Thursday, January 31, 2008

Concertgebouw: kids dig it...

Just found this bit from Brandon Shaw, a music student at Azusa Pacific University. He recently attended the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concert in L.A. Here's a bit of Brandon's post:

"I went to Walt Disney Hall tonight and saw the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam. They played Strauss’ Don Juan and Mahler V. They were fantastic. It was an experience unlike any other form of entertainment out there today. I was not only entertained. I was enriched. There are people out there who still love classical music and see the beauty in it and can appreciate it, even in our simple-media focused culture. These people will continue to enjoy what is one of the most wonderful forms of art."

Read the rest of Brandon's post here.

For all you Brandons out there in the Boston area, Concertgebouw is yours to discover tomorrow at Symphony Hall. Yes, there will be student rush tickets.

Pianist and poet Alfred Brendel from "Cursing Bagels"

Alfred Brendel

Pianist Alfred Brendel's poetry has graced this blog before. I can tell myself that the distinctive dry wit of his poems may offer some insight into his piano performances, but the truth is I just like his poetry. I think they would be funny, irreverent, etc. witty even if they were written by my dry cleaner (actually more so in that case). But then I would have a hard time justifying singing their praises in a blog more or less representing my employer. Because Mr. Brendel has often performed here under the auspices of the Celebrity Series of Boston - and will again, and for the final time, on February 22 - I have had the excuse I need:

That pianos
should not merely be cooked
but also smoked
has recently been discovered
by pure chance
A fire in the local piano store
surprisingly revealed
that smoked pianos
sound nobler than cooked ones
In huge fireplaces
they now hang
those dispensers of musical delight
like blackened hams
smokey-grey and spicy
they satisfy the cognoscenti
the famous house of Bösenstein
will refrain
from boiling pianos hard or soft
according to taste

-by Alfred Brendel with Richard Stokes (translator) from Cursing Bagels, Faber and Faber, 2004

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yo-Yo hits the op-ed page


In case you missed it, Yo-Yo Ma (some sort of musician, I think) has an op-ed piece in today's Boston Herald. The article, titled Culture's a Gift to Give, is based on Ma's remarks before the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week. Here's a sample:

"Over the past 30 years as a professional
cellist, I have spent the equivalent of two full decades on the road, both
performing and learning about musical traditions and cultures. My travels have
convinced me that in our globalized world, cultural traditions form an essential
framework for identity, social stability and compassionate interaction."

Read all of Culture's a Gift to Give.

"A symphony fantastique at Davies" - Concertgebouw conquers SF

Maestro Mariss Jansons

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and conductor Mariss Jansons are on the West Coast now, which is the opposite of how European orchestra's typically find their way to Boston. Today's San Francisco Chronicle features a review of the Amsterdam-based orchestra's two performance engagement at Davies Hall. Here's a bit of the understandably gushing praise:

"Davies Hall spilled over with orchestral light - limpid and diaphanous in the finely drawn textures of Debussy's evocation of the sea, sparkling brightly in a marvelous "Don Juan," blazing to fiery life in a terrifying "March to the Scaffold" and "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath" in the Berlioz. Warm amber light kept rising from the cellos. The woodwinds sent out strange, arresting pulses."

Read all of A symphony fantastique at Davies.

Mariss Jansons and The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra visit the Celebrity Series and Symphony Hall Friday evening at 8pm. Tickets are still available.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eichler reviews Hamelin


The Globe's Jeremy Eichler reviewed Saturday's Celebrity Series debut concert by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin for Tuesday's Boston Globe:

"At one point in his recital on Saturday night in Jordan Hall,
Marc-André Hamelin glanced down at the Steinway grand piano with what
appeared to be a look of sympathy. It was as if to say he didn't really
enjoy giving the instrument such a bruising. Well, OK, maybe just a

Read the complete review.

Getting specific on Gershwin


Time to let you all in on just which George Gershwin gems Rob Kapilow will be dissecting this Saturday evening in the next What Makes It Great? performance, The Songs of George Gershwin:

“I Got Rhythm” from Girl Crazy, 1930
“They Can’t Take That Away from Me” from Shall We Dance, 1937
“Someone to Watch Over Me”  from Oh, Kay! 1926
“Love is Sweeping the Country”  from Of Thee I Sing, 1931

"Girl Crazy"? Wasn't that an Elvis movie...?

