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31.3.06

Seascapes in Sound, Hiroshi Sugimoto

After spending Wednesday night at the National Gallery, Ionarts was at the Hirshhorn Museum last night for the Hirshhorn After Hours event. The museum was packed with people, drinking cocktails and then going upstairs to look at art. It was great to see. I took a turn through the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibit, the first career survey of the Japanese photographer. That was after I sat down in the Lerner Room, on the museum's third floor, and listened to a new piece of music, Specification Fifteen, performed by the computers of digital sound artists Richard Chartier and Taylor Deupree.

In front of the sunset panorama of that view -- the National Archives, the National Gallery, the tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion -- two earnest young men, heads clean shaven, stood at their iBooks, manipulating the electronic and sampled sounds that came out of six speakers. The work -- Specification Fifteen, which can best be summed up by the words "space music" -- began with a low rumble like an electric transformer, punctuated by high soft synthesized notes and unidentifiable metallic jangles, before some sounds like rushing water and perhaps a jet plane's roar were slowly added. A crackling sound may have been a tire rolling over gravel, rain falling on a tent, or the frying bacon sound of an old LP. The ostinato of what may have been a heavily altered telephone ring buzzed underneath train horns or perhaps instrumental sounds, sampled or synthesized, maybe a cymbal crash. Near the end there was a section of buzzing sounds, taken from electric clippers or something like it, evoking a cloud of insects. Whatever choices the artists made at their computers appeared to have been in advance of the sounds emerging, because at the end of the 45-minute work, both walked out but the music continued to change and then fade out. A museum official let us know when it was time to applaud.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tyrrhenian Sea, Conca, 1994, private collectionIn creating this music, Chartier and Deupree were inspired by the Seascapes series of photographs made by Hiroshi Sugimoto, in response to a desire to view natural sites as primitive man might have seen them. To make these 13 large-format photographs (and four smaller ones), he traveled to seashores around the world and photographed only water and sky at the site, with no other object or person or animal in them. In most of them, the horizon line is placed right at the center of the photograph, so that the frame is equal parts light sky and dark water. The room in which they are shown is cavernous and dark, with spotlights on the photographs, assisting in Sugimoto's ritualistic plan.

The idea of the composition was to imitate the same sense of "stillness and opposing yet related spaces" and "the effect of minute variation under a seemingly uniform surface." This is a theme in several other series of photographs in the show, especially the Colors of Shadow series, from 2004. These are shots are of the bare white walls of the artist's apartment, finished in shikkui (traditional Japanese plaster). As the sunlight plays over corners, it creates shadows, fine shades that vary over the pure white surface. These do not look nearly as good in the online images as they do in the museum. Also in the interest of infinite variation is the Sea of Buddha, a rare photograph of the 1001 "Thousand-Armed Merciful Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara" figures, representing the Pure Land Western Paradise, in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. These images are displayed end to end in a scroll that seems to go on forever.

The other side of Sugimoto's artistic personality is playful, and some of the series of photographs are made with tongue in cheek, like the Portraits series (1999), in which he recreates oil portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger. This is also part of the motivation behind the Conceptual Forms series, objects and photographs of those objects derived from mathematical theories of unusual shapes and forms. That the pieces are described with the mathematical formulas that inspired them blew my mind. There is a sort of conceptual wink at conceptual modern architecture in the Architecture series, begun in 1997: Sugimoto made large photographs of recognizable contemporary starchitecture -- Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye and Notre Dame du Haut, the World Trade Center -- but blurred. When you approach each image, you experience the familiarity of recognition but the out-of-focus quality causes you quickly to want to turn away.

Sugimoto's least interesting works -- still beautifully composed -- are more documentary, like the Theaters series, begun in 1975. They are documents of the unreal, which adds a nice conceptual twist, as are the photographs in the Dioramas series. At first glance, they look like photographs of animals in the wilderness, but they were all taken in taxidermical displays in natural history museums. The music performance will not be repeated, but I advise you to take in this exhibit of photographs, on display through May 14. If you missed this night of art and music, you can listen to the Hirshhorn's podcasts, including interviews with Hiroshi Sugimoto and Richard Chartier.

Bipolar Piano: Serkin vs. Serkin

Once again we have to thank George A. Pieler for lending his big ears and sharp wit to Ionarts. This time at the WPAS-presented recital of Serkin-ex-Perahia at Strathmore.


Peter SerkinPeter Serkin, substituting for the indisposed Murray Perahia Wednesday night at the Music Center at Strathmore, is a serious, probing, intellectual pianist who can deliver the goods in sheer technique but shies away from the so-called virtuoso repertoire (Liszt, Rachmaninoff, name your own). Like his father Rudolf, like Schnabel in an earlier generation and Brendel today (all very different pianists, but each a ‘thinking person’s’ player), Serkin wants us to take him very, very seriously.

Maybe too seriously, at times. At Strathmore Serkin surely lived up to his reputation despite some quirks and a few real clunkers. The first quirk was in his program itself, with no crowd-pleasing opening and precious little relief from a certain somberness—four Renaissance-to-late-Renaissance transcriptions to start, followed by a Bach chorale and his Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. That’ the first half, mostly slow and inward music, all of it adapted to the modern sound of the Steinway grand. The second half consisted of Beethoven’s formidable, massive, colossal Hammerklavier sonata, Op. 106.

First up was a ‘realization’ or ‘re-imagining’ by Charles Wuorinen of Ave Christe immolate, a motet (disputably) attributed to Josquin Des Prez. Wuorinen’s version sounds nothing like Wuorinen but definitely sounds like the Renaissance; spare and unfolding gradually, the lines of the motet simply rendered. The sounds of Gregorian chant, new age music, bell-tolling and even George Crumb came to mind in the short span of the piece, which Serkin rendered in a stately rather dry manner.

He followed with three pieces from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book: Bull’s Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la (slow polyphonic variations on the note-sequence but stepping up the pace for a rousing end); Dowland’s Pavana Lachrymae, (adapted by Byrd), a slow dance by definition and seeming quite slow in this performance; and Byrd’s own La Volta, which Serkin used to wake up the audience (never have I heard so many dropped programs disrupting so short a period of concert-time), launching into this rhythmically sharp dance without a pause and playing it almost with violence. His Byrd had duende, which in flamenco means something like ‘dark magic’—biting power and fine rhythmic control, heavily pedaled to heighten the effect, authentic or not.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, From Peter Serkin, Engrossing Pianism (Washington Post, March 31)
The Bach sequence began with the brief, quiet chorale setting Wer nur den Lieben Gott lässt walten (‘if thou but suffer God to guide thee’) as included in the Anna Magdalena Notebook, lightly ornamented with no pedal. Without pause Serkin launched into the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, brilliantly and again almost violently rendered. Indeed throughout the evening he underlined stark contrasts in the music, the slow a bit more slow than usual (almost coming to a standstill at times in the Fantasy & Fugue), the fast notably faster. In the Fantasy his use of pedal achieved an almost organ-like tone at times, which in a resonant hall may have been too much of a good thing. Serkin’s tone turned hard in the louder climaxes of the piece, not so pleasant but apparently an interpretive choice, instructing us the music breaks the bounds of what the keyboard can do.

No chance for rest after intermission, as Serkin blasted the opening chords of the Hammerklavier while the audience was still filing in. As an audience-grabber it worked, and he had everyone’s attention at last. Those opening chords, which dominate the piece, are not easily forgotten though Serkin hammered them out fast and (again) rather violently, then teasing out the quiet second theme rather slowly. He nearly came to grief at the exposition repeat with some nasty notes in those hammered chords, and indeed seemed to have lost composure in the first half of the movement.

