Monday, April 30, 2007

Evgeny Kissin's encores

Evgeny Kissin's encores from yesterday's Celebrity Series recital at Symphony Hall were as follows:

Franz Liszt, Liebestraume - Nocturne No. 3

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Spinning Song

Georges Bizet, Seguedille from Carmen, arr. by Vladimir Horowitz

Globe and Herald review Ailey

My wife and I took the kids to yesterday's Sunday matinee of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a program that closed with Revelations. Any day you can take your children to see Revelations is a good day...

The Boston Globe (Karen Campbell) and The Boston Herald (Theodore Bale) reviewed opening night of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's run at Citi Wang Theatre for their Saturday editions.

A sample of Ms. Campbell's review:

"The Thursday night opening of the troupe's annual Celebrity Series visit marked the Boston company premiere of Tharp's classic, and the propulsive, whiplash tour de force is a terrific addition to the Ailey repertoire. It's an exuberant burst of energy bathed in gold, with dancers running, bounding, boxing, and cavorting like Olympic athletes in a prolonged victory dance."

Full text of A night of athleticism and beauty.

And a smidge of Theodore Bale's:

"It’s no surprise either that dancers in Ailey’s present-day company are quite capable with classical style. That might not have been the case in 1970, when American Ballet Theatre commissioned “The River” from Ailey to a score by Duke Ellington. The dance became a popular standby at ABT, with the “Vortex” solo (part six of the divertissement) even making its way into Herbert Ross’ epic tearjerker 'The Turning Point.'"

Full text of Ailey dance troupe spins diverse program.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich, 1927-2007

The great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich has died after a long illness. Read his New York Times obituary, and a bit of film/video of him playing Bach in 1962 from Youtube.

The Celebrity Series presented Mr. Rostropovich 4 times in recital ('67, '69, '71, and '81) and once as part of a benefit concert for the Andre Sakharov Archives in celebration of Brandeis University's 50th Anniversary at NEC's Jordan Hall in 1999. At the Brandeis event, Mr. Rostropovich played the Adagio from Schubert's String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, with The Lydian String Quartet and a set of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Weber and Mercello with pianist Ignat Solzhenitsyn. Lorraine Hunt (as she was still called) and Vladimir Spivakov were also on the bill.

UPDATE: From The Times (UK): Lord of the cello and citizen of the world receives final ovation

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lloyd Schwartz, the lost Australian Chamber Orchestra review

The Australian Chamber Orchestra

It took a little digging, but I finally came up with Lloyd Schwartz's complete Boston Phoenix column from this week. The print edition was edited and his review of our Australian Chamber Music concert (with cellist Pieter Wispelwey) didn't make the cut - except online. So after wandering around the Phoenix cyber-forest a bit (ok, a lot), I found it. Here's a clip before I give you the link:

"The ACO doesn’t limit itself to earlier music. The second half was devoted to Tchaikovsky’s large-scale Souvenir de Florence, a string-orchestra arrangement of the composer’s late string sextet. This got an exuberant performance, alternating between melancholy, very Russian folk music and scampering, will-o’-the-wisp evanescence, with one of Tchaikovsky’s prettiest tunes in the slow movement. Everywhere there’s lots of pizzicato. The Debussy encore, a transcription of the piano prelude La fille aux cheveux de lin (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”), ended with Tognetti’s tone disappearing into the stratosphere. Another transcription, a movement from William Walton’s String Sonata (which Tognetti informed us had its premiere in Perth), couldn’t have been a more energetic and energized conclusion."

The audience was thrilled to find they had a celebrity in the audience. As Lloyd describes:

"Also garnering enthusiastic applause was a member of the audience, soprano Dawn Upshaw, who’d had to cancel her February recital and couldn’t be rescheduled. She was introduced from the stage by Celebrity Series president and executive director Marty Jones, and she looked radiant. "

Lloyd Schwartz's complete ACO review (I've skipped ahead to page two for you)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Australian Chamber Orchestra reviewed by Boston Globe

David Perkins reviewed Sunday afternoon's performance by the Australian Chamber Orchestra with cellist Pieter Wispelwey for The Boston Globe:

"The afternoon's prize was, in fact, Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence" suite, written for a string sextet. When played by 18 strings, it becomes a spring torrent of feeling. There was some breathtaking ensemble playing here, as the strings passed along delicate figures, and their deep bowing created a blazing sun in the climactic moments. Among those who gave fine solo turns were violinist Tognetti, violist Carol Cook, and cellist Julian Thompson."

