The New York Ceramic and Glass Fair, at Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street, is packed with historic and contemporary works that span five centuries and come from all over the globe. This is the only fair of its kind in the United States specializing in ceramics, pottery and glass from the 17th-21st centuries. The show is chock full of works ranging from modern studio pottery to 18th century Staffordshire with everything in between, and attended by collectors, curators and just plain people who enjoy looking at beautiful and/or interesting objects.
It’s September 1987 in a modest home somewhere. Press information says that “Gloria opens her door to the woman she hasn’t seen since she disappeared from home ten years ago. Mary sees the face that has haunted her memories of childhood and dreams of womanhood.” In the performance I saw, Mary called Gloria by different names and the early relationship between them was never clarified. That’s not all that was confusing in Sheila that began with a fifteen-minute scene in which “Gloria” moved around the set in very dim light (I thought perhaps the table lamp had malfunctioned) and did nothing other than painstakingly open an orange juice carton. This segment was so slow and pointless it was like watching a theater class exercise in sustaining a moment.
Thirty years ago, I wrote a poem that ended, “I’ve never lived in a city without a Vermeer.” My cities were, by pure coincidence, New York and Boston. But my interest in Vermeer borders on obsession, and I’m still wrestling with why his paintings are so particularly seductive to me. There’s always the ravishing beauty of the painted surface, the elegance of structure and detail, but also the balance of bravura and a kind of restraint—the way the usual mundane, anti-heroic subjects of Dutch genre painting, however beautiful they are in the work of his contemporaries, take on qualities of the spiritual and even the heroic, qualities that are more like—and sometimes equal—the more overt aspects of spirituality and heroism in, say, Rembrandt. “Rembrandt ist Beethoven, Vermeer ist Mozart,” I overheard someone say to herself looking at a Vermeer. (Could we add Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy? Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman? Or Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell?) That complicated combination of dazzle and modesty may be an essential difference between Vermeer and his contemporaries, including Rembrandt.
Last month I had the pleasure of chatting with Inbal Segev, a young cellist from Israel, who has been making a mark in contemporary music and the classics. She was discovered by Isaac Stern as a high school student in Israel, and he arranged for her to come the United States to study at Yale and Juilliard. On this occasion we talked about her upcoming performance of Christopher Rouse's cello concerto with the Albany Symphony under David Allan Miller and a very interesting—and successful—contemporary music festival sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Marin Alsop. It held its inaugural season just last summer.
Out of This World in More than One Way It’s hard to imagine Ryan McNamara’s Battleground performed anywhere but in the Guggenheim Museum’s subterranean theater—in fact, McNamara himself says that the “sci-fi cosplay house-music ballet-battle” fell into his mind the moment he saw the space. All nine performers are credited with creating the work in collaboration with McNamara and they use every inch of the theater—stage, aisles, balcony, columns, choir loft and areas the audience traverses to reach their seats. “Don’t get up, “I cautioned my companion, “or you’ll be in it.”
My own fall season of piano recitals began on a high point with Gilbert Kalish's appearance at The Concerts at Camphill Ghent. (This is the only concert I shall discuss that did not take place within the confines of Manhattan, although one might in a stretch consider Ghent as local in some indirect way, since it is a mere fifteen minutes drive outside Hudson, and Hudson is surely a colony of New York City, tossing together traits of Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and the Upper West Side. Click here for a more general account of the concert series.) Here Mr. Kalish played the sort of carefully pondered, intelligent program he has been known for since the 1960s.