Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lang Lang reviewed in Boston Globe

David Weininger reviews Lang Lang's recital of this past Sunday afternoon for today's Boston Globe:

"It may seem premature to wonder about development or maturity in a musician as young as the 24-year-old pianist. But his ascent to the top of the music world has been exceptionally rapid. If proof were needed, it lay in the fact that Sunday's recital was his second in Symphony Hall, a place only the upper echelon of recitalists can fill. Now he finds himself too old to be a prodigy, much too young to be an elder statesman. That's why it was worth listening for signs of what kind of musician he's becoming."

Read all of Showmanship shines, sometimes too brightly

Monday, January 29, 2007

Giant Steps via robotics

Chilling? Cool? Stupid? Creepy? Apocalyptic? Awesome? Music?

A Japanese robot plays John Coltrane's immortal jazz solo on Giant Steps. No, really.

I was immediately haunted by visions of a computerized voice chanting in a monotone, "A Love Supreme...A Love Supreme..."

Thanks to Tears of a Clownsilly.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lang Lang's encores

Lang Lang's 3 encores this afternoon at Boston's Symphony Hall were as follows:

1. Chopin, Etude Op. 10. No. 3

2. Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor
3. Alexandre Desplat, selection from soundtrack of The Painted Veil

4. Rimsky-Korsakov, Flight of the Bumblebee

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lang Lang: "Refined Playing of Considerable Taste"

Pianist Lang Lang

Here's a review of Lang Lang's Vancouver recital from The Vancouver Sun. The program reviewed is the same as he will play this coming Sunday at Symphony Hall:

"...Lang Lang has visited Vancouver repeatedly since his first recital in 1999. His performance Tuesday night at the Orpheum was a measure not only of his astounding popularity but also of his continuing growth as an artist."

Read all of Refined Playing of Considerable Taste.

Dawn Upshaw's program and pianist

Soprano Dawn Upshaw has two items for us. First she has announced the program for her February 25 recital, which features works by no less than 13 composers and second, she has announced that her piano accompanist will be the great Gilbert Kalish. Ms. Upshaw goes onstage in 32 days. Don't say I didn't give you any notice...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Violinist Hahn plays in a more intimate venue: A tavern"

In case you were wondering what violinist Hilary Hahn has been up to in the nearly two weeks since she tore it up at Jordan Hall, she has taken a page out of cellist Matt Haimovitz's book by playing The Tractor Tavern in Seattle. She'll get a good deal more than my praise for the effort, too, by the sound of it. Here's a whiff of the review from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"It was just after midnight. Immediately the crowd reduced its chatter to no chatter. The audience knew what was before them and paid attention.

Something she rarely does in more conventional venues, she talked, with easy charm and a touch of irreverence. Her first offering was Bach's Chaconne, both virtuosic and moving, which was not surprising because Hahn has been playing Bach since she was 8. The second was a transcription for solo violin of a celebrated Schubert art song, 'Erlkonig' ('Erlking'), a novelty to be sure but an evocative one."

Read all of Violinist Hahn plays in a more intimate venue: A tavern.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Susan Graham reviewed in The Boston Globe

Jeremy Eichler reviewed Susan Graham's Sunday afternoon recital of songs by French composers for today's Boston Globe. Psst...it was as good as he says it was...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quality of Life on Earth Takes Another Hit

A 77 square-foot apartment - formerly a storage room - in London's exclusive Knightsbridge neighborhood is on the market for an asking price equivalent to $335,000 (Boston.com article). This puts me in mind of the Tokyo hotel (or maybe hotels by now) where the rooms are only large enough to lie down in and are stacked like the cells of a beehive. London is morphing into Tokyo, perhaps? Just thinking about it makes me want to stick my head out the window in search of fresh air.

Susan Graham's encores

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham is impressive (and not least because she seems as tall as that other classical Texan, Van Cliburn). As she stood backstage yesterday afternoon having tea and waiting to go on, the stage manager finished her amplified announcements to the audience (turn off cell phones, muffle your steam turbines, no singing along, etc.). She turned off her microphone and asked the crew backstage, "I got everything, right? Basically no noisemakers."