Monday, January 28, 2008

David Weininger's Globe preview of Hamelin

David Weininger of The Boston Globe had a chat with pianist - and now Boston resident - Marc-Andre Hamelin. Here is Weininger's column from Friday's Globe, with apologies for the delay.

Jeremy Eichler attended for the Globe. I will post his review when it appears.

The Assads Friends and Family Tour

The Assad Brothers brought their sister Badi (pronounced bah-jee, who knew?), jazz-oriented guitarist Romero Lubambo, and guitarist/vocalist/folklorist and percussion wizard Celso Machado to Sanders Theatre on Friday evening for the first stop of their Brazilian Guitar Festival tour. Some highly subjective impressions (feel free to chime in; the comment link is at the bottom of this post):

For many in the audience (based on rigorous scientific polling), the concert came across as a warm, familial affair. There was a lot of joy evident; joy in the music, joy in the company of family and old and new friends, just joy. And it radiated throughout the hall. It was the kind of concert where the musicians that were not on stage were clustered in the wings to listen.

There were hiccups - "have you ever tried to tune five guitars?" one of the brothers said shyly before a quintet number towards the end of the evening - but it was the tour's first stop. No one seemed to care. They got in the way of nothing that mattered.

The five musicians covered a lot of Brazilian music in two hours, from classical compositions and jazz-oriented songs, to pop music and folk-inspired percussion and wordless vocals played on anything at hand (a la Hermeto Pascoal).

Badi Assad, clearly reveling in her "kid sister" role, enjoyed herself immensely and told the audience what an honor and a joy it was to play with her older brothers who, "taught me everything I know about the guitar."

Celso Machado was a revelation. With hand and vocal percussion he provided the rhythmic underpinnings on every piece that required it, even while contributing harmonically or melodically. There was something of the one-man-band about him. His CD sold out at intermission.

Badi's vocal gymnastics - clicks and pops with her mouth while humming a legato main melody, was the most stunning example - did not get overplayed, or get in the way of making music.

More than one observer compared Badi's singing to Bjork. Make of that what you will.

Romero Lubambo was as charming and funny as when he visited with Luciana Souza two years ago. He told of getting advice from the late flutist Herbie Mann, with whom he toured extensively, to always carry a tin of sardines on tour, so no matter where you were and at what hour, you always had food.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Assad Brothers preview for Evanston, Ill. show

Sergio and Odair Assad

The Daily Herald from suburban Chicago has a nice little summary of the Assad Brothers' Brazilian Guitar Festival in advance of its appearance on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston next Thursday. You know, for those of you that still need a way in to this remarkably accessible performance. Here's a bit:

"Sergio Assad, 55, lives in Chicago, while brother Odair, 51, lives in Belgium and sister Badi, 45, in Brazil. Despite the distances, the siblings perform together several times per year, Sergio Assad said."

I remember from his previous visit to the Celebrity Series with vocalist Luciana Souza that Romero Lubambo lives in New Jersey (or "The United States of New Jersey" as he jokingly referred to The Garden State). I don't know where Celso Machado lives but this ensemble may have set a record for far flung-ness.

The concert is tonight at 8pm at Sanders Theatre. It isn't sold out, but tickets are going fast...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ailey at Macy's February 6

This just in from the good people at Macy's Downtown Crossing (OK, so we knew it was coming, just play along) - and it's FREE:

Celebrate Black History Month @ Macy’s Downtown Crossing

Join us on Wednesday, February 6 at 6pm for a FREE discussion of “The Legacy of Alvin Ailey” introduced by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Judith Jamison, and featuring dancers Renee Robinson and (Boston native) Kirven J. Boyd. Hear first hand about the legacy of Alvin Ailey, the company’s long standing history with the City of Boston and what it means to be an Ailey dancer. Following the discussion, enjoy refreshments and a chance to meet the dancers.

