Monday, December 21, 2009

Suzanne Vega reviews new McCartney bio for New York Times

Suzanne Vega was just here in November, making her Celebrity Series debut at Sanders Theatre. Now she's writing book reviews for the New York Times Book Review. OK, I'm impressed. Check out her review of Peter Ames Carlin's "Paul McCartney, A Life."

LA Times: "The arts see encouraging news in NEA survey"

Wagner and Bud Light 

The NEA's 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts has generated a variety of responses, but has mostly been perceived as yet another version of the "arts in crisis" message. The Los Angeles Times dug a little deeper into the report and found another point worth emphasizing: the arts are not alone...

"The NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted in May
2008 (before the current economic downturn), reported that 34.6% of
adults had gone at least once in the previous 12 months to an art
museum or seen a play, jazz performance, classical concert, opera or
dance -- the lowest percentage in a quarter century. Those who did
attend went less frequently, averaging about five times a year instead
of six. Only two arts categories -- musical theater and non-ballet
dance performances -- enjoyed attendance growth.

But a surprise in the survey is that, over the course of the last
quarter-century, the arts look like a bastion of stability compared
with other popular leisure activities in which masses of Americans
traditionally have invested time, money and the effort it takes to show
up in person and sit among strangers."

Read all of The arts see encouraging news in NEA survey.

Not exactly a "break open the champagne" kind of message, but it is a little comforting to know that the arts are in the same boat with some pretty big players in the battle to slay the couch-potato-ease-of-use-everything-at-our-fingertips-live-life-from-the-sofa dragon.

On the other hand, football attendees have to sit outside in the wintertime ...

Highlights from the NEA's 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

The NEA 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (the whole magilla).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reviews of the Emerson String Quartet

Here is a collection of reviews of the Emerson String Quartet's December 4 recital at Jordan Hall:

The Boston Globe (Jeremy Eichler)

The Arts Fuse (Caldwell Titcomb)

The Boston Phoenix (Lloyd Schwartz)

FYI: These reviews were not late - I'm late in posting them.

Japanese jazz opera (I think)

Though words fail, this works for me. It works as a joke, as a fascinating socio-historical product, and, arguably I suppose, as jazz. Check out Charlie Parker's Donna Lee at 7:31. The guy is really singing a difficult melody. Amazing.

Judging from the comments it is from a Japanese comedy show, though this definitely warrants further research.

Friday, December 11, 2009

ABSU is a "Favorite Place" on Google Maps - um, yay!?


According to the A) viral marketing materials designed by Google to get me to promote Google for Google, or B) nice letter from the good folks at Google, this blog is A) a Favorite Place on Google found by over 14,000 people between July 1 and September 30, with 1186 people requesting driving directions or other info about Aisle Be Seeing You, B) a small business, or C) a good target for Google marketers because, "this guy will post anything, including stickers."

Seriously, I would like to thank all 14,245 of you for checking in. And thanks for the sticker, Google!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Liam Clancy, 1935-2009

Liam Clancy sings Carrickfergus from The Clancy Brothers 1984 reunion tour with Tommy Makem

Folk singer Liam Clancy, the last surviving member of the renowned Irish group The Clancy Brothers, has died at 74 in County Cork.

The Celebrity Series presented Liam Clancy as a member of The Clancy Brothers in 1985, when the group kicked off its reunion tour at Symphony Hall. Liam was quoted by the Boston Herald at the time as saying, "I think it's quite appropriate it starts at Symphony, considering we were banned from there once. The fans were too wild for them, bringing six-packs onto the stage and all. This was back in 1965. They're older and a bit better behaved nowadays."

In the same interview, the youngest Clancy brother also said, "In London and New York we were amazed at the audiences - people were reliving something that we had never realized was that important to them."

According to the Boston Globe, "The loudest ovations [at the 1985 concert] greeted Liam's soulful rendition of the beautiful ballad Carrickfergus."

Associated Press obituary on

Irish Times

Poignant last interview with Liam Clancy in Irish America

BBC News

CBC News

Liam Clancy interviewed on Turbridy Tonight, Part 1 (2008)

Liam Clancy interviewed on Turbridy Tonight, Part 2 (2008)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Charles Ives is on Twitter

The UnTwittered Question

Charles Edward Ives, internationally renowned American modernist composer (and explorer of such musical techniques as polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatoric elements, and quarter tones), and insurance industry innovator (author of Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax) whose work helped lay the foundation for modern estate planning, has risen from the dead to launch a Twitter account:

Stay tuned for more innovation.

And check out Ives' String Quartet No. 1 tomorrow night with the Emerson String Quartet.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interview with Mark Morris plus Mozart Dances rehearsal footage

Mark Morris talks about dance, rehearsal, and choreography in this video from 2007. The clip includes footage of Mark Morris Dance Group rehearsing Mozart Dances.

