Monday, March 31, 2008

Globe reviews Minus One and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal

The "Diva" segment from Ohad Naharin's Minus One

Thea Singer reviewed Ohad Naharin's "Minus One" by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal for Saturday's Boston Globe. Here's a taste:

"'Minus One' (2002) a play of shadow against light, is Naharin's
black-and-white ballet, down to the costumes. It's a stunning show,
with the pellucid lines of classical ballet and the gut-wrenching
contractions of Martha Graham."

Read all of All told, Minus One quite a number.

The "Diva" shot above is not particularly emblematic of "Minus One" except that surprise is a constant. The dancer is on stilts here, lip synching to Yma Sumac. Our diva was a bit more garish, with extreme makeup.

Gil Shaham's encores

Violinist Gil Shaham played two encores Sunday afternoon at Jordan Hall:

Brahms, Hungarian Dance no. 4, arr. Josef Joachim

Fauré, Clair de lune, Op. 46 no 2, Arr., Albert Périlhou

Friday, March 28, 2008

Minus One



Les Grands Ballets house will open late

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal patrons please note: the house at all three performances (that's Friday, Saturday and Sunday) this weekend will not open until 20 minutes before curtain. You'll find out why....

UPDATE: Those of you that attended Minus One this weekend now know what this cryptic note was about. Starting the performance before curtain is something of a Naharin trademark. I'm not sure I could give an adequate explanation of what he is driving at by playing with start times and intermissions except to say that removal of barriers is most certainly a them.

I wanted to give a heads up that arriving early would not mean settling into your seat for a nice long chat, but would, in fact, mean waiting in the lobby a bit. But I didn't want to spoil the first moment of mild surprise that greeted audiences when they discovered a stage full of dancers and an audience murmuring away at 7:15.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Benny Goodman, Bela Bartok and the Celebrity Series

(left to right) Josef Szigeti, Bela Bartok and Benny Goodman recording Bartok's "Contrasts" in 1940

Ever since I first heard of it, I've been curious about our presentation of Benny Goodman with Bela Bartok, Ditto Pasztory (Mrs. Bartok) and the great violinist Josef Szigeti at Jordan Hall back in 1941. The other day, I got a glimpse of the review of the concert that ran in the February 5, 1941 Boston Globe, and it's kind of a hoot. Here are some snippets:

"Benny Goodman went classical at Jordan Hall last night. He played the clarinet, but he did not have an orchestra with a strong 'powerhouse' behind him, and instead of swing, the program was a chaste list of 'serious' pieces. The concert was in the Chamber Music Series of Aaron Richmond, and presented, in addition to Mr. Goodman, Bela Bartok, Hungarian pianist and composer; his wife Ditta Pasztory, pianist; and Josef Szigeti, violinist.

For his first appearance in Boston as a classical musician, Mr. Goodman played Debussy's Rhapsody for clarinet and piano, partnered by Mr. Bartok, and joined him and Mr. Szigeti in Mr. Bartok's 'Contrasts.' When the 'King of Swing' shuffled amiably upon the stage, midway of the program, he was faced not with a crowd of stamping, whistling hep cats, but the dinner coats and evening gowns of a Bostonian audience trained to sit up attentively during a Mozart Sonata and who know better than to applaud between the movements."

I thought all of our concerts were filled with whistling hep cats... But my favorite line of the review is this:

"Yet there may have been a few youngsters in the crowd to whom the word jive means a good deal more than allegro molto does."

Count me among them. "Jive" is my middle name, hep cat.

Then there was this oddly menacing sentence in closing:

"Each of the other artists was cordially received."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Berklee opens Cafe 939

Berklee's new cafe is underway. Here is some Globe coverage of it. No alchohol. Local talent, emerging Berklee types and some touring acts are said to be on the menu in the long run. Cafe 939 is about Tuesday's and Thursday's in the afternoon for now, but in April Cafe 939 will add nights to the mix.

On the face of it, this looks like a bid to attract the under 21 crowd (who need activities now that Landsdowne Street is no longer an option, though they could always come to, say Jordan Hall for music) and a shot at showcasing some of the fine young talents lurking behind Berklee's walls. Nice idea, Berklee.

Globe article on Cafe 939

Berklee Cafe 939 announcement page with booking info

Cafe 939 on Yelp

Cafe 939 Jazz Times article

Friday, March 21, 2008

Academy of St Martin personnel change for April 2

I have an item to announce that makes me decidedly ambivalent. Pianist and conductor (or conductor and pianist, if you prefer) Murray Perahia has had to cancel his appearances with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Those cancellations include our much anticipated April 2 concert at Symphony Hall.

That's the bad news (insert appropriate emoticon here). The good news is that the illustrious Sir Neville Marriner, the founder of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, will be on hand on April 2 to conduct. Sir Neville has never appeared on the Celebrity Series at the helm of the Academy of St Martin, though he did once conduct the Minnesota Symphony. Sir Neville will be bringing along with him an up and coming young pianist, Yuja Wang. Wang is a student of the illustrious pianist and educator, Gary Graffman, at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Here is a link to Wang's web site.

