Thursday, May 31, 2007

They love us, they really love us!

Cecilia Bartoli

American Public Media's Performance Today can't get enough of the Celebrity Series, apparently, and who can blame them? We're swell.

Today (May 31, 2007) and tomorrow (June 1, 2007) Performance Today broadcasts will air selections from the Celebrity Series performance by the Australian Chamber Orchestra from this past April 22. Today's broadcast will feature Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, Opus 70, and on Friday, the encore performance of William Walton's Allegro molto from Sonata for Strings (arranged from the String Quartet No. 2).

On Monday Performance Today will feature Cecilia Bartoli performing Handel from her October 23, 2005 Celebrity Series performance.

American Public Media's Performance Today reaches over 1.4 million listeners each week on 250 member radio stations around the US. The program is available for on-demand listening on their website,, for seven days from the date of broadcast.

OK, so these broadcasts probably aren't a good measure of Performance Today's love of the Celebrity Series. It just might have something to do with the caliber of performer we present. No matter, we are gratified even by the reflected attention. I'll bet the performers are, too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Paul Taylor on morale

"Sometimes I think a company's morale is more important than the choreography."

Choreographer Paul Taylor, from an interview with Jeffrey Brown on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer (2007).

Friday, May 25, 2007

The top 53 classical music blogs

Scott Spiegelberg, author of the blog Musical Perceptions, has published a list of the top 53 classical music blogs (50 plus ties) according to Technorati.

This blog does not make the cut, perhaps because of its multi-genre performing arts focus, perhaps from some other's the monkey, isn't it?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Globe's Eichler on BMOP

Gil Scott-Heron

Jeremy Eichler's review of Saturday evening's Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert begins with a reference to Gil Scott-Heron's famous screed from 1970, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. After reading the entry I first congratulated myself ridiculously for getting the reference, and then thought what a good decision The Globe made in hiring this remarkable critic (and soon to be Dad). I'm not sure just whom I should be congratulating for pulling the trigger on his hire, so I'll throw my thoughts up here and hope that someone is vain enough to Google their professional decisions in search of my validation.

Exhibit A

Gil Scott-Heron, excerpt from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live."

Exhibit B

Jeremy Eichler, from Maestro, is that a DJ with your orchestra? (Note: Neither Mr. Eichler, nor any of the Globe writers, write their own headlines. Just thought you should know, since I'm truly interested in having you visit these links...):

"The revolution in the idea of what an orchestra can be -- from a collective instrument designed for the traditional symphonic repertoire, into an omnivorous agent of the new -- has been underway for well over a decade now, even if it has not been widely televised."

There is also this from the same review:

"Under the poised direction of conductor Gil Rose, BMOP sounded full and fearless throughout the evening. This protean ensemble made sharing the stage with drum kits and electric guitars seem perfectly natural. For these fine players, it probably is."

Read all of Maestro, is that a DJ with your orchestra?

Last, but by no means least, Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky has posted some photos from the evening on his web site.

Globe and Herald preview BMOP

Gil Rose and DJ Spooky rehearse Anthony DeRitis' Devolution on Friday, May 18 at Sanders Theatre while James Otis looms in the foreground (full disclosure: in case it isn't obvious...this photo was taken by yours truly, not by a Globe or Herald pro)

The concert is over now, but the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's Saturday night performance at Sanders Theatre, part of our Boston Marquee series, got quite a bit of attention (deservedly so, of course) from local media, including Boston's two major daily newspapers (which two are the "major" daily newspapers, you ask, knowing there are several Boston papers issued daily? The answer is: the ones with their own zip codes are the majors, ok?).

The Boston Globe weighed in with Matthew Guerrieri's Roll Over Beethoven from page one of Friday's Living/Arts section. Matthew followed up, admirably and typically, on his blog, Soho the Dog with a few bits that ended up on the cutting room floor. I love that he does this. Why should those tasty bits of interview wisdom end up as butcher's leftovers to be made into journalistic scrapple, or worse, not made into anything. Serve while fresh, I say.

Keith Powers was next with his Boston Herald entry on Saturday, Modern orchestra blooms with Rose. Considering this paper's troubles of late, the effort was especially noteworthy. Kudos.