"Right," quipped Graham cooly, and with admirable timing, "I'm the only noisemaker on stage."

The program, a tour through the wild variety of French composers and composing, was developed by pianist Malcolm Martineau. The pair wrapped up the afternoon with two encores:

1. Reynaldo Hahn, "A Chloris"

2. Noel Coward, "There's Always Something Fishy About the French"

Regina Carter: Taking jazz violin on a trip back in time

Jazz violinist and MacArthur "Genius" Grant winner Regina Carter

Regina Carter was featured in The Boston Globe this weekend in a piece by Siddhartha Mitter. Carter talks about "I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey," and related projects, the death of her mother, who inspired the recording, as well as her MacArthur "Genius" Grant. Carter proves again that as musically reliable as her playing is, she is is a multi-faceted musical and cultural explorer. What I'm trying to say is, the MacArthur folks were right to support her efforts, because she is smart, soulful and doesn't stand still. This line from the Globe article caught my attention, especially since my enduring image of her is that of her buring up the stage at Symphony Hall on Wynton Marsalis' "Blood on the Fields" tour:

"'I grew up watching the Lawrence Welk show,' Carter says by way of example. 'It's almost a nostalgic sound, with the clarinet and the accordion.'"

Read all of Taking Jazz Violin on a Trip Back In Time.

And, as if one remarkable musician wasn't enough, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater joins Ms. Carter's great band this Saturday (something not happening elsewhere on this tour, I might add).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kim Jong Il and Seiji Ozawa

The Exhibitionist has posted an item about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il wooing former BSO Maestro Seiji Ozawa to lead an orchestra, or, one must suppose, the orchestra in North Korea. Boy, do I want to believe this is more than just an urban legend.

Let's see...The Onion could be behind something like this, but Seiji denies it (so it really could be true)...

Give unto us Super Bowl Sunday


According to this article from MSNBC.com, more people actually see advertisements during the Super Bowl than during most broadcasts because it is live. People watch it live and don't use DVR technology to tape it and skip the ads. In fact, we are told, many people taping the show are probably taping it to watch the ads later.

As a denizen of the performing arts, there was a time when all this self-referential media contemplation would have had me smirking, or even fuming. But all this attention is as it should be, considering that the Super Bowl is a national holiday. You can't just TiVo a national holiday.

Super Bowl Sunday 2007 is on February 4. And because we at the Celebrity Series respect holidays  (and because we are not crazy), we have not scheduled performances on Super Bowl Sunday (this year, or any other year).

We will, however, be presenting Complexions (Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson's stunning dance company currently drawing raves at the Joyce Theatre in New York) on February 2 & 3  at the Tsai Performance Center, and country music star Kathy Mattea at Sanders Theatre on February 3. I recommend getting out and seeing something on February 2 and 3 before heading for the sofa. You can't just TiVo live performing arts, either.

Broadwayworld.com reviews Olympia Dukakis in "Rose"

Jan Nargi's review of Rose for Broadwayworld.com was posted this morning:

"Dukakis’ ability to move us with a pause or a glance is astonishing. Impish one minute, aching the next, she can be girlishly sensual when describing the first time she lost her breath making love, then teeter on the edge of emphysema when telling how kind American soldiers gave her that first cigarette. She can also express anger with the power of bombs dropping. In a final explosive torrent of emotion, Dukakis unleashes 80 years of built up rage that Rose has suppressed and channeled into the simple act of continuing to live. With all she’s seen, and all she’s survived, she can’t understand how war and its atrocities are still commonplace."

Read Jan Nargi's complete review of Rose

Thursday, January 18, 2007

An afternoon with Olympia Dukakis

Rose's shoes on the Wimberly Theatre stage

Olympia Dukakis came to town early to do a little promotion for her engagement in Rose this week at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. She had agreed to do an hour of live television (Wired with Jim Braude and Leslie Gaydos) on NECN, so I met her at Logan and accompanied her to the studio, after we made a quick stop at her hotel. On our way, we covered the usual niceties one covers when picking up an artist: How was the flight? Can you believe this weather? Here are the sales figures so far for your show, etc.