But then Serkin hit his stride, justifying his sharp contrasting of the thematic material with a tightly integrated, muscular yet clearly articulated performance of the balance of the movement. Throughout the sonata, even more so than in the Bach Chromatic Fantasy, the sheer force he applied to the keyboard seemed to break the bounds of the instrument (indeed somebody better check that Steinway out), but here it’s appropriate—that’s exactly what Beethoven was trying to do.

Serkin leaped into the brief scherzo without break, fast but not too loud, bringing a touch of diablerie that reminds one of a Shostakovich scherzo, sardonic and breathless. Given Serkin’s inward approach to his Renaissance selections I had high hopes for the slow movement, Adagio sostenuto, and largely they were realized. For comparison I had listened to 1970’s recordings of the Hammerklavier by Brendel and Serkin pêre [not exactly towering accounts; the latter especially setting the bar nice and low –Ed.jr.], neither of whom held this movement together as well as Peter Serkin did. In his late sonatas Beethoven relies on texture, contrast, and fantasy, not melody to carry the music forward, and playing steadily with fine articulation Serkin truly carried off one of the most challenging movements in the sonatas. Here I thought was the peak of the program.

But then Serkin played the bejeezus out of the fugal finale, and I realized I’d been premature. From the slow introduction to the Bachian trills, notes flying everywhere, Serkin made every moment tell—as Charles Rosen puts it, “Beethoven’s fugues are dramatically conceived: each new passage is presented as an event, and not as a logical consequence of its predecessor”. Each episode was an event in Serkin’s hands yet he pulled the whole edifice together brilliantly (again a bit violent) but not wrong for this piece. The audience appreciated the effort, and was rewarded by some calming-down music: a short, quiet Beethoven bagatelle.

A word about Strathmore: this was my first visit, and though most Ionarts readers may already know the facility, the Music Center is a beautiful hall inside, elegantly and rationally laid out with lots of wood (hence the resonance) and a pleasing balance between stark lines and curvature. One suspects it is more suited, acoustically, to a large ensemble. Less agreeable is the access to and from the seating, multi-leveled in an unexpected way and with the service parts of the facility (dining, drinking, shopping) so closely integrated as to present an obstacle course — yet challenges must be faced for fine music such as this. Indeed, one might think of facing them again for Yundi Li on April 1st.

30.3.06

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho, composerTonight was the big night in Paris, the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho's new opera, Adriana Mater, at the Opéra national de Paris. It was to have been the jewel in the crown of a challenging and adventurous season of opera, the Opéra national de Paris's commission of a new opera by the Finnish composer, whose L'Amour de Loin was such a sensation at the Salzburg Festival in 2000. In fact, it reunited much of the creative crew from that opera: composer Saariaho and librettist Amin Maalouf, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (who replaced Kent Nagano for the Finnish National Opera production, now on DVD), and director Peter Sellars. (I should also note that L'Amour de Loin was dedicated to Gérard Mortier, then director of the Salzburg Festival and now at the head of the Opéra national de Paris.) Critics from a score of foreign countries -- including Alex Ross of The New Yorker, who told me he was supposed to arrive yesterday -- were planning to be there for this massive media event. The unhappy news is coming out of Paris, however, that the premiere has been cancelled. Ben, vive la France!

As one might expect, this being France, the cause is a strike -- not the ongoing student and union demonstrations against the CPE. We can chalk up this annoyance, again, to the intermittents du spectacle, those people who work part-time in the performing arts. This union, whose work benefits have been cut and who fear they will continue to get less and less, has stayed quiet enough recently not to cancel any major artistic festivals and other events, since the devastating shutdown of the Avignon and other festivals in 2003. Well, they're back! The shutdown is sure to bring them exactly the press coverage they wanted.

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Kaija Saariaho, L'aile du songe and other works, Camilla Hoitenga, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste (released on November 12, 2002)
To get you past the heartbreak, we bring you a couple short notes on other works by Kaija Saariaho, beginning with a CD of some of her works for flute I've been listening to recently. This disc is named for the best piece on it, the stellar concerto for flute, L'aile du songe (2001), dedicated to and premiered by American flutist Camilla Hoitenga, who was born in my beloved home state of Michigan and now lives in Cologne. In two sections -- "Aérienne" (in the air) and "Terrestre" (on the ground) -- the flute, an instrument that is a vital part of Saariaho's musical style, flutters, bends, whispers, hisses through five movements of rather different character. The title comes from a collection of poems, Oiseaux (Birds), by Saint-John Perse. Saariaho is a sorceress of ethereal orchestral textures, with debts owed to Messiaen (hallucinatory dissonance), Bartók (glissandi, celesta, percussion), and others. However, in the best movement, Oiseau dansant, she refers to an Aboriginal myth about a bird that teaches the residents of a village how to dance. Here, the spirit of mystical, tinkly, otherworldly meditation is gone, replaced by frenetic rhythmic drive and berserk syncopations, with flute sounds morphing into language and back again.

The other pieces on this disc are of far less interest. The work for solo flute, Laconisme de l'aile (1981-82), dates from just after her studies at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, and it sounds, in many ways, as if it should be classed with the composer's juvenilia. (Hoitenga's poor French pronunciation -- not horrible, but not good -- does not help this performance.) Throw this piece on the pile, maybe toward the bottom, with every other experimental work for solo flute (Robert Dick, Tōru Takemitsu, and so on). The same is true for the "sonic environments" Saariaho created to clothe the poetry of Saint-John Perse, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1960. There are six poems, different versions for the original French and the English translations by Robert Fitzgerald. I like Perse's poems, although I am not a huge fan, and I appreciate the influence of his Oiseaux collection on Saariaho (his words are used in both Laconisme de l'aile and L'aile du songe). However, these pieces, which are simply recitations of the poems with electronica, do nothing for me. I would rather just read the poems silently to myself.

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de Loin, libretto by Amin Maalouf, Gerald Finley, Dawn Upshaw, Finnish National Opera, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Peter Sellars (released on September 13, 2005)
As for Saariaho's first opera, there is no doubt that it is a great achievement. The libretto is based on the life of 12th-century troubadour Jaufré Rudel. (Earlier this month, the Folger Consort paired Jaufré's passionate love music with the mystical music of Hildegard von Bingen. I was not able to hear that concert.) As the opera recounts, he supposedly fell passionately in love with Clémence, the Countess of Tripoli, without ever having met her. This was a problem, since his castle was in Blaye, near Bordeaux. In this production in Helsinki, the castles of Jaufré (a robustly voiced Gerald Finley) and Clémence (the always divine Dawn Upshaw) are represented by spiral staircase structures on opposite sides of the stage. They are both visited by the mysterious figure of Le Pèlerin (The Pilgrim, mezzo-soprano Monica Groop, perfect in a part that is ambiguously male-female). They are also both often attended by a chorus, male or female, whom we mostly do not see but hear from the wings.

It's hard to believe that an opera could work with so little action -- two people far away from each other, he filled with longing for her, she thinking he must be crazy -- and the obvious ancestor of L'Amour de Loin is Pelléas et Mélisande. Jaufré's hope is consummated, and he does meet his ideal woman, but nothing happens as he expects. Saariaho's music is ever-changing, gorgeously orchestrated, and beautifully sung. Watching this DVD makes me appreciate, all over again, what a tragedy the cancellation of Adriana Mater is. We can only hope that the work will see the light of day soon.

UPDATE:
See also the interview with the composer by Christian Merlin (Kaija Saariaho entre la guerre et la maternité, March 30) for Le Figaro, which has a picture from the dress rehearsal. In response to the question "Is this opera's music different from that of L'Amour de loin," Saariaho said the following (my translation):
It's difficult for me to measure. After all, it's my music: there has to be continuity for that reason. Still, I feel as if it is very different: more dramatic, less meditative, more somber, and without that extension of my language toward ancient modality. But some people have told me that it was very similar even so. That is all I can tell you.
According to Saariaho, the opera brings together the themes of motherhood and war, meant to be reflective of the tragedies of war in the last several years. You can also watch this video interview on Adriana Mater with director Peter Sellars, although he is doing his best to speak in French (and doing pretty well, by the way). As far as I can tell, they are still planning to give the second performance of the opera, scheduled for April 3. We shall see.

