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Concerts: previews / reviews

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49 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Heard Boris Berman tonight at the Nasher doing Cage's Sonatas and Interludes...spellbinding music, really, simple/basic and endlessly complex all at once. Berman did not "top" Maro Ajemian's original recording imo, but you know, that was then, this is now, and if you ever get a chance to hear this music live, by all means do. It's intense.

that's great (really) you got to see this live I've found Berman a bit po' faced elsewhere especially in his Prokofiev cycle but Cage-- and these pieces especially-- are better suited to his chops / temperament (intellectually his Prokofiev is fine but...)

On disc Antonis Anissegos is recently hep




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One good, no, great, thing about live music is that you don't get to hear it again. Something either works right there or it doesn't. I heard some things along the way that I felt "iffy" about (especially when it came to how soon he released the sus pedal at the end a few times, seemed out of sync with the groove that had been going up until then), but, you know, no time to worry about that because things kept going and what, there's no pause button, no rewind, so what are you gonna do, worry about it or keep going along with the player? And this stuff is so split-brained, like really really basic thematic material in the right hand, and jeese f. crist, a fucking drum choir in the left, no real "harmony" but overtones out the ass, intense forward momentum and sudden stops all at once, you know, like Sonny(?) said about playing with Monk, if you lose your place it's like falling down an elevator shaft, no so much structurally with these Cage pieces, but "zone", definitely, so, yeah, notice, and/but adapt, it's the improviser's way of life.

But I would like some historical clarification about how/when and on whose authority this

turned into this


and then into this

Was Ross Russell insisting on bebop tempo or what? No matter, for record, make mine Maro, at least on this one.

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Usually writing about my concert experiences in German and don't find the time to always duplicate (translation is not the way, I feel too much at home in English than just to re-do the same write-up in a different language - which btw is pretty darn difficult, too, if that was the goal). Anyway, I went to see William Christie conduct Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Médée" at Zurich opera last night, and as I promised someone else in another forum to report, here's my English write-up again - it was outstanding almost beyond belief!


Zurich Opera, 18 February 2017

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Conductor: William Christie
Producer: Andreas Homoki
Stage design: Hartmut Meyer
Costumes: Mechthild Seipel
Light design: Franck Evin
Choreographische Beratung: Katrin Kolo
Chorus master: Jürg Hämmerli
Dramaturgy: Werner Hintze, Fabio Dietsche

Médée: Stéphanie D’Oustrac
Jason: Reinoud Van Mechelen
Créon: Nahuel Di Pierro
Créuse: Mélissa Petit
Oronte: Ivan Thirion
L’Amour, Captif de l’Amour, Premier Fantôme: Florie Valiquette
Nérine: Carmen Seibel
Arcas, Second Corinthien, La Jalousie: Spencer Lang
Un Argien, La Vengeance: Roberto Lorenzi
Une Italienne: Sandrine Droin
Premier Corinthien, Un Argien, Un Démon: Nicholas Scott
Cleone: Gemma Ni Bhriain
Deuxième Fantôme: Francisca Montiel

Harpsichord: Paolo Zanzu
Lute: Brian Feehan, Juan Sebastian Lima
Cello: Claudius Herrmann
Gamba: Martin Zeller
Violone: Dieter Lange

Orchestra La Scintilla
Chor der Oper Zürich
Members of Les Arts Florissants

Phenomenal in every respect, one of the best opera nights ever, and quite likely to be the highlight of this still young year. How amazing to witness a cast that is really at home in the language in question - not that I actually understood it word by word, but none of the minor to major diction and pronounciation and accent problems that we usually just have to accept when watching opera (and in that respect: what a huge difference to the Milan "Don Carlo"). I've become tolerant long ago about this, but what a huge different to have a fully idiomatic cast! William Christie strictly insists on this, as he mentioned during the matinee in presentation of this new production a few weeks back - the show last night was actually the final one again already - and I fully endorse this, now that I have been able to witness the wonderful results.

So many great things, it's really hard to find words.

Let's start with the play itself. What a wonderful opera, finding a perfect balance between words and music. There's no fat to it, it's just perfect. No vocal girlands, no show-offery, no nothing, just a perfect synchronisation between what is sung and how it is sung (and played). This is not a sequence of numbers with star arias and all that, but really a play. And Homoki's production and stage direction actually made it work in a way that even the Divertissements were quite perfectly integrated into the whole, sort of echo chambers of the main plot.

