"The sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must be based on mutual concession. The spectator must cultivate the proper attitude for receiving the message, as the artist must know how to impart it. The tea-master, Kobori Enshu, himself a daimyo, has left to us these memorable words: 'Approach a great painting as thou woudst approach a great prince.' In order to understand a masterpiece, you must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least utterance."
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
"Lovers of Brahms were much disturbed by large numbers of people leaving the hall between movements of the C minor symphony....It must be admitted that to the larger part of our public, Brahms is still an incomprehensible terror."
-Boston Evening Transcript, November 16, 1885, as quoted in Nicolas Slonimsky's Lexicon of Musical Invective
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
"There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible and capable of idealisation. western humourists were not slow to mingle the fragrance of their thought with its aroma. It has not the arrogance of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innoncence of cocoa."
Sunday, December 24, 2006
"Good artist are people who can stick things together so that they stay stuck. They know how to gather things into formal arrangements that are intelligible, memorable, and lasting. Good forms confer health upon the things that they gather together. Farms, families, and communities are forms of art just as are poems, paintings, and symphonies. None of these things would exist if we did not make them. We can make them either well or poorly; this choice is another thing that we make."
Thursday, December 21, 2006
In other year-end wrap news, The Boston Phoenix's trio of dance judges gave honors to 3 dance engagements that your Celebrity Series had a thing or two to do with...Jeffrey Gantz, Marcia Siegel and Debra Cash put their heads, and presumably pens, together and came up with a top ten list that featured honors for The Royal Ballet's Manon from June of this calendar year ("three delectable Manons in Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru, and Zenaida Yanowsky"), The Kirov Ballet and Orchestra's Swan Lake from this past November, ("gray and gorgeous")and the Mark Morris Dance Group's L'Allegro il penseroso ad il Moderato in January ("one of his defining works"). Full text
Lloyd Schwartz had kind words for mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager in his Boston Phoenix review of her December 1 Celebrity Series debut recital:
"Kirchschlager is glamorous (a cross
between Helena Bonham Carter and Annette Bening) and projects a large
personality. Pushing her mop of dark curls out of her eyes, she laughs
out loud or winks when she finds the end of a song amusing; when she’s
serious or heroic, she seems to elevate in stature." Complete text of review
Schwartz picked Kirchschlager's recital as one -well, part of one- of his top ten classical music events of 2006, also for The Boston Phoenix. Kirchschlager shares the #10 slot with a recital by mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler with accompanist John Greer. Of the two recitals, Schwartz said:
"Both these events were true lieder
recitals, presenting great songs beautifully, honestly, and with no
gimmicks. Maybe it’s not a dying art." Complete text
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson recently spoke with pianist Jospeh Smith for Playbill Arts. Here is an excerpt:
"The piano was Beethoven's own instrument — it is the most intimate of
instruments, and also the most complete of instruments. No wonder it served as
Beethoven's workshop — the sonatas span all the periods of his development. If a
man from Mars were dropped on the earth and the only Beethoven left was the
piano sonatas, he could actually form a pretty complete idea of who Beethoven
was. They present a full, accurate portrait."
Read the full transcript here.
Garrick Ohlsson will play an all-Beethoven recital at NEC's Jordan Hall on Saturday, February 10.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Composer, conductor, teacher, organist and harpsichordist Daniel Pinkham died yesterday at 83. Among the many things that made Mr. Pinkham remarkable, was his status as a contemporary composer whose work was popular with music connoisseurs as well as the larger, general music audience.
Jeremy Eichler wrote Mr. Pinkham's obituary for today's Boston Globe:
"A pioneer of the local early music movement, Mr. Pinkham served on the faculty of New England Conservatory since 1959 and taught at many other local schools. He served at King's Chapel as music director and music director emeritus for more than four decades. Widely admired by colleagues for his generosity and quick wit, he was also an active performer on harpsichord and organ, playing for many years in a duo with the violinist Robert Brink. His orchestral music was once performed by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein." Read the complete text of the article.
Though we are a mere footnote in Daniel Pinkham's career, the Celebrity Series was fortunate to have commisioned work from him. His composition Blue Blazes appeared as one of six segments of The Rainbow Hexameron, (each segment by a different Boston composer, the others being Julia Carey, Christopher Trapani, Joseph Johnson, Michael Gandolfini, and Alan Fletcher) premiered by pianist Sergey Schepkin at NEC's Jordan Hall in April 2005.