One of the most acclaimed international ambassadors of American culture, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater promotes the uniqueness of the African American cultural experience and the enrichment of American modern dance tradition. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, and will be performing February 7-10 at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre. Tickets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater engagement are available at or by calling 800–447–7400.

Wednesday, February 6, 6pm
Macy’s Downtown Crossing, Main Level, 450 Washington Street, Boston
Contact: Robin Reibel, 617-357-2727

You can also get tickets and information on the Ailey engagement here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moiseyev and the Pats


The Moiseyev Dance Company first came to Boston in 1958 - a Celebrity Series engagement at Boston Garden. They have come back nine times since, including this past Sunday's sold out performance at Symphony Hall. Valerie Gladstone gave the performance a warm up with this article, which includes this quote from company director Elena Shcherbakova about recently deceased (at age 101!) founder Igor Moiseyev:

"There is only one Pushkin, there is only one Tchaikovsky, there is only one Dostoyevsky, and there is only one Igor Moiseyev."

And there was this lovable quote from Karen Campbell's review of the company for Monday's Boston Globe:

"If the excited overflow crowd heading into Symphony Hall was any indication, the hottest tickets in Boston yesterday afternoon weren't just for the Patriots' game, but for the Celebrity Series presentation of the Moiseyev Dance Company."

Truth be known there were more than a few individuals watching the Patriots' game backstage (along with some curious company members). Much like the Patriots, however, no one missed a beat. This might be too spooky for some of you to handle, but the Moiseyev Dance Company will be in Tucson, AZ on THE DAY OF THE SUPER BOWL IN GLENDALE, AZ a mere hour or two away. There is no way this is all just a coincidence.

David Daniels recital reviewed by the Globe

In his review for Monday's Boston Globe, Matthew Guerrieri wrote of countertenor David Daniels' Saturday evening  recital at Jordan Hall that it, "...highlighted not just his mastery of that comparatively uncommon vocal style, but
those qualities sometimes overshadowed by vocal beauty: attention to text,
emotional directness, physical presence."
He wrote other nice things about Mr. Daniels' singing. You can read them all here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WHRB Winter Orgy notes: Atterberg to Gorecki to Roach


WHRB is at it again. January is reading period at Harvard (can't tell all you students how unspeakably quaint that sounds to a working stiff with two kids...) and Harvard Radio at 95.3 FM (web site with streaming audio) spends this neither-fish-nor-fowl time upending their usual excellent format and getting all orgiastic on us. The Orgy Season as it has come to be known (really Orgy Seasons, there is another one later in the year) are built on a simple premise:

1. Pick a premise, artist, topic, time period, record label or what have you that can be expressed in audio terms,

2. Collect, find, or, presumably, steal (I can't figure out any other way they could get their hands on some of this stuff) every bit of audio you can find on the subject,

3. Assemble, and play all of it in whatever order you need to play it to make your point (most often the choice is an artist played chronologically) until it runs out - not until the clock runs out, until you have PLAYED IT ALL.

Is Orgy Season great radio? I don't know, ask someone else. Is it one of the reasons I love living in Boston? Yep. Somewhere around 18-20 years ago WHRB played 98 hours of John Coltrane and I knew I had moved to the right city)

This January's Winter Orgy is underway. Among the remaining orgies are (the links are to wikipedia pages, in case you don't know the subject, try WHRB's web site for a .pdf file of the entire Winter Orgy):

January 17: BB King

January 18: Women in Jazz

January 19: The 27 Club (rock and roll legends that died at age 27)

January 20: Kurt Magnus Atterberg

January 21-22: Max Roach

January 23-24: Claude Debussy

January 24-25: Georg Philipp Telemann

January 25: Henryk Gorecki

January 27: Ethel Merman Centenary

January 27: American Narrated Cantatas

January 28: Third Stream Orgy

January 29: Anthology of American Folk Music

January 29: (Clement) Janequin and (Claudin de) Sermisy

January 30: Bass Clarinet in Jazz

January 31: The Rain Orgy ("the many guises of rain in modern music")

If you live out of town, there has never been a better use devised for streaming audio than listening to WHRB from afar. If your radio looks like the one in the photo above, get yourself an FM radio...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Moiseyev is worth a thousand words


Came across this photo of Igor Moiseyev from 1932 in Wikimedia Commons and just had to share. Now, I would never mock such an eminent figure as the late Mr. Moiseyev, he looks great actually - makes me want to go to the gym. But I would gently chide his wardrobe person, the name of whom is, no doubt, lost to the mists of time . . .

