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31.8.06

I Violini d'Italia

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Italian Violin Sonatas, Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante (released on July 8, 2003)


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Vivaldi, Concertos for the Emperor, Andrew Manze, English Concert (released on November 9, 2004)
In the Baroque period, the treble sound was king: the castrato, the clarino trumpet, and especially the violin. The predominance of the latter went hand in hand with the superlative examples that were built in Cremona and other places in the 17th and 18th centuries. These are two excellent recordings, from the past couple years, of lesser-known works for violin from the the Baroque period, recorded by two of the reigning violin masters of HIP style. Both discs are bon-bons in the best sense: I can play them at home or in my office, and people who might be turned off by some of the sounds that come from my CD player ask me about the beautiful music I am playing. Fabio Biondi offers four sonatas by those followers of Corelli in the early 18th century (Geminiani, Tartini, Locatelli, Veracini) who are so often forgotten, plus a piece by Michele Mascitti that is probably better described as a suite, a set of instrumental movements that tell the story of Psyché. This piece, from 1714 and as delicate with pastel colors as a Watteau painting, is going to be the soundtrack for my class on the Rococo this year.

Biondi's playing is sensitive and virtuosic, with thrilling ornamentation, as on the repeated sections in the opening Adagio of Locatelli's D minor sonata (track 6). Three players from his group, Europa Galante, realize the continuo part, with fierce technical prowess of their own, as in the chattering "Badinage" (Banter) movement of the Mascitti. Besides Maurizio Naddeo's cello, a range of instruments -- Giangiacomo Pinardi on theorbo, Baroque guitar, or cittern and Sergio Ciomei on harpsichord, organ, gravicembalo, or clavichord -- allow the maximum diversity of color, for example, the muted greyness of "Du sommeil" (Sleepiness), again in the Mascitti suite.

Andrew Manze's fine disc includes six Vivaldi concerti, of the twelve, not all of which can be reconstructed, offered by the composer in a manuscript as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1728, during the monarch's official visit to Trieste. (Vivaldi is hot right now, with recent recordings by Andrea Marcon's Venice Baroque Orchestra, reviewed by Jens.) Concertos for the Emperor was mentioned on several "Best Of" lists for 2004 (sometimes eclipsed by Manze's gorgeous version of Biber's Rosary Sonatas with Richard Egarr), and it bears repeating that this recording indeed goes down easy. Manze's incisive tone is ultra-refined, so searingly pure that it makes Biondi's tendency toward expressive bends sound more exaggerated by comparison than it really is. The English Concert provides thrilling ripieni and perfectly tuned harmonies underneath their leader.

I have often wondered how many Vivaldi concerti Igor Stravinsky actually heard before he made his famous remark that Vivaldi had composed the same concerto 500 times. His ritornello themes do often sound cut from very similar cloth. Of six concerti on this disc, it surprises me that two ritornelli sound extremely close to famous ones Vivaldi used in the Four Seasons: the last movement of Concerto No. 2 (track 3) is almost like the Spring's first movement, and the third movement of Il favorito (track 15) is close to one of the fast ritornelli of the autumn concerto. The range of sounds, including the soft-light muting of the entire orchestra on L'Amoroso, does much to alleviate the dangerous sameness of Vivaldi's concerti, as do Manze's inventive and adventurous embellishments, including two rather striking cadenzas. Both of these soloists have recently made recordings of Mozart violin concerti -- Biondi released a set of three (no. 1 to 3) in April, and Manze did, too (no. 3 to 5), in January. I am hoping to review them together soon.

Virgin 7243 5 45588 2 5 (Biondi) / Harmonia Mondi 907332 (Manze)

Monteverdi's Madrigals

Claudio Monteverdi left history, among many surviving and too many tantalizingly lost works, nine books of incredibly diverse and often exquisite madrigals. These important pieces have been recorded by many different groups, too many to catalogue here, but until recent years, I have been happiest with the recording of selections made by Les Arts Florissants. Right now, two Italian ensembles are making exciting new cycles, Marco Longhini's Delitiæ Musicæ (currently on Book 5 with Naxos) and Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano (just released Book 6 with Naïve but not in a systematic order -- hopefully Alessandrini will undertake a new complete cycle with Concerto Italiano). The hallmark of the Italian madrigal is its excellent poetry -- Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto, Guarini, and all the best poets of the Renaissance and early Baroque -- and the most expressive musical techniques of the time used to express the poetry's extremes of emotion. From the late 16th century, the genre was the exclusive territory of the greatest vocal virtuosos of the era, to be supplanted only as opera became the dominant vocal form in the 17th century.

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Monteverdi, Fifth Book of Madrigals, Delitiæ Musicæ, Marco Longhini (released on June 20, 2006)
Available at Amazon:
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Monteverdi, Sixth Book of Madrigals, Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini (released on May 16, 2006)
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Monteverdi, 7th and 8th Books of Madrigals, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie (re-released in 2005)

Delitiæ Musicæ:
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Book 1


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Book 2


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Book 3


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Book 4
With Delitiæ Musicæ, Marco Longhini is making a thorough set of discs, with booklets containing full texts and translations, as well as Longhini's comprehensive liner notes for each book. The group performs the madrigals, quite sensibly, with one singer to a part. Instruments provide support only in some of the pieces, because Monteverdi was quite consciously shifting between older and newer styles, providing a basso continuo part only for some of the madrigals. There is a real shift for the final six madrigals in Book 5, featured on the group's newest release, which shows how the former conception of independent lines in Renaissance polyphony gave way to a manner of composition that proceeded from harmonic structures conceived vertically over the bass line.

The fifth book focuses on pastoral poetry, almost exclusively the work of Guarini, often excerpted from his magnum opus, Il pastor fido (1590). Monteverdi brings together texts that focus not on the joys of shepherds and shepherdesses, but on the painful separation of lovers. It was the extremes of the poetry, after all, that inspired Monteverdi to write some of his most adventurous dissonant passages. Live performances of some of the more daring madrigals later published in Books 4 and 5 provoked the anger of the vengeful critic Artusi, who undertook one of the most famous polemical battles in music history. Even today, my eyes almost pop out of my head when I hear the chromatic strangeness that opens M'è più dolce il penar par Amarilla (track 11).

Longhini has also chosen to use only male singers in various combinations, with countertenors on the cantus, quintus, and altus parts: the reason that he cites in his notes for that decision -- involving sacred contrafacta of madrigals, sung by all-male ensembles -- does not make sense to me, but it hardly matters in terms of authenticity as far as I am concerned. (The example of the famous trio of women singers at the court of Ferrara would certainly be an argument for female voices but does not exclude using all male ones.) The sound on this disc is lovely, strongest not least because of the excellent diction and pronunciation of the Italian poetry (the singers are all Italians). Each phrase is carefully shaped to the poetic line, almost disappearing, for example, when lines end on unstressed syllables. Maximum expressive effect, which Monteverdi masterfully crafted in each musical response to the words, is rendered by the performers with remarkable unity. The countertenors float over the texture and can vanish above it when their parts are secondary. The sound is on the cold side, and there are occasional lapses of intonation, especially involving some of the lowest singing.

Concerto Italiano:

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Book 2


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Book 5


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Book 8, Pt. 1


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Book 8, Pt. 2
Alessandrini's group recorded the sixth book in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome last December. He accompanies some of the selections from the harpsichord, and in other cases the continuo is combined with or replaced by harp and theorbo. The voices, in combinations of as many as seven but usually five, are all excellent and join together in a perfectly balanced and impeccably tuned ensemble. Alessandrini leans toward the dramatic tendencies of Baroque music, which is the best approach in my opinion. The exaggeration of motifs is not as pronounced as in Concerto Italiano's excellent Four Seasons disc. However, there are expressive sighing motifs ("Misera, ohimè") in the Lamento d'Arianna and frenetic piling up of affective consonants, underscoring the onomatopoeia inherent in the poetry, as in the rapid iteration (looking forward to the stile concitato) of the sibillants in "di sospiri" in A Dio Florida bella.

The most affecting sections of this recording rely on more subtle means, as in the caressing of thorny dissonances at the end of Zefiro torna (evoking the "savage wild beasts" of the closing line) or the famous opening of Arianna's lament, Lasciatemi morire. Alessandrini decided to be faithful to the occasional grating dissonances in Monteverdi's score, numerous half-step discrepancies often corrected by editors. There are nice moments of typical Baroque techniques, like the echo (Una donna fra l'altre) and chiaroscuro contrasts, for example, musically evoking the sudden emotional shift at the break between octave and sestet in a Petrarchan sonnet (Zefiro torno). Florid ornamentation is left mostly to the passages of solo singing, as we hear Monteverdi reconciling the music he inherited, imitative polyphony, with the new monodic style. (In the 1614 edition, not all of the madrigals have basso continuo parts, and Alessandrini acknowledges that he used a later 1620 edition of Book 6, in which Monteverdi added continuo parts for all his madrigals.)

While we are wishing for groups to do a complete recording of the Monteverdi madrigals, I hope William Christie is thinking about it. My favorite recording of Monteverdi madrigals is still the single disc anthology released by Les Arts Florissants. The final madrigal in Book 5, a piece that joins instruments in a fuller capacity with voices, hints at what Monteverdi will do in Book 8, especially with the lengthy mini-opera madrigal cycle Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. Here Monteverdi found the perfect situation to exploit the literal battle found sometimes in violent passion: Tancredi and Clorinda, characters from Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata, are both warriors, Tancredi from the Christian army and the battlemaiden Clorinda from the Muslim army. During the siege of Jerusalem, they not only fall in love but fight one another on the battle field.