Read all of Australian orchestra outshines its guest

Monday, April 23, 2007

Australian Chamber Orchestra encores

The Australian Chamber Orchestra's matinee performance yesterday afternoon confirmed our memory of them as an energetic, crisp and altogether worthy ensemble (I say "our" because their was unanimity among staff attendees). Here are the encores performed:

Pieter Wisepelwey solo to close first half of program:

J.S. Bach, Prelude from Solo Cello Suite No. 3 in G Major

Following regular program:

Debussy, Girl with the Flaxen Hair from Preludes, Book 1, No. 8
(arr. Tognetti)

William Walton
Allegro molto from Sonata for Strings (arranged from the String Quartet No. 2

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kitty Carlisle Hart, 1910-2007

Kitty Carlisle Hart (right) with Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera

Actress and arts advocate Kitty Carlisle Hart has died at 96 years of age. Like many of my generation, I remember her from the second round of the television show, To Tell the Truth - the daytime version. But there was much, much more to her remarkable life than television, of course. Here is an excerpt of her obituary from The New York Times:

"Kitty Carlisle Hart, who began her career in the theater in a 1932 musical comedy revue on Broadway, acted in films and opera and was still singing on the stage, into her 10th decade, as recently as last fall, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 96. The cause was heart failure, her daughter, Catherine Hart, said. Outgoing and energetic, Miss Carlisle became in her middle years a visible advocate of the arts, lobbying the New York State Legislature and the United States Congress for funding. For 20 years, first as a member and later as chairman of the New York Council on the Arts, she crisscrossed the state to support rural string quartets, small theater groups and inner-city dance troupes."

Read full text of Kitty Carlisle Hart's New York Times obituary

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This weather, too, shall pass...

Spring is on the way...though it will probably jump right into summer

When it comes to this current bout of New England weather, it is important to remember that this too shall pass...

In the meantime, might I suggest going indoors this Saturday for Standing O!? It's going to be a dilly of a party.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Karita Mattila recital reviewed by Globe and

Comfortable shoes...

Following her recital on friday, Karita Mattila, made herself available for a considerable line of fans and seemed to delight in talking with them all. Her advice to a young singer was among the many snippets of conversation I caught. She related hearing a famous soprano asked the same question on the radio when she was 19 and she was dismayed to hear the singer tell her interviewer that singers should always wear comfortable shoes. "I was 19 and disappointed, but she was right."

Jeremy Eichler reviewed Ms. Mattla's recital for The Boston Globe: From Mattila: rare Finns, sketches of Spain:

"...the highlight of the first half was a set of works by four rarely heard Finnish composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Toivo Kuula, Erkki Melartin, Oskar Merikanto, and Leevi Madetoja. The songs, broadly speaking, were of a late-Romantic flavoring but with distinctive modal touches, and two works referenced the joy conjured by the passage of the long winter into spring. One of them was Merikanto's "When the Sun Shines," which Mattila opened in gloriously full voice, emitting what felt like a brilliant flash of white light."

And Sandy McDonald reviewed the recital for

"If your experience of Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has been strictly aural to date, her stage presence could come as a surprise. She’s cute and strong - like a cross between a kewpie doll and a Valkyrie, with wide-set Garbo eyebrows and shoulders to match. At her Bank of American Celebrity Series solo recital on April 13, Mattila showed herself to be a supple, nuanced singer with astonishing staying power."

Karita Mattila encores

Karita Mattila brought a lot of charisma to her Jordan Hall recital on Friday night. She is the sort of performer that clearly engenders great loyalty - ticket holders flew in from as far away as Kansas City and San Francisco for the recital. Mattila didn't disappoint them.