In the program notes for the premiere, Pinkham described Blue Blazes this way:
Sergey Schepkin, in explaining to me his vision and plan of The Rainbow Hexameron, assigned me the color blue. He also specified that the piece be “turbulent”. The title jumped out at once — Blue Blazes — and immediately the form and shape of the work emerged. It would be a succession of musical fragments alternating extremely fast and brilliant fireworks contrasted with passages of tranquil and reflective lyricism.
Richard Dyer, reviewing the concert for The Boston Globe, said of Pinkham's Blue Blazes that it is, "...like light passing through a cobalt bottle that contains a message."
Monday, December 18, 2006
If you're over 30 you get them every year, if you're under 30, you're probably in them. In his latest column, Garrison Keillor looks at a time-honored, often immodest tradition, The Christmas Letter:
"I get a couple dozen Christmas letters a year, and I sit and read them in my old bathrobe as I chow down on Hostess Twinkies. Everyone in the letters is busy as beavers, piling up honors hand over fist, volunteering up a storm, traveling to Beijing, Abu Dhabi and Antarctica; nobody is in treatment or depressed or flunking out of school, though occasionally there is a child who gets shorter shrift. 'Chad is adjusting well to his new school and making friends. He especially enjoys the handicrafts.' How sad for Chad."
Read all of Christmas Letter: Can I get some modesty with that?
Friday, December 15, 2006
You may have seen this elsewhere, but seeing as how Boston is just lousy with music students, I have to share. The International Mozart Foundation is celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday by making all his works available online. That's not a typo and they are not kidding. Interest in this project has been so great that their server has been crashing, so be patient:
It's a surreal morning in the Back Bay, at least on the face of it. The Arlington T station is all meshuge from rennovations; there is already (hey, it's December!) a crowd of Sox fans loitering in front of the Four Seasons Hotel for a glimpse of Dice-K (what is Lugo, chopped liver?); behind the hotel, water is (or was) splattering down onto Park Square like one of those personal rainstorms Charlie Brown gets over his head; we aren't on the front page of the Globe today, and we don't have an event until January 5 or a concert until January 12. So, all you CS Blogginators, repeat "Celebrity Series Gift Certificates Make Great Gifts" seven times to yourself and call our box office (617-482-6661, M-F, 10-4). In the holiday spirit, I'm going to have another bourbon ball and keep surfing. I'll let you know if I come across anything good.
Jennifer Dunning reviewed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's performance of John Butler's “Portrait of Billie” at New York's City Center for today's New York Times:
"After a decade or so of increasingly hectic, high-energy plotless choreography,
John Butler’s 'Portrait of Billie' looked mighty good. Created in 1959 as a
vehicle for Carmen de Lavallade, the great dance actress, the piece follows the
singer Billie Holiday from stardom to drug-addled solitude."
Read the complete review.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
There is Celebrity Series news large and small today. This post is going to focus on a small bit of news, but one of importance to lovers of singing. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham has announced her January 21 recital program for NEC's Jordan Hall. Ms. Graham will a program entirely of works by French composers, and a dizzying array they are: Bizet, Franck, Fauré, Gounod, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Chabrier, Paladilhe, Debussy, Chausson, Bachelet, Duparc, Ravel, Caplet, Roussel, Messiaen, Hahn, Satie, Honegger, Sauguet and Poulenc. Whew!
Malcolm Martineau, who recently accompanied Angelika Kirchschlager in a Celebrity Series recital, will accompany Ms. Graham as well.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Hear the news that MySpace.com beat Yahoo by .6 billion page views in November? That's right, 38.7 billion to 38.1 billion. I'm not sure I can compute those numbers effectively enough to care.
And I got excited when this blog passed 22,000 page views...since August. Um, that's August 2005. But numbers are clearly not a measure of your sustaining love.
Oboist Ralph Gomberg
Not that I expect you to view the passing of a revered artist through the prism of the Celebrity Series, but since you stopped in, and since we are proud to have presented him, if only once, here goes:
Oboist Ralph Gomberg, long the BSO's principal on that instrument, was a founding member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players. The Celebrity Series presented the ensemble along with soprano Phyllis Curtin at Jordan Hall in January of 1973. The program included Stravinsky, Schubert, Villa-Lobos and Shostakovich, plus an unprogrammed L'Invitation au Voyage by Chabrier, but it was Bach's Stumme Seufzer from Cantata No. 199, and Gott versorget from Cantata No. 187 that featured Mr. Gomberg.
Louis Snyder, reviewing for The Christian Science Monitor, wrote of the concert, "The house was full, attentive, and boundlessly enthusiastic."