DeЯ Dië dãS đAĐǻ

Ionarts war an der Dauer bilden Experten DIE EXPERTEN, EXTRA, EXTRA! an der Dauer ddddddddd ddddddd (national, national: ist das rational national? galerie nationale d'art die vor-Nacht, Schullehrer Gegenstand Fackel Flimmer Flacker Funzel Finzel, Washington herausgestellt wird (pompidoupompida Paris und mehr ein Ende – a bitter, bitter end – gekommen, an der Dauer des Museums der kunst modern im New York sie im Juni, der wird). ). Me remiss ξαναβλέπει το αντικείμενο αυτού έχει εκτεθεί που μ' έχει θελήσει να δει. Δεν έχω πρέπει ακόμη να γράψω αρκετά την προηγούμενη νύχτα χρόνων μέσα στην παρουσίαση, αλλά έχω αποκτήσει ένα αγαθό η κύρια αρχή για την επίσημη επίσκεψή μου.rom disabling pain and stop the damage to her corneas, but it also would hold out hope of a new life for her daughter, Enatnesh, who waited vigilantly outside the operating room door at the free surgery camp here.||||Mrs. Alehegn's husband left her years ago when the disease rendered her unable to do a wife's work. At 6, Enatnesh was forced to choose between a father who could support her, or a lifetime of hard labor to help a mother who had no one else to turn to.||||"I chose my mother," said the frail, pigtailed slip of a girl, so ill fed that she looked closer to 10 than her current age, 16. "If I hadn't gone with her, she would have died. No one was there to even give her a glass of water."|||||Their tale is common among trachoma sufferers. Trachoma's blinding damage builds over decades of repeat||||

Der jlevj Punktabend waren sie muzikale prestaties op Mezzanine van de Bouw van het Oosten. Vanaf 12 Maart door vandaag, waren er dagelijkse prestaties van een uittreksel van één van de grote muzikale samenstellingen van de Dada periode, George Antheil' s lawaaisamenstelling voor de film Le Ballet van Fernand Léger's mécanique (1924). des Nachteils der Vernunft Angestellter vermutlich sich erhöhen, der innen im Gebäude des Ostens, dieser sein regelmäßige Nutzen von seinem Ende des Gegenstandes, der herausgestellt wird, Mai 14 arbeitet (Montag in Freitag, im 1 und in den 4 P.M.? Samstag und Sonntag, 1 P.M.). Wenn Sie nicht Washington innen im folgenden Monat und halbes sind, diese fehlerhafte Wahrscheinlichkeit.

Αγριο Antheil δεν πιάνει τη μουσική των μηχανών takkatakkatakkka tschingtschingtsching., rrrrrrrrrrrrt akkkkktttkkkktttktkk banagbangabangabangabanga rrrrrrrdrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwweeee rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrdddrerrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwerree σύμφωνα με τον, όπως ο σεβασμός αλλά όπως η προειδο[…] και η εγκατάσταση είναι η εργασία paul D. Lehrman του πανεπιστημίου και eric Singer van Bosjes του liga των ηλεκτρονικών μουσικών αστικών ρομπότ (LEMUR). (πρέπει σε αυτήν την σύνδεση κρότοι: εσείς weet σας θέλει)

frenovlavi ' Chaos, Momente, - das Erbrechen pianosonatas ypofe'retaj xanadej'te, Antheil Stravinskyesque syncopations, Meßinstrumente verschiebt. Robert R. Reilly, meesten wird benannt den bienvenu collaborator von unterhaltsamem Ionarts, has in written a article with regard to Antheil
in the crisis this has there partial year. antheil has crini'sej the blow the note that ayto'es composed has been observed, even if this ey'foros composer filmscore in more njoclassique style was later.

Selbst wenn der laute Tanz Antheil eine Tätigkeit ist, daß er stark folgt, haben sie Ackert in den Klavieren, synodey'soyn Lamoreaux in einer kurzen Linie von drei Liede Soprano Rosa genommen. Der AnschlußGedichte des Künstlers Kurt Schwitters für eine Marke
Fackel 1928Hanover, der Riegel von DeutschlandZinnoberfest geschrieben. Walther Lehnhoff und für Gieseking oui, das für es Gieseking die Musik schriftlich. Diese Liede haben reizend tragoydicej ', von gesamtem mit jtapes das Charleston Mej. Lamoreaux ' Bauholzhammern in den benachbarten Instrumenten der Perkussion verschieden sind. Styljstjka ', ayto'es ej'naj run-of-the-mill tragoy'dja Kabarett. Le courant Schwitters "conviennent les imbéciles metjs relatifs d'Onkel (Krawattenmacher), de comment la plus nouvelle technologie (matrijsTechnik im Haushalt d'Ohne), mère grande sont rond au Canada (Blame Canada!) si essentiel (Zinnoberschlager). pour Mej. Lamoreaux que vous entendez que j'étonne pousser régulièrement les frontières avec lesquelles si pensez le répertoire sien.

Eine Geschmacks- Aufnahme (I drink Coffee!) pesj'matos gefolgt. Schlemm.schlack-schluck. Gulp. Hmm Rschslurp.SmCK.SmCk.glglglgglglgg. h’ck. Schlemm.schack-schuck. IMMER IM TANGO, MEINE HERREN UND DAMEN. Schlemm.schlack-schluck.Hmm.Rschlslurp.SmCk.SmCk.glglglggllg.h’ck. And don’t get run over, biking home all tipsy!


Dada ne signifie rien

Francis Picabia, Portrait de Cézanne, 1920Ionarts was at a special event at the National Gallery of Art last night, a seminar for educators on the Dada exhibit that is in Washington right now (it came from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and will make one more stop, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in June). I have been remiss about reviewing this exhibit, which I have been meaning to see. I didn't have enough time in the show last night to write about it yet, but I got a good head start for my official visit.

The high point of the evening was a musical performance on the East Building Mezzanine. From March 12 through today, there were daily performances of an excerpt from one of the great musical compositions of the Dada period, George Antheil's noise composition for Fernand Léger's film Le Ballet mécanique (1924). Probably to the detriment of the sanity of the employees who work in the East Building, these regular performances have been extended through the end of the exhibit, on May 14 (Monday to Friday, 1 and 4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 1 pm). If you are in Washington in the next month and a half, don't miss this opportunity.

16 player pianos, percussion, and sound devices, all robotically controlledAntheil wanted to capture the music of machines -- according to him, not as a tribute but as a warning to audiences about how machines were invading their lives -- and envisioned a performance with 16 players pianos coordinated with two live pianists, airplane propellors, percussion, sirens, and bells. Antheil was not able to make that original plan work, and this version in a sense actually accomplishes what Antheil wanted to do: a fully automated performance. National Gallery music director Stephen Ackert pushed a button, and ten minutes of whirring, wild cacophony ensued. Fans pointing up to the ceiling play the airplane propellor parts. The computer link-up and installation are the work of Paul D. Lehrman of Tufts University and Eric Singer of the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots (LEMUR). (You must click on that link: you know you want to.)

Other Resources:

Robert Gable, Articles on George Antheil (aworks, March 2005)

Charles T. Downey, Michael Nyman, Man and Boy: Dada (August 9, 2004)

Charles T. Downey, George Antheil, Piano Sonatas, Guy Livingston (May 26, 2004)

Robert R. Reilly, Bad Boy Made Good: George Antheil (Crisis, February 2002)
The score is more than just insane chaos, although there are moments of that. (Every time the siren went off, people broke into laughter.) Not unlike his piano sonatas, reviewed here two years ago, Antheil's score is dominated by a basic pulse, set off-kilter by Stravinskyesque syncopations and shifting meters. Robert R. Reilly, most welcome guest contributor to Ionarts, wrote an article about Antheil in Crisis a few years ago. His basic point was that Antheil regretted composing the score for Le Ballet mécanique and his other mechanical works because he was forever marked as the man who had composed them, although he later became a prolific film score composer in a more neoclassical style.

