record, “This Empty Place,” which portrayed her as a white woman on the cover in France. Hilariously, she cackles and says, “Have I changed?”Overall, “Don’t Make Me Over” gets the job done, albeit in a formulaic, straightforward fashion. But there’s pure joy in just seeing Warwick radiate the kind of charisma and grit you’d hope for from a living legend who has always stayed true to herself. In this ordinary film about her extraordinary life, it’s clear she’s not stopping now.Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me OverNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch on HBO Max. More

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    For the Conductor Charles Munch, Virtuosity Meant Taking Risks

    When Charles Munch started work as the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 1949, he gave a speech.There wasn’t much he could say, in truth. His English was poor, though he had just sacrificed an umlaut in his surname in deference to American spelling. An Alsatian sometimes known in Germany as Karl, and in France always as Charles, he had served the Kaiser on the Somme in the First World War, then defended French culture in resistance to the Nazis in the Second. If he bothered to hold a rehearsal at all, he spoke to his musicians in a variety of languages, or let his gestures, flamboyant yet intentional, do the talking.Munch wanted to make one thing clear to the Bostonians, though: He was not their former music director, Serge Koussevitzky. The orchestra’s players had toiled under him, an autocrat whose shadow lingered over Munch, too. Even after Munch died in 1968 — while touring the United States with the Orchestre de Paris, which he had formed a year before — his New York Times obituary labored over the comparison with his predecessor, describing his task as having been “on a par with trying to follow Thomas Alva Edison as an inventor or Magellan as a navigator.”Yet Munch had no interest in being Koussevitzky’s kind of maestro; once a Stradivarius-wielding concertmaster himself, he saw no artistic or human point in making a musician miserable. As Time reported in a cover story in December 1949, he spent his first weeks in Boston telling his players that they could rest easier. In his introductory remarks, he told them that “there will be joy.”Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3, finaleBoston Symphony Orchestra, 1959 (Sony)For him, “beauty, joy and goodness” were the calling of an artist. As such, music, as he said in 1954, could offer “reconciliation with life itself.” Munch was shy and private when his baton was not slicing through sound; his biographer, D. Kern Holoman, has argued that conducting gave him relief from sadness of all sorts, whether the grief of enduring two wars between the cultures that claimed him, or the anguish of an unhappy marriage. (Holoman taught at the University of California, Davis, until 2017, when he left over rape allegations.)Conducting may have given Munch relief, but perhaps not deliverance. His interpretations could be as extreme as his times, at one moment outlandishly swift or brutally violent, contemplative or uncommonly tender the next, giddy fun at the last. The critic Virgil Thomson wrote of his approach to Franck’s Symphony that “he plays it very slow and very fast, very soft and very loud, reins it in and whips it up, gives it (and us) a huge workout.” That description fits more broadly; Munch was the rare conductor who welcomed imprecisions, even coarseness of tone, in his pursuit of outright spontaneity. An objectivist he was not.All this and more is clear from Munch’s enthralling discography. His Boston recordings for the RCA label were collated in an 86-disc Sony set in 2016; it has sold out, but most of the contents are still on streaming platforms. Warner and Eloquence have since separately boxed their catalogs of his pre- and post-Boston releases, giving a sense of Munch from his first sessions, with the pianist Alfred Cortot in Saint-Saëns in 1935, to his last, with the Orchestre de Paris in Ravel in 1968.Schubert: Symphony No. 9, finaleBoston Symphony Orchestra, 1958 (Sony)Munch was a different musician under studio conditions than he was live, Holoman writes, and he controlled his most explosive tendencies in the hope of making records that would last. Even his two incendiary Boston readings of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” his trademark piece, come nowhere close to the maelstrom he inflamed onstage. He dared one of the world’s most proficient orchestras to play beyond itself in concert; some of his finest releases — his Schubert Ninth, his Mendelssohn Third — are, conversely, those in which he builds tension by refusing to let go as blatantly as he might in front of an audience.Even so, sample Munch’s recordings — more than the Berlioz, Debussy and Ravel in which he was justly celebrated — and it is hard to disagree with the verdict of the Times critic Howard Taubman, who wrote of a 1950 concert: “Whether the music is illuminated or driven, it is never just respectable or indifferent. It is alive; it is the natural outgrowth of the conductor’s point of view.”MUNCH WAS BORN in Strasbourg, which was then in Germany, on Sept. 26, 1891, into a dynasty of musicians. His father, Ernest, mounted a Bach revival leading the church choir of Saint-Guillaume; his brother, Fritz, was a conductor and conservatory director; his uncle Eugène was an organist who taught Albert Schweitzer, whose friendship and spirituality influenced Charles throughout his life.Charles learned all kinds of instruments, like a little Bach might, but settled on the violin and was playing under his father’s baton by his early teens. He went to Paris in 1912 to study with Lucien Capet, a famed quartet violinist, but returned home to his family days before Germany invaded Belgium. Conscripted into the German army with two brothers, he was injured as an artilleryman at Verdun; he subsequently embraced pacifism and took succor in music.The common critique of Munch as a mature conductor was that his volatility ill fit works in the Haydn-to-Brahms tradition, but he had a strong training in the Romantic school of German conducting. After