Cannonball Adderly once famously said of (some) New York jazz audiences, "You get a lot of people that are supposed to be hip, and they act like they're supposed to be hip, which makes a difference." Cannonball eventually found his really hip New York audience at a matinee performance at New York's Village Vanguard, and while recording there, told the house, "Hipness is not a state of mind, it's a fact of life. You don't decide to be hip, it just happens that way." With our Boston Marquee performance by BMOP, the Celebrity Series skipped the trial and error and managed to find something authentically hip. "Hip" in the sense that the event was authentic and it mattered (don't ask me what that means exactly, the audience could feel it). The concert featured the world premiere of Evan Ziporyn's Celebrity Series commission, Hard Drive, the North American premiere of Steven Mackey's Dreamhouse, and Anthony DeRitis' collaboration with DJ Spooky, Devolution, so it was bound to be perceived by many as something that "mattered." In actual performance, not only was it supposed to matter, it did matter. More than a state of mind, it was a fact of life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Emanuel Ax on applause

"I really hope we can go back to the feeling that applause should be an emotional response to the music, rather than a regulated social duty."
                                                                     —Emanuel Ax

Life begins at 40,000

They say 40 is the new 20, but don't believe 'em (alright, 'twas I said it, but don't ruin the drape). This blog just enjoyed its 40,000th page view and you don't really want me to roll back my emotional clock 20,000 page views, do you? Besides, it would only make me insufferable:

"Ah, remember that 20,000th page view?" And with a wry shake of the head, "We were so young then, so very young..."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ballet Hispanico founder Tina Ramirez takes The Proust Questionnaire

Tina Ramirez

Tina Ramirez, Artistic Director of Ballet Hispanico
takes The Proust Questionnaire (Celebrity Series Version)

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
Solitude.  Also, no aches and pains in my body.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 
Frustration.  When I am not getting work done.

What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m always on to the next thing.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My quick temper

What is your favorite occupation?

What is your favorite journey? 
On the ocean

Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?
Anna Karenina

What books are currently on your bedside table? 
Biography of Elia Kazan

Who are your favorite composers?
Bach, or whoever’s music my company is dancing to at that moment.

Who is your favorite performing artist? 
Gwen Verdon

What is it that you most dislike?
Bad taste

Which talent would you most like to have?

How would you like to die?
In bed

What is your motto?
Live and Let Live

Ballet Hispanico and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra come to Boston's Citi Shubert Theatre this Friday and Saturday May 18 & 19 for two performances of Palladium Nights. on Stokes in Sanders's Jan Nargi posted this review of Brian Stokes Mitchell's Sanders performance on Friday.

Boston has BMOP: it's good to be in Boston

That most ubiquitous of typefaces

This Saturday, Boston (ok, Cambridge) has the Boston Modern Orchestra Project at Sanders Theatre, with premieres of cutting-edge compositions by Evan Ziporyn and Steven Mackey, Anthony DeRitis' Dreamhouse with DJ Spooky, Synergy Vocals, Catch Electric Guitar Quartet and actor and vocal wild man Rinde Eckert, all wrapped up with a bow by BMOP's man of vision and humor, Gil Rose. In short, it's an orchestral concert of the highest order that wouldn't be out of place at a club in Central Square.

What about New York, you ask? Well, New York has 50 Years of Helvetica (you know, that most ubiquitous of typefaces?) at MOMA. Not to cast aspersions, but would you choose Helvetica? If so, I know a bus you can get on...

(Full disclosure, the Helvetica exhibition runs until March 31, 2008, so if you are as big a dweeb as I am and actually think the it sounds interesting, you have some time.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Globe reviews Emerson and Fleisher

Leon Fleisher: Elegant and inwardly focused

David Weininger reviewed the Emerson String Quartet with pianist Leon Fleisher at Jordan Hall on Saturday night for today's Boston Globe:

"Anyone who expected Fleisher's elegant and inwardly focused playing to cool the Emersons' fire was in for a surprise. Their reading of the expansive Quintet was a case of artists driving each other to continually up the dramatic ante. Tempos were often slower than usual, giving the music a grinding intensity that only seemed to ratchet up the tension."