Once we had settled in other subjects flowed. Forced on to the topic of sports by our driver's amiable football playoffs questions, she switched to the Red Sox 2004 championship. "Wasn't it wonderful?" Then, conspiratorially, "I always root for the Boston teams."

She reminisced of playing hockey on the frozen ponds in and around Arlington (she is a graduate of Arlington High School). "Everybody played. This was before they built all the big rinks. We played on the ponds...someone would make a bonfire and..."

"Did you play?"

With mock dismay (and a little smile), "Of course I played."

The NECN interview was both predictable and predictably interesting. She talked about everything - from originating Rose in London to the Armenian Genocide; from her not minding the attention her performances in Moonstruck and Steel Magnolias always receive ("sometimes I'll be walking down the street, a little blue, and someone will shout a line of mine out to me, and it picks me up a little") to how she is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, yet rarely attends the Oscar telecast. She was a pro and so were her hosts. It wasn't James Lipton, but it was fun and interesting publicity.

After securing a skim milk capuccino from Starbucks, she relaxed a bit. We looked for some music on the radio for our car ride back to Boston; something "not too agitato, please." We found WPLM, out of Plymouth, Mass. Stevie Wonder was singing "Isn't She Lovely" and Ms. Dukakis was pleased.

"You found what I was looking for," she told the driver.

"This station also has a nice all-Sinatra show on Saturday nights" I said.

"SINATRA [almost a shout]!! [pause] Can you believe Sinatra is gone?" At first I thought it was a rhetorical question, but she looked at me for a response. I mumbled something about losing a face from Mount Rushmore. Then I realized she had actually worked with the man - and then played his mother. I tried to think of something relevant to say, but she had moved on. We had just entered the South End and Olympia was looking out the window admiring the houses. "You know, they tore a lot of them down around St. Botolph Street when I lived there. Boston usually takes care of things like [these houses]...so beautiful."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

EDGEBoston reviews "Rose"

Rose, starring Olympia Dukakis, opened last night at the Calderwood Pavilion, and Kilian Melloy offers us the first published review of this Boston engagement at EDGEBoston.com:

"Between the lighting effects and Dukakis’ sheer virtuosity of manner and voice, what starts off as a storybook recitation gathers momentum and transforms into a hypnotic exploration of traumas, regrets, and epiphanies. The Sullivan-lit Dukakis summons Rose the way Rose summons the spirit of her dead first husband, inviting a form of possession, and Rose obliges. For two hours, in great rushes of enthusiasm punctuated by anguished moments of reluctance, Rose tells it like it is: she likes her lovemaking loud, her men trim and smooth, and her politics pure of heart. She’s colorful, cantankerous, poetic - and unapologetic."

Read the complete review of Rose.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boston Globe on Hilary Hahn


Hilary Hahn

Jeremy Eichler reviewed Hilary Hahn's Friday night performance at NEC's Jordan Hall for The Boston Globe. He gives props to Ms. Hahn's wonderful accompanist, something which I had neglected to do in earlier posts, but Lisitsa is a tremendous choice. I should also mention that the performance was recorded by WGBH for later broadcast (check back here for time and date).

Here is bit of Mr. Eichler's review:

"While she may no longer be a child prodigy, Hahn's youthful and
diminutive presence still lent her a vaguely heroic air as she
dispatched from memory a challenging program of sonatas by Janacek,
Mozart, Tartini, Ysaÿe, and Beethoven with consummate poise and
precision. Her playing sparkled with all the technical refinement and
natural musicality you could ask for. She was partnered with facility,
clarity, and empathy by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa."