playing as the concertmaster of the Strasbourg orchestra from 1919 to 1924, he spent a year under Hermann Abendroth in Cologne, then held the same post at the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig for six seasons, working for Wilhelm Furtwängler and Bruno Walter. His return to Paris in 1932 to start his podium career — with Brahms’s First — was made possible by the wealth of the Nestlé heiress Geneviève Maury, his new wife.At first, Munch was renowned for supporting new music, and during World War II, he made his allegiances clear by protecting and promoting French composers. At the helm of the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, France’s leading ensemble, Munch told his players in September 1940 that it was through art that they could “continue the fight.” One of his most intimate friends, the pianist Nicole Henriot, would have her hand crushed by the Gestapo; Munch joined the Resistance, helped those he could, and tried to avoid compromising situations.Munch leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony at Symphony Hall in 1964.BSO ArchivesResearch on the culture of wartime France by Jane F. Fulcher, Leslie A. Sprout and other scholars has suggested that while the Nazis visited horrors on Jewish artists, neither the occupiers nor their Vichy collaborators — nor their Resistance opponents — sought to curtail concert life. Most musicians in the Resistance carried on as if the occupation did not exist; French music, except that by Jews, was not banned. Careful still to tend to proud Parisian traditions in the Germanic classics, Munch spent much of the war showcasing contemporary scores, such as politically ambiguous new works like Honegger’s Second Symphony and pieces that had been written in Nazi camps, including Jean Martinon’s “Stalag IX.”Munch and the Société became so busy, they reached a strikingly high standard. Their wartime recordings, now in the Warner box, are remarkable for their calm, even in “La Mer” or “La Valse.” After their liberation, they let loose for Decca; the Eloquence set superbly reproduces the orchestra’s distinctive postwar timbre, as well as Munch’s intensity of expression. There is crisp Beethoven, heartbreaking Tchaikovsky, delicate yet eager Ravel. An account of Berlioz’s “Le Corsaire,” from May 1948, is so exhilarating, it is little surprise that the authorities were reluctant to let Munch leave.Berlioz: “Le Corsaire”Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, 1948 (Eloquence)BUT LEAVE MUNCH DID. On an initial visit to the United States that started near the end of 1946, he enjoyed the New York Philharmonic yet found the Boston Symphony to be “the culmination of all orchestras,” as he told The Boston Globe. He led that ensemble in only seven concerts before he signed a contract to become its permanent conductor, in March 1948. Despite a brutal schedule that included the first tour by an American orchestra in the Soviet Union, in 1956, he stayed through 1962.While George Szell was giving the Cleveland Orchestra a focused power, and Eugene Ormandy sought glitter and gold in Philadelphia, Munch brightened Boston’s formerly dark hues, bringing its strident brass and cutting winds to the fore — most prominently the quivering principal flute of Doriot Anthony Dwyer, who became the only woman in the orchestra after Munch hired her in 1952.Debussy: “Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune”Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1956 (Sony)Critics heard the transparent, though dry, results as typically French, but the ensemble’s fervor — its blare, some said — under Munch was his own, removed from the grace that his mentor, Pierre Monteux, drew from the same players. If Thomson had warned the Symphony in 1944 that “its form is perfect, but it does not communicate,” after a decade of Munch, the reverse might have been more true.The cliché about Munch’s Boston Symphony was that it was all but a Parisian ensemble in exile. “When I was living in New York in the ’50s,” Michael Steinberg of The Globe wrote in 1964, “I used to imagine Symphony Hall as the scene of a more or less perpetual performance of the Berlioz ‘Symphonie Fantastique,’ relieved now and again by ‘Daphnis and Chloe’ and ‘La Mer.’” That slur notwithstanding, Munch’s advocacy was unwavering and proud: His Berlioz, Debussy and Ravel were references for a generation.Although the beauties of Munch’s Boston-era recordings of French music are great, some of them stray intriguingly from the norm. He rarely treated Debussy or Ravel as scores only to paint with prettily: For all their gorgeous interplay of voices, there is often a bite to them, as if Munch were deliberately placing them in a lineage that ran back to Berlioz and forward to Roussel and Honegger, and later Dutilleux. Once or twice, his own loneliness breaks through; he draws out “Le Jardin Féerique,” at the end of “Ma Mère l’Oye,” until it is tear-inducingly poignant.Still, Munch’s tastes were broad, and he could be as fascinating beyond the French repertory. As a matter of principle and proclivity, he kept up Koussevitzky’s loyalty to new music, ardently recording Piston, Martinu and other works that he premiered. He largely avoided Germany after the war, but the most performed composers in his first decade in Boston were Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Brahms. Little of his hard-driven Mozart and already-outdated Bach survive, but his Brahms was strong, and his Beethoven full of ideas.Beethoven: “Coriolan” OvertureBoston Symphony Orchestra, 1956 (Sony)Some of those ideas work, and some do not, but that’s the reminder that Munch offers today: Virtuosity is empty without the thrill of interpretive risk. “He was without peer in the things he did best and, even in the things he did worst, never less than interesting,” the critic Martin Bernheimer wrote after his death. “There are few like him left.” More

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    Kerry Condon on Her ‘Banshees of Inisherin’ Oscar Nomination