Mozart Dances (oh by the way) makes its Boston (and Celebrity Series of Boston) debut with the Mark Morris Dance Group (naturally), the Orchestra of Emmanuel Music, conductor Jane Glover and piano soloists Russell Sherman and Minsoo Sohn January 29-31 at The Boston Opera House.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Classical WGBH radio to switch to 99.5 FM tomorrow

Tomorrow is DAY 1 of WGBH's classical radio format switch from 89.7 FM to 99.5 FM. Get the details here.

Charles Ives gets a green light

"Never you mind what the Ladies' Committee says, my opinion is that God gets awfully tired of hearing the same thing over and over again."

-John C. Griggs, Choirmaster at New Haven (CT)'s Centre Church to organist Charles Ives

Charles Ives' first string quartet leads off the Emerson String Quartet's program this Friday at Jordan Hall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Samuel Barber: composing in, football out

"Dear Mother: I have written to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t
cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I
suppose I will have to tell it now, without any nonsense. To begin with
I was not meant to be an athlete. I was meant to be a composer, and
will be I’m sure. I’ll ask you one more thing .—Don’t ask me to try to
forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes
I’ve been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very)."

-Samuel Barber, at age 9

The Emerson String Quartet will perform Samuel Barber's Adagio for String Quartet, Opus 11, and selections by Ives, Janacek and Shostakovich on Friday, December 4 at Jordan Hall. The performance will not be followed by a game of touch football (as far as we know), but you are welcome to organize one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recent previews & reviews: Vega, Sondheim and the Berlin Phil

Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic at Symphony Hall on Sunday (Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Suzanne Vega (November 6, Sanders Theatre)

The Boston Phoenix (Carrie Battan)

An Evening With Stephen Sondheim (November 14, Sanders Theatre)

The Hub Review (Thomas Garvey)

Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle, conducting (November 15, Symphony Hall)

The Boston Globe (Jeremy Eichler)

The Hub Review (Thomas Garvey)

The Boston Phoenix (Lloyd Schwartz)

The Boston Herald (Ed Symkus)

Real pain for my SPAM friends #326

SPAM, while annoying, does have its pleasures. I love the ambiguity of today's spam comment:

"your blog too enjoyful."

Is it so enjoyful that they just can't stand it?

Is it "just too much, man?"

I don't really want to know the answer any more than I want to try the ant-herpes product they're hawking...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Boston Globe talks with Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle

David Weininger of the Globe had a chat with Berlin Philharmonic conductor Sir Simon Rattle in advance of the orchestra's appearance at Symphony Hall this Sunday:

"Rattle is especially glad to be reconnecting with Boston. He nourishes
fond memories of the orchestra - 'I had the best time there, I tell
you' - and especially of Symphony Hall. He found the 2007 concert [by the Celebrity Series with Ben Heppner and Thomas Quasthoff] so
satisfying that 'all of us in Berlin felt, we have to play there again.'"

Read all of For Rattle, things look up as he looks ahead.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mark Morris looks out his window

Mark Morris looking out his window

For New Yorkers, peeking in other people's windows has long been a subject for open-minded consideration, a fact of life to be considered rather than an embarassment (or at least for some). “Out My Window NYC,” a new series of photographs by Gail Albert Halaban, and “The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York,” a book of drawings by
Matteo Pericoli that asks well-known New Yorkers to describe what they
see from their windows, both take on the subject of what New Yorkers see out their windows. Mark Morris, this blog discovered, participated in the project:

"Mark Morris, the choreographer and dancer, whose view is included in 'The City Out My Window,' said he regards the building across from his
home on Third Avenue in Manhattan, where people are constantly moving
in and out, as something of a cineplex. 'There’s an empty apartment,
and I see the new people, some couple, come in,' Mr. Morris, 53, said. 'Then they cover the windows. Then you can’t tell from across the
street if they’re male or female — and they’re naked, which is always
interesting. Then a few weeks later, it’s empty again.'"

Read all of the  New York Times article, Window Watchers in a City of Strangers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Clara Schumann on Brahms' Symphony No. 3

Clara Schumann

"I have spent such happy hours with your wonderful creation ... that I should like at least to tell you so. What a work! What a [musical] poem! What a harmonious mood pervades the whole! All the movements seem to be of one piece, one beat of the heart, each one a jewel! From start to finish one is wrapped about with the mysterious charm of the woods and forests. I could not tell you which movement I loved the most."

-Clara Schumann to Johannes Brahms, responding to the two-piano score of his Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Opus 90

The Berliner Philharmoniker plays Brahms' Symphony No. 3 at Symphony Hall on Sunday, November 15.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Summer Sun, Winter Moon

Our own Rob Kapilow (well, he's been doing shows with us for quite some time, so he feels like family) undertook an interesting project a few years ago, a commission to create a work that is "a reflection of the enduring legacy of the Lewis and Clark expedition." But the commission from the St. Louis Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic and the Kansas City Symphony was not specific as to how this might be accomplished. For inspiration, Kapilow retraced Lewis and Clark's steps and began confronting what was for him a new world. Kapilow struggles with how to tell this new unexpected story, the story he finds most compelling, and which is largely untold; the story of Lewis and Clark from the perspective of today's native Americans.