Christie used some excellent singers on this recording, including soprano Sandrine Piau, tenor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, and baritone Nicolas Rivenq, who all went on to solo careers. Christie also chose some of the later Venetian duet madrigals, among the most beautiful things Monteverdi ever penned, including the joyous Zefiro torna, e di soavi accenti for two tenors (Book 9) and the self-referential tribute to virtuosic singing Mentre vaga Angioletta (Book 8), both with Fouchécourt and Mark Padmore. Piau and Claire Brua aren't bad either, on the soprano-bird duet O come sei gentile, caro augellino (Book 7). Piau sparkles and exalts the ears in her solo madrigals, Eri già tutta mia and Quel sguardo sdegnosetto (tracks 4 and 5, from the Scherzi musicali), while Brua is better under Piau's wings than by herself. Overall, the singing is not of the same remarkable homogeneity as the Concerto Italiano recording. Still, when the truly excellent instrumental performance is taken into account -- Christie's flair providing the note-perfect rendition of Monteverdi's military drama -- it will be hard to supplant this disc, even though it was recorded in 1992.

30.8.06

Let Us Rejoice While We Are Young

William Hogarth, Scholars at a Lecture, engraving, 1736/37
William Hogarth, Scholars at a Lecture, engraving, 1736/37


The end of August is here, and that means that it is time to take my neckties out of storage, put my patented dirty looks back on my face, and get ready to go back into the classroom. It is my privilege to teach music and art history at an excellent school run by a Benedictine monastery here in Washington. Certain anonymous commenters here may not think it is possible, but I receive daily lessons in humility by working at the side of monks, men whose simple eloquence comes from their unquestioning devotion to silence and the treasury of learning. Yesterday morning, one of the senior monks grabbed my arm to let me know, as he often does, what musical phrase was running through his head on the first full day that our students were back in school. He hummed the Gaudeamus igitur theme from the coda of Brahms's Academic Festival Overture, and I have been hearing the same piece in my inner ear ever since. So, with students everywhere, let us sing:
Gaudeamus igitur
Juvenes dum sumus!
Post jucundum juventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

Vivat academia
Vivant professores
Vivat membrum quodlibet
Vivat membra quaelibet
Semper sint in flore.

Vivant et republica
et qui illam regit.
Vivat nostra civitas,
Maecenatum caritas
Quae nos hic protegit.
Let us therefore be happy
While we are young!
After a jolly youth
After a troublesome old age
The earth will have us.

Long live the academy!
Long live the teachers!
Long live each and every
Student, male and female!
May they always flourish!

Long live both the republic
And the one who rules it!
Long live our city
And the charity of benefactors
That keeps us safe here!
We probably have enough Ionarts readers who can sightread to sing this in four parts: here's a .PDF file of the harmonization by Christian Wilhelm Kindleben.

Summer Opera 2006: Betrothal in a Monastery

Other Reviews:

Tom Service, Betrothal in a Monastery (The Guardian, July 25)
"For a piece written in Russian in the early 1940s, what's weird about the music is that there is no political or creative ambition. The one passage of social commentary is a scene for a chorus of pissed monks in the second half, the easiest possible target in Stalin's Russia."

Warwick Thompson, 'Betrothal' Shines at Glyndebourne for Quality of the Singing (Bloomberg News, July 24)
"Theatrically it's another story. The level of acting falls into that 'not terrible but not very good either' category, with lots of generic arm waving and telegraphic mugging. In a serious piece, it might just about pass muster. In a comedy, it fails the crucial test. It doesn't give you the giggles."

Rupert Christiansen, A diverting confection (The Telegraph, July 25)
"Prokofiev just isn't interested in plumbing or expanding on human emotions: what engages him is the challenge of swift, lively story-telling and effective scene-painting, which could explain why his ballet scores seem so much more satisfying than his operas."

Peter Conrad, Laughing at Stalin (New Statesman, August 14)
"But Prokofiev's interest lay elsewhere - in the serenades, whispered trysts and nocturnal assignations of his four young lovers. Louisa, pining in Mendoza's house, complains that she is bored, with time at a standstill. The gently rocking sounds that steal from the orchestra pit cancel out her complaint: what she calls tedium is the enchantment of music, suspending time and reprieving us, temporarily at least, from history."

Hugh Canning, Opera: Your country needs you (London Sunday Times, July 30)
"Betrothal in a Monastery has not been staged professionally in this country during my opera-going lifetime. If the deadly new Glyndebourne staging is anything to go by, it won’t need to be staged again in the near future. Glyndebourne has a Russian-born music director, the outstanding Vladimir Jurowski, who has declared his intention to bring neglected Russian operas into the repertory. Two years ago, he programmed Rachmaninov’s The Miserly Knight, which was worth hearing once, and now he dishes up the Prokofiev, which, unfortunately, isn’t even that."
Is there anything better than discovering a new opera? I have listened to a lot of operas, some of them more than others, but I always enjoy hearing one for the first time. A number of people had that experience this summer at Glyndebourne Opera by seeing the first-ever British production of Sergei Prokofiev's little-known opera Betrothal in a Monastery (1940/46), which just closed this weekend. It's an unlikely combination, a Russian opera based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan's libretto for Thomas Linley's comic opera The Duenna. Jessica Duchen enticed us at her blog, when she wrote glowingly about getting to know the opera at the Glyndebourne dress rehearsal. However, as she also noted later, the press reviews were generally not very positive. One exception was Edward Seckerson's review (Betrothal in a Monastery, Glyndebourne, East Sussex, July 26) for The Independent:
Prokofiev's fertile score begins with one of his fabulous vaulting themes, heavy and heady with Russian ardour, while the setting is Seville - and an element of culture clash is apparent. But the musical style matters less than the speed of its reflexes. Prokofiev can turn an 18th-century minuet with the best of them - he'd been practised at doing so since the days of his "Classical" Symphony No 1. So his score bows and curtseys if not to the manner born then certainly to the manner well-schooled. But the musical language is weightier than Sheridan suggests, and it takes a while to adjust to the coarser, folksier nature of the themes.

That said, the romance of the piece is in good hands; no one does voluptuous quite like Prokofiev. The veiled shimmer of his orchestrations is as ever something else, and the way in which these gorgeous lyric flights are constantly interrupted by the mundane, the way the highly distinctive vocal writing breaks from song into speech into chit-chat, is one of the most characterful aspects of the score. It's a score that Vladimir Jurowski plainly loves, and he coaxes and cajoles a fabulous range of seductive and coquettish and downright bawdy colours from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It can never have sounded better.
Available at Amazon:
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Prokofiev, Betrothal in a Monastery, Anna Netrebko, Sergei Alexashkin, Larissa Diadkova, Kirov Opera, Valery Gergiev (released on September 13, 2005)
Most of the other reviews were more negative. I couldn't make it to Glyndebourne, but I have been getting to know this opera in the recently released DVD of a famous Mariinsky Theater production (recorded live at the sumptuous theater in St. Petersburg). This is the same 1996 production that the Kirov Opera brought to the Met in 1998 (and to San Francisco Opera in the same year), but with a different cast, other than the ravishing Anna Netrebko. The staging by Vladislav Pazi takes the story's setting, Seville in the 18th century during carnival, and plays it to the hilt, with dancers in the opening ballet costumed as outrageous, colorful parodies of commedia dell'arte characters (sets and costumes designed by Alla Kozhenkova).

Appropriately for an opera created under Stalin, most of the trouble in Betrothal is due to capitalist greed, the deal struck by two businessmen involving the exchange of one daughter, Luisa (Netrebko), for interests in the fishing trade. (It was an unfortunate decision to play off Jewish stereotypes by giving Sergei Aleksashkin as Mendoza, the greedy thug who wants to marry Luisa, a prominent hooked nose. The same singer was in this role at Glyndebourne, minus the nose.) The fish in the opening scene are portrayed by ballerinas in fish costumes, thus equating lust and greed. It's a charming opera, with lush orchestration and memorable set pieces (Antonio's serenade under Luisa's window being the best example, sung sweetly by tenor Yevgeny Akimov, which returns as a love theme throughout the opera) amid the flowing narrative. The central section of the Act I ballet, in the hot Seville night where masked lovers cavort during carnival, is a sultry score, with the heaving sighs of glissandi in the low strings.

The cast is generally strong. In particular, Nikolai Gassiev has a lot of fun as the suspicious and greedy father, Don Jerome. Mezzo-soprano Larissa Diadkova (also in the Mazeppa at the Met this spring) is a stitch as the scheming duenna of the title, smoking a pipe, grimacing, and corrupting her charge. (The color scheme of her costume and makeup -- orange hair, red lipstick, bright yellow dress -- will most likely remind American viewers of Ronald McDonald.) Netrebko, as usual, is competent vocally and then some, not good enough to justify a less attractive singer but certainly enough to make this visually pleasing performance possible. The secondary pair of lovers, Luisa's brother, Don Ferdinand (Aleksander Gergalov), and his beloved, Clara (Marianna Tarassova) have less interesting music but sing well.