    Kerry Condon had hoped to be among her horses when last week’s Oscar nominations were announced. If she kept busy tending her farm in Seattle, she figured that no matter the outcome of the early morning announcement, the work required to care for those two animals would help ground her in normalcy. After all, what do they know about Oscar odds?“If I’d hugged them at 5 a.m., they would have been like, ‘It’s almost feed time, where’s our hay?’” she said. “They would have been having none of it!”It didn’t quite go down that way, since work conspired to keep her in Los Angeles, where the Irish actress has lived for the last decade. Still, Condon is hardly complaining: On that fateful Tuesday morning, she received her first Oscar nomination, for Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin,” in which she plays the feisty but lonely Siobhan, who counsels her brother, Padraic (Colin Farrell), through a feud with his best friend (Brendan Gleeson), fends off an enamored suitor, the oddball Dominic (Barry Keoghan), and wonders if there’s more to life than what can be experienced on the cloistered island where she grew up.It’s a breakthrough role for the 40-year-old Condon, who met me for lunch in Los Angeles just days after her nomination to discuss a career full of ups and downs. “I don’t think anything has ever come easy to me, so I have the opposite of a sense of entitlement,” she said.Though Condon grew up in the country town of Tipperary, she was always keen to make her mark in Hollywood: When she was just 10, she even wrote an unanswered letter to the well-known agent Mike Ovitz, asking him to represent her. (It didn’t work, but you’ve got to admire the chutzpah.) After graduating from the equivalent of high school, Condon worked in theater and could be seen in supporting parts on dramas like “Rome,” “Luck” and “Better Caul Saul,” but the major screen role that would kick her career into a higher gear had been hard to come by until now.“I think she’s probably been better than a lot of the directors and material she’s had to work with,” said McDonagh, who cast Condon in many of his plays and conceived “Banshees” with her in mind. “I always wanted to try and write something for her that would capture how brilliant she is onstage, but in a movie.”The “Banshees” filmmaker Martin McDonagh said the actress has “probably been better than a lot of the directors and material she’s had to work with.”Ariel Fisher for The New York TimesWith her Irish accent and impish sense of humor, Condon has been a welcome presence in every awards ballroom, though all that glad-handing can take its toll, she said: “I’m extremely introverted and I live alone, so when I come back from those things, I need to be hooked up to a drip!” Still, she’s thrilled to have the recognition, excited to be nominated alongside her three castmates, and ready for whatever happens to her screen career.“If it doesn’t change, and I still have my little peaks and valleys, at least I’ll be more equipped,” Condon said. “And I’ll also know that passes as quick as the good fortune passes.”Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.How did you feel the day before the Oscar nominations were announced?Interviews With the Oscar NomineesMichelle Yeoh: The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star, nominated for best actress, said she was “bursting with joy” but “a little sad” that previous Asian actresses hadn’t been recognized.Angela Bassett: The actress nearly missed the announcement because of troubles with her TV. She tuned in just in time to find out that she was nominated for her supporting role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”Andrea Riseborough: The star of “To Leslie” received her first Oscar nomination thanks to a campaign by some famous friends that has since attracted controversy and scrutiny. Here is what the actress said about being nominated.Ke Huy Quan: A former childhood star, the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” actor said that the news of his best supporting actor nomination was surreal.Austin Butler: In discussing his best actor nomination, the “Elvis” star said that he wished Lisa Marie Presley, who died on Jan. 12, had been able to celebrate the moment with him.I was busy in my house and I felt occupied, but as the day went on, my body was feeling really nervous and I was like, “Damn that subconscious! It’s obviously on my mind.” But I did go on a beautiful hike by myself and I clocked the moment, thinking, “I’m actually really happy right now. So just remember that if it doesn’t work out tomorrow, I was happy today and I didn’t have it.”Did you sleep well that night?I did but I could sleep through a nuclear bomb. I’m telling you, they should study me. I was going to turn off my cellphone and have my manager give the news to me like a regular business day — I was trying to be all cool so if I didn’t get it, I could take that moment privately and get myself together. But Colin called me and was like, “Do you want to watch it together?” Then I had to debate that for three hours because I was like, “What if one of us gets it and the other one doesn’t? Do I want to experience this massive moment with other people?” At the last minute, I said, “I’ll go to your house and watch it.”And on West Coast time, that means getting up before dawn.It was the weirdest thing getting up in the dark and scurrying out the door. Honest to God, it felt like we were doing something illegal! It’s just so surreal to be at anyone’s house at 5 in the morning, sober and in your pajamas, but I’m really glad I shared it with other people because it felt nice to get hugs in that moment. Whereas if I’d have been on my own, it would have been amazing, but it also would have been like, “God, Kerry, you’re such a loner!”In a statement released that morning, you described the nomination as “a dream come true.”I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that you’re ambitious. It’s not like I’m Lady Macbeth and I’m stabbing the competition. I watched the Oscars when I was a kid and it’s always been on my radar. At the same time, was my happiness dependent on this? No, I’m not that much of a superficial person.You’ve worked with Martin McDonagh several times on plays. What took him so long to write a great film role for you?I don’t know, but I never got on his case about it. I was just