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28.2.07

Getting All Modern on Your Ass

Everyone in Blogville is up in arms, positively and negatively, that Gérard Mortier will become artistic director at New York City Opera. For all of the annoying things that have been reported about productions under Mortier's various tenures, let us not forget that it was he who commissioned John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer for Brussels, opened his tenure in Paris with Robert Wilson's staging of Pelléas et Mélisande (originally from Salzburg in 1997), brought back Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise to Paris, has produced enough Janáček and Martinů for even the most devoted fan, and Hindemith and Shostakovich, too, not to mention some exceptional Strauss. I'm thinking about relocating to New York.

Marin Alsop, conductorThere are good things happening around these parts, though, especially with the announcement of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's first season under the leadership of Marin Alsop. Alongside a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies, John Adams, Tan Dun, James MacMillan, and Thomas Adès will all conduct performances of their own compositions. Get all the details in the official press release (.PDF file). Tim Page called the lineup, quite rightly, "an infinitely more thought-provoking season than the one the National Symphony Orchestra offered for 2006-07, which has been much criticized for its timidity and reiteration of standard repertory."

Even better, to honor the 25th anniversary of the opening of Meyerhoff Hall, private donors have made it possible for the BSO to offer subscription tickets at the very affordable price of $25 each. (That does not affect prices at Strathmore, of course.) Will the people of Baltimore respond? If they don't, they must have no pulse. We will see what the NSO has to say next week.

New Main Maestro in Philadelphia while the NSO Keeps Looking.

Charles Dutoit, James ConlonThis is hardly breaking news, but last Friday the Philadelphia Orchestra announcedthat the Swiss maestro Charles Dutoit would be their new Chief Conductor (and Artistic Adviser - very pretty alliterative titles), starting September 2008 and running for four seasons. This is in addition to his role as artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestra’s annual three-week residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and will include the option to lead concerts when the Orchestra is in residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. For those who want a little preview of what the Philadelphia Orchestra will sound like under the man who turned Montreal into the best French orchestra, he will perform with them on March 1st in Sibelius, Rimsky-K., and Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto with his ex-wife, Martha Argerich.

Last week I mentioned (amid some other other speculations) James Conlon in one breath with Philadelphia's need for a new Chief Conductor or Music Director. This point is now obviously mute - and Charles Dutoit is one of the few choices that I think is every bit as good if not possibly even better for Philadelphia than Mr. Conlon. Assuming that this time the Orchestra members were more heavily involved in the choice than the last time, when Christoph Eschenbach was plunked upon them, and assuming he knows better how not to alienate them (hint: when you go on tours, don't ostensibly take first class when the rest is in coach... don't stay at a different hotel because the one the players are staying at isn't good enough for you), this should be a very exciting addition to the East-Coast music scene - and every bit as fine as Boston/Levine.

Meanwhile I am endowed with faint hopes that the National Symphony Orchestra's board and direction will come to its senses and not appoint NSO Principal Guest Conductor Iván Fischer to Music Director or Chief Conductor prematurely - but look hard, elsewhere. (Namely, James Conlon!) Not that Mr. Fischer is not a wonderful conductor and musician (and charming in the bargain) who, in that position, has two-and-a-half successful concerts with the NSO to his name (a wonderful mixed program, fine Mendelssohn, a teddy-bear-concert [un-reviewed]). His recordings, too, I am very fond of, as I am of his advocacy of Mahler's music. But great Bartók, Mahler, Brahms, Mendelssohn (notably music all from the same zip-code) – as much as we need them – are not necessarily enough to make a decision such as appointment of a Music Director position upon. Aside, for most of the qualities that Fischer brings to D.C., we already have him! For the National Symphony Orchestra, it might be befitting to continue with an American conductor (the type that also knows the fund-raising business best in the country). Since James Levine (New York / Boston), Michael Tilson Thomas (San Francisco), David Robertson (St.Lewis, slated for Chicago), Lorin Maazel (New York), Kent Nagano (Montreal, Munich) are not candidates (they would not come, even if they could), the NSO should look at conductors like Hugh Wolff and James Conlon, Myung-Whun Chung or Andrew Litton, James Judd or possibly Benjamin Zander, D.R.Davies or Robert Spano... maybe even James DePriest.

True, not all of the above are necessarily realistic choices, or would fit, or be an improvement over Leonard Slatkin (this is a town, after all, where name recognition means more than intrinsic quality), and I remain convinced that among them, James Conlon would be the best fit for Washington, especially if he could work with the Washington National Opera, too… but none should be dismissed and all are worth looking at before we seriously think of making the Prinicipal Guest Conductor the Music Director before his first contract is even up. Indeed, it might be better to have an interim Music Director for the year between Slatkin’s departure in 2008 and Fischer’s contract being up in 2009. It would give ample time to see how Fischer and the NSO gel, should they be on a path toward a more extensive and more intimate relationship... or look for someone else who fits the NSO’s profile, has a good name, and would bring an exciting, wide range of orchestral performances to the District. And if that somebody is a conductor who cares about neglected repertoire and is not afraid of the 20th century, all the better!

Flórez's Breakthrough

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Rossini, Matilde di Shabran, Annick Massis, Juan Diego Flórez, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Riccardo Frizza (released on September 26, 2006)
Being a cover or a replacement singer is not all that glamorous or exciting unless you end up on stage, and then it can launch a career. At the 1996 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, tenor Bruce Ford had to withdraw from a performance of Rossini's obscure opera Matilde di Shabran. A mostly unknown Peruvian tenor named Juan Diego Flórez, then just 23 years old, took his place in the role of Corradino. It was again with Rossini, The Barber of Seville, that he ultimately premiered at the Metropolitan Opera a few years ago, and just last season to Washington in L'Italiana in Algeri. This recent recording, cobbled together from five live performances of the Pesaro revival of Matilde di Shabran in the summer of 2004, is a nice way to revisit the scene of Flórez's first triumph.

The libretto of Matilde di Shabran, o sia Bellezza, e Cuor di ferro, credited to Jacopo Ferretti (author of the libretto for the delightful La Cenerentola), was a hack job, a case study for the dramatic failures of Italian opera. Faced with a rush commission intended for Rome in 1820, Rossini called upon Ferretti to shoehorn a story stolen from one of Méhul's opera into a new libretto. Limiting his self-borrowing to a few pieces, Rossini ran out of time composing the score. He was saved by Giovanni Pacini, who supplied a few numbers and most of the recitatives for the Rome premiere (with none other than Niccolò Paganini as concertmaster and conductor). At a revival in Naples later that year, Rossini substituted his own pieces for those of Pacini. Matilde di Shabran was performed in Pesaro in 1996 to coincide with the publication of Jürgen Selk's new critical edition of the opera, based on the all-Rossini Neapolitan version.

