Friday, April 28, 2006

Preservation Hall reopens tonight!

We announced our 2006-2007 season today (the link can be found here - much more to come about next season on this blog at a later date). Anyway, leading off the season will be the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with a wild new Mardis Gras-inspired show called The New Orleans Revue. Let's just say it involves more than just the band and leave it at that for now. But that's just my preamble (Muskrat Ramble?): Preservation Hall itself is reopening today and we want to wish them well. Here's an article from The Chicago Tribune as a warm up (I'll see if I can find something from The Crescent City...). And here's hoping they have a great time, make a lot of people smile - not to mention make a lot of the money they surely need.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that the opening of Preservation Hall was part of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival which opened this weekend with a remarkable number of popular artists on the bill(s). Here's a bit of coverage from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Love at Fest Site.

Globe and Herald weigh in on Ailey's Boston engagement

The Boston Herald was first out of the gate. Dance critic Theodore Bale called Tuesday night's performance "sacred and spectacular." Here's the full text.

Thea Singer's entry for The Boston Globe was a bit delayed, but she had this to say about the Ailey dancers:

"Ailey's performers have historically had the technical chops and emotional tenacity to set a theater on fire, and this group -- particularly the men -- was no exception." Full text

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Perlman, Zukerman and De Silva at Symphony Hall

Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman returned to Symphony Hall for a duet program last night with pianist Rohan De Silva. Richard Dyer was there and was kind enough to turn a review around overnight. Here's a bit:

"Mozart's First Duo for violin and viola found Zukerman playing from strength as
a violist -- he may play this instrument even better than he plays the violin.
This performance was as warm-hearted, elegant, and communicative as anyone could
hope for."

Full text: For fans of the violin, a perfect pairing.

The pair added 8 Bartok duets to the first half (I'm sorry I don't have the specific selections, hey it was 8 out of 44...), and here are the final encores:

Shostakovich, Three Duets for Violin & Piano (Prelude, Gavotte, and Waltz) and
Shostakovich, Five Duets (Fifth Duet Only, "Polka")

Hibernian Hall got Ailey early


Antonio Douthit of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (that's him on the left) puts some volunteer dancers through their paces during a free public lecture/demonstration at the Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall on April 19.

Does this need a comment from the likes of me? It looks sweet because it is sweet. The Ailey dancers are wonderful, as generous as they are gifted and professional, and these kids look to be getting their Fosse on. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ailey hits town

They're here all week

Ailey dancer Matthew Rushing talks with Marji Borkow of CBS-4


Rehearsing Acceptance in Surrender

Boston: A home away from home

Monday, April 24, 2006

Death and the standing ovation - The Emerson String Quartet at Jordan Hall


Twilight on Gainsborough Street


Author Harlow Robinson (left) leads a post-performance discussion with The Emerson String Quartet

The Emerson String Quartet played an evening of the late quartets of the late Dmitri Shostakovich on Friday at Jordan Hall. It was dark territory, indeed. Mortality is contemplated unrelentingly in these late works (in the ears of this listener, anyway), but in the context of a compositional career spent toiling at the pleasure of the likes of Josef Stalin, the focus on death can feel like a kind of liberation, a universality. At last, something from the Shostakovich canon with which an American audience can truly empathize!

But cheery it ain't, of course. When I read the following passage in David Weininger's Boston Globe review I knew what he felt:

"So it was an altogether strange experience when the audience then erupted in
cheers. Applauding and shouting bravos -- these are intensely affirmative
actions, and it was jarring to hear them in the face of music so intent on
negating any glimpse of happiness. Maybe silence is the most appropriate
response to such unearthly art."

Sitting in Jordan Hall at that moment, I felt the same way, "Why am I clapping, of all things to do at this moment?" It seemed wrong somehow. It reminded me of a concert earlier this season, when Richard Goode had contemplated the heavens via Beethoven's Opus 111 Sonata, and one local critic jokingly suggested Goode return to the stage and play "Kitten on the Keys" as an encore. Nothing like clapping and encores should follow certain performances.

Maybe audiences, on receiving a performance of this kind of emotional seriousness, should shuffle past the stage, heads bowed, quietly touching hands with the performers like a losing Little League team: "Good game...good game...good game..."

