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B. F. Kiefrich, Spam Artist, Remembered

You may wonder about my interest in this traditional American delicacy. It comes not from the interests I share with Sgr. Rossini, but from my experiences as a curator in the Cleveland Museum of Art. As my colleagues and I pushed papers and watched western civilization melt into Lake Erie, a remarkable artist from Akron came to our attention. This artist, who worked under the name B. F. Kiefrich, produced sculptures from Spam®, among them an exquisite gilt miniature Book of Hours, known as the Codex Spambergensis and a porcine version of Nefertiti’s lips.

Sir Simon Rattle’s Farewell Tour with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Two Concerts in Davies Hall, San Francisco

Sir Simon Rattle

It was a tease this time—opening with minimalist Boulez. But it was worth it.

Anyone growing up past mid-century recalls an era when whole portions of the German symphonic experience were seeming property of the Berlin Philharmonic and its legendary conductor, Herbert von Karajan. Put a Berlin Philharmonic LP of Brahms, Strauss, Beethoven or Bruckner on the turntable, and the golden DGG logo virtually guaranteed this orchestra would sound richer, probe more deeply than any other and elicit sheer heft without parallel. No string or brass section would glow as beautifully or emit more power. If that didn’t convey authority, as it surely did to anyone with good ears, Karajan’s mesmeric space-commander hair, ascetic tunic and “visionary closed eyes” (interesting notion, that) encouraged along the way our notion of insights to be found within—most of them worthy and real.

Artist’s Books by Dan Rose; Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire, Photon Ecstasy (HD 7924) at the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

Dan Rose in the gallery

Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire is the most recent exhibition of artist’s books by Dan Rose with a performance by New York Composer-Performers l’Artiste ordinaire (Melissa Grey & David Moneau).

Through Dan Rose’s initiative, the Kislak Center has now acquired the collected papers of Harry Matthews the first American member of Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Oulipo, a group of mostly French avant-garde novelists and poets who invented or revived techniques that influenced the trajectory of 20th and 21st century literature.

A Generous Collection of Works by Marie Jaëll from the Centre de Musique Romantique Française (Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice)/Ediciones Singulares

Marie Jaëlle (1846-1925)

Lovers of nineteenth-century music will want to know about the remarkable work of the Centre de Musique Romantique Française. The Center, founded in 2009, is run primarily by scholars from France but is located in Venice, at the Palazetto Bru Zane. It engages in research—and provides financial support—for concerts, opera performances, print publications, and numerous recordings. Many of these recordings are multiple-CD sets that come with a small hardbound book containing—in French and English—informative essays and sung texts and translations. The Center organizes these CD/book combinations into three categories: “French Opera” (11 releases so far), “[Composer] Portraits” (3 releases), and “Prix de Rome” (6 releases—compositions written by student composers at the Paris Conservatoire, such as the young Debussy). All the CD/books are produced and published by the Center itself, but Amazon.com and other record distributors tend to refer to them, instead, by the name of the firm that manufactures the book: Ediciones Singulares (El Escorial, Spain).

Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic: A musical experience of a lifetime

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic at Symphony Hall. Photo Robert Torres.

After the stunning concert with Simon Rattle leading the Berliner Philharmoniker at Boston’s Symphony Hall—Pierre Boulez’s scintillating Éclat followed (without intermission) by Mahler’s black sheep Symphony No. 7—I couldn’t stop shaking. There’s a lot of good music in Boston, but this was different—on a whole other level. And the audience knew it, felt it. Wasn’t it just what we needed to hear after the bruising election? People were not only cheering but weeping and hugging each other.

Art

B. F. Kiefrich, Spam Artist, Remembered

You may wonder about my interest in this traditional American delicacy. It comes not from the interests I share with Sgr. Rossini, but from my experiences as a curator in the Cleveland Museum of Art. As my colleagues and I pushed papers and watched western civilization melt into Lake Erie, a remarkable artist from Akron came to our attention. This artist, who worked under the name B. F. Kiefrich, produced sculptures from Spam®, among them an exquisite gilt miniature Book of Hours, known as the Codex Spambergensis and a porcine version of Nefertiti’s lips.

Artist’s Books by Dan Rose; Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire, Photon Ecstasy (HD 7924) at the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

Dan Rose in the gallery

Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire is the most recent exhibition of artist’s books by Dan Rose with a performance by New York Composer-Performers l’Artiste ordinaire (Melissa Grey & David Moneau).

Through Dan Rose’s initiative, the Kislak Center has now acquired the collected papers of Harry Matthews the first American member of Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Oulipo, a group of mostly French avant-garde novelists and poets who invented or revived techniques that influenced the trajectory of 20th and 21st century literature.

