In the past, New York has seemed rather impoverished in historically informed concerts, especially in comparison to Boston, which, with BEMF and several mature period orchestras and chamber groups, is truly the center of the movement in North America, although if you were attentive and looked around, you could find some rewarding events in churches and even Zankel Hall. In the past two or three years, however, early music in New York has grown explosively. The primary reason for this is easy enough to find, the founding of the Historical Performance Program at Juilliard under the direction of the irresistible Monica Huggett in the fall of 2009. By now the first crop of students is on the loose in the city, and they are dangerous!
One of the most significant musical events of the autumn was a concert series of a scope and ambition rarely found anywhere, even in New York. The highly respected pianist-conductor Ian Hobson, who was born in England and educated at Cambridge University, the Royal College of Music, and Yale, and has been a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne since 1975, devoted his regular concert cycle to Brahms’ music for solo piano and chamber works for piano, strings, and winds. This took the form of fourteen concerts, all listed above, which spanned September, October, and the first half of November.
Being a little out of touch with mainstream movies and TV nowadays, I came to the RSC's new production of Richard II without the usual expectations associated with a famous face (from the screen) in the lead, and this feels like an advantage to me. It is easier to enjoy a play expecting a rounder cast, or indeed expecting nothing in the way of faces and mannerisms. I had forgotten about the new Doctor Whos and that David Tennant had been one, and avoided the Harry Potter films, so the squeals and the mad applause were a surprise. But even so, in reality, it was a balanced cast, and fame doesn't mean a thing, especially to Shakespeare.
Disqualification: I haven’t been to MoMA in at least fifteen years and after this week hesitate to ever go again. If this disqualifies me from commenting on the museum’s latest expansion plans then adieu, dear reader and happy days. The planned demolition of the former American Folk Art Museum is scandalous and, after MoMA seemed ready to reconsider earlier in the year, surprising as news rarely is. It is one of those demolitions, not on the order of the old Penn Station, but similar to the extent that thought of a wrecking ball piercing that facade, the actual moment of impact which now seems so likely to happen, makes one wince. Absent ideas and evocations, architecture can fall into this particular etiolation of the imagination, a kind of dime store minimalism whose effects are indistinguishable from the property developer’s philistinism. It is also self-punitive; if the former AFAM needs MoMA as an earthworm washed up onto the sidewalk needs a kind rescuer with a leaf, MoMA needs AFAM just as much, for a child needs to eat more than white bread and margarine for dinner. You can't just dress up in glass and call yourself modern.