Read all of Hahn continues her rise in artistry.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hilary Hahn plays challenging program plus two encores

Hilary Hahn wowed her Celebrity Series audience on Friday night with what I can only describe as a knuckle-buster of a program (I leave the nuanced language to the professional nuancers) which, to this listener's ears, was delivered in a warmer - dare I say, more mature - fashion than her previous Celebrity Series recital (which was excellent as well). And by this I don't mean to convey some ham-fisted "our little girl has grown up" assessment, I just feel there has been a lot of real development taking place over the last two years (the wildly enthusiastic audience seemed to concur). Of course, if you were present you will correctly trust your own judgement, and if you weren't present, well, there will be a Globe review.

Here are the two encores she played:

1. Paganini, Cantabile

2. Dinicu/Heifetz, Hora Staccato

Friday, January 12, 2007

Boston Globe: 'Rose' sits well with Dukakis


Olympia Dukakis as Rose

Catherine Foster of The Boston Globe grabbed a few minutes with actress Olympia Dukakis to talk about the Martin Sherman play, Rose, that she will be performing next week at the Calderwood Pavilion. Dukakis will be doing her concert version of Rose, which is a bit shorter than the original play and during which she sits for the duration. She spoke to the challenge of reaching an audience while alone on stage and sitting for the entire play:

"As far as being stationary, Dukakis says, 'I've grown to love doing it that
way, sitting there, taking in the audience. [Rose] really reaches for the
audiences, for their understanding and compassion.'"

Read all of 'Rose' Sits well with Dukakis.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dance Across the Blogosphere

Dance Across the City has gotten a few bloggers going:

Back in December, dance writer Leigh Witchell wrote of Dance Across the City that Boston is "a city that does festival like this proud; I remember First Night   from the years after college with great fondness."

Mishak said in his Live Journal entry that waking up at 7am on Saturday morning is "so wrong it's just funny." But "it was a great fun day, I started with Country Line Dancing and it's totally fun!"

Mishak came to DATC with Annabelle and Nepenthe. Nepenthe took Classical Chinese Dance which included, she says, "a folk dance from southern China that really resonated with me. It was very lyrical and expressive. I could really learn more about this dance form."

For Unicornvamp3z, DATC was "SOOOOO BRILLIANT."

Talesinsdaughtr woke up late on Saturday, but "briefly considered trying to run down there any way, but remembering
the description of the lines from last year's participants, I decided
just to get some more sleep. Maybe next year :/"

I'll keep my eyes peeled for anything else of note. A word to talesinsdaughtr: the key to DATC is just showing up. There is something for everyone to do and we would have gotten you moving. Absolutely next year!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Olympia Dukakis talks with Broadwayworld.com

Jan Nargi of Broadwayworld.com interviewed Olympia Dukakis last week about Martin Sherman's one woman play, Rose, which the Celebrity Series is presenting at the Calderwood Pavilion January 16-21. Here's a bit of their chat:

"BWW: Let’s start by talking about this wonderful character, Rose, that you’ll be playing in Boston in a couple of weeks. You have said that she really resonates for you – that you identify with her in that, for both of you, 'there’s a joy in not belonging.' Can you talk about that a bit?

OD: Growing up I was always feeling like an outsider, being Greek in communities that were not very ethnic. I felt like an outsider in the Greek community, too, because women were expected to behave and socialize in a certain way, and I didn’t. Also being an actor I felt like an outsider, because not many Greek American women were actors then. But once you realize that you are an outsider, there can be a freedom in that. You can find your own way."

Read the complete interview.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Dance Across the City, a Photographic Reprise

Adam Gopnik, in the January 8 issue of The New Yorker, wrote of the press box at Giants Stadium (the pride of East Rutherford, New Jersey) that it was "That vital place where the fulcrum of the First Amendment, free food, is celebrated by reporters for hours on end every Sunday morning..."

We were on to something similar with Dance Across the City (DATC) this past weekend. Our First Amendment fulcrum was free dance - specifically, free dance performances and classes over two days (January 5 & 6). DATC toes the constitutional line as far as "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," (if we're lucky, everything we do draws a peacable, sold-out house) but not surprisingly, there was also a lot of Free Speech going on as well - the 5 to 8 year olds being the least inhibited "speakers." Next year, come watch that group in ballet class - it's a sight not to be missed.