Annick Massis in the finale of Matilde di Shabran, Pesaro 2004

Flórez has a clear, agile tenor voice as Corradino, and if he sounded as good in 1996 as he did in 2004, it is not difficult to see how he ended up with a fine career. His high notes have a characteristic sweet ring, calibrated well with the lower part of his voice, and his fioriture are almost faultless. The role, both serious and comic as the macho Spanish nobleman who falls helplessly in love, is suited to Flórez's strengths. As the object of Corradino's love, Matilde, French soprano Annick Massis turns in another solid performance, especially in the lengthy cavatina-cabaletta that concludes the opera, captured in video from one of the 2004 Pesaro performances and now on YouTube, of course. The supporting cast, Prague Chamber Choir, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia all give admirable work, too, especially at the sometimes breakneck tempi imposed by conductor Riccardo Frizza. Special mention must be made of Israeli mezzo-soprano Hadar Halevy, in the pants role of Edoardo. Her Ah! perché, perché la morte / Ah! Se encora un'altra volta ei ritorna in Act III complemented the well-played and difficult horn obbligato, which Paganini performed on the viola at the premiere because the horn player was ill. This work, although obscure, shows Rossini near the height of his compositional powers, in the last seasons before he left Italy for Paris.

Decca B0006859-02

27.2.07

Inexplicable Disappointment at Haefliger Recital

Andreas HaefligerAndreas Haefliger gave a concert on very short notice at the new Swiss Residence Concert Series (this was only the sixth such concert at the newly designed gloriously angular Swiss Ambassador’s residence), which was not only kind of Mr. Haefliger to do, but also a fine opportunity to hear Switzerland’s foremost pianist after having missed Austria’s, earlier in the week. Save for the thoughtful and rather lavish reception after the concert (especially considering the highly subsidized, puny $8 a ticket for these concerts), the recital was much less than it promised to be, though.

A Fair Wrap, with Pulse

Samuel RousseauIt’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticize the goings-on at the fairs: where art is presented as a commodity and it’s value hyped, it’s fair game. On the other hand I find it exciting, like the kid in the candy store. I’m not buying, just exploring. Some attendees behave in a dignified manner while some little fatties sprawl on the floor, whining and kicking their feet, demanding attention. Luckily there’s enough for everyone to go around.

My one regret this year was not making it to The Art Show at the 5th Regiment Armory, where I understand there was a very good selection of art to see. The Armory Show, this year all in one building on the piers, was much easier to take in and get an overall feel for the offerings.

The Red Dot Fair in the Park South Hotel on 28th, was a good surprise. You never know what to expect or how gallerists will accommodate their collections in the confines of a small hotel room with poor lighting.

KIM RUGGI’ve got to give the award for most inventive use of space to the Paradigm Gallery, as they took the mattresses off of the beds, stood them on end, creating cubicle spaces, on which they hung the art. Some were lucky enough to have rooms in the front of the building with plenty of natural light, like Jay Grimm’s did. Others reflected their lights off the ceiling, flooding the room with an all-over brightness, a perfect solution.

The 63 galleries at the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, in the 69th Regiment Armory on 26th Street -- again, for its second year -- had plenty of good work to keep my eyes happy.

Some memorable work at Pulse was Kim Rugg's Don't Mention the War, a recycled news day from The Guardian, which didn't mention the Iraq war once at a particularly horrific period. Also, there were Samuel Rousseau's recycled plastic containers (shown above), arranged to form a cityscape, with video projection. A sale looked about to happen.

Ivan BallenI mentioned Donna Sharrett last year and again this year she had me, at Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Also last year Chris Gilmour was showing a corrigated cardboard race car, at perugi artecontemporanea, this year it's a dentist's chair (ouch).

There's more eye candy with Julie Haffernan at PPOW and Isidro Blaco at DCKT. And to prove things aren't always what you perceive, the ever-gentlemanly Winkleman Gallery had a solo of Ivan Ballen's cardboard constructions, which are actually fiberglass forms. As I mentioned in a previous post, several galleries were experimenting with showing a single artist. Since the spaces are limited, in most cases, this could work out fine. If I were the gallerist I would be worried, putting all my hopes on one artist, not to mention three or four days of sales. On Friday Mr Ballen had two sold, and I understand all went well.

I really enjoyed the fairs. I met many people and also got to meet fellow bloggers Barry Hoggard (bloggy) and James Wagner, and Paddy Johnson, of AFC. After many e-mails and shared comments, it was a pleasure to be face to face. Get well, everyone who ended up with the flu.

Speaking of blogger meet-ups, I failed to mention the fabulous Anna L. Conti of Working Artist's Journal, who keeps us informed of the San Fransisco scene. Back in November when I was passing through, we got together and Anna kindly escorted me to some of the best galleries. A very belated thank you, Anna, and good luck with your upcoming show (called Red Sparrow, opening today at Newmark Gallery).

Berlin Piano Quartet, Dumbarton Concerts

We welcome another review from Ionarts guest contributor Michael Lodico.

Saturday evening, the Berlin Piano Quartet offered an engaging evening of works by Schubert, Robert Schumann, and Mendelssohn at the Dumbarton Concert Series. The young quartet opened their program with the Schubert Sonatina in D Major, D. 384, which was originally written just for violin and piano. Violist Philip Douvier arranged the work nicely for string trio, and it was performed with a sense that the group had made it its own. At times this arrangement required cellist Bogdan Jianu to skillfully provide Alberti bass figures to approximate the left-hand part of the original piano score.

Chinese-born pianist Tao Lin joined in the demanding Piano Quartet in E-flat of Robert Schumann. The full potential of this piece may not have been realized because of the limitations of the piano used in Saturday’s performance. Lacking brilliance and depth over its entire range, despite Mr. Tao’s gallant efforts, the instrument mostly offered a muted muddle.