Complete text of Burning brightly amidst Shostakovich's darkness.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Artists, Go Home

Just came across this article about a problem that a number of Celebrity Series artists as well as our performing arts presenter colleagues in Boston have encountered. That is, the difficulty international artists now have obtaining visas to perform in the United States. From complicated regulations to processing backlogs to clerical error, things ain't what they used to be for internationally touring performing artists. It can be a Kafka-esque world out there, but you knew that already...

Read the complete article, Artists, Go Home from Seattle Weekly.

Charlie Kohlhase: The Cranky Yankee

Between his stints on WMBR radio (Research and Development, Mondays 2-4pm, broadcast or streaming), playing baritone saxophone with the Either/Orchestra, and with his many other musical projects, teaching at the Longy School of Music as well as overnights running the board on WBUR radio, etc., saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase is a fixture in this town. Having met Charlie on a few occasions I'm not sure where the "cranky" in the title comes from, but Celeste Sunderland has written a nice piece on Charlie Kohlhase for; here's a snippet:

"State, New Hampshire. Party affiliation, communist. Obsession, Woody Herman’s 1963 Herd. No, it’s not Boston-based saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase. It’s the Cranky Yankee, a character he’s been known to slip into while on the road. 'He would go on and on about this 1963 Herd and the brilliance of Jake Hanna at the drums,' said Either/Orchestra founder Russ Gershon who Kohlhase played with for 14 years. 'He’s an absolutely hilarious guy.'"

Read all of Charlie Kohlhase: The Cranky Yankee.

FYI: Charlie Kohlhase isn't booked to play any Celebrity Series concerts at present, but he has played two previously with the Either/Orchestra: our Labor Day Fest at the Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park in 1995 and a What Makes It Great? program with Rob Kapilow on Duke Ellington's Such Sweet Thunder in 1998.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Judith Jamison's Reminiscences

Judith Jamison of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Ailey is just around the corner (they open at The Wang Theatre this coming Tuesday evening). Susan Daniels spoke with Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of the Ailey company, and Ronni Favors, the company's rehearsal director, in advance of the company's Boston visit. Here is a clip from her Bay State Banner article:

"'I smelled the same smells as a kid growing up in my little house in Philadelphia. My father used the basement as his craft shop. And when I smelled the wood and saw the shine of the stainless steel set, it brought a tear to my eye,' said Jamison, who chose the title, in part, due to her own personal reminiscences."

UPDATE: The link to the article on Ms. Jamison has vanished, I'm afraid. Too bad, it was nicely written and informative. I'll see what else I can find from this season...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Notice Pollini

Maurizio Pollini, reading

What with all the Celebrity Series performances upcoming: the Emerson String Quartet, 7 Ailey performances at The Wang Theatre, and Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, a less than observant observer might overlook the Italian piano wizard Maurizio Pollini's Symphony Hall recital on Sunday, April 30. Do not make this mistake.

As I have covered here previously, the program is Chopin and Liszt:


Two Nocturnes, Opus 55
   No. 1 in F minor
   No. 2 in E-flat Major
Ballade in G minor, Opus 23
Two Nocturnes, Opus 48
   No. 1 in C minor
   No. 2 in F-sharp minor
Polonaise in F-sharp minor, Opus 44

Nuages gris
Unstern: sinister, disastro
La lugubre gondola I (Die Trauergondel)
Piano Sonata in B minor

Mr. Pollini's newest recording is a two-disc set of Chopin nocturnes from Deutsche Grammophon. Cleverly, some might even say diabolically, he will be performing four such nocturnes on April 30!

For our part, we have some equally clever notes on the program written by Dr. Richard E. Rodda to whet your appetite.

FOLLOW UP: Post on Boston Globe review of this recital.......Post on Pollini's encores

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is your keyboard unclean?

If you're like me, the answer is an emphatic, "Yes, my keyboard is unclean, no doubt my CPU and speakers are unclean, too (and don't even talk to me about my CPU...!)"