Together with Blackfeet Indian poet and language preservationist Darrell Robes Kipp, Kapilow creates a symphony and discovers a world of which he previously knew nothing, Kipp writes the libretto for Kapilow's symphony, and discovers a new direction in his own work of tribal preservation and possibility. Thus do these two unlikely partners begin the process of bridging the divide between worlds begun at the time of Lewis and Clark.

The film about this process, Summer Sun, Winter Moon, is now being shown on PBS stations across the country. the next showing's in the Boston area will be on November 6 on WGBX World. A complete schedule of showing in other locations is available here.

There is also this brief video made by the Blackfoot teenager Jesse Desrosier. Jesse also appears in the film: Diary of Jesse Desrosier

On another note, Rob Kapilow performs two versions of his acclaimed What Makes It Great? program in the 2009-2010 season:

What Makes It Great? Mendelssohn Octet
What Makes It Great? The Music of Cole Porter

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sir Simon signs on with Berlin Philharmonic until 2018

From the Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster blog:

"The classical music world is known for planning concerts and events
years in advance. But the Berlin Philharmonic takes the cake today with
its announcement that it has secured Simon Rattle's tenure as head of
the orchestra for another nine years."

Read the complete post.

Berlin Philharmonic comes to Boston November 15.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Christian Tetzlaff, sublime Bach

Christian Tetzlaff

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff's program was all J.S. Bach, all of Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas, in fact, so it was not a complete representation of what Boston audiences will hear on January 31 at Jordan Hall. However, according to Allan Kozinn of the New York Times, Tetzlaff's performance (as well as the program) was sublime.

Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C and Partita No 2 in D minor, both of which were on Sunday's 92nd Street Y program and are mentioned in the review, will be played in Boston. But we will also hear Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata for solo violin and for Paganinni caprices. Hear is a snippet of Kozinn's review to whet your appetite:

"Technique is never an issue with this violinist. The clarity and
solidity he brings to the music’s chordal writing remain among the most
striking characteristics of his Bach playing, as does the sharp
articulation he uses to suggest independent lines of counterpoint. What
has deepened is the intensity of the emotional charge he draws from
this music, in readings that match Bach’s 18th-century ingenuity with
passion and warmth in the here and now."

Read all of Emphasizing Bach's Unity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ask Stephen Sondheim. No, really, ask Stephen Sondheim ...

Stephen Sondheim

At the close of his onstage conversation with Stephen Sondheim at
Sanders Theater on November 14
, Frank Rich will include questions
submitted in advance by audience members and other Sondheim fans.

Please email your questions for Stephen Sondheim by Thursday, November 12 to:

will not be accepted after November 12. Questions may be presented in
edited form. There is no guarantee your question(s) will be selected.

During this live, unscripted conversation, Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Rich
will reminisce about Stephen Sondheim’s career including his
collaborations with Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins; his
predecessors, including his mentor Oscar Hammerstein II; the state of
American musical theater; and, in a very personal series of
reflections, his own creative process, speaking specifically on works
ranging from his early shows Gypsy and West Side Story to such later classics as Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd.

Note: Remaining tickets for this event are limited.

Suzanne Vega live in Wattensheid, Germany (video)

Suzanne Vega sings "Small Blue Thing" in Wattensheid, Germany. It's probably the best of the fan-submitted videos from her summer 2009 tour.

Suzanne comes to Sanders Theatre, Cambridge on November 6, courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston (ahem).

Friday, October 23, 2009

For Maestro Slatkin and the DSO, "Change is in the Air ;-)"

Leonard Slatkin

A humorous little post from the blog of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra - a pseudo-introduction of the coming season - has confused a number of otherwise worldly and alert adults into thinking the cracks therein are to be taken seriously. Here are some rather obvious samples of Slatkin's playfulness:

On distraction:
"To begin, the orchestra will be seated with their backs to the
audience. Music Director Leonard Slatkin said at a press conference
yesterday, 'I feel that the listeners are distracted by seeing the faces
of the musicians. By turning around, people will tire of looking at
backsides and focus purely on the music.'"

On Beethoven's 5th Symphony:
"So for these performances of the overly familiar Beethoven score, the
opening five bars will not be played, since everyone knows how they go.
It will be straight into the 6th measure. In fact, every time the
four-note motto comes in and is played loudly, the passage will either
disappear or be performed softly."

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring:
"Other emendations include orchestration changes. The opening of
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, played by the bassoon in a high register,
will now be intoned on the tuba, two octaves lower than printed."

On formal attire:
"Finally, in keeping with the new seating arrangement, the orchestra
will perform in street clothes, but the audience is requested to come
in formal attire.

'Let them learn how long it takes to put on white tie and tails.'"

And finally:
"Season tickets, subscription renewals and cancellations can be taken care of directly with the DSO box office."

If the Schikele-esque notions above were not adequate proof of mirth, the post even goes so far as to include the winking emoticon, ;-), in the headline, but still there were those who remained unsure if they were witnessing a joke or not. That tells this reader that the classical community in general could use a bit more of this sort of thing ...