At nearly four hours in length, the opera could probably benefit from judicious cuts. Just please, directors, don't cut the ballets, although I know that is probably the most tempting solution. As a Catholic, I am (only slightly) bothered by the anticlerical nature of the convent and monastery scenes, which play off stereotypes no less disturbing than those mocking Eléazar's greed in La Juive, but those beerhound monks are just so funny, with their false and hypocritical organum following on Prokofiev's raucous drinking song. You wouldn't want to do without the on-stage instrumental trio that Don Jerome is rehearsing while he receives messages from Luisa (the music is his "favorite minuet," which returns in the final scene). The part of the story I could most easily do without is the subplot involving Clara and Ferdinand, but it is probably impossible to disentangle from the opera. Fortunately, I am happy to watch four hours of opera, live or on this beautiful DVD, with sound that is quite good for a stage recording.

29.8.06

Orpheus to Be Torn to Bits at Royaumont

So many music festivals, so little time. The latest I read about was the fall festival at the Abbaye de Royaumont (August 26 to October 15), where there is a series of works on the Orpheus legend on the schedule this year. Jean-Louis Validire wrote an article (Orphée descend à Royaumont, August 26) in Le Figaro (my translation):

The Orpheus myth will serve as the unifying thread of the new concert season at Royaumont, which will open tonight with the performance of La Favola di Orfeo by Angelo Poliziano, a 15th-century Tuscan composer, the friend and poet of Lorenzo il Magnifico. Francis Biggi will handle the musical direction of this work that inspired Monteverdi's Orfeo. On September 30, the musicians of Vincent Dumestre's Poème Harmonique will perform Domenico Bellini's Orfeo Dolente, created in Florence in 1616 and which is, as its name indicates, a long lamentation by the hero whose Eurydice is absent. Finally to close this series, on October 7 one can hear Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Orphée descendant aux enfers, played by Il seminario Musicale, founded in 1985 by Gérard Lesne, who has been in residence at the Fondation Royaumont since 1990.
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La Favola di Orfeo, music by Tromboncino et al., Huelgas Ensemble, Paul van Nevel (recorded in 1981, released on CD in 1998)
As Validire notes, the Charpentier Orphée is a performance of the shorter cantata version from 1683, based on work that Gérard Lesne carried out with his graduate students on the cantata in France. This is the sort of program that makes my musicologist's heart sing, as you can imagine. However, I am not sure about the music being performed for the Poliziano work, as Poliziano was not a composer at all. At least some of the text was sung at the original performance, but no musical score has survived. Unless this group is sitting on a major find, this performance is probably a reconstruction like what the Huelgas Ensemble did, adapting the music of composers of the period to the words of Poliziano's libretto.

Finally, it never ceases to amaze me when I discover valuable documents tucked away in a corner of the Internets: the North Texas State University library has scanned a copy of Poliziano's La Favola di Orfeo (a later edition printed in Padua in 1749), formerly owned by a professor of music history there, Isaac Lloyd Hibberd.

Abbado and Pollini, Lucerne Festival

Claudio Abbado, conductorLucerne would be a nice place to be in late August, as I described in a roundup of reviews of the opening concert of the Lucerne Festival. Claudio Abbado led a second concert with his extraordinary orchestra, with Maurizio Pollini as soloist, for good measure. Jean-Louis Validire reviewed that event (Lucerne hypnotisé par Claudio Abbado, August 21) for Le Figaro (my translation and links added):

With his back to the house and his arms folded on his chest, Claudio Abbado remained immobile; the audience, tetanized [!] by the performance of Bruckner's fourth symphony, made no sound. Long seconds flowed away as if holding back time, as if prolonging this interior voyage on which the conductor had taken us. Finally a timid bravo broke out and freed the enthusiasm of the listeners in the concert hall of the Lucerne Kultur und Kongresscentrum, the KKL designed by Jean Nouvel, which has housed the summer festival since 1998. [...]

Bruckner's fourth symphony, played in this festival consecrated this year to the theme of language, made evident the individual qualities of the soloists, notably of the horn player, the impeccable Robert Schneider, and of all the brass who sounded with a homogeneity and harmonious clarity in a room with a miraculous acoustic. The work also brought out the suppleness and musicality of the ensemble in its search for the colors and timbres that Abbado sought out subtly, from piano to forte, in a conception that gave the work a rigor and logic that transcended the themes that Bruckner gave to this symphony that he himself named "Romantic." Nothing pastoral in this introspective plunge that evoked more the Victor Hugo of the Contemplations in the poem "Ce que dit la bouche d'ombre qu'une aimable partie de chasse," as the horn's recurrent theme could make us believe.
If you do not instantly recognize the specific poem Validire is citing, here is my quick (and not very poetic) translation of the first few lines:
The man while dreaming descends into the universal void.
I was wandering near the dolmen that overlooks Rozel,
At the place where the shore point extends into a peninsula.
The specter was waiting for me; the somber and tranquil being
Took me by the hair in his hand that grew larger,
Carried me up to the height of the cliff, and told me:
"Know that everyone knows his law, his end, his path;
That, from the star to the mite, the immensity is heard;
That everything is aware in all creation;
And the ear can have its vision,
Because things and being have a great dialogue.
Everything speaks; the air that blows by and the halcyon [kingfisher] that floats,
The green plants, the flower, the germ, the element.
Did you thus imagine the universe any other way?"
Yes, nature is alive with sounds that speak at God's command, and Bruckner's fourth symphony is the same sort of revelation, spoken by a ghost that lifts you up by the hair. I love that not only can a journalist refer to a poem by Victor Hugo in France, in a concert review, but that he can apparently expect a reasonable number of readers to know the lines. This is in a newspaper, folks.

Validire was not as impressed with Pollini's work in the Brahms second piano concerto, "an ascetic and purified interpretation that left no room for emotion or singing." It was "technically magnificent" but "too intellectual." Little matter, since the Lucerne Festival is featuring the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, as well as the orchestras of Philadelphia (Eschenbach), Cleveland (Franz Welser-Möst), and San Francisco (Michael Tilson Thomas), not to mention soloists like András Schiff, Thomas Quasthoff, and Matthias Goerne. The Lucerne Festival lasts until September 17.

28.8.06

Ceci n'est pas un roman

Metafiction, n. A type of fiction which self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction.
Georges Perec, novelistI had an interesting conversation with a writer friend in Paris a few years ago about metafiction. He hates it, while I find it fascinating. On vacation last month, I finally found a used copy of one of the examples of the genre I have been meaning to read for years, Georges Perec's La vie, mode d'emploi (1978). It is also one of the books in my Paris Reading Project, because its protagonist is an apartment building in the French capital. The best metafiction came from the OuLiPo group (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) in Paris, who were interested in combining literature with other things, especially word games, puzzles, and so on.

Perec used the Knight's Tour mathematical/chess problem to determine the order of apartments in the building described in his book. The apartment building, if imagined in a cutaway view, is a grid of 10 squares by 10 squares. Each chapter deals with one room, showing a snapshot of the space in the present, down to incredible details like what pictures or postcards are on the walls or lying on a table. Then it relates the stories of the residents, present and sometimes past. At the end of the chapter, the narrator's eye moves to the next section of the grid as a knight moves on the chessboard. The challenge of the knight's tour is that the knight has to visit all the spaces on the board without repeating any one of them. (You can try your hand at the Knight's Tour here.)

available at Amazon
Georges Perec, La vie, mode d'emploi (Life: A User's Manual, translated by David Bellos)
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Georges Perec, La disparition (A Void, translated by Gilbert Adair)
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Italo Calvino, Il visconte dimezzato (The Cloven Viscount, translated by Archibald Colquhoun)
available at Amazon
Italo Calvino, Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, translated by William Weaver)
Up to this point, my favorite examples of metafiction have been by Perec and Italo Calvino. Perec's La disparition (1969) is probably the most famous outside of France, a novel written without the letter e, a technique known as a lipogram. What makes that book so fascinating is that, not only is it a technical tour de force, but it is also an absorbing story that incorporates the literary gimmick at the book's core. Unfortunately, I read the book knowing that it was a lipogram, but I suspect that it would be even more fulfilling to read if you had to figure out what Perec is doing.

Cuban-born Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote The Cloven Viscount (1959) before he joined OuLiPo, and it may be more postmodern than metafiction. However, because it plays with how characters are described in a narratives, I think of it as metafiction. Calvino actually explodes his protagonist in half, ascribing all the good qualities to one half of the viscount and all the evil to the other. Instead of describing a character whose dual natures are at conflict within his personality, the two halves of the viscount actually fight a duel.

However, winning by a nose in my opinion is Calvino's masterful If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979). The premise of this book seems impossible, that is, a story told in the second person. "You" are the protagonist: you begin by just reading the book and by a sleight of hand become the main subject of the story. Again, the technical prowess is stunning, but it is the story that he weaves within the constraint that seduces. As John Updike wrote in his review in The New Yorker, Calvino "manages to charm and entertain the reader in the teeth of a scheme designed to frustrate all reasonable readerly expectations."

All four books I have selected are ratiocinative tales, a genre that fascinated the OuLiPo writers because of its puzzle-like nature. The genre goes back to Voltaire's Zadig (in English translation) and was really first classically formulated by Edgar Allan Poe in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The classic structure of the detective tale, involving a detective who makes sense of what appears not to make sense, is not necessarily used in all of these books. However, all of them present conundra, not only of plot but of the structure of the book itself, that must be decoded and solved.

Smithsonian Chamber Players, Reynolds Center

Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, photo courtesy of Heather Goss, DCistOn Sunday, the new auditorium at the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture hosted the inaugural concert of the Smithsonian Chamber Players. The space still has that new hall smell, refinished in a blonde-wood louver style that reminded me of the new hall at Strathmore. The sound is good but not spectacular. I sat in the center towards the front, and the acoustic seemed slightly muted, missing some of the liveness that brings you close to the instruments in chamber music. This concert was free (many of the performances on the museum's calendar for this new space are not), and an enthusiastic crowd — excited enough to clap between movements — filled nearly all the seats.

