Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheese or Corn?


You may have noticed a new name attached to the ol' Celebrity Series Blog of late. The
Boston Globe's Geoff Edgers (of The
fame) was the first to call me on the blog's lack of a
suitably literary moniker. I thought about it for awhile, then I stopped
thinking about it and a name just presented itself (ok, lots of names presented
themselves, but I succombed to reasonableness).

Aisle Be Seeing
. Hmm, I thought, it's in English, it has pun appeal, but what I can't
decide is . . . whether the name Aisle Be Seeing You is cheesy or corny.

Any thoughts?

Gradimir Pankov: Changing Les Ballets

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in Ohad Naharin's Minus One

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal artistic director, Gradimir Pankov, has been updating this venerable Canadian institution since he tooks the reins in 2000, hiring a bevy of new dancers and eschewing the company's older repertoire for newer works. The effect has been a revitalization of the company (not that previous directors did not make significant contributions, of course). Back in April, Laura Bleiberg of the Orange County Register previewed the Company's enagagement at the Irvine Barclay Theatre:

"Each successive artistic director put his or her stamp on the company. Its current director, Gradimir Pankov, certainly has done that. Instead of building on the repertory of the past, Pankov has tossed out much of it, adding works by young Europeans, such as Belgian Stijn Celis and Didy Veldman of Holland (whose ballets were featured in the fall 2006 engagement in Los Angeles)."

Pankov on his changes to the repertory:

"'If we want to bring the company to other dimensions, we have to renew the repertory to make the repertory unique and put the company in the position where the company cannot be compared to another one,' said Pankov, who was born in Macedonia in the former Yugoslavia."

Read all of A Different Dimension.

The 50 year-old Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal makes its Boston debut (!) March 28-30 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WGBH gets a new piano and so much more


WGBH's new home

The new WGBH Educational Foundation complex in Brighton is impressive in scale, scope, detail, color, and location...in almost every way one can imagine (Does it sound like someone got a tour?). Right down to the cafeteria(s). Right down to the new radio studio(s). Right down to that radio sudio's new piano...

Read the story of WGBH's new Hamburg Steinway piano on The Collaborative Piano Blog.

See the photos of its arrival the new studios on flikr.

It's amazing, all right. But it's no less than the home WGBH deserves.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Jeremy Denk's Mad Libs Classical Concert Review

Some funny people are fine musicians. Some fine musicians are also funny. I don't know which best describes pianist/blogger/funny guy Jeremy Denk (Rob Kapilow's What Makes It Great? May 10), but his Mad Libs Classical Concert Review post is, as they say here in New England, wicked funny.

And Denk's post is already inspiring other humorists, such as M.C. of The Standing Room.

El Scream.

Going up to Harlem to Learn from James P. Johnson

Garrison Keillor reviewed Wilfred Sheed's new book on George Gershwin, The House That George Built, With a Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty, for the July 22 New York Times Book Review. Keillor has praise for Sheed's prose, among other aspects of the book, but I was struck by Keillor's writing about music in his review. As you may have heard, Mr. Keillor has a way with words himself:

"George Gershwin is the main man, though Sheed traces the jazz song back to 1914 and Kern’s “They Didn’t Believe Me” (“And when I told them how beautiful you are, they didn’t believe me”), not some jiggly novelty tune but elegant, swingy, “a perfect loosey-goosey, syncopate-me-if-you-care, a relaxed and smiling American asterisk-jazz song.” Gershwin is the president of the fraternity, the all-American golden boy, hyperactive, booming with self-confidence, who went up to Harlem to learn from James P. Johnson and Willie (the Lion) Smith and whose ascent was swift (“no songwriter ever wasted less time reaching his prime”) and who, when he reached the top, was openhearted and went out of his way to praise and encourage his brethren."

Read Garrison Keillor's complete review.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Heather In The Wings

Charles Ives? Ned Rorem? William Bolcom, Chopin and Meredith Monk? saxophones? baseball? Where has In the Wings been all my blog reading life? Heather Heise writes about music in Oakland, California.

Yet another tip of the mouse to Terry Teachout.

Whatever Happened to Regional Critics?