Other Reviews:

Joe Banno, Berlin Piano Quartet (Washington Post, February 26)
The Quartet approached this piece with a surplus of confidence that conveyed a powerful sense of command; even if this attitude left the actual music behind on occasion. Details were often played-through, leaving you wishing for the Quartet to linger more on the abundance of inspired material that Schumann provides. For example, throughout the program, except in the very quick Allegro molto or Allegro vivace movements, the violinist often played ahead of his colleagues by shortening rests or beginning a phrase early. The resulting sense of pull-and-drag was most noticeable in unison passages in the Scherzo, when the violin and viola were not together. The cellist and pianist, in contrast, were always well coordinated, creating a fine sense of ensemble. Hurrying through the beautiful sequence near the very end of the work did not enhance the sense of structure of the work.

Mr. Lin was most impressive in the Mendelssohn Piano Quartet in B Minor, where he tossed off devilish finger work with ease. Even though the instrument was not exactly responding to his vigor, energy, or precision, the audience could connect with his intent. Mr. Lin’s octaves in the final Allegro vivace were especially strong, and the group was generally more cohesive.

26.2.07

Hantaï Brothers and Friends, Library of Congress

We welcome another review from Ionarts guest contributor Michael Lodico.

Jérôme HantaïThe Hantaï Brothers and Friends offered patrons a pleasurable evening of duos by Mozart and trios by Haydn on the Library of Congress series Friday evening. The concert opened with the Trio in D Major for flute, violin, and cello, op. 38, no. 1, which gave the audience in the packed Coolidge Auditorium the opportunity to listen closely to the performers’ elegant and unforced playing. Placing two instruments of similar timbre together, Haydn allowed the violinist (Alessandro Moccia) to lead and be accompanied by the Baroque flutist (Marc Hantaï), while occasionally, and more interestingly allowing the quiet flute to lead and be gently accompanied by the violin. Instead of the audience’s attention being held by the performers’ virtuosity, they were able to relax in their seats to hear the form of each movement gradually unfold. This concert was about the music, not the performers.

Mozart’s Sonata in G Major for violin and piano, K. 379, featured Moccia accompanied by Jérôme Hantaï on the fortepiano. The fortepiano used was surprisingly not from one of the 20 million musical pieces in the Library of Congress’s possession, but borrowed, since a fortepiano is apparently not among them. The instrument used was a copy of a German fortepiano after Jean-Louis Dulcken, circa 1788, crafted by Thomas and Barbara Wolf of Virginia in 1991. In addition to the beauty of the instrument’s rich veneer and grain patterns, it displayed a clear sound, pearly, and on a much softer scale than a modern piano.

The Mozart sonata was played with a great deal of care. The tempo taken in the opening Adagio allowed space for the performers to shape the musical figures in the utmost detail. In the delightful Andantino cantabile con variazioni, the phrase endings were at times so wonderfully delicate that the audience had to imagine them, partially. This nuance is possible due to the fortepiano’s capability of playing very softly while sustaining less.

Other Reviews:

Tom Huizenga, Two Brothers, Two Composers And Pretty Much One Sound (Washington Post, February 26)
Ending the first half of the program was Haydn’s Trio in D Major for piano, flute, and cello, No. 28. It was the first of two times that both Hantaï brothers were together onstage, and their rapport was instantly recognizable. It was this partnership between the flute and fortepiano that delivered the evening’s most successful results, making up for the somewhat contained playing of cellist Alix Verzier. When the Baroque flute and right hand of the fortepiano were playing brisk runs in unison, a very special, gem-like sound quality could be heard. The second half of the concert and encore were very similar to the first half of the program.

According to their biographies, these two of the three Hantaï brothers – harpsichordist Pierre was missing from Friday’s performance – gained much of their training and experience in Belgium from another musical family, the famed Kuijken brothers: baroque flutist Barthold; violinist and conductor Sigiswald; and viola da gamba player Wieland. Hopefully the full Hantaï Trio will be invited to perform in the Washington area soon.

James Conlon Happy in Los Angeles

James Conlon, conductorJens and I would both be happy if the National Symphony Orchestra could actually hire James Conlon as a successor to Leonard Slatkin. Chris Pasles had a great article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday (Cottoning to Los Angeles, February 25) about Conlon's work thus far at Los Angeles Opera:

He wants to make Los Angeles [...] the launching pad for his "Recovered Voices" project — reviving music suppressed during the Third Reich. He's already shown himself a passionate advocate for such composers as Viktor Ullmann, Alexander Zemlinsky, Pavel Haas and Hans Krása in concerts in Europe and in guest conducting stints in the U.S. Among his extensive recordings are nine Zemlinsky works.

"No major opera company has produced any opera at all from this period," he said. "That's amazing. We're going to be the ones to do it. And we're not going to be able to do it in two or three years. This whole issue will outlive me."

He also wants to give performances that are as life-changing as the one he heard as an 11-year-old seeing his first opera.

"It was the moment I became completely conscious of classical music and how much I love it," he said. "It transformed my life to what it is today. Every time I go out on that podium, I think to myself, 'There are people out there — they could be 11 years old, they could be 5, they could be 80 — but you have the chance to change somebody's life for the better. They deserve 100% out of me, and they deserve 100% out of everybody on that stage, everybody in the orchestra.' That's the credo."
Who knows if there is any chance for the NSO to hire James Conlon, but if there is, they should make it happen.

25.2.07

Oscar Night 2007

OscarEdward Champion of Return of the Reluctant is hosting his Oscar Blog again this year. Maybe next year he will invite me to the party, but this year here we are again, the Ionarts liveblogging of the Oscars.

[20:48] The opening sequence was charming, and Ellen DeGeneres is funny so far. Art Direction and Makeup went the right way, in favor of my score card, that is, Pan's Labyrinth. It's the only point in the night, probably, that my record will be 100%. 1 point for Ionarts!

[21:04] Oh, and all our hopes are dashed! Two wrong picks for the shorts categories.

[21:13] Gospel choir and now Sound Effects choir?

[21:16] With Sound Editing, we go from 100% down to 25%. And signing off, that's all for us...

[21:23] Well, this is one of those cases when the person I wanted to win has won: Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine! I picked Eddie Murphy, thinking that he would win.

[21:26] What on earth?

[21:31] Best Song, my least favorite category. The nominees are usually all so awful.

[21:37] Preachy song, preachy politician, preachy preachiness. UPDATE: This won Best Song.