An ad hoc combination of piano trio offered a short program without intermission. The best performance came from pianist Audrey Andrist, whose facility with rapid passagework was, as always, impressive. Her part was generally the most demanding, as it often is in the piano trio repertoire. She played on a newly rebuilt 1940 Steinway grand piano from the Smithsonian collection. Andrist is a gifted, intelligent player, with the chops to tackle the most difficult new compositions in her performances with Contemporary Music Forum and other groups. She stood out in the opening Presto, from Haydn's C major trio (Hob. XV:27), a piece that is mostly a showcase for the pianist. She also answered the considerable demands of the final work, Mendelssohn's D minor trio (op. 49), where she brought a light, airy grace to the fleet keyboard part. She may not have as much power in her arms as one could want, but she has the chops.

Other Reviews:

Gail Wein, Smithsonian Chamber Players (Washington Post, August 29)
Her husband, violinist James Stern, and the director of the SCP, cellist Kenneth Slowik, played on their own 18th-century instruments: as Slowik put it at the opening of the concert, instruments that were "new when the music was new." Stern played well, with a few scratchy sounds that we can probably attribute to the instrument. The sound of the cello was shallow, and there were problems of intonation and accuracy, especially in challenging sections. The opening anacrusis of the Allegro ma non troppo section of the first movement of the middle work, Beethoven's E-flat major trio (op. 70, no. 2), was jarringly out of tune. All in all, it was a nice reintroduction to the delights of concert life that await us this fall in Washington.

The next concert in the Reynolds Center auditorium will feature the 21st Century Consort (Saturday, October 21, 5 pm). That one is not free.

27.8.06

Factotum

Other Resources:

Anthony Lane, Borderlines (The New Yorker, August 28)

Ann Hornaday, 'Factotum' and 'Half Nelson': Reading Between the Lines of Literary Lives (Washington Post, August 25)

Manohla Dargis, On the Barstool Again, With One for His Muse, in ‘Factotum’ (New York Times, August 18)
After the sad but inevitable demise of the Biograph and Key theaters in Georgetown, Washingtonians were largely bereft of independent and foreign films until Landmark opened its E Street Cinema two years ago. One of the movies that opened there last night is Norwegian director Bent Hamer's first American film, Factotum. The screenplay, by Hamer and Jim Stark, is based on the book of the same title, the 1975 sort-of autobiography by Charles Bukowski, the Los Angeles poet often included with the Beats, some say wrongly. His alter ego, Henry (Hank) Chinaski, last appeared on the screen in Barbet Schroeder's Barfly (1987), with Mickey Rourke in the title role. Before that, it was a much grittier movie, Marco Ferreri's Storie di ordinaria follia (1981), that put Ben Gazzara in a gutsy performance as a Bukowski stand-in probably the closest to the real thing.

Marisa Tomei and Matt Dillon, Factotum, directed by Bent HamerBukowski himself, who died in 1994, adapted his own book for Barfly and even had a cameo appearance sitting at the bar. My overwhelming feeling while watching Factotum was that the story of Bukowski's life comes off this time as hagiography. I am not a big fan of Bukowski, a man whose prolific production is remarkable, but I often have the feeling when reading his work that he could have used a merciless editor. People who love him appreciate that rawness, but I prefer my literature a little more filtered. Bukowski's literary voice, that rambling, foul-mouthed vomit of words, is mostly edited out of Factotum. We hear one poem in voiceover ("A poem is a city"), and it is read in a truncated form. Matt Dillon's calm, slow-moving Chinaski loses a series of meaningless jobs, drinks and smokes but not to grotesque excess, and hooks up with a couple different women. Waking up on a bench one morning seems to mark his low point. It is an achievement to have made a life like Bukowski's seem this dull and colorless. The city extolled in that voiceover poem as "filled with streets and sewers / filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen, / filled with banality and booze" is not even Bukowski's Los Angeles: the film was shot in Minneapolis, as eerily empty of people as a de Chirico painting.

Perhaps this is the lesson of the life dissected here, that the glamor of literary poverty is a fallacy. Chinaski spends a lot of time sitting at the bar, telling lies to prospective employers and girlfriends, scribbling short stories on a legal pad, and dropping envelopes in mailboxes. This may be a realistic description of much of Bukowsi's life, but it does not make for a particularly gripping cinematic experience. Hamer does capture the desperation of a couple, Jan and Chinaski, who are perfectly matched for one another but grow to loathe one another's company. The couple who drinks together, sleeps together, and even throws up together after a bad binge (in the movie's funniest scene) cannot always live together.

In spite of the screenplay's weaknesses, Hamer draws strong performances from his cast. Matt Dillon, husky and red-faced, plays the role for all the intensity and humor he can get. Lili Taylor, who is still at the top of every independent film director's speed dial, is courageous and infuriating as Jan, Bukowski's drunken, slutty muse. Far more interesting but on the screen for much less time is Marisa Tomei -- whose mainstream career tanked around the time she turned 40 -- as the other woman, Laura. Tomei, all legs, mascara-heavy eyes, and drunken semi-oblivion, gave work of the strength she showed last in Unhook the Stars. Continuing our tour of our favorite independent film actresses, there is a too-brief appearance from Adrienne Shelly, discovered in the 1990s by Hal Hartley in two of his best early films, Trust and The Unbelievable Truth. I guess Parker Posey just didn't return Bent Hamer's calls. Factotum is worth watching for these performances, but it may not be for everyone.

Factotum is showing only at E Street Cinema. Worthwhile but not essential.

FILM AGENDA
Also opening this week at E Street is 13 (Tzameti), Géla Babluani's thriller that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year (through August 31).

At the American Film Institute this week in Silver Spring are the latest offerings in the David Lynch retrospective (The Straight Story), the disturbing films of Michael Haneke (Funny Games and Benny's Video), and the International Documentary Challenge (IDC) Screening on August 31.

Museums are also screening some rare films. This week at the National Gallery of Art, the final two movies in the From Vault to Screen series, On the Bowery and Rapt. Next weekend, high on our list of Labor Day activities, a rare screening of Lucchino Visconti's masterpiece Death in Venice (September 2 and 4). All movies at the NGA are free.

At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a review of experimental film and video from African-American women (August 29) and a screening of Cheryl Dunye's Stranger Inside, about a woman searching for her incarcerated mother. Movies at NMWA cost $5 (students, $4).

Mostly Modest Mozart

MozartThe three symphonies that conclude Mozart’s symphonic output also concluded the 40th anniversary Mostly Mozart season. Music Director Louis Langrée conducted the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra (in its midst a familiar face: BSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn moonlights with the MMFO) at Avery Fisher Hall in energetic, meaty performances.

It was a conventional end to this double-anniversary summer (the Festival’s raison d’être’s 250th is still being celebrated, after all) and a far cry from the commissions, world premieres, “cutting-edge visual art installations,” or Pete Sellars’ Zaїde production it featured. Gidon Kremer, Joshua Bell, András Schiff, Concerto Köln, William Christie with Les Arts Florissants, the Tallis Scholars, and the Leipzig Quartet had all offered off-season diversion, allowing local critics without a ticket to Bayreuth, Lucerne, or Salzburg to avoid inactivity. Martin Bernheimer’s reviews for the FT often made for cruelly delightful summer reading.

Cruel delight might well have been Mozart’s state in composing these three last symphonies – all the fruit of one productive summer in 1788 in which Mozart saw himself faced with his share of personal and financial troubles. As usual with Mozart, his music tells nothing of his worries: he was equally capable of writing sun-flooded, congenial works in times of depression and melancholic tear-jerkers when high on life.

One of Mozart’s greatest gifts (and perhaps cause for some of the occasional derision hurled his way) is that his music is so darn beautiful that even the worst performance can still make for a pleasant experience. Maybe this quality also makes a superb performance harder to detect than would be the case with a more ‘difficult’ work. With the Beethoven Violin Concerto, for example, only a superb rendition assures that the listener is truly moved. Mozart moves always. Just consider the hum-along irresistibility of Symphony No. 40 – every part of it a ‘greatest hits’ moment, stuck in our heads since we were first exposed to classical music as kids.

Louis LangréeThe difference between the invariably ‘pleasant’ and the truly elating experience of a Mozart performance might well be determined by the mood and expectation of the listener. On a rainy Tuesday I’ll like my Mozart brooding and ominous, on a sunny Thursday gay and light. Here with a sumptuous, big orchestra; there with “HIP” forces. Gliding along smoothly once; a spring in every step another time. Because Langrée’s Mozart seems a Mozart for all seasons, it likely disappointed no one. A median approach, aiming for moderation and beauty alone, may sink more finicky scores and composers, but with Mozart that’s no way to keep the cream from floating to the top. The wild enthusiasm of the crowd (‘deliberate’ or ‘indiscriminate’ does not apply here) proved that point.

The blueprint and the rough blocks of music that alternative with filigrane interludes make the 41st Symphony (tellingly enough given the ponderously weighty nickname “Jupiter” and habitually described as “Olympian”) more inviting to the ‘full-body’ approach. A heavy hand is less exposed here. Bombast and thunder are arguably a part of the work. The superimposed drama for Mozart’s last sounds emitting from this year’s festival might have been calculated. The result often reminded of an old-fashioned Brandenburg Concerto performance.