Music

Sir Simon Rattle’s Farewell Tour with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Two Concerts in Davies Hall, San Francisco

Sir Simon Rattle

It was a tease this time—opening with minimalist Boulez. But it was worth it.

Anyone growing up past mid-century recalls an era when whole portions of the German symphonic experience were seeming property of the Berlin Philharmonic and its legendary conductor, Herbert von Karajan. Put a Berlin Philharmonic LP of Brahms, Strauss, Beethoven or Bruckner on the turntable, and the golden DGG logo virtually guaranteed this orchestra would sound richer, probe more deeply than any other and elicit sheer heft without parallel. No string or brass section would glow as beautifully or emit more power. If that didn’t convey authority, as it surely did to anyone with good ears, Karajan’s mesmeric space-commander hair, ascetic tunic and “visionary closed eyes” (interesting notion, that) encouraged along the way our notion of insights to be found within—most of them worthy and real.

A Generous Collection of Works by Marie Jaëll from the Centre de Musique Romantique Française (Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice)/Ediciones Singulares

Marie Jaëlle (1846-1925)

Lovers of nineteenth-century music will want to know about the remarkable work of the Centre de Musique Romantique Française. The Center, founded in 2009, is run primarily by scholars from France but is located in Venice, at the Palazetto Bru Zane. It engages in research—and provides financial support—for concerts, opera performances, print publications, and numerous recordings. Many of these recordings are multiple-CD sets that come with a small hardbound book containing—in French and English—informative essays and sung texts and translations. The Center organizes these CD/book combinations into three categories: “French Opera” (11 releases so far), “[Composer] Portraits” (3 releases), and “Prix de Rome” (6 releases—compositions written by student composers at the Paris Conservatoire, such as the young Debussy). All the CD/books are produced and published by the Center itself, but Amazon.com and other record distributors tend to refer to them, instead, by the name of the firm that manufactures the book: Ediciones Singulares (El Escorial, Spain).

Theater

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Glimmerglass

Greer Grimsley in the title of The Glimmerglass Festival production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd." Photo Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is dark, dark musical theatre. A vengeful barber returns to Victorian London, slits the throats of those who have wronged him and with his accomplice turns their bodies into the stuffing of meat pies. Todd’s London is as menacing as he is …

“There’s a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people
Who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it …”

Opera

Openings: Boston Musica Viva plays Boulez, Marteau sans maître, and Nelsons and the BSO present Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier

R. Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier: Andris Nelsons, Renée Fleming, Franz Hawlata, Susan Graham. Photo Winslow Townson.

One hoped and expected there would be performances of Pierre Boulez pieces in Boston this season to honor this great musician who died last winter. The Berlin Philharmonic, hardly a local group, will play one piece on its visit here in November. I don’t see anything else on the horizon. So, many thanks to Boston Musica Viva, our fine contemporary music ensemble now in its 48th year, for opening its season with Boulez’s perhaps most significant work, Le Marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master, 1954-57).

Glimmerglass Festival 2016 – For the Birds

As always, I seek some unifying subtext for the offerings, and this year the quest was, at face value, quite simple: birds. An outdoor avian sculpture and a birder challenge in the program booklets left no doubt of the “theme” intended.  However, the degree of suggestion varied from the most obvious (Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie) to the surreal (Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd) and merely suggestive in the others. Rossini’s rarely performed dramatic comedy, La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) was the most interesting production this season.  While I would never concur with Toscanini’s equating Rossini’s talent to that of Mozart (in quality and not merely in youthful quantity), the mix of comedy and high drama certainly had pretensions to some of Mozart’s great operatic moments. Perhaps, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte served as models for the young composer; he even manages some near literal quotes of these works in the second act.

Dance

Literature

riverrun runs wild in Brooklyn, with performance artist Olwen Fouéré

Olwen Fouéré in riverrun at BAM. Photo Rebecca Greenfield.

You’ve doubtless read somewhere or another or heard someone say that our relationship to novels is much like our relationships to people (our relationships to their authors, living and dead, are a whole other thing). That may sound trite, but it has its degree of truth. In no case is it so true as in the case of Finnegan’s Wake. In most cases James Joyce’s last novel is like some celebrity academic, who jets constantly between, say, Paris and Berkeley, but never crosses our path. Others may have approached the great man at the podium after a lecture and tried to ask a private question, only to be

John Banville talks to Michael Miller about Love in the Wars, his English adaptation of Kleist’s Penthesilea

Heinrich von Kleist and John Banville

John Banville and Michael Miller discuss Love in the Wars, his free English adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Penthesilea, with a digression about the rest of Mr. Banville’s work, before returning to the play, which will receive its world premiere at Bard College Summerscape. Kleist’s theatrical ambition was to fuse Greek tragedy with Shakespearean “burlesque.” The work shows his pessimistic world view spiced with black Prussian humor.