DSO blog post, with comments

Leonard Slatkin's web site

Mind the Gap blog on

Daily Observations blog, with comment

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ingrid Fliter on Chopin, Argerich and piano competitions

Ingrid Fliter

Pianist Ingrid Fliter is definitely at the point in her career in which people are beginning to know her music and want to hear her story. She spoke to The Times (UK) recently on a range of topics, including Chopin, pianist Martha Argerich, and winning the Gilmore Artist Award:

"Her big break was a once-in-a-lifetime chance — the intervention of
her all-time idol, the Argentine piano legend Martha Argerich, many of
whose best qualities she shares, though she would never admit the
comparison. 'A friend of mine told me that she was coming to Argentina
and that she wanted to listen to some young pianists — in four days’
time. So I practised 12 hours, 14 hours, on the one piece I wanted to
play, Chopin’s Sonata No 3.' After she had finished, Argerich told her
to pack her bags and go to study with Vitaly Margulis in Freiburg,
Germany. Then she gave her the keys to her flat in Geneva."

Read all of How Chopin came to the rescue of Argentine pianist Ingird Fliter.

Boston gets its first chance to hear Ms. Fliter on November 1 at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mark Morris talks with The Guardian

Mark Morris

Entertaining, incisive, smart, honest - the only problem with Mark Morris' answers for interviewer's questions is that there are never enough of them:

"The Guardian: Who would you most like to work with?

Morris: This is
worrisome. If I say somebody who's around today, then I'll get a phone
call from their agent. So I'll have George Frideric Handel, because he
taught me everything I know, but isn't around to take the credit."

Read all of Portrait of the Artist: Mark Morris, choreographer.

The Mark Morris Dance group will perform Mozart Dances with the orchestra of Emmanuel Music, conducted by Jane Glover with piano soloists Russell Sherman and Minsoo Sohn January 29-31 at the Boston Opera House.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Berlin, Germany and the Celebrity Series

Several things have us meditating on Germany in general and Berlin in particular this season (no, not Berlin, New Hampshire, watch the video!). For one we are presenting a remarkable and somewhat coincidental array of German performers and works in 2009-2010. And many of them are indeed from Berlin. So, Bostonians, once you finish watching Berlin in 3-D, take a look at Germany coming to your own back yard:

1. The Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, make their return visit to Symphony Hall within a week of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (November 15, Symphony Hall)

2. Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, though he was born in Hamburg and lives near Frankfurt, is certainly German. Tetzlaff will perform an unaccompanied violin recital that will feature works by J.S.  Bach, among others. (January 31, NEC’s Jordan Hall)

3. The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, as the name implies, is made up of first chair players from their venerable parent ensemble. The orchestra has been here before, of course, but this concert is the Wind Quintet's Boston debut. (February 5, NEC’s Jordan Hall)

4. Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra will play an all-Beethoven program under the baton of Maestro Riccardo Chailly and featuring Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire. (February 25, Symphony Hall)

5. The Berlin-based Artemis String Quartet makes its Boston debut with an all-Beethoven program (March 5, NEC’s Jordan Hall)

6. Max Raabe & Palast Orchester capture the elegant decadence of pre-war Berlin of the 1920s and 30s in a program called “A Night in Berlin.” (March 6, Paramount Theatre, 2 shows)

7. German-born bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, in addition to being a truly gifted singer and profound communicator, is also  a teacher at Berlin’s Hans Eisler School of Music. His May 2 recital will feature works by German composer Johannes Brahms, among others.(May 2, NEC's Jordan Hall)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flicka's "Goodbye without tears"

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade - "Flicka" as she has long been known - called it quits this past weekend, at least as far as Boston recitals are concerned. At her Farewell Recital (and Celebrity Series 09-10 season opening performance) with her friend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa on Sunday she seemed to be serious about retiring, but it was not a sad occasion. As farewells go, this one was mostly about smiles, lightness and a fun afternoon with good friends: remarkable perhaps for its unremarkableness. But Flicka has always known how to put audiences at ease; melodrama is not her style. David Perkins, reviewing for the Globe, put it well:

"The afternoon ended, as it should have, with von Stade by herself, in a
favorite encore, "La Vie en Rose." She sang it with a perfect blend of
tonal warmth, expansive phrasing, and fine guttural French. It was a
goodbye without tears."

Read all of Von Stade bids farewell to Boston.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Small Town Hall, Kids on Money

From the good people at Marketplace (American Public Media) comes Small Town Hall, videos of kids talking about money, saving, investing, recession and the deficit.

Flicka & Kiri's additions & encores

The "TBA" selections and encores have all been sung and a good time was had by all. The two illustrious singers may have had the best time of all ...

