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A Crop Of Recordings VII: Music of Walton, Zemlinsky, Goldmark and Ibert

Jacques Ibert.

It has taken time for Sir William Walton’s Second Symphony to find a secure place in the repertory. But I think this new CD from Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony fully confirms its place in the canon and right to be there. Walton is the sort of artist, like Oscar Wilde, who interests sociologists, because he hides depth in the shallows.

So You’re About To See Hamilton …

Christopher Jackson as George Washington in "Hamilton". Photo Joan Marcus.

In the five seconds it takes Baby June to sing out Gypsy’s

“Let me entertain you. Let me make you smile,”

Lafayette in Hamilton’s “Guns and Ships” will have sung “I’m takin’ this horse by the reins makin’ redcoats redder with bloodstains. Lafayette. And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em drip, burn ‘em up and scatter their remains, I’m Lafayette”

That’s 9 words for Gypsy versus 32 words for Hamilton, nearly four times as many. Granted, “Guns and Ships” is one of the faster songs, but know this: there are about 24,000 words in Hamilton according to the book,  Hamilton The Revolution. That’s more than The Merchant of Venice! So if you think you’re going catch all the words when you see the show without a bit of study, think again. Even with headphones or sitting right under a speaker (where I sat), you will miss a lot. With Hamilton, you won’t want to miss a thing.

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.

The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Donato Cabrera, conductor, with Chen Zhao, violin, and Katie Kadarauch, viola in Mason Bates, Mozart, and Bartók

San francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, 2014. Photo Kristen Loken.

Mason Bates will surely forgive us–if I suggest the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra out-deviled everyone at this concert!

For a Saturday afternoon in May, Davies Hall was well attended, with a more jovial parental buzz than usual. Lots of children were in the audience. Hope springs eternal they won’t fidget–utopian when dealing with three-year-olds inclined to crawl. One of the forward boxes resembled a puppy-pen throughout, with lots of motion, aleatoric burbling and various appendages attempting to escape the banister. But no matter.The music won.

The Bard Music Festival and SummerScape Opera 2016: Puccini and his World, with Pietro Mascagni’s Iris

Giacomo Puccini. © Frank C. Bangs, Library of Congress.

The Bard Music Festival, every year since 1990, offers music-lovers a splendid gift in its weekends of immersion in the music of some major composer and others related to him, the intellectual and artistic life of his time, and the legacy that connects us to it all. It equally presents us with a powerful challenge—a challenge to overcome our preconceptions about this partly familiar, partly unfamiliar music, chiefly the product of famous composers. In some cases we discover that a composer’s most popular music is not in fact his best, and our estimation of him rises significantly, as in the case of Sibelius and Prokofiev, or in others, like Schubert, we can become acquainted with genres like the part song, which have fallen out of the repertory because the social context for their performance has become obsolete. Many music-lovers divide Franz Liszt’s output between serious music of high quality and shallow, flashy display pieces. Again, the Bard Festival challenged its audiences to reconsider.

Edvard Munch: Alone in the Crowd

Edvard Munch, Two Human Beings. The Lonely Ones, 1905. Oil on canvas. 80 x 100 cm (31 ½ x 39 3/8 in.). Lynn G. Straus. 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Though it is difficult to determine when exactly Edvard Munch was first exposed to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, one cannot help but think of Existential philosophy’s mustachioed poster boy when considering the Norwegian painter’s work. As with Nietzsche, Munch’s public legacy is colored by an emphasis on his psychological torments and eventual nervous breakdown. His acutely personal exploration of formidable themes such as angst, vulnerability, sin, and alienation only amplify the connection.

Ariel Rivka Dance 9th Season Festival—A Mixed Bag of Modern Dance: Works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King

Ariel Rivka Dance. Photo David Gonsier.

Strong women are the hallmark of this modern dance program featuring works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King. Male dancers also take the stage, notably in Grossman’s Variations on a Box, the final piece, and one of the most powerfully engaging, as the dancers push and shove one another, abruptly fall to the ground, rise and move as a group with small, shuffling steps.

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.

Art

Experiments of the Ordinary: Giorgio Morandi at the Center for Italian Modern Art

Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta, 1963

All accounts suggest that the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) enjoyed a life of uninterrupted calm and isolation. Introverted by nature, Morandi spent his entire lifetime in Bologna, in the same apartment no less, and was dubbed il Monaco due to his almost monastic reclusiveness. He tended to paint at home, either in his bedroom or an adjoining studio, committing himself almost exclusively to the natura morta, or still life.

