Thursday, November 29, 2007
Looking at some videos of David Daniels on YouTube.com (and some
excellent performances, by the way - more on them, later) I came across
one of the oddest video segments I have encountered in this toddler
medium: world-renowned countertenor David Daniels ordering food at the
Beacon Drive-in in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The man relaying the
order, J.C., is really the star of this 13 second gem - and the star of The Beacon.
Countertenor David Daniels has announced the complete program (he had announced only a few tantalizing composers previously) for his January 19 recital with pianist Martin Katz at Jordan Hall. You can find the program and other information about the performance here.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Craig Smith was the founder of Emmanuel Music and an artistic beacon in Boston; that is an inadequate summarization of one so devoted to music, and who touched so many lives. It is well beyond my rhetorical powers to do justice to his remarkable life and career. Others more skilled and more knowledgeable have undertaken that task, since Mr. Smith died on November 14. I have been assembling obituaries and remembrances as they have appeared.
The Celebrity Series had the privilege of presenting three performances in which Criag Smith took part. The first was as part of an evening of collaborative music-making by pianist Judith Gordon in January of 2001. Mr. Smith joined soprano Lisa Saffer, mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal, tenor William Hite, baritone Mark McSweeney and Gordon for Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes. A rather small part of a full evening, but it is testament to Mr. Smith on two counts, both that he was included and that he came.
The second was conducting the ensemble he founded, Emmanuel Music, in an all-Mozart program with pianist Russell Sherman at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in January 2002.
And in 2006, Mr. Smith conducted Emmanuel Music from the orchestra pit of the Wang Theatre for our engagement of the Mark Morris Dance Group in Morris' L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato (set to Handel's music). He also conducted the work's premiere at Theatre Royal de la Monnaie where he was Permanent Guest Conductor from 1988-91.
Boston Globe (Jeremy Eichler)
The New York Times (Allan Kozinn)
The Boston Phoenix (Lloyd Schwartz)
Los Angeles Times (Mary Rourke)
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
Radio Open Source (includes Smith conversation with Christopher Lydon)
Soho the Dog (Matthew Guerrieri)
In case you are one of those who regard dance as a lot of arm waving and running about, that is, not an art form with anything meaningful to say (oh, I know you're out there), consider this pithy little summary at the beginning of Paul Taylor's biography for this weekend's program book.
"In the 1950s, his work was so cutting edge that it was not uncommon to see confused audience members flocking to the exits, while Martha Graham dubbed him the 'naughty boy' of dance. In the ’60s, he shocked the cognoscenti by setting his trailblazing movement to music composed two hundred years earlier, and inflamed the establishment by satirizing America’s most treasured icons. In the ’70s, he put incest center stage and revealed the beast lurking just below man’s sophisticated veneer. In the ’80s, he looked unflinchingly at intimacy among men at war and marital rape. In the ’90s, he warned against blind conformity to authority and ridiculed the Ku Klux Klan. In the new millennium he has condemned American imperialism, lampooned feminism and looked death square in the face.
Paul Taylor is not through yet."
I recommend you come and see Mr. Taylor's company this weekend. There's no telling what he's been up to.
Know how many keyboard sonatas Domenico Scarlatti wrote? 100? 200? Give up? How about 555? Yep, that's right.
And what's more, The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England performed them all last Sunday in six venues, cramming 34 hours of music into a 12 hour period. That's an astonishing rate of 46.25 sonatas per hour. Now if we convert sonatas per hour into berceuces per hour, you see, we get...
Monday, November 26, 2007
There were many superlative musical moments at the Berlin Philharmonic's Celebrity Series concert on November 19. Here are just a couple of moments that caught my attention:
One that will remain with me is the beatific expression on Ben Heppner's face as he listened (and occasionally mouthed the words) to Thomas Quasthoff singing Der Abschied, the sixth and final song in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Heppner appeared to be as moved as the audience (and why not? it was moving stuff) by the performance. Heppner, of course, sang beautifully himself; and being no fool, he chose to thoroughly enjoy the confluence of Philharmonic, Rattle and Quasthoff.
Following the completion of the Mahler - after which there was, rightly, no encore - before going back on stage for yet another series of bows, Sir Simon Rattle turned to Quasthoff and in reference to Quasthoff's recent forays into jazz singing, suggested an encore, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered? I'll be bewildered if you don't mind."