Additional selections announced from the stage:

Ambroise Thomas

"Me voici dans son boudoir" from Mignon

Daniel Schmitt & Marc Berthomien

from Jardins de Paris

Jardin d'Albert Kahn

Bois du Boulogne


George Gershwin



Cole Porter

By Strauss


Carol Hall

Jenny Rebecca


Jake Heggie

A Route to the Sky 

Gioachino Rossini

Duetto buffo di due gatti


Cole Porter

True Love



La Vie En Rose

Friday, October 2, 2009

Celebrity Series of Boston on Twitter

Now you can follow the Celebrity Series of Boston itself via Twitter. Yup.

Look for us at:

I will be letting you, the regular readers, know what we're up to on Twitter from time to time, but go check it out yourself anyhow.

P.S. - You all know (surely) that this blog can be followed on Twitter ( OK, just checking...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

National Summit on Arts Journalism live feed, 10/2/09, 12pm-3pm

Live video by Ustream

The National Summit on Arts Journalism is taking place today at the USC Annenburg School for Communication. Their will be a live feed of the summit starting at 12pm today (10/2/09). Among the events featured will be two roundtable discussions about the art and business of arts journalism (see below).

1:25 pm
(EST) Roundtable: The Art of Arts Journalism

  • Moderator: Laura Sydell, Reporter, NPR

  • Guests: Jeff Chang, author and journalist; Seth Schiesel, Reporter, The New York Times

3:20 pm (EST) 
Roundtable: The Business of Arts Journalism

  • Moderator: András Szántó, Director, NEA Institute in Classical Music

  • Guests: Richard Gingras, CEO,; Deborah Marrow, Director, The Getty Foundation

UPDATE: I made a classic mistake and posted the Pacific time start as the Eastern time start. This feed is scheduled to begin at noon today, EST. Anyone have a fork? I need to get started on my humble pie....

Greg Pierotti on 'Laramie Project' & interview with convicted killer McKinney

Actor-playwright Greg Pierotti talks about 'The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later' and his interview with convicted killer Aaron McKinney, the person responsible for the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998.

The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later ... An Epilogue will be performed in Boston (Cutler Majestic Theatre) and around the country on October 12.

Glenn Close to host The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later Pre-Show

Glenn Close

Actress Glenn Close will serve as host for the pre-show webcast for The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later ... An Epilogue, on October 12. Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy Shepard, will give the welcoming remarks and a post-production Q and A
moderated by National Public Radio Arts and Culture correspondent Neda

Over 150 theaters will participate in the event on October 12, including, in Boston, a presentation by the Celebrity Series of Boston and Emerson College at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. Tickets are free, you can reserve yours on the Celebrity Series web site.

Emerson College Laramie Project blog

Tectonic Theater Project

Wednesday, September 30, 2009, your online arts buddy

For those of you that don't know, ArtsBoston has launched a web site. A comprehensive and attractive web site of arts events happening in Boston (we're on it).

A VERY comprehensive and attractive web site of arts events happening in Boston (ok, we're not the only ones on it).

A VERY comprehensive and attractive web site of arts events happening in Boston that you need to bookmark, gentle reader.

The video above is a bit of testimoniality-ness about the site: the need for it (whew! yes), what an accomplishment something so comprehensive actually is (someone should be taking a bow), how long we have needed something like it (see: whew! yes), etc.

Once you're done watching the video, take a look at the site. You may not go back to whatever online arts information source you're using now...

Remember that bit about bookmarking it. I don't trust your memory.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tickets now available for The Laramie Project, 10 Years Later ... An Epilogue


In June 2008, members of Tectonic Theater Project returned to Laramie, Wyoming to explore how the town had changed in the ten years since Matthew Shepard's murder.
What they found defied their expectations. The result is a new play about how we construct our own history.

This is the continuing story of an American Town.

Emerson College in association with the Celebrity Series of Boston presents The Tectonic Theatre Project in The Laramie Project, 10 Years Later...An Epilogue, by Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris and Stephen Belber.

Join The Laramie Project Online Community.

Get more information or reserve your tickets for this free community event.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009)


Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha has died in Barcelona at 86 years of age. Ms. de Larrocha performed a total of seven recitals for the Celebrity Series between 1967 and 1995. Following her 1967 recital, in which she played several works by Granados and

Albéniz, Boston Globe critic Michael Steinberg wrote:

"Alicia de Larrocha plays Spanish music very well. She has the agility and the strength, she defines the dance rhythms with a vitality that is really uncommon, and, after what must be hundreds of performances, she still plays these pieces without affection. She plays the tunes flexibly, not in softly yielding style, but with a steely tensile strength that is exciting."

In 1983, Globe critic Richard Dyer offered the following assessment:

"It's probably a mistake to say, as many do, that the pianist has been an uncommonly persuasive advocate for her country's music. It's true that she completely convinces her listener of its depth and worth. But she has not really urged it into the regular repertory, because other pianists would be crazy to go up against competition like this."