You have "heard" from my camera in recent DATC postings, but it's time to get a load of what professional (though generously volunteered) equipment and talent can produce:

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, "Sinner Man" from Revelations

Boston Arts Academy dancers stretch out backstage at The Strand

Renee Jaworski and Otis Cook of Pilobolus in performance at the Strand

Dance Across the City Day ballet class

Members of OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center on The Citi Shubert stage

Karah Abiog of Complexions dance company leads a modern dance class

Monday, January 8, 2007

Two legitimate holidays

"Only two legitimate holidays remain. By 'legitimate' holidays, I mean this: holidays with a specific, naturally evolved meaning, the celebration of which we find refreshing and correct, and in the celebration of which we, as a People, are united. Those holidays are the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards."

-excerpt from Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Stravinsky: James Brown, Andy Warhol and Jimmy Durante

After reading a quote on the Monotonous Forest blog that Igor Stravinsky had counted James Brown among his favorite composers, I became curious how many - if any - interviews with the composer could be found online (and, of course, could I confirm the James Brown line). While I had no luck confirming the quote, I did find a fascinating little nugget of an interview with Stravinsky published in The New York Review of Books from March 1971. Here's a snippet:

"NYR: Does the state of the arts really depress you?

I.S.: Oh no. We live in a very exhilarating time, a little short of a Golden Age, perhaps, but, well, consider, in the visual arts, the recent Warhol retrospective at the Tate; in the dramatic arts, Broadway category, the revival of the Betty Boop period; in literature, the new genre of reality recalled on tape (bestselling fall title: "Manson's Love Life As Told By His 'Family' "); and in music, the increasing involvement of everybody except the composer. And these developments have in turn produced a great critic, Jimmy Durante, who described it all very accurately when he observed that 'Everybody is getting into the act.'" Read more of the interview.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Dance Across the City at The Strand Theatre: a brief photo essay

543 Columbia Avenue, Dorchester, Mass.

Are there any theatre lobbies in town that wouldn't be improved by the addition of a large picture of John Coltrane?

The original Strand Theatre Wurlitzer from 1918...I wonder if Duke Ellington ever played it or if it was used to accompany Ray Bolger?



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre closes the program and brings down the house

What a fun event this was; the audience certainly saw a wide variety of dance and without question some eyes were opened. Some personal highlights....Pilobolus getting wild applause mid-dance for each remarkable move they executed (it was a great contrast to the typically inward response of a "dance audience" - I bet dancers need that kind of response at some level, just "Wow!"), bet Pilobolus didn't get that reception when they danced Symbiosis at The Shubert in December!...watching Otis Cook from Pilobolus sign programs after the show for a beautiful, shy girl with braces who looked to be about eight...watching Misa Kuranga and Reyneris Reyes from Boston Ballet partially obscured by a piece of P.A.equipment while I stood far stage right. I love seeing old forms squeezed into new venues; that P.A. equipment announced that we weren't in the closed set of a ballet performance, but that ballet was on a field trip...the tremendous performance given by the dancers from the Boston Arts Academy (didn't I tell you?)...watching the Arts Academy dancers watching Ailey from the back of the house, some gaping, some dancing along...watching Kirven Boyd from the Ailey company - a Boston native - standing in front of the theatre after the performance looking poised and confident among family and friends...watching Mayor Menino standing calmly at the front of house just watching his constituents...the fancier uniforms worn by several of Boston's Finest (do they have to dress up for the mayor?).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: You should have been there...

Tomorrow it's Citi Performance Center - all day, pull on your tights and get down there, ok?

Dance Across the City at The Strand Theatre

Close readers may recognize the geographical challenges implied by the title of this post (Let's see, "dance across the City at The Strand...the Strand Theatre is a portal to another dimension, perhaps? Sorry, we've run through all the DATC puns). No matter. Tonight's Dance Across the City at The Strand Theatre promises to be great fun, what with dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pilobolus and Boston Ballet performing. However, I want to point out that tonight's lone "non-professional" group (they are clearly not mere amateurs) are from Boston Arts Academy (you know, right over by Fenway Park) And they are not slouches, just check out the photo above. That's right, Bostonians, the amazing leaps in this photo were leaped by kids from your town! Very cool.

