Friday, October 31, 2008

Dave McKenna, 1930-2008

My favorite tribute to Dave McKenna came during the Red Sox ALCS run when radio announcer Joe Castiglione took time on-air to say a few words about the passing of one of Boston's great, largely unsung talents, who also happened to be a lifelong Red Sox fan. A fitting tribute to someone who, during baseball season, often kept a radio sitting on his piano quietly tuned to the Red Sox game. McKenna was a Boston institution, modest to a fault about his skills, encyclopedic in his knowledge of the American Songbook, and always swinging.

The Celebrity Series never presented McKenna, but we didn't have to - Dave was always playing at the Copley Plaza; or so it seemed.

Here are some of the obituaries and tributes to McKenna:

Boston Globe

Boston Herald

New York Times

Cape Cod Times

Los Angeles Times

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Toyko String Quartet program change

There has been a change to this Saturday evening's Tokyo String Quartet program. The Bartók String Quartet No. 5 will be replaced by:

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Opus 18, no. 2

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in the news

Here is a collection of reviews, previews and CD reviews
from soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian's Remembrance Tour (including Boston, of
course) and new CD,
Gomidas Songs. If you missed her recital this past Sunday, well, you really missed something unique and wonderful (the CD is your last shot to get hip):

Reviews of Isabel Bayrakdarian's current recital tour

Boston Globe (Joel Brown), October 20:
Memorable Armenian folk songs carry the day

The New York Times (Steve Smith), October 21:
Summoning the Songs of Voices Stilled

Toronto Star (John Terauds), October 20:
Great talents, great music but something was missing

Toronto Star Letter to the Editor in response to above
Concert a testament to survival

Los Angeles Times (Richard S. Ginell), October 6:
Review: Isabel Bayrakdarian and the Manitoba Chamber

OC Register (Timothy Mangan), October 7:
Soprano remembers genocide in song

Vancouver Sun (Lloyd Dykk), October 7:
Review: Isabel Bayrakdarian with the Manitoba Chamber
Orchestra at the Orpheum

San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman), October 6:
Music review: Isabel Bayrakdarian at Herbst

Previews from tour cities

Boston Globe (David Weininger), October 17:
Armenian tribute comes from her soul

The New York Times (Melanie Toumani), October 17:
Songs Lifted in Praise of an Armenian Hero

The Vancouver Province (Stuart Derdeyn), October 7:
It's Isabel's labour of love

Reviews of Gomidas Songs CD

Newark Star-Ledger (Bradley Bambarger), October 6

San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman), September 28

Ottawa Citizen (Richard Todd), September 27

As for my two cents (you couldn't leave this post without that, surely), Bayrakdarian's concert and her new CD, Gomidas Songs, were/are like listening to ghosts and
perhaps a bit like peering into an alternate version of the present in which
Gomidas, and by extension, the Armenian musical tradition, was able to carve out a
more prominent place for itself in the musical canon. Perhaps this music would
not seem so exotic or so unusual if not for the Armenian Genocide and diaspora. Even though this music is being performed and recorded, it is not prominent. Somehow, it is the sound of what might have been. A fact which, for me, magnifies its poignancy.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Isabel Bayrakdarian sings Dle Yaman, from "A Long Journey Home"

Another haunting work from Gomidas, sung beautifully by Bayrakdarian. This piece will be on this Sunday's program (October 19) with Hampic Djabourian on duduk:

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian's Globe interview


Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian hails from Canada but is of Armenian descent. The documentary A Long Journey Home chronicles her first visit to Armenia and became the springboard for her new CD and current tour (coming to Jordan Hall this Sunday), focusing (though not exclusively) on the music of Armenian composer Gomidas Vartabed (see earlier post). The Boston Globe's David Weininger spoke with Bayrakdarian for his article in today's edition. Here's a snippet:

"Bayrakdarian, who lives in Toronto, was born in Lebanon to parents
of Armenian heritage, and grew up singing many of the songs on the
recording. Most opera roles require a singer to step inside a
character; here, the identification is deep and immediate.

one is quite, quite special,' she says by phone from California. 'Other
[projects] come from my heart. When I sing these songs, it just comes
from my soul.'"

Read all of Armenian tribute comes from her soul.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Batting stance levity

I can think of about 20 reasons why we can all use a little levity at the moment. Red Sox batting stances through the ages . . .

Friday, October 10, 2008

Isabel Bayrakdarian: Andooni/Without a Home

Yes, this song is on Bayrakdarian's October 19 program. It was written by Armenian composer, singer, ethnomusicologist, choir conductor, and pedagogue, Gomidas Vartabed, who was arrested and deported during the early stages of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau arranged for Gomidas to return to Armenia, where he discovered that he had lost everything - friends, students, and most of his life's work. Gomidas was overcome with anguish, never composed again and ended his life in a mental institution.

I don't know about you, but this performance leaves me absolutely speechless. I will post more of Bayrakdarian's and Gomidas' work in video form if I can find it.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fleisher wins Hub fans renewed

Before Leon Fleisher launched into the familiar melody of J.S. Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" (from Cantata No. 208 he turned to the audience and announced that the work he was about to play was what he termed "one of those triple-A pieces, an anthem for anti-acrimony." A perfect introduction as everyone's knowing laugh confirmed. It didn't matter what Mr. Fleisher was referring to exactly, if anything; we were about to hear the sound of tranquility.

The evening was a warm meeting of old and newer friends and colleagues, with Fleisher leading the way (the program and guests can be found here). If you weren't present to hear Fleisher continue to make up for lost time as a two-handed pianist, you can take comfort in the likelihood that his joy in being physically able to make music with both hands again will surely drive him to the stage with some frequency. Set up a Google Alert, or something similar, so you don't get left out next time. You owe it to yourself.

Kevin Lowenthal reviewed the performance for The Boston Globe.

Thomas Garvey reviewed the performance for The Hub Review.


Caldwell Titcomb reviewed for The Fuse.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rob Kapilow podcast on WNYC


Composer, conductor and author Rob Kapilow made an appearance yesterday on WNYC's Soundcheck. He talked about gymnastics, Bela Bartok, musical rivalries, Beethoven in a cutting contest, and his new book, All You Have to Do is Listen.

Listen to: First Impressions Are Everything from Soundcheck on WNYC.

As you may know, Rob is a regular visitor to Boston and the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Notes: Fleisher, Biss and El Caballito

Leon Fleisher will be honored tonight at Jordan Hall (along with our founder, Aaron Richmond). He will also honor us with his playing (here's the Herald's advance take). We're told that it is likely that his former students will gather on stage for the duration in stage seats. For me, this conjures images of the extended family gathering 'round the piano to sing Tin Pan Alley tunes in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters. "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" crooned, with warm feelings all around. Well, how about a considerably less dysfunctional group gathered 'round the piano? And of course they won't be singing Rodgers and Hart tunes unless they have a most unusual encore up their collective sleeve. All right, so my little fantasy doesn't hang together, but you may be guaranteed one thing: at some point, Leon Fleisher's musicianship will get to you. You will not come away unaffected. You do have tickets, don't you?

Elsewhere, on his way to play for us in Boston, Jonathan Biss knocked 'em out at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (I couldn't resist) concert this past Sunday. Read the review in The Ellsworth American.

Best of luck to El Caballito (?!), and the rest of the Red Sox tonight in Anaheim.