Here three encores, delivered with much flair for the enraptured audience were (using the English translations):

1. Dvorak, "Songs My Mother Taught Me," from Gypsy Songs

2. Sibelius, "Spring is Flying"

3. Gershwin, "The Man I Love"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mark Morris pays a visit to Wall Street

Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange this morning

I just thought a little follow up was in order: Mark Morris and Group really did ring the bell this morning. And to answer the question I know you are asking yourself: the Dow finished up over 68 points, the S&P 500 was up nearly 9 points, and the NASDAQ was up 21 points.

I'm just saying.

Next week: Paul Taylor?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at 84. I'm far too challenged (on several levels) by the prospect of comment to offer anything original. I did rather like this bit at the end of the MSNBC article:

"Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

"'We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard ... and too damn cheap,' he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures."

Here's full text of the MSNBC obit

Here are some other offerings:

BBC News

The New York Times

The Indianapolis Star

Houston Chronicle

Guardian (UK)

Reuters Canada

Editor & Publisher
(headline for this short article reads: Kurt Vonnegut - Former Police Reporter - Dies at 84..."so it goes," indeed)

The Australian

Standing O!...coming April 21

Stand up and cheer at Standing O! Proceeds will help the Celebrity Series continue to bring the wonder of the performing arts to thousands of individuals through its Arts, Education and Community Program.

Parking is included for all attending!

Get your ENCORE Party tickets now: Buy online
or Call CelebrityCharge: 617-482-6661 (Mon-Fri, 10-4)

APPLAUSE Gala, 6 - 8PM - $500 (includes Encore Party), for more information call 617-598-3220

Get more details on Standing O!

OK, open bar for the first hour, fabulous performers like Snappy Dance Theater, The Firebird Ensemble and violinist Stefan Jackiw, plus salsa dance lessons, plus you get to be among the very first to hear who we're bringing to Boston in 2007-2008...and did I mention the FREE PARKING?

You really don't want to miss this . . . I'm just sayin'.

Morris and MMDG to ring bell

Mark Morris and group will start the trading

This just in from the Mark Morris Dance Group's outstanding publicist, William Murray:

"Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group will ring the opening bell to begin the trading day at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Euronext tomorrow, Thursday, April 12 at 9:30am (EDT). The proceedings can be viewed on CNBC and Bloomberg News.

Photo Desks: Pictures of the NYSE opening bell are serviced by AP, Reuters and Bloomberg News."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Three strings, yer out!

In honor of the Red Sox 2007 home opener (like I need an excuse to write about that) and because this blog has become a regular balm for me, Soho the Dog has posed the inevitable question:

What if orchestras were run more like baseball teams?

On press today...

Spending the day in lovely Canton, Mass. looking at proofs of our 2007-2008 season brochure. Quite a season we have lined up, I must say. But no, I won't reveal the artists coming. You can find out April 21 at Standing O! when all will be revealed...

Friday, April 6, 2007

Bobby McFerrin on Voicestra

Bobby McFerrin

Here is vocal wizard Bobby McFerrin's description of the 12-piece improvisational vocal ensemble, Voicestra, joining him for his April 14 appearance at Symphony Hall. We're publishing it in the concert program along with the bios of all the singers in the group.

Bobby McFerrin:

My favorite, most inspiring times in concert have always been the impromptu moments on stage when the audience participates. At some point, I began to realize that I wanted to work with other singers, and the idea for Voicestra seemed to develop from these spontaneous group efforts in my performances.

Voicestra is a 12-piece ensemble, and the music we sing encompasses all kinds of materials: world music, African chants, Indian ragas, storytelling, new songs based on the alphabet, and contemporary vocal compositions.  We released the album "Circlesongs" in 1997 on Sony Classical and it remains one of my favorite recordings.