And then there's tomorrow.

Hilary Hahn and Chenery Middle School, BFA

Violinist Hilary Hahn at Chenery Middle School in 2004

I looked on Hilary Hahn's web site to see if the student essays from her 2004 visit to Chenery Middle School in Belmont, Mass, (a visit arranged by the Celebrity Series' Arts, Education and Community Program, thank you) were still there, and lo and behold, they are! And they are as charming, and as ridiculously mature as I remembered. Here's a bit from Juliette, age 12 (she must be 14 now):

"I find that music - any music - is the key to something, be it a memory, relaxation, or a state of mind. Different music opens the door to a different emotion or time, just as a smell does: maple sugar will always remind me of my birthday, and wood smoke will always make me think of winter. Not only do smells trigger memories, but sound makes you recall certain times, as well. Whether the sound is music or the sound of raindrops on a window pane, it triggers memories as well as, if not better than, a smell. Music does this best for me. My grandfather died three years ago, and there is one song by Mark Erelli that always makes me think of him, and sometimes makes me cry, whenever I hear it."

Hilary Hahn returns to Jordan Hall January 12.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Jazz Week

It's official, The Honorable Thomas M. Menino, mayor of our fair city, has proclaimed the week of April 21-29 to be Jazz Week in the City of Boston. The good people at JazzBoston (with whom I have some involvement, you should know) are behind Jazz Week. I don't think anything is posted, yet, but visit their web site as info will be available there as things develop.

The Celebrity Series, for this is the Celebrity Series blog, after all, are not presenting any specifically jazz-related performances during jazz week (we book very far in advance, don't you know), though you can hardly call Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater unrelated to jazz...

Speaking of our mayor, he will be in host mode for the opening event of Dance Across the City tomorrow night at The Strand Theatre.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Program notes for Hilary Hahn's January 12 recital

Violinist Hilary Hahn brings a program of Leos Janáček, Mozart, Giuseppe Tartini, Eugene Ysaÿe, and Beethoven. You can read Eric Bromberger's program notes here.

Martin Sherman on "Rose"

Playwright Martin Sherman

Writer Don Shewey has an immense and wonderful library of his articles on his web site, including an interview from The New York Times with playwright Martin Sherman. Sherman is perhaps best known as the author of the play Bent, which portrays the persecution of homosexuals in Hitler's Germany. But he is also the author of Rose, which portrays "the restless journey of a 20th century Jewish life." That life is Rose's, the only character in the play, an 80 year-old woman who never rises from her park bench throughout, but rivets as she recounts her remarkable life (Olympia Dukakis is performing Rose for the Celebrity Series January 16-21). Here is an excerpt of Martin Sherman: Dramatizing a Century of Jewish Memories:

"'Rose' arose from a burst of millennial fever on the playwright’s part. 'I wanted to tell the full story of this woman’s life,' said Mr. Sherman over Portobello mushrooms at a kosher French bistro in Times Square. 'I wanted to present the experience of what it was like being a European Jew in this century. How else are you going to do it? Write a play that begins when she’s 20 and ends when she’s 80? You’d need three different actresses, and a cast of 400, and some kind of spectacle. It would be too overwhelming."

Olympia Dukakis as Rose

The selection of Olympia Dukakis to play Rose was based on a longstanding familiarity with her work:

"'I had seen her onstage a great deal because when I was a freshman at Boston University, she was a graduate student,' said Sherman. 'I was the chorus to her Clytemnestra in ‘Agamemnon.’ So I’ve been seeing her since I was 17.' The performance that stands out most for him, though, is Ms. Dukakis’ turn as Mrs. Madrigal in the PBS series based on Armistead Maupin’s 'Tales of the City,' which he calls 'one of the most beautiful and nuanced I’ve ever seen anywhere.'"

Read all of Martin Sherman: Dramatizing a Century of Jewish Memories