[21:44] I was afraid that Happy Feet would win, but Master Ionarts insisted that I pick Cars, which was his favorite movie of the year. Well, my chances at winning the pool are definitely gone.

Continue reading this article.
[21:48] These montages are way too long. For this, they are not going to let a winner for Sound Editing thank his wife and mother?

[21:54] Well, I thought Borat would win in its only nominated category, but nothing for make benefit glorious nation of Khazakstan.

[22:03] Costumes, another case where I am happy for the winner but surprised at the decision. I thought this would be another part of the Dreamgirls landslide, but Marie-Antoinette was truly amazing in this category, such beautiful costumes.

[22:13] I had forgotten what it was like to get a category right. At least Pan's Labyrinth has not let me down so far. I could do without the weird dancers and the Ellen chatter so that Guillermo Navarro could say what he wants to say.

[22:22] Visual Effects: I went for Superman Returns. The bitterness is sweetened considerably by seeing and hearing the lovely voice of La Deneuve!

[22:31] Pan's Labyrinth just let me down. I'm planning to review The Lives of Others this week.

[22:36] As I feared, Jennifer Hudson wins. That neither actress from Babel won in this category means that it probably will win Best Picture.

[22:44] Ah, Gael García Bernal, The Science of Sleep got nothing this year. But I actually got this pick right: The Blood of Yingzhou District.

[22:49] Documentaries are good to Ionarts! Yes, I picked An Inconvenient Truth.

[22:52] Now we are talking: Ennio Morricone, film score genius. The Mission alone could have won him this recognition. Yeah, Untouchables, too. Shit, he composed a lot of amazing scores. Criminy, look at how many. What's the last American film he scored?

[22:58] Ugh, a pretty tune, I guess, but sung with colossal ugliness. Still, it's so nice to hear Italian on American television!

[23:08] Poor Philip Glass. Beyond that, no comment. Gustavo Santaolalla wanted his score not to sound like a National Geographic soundtrack. Did he succeed?

[23:16] Little Miss Sunshine so deserves the award for Best Original Screenplay, but although I picked it, I never thought it would actually win.

[23:25] Dreamgirls had to win Best Song, right? (I picked "Listen.") What, Melissa Etheridge? How am I still awake? Is anyone still watching?

[23:48] *SNORE*

Classical Month in Washington (May)

Last month | Next month

Classical Month in Washington is a monthly feature. 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!

May 1, 2007 (Tue)
12:10 pm
Noontime Cantata (BWV 147, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben”)
Fantasia & Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542 (Scott Dettra, organ)
Washington Bach Consort
Church of the Epiphany (13th and G Streets NW)

May 1, 2007 (Tue)
8 pm
New Music, University of Maryland [FREE]
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)

May 2, 2007 (Wed)
12:10 pm
Thomas Hrynkiw, pianist [FREE]
Music by J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Prester, and Revutsky
National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium

May 2, 2007 (Wed)
6:30 pm
La Vie Parisienne (excerpts of French opera)
Opera Camerata of Washington
Charles Sumner School (1201 17th Street NW)

May 2, 2007 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Anna Maria Pammer (soprano) and Markus Vorzellner (piano) [FREE]
Music by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg
An das Lied: Festival of Song 2007
Austrian Embassy

May 3, 2007 (Thu)
7 pm
Composer Portrait: Antonin Dvořák
National Symphony Orchestra
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, May 4)

May 3, 2007 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Marin Alsop, Leila Josefowicz
Includes Adams, The Dharma at Big Sur
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 4)

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
7 pm
Composer Portrait: Antonin Dvořák
National Symphony Orchestra
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor
Opera Bel Cantanti
Randolph Road Theater (Silver Spring, Md.)

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Memorial Concert in Honor of Susanna "Susie" Kim
National Association of Professional Asian American Women
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Charles Miller, organ
Organ music of the French masters
National City Christian Church

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
7:30 pm
Johannes Föttinger (tenor) and Markus Vorzellner (piano) [FREE]
Music by Korngold, Jelinek, Krenek, Schoenberg
An das Lied: Festival of Song 2007
Austrian Embassy
Review -- Sarah Hoover (Washington Post, May 7)

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Marin Alsop, Leila Josefowicz
Includes Adams, The Dharma at Big Sur
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
American Chamber Players [FREE]
Beethoven septet, Zwillich
Library of Congress
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, May 7)

May 4, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Annapolis Symphony Orchestra
With Jennifer Koh, violin
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (Annapolis, Md.)
Review -- Andrew Lindemann Malone (Washington Post, May 7)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
11 am
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Casual Concert)
With Marin Alsop
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
2 pm
Andrew Von Oeyen, piano
WPAS
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Review -- Tim Page (Washington Post, May 7)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
7 pm
Composer Portrait: Antonin Dvořák
National Symphony Orchestra
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
7 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 7)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Musical Madness (music by Tyl Meyn, Lassus, Gesualdo, Stravinsky)
Woodley Ensemble
St. Columba's Episcopal Church
Review -- Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, May 7)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
National Philharmonic
Rossini, Barber of Seville (in concert)
Music Center at Strathmore
Review -- Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, May 7)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Annapolis Symphony Orchestra
With Jennifer Koh, violin
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (Annapolis, Md.)

May 5, 2007 (Sat)
8:15 pm
Puccini, Tosca
Baltimore Opera
Review -- Ronni Reich (Washington Post, May 7)

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
2 pm
Kennedy Center Chamber Players
Music by Françaix, Hindemith, Schubert
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Choral Arts Society
Music by Mozart, Lauridsen, Gershwin
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Lise de la Salle, piano
Mansion at Strathmore

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor
Opera Bel Cantanti
Randolph Road Theater (Silver Spring, Md.)