Although Antheil's noisy dance is a hard act to follow, Stephen Ackert took to one of the pianos, to accompany soprano Rosa Lamoreaux in a short set of three songs. Collage artist Kurt Schwitters wrote the poems for a 1928 Dada event in Hanover, Germany, called Das Zinnoberfest. Walther Lehnhoff and Walter Gieseking -- yes, that Walter Gieseking -- wrote the music. These songs were charmingly sung, complete with Ms. Lamoreaux's Charleston steps and application of various mallets to the nearby percussion instruments. Stylistically, they are all run-of-the-mill cabaret songs. Schwitters' texts are appropriately nonsensical, about Onkel Wilhelm's beautiful neckties (Der Krawattenmacher), how the newest technology is so necessary for all ages of people (Ohne die Technik im Haushalt), and the greed of the world and a little grandmother hopping around in Canada (Der Zinnoberschlager). I am always happy to hear Ms. Lamoreaux, who regularly surprises me by pushing the boundaries of what I think of as her repertoire.

A reception of gustatory pleasures followed in the Cascade Cafe. You don't have to offer free food and wine to teachers more than once. Thanks to the National Gallery for a diverting and informative evening.

French Conductor Makes English Orchestra Sound Russian

available at Amazon
J. Sibelius, S. Khatchaturian, Violin Concertos, Khachatryan / Krivine / Sinfonia Varsovia
Overture:
The structure of orchestral concerts is hardly ever novel. Overture – Concerto – Symphony. Ever. Time. So creativity and interest are only to be found in the specific works that fill these prescribed slots. To place Britten’s Simple Symphony (op.4 – also on offer by the East Coast Chamber Orchestra on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Terrace Theater - an ATTEND event) at the head of the evening was a nice gift from England for the London Philharmonic to bring the audience at the Kennedy Center Monday night. Under Yan Pascal Tortelier (not Kurt Masur who had to cancel, not Osmo Vänskä, Roberto Minczuk, Neeme Järvi who all got to take a turn replacing Kurt during the US tour) the LPO played this fun-thing with for string orchestra with the requisite humor, perhaps even irreverent attitude. The orchestra’s sound was extremely well defined, delineated: no fuzzy or muddled edges – only clear lines and a dry, big and resonant body of sound. The signs of expert craftsmanship.

Sergey KhachatryanConcerto:
Not replaced was Sergey Khachatryan who performed the Kachaturian Violin Concerto – the other concert next to the Sibelius with which he has made his name. This time he was playing the Huggins Stradivari, but that didn’t automatically lend him a big sound. Sweet, stuffy nosed and occasionally docile in tone, the performance was good, and especially so in the beginning of the second movement and the third movement. Despite not forcing himself unto the listener with overwhelming sound, he played with the intensity that the majority of the patrons remained awake during the (too damn long) slow movement. Then, thanks to Tortelier (whose cue was a jumping jack) and the LPO, they were yanked out of their dreams with the glorious, noisy, cheap bombast of the that movements finish. And even those who were wide awake were – literally – jolted and pushed back into their seats at the dry (all controlled force) attack of the orchestra that opens the Allegro Vivace. With jitter-vibrato (more a tremolo, really) Khachatryan continued his amiable but just-off performance. It was clear at all points that he has mastered the work, that his technical ability is never stretched in the least… but it also never quite caught fire. The intangible that makes the difference between an excellent performance and a great performance was utterly missing, leaving the challenging and furious parts of the finale just “impressive”. Aside, a violinist should not get his show stolen by the orchestra in this work. But that was the case here – even if it was mostly the LPO’s and Tortelier’s achievement as they knew how to work the edges and contrasts of the score. Excessive applause encouraged a Bach encore, the Adagio from the g-minor Sonata. One way to ruin a perfectly fine reputation. Maybe Khachatryan aimed for an ‘introverted, melodious’ reading – but the result was a wimpy, wishy-washy Bach indecisively played towards nowhere.

Symphony:
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no.5 in that great, deep, ever continuous sound of the LPO was bold, broad and greatly enjoyable. Tortelier conducted in his characteristic style, reminding more of a swim-course instructor than maestro. The results put him beyond criticism, but he looks terribly goofy and can even distract from the action with his contortions.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, London Philharmonic Orchestra (Washington Post, March 29)
Tchaikovsky - and his 5th in particular - is among the greatest background music you can hear in concert. Too bad that 'mortal' stereo equipment cannot capture the mass of a good orchestra in action, otherwise I’d turn to the 5th more often while reading the morning newspaper. True: Tchaikovsky would undoubtedly have written better symphonies had he not been Russian. The ever-dripping emotionalism of every single movement of the 5th would not have remained in more than one movement with advising friends, critics, colleagues, had only he composed it further west. As is, the sentimental juice from just one movement of this work could drown all of Beethoven’s and Brahms most tender moments combined… alas, he also squeezes so much beauty into the work. And if performed as on Monday night, such criticism was temporarily rendered meaningless anyway. To the greatest possible credit of that band: They made the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall sound good.

29.3.06

Pierre Bonnard in Paris

Pierre Bonnard, L'homme et la femme, 1900, Musée d'OrsayWhile visiting the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris last Wednesday, I spent some time in the absolutely spectacular Pierre Bonnard exhibit, Pierre Bonnard: L’oeuvre d’art, un arrêt du temps. (For some quotes from French reviews of this important retrospective, see Le Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, February 8.) Bonnard hardly needs any help getting people to like his paintings, but if someone still needs convincing, this is the place for it to happen. In his admiration for the female body, Bonnard is the heir of Ingres, but without all of the academic baggage. You know Bonnard's portraits, his landscapes, his warm, glowing interior scenes, but there are minor works in the show, too, that bring some illumination to a remarkable career, as well as piles and piles of beautiful paintings.

Available from Amazon:
available at Amazon
Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, Misia: The Life of Misia Sert
In the exhibit's second room you fall upon three of the four large panels that Bonnard made for the dining room in Misia Sert's apartment on the Quai Voltaire in 1906 and exhibited publicly in the Salon d'Automne in 1910. (Misia Sert lived a fascinating life, as I learned from an excellent biography, shown at left, suggested by a friend. She wrote a memoir, too. Renoir did a portrait of Misia and Bonnard made a painting of her house: neither is in this show. Bonnard's portrait of Misia and other portrait of Misia are, no surprise, better than Renoir's.) As in the much earlier Le Peignoir (1892) in the first room, Bonnard was in his japonisme phase (as a member of the Nabi group). The Sert panels are unified by the same pictorial border, monkeys and birds perched on branches. One of the panels, Le Plaisir, contains a figure identified as Serge Diaghilev, one of Misia's closest friends. By comparison to Bonnard's most famous paintings, in his later colorful style, the early works are surprisingly muted in color choice.

Pierre Bonnard, Le Cabinet de toilette au canapé rose, 1908, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

In 1893, Bonnard met his muse, a 16-year-old girl named Marthe de Méligny (née Maria Boursin). Although they were not married for another 30 years or so, she was Bonnard's constant companion and lover, and he obsessively depicted her nude for his whole life. Bonnard showed himself and Marthe, just after sex, in the shockingly intimate L'homme et la femme (Musée d'Orsay, 1900), shown above with the opening paragraph. The erotic portraits of the first decade of their relationship include the naughty L'indolence (private collection, 1899) -- in which Marthe's pose was perhaps inspired by Courbet's infamous L'origine du monde -- and the tender La sieste (National Gallery of Victoria, 1900). This was also the period of Bonnard's fetish for Marthe in black stockings (in several drawings and paintings in the show).