New York Times (Allan Kozinn)

Telegraph (UK)

Washington Post

Baltimore Sun (Tim Smith), blog post with videos

National Public Radio

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stravinsky conducting Firebird from 1965

Igor Stravinsky conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra in "Lullaby and Final Hymn" from The Firebird Suite. The concert is from London's Royal Festival Hall in 1965.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NY Times: "Searching for Chopin in Warsaw"

Have you been noticing more attention being paid to Chopin and his music of late? Well, there is a reason. For those of you who are not aware, 2010 is the bicentennial of Chopin's birth. For our part, Chopin is getting some additional Celebrity Series attention in 2010, too. Three of the four pianists on the Series are playing Chopin (and Pollini is playing only Chopin). The latest additional to the public discussion of Chopin comes from today's story in the New York Times about looking for clues, any clues, of Chopin's presence in Warsaw. Read Searching for Chopin in Warsaw.

I can't say this article left me feeling good about the state of Chopin's legacy in his home country, but it is an interesting micro-examination of the issue, at least.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Berlin Philharmonic excerpt of Brahms Symphony No. 3

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in this excerpt from a November 2008 performance. The full concert is available (for a fee, of course) here.

But I could hardly call myself your special blog friend (blogfreund?) if I didn't also tell you that the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle will play Brahms' Symphony No. 3 here in Boston on November 15.

Monday, September 21, 2009

WGBH to acquire WCRB 99.5 FM

There are "wows" and there are "WOWS"! This one gets ALL CAPS.

WGBH, our NPR/PBS colleagues over in Brighton have announced plans to acquire classical music station WCRB, at 99.5 FM on your FM dial. WCRB will become non-commerical, "in keeping with our public mission," as the WGBH web site says.

Read more about this remarkable development here.

UPDATE: And here is today's Boston Globe article (9/21).

FURTHER UPDATES: Dan Kennedy weighs in. And Bob Oakes at WBUR.

Washington Post: How football is like dance


Sarah Kaufman, the Washington Post's dance critic, gives her take on how football is like dance (I'll give you a hint, it ain't the salaries):

"... though football may be the closest thing to a gladiatorial spectacle
since the fall of Rome, it can also claim kinship with the slippered
heroes of the ballet stage."

Read all of Leaps and Bounds.

Friday, September 18, 2009

WGBH program ad

The Celebrity Series is putting the finishing touches on the program book (you know, that little book they hand you with the names of the pieces to be played in it, among other things) for the new season and I
wanted to share this cute/fun new ad submitted by our friends at WGBH:

Happy to take the stairs, thanks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leon Kirchner (1919-2009)


Composer Leon Kirchner has died at 90 years of age.

Kirchner's work was performed on the Celebrity Series by at least four performers. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed a transcription of Duo in 1988, pianist Peter Serkin performed Interlude in 1990, pianist Max Levinson performed Five Pieces for Piano in 1996, and Leon Fleisher performed Music for Left Hand in 2004.

In his 2008 memoir, Hallelujah Junction, composer John Adams, a student of Kirchner, had the following to say about the composer:

"Kirchner was one of the most intuitive musicians I ever encountered. Although highly sophisticated, immensely well-read, and a close friend and verbal sparring partner of Harvard's intellectual heavyweights, he approached music more like a jazz musician than a note parsing analyst."

New Music Box obituary

New York Times obituary

G. Schirmer biography

Boston Globe obituary

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bobby McFerrin: The power of the pentatonic scale

Bobby McFerrin uses the audience at the World Science Festival 2009 to demonstrate the power of the pentatonic scale.

We don't know that Bobby will do this same demonstration at his Celebrity Series concert (March 21, Symphony Hall), but he always brings his version of amazing.

All 2009-2010 Celebrity Series performances are now on sale.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Every Celebrity Series 2009-2010 performance on sale Monday, September 14!

Every performance in the Celebrity Series of Boston 2009-2010 season is on sale on from 9am to 5pm (regular box office hours 10-4) this Monday morning, September 14. Call (617) 482-6661 or visit anytime. Start your engines!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Suzanne Vega sings "Winter Wonderland" from 2007

Found: a little backstage version of "Winter Wonderland" (yes, the famous tune by Felix Bernard and Richard Smith) from 2007 - a "work in progress" according to Suzanne Vega's podcast. It's fun and cheery. But don't take my word for it, give a listen.

Individual tickets for our 2009-2010 season go on sale September 14!

That's right, peeps, you all know that Celebrity Series subscriptions (3 or more shows) have been available since April, but starting September 14 those of you who have not been able to find 3 or more performances to your liking (should be about 4 people by my count) can now buy the one or two shows you have your heart set on.

It all starts Monday, September 14.

You can buy your tickets online at or by calling CelebrityCharge at (617) 482-6661 and talk to one of our friendly box office wizards, they'll take good care of you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Downloading music found to be better for environment than buying CDs


In a not particularly surprising, but helpful, finding, researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford Universities found that:

"... buying an album digitally reduces
carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 80 percent relative to a best-case
scenario for purchasing a CD."

Read all of The Carbon Case for Downloading Music.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul, 1915-2009

Guitarist and audio recording pioneer Les Paul has died at 94: CNN International obituary.

"How High the Moon" via 26 tracks.

Mr. Paul, was not a Celebrity Series performer, but I couldn't let his passing go without a post.