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
4 pm
Jonathan Byers (Baroque cello) and Richard Sweeney (archlute) [FREE]
Phillips Collection

May 6, 2007 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Anna Maria Pammer (soprano) and Markus Vorzellner (piano) [FREE]
Music by Schoenberg, Webern
National Gallery of Art
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 8)

May 7, 2007 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
La Maison Française
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 9)

May 7, 2007 (Mon)
7:30 pm
Elisabeth Linhart(soprano) and Markus Vorzellner (piano) [FREE]
New songs by Hueber, Wykydal, and Tsenova
An das Lied: Festival of Song 2007
Austrian Embassy

May 7, 2007 (Mon)
8 pm
Brahms Quintets (for Brahms's birthday)
Peter Sirotin and Co.
Embassy Series
Embassy of Germany

May 8, 2007 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano) and Friends
Contemporary chamber music
La Maison Française
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 10)

May 8, 2007 (Tue)
7:30 pm
International Sejong Soloists
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Review -- Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, May 10)

May 9, 2007 (Wed)
12:10 pm
Tao Lin, pianist [FREE]
Music by Brahms, Chopin, Haydn
National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium

May 9, 2007 (Wed)
7 pm
Puccini, Tosca
Baltimore Opera

May 9, 2007 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Musicians from Marlboro III [FREE]
Includes Shostakovich 8th string quartet
Freer Gallery of Art

May 10, 2007 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Serious Fun
With Peter Schickele, Marielle and Katia Labèque
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Tim Page (Washington Post, May 11)

May 10, 2007 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 10, 2007 (Thu)
8 pm
University of Maryland Symphony
Wagner, Siegfried (Act III)
Semi-staged with Lear/Stewart Emerging Singers
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, May 12)

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
1:30 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Serious Fun (P.D.Q. Bach)
With Peter Schickele
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Robert Battey (Washington Post, May 12)

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
6:30 pm
5th Annual Children’s Opera on the Hill! [FREE]
Opera's "Greatest Hits" (for children, age 5 and older)
Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program
Stuart-Hobson Middle School (5th and E Streets NE )

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
University of Maryland Chamber Singers
Music by Purcell, Poulenc, Penderecki
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park, Md.)

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Yefim Bronfman, piano
WPAS
Music Center at Strathmore
Robert Battey (Washington Post, May 14)

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Klavier Trio Amsterdam
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 14)

May 11, 2007 (Fri)
8:15 pm
Puccini, Tosca
Baltimore Opera

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
3 pm
Konstantin Scherbakov, piano [FREE]
American recital début: complete Shostakovich preludes and fugues
Baltimore Museum of Art

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
6 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Prelude Concert [FREE]
Millennium Stage Event
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
7 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 14)

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra: Serious Fun (American Music)
With Peter Schickele
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Bach the Dramatist (BWV 205, Dramma per musica, “Zerreißet, zersprenget”)
Washington Bach Consort
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 15)

May 12, 2007 (Sat)
9 pm
Leila Josefowicz, violin
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 15)

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
2 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Puccini, Tosca
Baltimore Opera

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
4 pm
Darragh Morgan (violin) and Mary Dullea (piano) [FREE]
Phillips Collection

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
5 pm
Capital City Symphony
Music by Bach, Hanson, and George Walker
Atlas Performing Arts Center

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Miceal O'Rourke, pianist [FREE]
With the National Gallery Chamber Players String Quartet
Music by Brahms and Field
National Gallery of Art

May 13, 2007 (Sun)
7:30 pm
Leila Josefowicz, violin
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Rockville, Md.)

May 14, 2007 (Mon)
7 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 16, 2007 (Wed)
12:10 pm
Marta Felcman, pianist [FREE]
Music by Chopin, Guastavino, Ravel, and Scarlatti
National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium

May 16, 2007 (Wed)
7 pm
Celebrating the Lieder Tradition (lecture-concert)
Scott Murphree (tenor) and Thomas Bagwell (piano)
An das Lied: Festival of Song 2007
Austrian Embassy

May 16, 2007 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 17, 2007 (Thu)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lang Lang, piano
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 18)

May 17, 2007 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 17, 2007 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Günther Herbig, Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 21)

May 18, 2007 (Fri)
7 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lang Lang, piano
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 18, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Borromeo String Quartet with pianist Wu Han [FREE]
Music by Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich
Library of Congress
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 20)

May 18, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Günther Herbig, Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 18, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Donizetti, Don Pasquale
Opera Theater of Northern Virginia
Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (Arlington, Va.)
Review -- Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, May 22)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
1 and 3 pm
Teddy Bear Concert
Members of NSO
Kennedy Center Family Theater

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
6 pm
Tribute Concert for Mstislav Rostropovich [FREE]
Members of the National Symphony Orchestra
Millennium Stage Event
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Robert Battey (Washington Post, May 21)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
7 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
7 pm
Haydn, Die Schöpfung
Cantate Chamber Singers
Westmoreland Congregational Church (Bethesda, Md.)
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, May 21)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Brentano String Quartet
Kreeger Museum
Review -- Stephen Brookes (Washington Post, May 21)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Sacred Mysteries
Thomas Circle Singers
National City Christian Church
Review -- Joan Reinthaler (Washington Post, May 21)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
National Symphony Orchestra
With Lang Lang, piano
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Günther Herbig, Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson
Music Center at Strathmore
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 21)

May 19, 2007 (Sat)
8 pm
Offenbach/Strauss operetta
Embassy Series
Embassy of Austria
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 22)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
1 and 3:30 pm
NSO Kinderkonzert: Fiddlin' Around
Kennedy Center Family Theater

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
2 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Donizetti, Don Pasquale
Opera Theater of Northern Virginia
Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (Arlington, Va.)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
With Günther Herbig, Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Eclipse Chamber Orchestra: That’s Italian
Music by Adamo, Vivaldi, Respighi
George Washington National Masonic Memorial (Alexandria, Va.)
Review -- Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, May 22)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
4 pm
Shakespeare Festival Concert
Music by Berlioz, Walton, Vaughan Williams
Cathedral Choral Society
Washington National Cathedral
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, May 22)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
4 pm
Michael McHale (piano) [FREE]
Phillips Collection
Review -- Daniel Ginsberg (Washington Post, May 22)

May 20, 2007 (Sun)
6:30 pm
Inscape Chamber Music Project [FREE]
Music for violin, cello, clarinet, and piano by Beethoven and Khachaturian
National Gallery of Art
Review -- Michael Lodico (Ionarts, May 21)

May 21, 2007 (Mon)
6 pm
Northwestern University School of Music [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 21, 2007 (Mon)
7 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 21, 2007 (Mon)
7 pm
Washington, D.C. Choral Festival
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Review -- Cecelia Porter (Washington Post, May 23)

May 22, 2007 (Tue)
6 pm
San Francisco Conservatory [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 23, 2007 (Wed)
12:10 pm
Brian Ganz, pianist [FREE]
Music by Chopin, Debussy, Griffes, Lennon, Liszt, and MacDowell
National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium

May 23, 2007 (Wed)
6 pm
Oberlin Conservatory [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 23, 2007 (Wed)
7:30 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 23, 2007 (Wed)
8 pm
Donizetti, Don Pasquale
Opera Theater of Northern Virginia
Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (Arlington, Va.)