Article on Mr. Gomberg from the Boston Symphony Orchestra newsletter
(posted on the International Double Reed Society web site)
We have just gotten word which musicians Regina Carter will be bringing to Sanders Theatre besides vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. They are as follows:
The group is currently on tour in Thailand. Here's a slide show of the tour from Matthew Parrish's web site. Nice hotel, guys.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Along with our distinguished colleagues at the Boston Early Music Festival, we were privileged to present the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir at Symphony Hall on Friday evening. The Boston Globe's classical music critic, Jeremy Eichler, reviewed the performance and made note of an attribution issue with the evening's first work, Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 203, said to be by German (or Danish) composer Dietrich Buxtehude:
"The evening opened with a lovely and meticulous performance of a Magnificat setting by Buxtehude, the composer and organist whose music was an important inspiration to Bach. Though in an odd twist, the erudite program notes by Steven Ledbetter informed audience members that the piece's attribution to Buxtehude was quite dubious, leaving one to wonder why Koopman had chosen this particular work to represent a composer whose music one rarely gets to hear performed at such a high level." Read all of Jeremy Eichler's Boston Globe review.
And here is the segment of Mr. Ledbetter's program notes to which Mr. Eichler refers:
"The work to be performed here is a Magnificat setting discovered in an anonymous manuscript in Uppsala, Sweden, and published by Bruno Grusnick in 1931 as a work by Buxtehude. But Grusnick later discovered that the manuscript had come from a source in central Germany, far from where Buxtehude lived and worked, so that the attribution to him was almost certainly incorrect."
Read all of Steven Ledbetter's program notes for the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir performance.
Being an expert in few, if any things, especially not the music of Dietrich Buxtehude, I have only one thought to offer to this (anything but) raging controversy. Okay, two thoughts:
1) Thanks to Mr. Eichler for reading the program notes and validating our ongoing effort to bring them to our audiences. This may be the most important part of this post. Really, thank you, Jeremy.
2) In the rhetorical spirit, and not to take anything away from Mr. Eichler's point, is it possible Mr. Koopman programmed Buxtehude's Magnificat primi toni not to "represent the composer" but to represent the piece of music and that the attribution simply came along for the ride? Or is it possible Mr. Koopman was making his own case for attribution using the piece as evidence on a program which included J.S. Bach?
Wherever Dietrich Buxtehude is now, his ears must be burning. To quote A.A. Milne, I, being of "little brain," had just gotten past how to pronounce "Buxtehude," and now this. Seriously, though, one part of this concert was free of controversy, it was a lovely performance.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Karen Campbell reviewed Friday night's performance by Pilobolus at The Citi Shubert Theatre for The Boston Globe:
"Mendez and Manelich Minniefee gave a gorgeous performance of Tracy's moving 2001 "Symbiosis," which explored the delicate balance of mutual need in a relationship that was sensual and primal yet without a trace of sexuality. It was instead a study in vulnerability and trust portrayed through the organic physicality of intricate partnering and careful balances."
Read all of Pilobolus picks up the pace, with mixed results.
Tedd Bale reviewed for The Boston Herald.
And last, but not least, Sue Katz reviewed for EDGEBoston.com.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir made its Boston (and Celebrity Series/Boston Early Music Festival) debut last night at Symphony Hall. Their encore was J.S. Bach's "Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier" from the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, Part 6, No. 59.
For those that did not attend, the rest of the program can be found here.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Thursday, December 7, 2006
A small group of us from the office ventured into darkest Cambridge earlier this week for a meeting with our always delightful colleagues at World Music (psst, it was about Cirque Eloize, more on that later). Our post-meeting cab driver turned out to be a 20-year Celebrity Series subscriber, and - smashing every factoid cliche we have come to believe about our subscribers - a father of four from a burg well out Route 2 into the North Country. As we drove, I remembered an old Doonesbury cartoon featuring an erudite bricklayer.
The man seemed absolutely shocked when our marketing VP remembered his name and his subscriber status. David explained later that this man is one of the handful of subscribers so dedicated to acquiring quality seats that they show up at the office first thing in the morning the day after the brochure is mailed. We know these people. We are in awe of these people.
"Are you sure you've never been in my cab before?" We lurched from one stoplight to the next as the cabbie took calls from fares, writing the info on a notepad resting on his knee as he drove, pausing only to stare at the three of us in disbelief. "Where am I taking you again?" he finally asked, the new WCRB buzzing in the background. "Oh, right." He careened to the right and down an alley to what must be a secret entrance to Storrow Drive and whipped out into the oncoming traffic as the notepad slid onto the floor (along with our stomachs).
