The New York Choral Society, which has provided New Yorkers with a wonderful variety of mainstream and neglected choral works. Alongside Beethoven's Ninth, Brahms' German Requiem, and Berlioz's Grande messe des morts, their recent programs have included Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus, Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum, MacMillan’s St. Luke Passion (New York premiere), Mendelssohn’s Paulus (St. Paul), and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony. Next season we have Tippet’s A Child of our Time, Finzi’s Requiem da Camera, Honegger’s Le roi David, and Randall Thompson’s Requiem to look forward to. One can only admire their comprehensive representation of the choral repertoire.
There's much to be said for keeping personal politics away from concert music. Composers know this. Audiences prefer pictorialism and evocation to propaganda. That's why they are in the hall. Even Shostakovich, chronicler of Soviet political events, composed that way. But not all critics have the self-discipline to leave smug prejudice at home. The San Francisco Chronicle's local reviewer, who normally precedes New York Arts into print and shall be nameless here, launched an atavistic attack this week on Stéphane Denève's program choice of Respighi's Pines of Rome, calling the work "proto-fascist" and condemning it's march up the Appian Way as an appeal to nationalist sentiment. How ridiculous!
Although like most Italians Milanese breakfast on the run, they always make time for a good lunch. At Salumentaria di Parma, the wine comes in small bowls, the coffee in shot glasses and the crowd, many of them local professionals, pile in starting at noon. As the name suggests, inspiration for the food is that of Parma in northwest Emilia-Romagna, home to the richest tract of farmland in Italy. Parma is associated with parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto and pasta with emphasis on filled versions such as tortellini, tortelli and ravioli, all of which are part of the restaurant’s offerings. Verdi was a regular at the original location in Parma; in tribute, his music fills the air.
As part of a celebration of women, this program of about empowering female expression featured work choreographed and mostly performed by women. For me, the three most successful pieces were Ne Me Quitte Pas, a modern apache duet with Chad Levy and Alyssa Weidman; Shakambhari, a full-throttle, almost-Bollywood-style, turquoise-and-orange swirl and No Exit, a pure rush of movement danced all out by Levy, Weidman, Lisa Borres, Caitlin Sheppard, Julia Neto, Jillian Foley and Parker Heren.
I am very pleased to announce some exciting changes at New York Arts—or, rather, the restoration of a program included in our initial mission statement. There it said that New York Arts would "no longer be only a critical arts journal, but a sponsor of exhibitions, concerts, and other performances." This began with an invitational event combining a showing of old master drawings and a concert of baroque music (Bach, Handel, Telemann, et. al.) played by Paula Robison, Kenneth Cooper and others in the Fabbri Mansion (House of the Redeemer) on the Upper East Side. There followed another multi-disciplinary event, a reading of poems by W. B. Yeats, Lloyd Schwartz, Senior Editor at New York Arts, one of America's outstanding poets, who has done extensive research on Yeats, with traditional Irish music for flute and fiddle in conjunction with an exhibition of Michael Miller’s views of the Irish landscape, monuments, and people at the Centerpoint Gallery in Chelsea. Back at the Fabbri Mansion, there was an admirable recital by Stephen Porter on the mansion's Grotrian-Steinweg (ca. 1900), entitled "Late Style," with works by Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schubert.
It’s good to have Brahms symphonies from the Boston Symphony once again. They sound right, with caveats. A full cycle hasn’t been a reliable tradition since Koussevitzky. Charles Munch recorded only three of the symphonies on LP in Boston. Erich Leinsdorf did produce as set, but Seiji Ozawa recorded merely the First in 1977 for DGG, and Bernard Haitink’s Philips CDs from the early nineties disappeared pretty much as soon as they were released. There were no BSO Brahms symphonies released by James Levine with the orchestra during his tenure. The Boston Symphony has always been a European-leaning ensemble, less “Hollywood” in sonority than the Philadelphia Orchestra and minimally “Broadway” in energy compared with the New York Philharmonic. Symphony Hall’s burnished acoustic, a byproduct of sonic archery from its cupids in alcoves, its high ceilings and a pliant wooden floor, is a conspirator in this and ideally suited for Brahms.
Noisy, energetic, sometimes exuberant and frequently chaotic, it’s hard to encapsulate this performance at St. Ann’s Warehouse. It was also difficult to follow the actors as the “supertitles” were on screens on either side of the stage requiring me to move my eyes away from the Greek-speaking performers. (That the words on the titles were often ahead of the action also didn’t help.)