The American Time Use Survey


The American Time Use Study, conducted by the U.S. Census bureau, measures how we, by various groupings, spent our day on average in 2008. It is a picture not for the faint of heart:


NY Times article

American Time Use Survey homepage

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Royal Opera House to perform opera with Twitter libretto

This project has an air of inevitability to it, but London's Royal Opera House will perform an opera using Twitter contributions for the libretto. Here is a snippet of the AP story:

"In an effort to get more people involved with opera, which sometimes
suffers from an elitist, highbrow reputation, London's world-famous
Royal Opera House is turning away — temporarily — from classic talents
like Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini and giving the composer's pen
to ... just about anybody.

All you need to contribute is a
computer or a mobile phone and an account on Twitter, the popular
micro-blogging site that is open to all."

Read all of the Associated Press story.

Random assortment of contributions to date:

"Nuts, i love hazelnuts." Bang! The bird dropped from the sky, dead, its tiny wings were frozen."

"concerns of a nihilist. I would bring you flowers, but they would die. I would love you, but, why?"

"Still in park. Her, shivering with coffee: I’m so cold- let’s leave Boston. Him: Anywhere! Around the world India, then Egypt!"

"but the distance between us is psychological – not physical or intellectual. And what’s happened toooooo the ginger cat?"

"forget! forget! the natives won’t forget! Lovers, mysterious in the mosquito net!!"

View the line-by-line progress of the libretto.

Make a contribution to the libretto (login required).

Visit the Royal Opera House on Twitter (is that close to Covent Garden?)

Royal Opera House web site

WBCN radio signs off for good

It's true. WBCN, fixture of Boston radio for 41 years (and originally the classically formatted Boston Concert Network) is going away today. Story.

Leonard Bernstein's FBI file

New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross requested and received copies of Leonard Bernstein's FBI file. He writes about the experience for the magazine's News Desk:

"... the first serious
inquiry came in March, 1949, when David Niles, President Truman’s
administrative assistant, asked the Bureau to look into the young
musician’s background. Niles wanted the information because Truman and
Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, were scheduled to attend
an event at which Bernstein was slated to perform."

Read Bernstein and the FBI.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Arnold Schoenberg's Drei Klavierstücke ... played by cats

And no I don't mean jazz "cats," I mean the furry, purring kind, on video. The video above is the first movement. Visit this page for the other two and an explanation of the project with source materials.

I'm not sure how to describe this. Is it "on the level?", "cruelty to animals?", "a joke?" Well, the cat videos are real and he really did attempt to recreate Schoenberg's famous work and no cats were harmed in the making of this video. On the other hand, how could it not be a joke? If it is a joke, it's no ordinary joke, etc.

Thanks to Soho the Dog for rooting out this gem.

Pianist Fliter's unconventional Schumann concerto in Chicago's Grant Park

Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter gave an unusual performance of Schumann's piano concerto in Chicago's Grant Park on August 5. Here is a bit of Dennis Polkow review for Classical Review:

"Fliter’s rubato remained a constant surprise: after such a fast, thrilling
opening, she quickly quieted down and slowly took the follow-up section,
offering a satisfying yet alternative interpretive contrast.  Her rolling
arpeggios were delivered with such precision and transparency that they often
came across as far more legato and less percussive, a quality which drew more
attention to the overall melodic shape of the piece, as if she were playing

Read the complete review.

As this blog has written before, Ms. Fliter makes her Boston debut on November 1 in a recital at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Friday, August 7, 2009

24 hours of world air traffic in one minute (video)

All of the world's air traffic viewable in a compressed 1-minute video. I found it amazing and oddly chilling. Is it art?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

La Guardia fake bomber also plays classical piano

Apropos of nothing, Scott McGann, the man accused of planting a fake bomb at New York's La Guardia airport, apparently plays classical piano regularly at Beethoven Pianos, a Manhattan music store on West 58th Street:

"'He's always welcome here,' said Perry Fellwock, marketing manager at the store. 'His piano playing is brilliant. He plays mostly classical music.'"

New York Daily News story

Andrew Dickson at The Guardian on the future of arts TV

Andrew Dickson, writing for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, says arts broadcasting is at a crossroads in his country (and, presumably, in ours as well). Read Is this the future of arts TV?

Artemis String Quartet plays Beethoven quartets Opus 59/ 1 & 95

Artemis String Quartet plays Beethoven quartets Opus 59/ 1 & 95 (video excerpts with interviews).

Visit the official Artemis web site.

The Artemis make their Boston debut on Friday, March 5 at NEC's Jordan Hall with an all-Beethoven program.

NY Times advocates napping in the workplace


Today's opinion piece on the New York Times Op/Ed page references a new Pew Research Center study on napping and comes away advocating for naps in the workplace. I would read the Pew study, but I just can't keep my eyes open ...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stumbling into "The Rehearsal" in Aspen

Writer Erik Tarloff stumbles across pianist Yefim Bronfman rehearsing at the Aspen Music Festival in The Atlantic:

"I strolled down into the all-but-empty auditorium and grabbed myself a
great seat.  The superb Russian pianist Yefim Bronfman was rehearsing
the concerto with the Aspen Festival Orchestra under the conductor
Peter Oundjian, for a concert scheduled to take place tomorrow.  I had
just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

Read all of The Rehearsal.