The choir, enlarged by an haute-contre section from Les Arts florissants, did a wonderful job (as I've come to expect by now - Zurich opera can be really proud of such a fine choir). So did La Scintilla, the HIP orchestra of Zurich opera. They were enlarged by several guests as well, mainly in the winds section, which had a lot of work to do and did just fine. Christie had a harpsichord to play and conduct from, but to his right there was another harpsichord, as well as a small organ. As I could not see much of the orchestra during the play (I could see the recorders and that was pretty cool, too), I don't know how much of the harpsichord continuo was played by Christie himself. The continuo section was really good anyway, bleding into a wonderful and varied sound, using different combinations of the instruments at hand (including the organ I mentioned).

The stage itself was set up very simple, using a second floor that could be lifted to disappear and was often lowered so it was merely a step up from the ground level. On top you would have different colours than downstairs, the lower area was also opened up to the back a few times, but mostly just to let people (or devils) appear and disappear - very effective, and very nice to look at, too. There was hardly any furniture or other stuff on the stage, which fit the unfolding tragedy perfectly well, I found.

And as the tragedy has been mentioned, it really sempt to be the tragedy of Stéphanie d'Oustrac. She was outstanding in the title role, both as a singer as well as an actress - she really became Medea. Yet at the same time it got pretty clear how much love Charpentier must have had for that character, so far beyond any moral categories mankind is used to - not to say a monster. The melodies Chapentier wrote for his Médée are truly beguiling, again and again. Van Mechelen did an outstanding job as well. Most beautiful where the - quite many - moments when they sang at a very low volume. Those pianissimo moments, a few soft harpsichord tones added ... what tension, what vibrancy! At some moments I felt as if I were watching a forbidden scene - the intimacy generated by those very quiet moments was amazing. Of course this again was made possible by the fact that d'Oustrac really filled that role perfectly well, vibrant and intense. The other roles, both larger and smaller, were all cast very well, too. What I found interesting, and it was certainly determined only in part by my own preferences, is how much this is about Medea, the monster, and how relatively little sympathy came up for Créuse (Mélissa Petit was excellent, not her fault at all!) by comparison. Créuse, at least as far as the play seems to tell us, is not the one to blame really for the events that are to unfold - yet it's Medea, the independent and strong character that captures the attention, that is front and center, albeit her doings are horrible beyond belief. This of course creates tension as well, which again is held back or counterbalanced ingeniously by Charpentier's music.

So yeah, great night at the opera!

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Tonight at the DSO

AKUB HRŮŠA conducts

MARTINŮ - The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca

BRITTEN - Violin Concerto

R. STRAUSS - Also sprach Zarathustra

Local reviews of the Thursday show (both of them!) were not enthusiastic about the Martinu & Strauss, but were knocked out by Frang's Britten. I was too, she brung it good on a piece that has a buttload of it to bring. Now I am intrigued by both her and it, their intensities and range were reciprocative, quite.

About the Martinu, all I can say is that according to the program, the DSO has not performed this piece since 1958. That's insane, but that's show business. It's a complex piece, but a supremely coherent one, and the reservations of the reviewers from Thursday seem to my ears to have been largely cleaned up by Saturday. It was, perhaps, a little timid overall, but jeesus, 1958? Really? Is anybody in the band then left alive? Or from the audience? I know we've upped the ante in terms of players the last few years, and surely some of them have played this before, but...more Martinu wouldn't hurt anybody,of course I speak for myself, but, you know, 1958?

Complaints about the Strauss had to do with generalistic conducting and an overall lack of shading. And yeah, still some of that, I saw eyes on the concertmaster a LOT, and the last passage was a little watery in terms of downbeats, and that was unfortunate. But still, this is a fun piece of music to listen to, it's like everything i needed to know i learned in kindergarten, well, everything you'll hear in this piece is in that world-famously recognizable and renowned introductory movement. it still makes me smile to hear how that works. I guess maybe if you've heard all the classical music in the world it might be old-hat, perhaps even corny, but it still tickels me to hear somebody composing like that, playing with themes like riffing on a few words, spinning them around and out and back in from kernel to riff to elongated phras3es and back again, i love it when that happens.