really happy that we had been friends for so long. If I’d say, “Oh, I’m up for this job, I’m down to the last two,” and then I wouldn’t get it — which was the story of my life for a few years — Martin was one of the very few people in my life who’d say, “You’re great, and that guy’s a terrible director.” He always kept me going with things like that, and that was enough. I remember Martin got me a lovely bracelet saying, “It’s the journey that matters in the end,” and I still have it.Condon with Colin Farrell in a scene from “Banshees.” Playing his lonely sister in the film did take its toll: “That line to Siobhan of, ‘No wonder no one likes you,’ that was starting to ring in my ears.”Searchlight PicturesHow did you feel when he offered you “Banshees”?I can’t remember because my dog died just before Covid, and the lead-up to my dog dying was a whole thing. I was very distracted, and on the horizon was this possible “Banshees” thing, but I couldn’t think beyond my dog. I paused everything. I said to my agent a year before that, “I’m not doing any jobs, I have to see this through. I don’t care what I’m missing, I have to be with her.” It was hard because I lived alone with her, and when you don’t have children, she was just everything to me.That death had such a profound effect on me that it made me go, “Why aren’t people crying all the time? Why aren’t people talking about the fact that we all just disappear?” I remember thinking it was like when you lose your virginity: You hear about sex and you’re like, “What is that?” And then you have it, and the world cracks open, and there’s no going back. That’s how it felt with grief: I was like, “Oh, this is something I am going to have to deal with throughout my life.”Is that something you were able to bring to Siobhan, who has been taking care of her brother since their parents passed away?That was my starting point. I felt that Siobhan was stuck in that grief and not able to grow and be her own person because she had to fill the mother shoes with Padraic. Grief is a lonely journey. After a while, you can’t keep going on about it, because people are like, “I don’t know what you want me to say.” It is something you have to go through alone, but Martin had to control me in that because I think it was getting too sad sometimes. He was like, “She has to see that there’s a possibility of a change and that there’s more to life. There has to be an element of hope.” So I felt like it really came at the perfect time in my life.It’s ironic that Siobhan is so hostile to her brother’s donkey, since you’re such an animal lover in real life.That was really hard for me! I was always saying to Martin, “I feel like Siobhan would be happier if she would just let the animals in the house, and if she liked animals as much as I do.” And he was like, “I don’t know if that would be enough to fulfill her life.” But I’m different. I feel like animals are enough to fulfill my life.People have really responded to the scene where Dominic confesses his crush to Siobhan. That clip has trended on Twitter several times, and you and Barry are both terrific in it.I think he’s manipulating the internet — I’m like, “Somebody’s behind this, and I bet you any money, it’s Barry!” That was the last day of the shoot and the last scene I did. I had always imagined that Dominic had done things to Siobhan over the years that really unnerved her, like maybe stolen some of her clothes off the washing line. But at the same time, she was evolved enough to be kind to him in that moment, which made her even more beautiful a character.“My goal has always been to be an actress, never to get married and have children,” Condon said. “I don’t think it’s something I should do just because I’m a woman. I’ve never followed conventions, and I’m hardly going to start now.”Ariel Fisher for The New York TimesWhy do you think Siobhan gets so angry when Dominic asks why she never married?Oh, that’s a good one, because it’s hitting a nerve. I talked about that with Martin: “Are we saying that she’s a virgin?” We both came to the decision that she hadn’t had sex with anyone, because it’s Catholic Ireland and that would have been unheard-of, but maybe somebody came from the mainland one time and there were the very startings of a romance. But she couldn’t leave with this person because she was stuck on this island, so it was shut down very quickly. So when she’s asked, “Were you never married, and were you never wild?” I think it really irked her that she never had the opportunity.Have you ever felt a loneliness like Siobhan’s?Because I was never married, does that ever bother me? No. I could be monogamous, but I don’t really care about marriage, and I don’t really know why everyone cares about it.I’m kind of ambivalent about it myself, although I’m the first person to cry at weddings.I get emotional at weddings, too, which is so stupid. Sometimes I’m like, “There she goes, my friend’s gone. Her loyalty’s to her husband now, and there goes our years.” But my goal has always been to be an actress, never to get married and have children. I don’t think it’s something I should do just because I’m a woman. I’ve never followed conventions, and I’m hardly going to start now.How did you feel when you wrapped the film?Funnily enough, I was a little bit glad because by the end of it, it was starting to take its toll. That line to Siobhan of, “No wonder no one likes you,” that was starting to ring in my ears a little bit. And I know for Colin it was taking its toll too, with all the rejection and thinking, “Am I stupid?” If you have to stay in those spaces long enough, you can’t help but have them in your thinking. I found myself coming home some evenings after a great day, and all of a sudden, I’d just be bawling for five minutes. I didn’t even know why I was crying. I just knew there was a heaviness to it, and I was ready to let it go.How did it feel once the movie returned to your life in such a grand fashion, from a Venice Film Festival premiere on to awards season?Looking back, it has been an absolute whirlwind since Venice. Everything has happened super, super fast — so fast that I’m getting nervous for the Oscars coming, since it’s going to be all over then.At least you’ve got a few weeks to savor things until it happens.But still, things end. And isn’t that sad? More