Arts critic Terry Teachout (the honorable and venerable) had this to say in a recent, typically spot-on Wall Street Journal column (from July 7) about the future of arts criticism:

"To be sure, it's hard for medium-size regional newspapers to attract serious critics, but it can be done. Indeed, a well-edited regional paper is often the best possible place for an up-and-coming young critic to learn his trade. I got my start reviewing second-string classical concerts for the Kansas City Star 30 years ago. Now that such entry-level jobs are drying up, I fear for the future of arts journalism in America.

Any artist who's been side-swiped by a lame-brained critic will doubtless be tempted to cheer this news. Before such aggrieved folk break out the Dom Perignon, though, they should pay heed to the warning of Virgil Thomson, who dominated American music criticism in the '40s and '50s: 'Perhaps criticism is useless. Certainly it is often inefficient. But it is the only antidote we have to paid publicity.' If you think you can do without that antidote, more power to you -- but you'd better be prepared to buy a lot of ads."

Read all of Whatever Happened to Regional Critics?

You can also read much more of Terry's work at Terryteachout.com

Thanks to The Rest is Noise for the heads up.

Kiri Te Kanawa announces farewell recital program

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has filled us in on her October 14 Farewell Recital program with pianist Warren Jones. She will sing selections by Mozart, Richard Strauss, Duparc, Poulenc, Jake Heggie, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, and Puccini. Dame Kiri will take the Symphony Hall stage at 5pm. The complete program can be found here.

One last time...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Radio Boston

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls . . . welcome WBUR's Radio Boston.

Seán Curran gets a gig at the opera


Sean Curran rocks out at Dance Across the City in 2005

Choreographer Seán Curran isn't sitting at home on the sofa waiting for his Celebrity Series gig in October. Curran has been frying big fish. Specifically, a fish called choreographing the Sante Fe Opera production of Richard Strauss' Daphne. He gets a smidge of a mention in a review from The Santa Fe Reporter, "Seán Curran choreographs his dozen skillful dancers with appropriate Bacchic
frenzy," but I'll bet there will be more talk about this bend in Curran's road.

Seán Curran brings his Seán Curran Company to the Tsai Performance Center October 26-28, an engagement that will include the world premiere of Curran's Social Discourse.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Peter Knapp passes at 75

Christa and Peter Knapp

Peter Knapp, the longtime music critic for The Patriot Ledger newspaper has died and I'm one of many who will miss him. Peter's list of accomplishments and interests is longer than I realized. Did any of us who talked to Peter at concerts know about his work on nuclear nonproliferation? None of it surprises me, but I wish I could ask Peter about it all now. When he was alive, he seemed to prefer talking about his children to talking about himself.

I will miss talking with Peter and his wife, Christa, at performances. I will miss reading Peter's reviews (he was a gentleman, but he didn't pull his punches in print, I can assure you). I will miss his annual letter listing the concerts he intended to review. I will miss our occasional phone conversations and his gentlemanly demeanor. He was a dear man who loved music and Boston's music scene is the poorer for his passing.

I recommend J.M. Lawrence's obituary on Peter Knapp for The Boston Globe as a tiny window into a life well lived.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Alisa Weilerstein, young, but not a prodigy


Alisa Weilerstein

She's young, accomplished, whip-smart and attractive, so why don't we hate her? A good question, until you hear her play her cello. J. Mark Scearce has written a brief Portland Phoenix feature on the ridiculously talented Weilerstein:

"Born in 1982, here she is, an Angel/EMI Classics international recording
artist, Columbia University dorm mate with former teen actress Julia Stiles, and
has been playing the cello 'seriously' since she was out of diapers. And
Weilerstein gets peeved by the word prodigy? Go figure.

As her Columbia College magazine quotes her, 'she prefers the word
‘precocious.’ ' Okay."

In support of Weilerstein's October 16 performance in Portland, Maine, Mr. Scearce unfurls a surprising amount of data in a short space on the precocious cellist. For example:

"Obsessed with the details of the post-teen life, the Columbia University Web
site reveals Weilerstein’s nickname ('Ali'), documents her first cello from her
grandmother (a toothbrush stuck in the bottom of a Rice Krispies box at age
two), and even how she paid her hefty Columbia tuition (most of an Avery Fisher
Career Grant)."