Do you think he has a sort of Conan the Barbarian look going with the costume?


Of course, these pictures have nothing whatever to do with the company Moiseyev founded (and which is coming to the Celebrity Series this month). The Moiseyev Dance Company looks more like this:


Which is the way he wanted them to look. Despite the old adage about pictures and a thousand words, I must say, as good as this photo is, the company looks much better in person. Stunning, actually.

Golden Dragon Acrobats in the Globe


Give little more than a second glance to articles on Mrs. Doubtfire or a possible trans fat ban in Boston (why can't people just eat their trans fat laden foods outside on the stoop, like smokers? ...just a thought) and drill down to a swell piece by Terry Byrne that includes some data on a little troupe called the Golden Dragon Acrobats - like an interview with the group's long-time manager. The Acrobats just happen to be coming to Symphony Hall this Sunday. It isn't sold out, yet, but tickets are 'em? OK, back to your trans fats while you still can.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Willie Arthur Smith's Marching Cobras

You can see a lot of things when you walk to work (OK, so I took the T for most of the trip, but I did walk a little) and often those things will make you feel terribly out of shape. I had just such a morning this morning when I encountered Willie Arthur Smith's Marching Cobras of Kansas City, MO (web site) near the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets. The stamina they exhibited went beyond youth to a place of extreme human tests, like some (wicked) funky version of Mao Tse Tung's Long March - with sequins. Without knowing anything about you, gentle reader, I can tell you that they made anything YOU did this morning look halfhearted. The pics don't do them justice, but I have to share:






Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Excerpt from Blind Lemon Jefferson's draft card

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Dallas, Texas, 6/15/1917

Where were you born? "Northern Texas, USA"
Tall, medium, or short (specify which)? "Medium"
Slender, medium, or stout (specify which)? "Medium"
By whom employed? "Nobody"
Where employed? "Nowhere"
Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)? "Blind"

Attack of the Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg is coming to your TV!

What Makes It Great? with Rob Kapilow, a Boston favorite for years now, has made it to television. Our own  Rob Kapilow (well, it feels like he's our own, but we do share him with numerous other cities) is going to be on Live From Lincoln Center tomorrow evening explaining, explicating, dissecting, gesticulating, singing, conducting, and talking about. . . Arnold Schoenberg? Yes! Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, or Transfigured Night, will be on the slab awaiting Doctor Kapilow and his assistants, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. You won't want to miss this crack team of musical surgeons as they reach inside the music of the great A.S.

Here's a nice description of WMIG? from Rob himself:

"During each 'What Makes it Great?' program we take a piece of great
music, tear it apart, and put it back together again. We rewrite it, sing it,
tap it, clap it; in short we do everything in our power to get inside to see
what makes it tick and what makes it great. Then on the second half of the
program we hear the piece performed in its entirety — hopefully with a new pair
of ears."

Visit this page to learn more about the show, and visit this page to find out when it is airing here in Boston (if you aren't in Boston look for a link on first page to find out your local schedule).

We have some What Makes It Great? with Rob Kapilow programs of our own
this season (by gum!). They're live, too, but the original meaning of "live" where you have to come to a theater to see and hear them (believe me, it's a richer experience). Rob Kapilow, tenor Michael Winther and soprano Sally
Wilfert will tear into The Songs of George Gershwin on Saturday, February 2 at NEC's Jordan Hall, and on Saturday, May 10, Rob and pianist Jeremy Denk will give Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata the treatment.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brazilian Guitar Festival program announced