When we pulled up at the office, he grabbed a handful of tickets wedged behind his visor, and fanned through them, "Here's one of yours. Evgeny Kissin." We all nodded. It was indeed a Kissin ticket with our logo on it.
When we got out of the cab, feeling certain that preferred rider status was ours for the asking (he's in the phonebook, you know), we asked David how he had remembered the man's name. "You don't forget someone like him, do you?"
How many more like him walk the mean streets of Greater Boston?
Thanks to The Exhibitionist (and Jeremy Eichler), I've taken another look at Matthew Guerrieri's blog Soho the Dog, a local treat. Love yesterday's satirical post based on a musical propaganda poster. He found one in the National Archives and then went on to create a few himself. My favorite: Remember, Only Communists Clap Between Movements.
How could I have not noticed how cool this blog is the first time I saw it? Wait, don't answer that.
Click through to it, you'll be glad you did (or your money back).
Naples, bring your bodyguard
Think a classical musician's blog would be one obscure, exceedingly dull, treatise after another? Think again. Violinist Hilary Hahn's blog (she calls it a journal) is always a fascinating glimpse into her busy life. Last month she was given a bodyguard in Naples because of the mafia crime wave there:
"I haven't yet left this city, but it's probably safe to say that I've survived the mob war intact. An antique ring, a favorite of mine, disappeared sometime yesterday, much to my chagrin - but that's probably more the work of pickpockets or thieves than murderous mafia hitmen. While we were here, a 17-year-old was buried, having been stabbed seven times while trying to break up a fight in the city. Perhaps that's why we were warned away from side streets. A bodyguard was assigned to me, a tall man in black with a police badge, hair slicked back, sleek shades perched on his pointed nose. His assignment was to wait in the hotel lobby until I went anywhere, then to accompany me outside until I returned to the hotel. The city felt safe for the most part, but it was reassuring to have a protective presence around."
Hilary Hahn plays for us in Boston on January 12, I presume without a bodyguard.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Country singer Kathy Mattea tried a new vocation on for size on December 2 when she presented An Inconvenient Truth, the slide show about global warming put together by former Vice President Al Gore, at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, Michigan:
"An audience of some 250 people was viewing a picture of Earth snapped by the Voyager I spacecraft from the edge of the solar system. What they saw was a pinprick of light just barely distinguishable in the grainy image.
'That's our home,' Mattea said of the tiny speck, her voice choking up with emotion. 'That's why this is so important.'"
Read Singer takes up global warming fight from The Battle Creek Enquirer.
Kathy Mattea makes her Celebrity Series debut with a concert at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge on February 3.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Wynton Marsalis' new Bluenote CD, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary comes out March 6. Marsalis says it is his most political album in years.
He is quoted by Nekesa Moombu Moody in the Associated Press as saying:
"It's been in my mind for a while. Every decade I like to do one piece that has
that kind of social involvement with American culture."
Another unusual aspect of the recording is that it features some of Marsalis' vocals (That's right, you heard me). Something he says comes naturally to him:
"I always try and do something different. I don't try to make any of my
records the same," he said. "I'm always singing and chanting all over my house.
I grew up doing it in New Orleans, chanting and singing and making up rhymes;
long before there was rap music we were doing that. That's the New Orleans'
Read all of Nekesa Moombu Moody's article, Marsalis' New CD Deals with Politics.
Wynton Marsalis comes to Boston March 28 with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
David Perkins was tantalized by Angelika Kirchschlager's Friday night recital and left wishing to hear her covering more various territory and different composers. His review appears in today's Boston Globe:
"A glimmer of what she might do if she cut loose in recital came in an encore.
After Poulenc's 'Hotel,' one wished she'd done a whole set by that composer, or
something even edgier, like Schoenberg's 'Cabaret Songs.'"
There's more to this singer, one suspects, than cherries and cream. How about
some olives? Figs? Even some New England cranberries?"
Read all of: Recital is tasteful, if a little too sweet.
It's time to give interactivity another plug. I'm curious, did any blog readers attend Ms. Kirchschlager's recital, and if so would you care to post your own thoughts? They can be as brief or as long as you like (there's this button right under these words, see, and you just click it, and...
Monday, December 4, 2006
Surely this morning's weather helped you to realize that the holidays are approaching. Well, we have a couple of holiday programs for you to consider: in this corner, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Ton Koopman, brings a Christmas program of Buxtehude, Corelli and some guy named J.S. Bach. this Friday, December 8 at Symphony Hall.