Pierre Bonnard, La Cheminée, 1916, Private collectionSomewhere around the time of Le Cabinet de toilette au canapé rose (Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1908) -- a loving portrait of Marthe applying her perfume, shown above -- Bonnard's palette began to lighten toward the lighter, brighter colors we associate with his mature style. By the time we reach the extraordinary Nu au gant bleu (private collection, 1916) and La Cheminée (private collection, 1916), the colors are much more vibrant, leaning toward pastel. This is more or less the classic Bonnard, painting in a positively retrogressive way in the era of Dada and Surrealism. One of the many revelations of the show is the wall of tiny photographic proofs that are snapshots of Bonnard and Marthe, standing nude in their garden. Bonnard cannot be accused of idealizing too much: she was a shapely, thin, altogether lovely woman. There are also several of his pencil drawings and water colors on the opposite wall, revealing somewhat his conceptual process.

There are rooms, literally, of various views of Marthe lying in or about to get into the bathtub. Perhaps too many examples, although the variations in color and composition from frame to frame are of mild interest. The best example is Effet de glace from the Winterthur Museum, in which Marthe hovering over her bath is reflected in the mirror of a mantel.

Pierre Bonnard, Salle à manger à la campagne, 1913, Minneapolis Institute of ArtThere is a similar excess of riches in the number of landscapes, but one cannot argue with the examples selected. Be careful not to miss the three enormous panels of La Mediterranée (1911, Hermitage), made in Russia for a patron's home. They are hung outside the entrance to the exhibit, a little off to the side. Again, there is an entire room of Norman landscapes, toward the end of the exhibit. The domestic views -- part interior and part landscape -- are the best ones, such as the many paintings done at Ma Roulotte, the home in Normandy that Bonnard purchased in 1912. In this category are great paintings like La salle à manger, Vernon (1925-27), very similar to the one owned by the Met.


Other Resources:

Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature (National Gallery of Australia)

Pierre Bonnard Images (Olga's Gallery)

Bonnard (1998 exhibit, Museum of Modern Art)

Pierre Bonnard: Sous la lumière du Cannet (2001 exhibit, Espace Bonnard, Le Cannet)
In the 1913 Salle à manger à la campagne, owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a woman in an electric orange chemise leans into the darkened room and the whole colorful panoply of the landscape outdoors invades with her. A translucent purple curtain hangs from the windows. If you have ever sat in a French home, shut up all night, at the moment when you throw open those big windows, you will immediately recognize the sensations of light and smell in this painting. (Bonnard achieves a similar effect in one of his café paintings, a scene on the terrasse of the Petit Poucet (1928), a place that still exists on the Place Clichy.) There is, once again, a surabondance of these domestic landscapes. If you will be in Paris before May 7, this show is a must-see. Allow yourself the better part of a day if you want to take it in in any kind of detail.

One of the best sections of the show is a hallway with eight of Bonnard's self-portraits, from 1899 to very near the time of his death, with half of them coming from private collections and therefore mostly inaccessible. There we see the precise, reserved, silhouette of a man who did not allow either devastating world war in Europe to have any perceptible impact on the luminescent world of his art. In his garden, with Marthe, nothing else mattered.

UPDATE:
See also Michael Kimmelman, Pierre Bonnard Retrospective at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris (New York Times, March 30).

Let Go of My Renoir!

I must add my two Euros to the latest Barnes Foundation twist. Excellent blog-scoop by the way, Tyler and then the sleuths at artblog. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced yesterday a $25 million state donation to the “Barnes moving kitty.” This would bring the Barnes Foundation a step closer to raising the projected 150 million it needs to build a new structure and move the collection from its home in Merion to Philadelphia.

I am probably in the minority here, but I have never been in favor of this move. Sure there are many issues, missing pianos, and problems with the past board members of the Barnes Foundation; incompetence comes to mind. Moving the collection from its home in Merion is a drastic and unnecessary solution and a waste of money. It also disregards the wishes of Dr. Barnes as stated in his will, you know, that legal document. Next thing we’ll be stealing private property through eminent domain to allow developers to ...no, now that’s just silly.
Barnes Foundation

28.3.06

Rachel Barton Pine at the National Gallery

Rachel Barton Pine, violinistSometimes in a place like Washington, you get spoiled musically. (Let's not even talk about what it is like in Paris.) It was only a month ago that I heard American violinist Rachel Barton Pine in a recital at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Rachel Barton Pine and Maud Powell, February 24). Shortly after my return from Paris, she was back to play another recital at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday evening.

To my delight, she opened this time with something Baroque, the G minor passacaglia by Biber. The echo-chamber acoustic of the West Garden Court caused Ms. Barton Pine to bellow her spoken program notes, in which she introduced this piece as the guardian angel passacaglia. It is, in fact, the conclusion to Biber's magnificent Rosary Sonatas (c. 1674), which I last heard live in Manchester two summers ago. Each of the fifteen sonatas was published with an engraving of one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and the concluding passacaglia was accompanied by the illustration of a guardian angel leading a child. I have written before about the hypnotic effect of this kind of piece, built over a descending bass pattern. This was a gorgeous rendition, perhaps not particularly baroqueux in terms of rhythm or embellishment, although she did use a Baroque bow. What Barton Pine brought to the piece, however, was a soaring tone and a careful manipulation of the various voices. It was the high point of the concert for me. (Barton Pine recorded this piece, along with other Baroque solo violin music by Bach and others, on her 2005 CD, Solo Baroque, available from Cedille Records.)

Other Reviews:

Stephen Brookes, Darkness and Light, From One Violinist (Washington Post, March 28)


Additional Commentary by Jens F. Laurson:

Bubbly, talkative, cherubic-rubenesque, Rachel Barton Pine comes across as the Drew Barrymore of violinists. But whatever you may think of former Miss E.T.’s acting abilities, Rachel Barton Pine’s skill at the violin is absolutely unquestionable. In great repertoire she delights, in less-than-great music she still impresses. On Sunday night at the surprisingly empty National Gallery of Arts West Garden Court she did both.

Starting with a Passacaglia by Biber: vibrato-free and in absolutely perfect pitch (and modern, not natural tuning – the latter which can be rather off-putting to our ears), with heft and passionate energy she worked her way through this most simple, yet so searing work. It was the opener to a varied and interesting program, spanning over 300 years – progressing chronologically from Biber to the Mozart obligato to Schumann to Perkinson to contemporary John Corigliano.

Changing from Baroque to regular bow she skipped the programmed Mozart Adagio in E (she had been too optimistic in what to cram into the given time) and landed at the Kreisler-arranged Mozart Rondo in D K382… played as “Kreisler on a theme of Mozart.” And so it sounded: delectable confection, a little bit of which delights, more of which would still be enjoyable, too much of which would require a Schnapps.

Schumann’s Sonata No. 1 saw her with pianist Matthew Hagle as a very sensitive partner (who didn’t get the due credit for his excellent contribution in this and the Corigliano) who also knew how to navigate around the pitfalls of the West Garden Court’s acoustics while Ms. Barton Pine delighted with her smooth, entirely convincing, and warmly Romantic performance in which her 1742 Ex-Soldat Del Gesu had a good part. It was the kind of performance that sold this little semiprecious as a rare gem; just the way you’d want Schumann to sound.

