February 2019

Music

Sir András Schiff leads the San Francisco Orchestra in Bach and Mendelssohn

Let it never be said that an evening of Lutheran virtue makes for date night in San Francisco. Absent last Friday from our grey-haired audience huddling into its winter coats were the backless dresses and sculpture-worthy flashes of leg which usually cheer the frisky. Two gay men I passed in the crowd were no happier about it: "Bach only brings out the old men," sighed one ruefully. But there was a fascination for me in what turned out to be a solid, indeed old-fashioned evening of Victorian-style uplift. In particular, I was eager to encounter live Mendelssohn's Lobgesang Symphony-Cantata ("The Song of Praise"), sometimes called his Second Symphony. It was composed in 1840 to celebrate Gutenberg's invention of moveable type (ed.), but receives here its first San Francisco performance.

Dance

Bach 25 and Star Dust by Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theater. Closes March 3.

When the curtain went up on Bach 25, some of the audience gasped as it seemed as though the dancers were nude. Not so—their sculpted, athletic bodies are clad in Christine Darch’s minimal costumes and set off in bronzy lighting by Michael Korsch making them look like living sculpture. The thirty-minute piece passed in an instant as the dancers stretched in thrilling poses, sometimes alone and other moments in twos and threes. This is a very contemporary work with clean line and deep pliés as well as twisting, flickering, arms and hands that lend humor.
HHA

A Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs by Nathan Benn, a Book and an Exhibition at the HistoryMiami Museum, closing Sunday, April 4th, 2019

The subject of this interview, Nathan Benn, was very much a creature of the new generation. He was 22 when The National Geographic hired him in 1972 and 31 in 1981, when his editors sent him back to his native Florida to illustrate a feature article about its current condition in a troubled time, when the legal system was strained by drug trafficking and local citizens were challenged by a influx of refugees from the Caribbean. When he set to work, Mr. Benn began to push the Geographic’s envelope, both artistically and journalistically. His occasionally satirical social observations and gritty record of crime and law enforcement activity thrilled one of his editors but appalled another one, who was especially set in the magazine's anodyne values of the Midwest and the 1950’s.
HHA

A Crop of Recordings XXV: Gliere, Respighi, Lortzing, Antheil, and Wagner

Reinhold Glière was fortunate to thrive under Soviet Communism. A long-limbed bardic style, featuring haunting melodies evoking the Russian ecclesiastical past, ruffled no political feathers. Nor did velvety explorations of Scriabin-influenced chromaticism. He was never purged. But Glière paid a price for fame in the world of democracy and commerce, it would seem. His greatest work, the 1912 Mahler-length Symphony No. 3, “Il’ya Muromets”, was deemed “too long” for the concert hall in America. To ensure its presentation, Leopold Stokowski persuaded the composer to pare it down drastically, and it was in this incomplete condition that the work took root in Philadelphia and in American ears.
Film

Poor Behavior, Written and Directed by Theresa Rebeck at the New Ohio Theater

Teresa Rebeck, writer of Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet, NBC’s Smash and more, is one talented lady but her film directorial debut, Poor Behavior, left me scratching my head. Set in a Vermont country house, it deals with two couples from New York spending the weekend together. Everyone drinks a lot and fights incessantly, goading one another into increasingly bad behavior. However, not one of the characters is very interesting nor are the barbs they trade particularly clever.
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