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    Wynonna Judd, on Her Own

    NASHVILLE — Wynonna Judd was almost late for her date to sing with Joni Mitchell.It was July 2022, and the country star had rented a yacht off the Rhode Island coast while she rehearsed for her idol’s first public performance since a 2015 brain aneurysm. That Sunday afternoon, the captain struggled to find a dock, forcing Wynonna to race to the Newport Folk Festival. She arrived a minute before showtime, squeezed into a spot toward the rear of the onstage throng and sighed with relief. Maybe people wouldn’t know she was there.A dozen songs into the secret set, Mitchell began to purr “Both Sides Now,” the tune Wynonna — who with her mother, Naomi, made up one of Nashville’s most indelible duos — had sung during her debut performance, at eighth-grade graduation. Cameras caught her over Mitchell’s right shoulder, often sobbing as she occasionally harmonized. Honest and unmitigated, the footage went viral. Everyone knew Wynonna was there.“It flipped me like a pancake, man, everything coming out. I was such a beautiful little mess,” she said on a recent Saturday afternoon in an enormous Nashville rehearsal hall, red hair cascading over a silver cross resting against her stomach. She paused to apply another stratum of lip gloss. “I was thinking about my mom, how much she loved my voice. And I was so freaking mad at her for leaving me. I realized I was an orphan.”Less than three months earlier, a mediator who has worked with the entire Judd family for more than a decade commanded Wynonna to race to her mother’s house across the 1,000-acre farm they shared outside Nashville. Her younger sister, the actress and activist Ashley Judd, was already there. Wynonna arrived nine minutes later to find paramedics ready to rush her mother and lifelong singing partner into an ambulance. Naomi had struggled for decades with severe depression and panic attacks. She died that morning, her death ruled a suicide, the day before the Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.As the Judds, Naomi, left, and her daughter Wynonna became one Nashville’s most indelible duos.Ron Wolfson“We were still at the hospital,” Cactus Moser, Wynonna’s husband, manager and drummer, remembered later in the same dressing room. “Her exact words were, ‘I’m walking my mother into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. We’re not going to bail.’ She is an oak.”The tearful ceremony was Wynonna’s first step in moving toward her own future. Since the Judds disbanded three decades ago, her relationship with her mother had been fraught at best, an exercise in boundaries. A fence split their spread in half. Family dinners observed firm time limits. Meetings about music were led by managers. “I can compartmentalize real easy,” she said, curling her lips.Last week, Wynonna began what may prove the pivotal phase of putting the past to rest: the second leg of the Final Tour, a sweeping survey of the Judds’ bygone country supremacy, performed over 15 dates across the United States with a cast of guests that includes Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlile and Kelsea Ballerini. When it is over, she believes the rest of her career can begin. Now a 58-year-old grandmother newly confronting an empty nest, one of country music’s most venerated singers is electrified by the idea of making records that turn away from what Naomi long called “Judd music.”“It’s made me even more determined to be myself,” Wynonna said of her mother’s death in a second interview on her tour bus, flanked by photos of herself with Mitchell. “It’s given me a louder voice. I want to do stuff that makes people say, ‘What are you doing?’”With a new record deal through the independent label Anti-, Wynonna hopes to mine the rock, folk and soul she wanted to sing before Naomi suggested a family band, when Wynonna was still a teenager. Already, she has released new music with an indie-rock descendant, Waxahatchee, and had even started a band a few years ago with the elliptical singer-songwriter Cass McCombs.“We’ve both lived our lives as people have expected us, but she’s just getting started,” said Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead, speaking by phone from Mexico, where Wynonna had just joined Dead & Company for a surprise performance. “I can’t wait to see who she takes with her, who she leaves wondering.”Her mother’s death, Wynonna said, has “made me even more determined to be myself” musically.Thea Traff for The New York TimesFOR MUCH OF the ’80s, the Judds were country music’s sweethearts next door, the mother-daughter duo mistaken for sisters. The Judds’ preternatural Kentucky harmonies politely rebuffed the “Urban Cowboy” craze sparked by the 1980 film, and country’s increasing slickness. Wynonna and Naomi sang about grandpa and the good ol’ days, and then held each other in love or heartache. Naomi was the playful one, charming crowds as she sang backup; Wynonna, more stoic, was the generational singer out front.“I don’t think there’s anybody in the business — any business, whether it’s country or rock or pop, anything — that has a greater voice than Wynonna,” Dolly Parton, a longtime mentor who thinks of her as a daughter, said in an interview. “With all the passion she has, all the stuff she feels, she was able to get that voice out there.”The Judds’ life was “a wonderful duet,” Naomi wrote in her autobiography, “the two of us against a frightening and unknown world.” But for Wynonna, the songs were more idyllic than their circumstances. Naomi was a single mother, pinballing between California and Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee for opportunity or inspiration. By the time Wynonna was 8, she felt the burden of raising Ashley was, in part, hers. Her mother never told her that she and her sister had different fathers.