Read Emerson crackles with intensity

Note: No need to write me or Mr. Weininger about his conflating Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer into "Eugene Setzer" in his review. David contacted me about it, so we are both well aware of the error. The Globe should be publishing a correction tomorrow.

Boston Globe reviews Brian Stokes Mitchell

Sanders Theatre: Well Tuned

Boston Globe freelance writer Linda Laban reviewed Brian Stokes Mitchell's Celebrity Series debut Friday night at Harvard's Sanders Theatre:

"On an impressive 'This Nearly Was Mine,' the slightly built Stokes Mitchell ditched the microphone to go 'unplugged.' Afterward he paid tribute to Sanders' beautiful acoustics. 'Rooms are tuned by people,' he declared after reeling off some of the figures who have graced its stage -- everyone from Martin Luther King to Hillary Clinton, he said. 'This room has been well tuned,' he purred. Beyond his terrific talent to interpret a song, that's Stokes Mitchell's appeal. A simple, warm human connection."

Complete Globe review of Brian Stokes Mitchell

BMOP concert boasts cast of thousands

Composer Evan Ziporyn, his Hard Drive will get its world premiere

Boston Modern Orchestra Project plays Sanders Theatre this Saturday evening and the concert, with so many living artists and composers involved, is beginning to take on the feel for me of one of those great '50s epic films, like The Ten Commandments or Lawrence of Arabia. I mean this in the best sense, of course.

The program includes a world premiere, commissioned by the Celebrity Series (Evan Ziporyn's Hard Drive), a North American premiere (Steven Mackey's Dreamhouse), Concerto for DJ and Orchestra by composer Anthony DeRitis, performances by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Actor/vocalist Rinde Eckert, Synergy Vocals and the Catch Electric Guitar Quartet, all under the baton of conductor Gil Rose. There is a lot to know about a performance like this and so I have arranged this little link farm to help you, gentle reader, to get your pretty little head around our extravaganza.

Program notes on the Celebrity Series concert by Robert Kirzinger

Program notes on Dreamhouse by Steven Mackey

Steven Mackey interview from Composition (the short, teaser version for non-subscribers)

Steven Mackey's web site

Anthony DeRitis' Devolution page

Boston Modern Orchestra Project's web site

Gil Rose's web site

Paul Miller, a.k.a., DJ Spooky, that subliminal kid web site

Evan Ziporyn's web site

Evan Ziporyn's web page at M.I.T. (features eight .mp3 files of Ziporyn's works)

Evan Ziporyn on Art of the States (features two .ram files of Ziporyn's works)

Rinde Eckert's web site

Synergy Vocals' web site

Catch Electric Guitar Quartet page at

Evan Ziporyn will be interviewed Tuesday, May 15 at 3:00 pm on The New Edge with Ken Field on WMBR radio 88.1 FM, WMBR web site with hi, medium and lo streaming links

Link to buy tickets to the May 19 Sanders Theatre concert (this one is my favorite...har)

Emerson String Quartet with Leon Fleisher encore

Following their concert of Brahms, Bartok, and Brahms again, The Emerson String Quartet and pianist Leon Fleisher played the Andante from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414.

Brian Stokes Mitchell playlist

Ezio Pinza

Brian Stokes Mitchell sang up a storm at Sanders Theatre on Friday night. He showed his remarkable vocal and stylistic (not to mention acting) range throughout, though my guess is he would have had the audience in the palm of his hand even had he chosen to sing nursery rhymes with his mouth full of sunflower seeds.

My favorite juxtaposition of styles was the transition from the full-bore Some Enchanted Evening a la the great Ezio Pinza (looking slick, above), to a finger snapping take on The Best Is Yet to Come in which he nailed Tony Bennet's (1962) delivery of the song's title: The-BEST-Is-YET-to-COME-and-BABE-won't-it-be-fiiine....It takes chops to negotiate that turn, brothah.

