May 2010

New York Arts in Australia

City of Art: The 17th Biennale of Sydney

The 17th Biennale of Sydney succeeds spectacularly as an act of urbanism. At a time when the practice of creative urbanism in this city finds itself uncomfortably confined between the immobile sandstone cliffs of stodgy bureaucracy and the wiles of crony developers, the real deal is most welcome, even if it is only temporary. Aside from the quality of the art, which is surprisingly high, it is clear that the Biennale organizers and curator David Elliott have succeeded in a genuine act of Urban Doing, that jolly competitor to the familiar discipline of urban planning.

Music

No Dudamania in San Francisco: Dudamel leads the LA Philharmonic in Bernstein and Tchaikovsky

There is a sound you sometimes hear after midnight, high up in Manhattan. It comes from maybe thirty blocks away. Very faint. In the stillness of your mind, you know it is a lonely taxi horn dancing with the doppler effect. But in the small hours of the city, you wonder who might be riding home amongst sleeping millions, and how boozily, and what love affairs or personal dramas are about to begin or end. New York is like that. In its darkness, taxis are crickets, and you listen.

Art

Da Corot a Monet: La Sinfonia della Natura, Complesso del Vittoriano (Rome) until June 29th.

Impressionism is often described as an obsession with light. Indeed it was. Monet was on a frantic quest to record each and every glimmer of light that happened to strike his eye. Yet light was not the only inspiration for him and his friends. As this exhibition shows, the inspiration of nature was ever-present in their work even though its meaning for their artistry is ever-elusive. One thing everyone agrees upon is that nature was more than a ready excuse to paint en plein air. Consensus continues to grow about the parallels between the innovative artistic language of the Impressionists and their distinctive view of nature as a dynamic equilibrium composed of countless elements held together in a tenuous harmony.
Music

Eschenbach conducts Schumann and Zemlinsky with the San Francisco Symphony—and an Appreciation of Zemlinsky

The San Francisco Symphony gave two performances last Saturday night--one it may have been unhappy with--and one it may have been unhappy about.

This somewhat unusual state of affairs began with an annoucement from the stage that the concert was being delayed. I had wondered at the half empty hall, something you don't normally see in San Francisco. Dysfunction on the Golden Gate Bridge, as it turned out. A number of players were stuck and much of the audience was still in transit.

New York Arts in Germany

Willy Decker’s Ring at the Semperoper in Dresden: Jonas Alber and Asher Fisch Excel on the Podium

This full realization of the Ring as drama became the unifying principle of the production, as it was perhaps meant to be, but unified musical direction was lacking—the greatest challenge the participants faced—since the Music Director of the Staatskapelle, Fabio Luisi, who is now basking in adulation in New York—justifiably, as it would seem from his sensitive reading of Berg’s Lulu—summarily cancelled his engagements with the orchestra, following a set-to with the Intendant, Gerd Uecker. (We are interested in music drama here, and this is not the place to tell this unpleasant story.) In the end, Luisi was not greatly missed, although the most significant shortcomings of the Ring as a whole stemmed from the weaknesses of one of the three conductors who took over the Maestro’s responsibilities. On the contrary, the audience had ample reason to rejoice in Asher Fisch’s energetic and visceral Siegfried, and, even better, in the discovery of an extraordinary new talent, Jonas Alber, who, at 41, is little known outside Germany
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