I did see something happen during that piece that I've never seen before - Hrusa was really cranking it along when FWEEEE, out comes his baton, out of his hand, up into the air like a pop foull, and BOINK right in the front row it lands. We're on the third row, and I forgot for a microsecond that this was The Meyerson, and not The Ballpark. But a cooler head prevailed. The guy it landed in front of, though, it took him a few seconds, but eventually he placed it back on the podium. Hruska kept churning along and then incorporated a swoop into his churn and reached down, picked it up, all without missing a beat, and then found a curnpoint to turn around and smile a thank you at the guy who had returned his baton, again without missing a beat. It was some funny shit, really, and even if that had happened on a record, you would only see it live, at least you could only believe the surprise and bizzarity if you saw it live. However, the returner was not acknowledged during the concluding bows, so c'mon dude, we all saw it, don't act like it didn't happen, the dude could have sent it to the organization a week later and ask that it be returned with an autograph, this is Texas, afterall, just sayin'.

I guess Hrusa's been here before, not that I've seen, but I haven't been going regularly but a few years now. One reviewer spoke highly of his past performances, says that the players like him, and that he's in the running to replace van Zweeden (which was why this reviewer was disappointed by what he heard). Nobody bitched about the way the band played the Britten, and I'm like, Martinu, 1958, didn't sound as bad to me on Saturday as it did to the reviewers on Thursday, so...I like that he's young, I like that he brings Martinu (1958!), and I like that he got a total win on the Britten. I don't like that his concertmaster had to do his job on the Strauss a little more obviously than necessary, and I don't like that the closing passages lost the pocket, and almost lost their coherence altogether, that's not good.

Nevertheless, whatever happened on the Strauss, Martinu & Britten were a meaty, substantial fare. Strauss was fun, and it was definitely an evening of music worth leaving home for. And oh yeah, Vilde Frang is a monster, comes on the stage looking like an evening-gowned waif on the verge of starvation, plays like the one person left who's gonna save the world from itself, and has a look in her eyes (remember, we were on the third row) the intensity of which I've seen equaled by only a handful of people, one of them being Betty Carter. So, yeah, check your local listings.



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Would've been there if, both, I had remembered (sorry I missed the Cage even tho I may have heard it done better live a few times before),
and secondly, if they had really played what the ads were touting: "Music From 2001: A Space Odyssey" (even in the same typeface of the original film poster!) I turned to Sharon the other night and said, "How can this be? No Ligeti, no Khatchaturian, no Johann Strauss? What is this "2001: ..." BS? Ninety seconds from a 2 and a half hour film?" - which was followed by "... uh, huh .. .yes, honey ..." 

A bit surprised that the DSO attempted any Martinů - I would think that they would've said, "that's what we have "Voices of Change" for..."
(with our very own classmate, percussionist Deborah Mashburn, whom I mentioned to you when you were here last).

The baton flip sounded memorable - just a bit pricey. :D 

Edited by rostasi

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10 hours ago, rostasi said:

if they had really played what the ads were touting: "Music From 2001: A Space Odyssey" (even in the same typeface of the original film poster!) I turned to Sharon the other night and said, "How can this be? No Ligeti, no Khatchaturian, no Johann Strauss? What is this "2001: ..." BS? Ninety seconds from a 2 and a half hour film?" - which was followed by "... uh, huh .. .yes, honey ..."


The baton flip sounded memorable - just a bit pricey. :D 

Yeah, that's what they do to John Williams movies and Final Fantasy soundtracks. On Pops concerts, though. I'd love them to do Ligeti on a Pops concert! World gone right, that would be.

But pricey? Not at all - the season-subscriber price comes out to under $15/ticket and comes with free parking which IS $15.00 (and that's a perk that's going away after this season...ouch). So if I had gone by myself, I would have actually made money on the ticket, not that it would be money I could actually spend, but you know, the kind of making money that slows down the rate at which you eventually go broke while you're doing stuff.


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Arvo Part — Credo

Mozart’s Requiem

Sarasota Orchestra with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Anu Tali, conductor 


I was unfamiliar with (and unprepared for) Part’s Credo. After all, it’s a relatively short number and I, like I expect most folks in attendance, was there for Mozart’s Requiem. But this thing is intense. A delicate piano line based on Bach C major prelude bookends what I can only describe as a fierce, terrifying, dissonant, full force onslaught.