Here is his set list, imperfectly annotated by yours truly:

Some Enchanted Evening (from South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein)
The Best is Yet to Come (Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)
Wheels of a Dream (Composer, Stephen Flaherty)
Love for Sale (Composer, Cole Porter)
So in Love (Composer, Cole Porter, from Kiss Me, Kate)
This Nearly Was Mine (from South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein)
I Was There
Bein' Green/Hooray for Tom (Yes, that Bein' Green, written by Joe Raposo)
New Words
'30s and '40s medley

Some Other Time (Composer, Leonard Bernstein, from On The Town)
The Impossible Dream (Music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion)
How Long Has This Been Going On? (George and Ira Gershwin)

Three final notes:

1) How Long Has This Been Going On? is humorous choice for a closer, but it would be a funnier third encore if the show was longer than a perfectly reasonable, but hardly lengthy 90 minutes. "How Long Has This Been Going On? Since 8 o'clock, why?" It's not like I want him to wear out his voice, or anything, I'm just sayin'.

2) Our crack programming staff tells me Mr. Mitchell's next gig is/was a fundraiser for his son's preschool. Aaww. For the playlist, I recommend keeping The Best Is Yet to Come, though I might reconsider Love for Sale.

3) The Celebrity Series presented Ezio Pinza at Symphony Hall four times back in the '40s. I wonder if he ever sang at a pre-school fundraiser...?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gil Rose takes our version of The Proust Questionnaire

Marcel Proust

In the interest of creating original content for the web we have developed our own - slightly different - version of the famous Proust Questionnaire. Boston Modern Orchestra Project conductor Gil Rose was gracious enough to answer our version of the Proust Questionnaire recently. What is The Proust Questionnaire, you ask?


The young Marcel Proust was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he is simply the most extraordinary person to respond to them. At the birthday party of Antoinette Felix-Faure, the 13-year-old Marcel was asked to answer the following questions in the birthday book, and here is a sample of what he said:

Marcel Proust's answers at age 13 in 1884:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To be separated from Mama

Where would you like to live?
In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater

Gil Rose

Gil Rose's answers in 2007:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Cocktail Hour

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
No Cocktail Hour

What is your most marked characteristic?
A tendency to make obscure but self-entertaining cultural references

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A tendency to overvalue dignity in my friends

What is your favorite occupation?
Cocktail Hour

What is your favorite journey?
Escaping from town (preferably to a cocktail hour)

Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?

What books are currently on your bedside table?
"The Aesthetics of Survival" by George Rochberg

Who are your favorite composers?
This is a closely guarded state secret

Who is your favorite performing artist?
Every soloist I ever worked with because I got to perform with them

What is it that you most dislike?

Which talent would you most like to have?
I would like to be able to juggle

How would you like to die?
In a dignified juggling accident

What is your motto?
I never want to belong to a club that will have me as its member.  (thanks Groucho)

Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project perform at Sanders Theatre on May 19.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On the Harlem Line with Rachmaninoff and The Babe

I visited Westchester County, New York this past weekend and on Sunday my brother and I made a trip to a graveyard. It was a nice day, what else were we going to do?

Along Grand Central Station's Metro-North Harlem Rail Line and the Taconic State Parkway in the vicinity of Valhalla there are a series of cemeteries - Kensico, Gate of Heaven, Mt. Eden, Mt. Pleasant, etc. - forming a sort of "cemetery row." We advanced a number of theories as to why there might be so many graveyards along this strip, but came to no conclusions. Regardless, these cemeteries are the final resting place of quite a few famous New Yorkers.

At Kensico Cemetery, high on a hill, across the street from the Actor's Fund obelisk, and surrounded by a hedge of tall yews, we found the final resting place of none other than composer, pianist and conductor, Sergei Rachmaninoff, his wife, Natalie, and their daughter, Princess Irina Volkonsky.

High on a hill, surrounded by a hedge of tall yews...

Mr. Rachmaninoff died in 1943, but not before he played Celebrity Series piano recitals in 1939, '40, '41, and '42 and at least one pre-Celebrity Series Aaron Richmond engagement in 1925. He did a few other notable things along the way that you also may be aware of...