Well, thanks to The Weekly Dig (of several weeks ago) I have found a solution for the cyber Howard Hughes in all of us: Washable keyboards and mice from Unotron:

Can't vouch for them myself (yet). It was inevitable, wasn't it?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Putting People in Seats

Alex Ross at The Rest is Noise (via Steve Metcalf, former classical music critic for The Hartford Courant, writing for NewMusicBox) has begun a multi-blog discussion on the state of classical music and its audiences. Mr. Metcalf's article is called Putting People In Seats and Alex Ross' post is called Waiting for the Superstar. Mr. Ross has posted numerous responses to both pieces from other bloggers. It's a worthy read if the subject interests, plus it will introduce a thorough reader to a number of interesting music blogs, including (but not necessarily limited to): Sounds and Fury, The Iron Tongue of Midnight,and Moments Before the Wind.

Boston note: Alex Ross is an alumnus of both Harvard University and WHRB radio. Even if you aren't in Boston, you can listen to the incomparable WHRB online on high or low bandwidth settings at the above link.

What is Alexander McCall Smith reading, watching and listening to?


Gene Hackman as "Popeye" Doyle

From Into it: Alexander McCall Smith from today's Christian Science Monitor:

"I bought a DVD two days ago, The French Connection. Gene Hackman I think
is a wonderful actor... Whenever I go to
New York I look out for [Hackman's character] 'Popeye' Doyle and hope I see him
in his funny porkpie hat keeping the streets safe."

Read the full text of Into it: Alexander McCall Smith here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Vadim and Nikolai through the eyes of Richard Dyer

Mr. Dyer has weighed in on Vadim Repin and Nikolai Lugansky's April 8 recital at Jordan Hall.

Here's a snippet:

"Repin, still baby-faced, is technically irreproachable, playing with awesome security and equilibrium. His tone is huge, impeccably tuned, and, with the collaboration of a 1708 Stradivarius, gorgeous; his vibrato is imaginatively varied. The lanky Lugansky looks a little like Kiefer Sutherland and offers a middleweight sonority that never threatens to overwhelm the violin, even with the piano lid all the way up."

You gotta love Richard Dyer. Reading him regularly has spoiled us all. Here is the complete text of Pairing of Russian violinist and pianist stirs excitement at Jordan Hall from today's

Alicia Rising


Another giant photo of another fine artist, Alicia Graf of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

This article goes back a little while: The Washington Post did a nice profile of Alicia Graf, a hot new star from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the pride of Columbia, Maryland, back in February. Well, I just came across the URL, right where I saved it, under Boston Red Sox (honestly, what am I gonna do with me?). So here is Alicia Graf, Rising to a Greater Height, by Lonnae Parker O'Neal for The Washington Post. With Ailey coming to town so soon, it's even more relevant than when I first came across it.

And here's another, more recent, article on Alicia, from no less than Jennifer Dunning of no less than The New York Times (via the Charlotte Observer). Here's Alicia on her decision to dance:

"After graduation in May 2003, Graf accepted a job at J.P. Morgan and planned
to start that fall. But she decided she would spend one more summer dancing."

And the rest is history in the making. J.P. Morgan's loss is certainly everyone's gain. Read Critics rave about this dancer from the Charlotte Observer/New York Times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Boston Globe reviews Alexander McCall Smith's "Blue Shoes and Happiness"


Alexander McCall Smith and tuba

The Boston Globe's Clea Simon reviewed Alexander McCall Smith's newest book, Blue Shoes and Happiness April 10:

"...why these books continue to be so readable, is warmth, a sort of folksy hominess
that combines the relative exoticism of life in Botswana (where Mma Ramotswe's
detective agency is located) with common-sense humanity."

Clea Simon's complete review can be found here.

Alexander McCall Smith can be found at John Hancock Hall on Thursday, April 20.

Photo is by Graham Clark.

Patriot Ledger reviews Repin and Lugansky

Peter Knapp reviewed Vadim Repin and Nikolai Lugansky's April 8 recital for The Patriot Ledger. here's a snippet:

"In his Bank of America Celebrity Series local recital debut Saturday evening, Repin’s artistry spurred enthusiastic applause from a nearly filled Jordan Hall. Teaming with Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky, the 35-year-old Siberian-born violinist played with phenomenal technical and expressive command. A big, handsome man, Repin coolly tossed off hair-raising passages that would test a Paganini."