May 24, 2007 (Thu)
6 pm
Berklee College of Music [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 24, 2007 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Roger Tapping (viola) and Judith Gordon (piano)
La Maison Française

May 24, 2007 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Mathias Hausmann (baritone) and Markus Vorzellner (piano) [FREE]
Shakespeare songs (Schubert, Korngold, Wolf, Haydn, Angerer)
An das Lied: Festival of Song 2007
Austrian Embassy
Review -- Joe Banno (Washington Post, May 26)

May 24, 2007 (Thu)
7:30 pm
Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 24, 2007 (Thu)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven (Fifth Symphony), Martinů (Sixth Symphony)
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
Review -- Charles T. Downey (Ionarts, May 27)

May 25, 2007 (Fri)
6 pm
Eastman School of Music [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 25, 2007 (Fri)
8 pm
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven (Fifth Symphony), Martinů (Sixth Symphony)
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 26, 2007 (Sat)
11 am
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Casual Concert)
Beethoven (Fifth Symphony)
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

May 26, 2007 (Sat)
6 pm
Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 27, 2007 (Sun)
3 pm
Donizetti, L'Elisir d'Amore
Opera Bel Cantanti
Randolph Road Theater (Silver Spring, Md.)
Review -- Mark J. Estren (Washington Post, May 29)

May 27, 2007 (Sun)
4 pm
David Quigley (piano) [FREE]
Phillips Collection

May 27, 2007 (Sun)
6 pm
Shepherd School of Music, Rice University [FREE]
Millennium Stage Conservatory Project
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

May 29, 2007 (Tue)
7:30 pm
Verdi, Macbeth
Washington National Opera
Kennedy Center Opera House

May 30, 2007 (Wed)
12:10 pm
Stephen Prutsman, pianist [FREE]
Music by J. S. Bach, Prutsman, and Ravel
National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium

May 31, 2007 (Thu)
7 pm
NSO Pops
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

May 31, 2007 (Thu)
8 pm
Washington National Opera in Concert
Plácido Domingo, conductor
Music Center at Strathmore

In Brief

LinksHere is your regular Sunday dosage of interesting items, from Blogville and beyond:

  • Lisa Hirsch's writing was masculine enough to fool the Gender Genie, a text-checking algorithm that tries to predict the gender of a writer based only on a written sample. When given recent Ionarts samples by Jens, Mark, and me, it correctly identified us all as men. The lists of cue words it assigns to male and female is interesting. [Iron Tongue of Midnight]

  • A. C. Douglas relays the reports that Wagner's granddaughter Katharina will get her chance to direct an opera at Bayreuth this summer, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. I dimly recall reading rumors that Katharina was being considered as a possible successor to Wolfgang Wagner to head the Festival. [Sounds and Fury]

  • The Joyce Hatto thing gets weirder and weirder, as more recordings in her catalogue turn out to be frauds. It's revealing extra-musical factors in the way that people, including critics, listen to and critique music. Alex Ross notes the following: "one piano expert is quoted as saying that Minoru Nojima's Liszt playing is 'too clinical' and expressing a preference for Hatto — not aware that he's discussing the same performance!" [The Rest Is Noise]

  • The Hatto thing reminds me of a publishing story that made the rounds of the litblogs this time last year, which I never mentioned but should have. Waggish book editors at the Sunday Times in London sent out typescript submissions from fake aspiring authors to 20 major publishing companies and literary agents for consideration. The typescripts were actually opening chapters from V. S. Naipaul's In a Free State and Stanley Middleton's Holiday, both of which won the Booker Prize in the 1970s. Not only did none of the recipients recognize either book as something already published, all but one reply was a rejection letter. [The Times]

  • France, sometimes in conjunction with other European countries, hosts all kinds of free cultural events. The latest one is a very good idea, the Journées européennes de l'opéra (European Opera Days), under the stewardship of Natalie Dessay. Last weekend, people were invited into opera theaters to meet singers and others who work in them, to see how operas are produced. Laurent Hénart, president of the Réunion des opéras de France, gave an interesting interview with Jean-Louis Validire about it. [Le Figaro]

  • Jacques Rivette's new film, Ne touchez pas la hache, was in competition at the Berlin Film Festival. It is an adaptation of Balzac's La Duchesse de Langeais, starring Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu. Rivette, who was the subject of a film festival at the National Gallery of Art this month, is 78 years old. [International Herald Tribune]

  • La Cieca takes down Bernard Holland for lackluster opera reviews: "Even though Holland was supposed to review actual live performances of these two operas (the latter a world premiere), he didn't quite get around to writing anything you might call a 'critique'." Not to be missed. [Parterre Box]

  • "Although she rejected strict serialism ('It didn't correspond to my needs'), the experience was pivotal. 'I found more clearly my direction,' she says. 'In addition to what I learned, I learned many things I did not want to do'." Matthew Guerrieri on Kaija Saariaho. [Boston Globe]

  • The LapDawg. Clearly, I need one of these things for my laptop. [Boing Boing]

Little Room at the Inn, Red Dot Fair, NYC

IMG_3276.JPGMost gallerists will tell you it would be difficult if not impossible to break even without doing at least one art fair per year; some dealers only do art fairs and have no gallery. As the importance of fairs grows, so grows the list of alternative venues. Red Dot carries on the tradition of art in the hotel room. Although not the best space to exhibit art, it’s efficient and until recently cost-effective: prices are almost equal to the cost of a booth at Scope. Just be sure to put your tooth brush away before your guests arrive.

IMG_3288.JPGSome of my picks from Red Dot were Carla Gannis’s manipulated digital prints, at Kasia Kay Art Projects, and Mitchell Gaudet’s cast glass pieces at Perry Nicole (Memphis). Gaudet is a New Orleans-based artist, and this work was submerged in the Katrina flood waters.

IMG_3290.JPGJay Grimm had a small room of Lori Taschler’s paintings, lit with the best natural light. David Ivie’s small, thickly painted works at Elizabeth Harris and self-taught Lucy Fradkin at Denise Barnes Fine Art stood out too.

I really liked Margret Murphy’s beautiful watercolor at Pentimenti Gallery, of a woman in a flowing gown.