Extra: I almost forgot how pleased and proud many of us on staff were of the prolonged, cough-free silence that followed the end of Das Lied von der Erde; not only because hacking, cell phone rings, talking, and even snoring are apparently a pandemic in concert halls these days, but because noise became an issue on this very tour. So the silent Celebrity Series audience conjured a mixture of feelings, from "Way to go, Boston!" to "Thank God I didn't cough!"
Jeremy Eichler reviewed the St. Lawrence String Quartet's November 18 performance at Jordan Hall for The Boston Globe. It was, as Eichler points out, the first Boston performance by the Quartet's current lineup:
"How many personnel changes can a string quartet endure while preserving its essential identity? The question came to mind on Sunday afternoon as the St. Lawrence Quartet took the stage of Jordan Hall for its first local performance with its current roster. Any doubts were assuaged by the forceful, nuanced, and well-grounded reading of Beethoven's Quartet (Op. 130) that closed the program."
Read all of A quartet returns, with musical chairs.
Extra: Thomas Garvey, of The Hub Review, offered his thoughts on the St. Lawrence concert.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Jeremy Eichler reviewed last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert for today's Boston Globe. Here is his neat summary of Gyorgy Kurtag's Stele:
"'Stele' is a trio of connected musical tombstones. Enormous orchestral forces are required; the writing is fiercely expressive. Picture a Mahler symphony placed to simmer all day long on a low flame, producing an Austro-German concentrate of great potency. This is the world of Kurtag, and this orchestra knows it well."
Read all of Berliners return to Symphony Hall.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Much has been made - and rightly so - of the centerpiece of tonight's Berlin Philharmonic program, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. But there has also been much discussion of Gyorgy Kurtag's Stele, the program's other entry.
In case you are wondering what Kurtag's work is doing on tonight's Symphony Hall program, I refer you first to Bernard Holland's review of the Berlin Philharmonic's Friday evening concert at Carnegie Hall, which includes the following bare-bones outline:
"'Stele' updates the spiritual darkness yet great beauty of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into which Mahler was born. We were reminded that Budapest, Vienna and the Bohemia of Mahler’s birth are, on the map, only a few hours apart. The quality of 'Stele,' which was written for the Berlin Philharmonic in 1994, is clear from the start. Mr. Kurtag has not composed much orchestra music, but here the fineness of the textures and the originality of the colors advertise the poise of a master."
Read all of Notes on Mortality and Darkness
Alex Ross, in his new book, The Rest Is Noise, Listening to the Twentieth Century, connects Stele directly to Beethoven:
"At the beginning, octave Gs make an unmistakable reference to the opening of Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 - a representation of the topmost step of the staircase that goes down to Florestan's dungeon. Kurtag, too, leads us into a subterranean space, but we never get out. The final movement, muted and maximally eerie, fixates on a sread-out chord that repeatedly quivers forth in quintuplet rhythm. At the very end the harmony shifts to the white-key notes of the C-major scale, all seven of them sounding in a luminous smear."
But Stele's (and Kurtag's?) world, as heard by Ross, is not entirely hopless, and Stele's ending has "the rhythm of a gaunt figure staggering on."
And then there is Jeremy Eichler's portrait of Kurtag for The Boston Globe. Eichler spoke with Sir Simon Rattle, who will conduct Stele tonight:
"Speaking recently by phone from Berlin, Simon Rattle was rhapsodizing about 'Stele,' the work he is about to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic. 'It's like a gravestone on which the entire history of European music is written,' he said. 'I just find it one of the most profoundly moving pieces. And my experience has been that audiences take to it absolutely immediately, because they can tell how genuine it is.'"
Eichler also went to the source, discussing Stele with Kurtag himself, in-person, earlier this fall:
"Sitting at his desk, looking down at the score, Kurtag grasped for words to explain this sudden congregation of otherworldly flutes. Whatever it was, it seemed to be of vital importance and personal resonance. He ultimately leaned on an image from Russian literature.
This is music, he said, of someone lying wounded on a battlefield. 'The fighting rages all around him, but he sees only a very clear, very blue sky.' Kurtag paused, again searching for words. 'His feeling is that nothing is as important as this sky.'"
Saturday, November 17, 2007
David Weininger spoke to Geoff Nuttal, 1st violinist for the St. Lawrence String Quartet for Friday's Boston Globe about professional football, his quartet's lengthening history, and traveling like the Partridge Family. Here's a taste of their conversation:
"I've got my coffee and I've got ESPN in the background," he said in a
mellow, affable voice. Nuttall is a serious football fan, and having
played an afternoon concert the day before, he'd missed most of the
gridiron action, especially the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and
New York Giants. "They embed a chip in your brain when you grow up in
Texas," he joked, explaining his Cowboys fandom.