The 1972 Coleridge Taylor Perkinson Blue/s Forms (“Plain Blue/s” – “Just Blue/s” – “Jettin’ Blue/s”) had Bach in the first notes and then rubbering, slippin’ and slidin’ through the notes with bluesy elasticity. Very catchy and superbly composed – and played. “Jettin’…” was pure joy to listen to. The craving of Ms. Barton Pine’s to play American music whenever in Washington is commendable so long as it brings us Taylor Perkinson or John Corigliano’s sonata. But it’s getting out of hand with the fiddle-ho-humm muzak of Mark O’Connor. Perhaps if you shut “classical” mode off it might become more interesting, but I can’t shake the notion that it sounds like Jeff Foxworthy had become a composer. The idea of tracing American fiddling from inception to modernity is not bad – but the result just doesn’t live up to it. Reducing the pianist to a chord-pressing automaton surely didn’t underwrite the compositional brilliance of this work.

If brevity… Corigliano’s fun sonata has plenty of wit and employs it with refreshing efficiency. Whether in the wild outer first movement or the Andantino (lyrical on shifting axes with a sense of violence underneath a calm surface and occasional stormy interludes), this is plain good music that sounds fresh despite or because of being hopelessly reactionary (yet also decades ahead) at the year of its inception, 1963. Barton Pine Yankee-Doodled around with Henri Vieuxtemps's Souvenir d'Amérique for an encore. Nifty, at best: but a violinist so truly impressive as her, the snob will easily forgive all programming choices.
The other real find of the concert was John Corigliano's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1963), a tour de force that the composer wrote for his famous violinist father, the former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. It's a damn exciting piece that required all of Barton Pine's considerable technical skills on her "ex-Soldat" violin, made by Giuseppe del Gesù Guarneri in Cremona in 1742. You can hear New York in the 1960s in the opening movement (Allegro), which has Leonard Bernstein written all over it, not to mention fairly overt references to Prokofiev's 7th piano sonata in the piano's left hand. In Barton Pine's hands, the second movement (Andantino) was a California jazz film score, and the fourth movement (Allegro) was a raucous circus tune, with a nod toward Shostakovich. In the brutal third movement (Lento), the full-throated tone of Barton Pine's violin vividly depicted the sense of emotions rubbed raw. It was a worthy performance, strong and even, of a piece that should be played more often. This was equally due to the virtuosic playing of pianist Matthew Hagle, who reacted to the difficult writing with a sense of adventure, in a sense on even footing with Barton Pine, in a way that I had not appreciated his playing up to this point.

Most of the program was equally entertaining if not quite as striking. Fritz Kreisler's arrangment of Mozart's Rondo in D Major, K. 382, is of sentimental value to Ms. Barton Pine, she explained in her comments (she played it often when she was "in the single digits," as she put it). It was a seductive reading, outrageous cadenzas and all. I would not be surprised if Mozart approved of the sense of showmanship. I was impressed by Barton Pine's reading of the Schumann first sonata, op. 105, a piece that does not always impress. The end of the first movement (Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck) was magnificently dramatic and powerful, to the point that the audience applauded, and rightly so. The second movement (Allegretto) was, by contrast, all interior monologue and understatement.

The other two works on the program were examples, good and bad, of how to incorporate popular music into a classical work. Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, a scholar at the Center for Black Music Research, used blues idioms in his Blue/s Forms for unaccompanied violin (1972), but the jazz sounds have been fully digested and the resulting sound is not merely jazz played on the violin, but something new and interesting. (A historical example of this "good crossover" is the quodlibet that concludes the Goldberg Variations, where Bach quotes snatches of beer-hall ditties and other tunes, but as part of an incredibly complex piece that is much more than just popular song quotations.)

On the negative side was the concluding piece, Strings and Threads by Ionarts bête noire Mark O'Connor. Ms. Barton Pine charitably described the work as "13 short pieces" that give a "history of fiddling in America." All I can say is that I wish it had been a whole lot shorter. A judicious selection of movements -- let's say two? -- would have been preferable to the whole deadly thing. I thought poor Matthew Hagle, whose talents were squandered on a series of chords and vamps, was going to fall asleep. O'Connor does his old schtick, conjuring various popular styles, often with terribly difficult playing for the violinist (all handled with aplomb by Barton Pine). It is some of the most repetitive and derivative music ever to enter my ears. Little matter, in what was an excellent recital.

Bach Collegium Japan: Non nisi mota cano

Bach would have been baffled and delighted to see a good handful of Japanese perform his music as well as he likely never heard in his own lifetime. Baffled that they were playing his music at all, baffled because they didn’t look like your usual Leipzig town folk, baffled that it sounded more or less like it did back then.

Pure conjecture, of course, but while at it, we should consider that he’d probably have preferred Stokowski’s way with his music – if only for novelty’s sake - not Masaaki Suzuki’s “authentic” approach with the Bach Collegium Japan as seen and heard at the Library of Congress last Friday.

available at Amazon
J.S. Bach, Cantatas vol.30, Suzuki/BCJ
The convenient thing about Historically Informed Performance ("HIP") groups is that they travel light. None of the works on the all-Bach program (Suite no.2, Keyboard Concerto BWV 1052, Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043, Brandenburg no.5) saw more than 9 performers on stage. At the center of it all was Mr. Suzuki on a harpsichord, beautifully adorned on the inside – inscribed with the Latin phrase so popular for instruments: (Viva fui in sylvis sum dura occisa securi) DVM VIXI TACVI MORTVA DVLCE CANO; (Once alive in the woods, I was cut down by the hard ax) While alive, silent; now dead, I sing sweetly – but covered with the worst trompe l’œil faux marble on the outside… reminiscent of camouflage.

available at Amazon
J.S. Bach, Orchestral Overtures, Suzuki/BCJ
Other Reviews:

Stephen Brookes, Bach Collegium Japan (Washington Post, March 27)
If so, Suzuki was certainly not hiding and blistered away at his usual brisk speeds. The string section – two violins, one viola, cello, bass – were all outfitted with gut strings and baroque bows and sounded plenty “authentic” alright… enough to have given Pinchas Zukerman cause for further caustic remarks regarding intonation and pitch. But any even just slightly more appreciative soul would have been amazed at their dedication and the purpose that drove their performance to an intensity that absorbed all the wrong or dropped or – yes: out of tune – notes with ease. Flutist Liliko Maeda was superb in the orchestral suite; simply refusing to run out of air and (alone among her colleagues) with a rock-steady pitch and intonation.

available at Amazon
J.S. Bach, Cantatas vol.29, Suzuki/BCJ
Violinist Natsumi Wakamatsu already showed her extraordinary sensibility in the first half of the program (markedly better than her colleagues Ryo Terakado who disappointed and Azumi Takada and Yuko Takeshima who fiddled amiably in the background), but it was the d-minor Concerto for Two Violins where she truly shone with a deep, unassuming musicality and an even, smooth, humble tone. Despite her and Ms. Maeda’s performance and Suzuki’s crazed, dashing harpsichord playing (never afraid of the occasional wrong note, bringing a sense of excitement to the table), it must be said that an ensemble of a lesser name would have gotten a notably cooler response from the audience for an identical performance: One ought to expect even more from the Bach Collegium Japan. After all, it is that group that is responsible for what is rightly considered the over-all best cantata cycle (on the BIS label). Those recordings, benefiting from studio perfection easily stand up to the aged Harnoncourt/Leonhart, the semi-authentic Rilling, the incomplete Richter, the also-almost-finished Koopman, the uneven Leusink. A side effect of this performance was, that my respect for the Gardiner cantata cycle – recorded live – has only increased: More than ever, now, the Soli Deo Gloria recordings seem a wondrous thing of unbelievable accuracy.

The concert was certainly good enough not to need ‘salvaging’, per se, but a knock-out performance of the fifth Brandenburg Concerto – again with Ms. Maeda and her traverso – helped the evening to a satisfying, joyous end. Minor balance problems and continuous intonation problems aside (perhaps placing the flute center, in front of the harpsichord, would have helped?), this was less driven and more flexible than the suite and contained another reckless solo of Suzuki’s. No wonder the audience demanded an encore – which they got, in form of the Air from the D-major suite BWV 1068.