“We didn’t have the sit-down, Norman Rockwell family,” she said. “I always wanted that. I was never really allowed to be a kid.”That applied to music, too. Wynonna loved Joni Mitchell and Bessie Smith but longed to be Linda Ronstadt or Bonnie Raitt. She wanted to build a sizzling rock band, not be in a country duo with her mother. Bouncing between short-term jobs and nursing school, Naomi had other ideas, not only to safeguard her firstborn but also to try a novel family business.“On some level, she knew that this kid could sing,” Wynonna said, winking. “She had dreams and plans, and I had dreams and plans. They were very different. But I was so codependent, and I wanted to sing.”Indeed, in only six years, Wynonna’s supple vocals led the Judds to country’s biggest stages. Their meteoric rise was interrupted in October 1990, when Naomi announced her sudden retirement as hepatitis C ravaged her health. Wynonna wanted to quit, too. “It’s like being in the middle of a divorce,” said Wynonna, who has endured two of them. “How can you possibly think about dating?”But as Wynonna built a solo career, Naomi found other ways to impose. Wynonna believes her mother once hired a private investigator to learn if Wynonna’s boyfriend was gay. Naomi resented that Wynonna toured while she stayed at home. It got worse after 2009, when Wynonna partnered with Moser. Comparing her voice to some garage-bound Ferrari that had “only ever gone to fourth gear,” he encouraged her to try new songs and fresh settings of Judds standbys.“Mom was not a big fan of me and Cactus, because she desperately wanted to be on the road,” Wynonna admitted. “There’s a piece of me that feels like I left her at the party.”In 2019, an unexpected invitation arrived. The Nashville promoter Leslie Cohea saw Wynonna perform at a Tennessee festival, as Naomi watched from backstage. Cohea began hatching a plan for a final Judds hurrah: a full tour, taking the hits to arenas one last time.At a preliminary meeting in a Nashville board room, mother and daughter sat at opposite ends of a conference table and offered redlines. At Naomi’s request, the songs would be true to original form, recalled Jason Owen, the founder of Sandbox Entertainment, who built the tour alongside Cohea; at Wynonna’s request, the outfits would not be fastidiously coordinated.When Naomi started in on wardrobe plans, Wynonna gagged. “She said, ‘I’m fine. That’s just the sound of my mother’s uterus strangling my throat,’” Owen remembered in an interview. “They were playing off each other, but it was real.”Sandbox shaped a comprehensive plan to relaunch the Judds, hinging on a taped outdoor performance of one of their final hits, “Love Can Build a Bridge,” for the CMT Music Awards in April 2022. They announced 10 tour dates that night, quickly selling most of the tickets.The performance, however, wobbled. For the first time in Judds history, the ever-punctual Naomi was late, flustered by the unseasonably cold weather and an edit made to shorten her anthem for television. “She went from being at home, putting on makeup, to being in a multimillion-dollar production,” Wynonna said. “She wasn’t prepared.”Wynonna is not big on regret. She doesn’t think she could have saved her mom. “Once you make that choice, you’re determined to carry it out,” she said flatly. “There’s only so much guilt to carry around.” Still, she wondered if they should have debriefed more, unpacking the anxiety of working together again.“I missed that, because I was gone,” she said, referring to a tour of her own. Two weeks later, so was Naomi.LATE IN THE afternoon on the first day of the Final Tour’s last leg (at least for now), Wynonna shuffled up the stage steps in a hockey arena in Hershey, Pa. “Oh, hi!” she said to a small crowd in the arena’s front two rows, stretching that last word like molasses.More than two dozen devotees had paid extra for deluxe treatment, arriving three hours before showtime to watch a snippet of soundcheck and pose for a snapshot. After the band raced through “Have Mercy,” an early Judds hit about a hopeless cad, Wynonna grabbed a stack of scrap paper. Each fan had scribbled a question, and she started with the easy ones.“She had dreams and plans, and I had dreams and plans,” Wynonna said of her mother. “They were very different. But I was so codependent, and I wanted to sing.”Thea Traff for The New York TimesHow many pets do you have? (Forty-eight, including 26 cats.) Who was your biggest influence? (Her Mamaw, or paternal grandmother.) And then, inevitably, came the queries about carrying on without Naomi. Her mother loved everybody, she said, and taught her gratitude for the life they’d built, even when it seemed impossible.“She was a good person — to everybody else,” Wynonna said. She paused, as if realizing how harsh that sounded. “I did her hair, so she was strict with me.”Perched above her behind the drums, Moser interceded with a mischievous grin, asking if she was ready to play. “What are you talking about?” she shot back. “I was born ready.”In the weeks after Naomi’s death, Wynonna wasn’t sure if she was ready for this tour, to say goodbye to the Judds without her mother. She canceled a run with her own band and wondered if continuing was crass. “There was no way I was going to sing these songs without her,” she explained. “I had to seek counsel, because I was in a shutdown. Even Jesus had disciples.”The feedback from a retinue that included Moser, her sister and even her farm manager was nearly unanimous: Play. Parton demanded as much in front of a crowd at a private memorial service, telling Wynonna she needed those shows. “I told her that Naomi had her journey, and she had hers. None of that was her fault,” Parton remembered. “I told her to get her ass out there on the road. It’s time for her to go on and do the great things she’s capable of doing, a new start.”Singers including Carlile and Ashley McBryde, both ’80s babies reared on “Judd music,” volunteered to join her and sing Naomi’s parts. The first 11 shows last fall were more celebration than elegy.