Danish Solitudes: Vilhelm Hammershøi at Scandinavia House, closes March 26, 2016

Vilhelm Hammershøi, The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, Seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen, 1902. Oil on canvas, 57 5/8 x 55 1/3 in. (146.5 x 140.5 cm). Statens Museum for Kunst, smk.dk

Widely recognized in Europe during his lifetime and engulfed by obscurity for decades thereafter, today the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is primarily considered to be a “painter of tranquil rooms.” “Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor,” one of twenty-four paintings displayed in an intimate recent exhibit at New York’s Scandinavia House, is an archetypal Hammershøi work. A solitary woman hunches over a table with her back to the viewer, her identity and activity unclear. Daylight pours through a large central window, leaving a slanted, luminous grid ghosted on the floor. While the subject matter is characteristic of the period—paintings of bourgeois women and interiors were both immensely popular in 19th century Denmark—the approach is defiantly atypical.

Music

A Crop Of Recordings VII: Music of Walton, Zemlinsky, Goldmark and Ibert

Jacques Ibert.

It has taken time for Sir William Walton’s Second Symphony to find a secure place in the repertory. But I think this new CD from Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony fully confirms its place in the canon and right to be there. Walton is the sort of artist, like Oscar Wilde, who interests sociologists, because he hides depth in the shallows.

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.

Theater

So You’re About To See Hamilton …

Christopher Jackson as George Washington in "Hamilton". Photo Joan Marcus.

In the five seconds it takes Baby June to sing out Gypsy’s

“Let me entertain you. Let me make you smile,”

Lafayette in Hamilton’s “Guns and Ships” will have sung “I’m takin’ this horse by the reins makin’ redcoats redder with bloodstains. Lafayette. And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em drip, burn ‘em up and scatter their remains, I’m Lafayette”

That’s 9 words for Gypsy versus 32 words for Hamilton, nearly four times as many. Granted, “Guns and Ships” is one of the faster songs, but know this: there are about 24,000 words in Hamilton according to the book,  Hamilton The Revolution. That’s more than The Merchant of Venice! So if you think you’re going catch all the words when you see the show without a bit of study, think again. Even with headphones or sitting right under a speaker (where I sat), you will miss a lot. With Hamilton, you won’t want to miss a thing.

Opera

The Bard Music Festival and SummerScape Opera 2016: Puccini and his World, with Pietro Mascagni’s Iris

Giacomo Puccini. © Frank C. Bangs, Library of Congress.

The Bard Music Festival, every year since 1990, offers music-lovers a splendid gift in its weekends of immersion in the music of some major composer and others related to him, the intellectual and artistic life of his time, and the legacy that connects us to it all. It equally presents us with a powerful challenge—a challenge to overcome our preconceptions about this partly familiar, partly unfamiliar music, chiefly the product of famous composers. In some cases we discover that a composer’s most popular music is not in fact his best, and our estimation of him rises significantly, as in the case of Sibelius and Prokofiev, or in others, like Schubert, we can become acquainted with genres like the part song, which have fallen out of the repertory because the social context for their performance has become obsolete. Many music-lovers divide Franz Liszt’s output between serious music of high quality and shallow, flashy display pieces. Again, the Bard Festival challenged its audiences to reconsider.

The Year that Was: Boston Classical Music in 2015

Andris Nelsons

The major news from Boston was the ascendancy of Andris Nelsons, firming up his place as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which included a quickly agreed upon three-year extension of his contract into the 2020-2021 season. This announcement was soon followed by the less happy surprise for Bostonians of Nelsons also accepting an offer from the eminent Leipzig Gewandhaus, the orchestra whose music director was once no less than Felix Mendelssohn, to take on that very position, beginning in the 2017-2018 season, thus dividing the loyalties of the young maestro (who just turned 37), though evidently with the possibility of collaborations between the two orchestras. (Remember when some people were complaining about James Levine dividing his time between the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera?)

Dance

Ariel Rivka Dance 9th Season Festival—A Mixed Bag of Modern Dance: Works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King

Ariel Rivka Dance. Photo David Gonsier.

Strong women are the hallmark of this modern dance program featuring works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King. Male dancers also take the stage, notably in Grossman’s Variations on a Box, the final piece, and one of the most powerfully engaging, as the dancers push and shove one another, abruptly fall to the ground, rise and move as a group with small, shuffling steps.

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.