Here as in the other two symphonies, the ensemble work might have been cleaner (every vigorously attacked note of the celli and basses was preceded by a buzzing “ssssssffft” before the actual note appeared; fast passages in the violins tended to be flabby before uniting more tightly again for less agitated notes), but delightful contributions from the wind section (exposed clarinet and flute parts especially) appeased successfully. But why were the most obvious aspects of interpretation cared for excessively? Diminuendos that can’t be missed anyway were elaborated on while simple dotted rhythms or syncopations in between were allowed to lumber about.

Lest one demand a performance that will be remembered even years from now, it is best to sit back and bask in the beauty that is Mozart, enjoy the amiably playing orchestra, and resist tapping along with your feet. If I don’t remember specifics of Saturday’s performance even at lunch tomorrow it might be a valuable lesson from Mozart: enjoy the moment, don’t take everything seriously and nothing too seriously. Mozart – not always but often – is a proto-idol of our modern ‘fun-culture’. Little wonder that he only appeals more and more to us, 250 years after he first saw the light of day.

26.8.06

Links from All Over


Our own Ionarts artist-in-residence, Mark Barry, is mentioned, with a picture, in an article in today's Washington Post (Meet Local Cloud Appreciation Society Members, August 27) about cloud appreciation societies, related to Joe Heim's big article on the cloud appreciation phenomenon (Cloudspotting, August 27). If you found your way to Ionarts today because of that article, here are some links to Mark's posts about clouds:Pliable has gone on a tour of the resurrected Frauenkirche in Dresden, and he has photographs to show. Two years ago, I wrote about the project to rebuild that historic church, and I am thrilled to see these recent pictures. (On an Overgrown Path)

I may have been on the cutting edge as a musicologist writing a blog for years now, but the neighborhood is growing. A group of musicologists (Jonathan Bellman, Phil Ford, and Richard Wattenbarger), with the approval of the American Musicological Society (although not officially under their aegis), has launched a musicology blog, Dial "M" for Musicology. Funny and interesting posts so far: how do you tell people you meet that you are a musicologist (the M-word) and, riffing on a recent news topic, Pluto Busted to "Dwarf Planet"; Holst Vindicated. (Dial "M" for Musicology)

I have been meaning to mention Fullermusic, a blog written occasionally by Cathy Fuller, who is a classical music broadcaster at WBGH in Boston. In an excellent recent post (Thumbs, Well-Armed Men and Generous Friends, August 6), she ponders ink spills, corrections, and other errata in composers' manuscripts. There is no better way to come into direct contact with the musical past, and she has provided great images. There are long spells of silence on this blog, but I am happy when a post from her pops up in my RSS reader. (Fullermusic)

Summer Opera 2006: Salzburg Festival

Other Reviews:

Shirley Apthorp, Salzburg Festival Offers Mozart Marathon, Sexy Diva, Premieres (Bloomberg News, July 25)

Shirley Apthorp, Salzburg Boos Future Festival Director Flimm for 'Lucio Silla' (Bloomberg News, July 27)

Shirley Apthorp, Mozart's `Figaro' Boasts Glitzy Crowd, Dream Cast in Salzburg (Bloomberg News, July 28)

Eric Dahan, Mozart pour le meilleur et le pire à Salzbourg (Libération, August 1)

Eric Dahan, «La Finta semplice», mariages et déraison (Libération, August 3)

Jean-Louis Validire, À 12 ans, Wolfgang était déjà Mozart (Le Figaro, August 3)

Anthony Tommasini, A Light Mozart Opera Refitted With a Hard Edge (New York Times, August 4)

Jean-Louis Validire, Critique : Un parti pris incohérent (Le Figaro, August 5)

George Jahn, Love a failed endeavor in Salzburg Festival production of 'Abduction' from the Seraglio (Turkish Daily News, August 7)

Anthony Tommasini, Mozart’s Singspiels and ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Salzburg Festival (New York Times, August 7)

Jean-Louis Validire, Riccardo Muti, l'enchanteur (Le Figaro, August 8)

Anthony Tommasini, ‘Figaro,’ With Nikolaus Harnoncourt Conducting, at the Salzburg Festival (New York Times, August 8)

Eric Dahan, Une «Flûte» tradition (Libération, August 9)
I thought that the quixotic plan of the organizers of this summer's Salzburg Festival -- Mozart 22, productions of all of the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in honor of the year of the composer's 250th birthday -- was both crazy and wonderful. It was also apparently very expensive (Shirley Apthorp, Salzburg Festival Sparks Queries Over Sponsors' Investment, Bloomberg News, August 4). Anthony Tommasini was there (among other places) for the New York Times, and he even wrote something like a blog, a Salzburg Festival Journal (all of four days long), about the experience.

I have gathered together the best reviews I found, by Shirley Apthorp for Bloomberg News, Jean-Louis Validire for Le Figaro, and Eric Dahan for Libération. Here are some thoughts that anglophone readers probably have not read, from the reviews by Renaud Machart for Le Monde. I have caught some flack for not being terribly enthusiastic about Wolf Trap's production of The Marriage of Figaro. For some international operatic context, the Salzburg Figaro is something I would describe as extraordinary, as Machart's review (A Salzbourg, des "Noces de Figaro" fortes et dangereuses, July 28) in Le Monde indicates (my translation):
On Wednesday night, July 26, in Salzburg, one left the theater moved to tears by the most delicately poetic staging of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro since that of Giorgio Strehler for the Opéra de Paris. Judging from what the young German director Claus Guth [b. 1964] made of Figaro, with the active and very competitive collaboration of the Austrian director Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one may say that this artist is a genius of finesse, with the ability to make a vision of intuition, to impose it on the opera without disturbing the Mozartean dream and the tonal sweetness of the librettist, Da Ponte. If I speak of "competitive collaboration," it is because Harnoncourt is a veritable catalogue of musical ideas and because of that he rivals the overflowing but directed imagination of Guth. One may not agree with everything that Harnoncourt proposes (and probably imposes), but rarely do we see, in opera, two visions harmonize so well, two intellects functioning at the same speed.

Guth has one major idea that could be nothing more than a banal turnaround: this Figaro is not as crazy a day as all that. Guth's characters are Bergmanesque, depressed and without any illusions. The Countess still has desires (notably for Cherubino's fresh flesh) but suffers from the infidelities of her husband, a restless and nervous Don Juan, who blows from the corner of his mouth what remains of his desire. Susanna has understood everything about life before it plays the same tricks on her as it did the Countess. Cherubino is perhaps the only one who believes that the desires of the flesh are not sad. He offers his own to anyone and everyone before it fades, too.

Then, in the finale, Guth makes Cherubino's fall as tragic as the angel who is his double. Because there is an omnipresent angel pulling all the strings of this sadly lucid Figaro, played by actor, juggler, and acrobat Uli Kirsch, as beautiful, silent, and toxic as Tadzio. Rilke said it best: "Beauty is the beginning of the terrible." This winged feline gives one of his feathers to Susanna to write the Count's false letter, holds up the weakening Cherubino as Mary Magdalen holds up Christ, plunges into magic trapdoors, climbs up to windows, dances, watches, distraught or tender, loving irresistably all who can and want to love.
Machart sums up this production as "almost barbaric ... strong and dangerous." The cast included Dorothea Röschmann (Countess), Anna Netrebko (Susanna), Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (Figaro), and Christine Schäfer (Cherubino), with Nikolaus Harnoncourt leading the Vienna Philharmonic. Now that is more extraordinary than not.

Magic Flute, Salzburg Festival 2006, photo by Klaus LefebvreMachart also reviewed the Salzburg Magic Flute (Festival de Salzbourg : une "Flûte enchantée" au bonheur des yeux, August 1) for Le Monde (my translation):
This was in some ways a revival of the Magic Flute mounted in the summer of 2005 at Salzburg (essentially the same cast, same orchestra, and same conductor), with one important exception: it is no longer Graham Vick's production, booed by the audience, little admired by the critics in spite of its qualities, and that Peter Ruzicka did not want to revive in this commemorative year. As a replacement, Ruzicka asked Pierre Audi, the director who is chameleonic and gifted like few others, to revive a production created in 1995 at the Amsterdam Opera, where he has been director since 1988, with sets by Dutch painter Karel Appel (who died on May 3), one of the founders of the Cobra movement.

This Flute, is according to the director the "definitive version" of a production that has known two other reshapings, in 1999 and 2003. In the flamboyant, colorful, frank, and delightfully childlike way also illustrated by the English painter David Hockney in his work for the opera stage, Karel Appel succeeded in giving his own fabulous color to The Magic Flute. At each apparition of characters in paper mâché, huge sculptures in "primitive" style, large carnivorous flower of cardboard, we heard the approving murmur of the audience, weary of so many bare and distanced -- and, it must be said, often absurd -- productions seen at Salzburg the last few years. Even if the three ladies looked like Dora the Explorer in their mountain-climbing outfits, the three boys appeared in an airplane, and Papageno was a chick-yellow rasta pushing a "flower power" Citroën 2 CV, fortunately no one was shocked.

We even heard unanimous bravos at the curtain call, most rare during premieres at Salzburg. Audi has taken The Magic Flute for what it is, an ancestor of American musical theater, mixing dialogue and singing, while also giving the proper respect to the Masonic scenes in Sarastro's temple.
Only the musical side disappointed somewhat, with Paul Groves too nasal and middle-aged as Tamino and Christian Gerhaher singing well but too reserved as Papageno. At the same time, René Pape gave his usual excellent turn as Sarastro, and Riccardo Muti conducted the Vienna Philharmonic, although not up to the level of Harnoncourt in Figaro.