Read Peter Knapp's complete review.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Terry and Ira Talk

Terry Gross and Ira Glass visited Symphony Hall on Sunday (April 9). I'm not sure I have ever seen anyone presented by the Celebrity Series as - what? unfamiliar, I suppose - with showbiz routines. This is not a criticism. It was more than a little refreshing to hear the Symphony Hall staff explain how and where to get onstage, or to hear the talent ask us what happens after the performance with backstage visits, etc.

Like many performers, Terry and Ira seemed a little nervous before going onstage (Terry more so, I think). It made me realize that a) Neither Terry nor Ira does this every day (this was their second time, I learned later) and b) we usually present people profoundly comfortable with live performance (the few, the jaded). Some artists get nervous no matter what, I'm sure, but they are certainly used to the experience.

The chairs

Their nervousness made it all the more surprising when they went out and were perfect - perfectly themselves (though I can't presume that I suppose), perfectly ready to dig into conversation from the very beginning, perfectly happy letting the conversation go where it seemingly wanted to go, and perfectly at home talking (was it the microphones?). It was as if they had done this a hundred times before. Terry Gross was super prepared, which I have read is a hallmark of hers, and Ira Glass was as relaxed and funny as one would expect.

Ira Glass listens to Terry Gross' introduction and waits to go on

I couldn't possibly recreate any of the conversation. Any conversation that touches in some way on semiotics, bull cloning, the death of one's parents, the Baltimore accent, testicular injury and radio production is probably best left to those who were there.

I realized Sunday evening that I didn't get any photos of Terry, just the empty chairs and Ira waiting. Maybe that's OK - it didn't seem like Terry wanted her picture taken.

They were so good, some of us played a game afterward: Who-Will-Terry-Interview-Next-Year. Any thoughts? (there are no plans to do this as far as any of us know, by the way)

Soweto Gospel Choir at Symphony Hall

Soweto Gospel Choir gave a remarkable performance at Symphony Hall on Friday night. They were tired, as I mentioned in another post, at the end of a long tour, but no one in the audience could possibly have guessed. After the concert - singing, dancing, drumming and all - several members went from the stage straight out into the hallway and into the departing crowd while still in stage garb with boxes of CDs to sell. Money from these sales goes to Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani (translates to: Arise, Do Something!) a charity set up by the Choir to benefit AIDS orphanages unfunded by public or private money - they did well in Boston, but they are not finished: Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani.

Here's Christopher Blagg's review in The Boston Herald.

The Choir performed with the wings open at Symphony Hall. I couldn't resist:

A view from stage right (that's not an ironing board onstage, that's a keyboard)

A view from stage left

A Community Gospel Celebration

Along with the Honorable Thomas M. Menino (mayor of our fair city), the Celebrity Series presented A Community Gospel Celebration at Faneuil Hall last Friday at noon. Three local student choirs (Boston Renaissance Charter School, Boston Children's Chorus and the Boston Arts Academy Choir) joined the Soweto Gospel Choir at Faneuil Hall to sing for an audience of fellow students, parents and the general public.

The South Africans were exhausted. They had been on the road since January and had given 40-plus performances heading into that night's Symphony Hall concert. But they were utterly game, thrilled to listen the Boston choirs, moving in their seats, clapping along and giving energetic standing ovations to all. As if they didn't already have us wrapped around their collective finger!

It would be nice if everyone could have their job so emphatically validated...

Here are a few wholly inadequate photos from yours truly:

The Soweto Gospel Choir onstage amidst portraits of the founding fathers and a packed house

Yes, that's a South African choir singing under George P.A. Healy's famous painting, Webster's Reply to Hayne. Daniel Webster's famous line "Liberty and Union Now and Forever" is in gold above their heads. We couldn't have planned that any better... And Bostonians, that is your mayor seated in the bottom right corner.

The Boston Children's Chorus onstage at Faneuil Hall (the BCC will sing the Canadian National Anthem for Red Sox Opening Day at Fenway Park tomorrow).