About NYC

Cinema

Discoveries and Restorations from Universal Pictures at MoMA, beginning with King of Jazz

Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Dave Kehr, the curator of MoMA’s fascinating series of recently rediscovered and restored films from Universal Pictures, has decided to bookend the month-long event with musicals, the last genre most people would associate with the studio that produced Dracula and Frankenstein. It begins with the much-anticipated premiere of the restoration of King of Jazz (released April 19, 1930), a musical review dominated by the expansive figure of Paul Whiteman, the band leader, today best remembered as the patron of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The audiences at the two sold-out screenings this past Friday and Saturday—at least on Saturday, when I was present—applauded with a warmth that went beyond the aesthetic or the historical. Each one of the twenty individual acts in the movie received its own applause, as if we were back in a vaudeville house of yesteryear. We even laughed at the jokes, some of which were decidedly musty.

True Romance on Screen: Todd Haynes’ Carol…with a Sideglance at the Latest from Spielberg & Hanks

Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird and Rooney Mara as Therese Believe in Todd Haynes' Carol

True Romance. The essence of Carol, a film much lauded but low grossing (which has become the norm for prestige films at Oscar season) is that it is a lesbian love story as Eric Rohmer might have conceived it and Alfred Hitchcock might have photographed it. The plot is slender. At Christmas around 1950 Carol Aird, an unhappy housewife on the verge of divorce (Cate Blanchett), feels an immediate attraction to Therese Belivet, a much younger sales girl in a New York department store (Rooney Mara).  Poised between upper-middle-class privilege of the period, swathed in mink, and her sexual loneliness, Carol initiates a love affair that quickly takes us into literary territory, with the visuals doing much of the poetic writing, in the “camera-pen“ tradition that French critics admired in great American movies.

Places

Bomarzo tra il Santo Biscotto e la Fava Marxista: La Festa di Sant’Anselmo (April 23-25, 2014)

Il biscotto di Sant'Anselmo

My days in Bomarzo in 2009 did not show the town at its most industrious…or, on the contrary, perhaps it did. The end of April and the beginning of May mark holiday season in this medieval hill town of fewer than 1800 inhabitants. The third weekend of the month and the weekdays that lead up to it mark the festival of the local saint, Saint Anselm of Bomarzo, the 25th also being the national holiday of the Liberation. The following weekend embraces May Day, the international celebration of the working man and woman, which needs no explanation. A young person asked me why we don’t celebrate this holiday in the United States, conjuring up old photos of the police and the National Guard in my mind.

Seven Ways to Improve the Tour de France

Cycling fans watch the opening time trial of Paris-Nice in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 3 March 2012. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

I wouldn’t go so far as the three-time world-champion Óscar Friere, who reckons that the Tour de France is “the most boring race of the year” — has he ever watched the Tour of Qatar? — but this year’s race did make me wonder how many more like it the old institution can take. Institutionalization is the Tour’s great burden, or at least its double-edged sword. For the casual fan it is the ‘race of record,’ cycling itself. Those who follow the sport more closely understand that while the Tour is undeniably the most competitive, and therefore the most prestigious, among the three Grand Tours of Italy, France and Spain, it often not the most interesting.

Food & Drink

Podcasts

Christina Kobb Talks to Michael Miller about Historical Keyboard Technique

Christina Kobb, Pianist

The Norwegian pianist and scholar Christina Kobb came to wider attention in the United States when a New York Times writer picked up an article in a Scandinavian science magazine about neurological research carried out on her to analyze her movements as she played an electronic keyboard using modern and nineteenth century technique, which she has researched in her dissertation.

Donatello in Motion – A Spiritello Rediscovered, at the Moretti Williams Gallery, 24 East 80th Street, New York City, CLOSING November 25

Donatello, Spiritello, wood, Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts. Photo Maggie Nimkin, New York.

In an art world teeming with crass nouveaux riches grabbing trophies at auction for insane prices, once prominent dealers in prison, ArtBasel Miami, and the “Da Vinci” industry, it is deeply comforting to find an enterprise like Andrew Butterfield’s refreshingly sober, but gorgeous and energizing exhibition of a single work of art: a spiritello (more commonly called by its 16th century name, “putto“) which he found, eventually purchased, and now presents to the public with a carefully researched, modestly proposed attribution to Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, Florence, 1386 or 1387 to 1466), the greatest of Italian sculptors of the Renaissance—I have always preferred his work to Michelangelo’s. As a teenager I made my way around the David in the Bargello with my father, and we both agreed it was superior to Michelangelo’s, and, as much as I’ve admired Michelangelo’s sculpture, and written about it, I still consider Donatello to the greater of the two. If Dr. Butterfield’s exhibition achieves nothing else, it pinpoints the reasons why Donatello is in fact the greatest and most influential sculptor of the Italian Renaissance.