N.B. All of the productions were recorded for eventual DVD release. Of course, these recordings will be broadcast on European television networks. I don't think I have to inform you that we will not be seeing them on PBS here in the United States. You know, we could fix that, my fellow Americans.

25.8.06

On PBS This Fall

Hold the phone! PBS is actually going to broadcast something of real cultural interest this month, a program called Jewels (George Balanchine) from the Ballet of the Opéra national de Paris. The Great Performances Web site lists the broadcast date as August 28, 10 pm, but I advise you to check your local listings. Here in Washington, the program will air, on WETA 26, on Thursday, August 31, at 8 pm.

Other programs of interest to Ionarts readers this fall include the Vienna State Opera 50th Anniversary Reopening Concert (September 18, 9 pm), Salzburg Mozart Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic (September 26, 9 pm), and a film called Beverly Sills: Made in the USA (November 23, 9 pm). The dates, it goes without saying, mean nothing in terms of when to set your Tivo.

24.8.06

Dip Your Ears, No. 70 (Tharaud's Chopin)

available at Amazon
F.Chopin, Valses,
A.Tharaud
Harmonia Mundi




Brilliant by way of understatement: Alexandre Tharaud’s latest disc, Chopin’s 19 waltzes, is another subtle – yet glaringly successful – stepping stone in what seems to be the inevitably stellar career of one of the most tasteful, confident, and well-rounded young pianists of our time. It comes on the heels of his Bach recital, Concertos Italiens, for which no other word than “sensational” will suffice.

Although “sensational” would be a very misleading description of the Chopin recording, Tharaud has once again produced something very special: a gem, but with an inward glow. Tharaud’s Chopin is understatement pregnant with personality owing to a decisiveness that becomes manifest in character, not beauty. He ends the recital with a personal signature: Frédéric Mompou’s Valse-Évocation (Variations on a theme by Chopin) round a gorgeous hour off with melancholic wit.

I suspect the whole disc could flow by the listener unnoticed if played as background music (for shame). But it is more likely to make his or her ears perk, raise an eyebrow, induce an unnoticed smile – perhaps like when strolling about absentmindedly on a breezy day and observing little kids absorbed in some silly game. Or being oddly enchanted by a ladybug struggling up a tulip cup. This is the nature of a wonderful recording as opposed to a “very good” recording: We react to it with emotions, not awe; we associate a mood with it, not specifics like tempo or timing or pedaling. It’s right; it resists comparison. On paper this might sound like a cop-out for a critic too lazy to dig out Rubinstein or Ashkenazy. It isn’t. Comparing details would indeed be the ‘safer’ route to go than flat out declare: if you don’t deny Lipatti shelf space, you can’t deny the 3/8” to Tharaud, either.


HMU 901927

Also released as HMU 290927 with the 2010 Harmonia Mundi catalog.


See also:

Tharaud: A Case of Perpetual Puppy

Original and Happy Freaks: Alexandre Tharaud’s Scarlatti

The World in 1911, Part 1

An article from last month by Lawrence Biemiller ('Information ... Slightly Coloured by Prejudice', July 28) in the Chronicle of Higher Education came to my attention by way of Arts & Letters Daily. The article is an appreciation of the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Brittanica, published in 1911, as unmatched "recreation for the mind — an intoxicating blend of unparalleled erudition, unexpected facts, and unreconstructed 19th-century attitudes." It came out in 29 volumes, containing 40,000 articles written by over 1,500 authors, and many people consider it the best encyclopedia ever compiled. (To my astonishment, versions of it are available online at LoveToKnow 1911, although the text has been modified in some cases, and at Online Encyclopedia, although that version invites corrections and updating from readers. The 11th edition is no longer protected by copyright.) Biemiller comes into contact with a print version while on vacation in Maine, and he spends a lot of time reading articles as a way to grasp the changes in social attitudes:

There is no article on homosexuality; Volume 13 skips from HOMOEOPATHY to HOMONYM [sic]. Nothing on sodomy, either. I pull out Volume 28 — which is missing its front cover and comes apart entirely in the middle of the article on Queen Victoria — to look up Oscar Wilde. The article says his plays "were perhaps the most original contributions to English dramatic writing during the period," but also mentions "fatal revelations as the result of his bringing a libel action against the marquis of Queensberry." Without further explanation, the article says Wilde "was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour for offences under the Criminal Law Amendment Act," It adds: "Even after leaving prison he was necessarily an outcast from decent circles, and he lived mainly on the Continent, under the name 'Sebastian Melmoth.' " The article, I discover, was written by Hugh Chisholm, the 11th edition's much respected editor.
Pienza, ItalyThis caught my attention because we have our own copy of this excellent encyclopedia right here chez Ionarts. Mrs. Ionarts' father was a professor of history and a widely read intellectual interested in chess, literature (my Moncrieff translation of Proust belonged to him), opera. He was obsessed with the Beethoven recordings of Artur Schnabel and with the paintings of Vermeer (Mrs. Ionarts remembers falling asleep on the floor of the Louvre while her dad spent hours going over a Vermeer canvas with a magnifying glass.) It is one of the great sadnesses of my life not to have been able to meet him, as he died before she and I met. He bought his copy of the 1911 Brittanica because, as he put it, it represented a snapshot of the world's knowledge, in a complete and beautifully written form, before the devastation of the two world wars changed humanity forever.

Here are a few excerpts from an article of interest to Ionarts readers, "Opera" by none other than Donald Francis Tovey. The description of the intellectual Florentine Camerata's experiments that led to the genre we know as opera is too wonderful:
The first pioneer in the new "monodic" movement seems to have been Vincenzo Galilei, the father of Galileo. This enthusiastic amateur warbled the story of Ugolino to the accompaniment of the lute, much to the amusement of expert musicians; but he gained the respect and sympathy of those whose culture was literary rather than musical. His efforts must have been not unlike a wild caricature of Mr. W. B. Yeats's method of reciting poetry to the psaltery.
Tovey has a lengthy discussion of Wagner's operas, from several different perspectives. He refers briefly to a few operas in the first decade of the 20th century, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Strauss's Salome and Elektra. Here is how Tovey views the future after 1911, in his final paragraph:
It remains to be seen whether a further development of Wagnerian opera, in the sense of addition to Wagner's resources in musical architecture, is possible. The uncompromising realism of Strauss does not at first sight seem encouraging in this direction; yet his treatment of Elektra's first invocation of Agamemnon produces a powerful effect of musical form, dimly perceived, but on a larger scale than even the huge sequences of Wagner. In any case, the best thing that can happen in a period of musical transition is that the leading revolutionaries should make a mark in opera. Musical revolutions are too easy to mean much by themselves; there is no purely musical means of testing the sanity of the revolutionaries or of the critics. But the stage, while boundlessly tolerant of bad music, will stand no nonsense in dramatic movement. [...] In every period of musical fermenation the art of opera has instantly sifted the men of real ideas from the aesthetes and doctrinaires: Monteverde [sic] from the prince of Venosa, Gluck from Gossec, Wagner from Liszt. As the ferment subsides, opera tends to a complacent decadence; but it will always revive to put to the first and most crucial test every revolutionary principle that enters into music to destroy and expand.
There is no entry for either Stravinsky or Picasso. Next in this series of brief quotations from music and arts articles in the 11th edition of Encyclopædia Brittanica, Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss.

23.8.06

Rolf Lislevand, Nuove Musiche

available at Amazon
Nuove Musiche, adapted and arranged by Rolf Lislevand (released on March 7, 2006)
This is one of the strangest discs to come across my desk in the last few months, but it has found its way back into my CD player time and time again. I wrote earlier this summer about Ignoti Dei's experimental theater piece Ground, which used historically informed performance of Baroque ground bass pieces as its soundtrack. Here also, on this extraordinary disc, Baroque specialists -- let's call them HIPsters -- have fused early music with something strikingly modern. The performers are drawn from the membership of Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall's early music group based in Catalunya (whose excellent recording of the music of Don Quixote I recently dissected in some detail) and the related group Ensemble Kapsberger.

Lutenist Rolf Lislevand selected pieces of music from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, pairing pieces by relative unknowns like Giovanni Kapsberger, Domenico Pellegrini, Alessandro Piccinni, and Bernardo Gianoncelli with a few better-known composers, like Luys de Narváez and Girolamo Frescobaldi. Plucked strings make up most of the group: Arianna Savall on voice and triple harp, Bjørn Kjellemyr on bass, Marco Ambrosini on nyckelharpa, Thor-Harald Johnsen on chitarra battente, and Lislevand on lute, guitar, and theorbo. They are joined by Guido Morini on organ and clavichord and Pedro Estevan on a wide range of shimmering, clacking percussion. What they make of these old pieces -- by coincidence with the Ground production, mostly passacaglias -- is a host of very modern sounds, part New Age, part Wyndham Hill (shudder), part Minimalism, part Iberian folk jazz (as heard on NPR this past spring). Much of the final sound laid down on these 17 tracks is due to improvisation, inspired by a very scholarly examination of the source scores. Although I have had my share of beefs with the crossover phenomenon, I just cannot resist the feathery touch of this suave, understated recording.