Because of his history with the Celebrity Series, Rachmaninoff's grave was the perfect find for this blog, but in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that we didn't go to Kensico Cemetery looking for Sergei Rachmaninoff. Our goal was this marker down the street at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery:


We found The Babe, then went looking for Lou Gerhig at Kensico and found Harry Frazee (never heard of Frazee? follow the link). Mr. Frazee's grave was free of any evidence of vandalism (Still lost? see story), and he is no doubt resting more comfortably since 2004:


Frazee more or less brought us to Rachmaninoff and we have come full circle.

This Cemetery Row is quite an impressive strip of real estate. Kensico Cemetery alone is the eternal resting place of author and playwright Paddy Chayefsky, actor Danny Kaye, swing-era trombonist Tommy Dorsey, author Ayn Rand, baseball star Lou Gehrig, aviatrix Harriet Quimby, actress Billie Burke and her showman husband, Florenz Ziegfeld, composer Peter DeRose, soprano Geraldine Ferrar, radio announcer William B. Williams, and RCA Chairman David Sarnoff.

Don't worry I won't post all my vacation adventures like this...unless they have interesting cemeteries at the beach, of course.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Denizen: "A layered treat of sound, light, moving images"

Former Herald theatre critic Terry Byrne reviewed the world premiere performance of Kinodance's Denizen for the May 4 edition of The Boston Globe - here's a sample designed to tease you into reading the entire article, after which you will be ever on the lookout (as you should be) for future performances of Denizen and anything by Kinodance:

"In the opening scene of the world premiere of "Denizen," Kinodance Company's contribution to the Boston Cyberarts Festival, two dancers wander the stage moving in unison -- arching their backs, reaching up in supplication, spinning and searching for a place to rest. To the sound of a bouzouki playing in a mournful minor key, the fluid choreography is hauntingly beautiful, filled with wonder and longing."

Read A layered treat of sound, light, moving images

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Kinodance's Denizen: Half folk, half alien

Kinodance's Denizen at the Tsai Center, Denizen is an homage to Seasons (1975) a masterwork of the great reclusive Armenian avant-garde filmmaker Artavazd Peleshian

Kinodance, Boston's Alisa Cardone, Cyberarts, and the world premiere of Denizen received a collective profiling in today's Weekly Dig, courtesy of Rachael Rosner:

"Over the past decade, local movement artist Alissa Cardone has performed in grimy punk clubs, crawled through caves and tunnels, and joined a Butoh instruction program that also had her growing vegetables and raising chickens. Her latest project, Denizen, presented as part of the Cyberarts Festival, is no less bizarre or ambitious it's a live-action film project that had her traveling 5,000 miles across the globe to the stark countryside of Armenia."

Read all of Half-folk, half-alien Cyberarts extravaganza

Denizen runs tonight, May 2 at 7:30pm and tomorrow, May 3, at 8pm at the Tsai Performance Center right there on Commonwealth Avenue.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Evgeny Kissin: Tone, shaded to perfection

Evgeny Kissin

Pianist Evgeny Kissin's recital Sunday afternoon was his fifth for the Celebrity Series, and, judging by the audience response alone, his most successful. Mathew Guerrieri reviewed the performance for The Boston Globe, and Kissin's playing of Chopin's "Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante" drew this from the critic and author of the blog, Soho the Dog:

"As the ineffably limpid nocturne of the introduction gave way to a polonaise of increasingly giddy virtuosity, Kissin surmounted each hurdle with inexhaustible reserves of color and imagination, veering from a whisper to a roar in an instant, turning phrases with coy charm and deploying kaleidoscopic legerdemain with a magician's flair. It even hushed the audience."

Read all of Kissin plays with color and imagination from the Globe and Guerrieri's blog entry, Din and tonic, covering the part of his review that was cut for space. I applaud Guerrieri's use of the virtually free real estate available online to make all the points he wanted to make (of course I do). I hope he is rewarded for his efforts with readers making the leap from atom to byte.

The Bug: Steampunk Computer Mouse


Today's funhouse entry comes via (though I'm linking directly to the blog from which this thing crawled). Yes, it's a real functioning computer mouse, and there are other creations, too. Follow the link for story and pictures:

"Jake of All Trades's homebrew steampunk computer mouse comes complete with a little short story about how it came to be invented!"