The Assad family loves a collaborative endeavor - they have all toured
as a family, after all - so it isn't surprising that they are bringing Romero Lubambo and Celso
, both headliners in their own right, to join in the fun on January 25 at Sanders Theatre. Sergio and Odair Assad are just the beginning, the Assad family boasts another stunning talent in guitarist/vocalist Badi Assad. Undoubtedly some readers will have become acquainted with Badi's music before her brother's. OK, so the Brazilian Guitar festival is a heck of a program - we have known all of this for some time. What we didn't know is what they would play and in what combinations, now we know.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Edison on Jazz and the inner ear

Trolling the archives yesterday here the Celebrity Series, I came across this little tidbit (or is it a snippet? a snidbit?):

"Thomas A. Edison recently answered the question, 'Why does the average popular melody have so short a period of popularity?' in these words: 'I believe the mechanism of the inner ear may have something to do with it. The so-called 'Rods of Corti' are located there - approximately 3,000 small stiff rods, massed together like the hairs on a brush. Each hair is supposed to be tuned to a definite note in the musical scale. When the note is sounded, the hair vibrates, transmitting the sound through the nerves to the brain. The too constant operation of any group of these hairs undoubtedly leads to irritation - possibly to an actual swelling at the base of the hairs. It is the theory of many scientists that this may be one of the underlying causes for the rapid way we tire of popular hits, with their endless pounding on simple sets of chords.'"

-as quoted in Variations, Opus 4, by Aaron Richmond, published by Concert Direction: Aaron Richmond, January 1928

This seems to have been submitted for reader's consideration, not to imply agreement. I wonder what Edison would have thought of John Coltrane? In any case, the same page also features this quote from Frederick Stock:

"The music of the eighteenth century addressed the head; that of the nineteenth, the heart; and this of the twentieth appeals to the feet."

For what its worth, I knew the "Rods of Corti," Roddie Shelton and Rodney Corner, and can attest they had nothing whatever to do with music, popular or otherwise, though Roddie could always whistle through his nose...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Home from the holidays

Surprisingly little happened over the holidays that was of direct concern to this blog, so I reverted to our page o' 07-08 links. But now it is time to scrape the windshield, de-ice the lock, turn the key, and start it all rumbling to life again. I begin with a less than exhaustive list of things I learned, saw, thought or tripped over while in holiday mode:

Oscar Peterson, RIP
Oscar Peterson, the jazz pianist (and Canadian) with the supersonic chops and the iconic reputation died. Mr. Peterson never graced our stage (as far as I have been able to determine) and so, by my own loosely constructed guidelines, any posts, comments etc. regarding  him will have to wait, and perhaps be left to others entirely. Mentioning him in this fashion and not adding anything is a gross injustice, but there it is.

My Friend Jim
'Tis the season when people show their concern for others - a fact brought delightfully to life for me over the holidays. Someone named Jim Connor (a person whom I've never-even-met!) is apparently very concerned that I may be spending too much on auto insurance. Amazing. To show his concern, Jim has sent me more than 35 messages in the last week, all with the heartfelt message: "Do you pay too much for Auto Insurance Jw?" Every time I looked up, my new friend was there. His heart is so big that I bet he's reached out to some of you this holiday season as well. Clearly, we're blessed.

 Lloyd liked it!
Lloyd Schwartz, classical music critic of The Boston Phoenix, picked our Berlin Philharmonic and Takacs Quartet performances, along with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (a concert we were in on, but was presented by NEC, drop me a line and I'll explain) as among the best classical music performances of 2007.

Six-pack abs

Absinthe is now legal.
The mysterious green fairy is out of the bottle and back in the States
after a ban of 95 years. It's a highly alcoholic distillate of sugar
beets, wormwood, anise seed, fennel, hyssop, cardamom - you get the
idea. My 4 year-old daughter learned an apt phrase over the break,
"Ewww, disgusting."

Jeremy's Faves
Boston Globe classical music critic Jeremy Eichler also found Berlin and Bolivar among the most sublime of our performances in 2007, but was apparently more taken with our recital by Finnish singer Karita Mattila than by the Takacs. All I can say is I would rather not have to make these choices.

And so it's on to the Golden Dragon Acrobats, Moiseyev Dance Company, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the rest of our stellar season.