ECM New Series 1922

Hometown Pope Makes Good

Pienza, ItalyA man named Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born in 1405 in the obscure town of Corsignano in the Tuscan countryside near Siena. The town was named for the castello known to have existed there since the 9th century. Piccolomini received a good education and became a knowledgeable man, a poet and humanist, and he began to travel. He is remembered now by another name, Pope Pius II, and he gave back to his little hometown in a big way, so much so that his papal moniker was incorporated into the town's new name, Pienza. His autobiography, Commentaries (sections in Latin, online), was long mistaken as the work of its scribe, Gobelinus. I read an interesting article by Roderick Conway Morris (A pope with an aesthetic legacy, August 14) in the International Herald Tribune, which might interest some of you:

But Pius also bequeathed to posterity a more public monument to himself, one grander, more eccentric, more richly emblematic than any other papal memorial. He transformed his remote home village of Corsignano, a hilltop hamlet amid the rolling countryside south of Siena, into a miniature ideal Renaissance city, renaming it Pienza ("Piusville") in honor of the title he took as pontiff. Pius was born in 1405, and in slightly tardy celebration of this 600th anniversary, Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza is playing host to a fascinating exhibition: "Pius II: The City and the Arts." There is also a parallel show in Siena, "The Rebirth of Sculpture" at Santa Maria della Scala, devoted to the resurgence of this art form during and after Pius's reign. Both shows continue until Oct. 8. [...]

At home, he set about advancing Piccolomini family interests and consolidating them by creating a new fiefdom centered on his home village. He elevated this out-of-the-way place to the status of a bishopric and redrew local boundaries to make it the administrative heart of a much larger territory. But most ambitious of all was his scheme to rebuild the place according to the classical revivalist ideas of Leon Battista Alberti. The core of the project involved laying out a new piazza, flanked by a cathedral, family palazzo, bishop's residence and city hall. Bernardo Rossellino was chief architect, but Pius was a constant participant, defining what he wanted, sometimes in the most minute detail. The main components were finished in the astonishingly short time of five years. Encouraged by these major works, other individuals set about rebuilding and expanding the rest of the fabric of the city.

Palazzo Piccolomini was exceptionally luminous and comfortable, with a sophisticated system for gathering, filtering and distributing water; winter and summer rooms; concealed servants' staircases; and kitchens on every floor. The spacious loggias of the Palazzo Piccolomini, facing the countryside to the south and the distant Mount Amiata, looked out over the first "hanging garden" to be laid out since antiquity. Pius's visionary blending of architecture and the surrounding countryside into a seamless whole speaks volumes about his unusual and historically precocious appreciation of nature and landscape (a passion that runs like a leitmotiv throughout his writings).
Read the rest of the article for more information about the rest of this remarkable little town. I went there years ago, the last time I went to Siena and Montepulciano.

Classical Month in Washington (October)

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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!

October 1, 2006 (Sun)
2 pm
Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Gianni Schicchi
Washington National Opera
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, September 23)

October 1, 2006 (Sun)
3 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Yuri Temirkanov, Nancy Maultsby)
Mahler, Kindertotenlieder, and Shostakovich, Fifth Symphony
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, September 30)

October 1, 2006 (Sun)
3 pm
Suspicious Cheese Lords
Mousetrap Concert Series (Washington Grove, Md.)

October 1, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Irina Nuzova, piano with cello [FREE]
Phillips Collection

October 1, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Octuor de France [FREE]
Late 19th– and early 20th–century French music
National Gallery of Art

October 2, 2006 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Jérôme Hantaï (viola da gamba) and Maude Gratton (harpsichord)
La Maison Française
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 4)

October 3, 2006 (Tue)
12 noon
Noontime Cantata Series (In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97)
Washington Bach Consort
Church of the Epiphany (1317 G Street NW)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 8)

October 3, 2006 (Tue)
5:30 pm
Madeleine Shapiro, cello
New works for cello and electronics
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

October 3, 2006 (Tue)
7 pm
An Evening with Leonard Slatkin (conversation with Yvonne Caruthers)
Smithsonian Resident Associates
S. Dillon Ripley Center, Education Center (1100 Jefferson Drive SW)

October 3, 2006 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Gianni Schicchi
Washington National Opera

October 4, 2006 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Mozart through His Letters and Operas [FREE, donations welcome]
Sorab Modi, with members of Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, Washington National Opera
Austrian Embassy (3524 International Court NW)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 5)

October 5, 2006 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with James Galway
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 6)

October 5, 2006 (Thu)
7 pm?
Dezsõ Ránki and Edit Klukon, piano
Music by Erik Satie and Barnabás Dukay
Embassy of Hungary

October 5, 2006 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Nicholas Maw, Sophie's Choice
Washington National Opera

October 5, 2006 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Yuri Temirkanov (conductor) and Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Shostakovich, Tahiti Trot, second piano concerto, tenth symphony
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

October 5, 2006 (Thu)
8 pm
Luciana Souza Quartet and Brazilian Duos, with guitarist Romero Lubambo [FREE]
Library of Congress
Review -- Gail Wein (Washington Post, October 7)

October 6, 2006 (Fri)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with James Galway
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

October 6, 2006 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Aima Labra-Makk, piano
Austrian Embassy (3524 International Court NW)
Review -- Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, October 9)

October 6, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Yuri Temirkanov (conductor) and Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Shostakovich, Tahiti Trot, second piano concerto, tenth symphony
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

October 6, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Tales of Canterbury: Music of Medieval England
Folger Consort
Folger Shakespeare Library
Review -- Joan Reinthaler (Washington Post, October 9)

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
11 am
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (casual concert), with Yuri Temirkanov (conductor)
Shostakovich, Tahiti Trot and tenth symphony
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
1:30 pm
Radio Broadcast: Das Rheingold
Washington National Opera
NPR World of Opera (in Baltimore-Washington: 91.5, 90.9)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, April 1, 2006)

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
5 and 8 pm
Tales of Canterbury: Music of Medieval England
Folger Consort
Folger Shakespeare Library

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
7 pm
Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Gianni Schicchi
Washington National Opera

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with James Galway
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Concert for Steve Reich's birthday (Music For Pieces of Wood, Electric Counterpoint, Tehillim)
Great Noise Ensemble
Unitarian Universalist Church (Silver Spring, Md.)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 9)

October 7, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Left Bank Concert Society
Music by Janáček, Yun, Moss, Smetana
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Society (College Park, Md.)

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
12 noon
Paquito d'Rivera, jazz saxophonist
National Gallery of Art, Sculpture Garden

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
2 pm
Tales of Canterbury: Music of Medieval England
Folger Consort
Folger Shakespeare Library

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Cleveland Orchestra (Franz Welser-Möst, music director)
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 11)

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Mirjana Rajic, piano [FREE]
Phillips Collection

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
5 pm
Inscape Chamber Music Project
William Walton, Façade Entertainments; Bach, Suite No. 1; Revueltas
Episcopal Church of the Redeemer (Bethesda, Md.)

October 8, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Louis Lortie, pianist [FREE]
Music by Ades, Chopin, and Liszt
National Gallery of Art
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 9)

October 9, 2006 (Mon)
7 pm
Nicholas Maw, Sophie's Choice
Washington National Opera

October 9, 2006 (Mon)
7 pm
Heather Raffo, playwright
Discussion of her experiences in Iraq creating Nine Parts of Desire
National Press Club
For more information, contact Tiffany Brown (tbrown at arenastage dot org) or (202) 554-9066 ext. 227

October 9, 2006 (Mon)
7:30 pm
James Madison University School of Music: Carrie Stevens, mezzo-soprano with Gabriel Dobner, piano
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

October 10, 2006 (Tue)
8 pm
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 13)

October 11, 2006 (Wed)
8 pm
Beaux Arts Trio [FREE]
Music by Schubert, Shostakovich, Turnage
Library of Congress (pre-concert presentation with Rachel Franklin, 6:15 pm)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 14)

October 12, 2006 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Annlynn Miller (piano) and Ulrich Schmid (cello)
The Swiss Residence (2920 Cathedral Avenue NW)

October 12, 2006 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Sharona Joshua, Broadwood piano
Mansion at Strathmore

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Hines-Lee Opera Ensemble: 2006 Gala Concert
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major (ages 9 and up)
World premiere Tom Isbell's new theater work with songs by Mark Russell
Runs through November 2, various times
Kennedy Center Family Theater
Review -- Jayne Blanchard (Washington Times, October 18)

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Mandelring String Quartet
Quartets by Haydn, Ligeti, Brahms
Library of Congress (pre-concert presentation, 6:15 pm)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 15)

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Tales and Legends
Symphony with a Twist Series
Music Center at Strathmore
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, October 16)

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Vega String Quartet (Beethoven, Wolf, Ravel)
Friends of Music
Dumbarton Oaks

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Virginia Opera
George Mason University Center for the Arts
Review -- Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, October 16)

October 13, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Turtle Island String Quartet and Ying Quartet
Music by Mozart, Milhaud, Summer, Balakrishnan, Price
The Barns at Wolf Trap

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
2 pm
Anika Vavic, piano
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Hatchet job Review -- Tim Page (Washington Post, October 16)

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
4 pm
Washington National Opera: Welcome to Opera
Selections by Mozart and Puccini, conducted by Plácido Domingo
Tickets: $25
Kennedy Center Opera House
Review -- Tim Page (Washington Post, October 16)

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Gustav Holst, Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda [FREE]
Concert in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Freer's donation to the Smithsonian
Woodley Ensemble
Freer Gallery of Art

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Kayhan Kalhor (kamancheh) and Erdal Erzincan (baglama)
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, October 16)

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
National Philharmonic: Symphony with a Sax
Music Center at Strathmore

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Vega String Quartet (Beethoven, Wolf, Ravel)
Friends of Music
Dumbarton Oaks