“I would have been desperately sad if not,” Wynonna said, anxiously rubbing her hands together. “You can’t fake this. It’s not a time to put on your big-girl panties and just deal with it. This music is my foundational life journey.”These concerts without Naomi are the culmination of an extended and unsteady process of stepping from their famous duo’s shadows, personally and professionally. Though Wynonna’s solo career was full of left turns into slinky R&B, vaulting pop and collaborations with the likes of Jeff Beck, that work was heard within the context of what she had accomplished with her mother, or might still. That is finally over.Scenes from opening night of the Final Tour’s second leg, in Hershey, Pa.Thea Traff for The New York Times“Almost instantly, there was less weight, less pressure,” Moser said, chatting in a Hershey sports bar. “Naomi believed I was trying to tunnel under the Judds legacy and let her fall through the cracks.”An encyclopedic rock fan who scoffs at Nashville mores, Moser speculates about future collaborations with cerebral producers like Daniel Lanois or Blake Mills. He and Wynonna are eight songs into an album that will most likely include work with Weir, Carlile and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam. It feels so real and vulnerable, Wynonna said, it makes her uncomfortable. “It’s the most intimate I’ve ever been,” she noted of a song called “Broken and Blessed.” “And that’s because of my mother.”And two years ago, after her biological father died, she finally met her brother, Michael, when she called him without warning on his birthday. They talked for five hours the first time they met. “We couldn’t get over how much we looked alike,” she gushed. “They’re all so normal.”She never told Naomi about her new family. She beamed, though, when she mentioned someday introducing him to Ashley, whom she repeatedly called “honey bunny.” Their relationship has become closer, Wynonna explained, the result of having and respecting boundaries. “We’re in such good places now,” she said. “It’s going to be OK.”MORE THAN 20 minutes before Wynonna was due onstage in Hershey for the opening night’s 24-song set, she stood still in a backstage hallway, bare feet on the concrete floor. She talked to her son, Elijah, and asked for more hair spray. Her black velvet outfit was covered in a constellation of gold glitter, and her wavy hair was a ripple of burnished reds. She clutched an enormous white guitar, so new it gleamed even beneath wan fluorescent lights.For the better part of a year, Moser schemed with Gibson to make a replica of the big, white guitar Wynonna bought soon after the Judds broke up. After a quarter-century of concerts, the original was as yellow as fresh butter, the wood beneath its strings ground down from countless strums. That guitar had signaled a new phase of her life, just like this one. She kept both hands around it, as if protecting a puppy. “It feels good,” she said slowly, closing her eyes to reveal more glitter.Just then, she stopped her tour manager, Tanner Brandell, and asked how much time she had left. “I was coming to tell you that you have the trigger,” he said. “Tell me when.” Without hesitation, she said “Now” and began sauntering toward the stage, moving deliberately, as if the world could always wait for Wynonna.She climbed the stairs and strummed a chord as the white guitar caught the spotlight for the first time. She belted out one line from an old Judds favorite, her voice every bit as mighty as it was when they cut the song in 1983: “Had a dream about you, baby.” She let the line echo back, and grinned.Thea Traff for The New York Times More

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    Bonnie Raitt Heads to the Grammys, Recognized as a Songwriter at Last

    Bonnie Raitt is no stranger to the Grammys, which will be awarded Sunday in Los Angeles. She has won 10 of them since 1979, and she has also been a frequent presenter and performer on the show, befitting a musician who has long been the model of a sustainable, self-guided rock career.Raitt has never depended on hit singles or spectacle; instead, she relies on the quiet power of a voice that draws on blues, country, soul and rock to speak plainly about complicated emotions. Modestly but tenaciously, Raitt has cycled through decades of recording albums and touring, selling out 3,000-seat theaters and playing regularly at festivals. Musicians like Adele and Bon Iver have drawn on her repertoire, and younger musicians, particularly women, have cited her example as a bandleader and producer.Raitt, 73, has long been renowned as a finder and interpreter of songs, but most of her albums have also included a few of her own. Her four Grammy nominations this year include her first ones for her songwriting. The title track of her 2022 album, “Just Like That…,” has been nominated as song of the year and best American roots song. It’s a quiet, folky track about a heart transplant; a mother whose son was killed in an accident meets the recipient, and she gets to hear her child’s heart beating again.“Just Like That” and “Down the Hall,” a song narrated by a prisoner serving a life sentence and working in the prison hospice, show the influence of John Prine, a master of folky, laconic character studies, who died of Covid in 2020. He wrote “Angel From Montgomery,” a song Raitt always sings in concert.In a video interview from her living room in Marin County, Calif., Raitt wore a rainbow-hued outfit and spoke about songwriting, autonomy and awards-show serendipity. The following are edited excerpts from the conversation.“I don’t write all the time,” Raitt said. “So it’s almost like having a whole body, spiritual, emotional, physical feeling when you get shaken like that.”Peter Fisher for The New York TimesYou have a lot of Grammy Awards already, but “Just Like That” is your first nomination as a songwriter. It seems a little belated for someone who has written dozens of songs.I was never expecting this song of the year nomination. But I was very proud of the song, especially since it was so inspired by John Prine, and we lost him. I put my heart and soul into every record, and I never know which ones are going to resonate. But I can tell people are really moved, looking out there in the audience.Tell me about writing the song. You’ve said that it began with fingerpicking guitar.I usually write my ballads on the keyboard. Probably because I took lessons, it just seems to be freer, more flexible. The guitar style that I have is really homegrown, primitive folk guitar chords and those old blues