27.3.06

The American Ring

Today, most of the major newspapers in the area (and one important blog) published reviews of the new production of Das Rheingold from Washington National Opera.

Jens will have a more thorough review later this week here at Ionarts. We welcome the thoughts of readers who saw the production in the comments space.

What to Hear in April

Classical Month in Washington is a monthly feature that appears on the first of the month. If there are concerts you would like to see included on our schedule, send your suggestions by e-mail (ionarts at gmail dot com). Happy listening!

Saturday, April 1, 5 and 8 pm; Sunday, April 2, 2 pm
Folger Consort: Landini and Machaut
Folger Shakespeare Library

Saturday, April 1, 7 pm; Tuesday, April 4, 7:30 pm; Thursday, April 6, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 9, 2 pm
Donizetti, L'elisir d'amore
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

Saturday, April 1, 8 pm
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater

Saturday, April 1, 8 pm
Yundi Li, piano
Music by Mozart, Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt
Music Center at Strathmore

Continue reading Classical Month in Washington (April).

Biancaneve

As previously reported, Snow White, an opera by American composer Luigi Zaninelli, was premiered in full production in Florence, Italy last week. The production - part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino season and mounted with the assistance of Syracuse University - was presented as part of a program entitled "OperAzione: Do you speak English?" - which attempts to bring the Engilsh language, through opera, to the school children of Florence (a production of Where the Wild Things Are was the first offering of the program). Reviews of Biancaneve were scarce, but you can brush up on your Italian and view this spot from FlorenceTV, which includes peeks at the sets by Alex Koziara and costumes by Regina Schrecker.

26.3.06

Classical Month in Washington (April)

Last month | Next month

Classical Month in Washington is a monthly feature that appears on the first of the month. If there are concerts you would like to see included on our schedule, send your suggestions by e-mail (ionarts at gmail dot com). Happy listening!

Saturday, April 1, 5 and 8 pm; Sunday, April 2, 2 pm
Folger Consort: Landini and Machaut
Folger Shakespeare Library

Saturday, April 1, 7 pm; Tuesday, April 4, 7:30 pm; Thursday, April 6, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 9, 2 pm
Donizetti, L'elisir d'amore
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 3)

Saturday, April 1, 8 pm
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater
See the review by Sarah Kaufman (Washington Post, April 3)

Saturday, April 1, 8 pm
Yundi Li, piano
Music by Mozart, Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt
Music Center at Strathmore
See the review by George A. Pieler (Ionarts, April 3)

Sunday, April 2, 2 pm; Wednesday, April 5, 7:30 pm; Saturday, April 8, 7 pm; Monday, April 10, 7 pm; Friday, April 14, 7:30 pm
Wagner, Das Rheingold
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, March 26)

Sunday, April 2, 5 pm
Natasha Mah, piano
Phillips Collection

Sunday, April 2, 6 pm
Rossini, Tancredi
Washington Concert Opera
Lisner Auditorium
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 6)

Sunday, April 2, 6:30 pm
Kronos Quartet, with Wu Man, pipa player
Music by Rahul Dev Burman, Michael Gordon, Terry Riley, and John Zorn
National Gallery of Art (East Building Auditorium)

Sunday, April 2, 7:30 pm
Sequenza (piano trio)
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (Fortas Chamber Music series)

Monday, April 3, 7:30 pm
All Copland (part of President's Festival of the Arts 2006)
CUA Symphony Orchestra
Church of the Epiphany (13th and G Streets NW)
See the review by Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, April 5)

Tuesday, April 4, 12:10 pm
Noontime Cantata: Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort, BWV 168
Washington Bach Consort
Church of the Epiphany (13th and G Streets NW)

Tuesday, April 4, 7:30 pm
Chamber Music: All Copland (part of President's Festival of the Arts 2006)
Ivo Kaltchev, Rome Trio, Sharon Christman
Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University

Tuesday, April 4, 8 pm
Yo-Yo Ma, cello (WPAS)
Solo cello suites by J. S. Bach
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 7)

Wednesday, April 5, 7:30 pm
New Old American Songs (part of President's Festival of the Arts 2006)
CUA Chorus
Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University

Wednesday, April 5, 8 pm
Academy of Ancient Music (Giuliano Carmignola, director)
All-Mozart program
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)

Thursday, April 6, 7:30 pm
Irwin Shaw's Quiet City (part of President's Festival of the Arts 2006)
Semi-staged reading with music by Aaron Copland (CUA Chamber Ensemble)
Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University

Thursday, April 6, 8 pm
Turtle Island String Quartet [FREE, and no ticket required]
Library of Congress

Thursday, April 6, 8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Monet and the Impressionists, with conductor Jahja Ling
Music by Debussy, Ravel, and Beethoven (Third Symphony)
Music Center at Strathmore
See the review by Tim Smith (Baltimore Sun, April 8)

Friday, April 7, 7:30 pm; Saturday, April 8, 7:30 pm
Aaron Copland, The Tender Land (chamber version) (part of President's Festival of the Arts 2006)
Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University
See the review by Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, April 10)

Friday, April 7, 8 pm
Juilliard String Quartet [FREE]
Music by Schubert, Viñao, and Beethoven
Library of Congress

Friday, April 7, 8 pm
Krystian Zimerman, piano
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
See the review by Jens F. Laurson and Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 8)

Friday, April 7, 8 pm; Saturday, April 8, 8 pm
Reto Reichenbach, piano
Music by Martin, Brahms, Franck
Embassy of Switzerland (2900 Cathedral Avenue NW)
See the review by George A. Pieler (Ionarts, April 8)

Friday, April 7, 8 pm; Sunday, April 9, 2 pm
Bellini, Norma
Virginia Opera
George Mason University Center for the Arts
See the review by Grace Jean (Washington Post, April 10) and the review by T. L. Ponick (Washington Times, April 11)

Saturday, April 8, 2 pm
Malcolm Bilson, lecture/piano recital
Performing on a replica of the 1814 Nanette Streicher piano
Baltimore Museum of Art
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 9)

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm
Leon Fleisher, piano
Music by Bach (Capriccio in B-flat major, BWV 992, and Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue), Stravinsky (Serenade for Piano in A Major), and Schubert (Sonata in B-flat, D. 960)
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 11)

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm
Lent in Leipzig (music by Keyser, Kuhnau, J. S. Bach)
Cantate Chamber Singers
St. John’s Norwood Parish (Chevy Chase, Md.)

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm
Elmar Oliveira, violin [FREE]
Library of Congress

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm [free masterclass at 1 pm]
Pacifica Quartet
Music by Mendelssohn, Janáček, Tchaikovsky
Kreeger Museum

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm
National Philharmonic, with Cho-Liang Lin, violin
Music by Beethoven and Mussorgsky
Music Center at Strathmore

Sunday, April 9, 3 pm
Fazil Say, piano
Music by Bach (Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543, and Busoni's arrangement of the D minor chaconne from the second violin partita), Beethoven (Tempest sonata), and Stravinsky (Rite of Spring for piano, four hands)
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
See the review by Jens F. Laurson and Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 12)

Sunday, April 9, 3 pm
Washington Chorus: William Walton, Belshazzar's Feast, and motets and Gloria by Poulenc
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Robert R. Reilly (Ionarts, April 10)

Sunday, April 9, 6:30 pm
Eusia String Quartet, with James Dick, pianist
Music by Debussy, Fauré, and Gregory Vajda
National Gallery of Art

Sunday, April 9, 7:30 pm
Courtenay Budd, soprano
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

Monday, April 10, 7:30 pm
Diotima String Quartet
Hosokawa, Silent Flowers; Berg, Lyric Suite; Webern, Six Bagatelles, op. 9; Ferneyhough, Quartet No. 2; Janáček, Quartet No. 2
La Maison Française (4101 Reservoir Road NW)
Request a reservation by sending an e-mail to Culturel.WASHINGTON-AMBA@diplomatie.gouv.fr
See the review by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 12)