October 14, 2006 (Sat)
8:15 pm
Rossini, L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth)
Elizabeth Futral
Baltimore Opera
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 16)

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
2 pm
Bizet, Carmen
Virginia Opera
George Mason University Center for the Arts

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Emanuel Ax with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Washington Performing Arts Society
Music Center at Strathmore
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 20)

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Choir of Westminster Cathedral (London, England)
Martin Baker, director
Washington National Cathedral

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Joseph Petric (accordion) and Norman Forget (oboe)
Phillips Collection

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
5 pm
Fall Concert, Capitol City Symphony
Beethoven, Consecration of the House; Haydn, Symphony No. 96 ("Miracle"); Walker, Lyric for Strings; Liszt, Les Preludes
Atlas Performing Arts Center

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
5 pm
Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic
Music by Dawson, Shostakovich, Kowalski, Starer
Bishop Ireton High School (Alexandria, Va.)
Review -- Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, October 17)

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
5:30 pm
Emerson String Quartet with Menahem Pressler, piano
Mozart, Divertimento, K. 563; Brahms, first piano quartet
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 17)

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Alessandra Marc, soprano [FREE]
19th–century French music
National Gallery of Art

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
7 pm
Vega String Quartet (Beethoven, Wolf, Ravel)
Friends of Music
Dumbarton Oaks

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Milky Way: Story of the Sky Hung over a Paulownia Tree
Soon-ja Ji and Korean Traditional Music
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

October 15, 2006 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Tribute to François Loup
Opera Lafayette
La Maison Française
Review -- Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, October 17)

October 16, 2006 (Mon)
6 to 8 pm
Heather Raffo, Discussion and Book Signing
Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW)

October 16, 2006 (Mon)
8 pm
In Memoriam 50 Years: The Hungarian Uprising
Trio Levinson
Embassy Series
Embassy of Hungary (2950 Spring of Freedom Street NW)
Review -- Stephen Brookes (Washington Post, October 18)

October 18, 2006 (Wed)
7 pm
Lecture: Maya Lin, architect [FREE]
Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art
Free tickets available beginning at 6 pm at the G Street lobby information desk (limit 2 tickets per person)
Reynolds Center (McEvoy Auditorium)

October 18, 2006 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Rossini, L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth)
Elizabeth Futral
Baltimore Opera

October 18, 2006 (Wed)
8 pm
Montage (Sarita Uranovsky, violin; Marc Moskovitz, cello; Debra Ayers, piano)
With Janna Baty, mezzo-soprano
Schoenberg/Zemlinksy, Dehmel Songs; Zemlinsky, Cello Sonata (North American premiere); and Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht (transcription for piano trio by Eduard Steuermann)
Library of Congress (pre-concert presentation with cellist Marc Moskovitz, 6:15 pm)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, October 20)

October 18, 2006 (Wed)
8 pm
Polly Ferman, piano
Embassy Series
Cuban Interests Section

October 19, 2006 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with cellist Lynn Harrell
With the Washington Chorus (Ravel's complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 20)

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
1:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with cellist Lynn Harrell
With the Washington Chorus (Ravel's complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
7 pm
Master Chorale of Washington: Mozart and Handel
Royal Fireworks Music, Coronation Anthems, Great Mass
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
7:30 pm
13th Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart Emerging Singers Concert
The German Embassy (4645 Reservoir Road NW)
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 24)

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Polly Ferman, piano
Embassy Series
Cuban Interest Section

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Kevin Wetzel (baritone) and Patricia Puckett (piano) [FREE]
The Voice of Russia: Songs by Georgy Sviridov
Georgetown University

October 20, 2006 (Fri)
8:15 pm
Rossini, L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth)
Elizabeth Futral
Baltimore Opera

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
4 pm
András Schiff with Cappella Andrea Barca
All-Mozart program
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 26)

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
5 pm (pre-concert discussion at 4 pm)
21st Century Consort: American RETROSPECulaTIVE
With baritone William Sharp
Music by Wuorinen, Froom, Ives/Ellington, and Aaron Copland's Sextet
Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Bach and the USSR (Alfred Schnittke, Requiem, and works by J. S. Bach)
Cantate Chamber Singers
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (4900 Connecticut Avenue NW)
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, October 23)

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven, Brahms, Barber)
Günther Herbig (conductor) and Stefan Jackiw (violin)
Music Center at Strathmore
Review -- Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, October 25)

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra, with cellist Lynn Harrell
With the Washington Chorus (Ravel's complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Maya Beiser, cello
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Review -- Stephen Brookes (Washington Post, October 23)

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra with violinist Timothy Fain
George Mason University Center for the Arts

October 21, 2006 (Sat)
8:30 pm
Robert Cohen, cello
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
2 pm
Kennedy Center Chamber Players (Mozart, Ravel, Bruckner)
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 28)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
3 pm
Rossini, L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth)
Elizabeth Futral
Baltimore Opera

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
3 pm
Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players [FREE]
Weber’s Clarinet Quintet, Bruch’s Septet for Winds and Strings, Brahms’s String Quintet
National Academies of Science (2100 C Street NW)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
3 pm
Masterpieces of Russian Vocal Music: The Turbulent 20th Century
Songs by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Sviridov
Russian Chamber Art Society
The Lyceum (Alexandria, Va.)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Shalev Ad-El ensemble [FREE]
Phillips Collection

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
5 pm
Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic
Music by Dawson, Shostakovich, Kowalski, Starer
Church of the Epiphany (1317 G Street NW)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
National Gallery Orchestra with pianist Ann Schein [FREE]
Music by Beethoven, Ibert, Mozart, and Wagner
National Gallery of Art

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
7 pm
Kronos Quartet
Michael Gordon’s The Sad Park and other new music
Lisner Auditorium
Review -- Tom Huizenga (Washington Post, October 25)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
7 pm
Ivo Pogorelich, piano
George Mason University Center for the Arts
Assassination Review -- Tim Page (Washington Post, October 24)

October 22, 2006 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Robert Cohen, cello
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

October 23, 2006 (Mon)
8 pm
American Creativity: The Composer (The Music of Jonathan Larson)
Selections from Rent and other Broadway works
Library of Congress (pre-concert presentation with Mark Horowitz, 6:15 pm)
Full-page major article (why?) Review -- Peter Marks (Washington Post, October 25)

October 25, 2006 (Wed)
6 pm
Shostakovich: Rebel Music
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

October 25, 2006 (Wed)
8 pm
Valery Gergiev, Kirov Orchestra
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11 ("The Year 1905")
Washington Performing Arts Society
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Jens F. Laurson (Ionarts, October 28)

October 27, 2006 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Chiara String Quartet
Kreeger Museum
Review -- Robert Battey (Washington Post, October 30)

October 27, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
University of Maryland Symphony/Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
John Adams, Chairman Dances; Strauss, Don Juan
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)

October 27, 2006 (Fri)
8 pm
Daniel Buranovský, piano
Embassy Series
Embassy of Slovakia
Review -- T. J. Ponick (Washington Times, October 30)

October 28, 2006 (Sat)
7 pm
Axelrod Quartet (Haydn, Schubert, Bartók)
Playing on Stradivarius and Amati instruments
Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

October 28, 2006 (Sat)
7:30 pm
Purcell, Dido and Aeneas (concert performance)
Bach Sinfonia and Chantry
Woodside United Methodist Church
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, October 30)

October 28, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
Freedom Concert (followed by film screening)
Ádám György and Steven Spooner, piano
Music by Hungarian composers
Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center

October 28, 2006 (Sat)
8 pm
JCC Symphony Orchestra, with Evelyn Elsing, cellist
Berlioz, Overture to Beatrice and Benedict; Tchaikovsky, Overture-Fantasia, Romeo and Juliet; Prokofiev, Sinfonia Concertante
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
1 and 3 pm
NSO Family Concert: Spooky Sounds and Scary Tales (ages 7 and up)
Emil de Cou, Associate Conductor
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Charles T. Downey and Master Ionarts (Ionarts, October 31)

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Verdehr Trio, violin, clarinet, and piano [FREE]
Phillips Collection
Review -- Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, October 31)

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
4 pm
Trio di Parma
Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences
Congregation Beth-El (Bethesda, Md.)

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Opus 3 Trio [FREE]
Music by Haydn, Leshnoff, Shostakovich, and Brahms
National Gallery of Art

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Axelrod Quartet (Haydn, Schubert, Bartók)
Playing on Stradivarius and Amati instruments
Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

October 29, 2006 (Sun)
7 pm
Chanticleer, Love's Messengers
George Mason University Center for the Arts (Fairfax, Va.)

October 30, 2006 (Mon)
7 pm
Dante's Divine Comedy [FREE]
Reading/Conference by Davide Rondoni, poet and columnist
Crossroads Washington
George Washington University (1957 E Street NW, Room 113)

October 30, 2006 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Heinz Zednik (tenor) and Markus Vorzellner (piano)
Songs by Mahler, Krenek, Wolf
Austrian Embassy (3524 International Court NW)

October 30, 2006 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Marilyn Nonken, piano
New works for piano by Dusapin, Murail, Durand
La Maison Française
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, November 1)

October 30, 2006 (Mon)
8 pm
Chanticleer -- Founder's Day Concert
Music by Ezequiel Viñao, Paul Schoenfield, Carlos Sánchez Gutiérrez, Arthur Jarvinen, Steven Stucky
Library of Congress (pre-concert presentation with composers Ezequiel Viñao and Libby Larsen, 6:15 pm)
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, November 1)