The centerpiece of the evening was Monotones I and II, set to music by Eric Satie with choreography by Frederick Ashton. Each Monotone is a pas de trois; one for two women and a man; the other for two men and a woman with II made first. Both pieces look very simple but they aren't, as each contains a lot of arabesques and attitudes as well as other moves requiring hard-to-sustain balances. The dancers stand out from the background lit by Michael Korsch—the first group in yellowish-green from neck to toes; the second in white, both with what look like squashed bathing caps adorned with jewels on their heads. (Originally, the head coverings were different and, apparently, more stylish.) The piece is classic and remote; at times the dancers made me feel they were under the sea, moving their arms and legs against the weight of water.
A man and a woman, Richie and Pam, presumably somewhere in their early thirties, that is, just at the point in life where their next successful projects will bring them to a prominent and prosperous stage in life, decide to get married. They seemed full of love and enthusiasm for one another, as well as the impending event. Their friends are full of love and enthusiasm for them, above all, Richie's best friend and best man, Tom, a lawyer, a rather hard-nosed, cynical lawyer, and a loner. He seems perfectly likable and basically all right, but he has difficulty forming close relationships with women. He hasn't met one yet who finds him attractive, it seems. But the story is not about him, he is there to tell the story, as a sort of chorus-participant, sometimes in dialogue with the other characters, sometimes engaging the audience directly, sometimes narrating and responding rather like a sports announcer. The story is about love. As Tom begins the play, "I want to tell you about love." ...and mainly about his friend Richie, who is a love fiend, or so it should say in his obituary, as Tom informs us: "Because that’s what drove him. Like the wind drove the old ships. He thought everything else was irrelevant."
The Bach Choir of Bethlehem surely must be one of the most extraordinary musical institutions in the world. Situated a small city with an important industrial history, now entirely in the past, the Bach Choir has a tradition connecting it with a point in the performance history of Bach's music which antedates the Mendelssohnian Bach Revival by six years. Bethlehem can also be proud that this venerable institution did not emerge from the indulgences of the city's wealthiest families, but from the religious traditions of the Moravian Protestants who settled there in the 18th century. Following the precepts of Martin Luther, they held their musical traditions in high esteem.
As the Bard Music Festival has sailed through the great names in European and American music over the past twenty-five years—although there are some people who don't like Elgar, Liszt, or Wagner, and some who doubt Saint-Saëns' or Sibelius' importance (if they attended the Festival they left with their minds changed)—the focal points of the festival have been generally unchallenged. This year, with Carlos Chávez, the first composer from south of the border, there has been more debate. Many attendees—and especially non-attendees—questioned the worthiness of Carlos Chávez as a subject. He is largely forgotten, and many of those who do remember him, do not think of him kindly. Even Leon Botstein himself expressed a critical attitude towards Chávez,
Ian Hobson's last appearance in New York was an ambitious Brahms cycle in September-October 2013. Extending over six weeks, it offered a comprehensive survey of Brahms' solo music for piano and his chamber music for piano. I praised this enthusiastically at the time not only for the intelligence and sensitivity of the playing, but for the thoughtful programming, and the outstanding program book, with extensive essays by Paul Griffiths, O.B.E. Just last week, Ian Hobson began an equally ambitious series of six recitals, even more impressively organized, on a more abstract concept, bearing the title "Preludes, Études, Variations," continuing monthly into April 2016, with this first concert, here reviewed, at Subculture, NYC, as well as the next on December 1. The rest will continue at Merkin Hall on the Upper West Side. This series is entirely solo, accompanied only by Mr. Griffiths' incisive notes. In addition to 19th- and 20th-century classics of these three musical genres, there are world premieres of new works commissioned by Hobson for the series.
Daddy Long Legs has tiptoed into the 2015-2016 New York theater season. It’s amazing that anyone knows about this show, and yet the word has gotten around: Daddy Long Legs is an enchanting chamber musical.
Paul Taylor, one of the great modern masters of dance, is in his eighties and still hard at work. This documentary takes us inside the artist's creative process. It's a fascinating journey even though I couldn't explain it (and neither, it seems, can Taylor.)
A jaded film professor and two students form a love and work triangle in Schooled, winner of the 2015 NY International Fringe Festival Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting and part of the Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse. Claire (Lilli Stein) is a smart young woman marked by her hard life background, Jake (Stephen Friedrich) plays her boyfriend born into wealth and privilege, a guy to whom everything has always come easy. The play, written by Lisa Lewis and very well directed by James Kautz, delves into the lengths we go to get ahead as the students compete for the same grant to make a film.