Read all of For quartet, change is constant.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Once the smoke from the A-Rod coverage cleared, I discovered that The Berlin Philharmonic is in New York this week (ok, so I knew that, and so did you). NPR, in cahoots with WNYC (or vice versa), has cooked up a series of audio excerpts of the Berlin in Lights Festival. A Feast for those with reasonably fast connection speeds and decent speakers:
And then there is the running commentary on the Festival - with a little bit of Gustavo Dudamel thrown in - from The New York Times blog, ArtsBeat.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Check out Maria Schneider and the Maria Schneider Orchestra playing Boleria, Solea y Rumba. The ensemble is almost identical to the one Boston will hear this Saturday night at the Berklee Performance Center - minus Luciana Souza on vocals (sorry, not this time).
And here is a clip of the Orchestra playing Journey Home from the same gig.
Marketplace (American Public Media) story on Maria and Concert in the Garden from 2006
The Maria Schneider Orchestra plays at Berklee Performance Center this Saturday evening, November 17 - click here for more info and to buy tickets
UPDATE: Maria is scheduled to be a guest on Eric Jackson's "Eric in the Evening" program on WGBH radio 89.7 FM tonight at 9:00 p.m.
Siddhartha Mitter's Boston Globe article on Maria, From a simple start, a sophisticated style.
Bob Young's Boston Herald article on Maria, 'Sky' is the limit for jazz composer.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Hope you enjoy this clip of Sir Simon Rattle on Charlie Rose in 2003 (Renee Fleming is also on this clip, which is why her image is staring back at you now). Included is a rather dramatic clip of Sir Simon conducting in addition to the usual thoughtful Rose dialogue.
You know (ahem), you won't get to hear Sir Simon engage in thoughtful conversation like this on say, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19 AT SYMPHONY HALL...
Then there is this clip of Sir Simon playing a bit of piccolo (excuse me, I'm having too much fun):
Monday, November 12, 2007
Matthew Guerrieri reviewed soprano Measha Brueggergosman's Boston debut recital for today's Boston Globe:
"The first two encores, a spirit-moved "Ride On, King Jesus" and the
sweet-to-sour romance of Harnick and Baker's "Someone Is Sending Me
Flowers," were trumped by the last, an impishly, iridescently sweet
rendition of Tom Lehrer's "The Old Dope Peddler": With Vignoles in
serene complicity, Brueggergosman delicately wreathed the hall in her
own expressive, addictive gregariousness."
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Boston Globe readers will no doubt enjoy Jeremy Eichler's in-depth profile of composer Gyorgy Kurtag - The Purist - in today's Arts & Entertainment section (or, for Boston.com readers, at this link). The Berlin Philharmonic will play Kurtag's Stele as part of its November 19 program at Symphony Hall.
There is, however, one inaccuracy in the article's print version: the Berlin Philharmonic's Boston performance is NOT SOLD OUT as the article states. Tickets may be purchased in the following ways:
1. Online here (Symphony Hall web site) or
2. Here (Celebrity Series web site) or
3. By calling Celebrity Charge (617) 482-6661 (M-F 10-4) or
4. By calling SymphonyCharge (888) 266-1200 (M-Fri, 10am-7pm; Sat, 10am-6pm)
So, we do have Berlin Philharmonic seats available - very good seats, as a matter of fact.
UPDATE: Okay, so it's getting close to sold out, now. Don't delay!
FURTHER UPDATE: It did sell out, so no need to inquire about this one any longer. Anyone for Academy of St. Martin in the Fields?
Friday, November 9, 2007
Measha Brueggergosman is not your average Canadian soprano who hails from New Brunswick. Heck, she's not even the average soprano hailing from Toronto - there's her fine voice and interpretive skill, her taste for cabaret songs and other interesting recital fodder, her travels to
war-torn Uganda with AMREF Canada, her unique hair, her unique surname, and her unique personality. There are many ways and places to learn about Measha. I've created this little link farm to show you just a few...
Who could not be impressed by ‘The Partisans’ gliding across the stage on horseback; or not be dazzled by the chorus line of female dancers in their colorful Ukrainian village costumes in ‘Gopak,’ and the surprising leap over the chorus line by a catapulted male dancer in the company’s rousing finale. No one had ever seen folk dancing with such flair, such panache, and such athletic ability.