licks.This particular time, I wanted to write, but not about my personal life, because I really had covered that. I didn’t have anything else to say. So I was looking for a story.And completely out of the blue, I saw this news program. They followed this woman with a film crew to the guy’s house who received her son’s heart. There was a lump in my throat — it was very emotional. And then when he asked her to sit down next to him and asked if she’d like to put her head on his chest and listen to his heart — I can’t even tell the story to this day without choking up, because it was so moving to me.I wrote it for awhile without the music. I worked on the lyrics for both “Down the Hall” and this one. It was like there was a higher purpose for both of those songs. It was a really different process for me to have those lines that are crucial in each song just appear in my head.I don’t write all the time. So it’s almost like having a whole body, spiritual, emotional, physical feeling when you get shaken like that. And the music — after the vaccines were available, I decided to make the record six months early, in the summer, and tour again. That put the pressure on to actually finish the song. So I just sat and played my acoustic guitar. And at that point, we had just lost John, and I just had him in my heart. I just started fingerpicking, and I had the lyrics in front of me, and the song poured through me without any thinking about it.You’ve been an example for a lot of younger performers as a woman who is indisputably the bandleader.Maria Muldaur told me that years ago. She decided that she could actually be a solo act after watching me with my band in the studio in Woodstock, making “Give It Up.” And in the last 10 years of Americana events, I meet all these other women like Brandi Carlile, and they’ll tell me that they were growing up on my music and what an influence I’ve been.But it’s hard for me to think about that because I know my foibles and my failings. I still hold myself up to a standard I probably can’t live up to. But I’m really grateful when people say those kind things about me.It’s a very challenging position to be in when you’re very young. But I’ve been my own boss since I was 20. I walked into Warner Bros. and said, “You can’t tell me what to wear, when to put my work out, who to work with and what to record. But I’ll work my ass off if you put out my records.” And they went for it. Now, I can’t even imagine somebody telling me what to do.And I could not live with somebody overriding my musical taste. I always picked someone that was not going to produce me and decide the arrangements, but work with me as a partner in the studio. So sometimes, when I needed to tell somebody that they just weren’t cutting it, I would use my producer partner to go in and say something instead of me. As a live bandleader, I have sometimes been on thin ice, when I’ve tried to find the words to explain something that I wanted when I couldn’t play it myself.The tricky part is that I know what I want. I know what doesn’t work. I know what direction I like. I can say, “Play something more like this.” But it’s how to say that in a way that doesn’t deflate someone’s joy or their ability to feel.At your concerts, it seems that you’re totally relaxed and casual, but you’re onstage in front of thousands of people. Do you think about pacing, timing, theatricality?Somehow I just learned to put a show together. There’s nothing like performing live. It’s just something I was born to do. And when I put together a show, I leave room for some wild cards. It’s a joy every night — to know that you have the aces on each of those instruments, and that we’ve rehearsed enough where we can have some fun with it. And I think the audiences are not there to see a jukebox show. They’re going with me wherever I want to go. I’m more comfortable onstage than any other place in my life. I wish I was as comfortable offstage as I am onstage.“I’ve been my own boss since I was 20,” Raitt said.Peter Fisher for The New York TimesIt seems awards shows and festivals are rare chances for a lot of performers to meet.I think all of us are like a kid in a candy store backstage. My favorite story about the Grammys was going through the metal detector at the Staples Center, at the afternoon ceremony. I was in the line between two guys in Slipknot, and the guy behind me is like in a Hannibal Lecter kind of a mask, and he goes, “I really dig your music!” I wouldn’t have expected Slipknot guys to know me. You know, maybe a “My mom loves you” kind of thing, but he was clearly a fan.And I just never expected the number of people that come up and tell each other that. I got to tell Dave Grohl what a fan I am of the Foo Fighters, and he was so surprised on the red carpet. Pharrell Williams, when he was in N.E.R.D., he grabbed me as I was walking back to my seat at the Grammys, and he said, “Any time you want to do something together …”“Nick of Time,” which was your title song for the 1989 LP that won album of the year, was about the fact of mortality, and now so are “Down the Hall” and “Just Like That.”Yeah, and I dedicated this record to friends that I lost in just two years. It’s just been an unbearable amount of loss. Suicides, drug overdoses, cancer, Covid. It’s unbelievable, what’s going on with the climate and with Ukraine and the Somali famine, which isn’t even getting any coverage, and the migrant situation on the border, and Syrian refugees. I mean, I’ve never been as discouraged and heartbroken as I have been. I soldier on.People say, “Well, how come you don’t do political music?” Most of it is just so insufferable. And I try to be really careful about not preaching my politics onstage because I know there’s a lot of people out there that may not agree with me, and they’re there to hear the music. So we have a table out there in the hall, and we tithe a dollar of every ticket.I do have a couple of songs that are political, like “Hell to Pay” and “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through” — I couldn’t wait anymore. But the politics between people, and love relationships, are just as thorny and important to lift up and write from interesting points of view. More