Thursday, April 13, 7 pm; Friday, April 14, 1:30 pm; Saturday, April 15, 8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, St. Matthew Passion, with Helmuth Rilling
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 14)

Thursday, April 13, 8 pm
Lang Lang, piano (WPAS)
Music Center at Strathmore
See the review by George A. Pieler (Ionarts, April 15)

Friday, April 14, 8 pm
Choral Arts Society of Washington
Music Center at Strathmore
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 17)

Saturday, April 15, 8 pm
Left Bank Concert Society: Shades of Our Times
Music by Moravec, Dutilleux, Ewazen, Stucky, and Bartók (String Quartet No. 5)
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)
See the review by Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, April 17)

Sunday, April 16, 5 pm
Haskell Small, piano
World premiere of commissioned composition: Renoir’s Feast
Phillips Collection
See the review by Joan Reinthaler (Washington Post, April 18)

Monday, April 17, 8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra/JCC Chamber Music Series
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

Thursday, April 20, 7 pm; Friday, April 21, 8 pm; Saturday, April 22, 8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor/Julian Rachlin, violin
Music by Beethoven (Sixth Symphony), Prokofiev (second violin concerto), and Stravinsky (Firebird Suite)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 21)

Thursday, April 20, 7:30 pm
Garth Newel Piano Quartet
Mansion at Strathmore

Thursday, April 20, 8 pm; Friday, April 21, 8 pm
Mendelssohn Piano Trio with Michael Stepniak (viola) and Claudia Chudacoff (cello)
Robert Schumann Festival
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany (4645 Reservoir Road NW)

Thursday, April 20, 5 pm
Alex Ross (of The New Yorker and The Rest Is Noise), “Hitler and Stalin as Music-Lovers”
Peabody Musicology Colloquium
Cohen-Davison Theatre at Peabody (Baltimore, Md.)
See the calamity summary by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 22)

Friday, April 21, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 23, 3 pm; Tuesday, April 25, 7:30 pm; Thursday, April 27, 7:30 pm; Saturday, April 29, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 30, 3 pm
Cimarosa, Il Matrimonio Segreto
University of Maryland Opera Studio, conducted by Ryan Brown
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Studio (College Park, Md.)
See the review by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 28)

Friday, April 21, 8 pm
Washington Bach Consort [FREE]
Bach's Cantata Es ist das heil uns kommen her, BWV 9, and twentieth-century choral works by American composers
Library of Congress
See the review by Joe Banno (Washington Post, April 24)

Friday, April 21, 8 pm
Trio Solisti with David Krakauer, clarinet
Music by Moravec
Barns at Wolf Trap (Vienna, Va.)
See the review by Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, April 24)

Saturday, April 22, 4:30 pm
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (WPAS)
Music by Debussy, Berg Ravel, Mahler, and Wagner
Lulu Suite, with soprano Celena Shafer
Replaced by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Ravel's Piano Concerto in D Major for Left Hand
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 26)

Saturday, April 22, 8 pm
National Philharmonic, with Philip Hosford, piano
Music by Haydn, Salieri, and Mozart
Music Center at Strathmore
See the review by Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, April 24)

Saturday, April 22, 8:30 pm; Sunday, April 23, 7:30 pm
Jerusalem Quartet
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)
See the review by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 24)

Sunday, April 23, 3 pm
The Master Chorale of Washington
Music by Copland and world premiere by Hailstork
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Tim Page (Washington Post, April 25)

Sunday, April 23, 4 pm
Verdi, Requiem
New Dominion Chorale
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall (Alexandria, Va.)
See the review by Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, April 26)

Sunday, April 23, 4:30 pm
Contemporary Music Forum
Music by Frederick Weck, Douglas Boyce, Steve Antosca, and Miroslav Pudlak
Corcoran Gallery of Art
See the review by Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, April 26)

Sunday, April 23, 5 pm
Gregory Sioles with Marcolivia, piano trio
Phillips Collection

Sunday, April 23, 6:30 pm
Piotr Andrszewski, pianist
Music by Bach, Mozart, and Karol Szymanowski
National Gallery of Art
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 27)

Monday, April 24, 7:30 pm
Ensemble Doulce Mémoire
17th-century French music, with Baroque dance
La Maison Française
See the review by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 26)

Monday, April 24, 8 pm
Itzhak Perlman, violin, and Pinchas Zukerman, violin/viola (WPAS)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 28)

Tuesday, April 25, 7:30 pm
Efe Baltacigil, cello (WPAS)
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 29)

Wednesday, April 26, 7:30 pm
Shanghai Quartet [FREE]
Bartók, first string quartet; Ravel, Quartet in F; Yi-wen Jiang, ChinaSong
Freer Gallery of Art
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, May 2)

Thursday, April 27, 7 pm; Friday, April 28, 8 pm; Saturday, April 29, 8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor/Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Music by Bernstein (Slava! [A Political Overture]), Britten (Peter Grimes Sea Interludes), Dutilleux (Correspondances, 2003), and Dvořák (Eighth Symphony)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
See the review by Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 28)

Thursday, April 27, 8 pm; Friday, April 28, 8 pm; Sunday, April 30, 3 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Carlos Kalmar
Program includes John Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls
Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale and Peabody Children's Chorus
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
See the review by Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, April 29)

Friday, April 28, 7 pm
Georgetown University Chamber Singers, “Sing Joyfully”
Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices”, “Ave Verum Corpus,” and “Sing Joyfully”
Dumbarton United Methodist Church (3133 Dumbarton Street NW)

Friday, April 28, 7:30 pm
East Coast Chamber Orchestra
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
See the review by Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, May 1)

Friday, April 28, 7:30 pm
Antoine Tamestit (viola) and Alexis Descharmes (cello)
Contemporary, mostly Hungarian music
La Maison Française

Friday, April 28, 8 pm
London Haydn Quartet, with Eric Hoeprich, clarinet [FREE]
All-Mozart program: Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major (18th-c. arr. of Violin Sonata, K. 378), String Quartet in F Major, K. 590 ("Prussian"), Fugues in C minor and D Major for string quartet, K. 405 (arr. of BWV 871 and 874), and Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581
Library of Congress
See the review by Stephen Brookes (Washington Post, May 1)

Friday, April 28, 8 pm
Weilerstein Trio
All-Dvořák program
Corcoran Gallery of Art

Saturday, April 29, 4:30 pm
Ute Lemper, vocalist [CANCELLED]
Cabaret concert, presented in honor of Dada
National Gallery of Art (East Building Auditorium)

Saturday, April 29, 5 pm
21st Century Consort, with soprano Lucy Shelton
Tom Flaherty, When Time Was Young; Jacob Druckman, Lamia; Jon Deak, Rapunzel
Hirshhorn Museum

Saturday, April 29, 8:15 pm; Wednesday, May 3, 7:30 pm; Friday, May 5, 8:15 pm; Sunday, May 7, 3 pm
Puccini, La Bohème
Baltimore Opera
See the review by Grace Jean (Washington Post, May 1)

Sunday, April 30, 3 pm
Metropolitan Chorus
Music by Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky, and Luis Bacalov (Misa Tango)
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center (Alexandria, Va.)

Sunday, April 30, 5 pm
Christopher Guzman, piano
Phillips Collection

Sunday, April 30, 6:30 pm
Modern Musick
Music by Charles Avison, Handel, Locke, Purcell, Vivaldi, and other composers, played on period instruments
National Gallery of Art

Sunday, April 30, 7:30 pm
Russian Chamber Art Society
Galina Sakhnovskaya (soprano), Timothy Mix (baritone), with Tamara Sanikidze and Mikhail Yanovitsky (piano)
Vocal music by the Mighty Five
The Lyceum (Alexandria, Va.)
See the review by Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, May 2)