When the Moiseyev Dance Company opened its American tour at the old Metropolitan Opera House on April 14, 1958, it was a stunning success, selling out the 4000-seat Opera House at every performance; dance critics were ecstatic in praise.
The dance company met with similar response as it toured the U.S. and Canada. When it visited Boston, I was in my second season at the Celebrity Series and given the task of managing an engagement of a company of 100 dancers performing on a huge makeshift stage erected at one end of an ice hockey arena with a capacity of close to 13,000. The demand for tickets for the Boston Garden engagement was unprecedented as was the crowd enthusiasm. All three performances sold out in record time -- hundreds of would-be ticket buyers were turned away at the box-office.
The Moiseyev dancers were so popular with the American public that Ed Sullivan, who then hosted “The Toast of the Town” on television, devoted his whole hour-length program to the company. The dance troupe closed its American tour with another New York engagement, this time in Madison Square Garden.
This ‘Soviet Cultural Invasion’ changed the landscape of music and dance presentations in this country in the mid 1950’s; a similar invasion of American artists took place in the Soviet Union at that time as well.
During the Stalinist era, Soviet authorities routinely denied artists any request to leave the Soviet Union to perform in the West. Conversely, there was a great deal of resistance in this country to allowing Soviet artists the opportunity to perform here. One has only to recall the McCarthy era when the House Un-American Activities Committee was convinced that there was a Communist hidden behind every bush, and every writer or performer with a liberal bent was or had been a member of the Communist Party.
With the death of Stalin and the passing of McCarthyism, thaw was in the air, a cultural exchange agreement was promulgated between the two powers and signed in 1958. The first music personalities to visit the U.S. were pianist Emil Gilels and violinist David Oistrakh, who attracted capacity audiences wherever they played, including their Symphony Hall recitals in the Celebrity Series. An interesting note: another Soviet artist touring at that time did not have as successful a tour as his compatriots – it was the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, but his days of success were soon to follow.
In turn, the U.S. sent a company of Porgy and Bess to tour the Soviet Union, and violinist Isaac Stern and tenor Jan Peerce gave recitals in a score of Soviet cities. Stern was to remark about the Cultural Exchange: “We send them our Jewish violinists from Odessa, and they send us their Jewish violinists from Odessa.”
Impresario S. Hurok had been negotiating with the Soviet cultural agency that represented Soviet attractions to present the Bolshoi Ballet in this country as part of the Cultural Exchange Agreement; he was informed that the first major dance company allowed out of the Soviet Union would be The State Folk Dance Ensemble of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Hurok was initially disappointed, but when he saw a company performance, he knew it would be a success; he never envisioned the colossal impact the folk dancers would make on the American public.
To make the company’s name more palatable in this country, it became the Moiseyev Dance Company, named after its founder-director, Igor Moiseyev. Moiseyev had been a dancer and choreographer with the Bolshoi Ballet. In 1936, Moiseyev was appointed director of the Moscow Theatre of Folk Art, from which emerged the Soviet Union’s first folk dance ensemble. The company was initially comprised of amateurs, but Moiseyev soon employed professional dancers. He embarked on a trek through the Soviet Union seeking folk dance inspiration. He would then recreate and ‘theatricalize’ the dances making them more interesting to audiences.
Moiseyev attributed his dancers’ virtuosity and versatility to their training in classical ballet, which he described as “the grammar of movement.”
The Moiseyev Dance Company was but the first of many folk dance companies and ballet companies (like the Bolshoi Ballet and the Kirov Ballet) that toured the U.S. as part of the Cultural Exchange Agreement. The Celebrity Series is pleased to have been the primary presenting organization in Boston of the Moiseyev Dance Company and the many other visiting artists from various parts of what had been the Soviet Union.
I have fond memories of Moiseyev Dance Company engagements; I will always remember Mr. Moiseyev, often seated backstage at performances playing chess with one of his company assistants -- wearing his ‘signature’ beret.
I look forward to being in the audience when Igor Moiseyev’s celebrated company returns to Boston for a performance in Symphony Hall on Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m., an event in this season’s Celebrity Series.
Walter Pierce was Executive Director of the Celebrity Series of Boston for 40 years. He retired from the post in 1996.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Soprano Measha Brueggergosman talked with The Boston Herald's Keith Powers in advance of her Boston debut this Saturday evening at Jordan Hall:
"Working with a great composer like William Bolcom,” Brueggergosman said, “re-creating that work, makes me feel like a tiny spoke in the wheel of music history. There’s a depth to what Bill Bolcom is doing. There’s more than just a recording happening, there’s a documentation for future generations."