And in this corner, not to be outdone, the Vienna Choir Boys bring their angelic voices to Jordan Hall on December 10 where they will sing a holiday program that includes music by Mozart, Felix Mendelsson-Bartholdy, and Johan Strauss, Jr.; and holiday music from around the world, including an Uzbek folk song, Indian bhajan, and a Peruvian/Quechuan Hymn. And it wouldn't be the same without an avalanche of Christmas songs, like Adeste fideles, O, Come, O Come Emanuel, Joy to the World...you get the idea.
Alright, I've said enough. You want holiday music? We have a holiday music duel!
Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, was kind enough to talk with me at Jordan Hall before yesterday's concert. After following him up the stairs to the green room where the Quartet was milling about and chatting, I noticed his case on a chair and thought how rare it is to meet someone whose work you are reading, and to see the objects of their story in the present.
The pantheon of violinists in Arnold Steinhardt's violin case: Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Niccolo Paganini, Eugene Ysaÿe were wedged gently into the lid, just as he described them in Violin Dreams (yes, one last pass at this marvelous book).
He placed his violin gently in the open case. Knowing their stories from the book, I wondered aloud which of his violins this was, his Guarneri del Gesu? the Pressenda? the Lorenzo Storioni?
He held up his violin. "This was made by a wonderful violin-maker, Samuel Zygmuntowicz, in Brooklyn," came the answer. Right. Brooklyn.
"So it's...new then."
He laughed, "Yes, it's just a few months old. But new violins are like new wine."
Arnold Steinhardt and his
Samuel Zygmuntowicz violin
Sunday, December 3, 2006
The Guarneri's only encore this afternoon, following their concert of Mozart, Beethoven and the Boston premiere of Lukas Foss' String Quartet No. 5 (a Celebrity Series co-commission, thank you very much), was the third movement (Menuetto) from Mozart's String Quartet No. 8 in F major, K. 168.
Saturday, December 2, 2006
The audience at Jordan Hall last night for Angelika Kirchschlager's Celebrity Series debut was thoroughly charmed by the mezzo-soprano's program of Haydn, Grieg, Brahms, Schubert and Liszt, a fact made abundantly clear by their enthusiastic ovations. For encores, Ms. Kirchschlager sang Liszt's Es muss ein Wundesbares sein, and Poulenc's Hôtel.
Immediately before walking onstage, she confessed, "I'm so hungry now! Some chocolate and some nuts would be nice!" and laughed.
Backstage, after the performance, Ms. Kirchschlager seemed as enraptured by her recital experience as her audience was with her, "What a lovely hall, everyone is so close to you...and the acoustics! And everyone followed so closely, they seemed to understand without reading the translations."
A staff member who regularly works with artists of all demeanors confessed, "I may have a new favorite."
Friday, December 1, 2006
Lots of accomplished musicians write autobiographical books of one sort or another; some, but certainly not all, even do it successfully. Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist for the illustrious Guarneri String Quartet, has succeeded with his entry, Violin Dreams, an autobiography thick with the stories of his professional development, the history of the violin and its importance in Jewish culture, and of his many encounters with the famous and/or the brilliant along his own professional musical path. Violin Dreams is a smart book that is about its author, but without talking about him ad nauseum.
Here's an excerpt describing his experience with pianist, scholar and author Arthur Loesser after he playing Bach's D Minor Partita for him:
"'Now, let me show you how to dance the D Minor Partita,' he said. He took off his glasses and let them dangle from a silken cord around his neck; then, smiling sweetly, the elderly Loesser danced the serious Allemande, the lively Courante, the sensuously graceful sarabande, the high-jinks Gigue, and finally the lusty Chaconne around his living room...When he finally came to a stop, he looked at me, eyes glistening, and said, quite out of breath by now, 'This the noble style of French court dancing, and you must make us want to dance while playing your D Minor Partita.'"
For a second opinion (albeit pre-selected by me), read Richard Eder's review of Violin Dreams for The Los Angeles Times.
Arnold Steinhardt will sign copies of Violin Dreams following The Guarneri String Quartet's performance this Sunday at Jordan Hall (3pm).
Addendum: As I read more of Violin Dreams (yes, following the habits of some in the book review business, I posted on it without having finished the book), I realize that I previously omitted one of the important musical themes of Steinhardt's project, that of J.S. Bach's D Minor Partita, a solo violin tour de force and a musical spectre throughout the book. There is a CD lodged in the back of the book, containing two recordings by Steinhardt of the piece, one from 1966, one from this year. Another reason to consider adding Violin Dreams to your library.