The Great French Organ Tradition With Paul Jacobs on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 7:30pm in Paul Hall

June 2011

A London Summer with Huntley Dent

Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the English National Opera

Feral fairies. Anyone afraid of a sugar overdose had nothing to worry about at the English National Opera's fiercely odd production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is a company that often traffics between radical and gimmicky, every once in a while being capable of acts of metamorphosis. In this case the director, Christopher Alden, seems to have taken his cue from the first sound we hear: slithery glissandos in the lower strings that introduce the fairy world not with whimsy and a twinkle but a wave of sea-sick nausea. In a daring move, the entire production metastasizes from the queasiness of that sound. The initial effect was to travesty Shakespeare's magical comedy — audience members who stalked up the aisle before the first act ended clearly didn't appreciate such high-handedness — but the music has never sounded so disturbing, or so convincing.
A London Summer with Huntley Dent

Esa-Pekka Salonen and Christian Tetzlaff in Bartók with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall

The saint of Bleaker Street. Morose, manic, and methodical. They all alliterate with Magyar, the Hungarian spirit that ran through Bartók, and each term applies to his music. But the saddest match would be martyr. In God’s calculus of gifts, to those who suffer most, the most is given. Bartók’s soul must have believed in that formula. Like the other two titans of modernism, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, he was triply alienated, being a genius, an expatriate, and a logician of the abstruse. All three composers were forced to deal with their complex fates, yet Bartók made of his a via dolorosa.
Art

Figure, Memorie, Spazio: disegni da Fra’Angelico a Leonardo (Sala delle Reali Poste, Galleria degli Uffizi) and La Grafica del Quattrocento: appunti di teoria, conoscenza e gusto (Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi), Florence. Closed June 12th.

The first step towards understanding Renaissance drawing is to take stock of the plethora of reasons for its existence, ranging from doodles to elaborate studies in human anatomy. What started as a design for sculpture may well have evolved into a preparatory sketch for painting. Drawing was the artist’s way of jotting down an idea before losing it and before knowing precisely what, if anything, it might develop into later.
Dance

Fauré’s Requiem as Theatre: Stephen Baynes Choreographs the Australian Ballet

Resident Australian Ballet choreographer Stephen Baynes just in the act of choosing Fauré's Requiem mass for a new ballet for the (Australian) Federation Centenary in 2001 clearly stated his concept. He bravely steered to a huge and personal topic in creating a ballet around death with that intimate choral music, and his keen understanding of the music and inventive choreography insure that neither the dancing nor the musical elements step on the other's toes, as it were. On the contrary the close marriage of choreography and music, though of course not written with the slightest intention for the ballet, sets it as an excellent example of 'old' music though already near perfect, benefiting from the added dancing, the choreography finding new depths, no deeper or shallower than the music's alone, but different depths found only in theatrical arts. Indeed, Stephen Baynes' ballet introduced me to new approaches to Fauré's music. Beyond Bach, the other ballet in this all-Baynes double bill showing only in Melbourne, is powerful enough to stand alongside Requiem with neither overshadowing the other. It is almost abstract and shows a deep love for history and J. S. Bach.

Architecture | Urban Design

Métro insolite by Clive Lamming (English translation)

There is a type of city, familiar but seductive, which resists writers even as its charms produce no shortage of readers. Paris, of course, is the number one suspect in the line-up. Overwhelmed by the city and its stories, writers run the perilous risk of being reduced to that style which is simultaneously vague and soppy (The American Society for the Promotion of Bad Writing About Venice was founded to celebrate such writing). Paris is too much, always too much, an excess which perhaps demands a microscope rather than an Imax camera. This was George Perec's approach in his famous Tentative d’Epuisement d’un lieu Parisien, a book as list of all that happens in one little corner of the city. Métro insolite is much more practical, but it too is an attempt to exhaust the inexhaustible.
Architecture | Urban Design

Métro insolite de Clive Lamming

Il y a une espèce de ville, familière mais séduisante, qui résiste aux écrivains lorsque ses charmes ne produisent aucun manque des lecteurs. Paris, bien sûr, est suspect numéro un dans cette parade d’identification. La risque pour les écrivains, périlleux, est d'être bouleversé par la ville et ses histoires, réduit à un discours à la fois vague et, souvent, gnangnan(La Société Américaine de la Mauvaise Ecriture de Venise existe à célébrer ce vaste genre de littérature). Paris est trop, toujours trop, et c’est peut-être cet excès qui exige un microscope au lieu d’un appareil Imax. C’était l’idée de Georges Perec dans son fameux Tentative d’Epuisement d’un lieu Parisien, un livre comme liste de tous ce qui se passait dans un petit coin de la ville. Métro insolite est beaucoup plus pratique, mais c’est aussi une espèce d'épuisement de l'inépuisable.
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