Well, we don't know about all that, but we know Weilerstein is more than good enough to appear on our humble little series. Our concert will take place on Sunday, May 4 at Jordan Hall. Don't worry, your patience will be rewarded.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Celebrity Series Home Companion

Good radio is good radio (someone said once, perhaps while drunk), but great radio deserves a rebroadcast. A Prairie Home Companion is giving a second life to an April 2005 broadcast from New York's Town Hall this weekend (WGBH 89.7 FM: July 14, 6pm & July 15 at 12pm). The reason why this bears mentioning, naturally, is that the broadcast features several Celebrity Series alumni, veterans of no less than 12 individual Series performances, when you add them all up. Garrison Keillor, the host, made his Series debut in February of this year, where he knocked 'em dead at Symphony Hall then calmly returned to his hotel room to write his column (I still can't get over that: workday over? go to your other job). ON this weekend's broadcast, soprano Renee Fleming ('99, '01, '05) will look back at her high school musical debut in The Sound of Music and pianist Andre Watts ('70, '72, '85, '86, '87, '95, '98, '04) will play Ravel.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Traveling to outer space with Tiempo Libre

They want the whole world to dance the timba

Tiempo Libre is a wild ride. Here is a taste of an interview Jorge Gomez, music director of the Miami-based group, gave to Panatagraph.com, of Bloomington, Illinois:

"[Jorge] Gomez, 35, describes the Tiempo Libre sound as a spicy salsa that combines elements of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban and Afro-Cuban music. It is then fortified by the rhythmic tradition of the timba sound, the inherently Cuban subdivision of salsa characterized by its more aggressive beat.

To convey that ramped-up approach, Gomez promises that Tiempo Libre is every bit as visual a stage experience as it is an aural one.

'We jump,' he says.

'We dance,' he promises.

'We travel to outer space,' he swears.

Figuratively speaking, of course?

Gomez laughs. But he doesn't say 'Yes.'"

Read the complete interview here.

If you haven't already figured it out, "Tiempo Libre" is Spanish for "free time," which is what you need to make some of when Tiempo Libre makes their Celebrity Series debut at the Berklee Performance Center on April 12. By the way, you can subscribe to the Celebrity Series online right now or you can buy individual tickets to Tiempo Libre and other trips to outer space starting September 10.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nose ring, bare feet, great voice

The remarkable Measha Brueggergosman

Then there's the big hair, that tongue-twister of a surname . . . there is much about Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman that could distract from her beautiful voice and unusually varied recital programs. She is clearly one of a kind. But don't let yourself be so distracted by the People Magazine elements of her biography that you miss the real story, she is a tremendous young singer who puts an unusual amount of thought into how and what she sings (she frequently changes her programs to fit each city in which she performs). Playbill Arts has published a short profile (one of many to come, no doubt) on the soprano who will make her Boston debut in recital on Saturday, November 10 at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Audra lands TV gig

This just in: soprano Audra McDonald has landed the role of Dr. Naomi Bennett (Dr. Addison Montgomery's college friend) on the new Grey's Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice (read the story on the Showtracker blog from the LA Times).

You, of course, can see and hear the lovely and talented Ms. McDonald in the more intimate environs of Cambridge's Sanders Theatre on May 16.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Beverly Sills, 1929-2007

Beverly Sills (left, oops, right!) singing a blues duet with Carol Burnett

You have probably heard or read the news elsewhere that the great soprano Beverly Sills has died. As someone whose primary image of Ms. Sills outside of her recordings and her work as an arts administrator are her appearances as fill-in host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, I can't add much to the coverage and memorials. However, I can't let the passing of someone so important go unacknowledged. Here are some links to the best of the coverage I have come across:

New York Times: Beverly Sills, All-American Diva, Is Dead at 78 (Anthony Tommasini)

New York Times: Beverly Sills, An Appraisal (Anthony Tommasini)

Baltimore Sun: Sills Opened World of Opera (Tim Smith)

Carol Burnett Remembers Friend Beverly Sills (NPR)

Ms. Sills gave three recitals for the Celebrity Series during her career: October 30, 1970; April 15, 1973; and February 24, 1976, all at Symphony Hall.

Cherryholmes' new CD at #1

The Cherryholmes family has a remarkable story, and one of the best summaries of it that I have come across is on the Country Music Television web site (here). The self-taught family bluegrass band from Bell, California (now from The Road) has just released their second CD, Cherryholmes II: Black & White, now finishing its second week atop the Billboard Bluegrass Chart.

The Celebrity Series of Boston is presenting its first ever bluegrass artist (though the Chieftains are often in the neighborhood) this season in Cherryholmes on Sunday, March 2 at Sanders Theatre.