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

August 2011

Music

Ian Munro and the Goldner String Quartet Play Munro, Szymanowski and Brahms

The series of concerts of chamber music organized by Musica Viva this year continue with an exploration of, and this time a new commission by, Australian pianist and composer Ian Munro. He has created his second piano quintet (the first composed in 2006 was called Divertissement sur le nom d'Erik Satie) from two earlier works: Dreams, his winning contribution to the 2003 Queen Elisabeth International Competition for Composers, originally meant to be a first movement to a full piano concerto and Drought and Night Rain, originally written in 2005 for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and originally meant to be a beginning to a full symphony. Though it would be nice to hear these symphonic works complete in their own right, Munro has sewn them together skillfully into a chamber music piece. Really this is no different from what Prokofiev did to compose the Romeo and Juliet ballet music, which has a life of its own, so reuse of already composed ideas should not necessarily raise negative thoughts. Munro himself joins with the Goldner String Quartet which is lead by Dene Olding, who often plays first violin in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, also conducting the SSO earlier in the year, to play his new piece, but we also get the opportunity to hear the Quartet on its own.

Opera

Golden Bough: Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae

In my preview of this opera, I maintained that Die Liebe der Danae (more properly, Danaë, emphasizing the “ahh-aay” of the last two vowels), is a rarely performed treasure from the last years of Richard Strauss. Based on Maestro Botstein’s wonderful recording a decade ago, I wondered whether an actual stage production could do justice to the music. Joseph Gregor’s libretto seemed wayward to me, so that seemed the biggest obstacle for a felicitous live production. In fact, this new production at Bard’s Summerscape, directed by Kevin Newbury, lived up to, and exceeded all my expectations. Musically, it turns out as one of Strauss’s most attractive works; and the libretto, while quirky and vapid at times, inspired a humorous, imaginative and completely enchanting production.
Opera

Tainted Ladies: Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Luigi Cherubini’s Medea at Glimmerglass Festival 2011

Yesterday – would you believe it? – I heard Bizet’s masterpiece for the twentieth time. Once more I attended with the same gentle reverence; once again, I did not run away. This triumph over my impatience surprises me. How such a work completes one! Through it one almost becomes a “masterpiece” oneself – And, as a matter of fact, each time I heard Carmen it seemed to me that I was more of a philosopher, a better philosopher than at other times. I became so forbearing, so happy, so Indian, so settled….Bizet’s music seems to me perfect. It comes forward lightly, gracefully, stylishly. It is lovable. It does not sweat. Friedrich Nietzsche – The Case of Wagner, (Leipzig, 1888). Nietzsche was, of course, ironically extolling Carmen at the expense of his erstwhile mentor-idol-friend, Richard Wagner. Even though Wagner had been dead for five years, Nietzsche had great fun zinging Wagner’s family, followers, and the entire Bayreuth phenomenon. Yet, his comment that “it does not sweat” ultimately lingers in one’s judgment of Bizet’s masterpiece. Nietzsche would have had little to comment on the subject matter of this opera, nor on the moral turpitude to which the opera’s male hero falls. Nietzsche might have even identified with Don José in his own affair with the free thinking and flamboyant psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salomé. With the philosopher’s mother and sister holding him in check, he never had the opportunity to be so lustily ruined by his own Carmen.
Drawings

Pre-Raphaelite Drawings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Pollinated with the spirit of the Renaissance, spring-like, fresh and full of individual passion and wonder, the Pre Raphaelites went back to a state of painting when the Renaissance was in its stride if not its prime. Rather than seeing painting as a continuous development up to their own day, they when back to an approach and a world view at a point when art knew where it was going, striving toward a most sublime peak, a peak attained perhaps twice in western human history. The Pre Raphaelites took as their teachers and masters those of Titian's, Michelangelo's and Raphael's and via intelligent imitation that went beyond mere copying they progressed, very roughly speaking, through the styles of the Italian Renaissance, and at times managed to break free of their teachers' styles. They even wrote poems too. One can see something of this progression in the quite broad and thorough collection of their drawings and watercolors currently on display in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, most of which come from the Tate and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Architecture | Urban Design

The Barangaroo Review: Your concerns are important to us but we do not share them

The results of the “short, sharp” review into Sydney’s Barangaroo development project have been released in the form of an 87 page report in which the word “outcome” appears 88 times. Though all sides have declared some version of victory in its wake, it is hard to see the report as anything other than a final rubber stamp for the developer Lend Lease. Whatever its misgivings, the report requires no modifications to the current plans. Any critique is blunted by a salad of weasel words and praise for the “world class people working on Barangaroo.” Whether or not anyone has the power to undo this mess, it’s clear no one has the guts.

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