Friday, April 7, 2006

Casting announced for The Royal Ballet's Manon in June

Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux and Tamara Rojo as Manon in The Royal Ballet's production of Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. Photo by Bill Cooper.

The Royal Ballet has announced the casts for their June run of Kenneth MacMillan's Manon at The Wang Theatre. I will post more on the dancers individually between now and the engagement - for now, just feast your eyes (and imaginations) on the names:

Thursday, June 15, 7:30pm
Manon: Tamara Rojo
Des Grieux: Carlos Acosta
Lescaut: Jose Martin
Lescaut’s mistress: Sarah Lamb

Friday, June 16, 8pm
Manon: Alina Cojocaru
Des Grieux: Johan Kobborg
Lescaut: Viacheslav Samodurov
Lescaut’s mistress: Laura Morera

Saturday, June 17, 2pm (matinee)
Manon: Zenaida Yanowsky
Des Grieux: Kenneth Greve
Lescaut: Thiago Soares
Lescaut’s mistress: Marianela Nunez

Saturday, June 17, 8pm (evening)
Manon: Tamara Rojo
Des Grieux: Carlos Acosta
Lescaut: Jose Martin
Lescaut’s mistress: Sarah Lamb

Yes sir, we just may be on to something with this Royal Ballet...

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Lloyd About Town

Lloyd Schwartz's April 4 Boston Phoenix column is available online. Lloyd reviews two Celebrity Series presentations this week: eighth blackbird at Sanders and the London Philharmonic at Symphony Hall on March 26 and March 24, respectively.

On The London Philharmonic concert:

"The big hit was young Armenian virtuoso Sergey Khachatryan in the Khachaturian Violin Concerto. He’s got big sound and big soul. And he’s fearless. He managed to make this longwinded showpiece sound compelling and, in the honeyed slow movement, moving."

He also reviews Frederic Rzewski's March 28 recital at Boston Conservatory, Emmanuel Krivine & the BSO, the Boston Lyric Opera’s La traviata, and Teatro Lirico’s Die Zauberflöte.

Lloyd is a treasure, always informative and his column gets at least a little bit of space to showcase his Pulitzer-winning criticism (but you knew that already):  Lloyd Schwartz, The Boston Phoenix, April 4.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

NY Times Reviews Repin and Lugansky

Jeremy Eichler reviewed Vladimir Repin and Nikolai Lugansky for today's New York Times: Vadim Repin Takes an Unusual Stripped-Down Approach (log-in required).

The pair will bring the same program as reviewed to their Boston recital, this Saturday evening at Jordan Hall.

UPDATE: Vladimir Repin? Who writes this blog...?

Monday, April 3, 2006

Terry on the Hot Seat

Do you know what the host of Fresh Air looks like?

Just found a link to this 1998 interview/profile with Terry Gross from on Terry's Wikipedia page. This is interesting not only because Terry will join Ira Glass at Symphony Hall on Sunday, April 9, and that the event is the Celebrity Series debut of both people, but because Terry gets interviewed for the piece and we get a peek at her reaction to being on the other side of the microphone. On April 9 she'll be back to asking the questions, although bet on Ira Glass to get a few queries in edgewise...

Here's Boston Phoenix (and Fresh Air's) classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz on Terry as told to Lori Leibovich:

"I didn't meet [Gross] until about a year after I started doing the show, but I loved her voice -- it is real, with a very distinct timbre that didn't sound like she'd been to broadcasting school. I had a very vivid image of her, of someone very tall, with dark short hair, very bright eyes and a very sensuous mouth. When I finally met her, I was surprised. I liked what she looked like, but it was quite different. And it wasn't until I met her two or three times that my old image faded. There is something about her voice that goes to the imagination -- that even the reality of meeting her didn't erase the image."

Complete Article

Return of the Crocus Eaters

Regular readers will, no doubt, remember my happy photo-post from last week, Return of the Crocus, heralding the advent of spring with a color photo of some lovely crocuses in Belmont, Mass. It saddens me to report that those same crocuses have been devoured by squirrels. I don't have the heart to provide the photographic evidence...

I can offer as consolation, however, the news that buds and bulbs abound, in this backyard and throughout New England - so buck up!