On my next post I'll finish with comments on the Pulse fair and try to sum up. As always, visit my Flickr site to see more images.

24.2.07

Scope, NYC

Ben GrassoThe best part about the art fairs is an opportunity to meet or just see the gallery directors and staff. Often they sequester themselves in back rooms or the staff is busy typing: a lot of typing goes on in galleries. Even if you don’t get to have a conversation with a gallerist, this is a chance put a face to a name or better, to watch the ritual of the sale.

An average art lover strolls into a booth and there is no response, no acknowledgment of your presence. All of a sudden the gallerist notices the presence of wealth. It could be the mink or the couture or a previous mating, but the courting begins. The gallerist pops up, the bored expression turns to a wide full-toothed smile, hugs and air kisses fill the space, some small talk, a few questions, and a deal is made.

Colin SmithThe best part about the art fairs, other than the Armory Show or the Art Show is that type of behavior is less obvious, much more personal. While the Armory has champagne, the Thursday evening preview at the Scope fair was all beer, a reunion of sorts.

These are not the blue chip galleries of the Armory or the old guard at the Art Show. This is a bit scruffy, with some still setting up their booths; it’s comfortable here. The sales may not be in the millions, but still impressive.

Mike Peter SmithSome standouts for me were Ben Grasso’s latest painting, a duet of flying houses, at sixtyseven gallery, shown above, the work in the Motti Hasson Gallery booth. It doesn't reflect the range of challenging exhibits he shows in his Chelsea gallery: the lushly painted shirts and coats, by British artist Colin Smith, shown at right, and an impressive surreal landscape by Fulvio di Piazza.

Another Brit painter, Laura Fond, had some very interesting imagery. Mike Peter Smith’s approach to evolution will definitely catch your eye: I mentioned this work on my Miami trip in November. And a shout-out to the women at D.C.’s own Douz & Mille, who are not only charming to talk to, but showing good work and trying out a variety of venues around the city to exhibit.

My goal is to attend two more fairs, Pulse and Red Dot. I'm leaving the city temporarily for the serene beauty of the Hudson Valley and very likely no Internet connection, but we at Ionarts know to troll for it. If I can find a signal in Guatemala, how difficult can upstate be? In the meantime watch my friend Flickr for pictures.

This Week in MP3

Here is what was at the top of the Ionarts playlist for the week. Click on the link to read a review (if we have published one) or the album picture to buy it through Amazon (if available).

New:
available at Amazon
Bach, Christmas Oratorio, Regensburger Domspatzen, Collegium St. Emmeram, Hanns-Martin Schneidt (October 10, 2006)
available at Amazon
Liszt/Chopin, Piano Concertos, Yundi Li, Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Davis (February 13, 2007)
available at Amazon
Rossini, Matilde di Shabran, A. Massis, J. D. Flórez, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, R. Frizza (September 26, 2006)

Old:
available at Amazon
Prokofiev, Ivan the Terrible, N. Putilin, L. Sokolova, Rotterdam Philharmonic, V. Gergiev (remastered, 2007)
available at Amazon
Britten, Peter Grimes, P. Pears, Covent Garden, B. Britten (remastered, 2006)

Review (live performance)
available at Amazon
R. Strauss, Arabella, A. Dermota, E. Wächter, Vienna Philharmonic, G. Solti (remastered, 2006)

23.2.07

Genesis by Glass and Lanting

Hopes are high for the Baltimore Symphony and Marin Alsop, the first woman to be appointed Music Director of a major American orchestra. Last night at Strathmore, Washington got a taste of adventurous programming we may expect from Alsop, who has made a name conducting contemporary music, especially by American composers. In a brief introduction to this program devoted to the music of Philip Glass, born in Baltimore 70 years ago this year, Alsop made no reference to the embarrassing neglect of Glass in Baltimore for so many years. That era, she said by gracefully not saying anything, is over. To put that neglect into context, the BSO is the only major ensemble in the Washington and Baltimore area to acknowledge Glass's 70th birthday.

available at Amazon
Frans Lanting, LIFE: A Journey through Time (2006)
LIFE: A Journey through Time began when nature photographer Frans Lanting, whose work is probably familiar from many appearances in National Geographic and other publications, saw a way to document the history of life on Earth, by looking closely at life right now. (A coffee-table book is now available, and an exhibit will begin touring the United States this year.) Together with visual choreographer Alexander V. Nicholas, Lanting organized a selection of his photographs into a video narrative. With the guidance of Marin Alsop, the project was brought to Philip Glass to provide a musical score, first performed last summer at the Cabrillo Festival, the contemporary music festival that Alsop directs. In tandem with Michael Riesman, who often conducts and orchestrates Glass's music, Glass adapted several earlier works, conceived originally for small ensemble or solo instruments, for orchestra.

Glass's music works best when it accompanies visual images, which is why he is such a good film and opera composer. Some of Glass's most memorable music accompanied the striking films by Godfrey Reggio, especially the first one, Koyaanisqatsi, from 1983. His latest film score, for Notes on a Scandal, is up for an Oscar and deserves to win, because it is such an important part of that movie. (In fact, because Glass is in Los Angeles this weekend for the Academy Award ceremony, he could not attend this series of concerts.)

Photograph by Frans Lanting, for National Geographic

Photograph by Frans Lanting, courtesy of National Geographic
Over the course of seven movements, detailing the story of creation, not according to Genesis but following the course of evolution as narrated by science, Glass's music accompanies the formation of the earth and its atmosphere; the beginning of life shown in fossilized remains of tiny creatures, crystals, and amber; the movement of animals in the sea; the movement of amphibians out of the water (with some of the most memorable images in the video, of frogs peering out of the slime toward land); the rise of tortoises and crocodiles, birds in the air, mammals, apes, and finally a few glimpses of our own species, but only as a fetus in utero. The video, projected on three large screens suspended above the orchestra, sets many of Lanting's images into motion, kangaroos bouncing along, birds soaring upward diagonally, multiple flowers tesselating furiously along with the bubbling music.

The score is everything one expects of Philip Glass, static, pulsating, and hypnotically pleasing to the ear. It occurred to me last night that Glass is the modern counterpart of Antonio Vivaldi, whose music was played with such verve and polish by the Venice Baroque Orchestra in a magnificent concert earlier in the week. Glass's music appeals widely, is mostly programmatic and rhythmically activated, trades on formulas in easy-to-understand forms, and is characterized by a high degree of self-borrowing. What is most evident in LIFE is just how important Michael Riesman's orchestration is to Glass's success: the underlying ideas are so simple, but Riesman's layering of instrumental colors dresses it all up considerably.