Read our press release on the change.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Globe reviews Imani Winds

Mongo Santamaria

The Globe's Matthew Geurrieri reviewed Saturday evening's concert by Imani Winds for today's edition. Here is a sample:

"Their opening was theatrical. For Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue," made
famous by John Coltrane, Scott took the stage alone, pealing the tune;
the others slowly walked on, as Coleman's arrangement gradually segued
from a sparkling Ravel-like sunrise into a sung call-and-response
between players and audience."

Read all of Imani Winds stirring sounds from expatriates and exiles.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pianos take to the streets


The streets of Birmingham, England are experiencing a proliferation of pianos. A total of fifteen pianos have been parked, if you will, at various locations in the city decorated with spray painted signs reading, "Play me, I'm yours." Quaint? Perhaps. Charming? Maybe. But I think we can all recognize these pianos can be a force for good (Couperin etudes lovingly plunked with not a little skill by gifted 10 year olds as Birmingham heads to work, suddenly smiling) or a tool for evil ("Candle in the Wind" played by anyone so it gets stuck in the internal soundtracks of 1500 passersby). It's up to you, Birmingham.

Here's the full story.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Van Cliburn Foundation YouTube contest

The Van Cliburn Foundation has jumped on the user-generated content bandwagon. The venerable piano competition will offer automatic entry into its regular piano competition - you know, the famous one - to winners of this amateur video piano performance contest. Read about it here. Submit your piano video here. Buy your piano here. Buy your video camera, er, I'll let you figure that one out.

Personally, I think this guy should enter, I mean, the repertoire is a little unorthodox, but with a mug like his, he's a shoe-in:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Peterson vs Groulx

Oscar Peterson (left) and Lionel-Adolphe Groulx (right)

There is controversy afoot north of the border in Canada. It seems a battle is raging to rename a Montreal subway station in honor of jazz great - and noted Canadian - Oscar Peterson. Trouble is, the station is already named after another noted - if more than a little controversial - Canadian, Lionel-Adolphe Groulx, a Roman Catholic priest, historian, nationalist, traditionalist - and many say, racist and anti-semite - who died in 1967.

More on this as it develops. And feel free, gentle reader, to let us know if we are behind in our reports.

Full disclosure: I'm considerably more familiar with the accomplishments of Mr. Peterson than any of Mr. Groulx's. From the perspective of right-hand technique alone, Peterson seems like a shoe-in, but then, I'm not Canadian. Was Groulx's pedal work especially prodigious...?

Thanks, once again, to Soho the Dog for the heads up. Speaking of which, dig this.

Aaaand a link to the article would be nice...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dido & Aeneas dedicated to Smith

Craig Smith

The Mark Morris Dance Group’s March 28-June 1 performances of Dido & Aeneas with the orchestra and  chorus of Emmanuel Music, will be dedicated to the memory of Craig Smith, Founder of Emmanuel Music (1947-2007).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Yes, but can he play "Piano Man?"

I don't think anyone on our piano series is planning to jump out the window, but it is remarkable.

Thanks to The Well Tempered Blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Photos of John Brunious' Jazz Funeral

Following up on my earlier post on the death of Preservation Hall Jazz Band trumpeter John Brunious. You can view photos of John Brunious' Jazz Funeral here. The Jazz Funeral took place February 23 in New Orleans.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cherryholmes delivers

If you missed Cherryholmes at Sanders Theatre yesterday, I have two thing to impart to you: 1. Tough luck, you missed a tremendous performance, and 2. Buck up, they will undoubtedly visit Eastern Massachusetts again. They are too good not to.

Here are a few probably self-serving impressions of the performance:

Cherryholmes was everything promised and more. Like the best and most ambitious recording groups, they stay ahead of their recorded output. They performed a considerable amount of music that one would not have heard by listening to their CDs alone.

Cherryholmes played beautifully sung originals and classic covers, Django Rienhardt, Celtic music with convincing step-dancing (which is saying something since we're putting The Chieftains' cast of thousands on the Symphony Hall stage in a matter of days), and good old-fashioned country yodeling. All the kids are complete players, right down to the fire breathing solos which any of them can unleash. Is there anything this band can't do?

Jere Cherryholmes, Dad, sang a bit and kept the simple bluegrass bass lines thumping along - with excellent time, I might add - but his real contribution was as MC. Right out of the gate he told us, "yes, the beard is real, so that answers that question, yes these are all our children, so that answers that question..." His unassuming, charmingly rambling delivery seemed to win everyone over, tying the whole package up with a down home bow. Not that Cherryholmes needed much help getting over.

Jere tread lightly around political issues when introducing daughter Cia Leigh's new song tribute to soldiers and their families (sorry I missed the song's title). The song was especially poignant for being played in Memorial Hall (the building Sanders Theatre is in), whose walls are lined with the names of members of the Harvard community killed in the Civil War.

Another moment in which Jere's straight forward delivery made potentially rough sledding easier, was in his unvarnished recitation of the band's endorsed products. From mandolins, guitars, banjos, strings to transducers ("if you don't know what a transducer is you probably don't need one") and a brand of chili which bears the band's photo ("the family size"), Jere spoke chapter and verse as, no doubt, was required, but made it fun. Of course, there were a lot of musicians in the audience, too, who probably would have asked about the group's instruments.

Since this isn't a review, I won't parse the quality of individual performances. It wouldn't matter anyway, since it is clear that no matter the individual talents, Cherryholmes is about the sum of its parts - its a family thing.