Circlesongs are all improvisational. It comes from the notion that villages in Africa could get together and the Shaman would come up with something to celebrate and he would give out parts for them to sing.  This was affirmed a little bit by a woman from Africa who I met in Vienna one year, who was traveling with a group who had come directly from a village in Africa. She didn’t speak a word of English but she did speak French. Voicestra had just done this concert and backstage, when we came out, she started speaking to me in French. We had someone interpreting and she said ‘This is just like home. This is exactly what we would do in my village. The chief would give us a part to sing and this would be the song.'

My belief is that this is the most accessible way of people getting together who don’t know each other. It’s a primal singing without words that seems to be genetically transmitted to my bones and that goes directly to my spirit. One of the simplest forms of prayer and meditation is through chanting, and singing in community is extremely powerful. Gathering people in a space and making them sing instantly puts down all barriers and destroys all differences in creed, gender, and race.

So this is what Voicestra still does now. We came from doing a heavily produced show to just a community of singers, twelve of us. And me standing in the middle. And I start to sing and I find something and I give out the part to an individual singer for then to sing, to riff on, to chant, and then it changes; it can change, it can shift, it can last one minute to one hundred and one minutes. You understand why tribes in Africa, when they celebrate and dance, can go for hours and hours: the power of the drum, the beat, how it goes on and on, like your heartbeat. It’s relentless. It keeps shifting and going and it’s essential; and it’s all improvised, every last bit of it.

Bobby McFerrin Symphony Hall performance page

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Dissing Liszt

It seems like this week is all gray skies, Schilling's Opening Day, and tax season. Well, when I need something to pick me up I turn to Nicolas Slonimsky's delightful Lexicon of Musical Invective, Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time and give myself a dose of the ridiculous. Today, the book fell open to Franz Liszt. Here's a double-barreled blast of a quote aimed at the famed pianist, composer and lady's man. It's virtually guaranteed to raise a smile:

"The worst of all, and positively devilish, was the Mephisto Waltz. . . .Such music is simply diabolical, and shuts out every ray of light or heaven from whence music sprang."
- from Dwight's Journal of Music, Boston, Mass., November 5, 1870

Want more? Here you go:

"Liszt's orchestral music is an insult to art. It is gaudy musical harlotry, savage and incoherent bellowings."
- from Boston Gazette, quoted in Dexter Smith's Paper, April 1872

Nice, eh? And both from Boston, no less.

There should be a band called Gaudy Musical Harlotry. OK, maybe not, but it should at least be a section in your local record store (well, back when there were record stores).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Globe reviews DBR & THE MISSION

Matthew Guerreri's review of DBR & THE MISSION is in today's Globe. Enjoy this bit:

"The best revealed unexpected affinities. A bass line borrowed from Rachmaninoff's famous C-sharp minor Prelude established a menacing mood that soon flowered into a sunny Steely Dan jazz-rock epiphany. A couple of heavy-metal-flavored movements thrashed well, with violent bowing that recalled Bartók and Shostakovich."

Read all of He takes a stand between classic and pop.

Monday, April 2, 2007

DBR at Hibernian Hall

Violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain spent several days in Boston prior to his Saturday night concert at Berklee Performance Center. One of his stops was Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, where he gave a lecture/demonstration at the Roxbury Center for the Arts. Here are a few shots from that evening:




DBR firsts


Saturday evening's performance by DBR & THE MISSION yielded many new things, including a most welcome surprise in the addition to the program of the world premiere of Want, by MISSION keyboardist Wynne Bennet.

Among the other firsts on the program was the first incidence of heavy metal style headbanging (three violinists in unison, hair flying) at a Celebrity Series performance that I know of (though perhaps longtime subscribers can remember some rather strange heavy metal evening with, say, Jaime Laredo, of which I'm unaware). I also can't recall ever having heard a wah-wah pedal used either at a Celebrity Series performance or by a violinist (though I wouldn't put it past Nigel Kennedy), or heard any reference, much less an extensive one, to Jimi Hendrix's famous Woodstock rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner (cellist Matt Haimovitz has played the solo, but not on our stage).

All in all, a remarkable and unusual evening. The Boston Globe attended, I'll post the review when it shows up online (if it shows up online, I never could find that Cirque Eloize review...).