Photograph by Frans Lanting, courtesy of Baltimore Symphony
Marin Alsop did a good job of sculpting the masses of sound: without that dynamic and textural shaping there would not be much interest. Since its premiere, the video has undergone some significant changes for this set of concerts, its East Coast premiere, as Alsop explained during a question and answer session after last night's performance. Once the video has been started, the performance relies on Alsop's conducting to time the music so that it lines up with the sequence of images. The orchestra offered sounds from glassy to hysteric, with especially nice work on those trademarked whirring Glass arpeggios, which one could hear the woodwind players rehearsing at intermission.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, An overdue toast to Baltimore's Glass (Baltimore Sun, February 24)

Stephen Brookes, 'Life' Proves That BSO Can Be a Real Glass Act (Washington Post, February 24)
The program began with one of Glass's most often performed pieces, the Concerto for Saxophone Quartet, a piece featuring "instruments we normally try to keep out of the orchestra," as Alsop joked. The Capitol Quartet lent its suave tone and agile fingers to a fine performance, with minor lags behind the orchestra, which Alsop turned occasionally to correct with her gestures. This jazz-inflected work, combined with the BSO's "Casual Thursday" dressed-down look -- black shirts with open collars, black slacks -- contributed to the impression that we were at a hipper kind of Pops concert. Glass's appeal outside the classical realm meant that the audience was considerably less gray of hair than normal (that may account for the applause that broke out after each movement of the concerto, too). Brava, maestra! We look forward to more of the same.

This program will be repeated on Friday and Saturday evenings (February 23 and 24, 8 pm) and Sunday afternoon (February 25, 3 pm), but only at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. Plenty of tickets remain. Frans Lanting will speak about his LIFE photographs on Tuesday (February 27, 7:30 pm) at National Geographic Society headquarters (1600 M St. NW)

Janine Jansen with the NSO

Janine JansenVirginia composer Mason Bates, barely 30, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra to deliver them a work for orchestra and on Thursday it arrived when “Liquid Interface” (could one possibly devise a more new-agey name?) received its World Premiere at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall under the direction of Leonard Slatkin.

Mr. Bates, Philadelphia-born, Virginia-raised, and Oakland-residing did, what every modern composer seems to do: He looked up “percussion” in the New Grove and included every mentioned instance in his score. Topping the glass harmonica, wind machine, Glockenspiel, washboard with spoon (I’m not kidding), crotales, high tam-tam, etc., etc. was a electronica-beat drum-pad at which the composer himself tapped his fingers to project irregular electronic thuds. Mozartian improvisatory genius it was not – but in all fairness, the whole affair sounded pleasant enough. Much like a Buddha-Bar lounge version of anonymous film music. The sort of thing I’d play in the background at a moderately hip dinner party. Washed-out sounds of rain and atmospheric whimsy were superimposed on music that was good to hear in the moment, but forgettable the next. Nocturnes for Neverland.

available at Amazon
F. Mendelssohn / M. Bruch, Violin Concertos, Romance, Jansen/Chailly/Gewandhaus
Janine Janson, the Dutch darling of the violin and current classical music downloads record holder, looking like a tall fairy princess, descended upon D.C. and brought the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with her. She sounded as elegant as she looked, light, clean, and other some such qualities that were admirable even as she undermined them here and there with playing that dug ever so deep into the romantic side of the concerto or else tried to prove (successfully, at that) that she is a speed demon with lightning fast and accurate fingers. She could probably have impressed the “finer ears” (Ivan Fischer’s phrase) in the audience with fewer of the flashy bits, and indeed, the filigrane elements were more to my liking. As it was, she crossed the “t’s” twice and dotted all the “i’s” with exclamation points… individualizing the concerto, grabbing it with vigor. Throwing in an electric vibrato (electric perhaps being the theme of the night), it all appealed directly to the heart and gut, even if the brain wanted to caution against the seduction. The NSO has had its Mendelssohn-drill with Ivan Fischer’s all-Mendelssohn program two weeks ago and continued where they had left off: They accompanied Ms. Janson very nicely, if not spectacularly.

Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, his Sixth Symphony, was the work for the second half and it showed a soft touch, confident (loud) brass, well shaped individual phrases that showed a care and attention to detail as one might not have expected from Maestro Slatkin in a work like this. Perhaps he lavished more care on it during rehearsal, this run of performances being, unbelievably, the first time that Slaktin performes the Tchaikovsky Sixth with the NSO. There was tension and drama in the third movement (the second and fourth sagged a little), the decibel level certainly strong enough to make the tummy tingle. Tubist (if that’s the word) Stephen Dumaine stood out for most excellent tubaing.

Repeat performances take place today, Friday, at 1.30PM and tomorrow, Saturday, at 8PM.

The Armory Show

IMG_3198.JPGAnd we’re off! The 2007 art fairs extravaganza has begun. So much to see and so little time for sure. The press preview at the Armory Show was delayed at least an hour, waiting for Mayor Bloomberg. After a few short introductions there was a question and answer period, but few if any of the questions were about art. They were all for the mayor, about taxes, national politics, and such. Not one question for Glenn Lowry concerning his latest scandal at MoMA -- no fun at all.

Finally we were allowed in to see the show, and this year's Armory Show is pretty good. Galleries from all around the world, several from Asia, mostly the U.S. and Europe. Lots and lots of money being spent, even at the preview, meaning lots of new tax revenue for the mayor.

Sophie von HellermanSeveral galleries were exhibiting only one artist: that's a lot of pressure. How do they sleep? Why are there so many paintings of anime characters? And let's have a moratorium on adding verse to your artwork: those who already do so may continue.

Kiki Smith has had a lot of attention this year because of her Whitney retrospective. Carolina Nitsch had a fabulous print of hers, Europa. I've seen a few embroidered pieces lately, like this Chuck Close: it reminds me of painting on velvet.

I liked Sophie von Hellerman's paintings at Green Naftali, which tell a story of a London jewelery designer who stalks his clients and kills them. Just think, a gift for someone you truly despise.

I'll have more comments later. In the meantime go to my Flickr site to see pictures from the Armory Show preview. I’ll have more to say later.