I can’t think of any musical event this season I was more looking forward to than Canadian baritone Gerald Finley singing Schubert’s Winterreise at Jordan Hall (February 7), and I’d been almost equally excited about hearing Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein return to Boston for a full length Jordan Hall piano recital (January 31). Both concerts were sponsored by the Celebrity Series of Boston, and both sounded great on paper.
It may seem like bad manners to welcome the Berlin Philharmonic to New York by discussing a film which deals with the darkest period in its history, but I have no trouble pointing out that its creator’s neutral position leads to a fair, even sympathetic treatment of the orchestra and the survivors who tell the story through their personal experiences and perspectives. The humanity and culture of these gentlemen shine through, and through the political murk, the viewer can develop a vivid sense of what made this orchestra and the musicians in it unique. Enrique Sánchez Lansch's Das Reichsorchester is entirely the product of a contemporary German mentality, reflecting the desire of a later generation to understand the many gradations of complicity and innocence, courage and fear, their grandparents could grasp as choices in a political system which left them few.
For the last two years Grand Harmonie has presented concerts of early chamber music – and sometimes larger ensemble music – that feature historically accurate wind and brass instruments. Now this group of young musicians from New York and Boston is growing into a full period instrument orchestra focused on 19th-century repertoire.
A heavy snowfall, bitter winds, and icy sidewalks failed to deter an enthusiastic audience from nearly filling the Morgan Library’s Gilder Lehrman Hall on January 21, when the Boston Early Music Society continued their New York series with a concert by the London Haydn Quartet with Eric Hoeprich, the great historically informed clarinettist and instrument-maker, who were offering a program of Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart. The bare white basement space that serves as the lobby of the hall is hardly the most attractive part of one of New York’s most elegant institutions, but its heating was welcome enough, and once one enters the auditorium, one can enjoy some warmth of design and acoustics as well.
On January 25th the Boston Symphony Orchestra and assistant conductor Andris Poga completed a series of concerts that, to judge by that final evening, made for one of the season’s high points. Mr. Poga completes his term with BSO this year and moves on to take over the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in his native Riga. He is an imposing figure onstage—vigorous but not flamboyant, authoritative in his gestures—and on this occasion showed a remarkable inwardness with all the music he conducted.
Davies Hall, San Francisco
The San Francisco Symphony
Friday, February 14, 2014
Jaap van Zweden – conductor
Simone Lamsma – violin
Mozart – Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, K.384 (1782)
Sibelius – Violin Concerto in D minor, …
The title A Little Night Music is only the first of the many inspired elements of Stephen Sondheim’s inspired 1973 musical version of Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night (or, more correctly translated, I’m told, Smiles of the Summer Night—i.e., the night of the summer solstice). Of course it calls up both Bergman’s most subtle comedy as well as Mozart’s most famous serenade. And although Sondheim’s stream of waltzes and other triple-meter dances more directly evolves from Viennese operetta than Viennese opera, there’s a consistent Mozartian elegance and chiaroscuro to this work. The high water mark of Sondheim’s career was probably in the 1970s, the decade of Company (1970), Follies (1971), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Sweeney Todd (1979), all collaborations with director Hal Prince. Everything that followed was more problematic, although many admirers would add Into the Woods (1987) to this list, and I’d also include the moving Passion (1994). Sondheim himself regards his Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George (1984) as his best work.
Jordan Belfort might be content to be a jerk if only he knew that he was one. Or perhaps his jerkiness is as self-evident to him as the truth that life is all about the Benjamins. At first The Wolf of Wall Street seems like the “I was going to be busy all day” climax of Goodfellas extended to three hours and accelerated from Cadillac to Ferrari pace. No other Scorsese movie is so playful, few are so funny; what a thrill to see Our Greatest Director disburdened of the weight of prestige almost to the point of bad taste. Like Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour film which never settles down. Instead of exposition, character development, subplot, landscape and wallowing in production design, there are fake TV ads (starting with the one which opens the film, blending with the production company logos), cover versions of once good songs, direct address to camera, the thoughts of characters narrated to us as voice over and several interminably uninspiring “inspirational” speeches. This is the world of a man whose vocabulary, grammar and syntax are made of such ticky-tack.