Read all of Canadian superstar soprano loves a cabaret.
"You need a lot of technique to take Ludwig van Beethoven at his word. On Sunday afternoon, pianist Emanuel Ax tackled the familiar yet formidable "Waldstein" Sonata in C Major (Op. 53), and he achieved the not inconsiderable feat of letting the music speak for itself, in all its stubborn, maddening glory."
Thus begins Matthew Guerrieri's Boston Globe review of Emanuel Ax's recital this past Sunday. I hope I don't come off as a sycophant (or something) when I say I really, enjoy reading Guerrieri - especially when he, you know, writes the stuff I want to hear, like how good one a Celebrity Series concert was. But it's more than that. Take this sentence from Wednesday's Emanuel Ax review:
"In between the sonatas was music by Robert Schumann, whose mercurial, protean forms were well-served by Ax's direct, robust phrasing: He immediately found the core of each new mood, making vibrant and entrancing what, in lesser hands, could be merely attention-deficient."
Read the full review, it won't substitute for Ax's concert, which was every bit as remarkable as described, but it is a good read, which is an end in itself.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Conductor Gustavo Dudamel interviewed at the 2007 Proms
Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra play Bernstein's Mambo at the 2007 Proms
Dudamel and the SBNYO play second movement from Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10
Conductor/rock star Gustavo Dudamel and the SBNYO play tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 7 at Symphony Hall.
The venerable Russian choreographer Igor Moiseyev has died at age 101. Using Russian folk dance as his choreographic inspiration, Moiseyev became synonymous with the Russian folk dance tradition.
Though it has been some time since Igor traveled with his Moiseyev Dance Company, and we did not expect to see Mr. Moiseyev at the Company's engagement this coming January 20 at Symphony Hall, Moiseyev's passing is somehow a surprise, as if he would go on forever.
The Celebrity Series of Boston presented the Moiseyev Dance Company in 1958 (as the Moiseyev Dancers), '61, '65, 70, '74, '86, '88, '89, '91, '99. And at least once more in 2008.
Igor Moiseyev obituary from Telegraph.co.uk
Sunday, November 4, 2007
This video is not from Ms. Brueggergosman's new CD (Surprise!), but from her previous one (Extase). Here, she sings Jules Massenet's 'Le dernier Sommeil de la Vierge' ('The Final Slumber of the Virgin') from La Vierge - an uncommon musical selection, the sort of thing at which Measha excels. The video was produced and directed by Nigel Hunt.
Measha Brueggergosman makes her Boston debut with pianist Roger Vignoles at NEC's Jordan Hall on Saturday, November 10.
Jenna Scherer reviewed David Sedaris' Friday evening reading for the Celebrity Series at Symphony Hall for today's Boston Herald:
"Friday night’s performance rang with all the bizarre observations ('It is not unpleasant to hold someone else’s warm teeth in your hand'), descriptions of everyday activity ('I take dried-up bees and dress them in suits of armor made of tinfoil') and quotables ('Nothing irritated my father quite like the sound of his children’s happiness') we’ve come to expect from Sedaris."
Read all of Sedaris' hilarious tales shift perfectly from page to stage.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
One of the revelations at David Sedaris's reading last night was a revelation not for the audience, but for Sedaris. Karen Brown, our Associate Director of Performance Operations, made oatmeal cookies for the backstage crew using craisins (that is to say, dried cranberries). Craisins were a completely new idea for Sedaris and it popped up throughout the evening: "You leave the country and things happen," he said.
Here's a report from Karen about the signing after the show:
"Sedaris asked about every third person in line at the signing tonight a Craisin related question. Recipes. Horror stories. Love stories. All about the dried cranberries. But, the very best part of the night was when 3 people from the marketing firm for Ocean Spray came up to the signing and had 3 bags of Craisins and got them signed by David Sedaris. One of the bags is now going home with David as a gift to Hugh."
UPDATE: "Can you sign our Craisins?" - one of the folks who brought Craisins for David Sedaris to sign lets us peer into the marketing bunker...
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Members of the Sean Curran Company in Aria/Apology
Marcia Siegel's review of the Sean Curran Company for The Boston Phoenix was on newstands, er, in boxes today. Here is a wee bit of her closing remarks:
"I don’t know whether Curran was creating a portrait of a specific person or conveying the experiences of many persons. Maybe he was remembering the Holocaust; maybe he was reminiscing about a life as a Main Street mediocrity. Whoever he was, I recognized him."
Read all of Social Settings.