Musicophilia: Six questions for Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author of the book Musicophilia, answered six questions for the latest Harper's Magazine. Here's a sample:

"Q. What is it about music that makes it suitable for use as part of a torture regimen?

A. Music’s power does have a dark side. A daily example of this would be musical brainworms, the annoyingly repetitive musical phrases that may run through one’s mind for days on end ..."

Read the complete article.

Newly discovered Mozart works get a hearing

An Austrian pianist played the two newly discovered works by W.A. Mozart on Sunday. The two piano pieces, believed to have been written when the composer was 7 or 8 years old (and written out by his father, Leopold Mozart) were performed in a Salzburg house in which the composer once lived. Reuters story.

UPDATE: Here is the more detailed New York Times story.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Emerson College names Robert Orchard executive director for the arts

Emerson College has named Robert Orchard, the founding Managing Director and subsequent Executive Director of American Repertory Theatre as its new Executive Director for the Arts. Announcement.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

George Russell, 1923-2009

George Russell, the influential jazz composer, architect of the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, MacArthur Fellow and longtime New England Conservatory faculty member, has died at age 86.

The coverage of Mr. Russell's death has been extensive, of course, below is only a sampling:

Boston Globe

Los Angeles Times

The Washington Post

National Public Radio


Do The Math blog (The Bad Plus)

"The Future of Jazz" television show from 1958, featuring George Russell, Bill Evans, Tony Scott, Art Farmer, Jimmy Cleveland, Doc Severinsen, Ed Thigpen, Mundell Lowe, and Eddie Safranski (video)

George Russell chatting with Ornette Coleman

New England Conservatory

George Russell official web site

My practice has been to include, in the interest of brevity, only obituaries of artist with whom the Celebrity Series has had a presenting relationship. Though the Celebrity Series of Boston never presented Mr. Russell or his ensembles, undoubtedly a number of Celebrity Series artists have been influenced by his work.

Jonathan Biss gets back on his blog horse

He had not, as he acknowledges, posted anything on his blog since March, so Jonathan Biss decided to make use of his time on a trans-Pacific flight to get his readers up to speed ...

Michael Steinberg obituary from The New York Times

Anthony Tommasini's obituary of Michael Steinberg is in today's edition of The New York Times.

"The Semiotics of Classical LP Cover Art (ca. 1970), or, When Things Started to Get Fun"

The 1970s, it turns out, are almost always good for a chuckle. Here is a fun post from the AllMusic Blog entitled "The Semiotics of Classical LP Cover Art (ca. 1970), or, When Things Started to Get Fun." Fair warning, the post includes near nudity and full frontal kitsch.

A nod to The Well Tempered Blog for the road map.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Mondays with Merce" video collection

Check out Mondays with Merce, behind the scenes at the Merce Cunningham studio. The full collection of videos can be found at

Michael Steinberg, former Boston Globe music critic, dies at 80

Michael Steinberg, 1928-2009

Former Boston Globe classical music critic and musicologist Michael Steinberg died this weekend in Minnesota. He was 80 years old.

Mr. Steinberg was classical music critic for The Boston Globe from 1966 to 1976 and, as such, reviewed innumerable Celebrity Series performances.

Boston Globe

San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog

The Baltimore Sun

National Public Radio

Minnesota Public Radio

Nonesuch Records

Merce Cunningham, 1919-2009

L to R: Walter Pierce, Executive Director, Wang Celebrity Series, Merce Cunningham, Holly Sidford, New England Foundation for the Arts, in 1988.

Dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, one of the 20th century's great innovators, died on Sunday (July 26, 2009) at 90 years of age. Written appreciations from around the world are pouring onto the internet honoring this legendary figure, many featuring video or photo galleries, below is a sampling.

The New York Times

The New York Times: ArtsBeat blog, Alastair Macaulay

The Washington Post: Sarah Kaufman

Los Angeles Times: Culture Monster blog

San Jose Mercury News

The Christian Science Monitor

The Times (UK)

Telegraph (UK)

The Sydney Morning Herald

"Alma Guillermoprieto: Merce Cunningham" in The New Yorker

The Baltimore Sun

Charlotte Higgins on Culture (Guardian UK blog)

Miami Herald

The Wall Street Journal: Speakeasy blog

National Public Radio: the two-way news blog

Rolling Stone

BBC News

Berkshire Eagle

Village Voice: Deborah Jowitt

The Centralia Chronicle (Cunningham's home town paper)

The Celebrity Series has presented the Merce Cunningham Dance Company
on two occasions: in 1970, two lecture/demonstrations featuring
Cunningham and Company with, among others, the composer John Cage in
the pit; and again in 1988 for three distinct programs at John Hancock Hall.