As social commentary, it's a defiant swipe at Soviet ideology, and was promptly banned there. Structurally, it’s more than simply all frightening dissonance in the middle — there’s a structure there of course, based on Bach turned inside out and upside down, that’s well described elsewhere, but wow, for a piece that begins (and ends) so beautifully, this thing is intense. I actually started to have a physical reaction to it a little bit. Stomach tightens, grip tightening, eyes widen.

I’m going to have to listen to it more to get any kind of real handle on it, frankly. 

The Requiem was performed beautifully. Not that I’m an expert on the local band, but I’ve never heard them play so beautifully — and seamlessly, and sensitively with the soloists and choir. This was the final of four performances of this program, so the symbiosis was about as polished as they were going to get, I’d guess.

With the size of the orchestra slightly reduced from the Part Credo performance, the overall impression I got was that this was a somewhat sensitive, lighter treatment of the Requiem, meant to showcase the choir, which numbered about 26 singers evenly split male/female standing behind the orchestra. Soloists out front. All for the good. The balance was excellent.

I also thought, unless my eyes deceived me, that there's sections in there where the violins and violas are playing three different lines all at once. i suppose with Mozart, not unusual, but as others have noted, something you don't necessarily pick up on consciously without the visual. And then the sound and direction of those different lines stands out a bit more.

My fifth row dead-center seat afforded me what I would consider to be the optimal listening spot in the hall, but I’ve sat in similar seats for other performances by this orchestra and better (or at least more esteemed) orchestras, and few have sounded this good. … The house was packed, the audience was transfixed, an A+ performance all around. 

Speaking of which, JSngry, how are you enjoying your front and center seats at the Meyerson?

Edited by papsrus

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Third row center, actually, but I like them a lot. You don't get the "hall blend" but you do get the immediate sounds off the instruments, and you also get how they come back. More than once, I've noticed that conductors and soloists alike wait for the sound to come back to them before a pause is considered complete.

And for guest soloists, they're great. Pianists especially, because where we are, you here as much of the underside of the piano as you to the topside, and no two pianists sound alike with that level of detail available. It's also great for watching pedal techniques.

There are different experiences to be had in different parts of the hall (and the "nosebleed seats" are actually magical at times, the way the blend can come together in an ethereal swirl), but for what we can afford, and for the way I like to watch and listen, yeah, I'm quite happy.

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I agree with you. I enjoy the closer listening experience for just the high-impact and clarity, particularly with vocals, as was the case today.

And I've found those sometimes annoying "audience distractions" are largely absent when you sit reasonably close and in toward the middle. The sound is washing over you in such a way as you don't really notice anything else.

I recall being in the back balcony at what was then Avery Fisher Hall in NY and there were people doodling away on their cell phones. I moved to orchestra level at the break.

I should reiterate that one has to be particularly selective in our local, fan-shaped hall. The music just doesn't project well out into the upper reaches. Or even the middle reaches. Depending on what's being played and by whom, your experience can be that the music just stays on the stage, as if you're watching it on TV or something. Particularly if you're too far off to the side. Whereas close in, you're fully enveloped.  ---> And yeah, concertos work nicely up close.


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We have a rare twinight/home/away doubleheader this weekend.

First, the afternoon game - Dover Quartet in Ft. Worth. The buzzed me so much when the played Dallas in 2015 that when I saw this advertised, it was a no-brainer!



BARBER, String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11

SMETANA, String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, JB1:105

SHOSTAKOVICH, String Quartet No. 2


The home for the evening game:


HANS GRAF conducts

RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 4


Honestly, I don't know that I need that much Rachmaninoff in one day, especially after and afternoon of Dover, but hey, we already have the tickets, and travel is fun.



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On ‎12‎/‎19‎/‎2016 at 0:15 AM, A Lark Ascending said:

Snuck out for a late entry for the year: 


My band of the year - the Ligeti Quartet - doing a hour of seasonal music for all the family at Frith Hall in Sheffield.

A peculiar concoction of poems and various Christmas songs sung by the Sheffield University choir (including Joni Mitchell's 'River' which now seems to be an official Christmas carol) with suitably spiky quartet writing. Then a Malian folk tale with music adapted from West African balaphone music. An arrangement of a Tuvan throat music piece (with very jolly vocal grunts and shouts) - arranging Tuvan throat music for string quartet seems to be speciality of this quartet. Finally a reading of Dylan Thomas's 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' with the quartet providing musical illustrations along the way. 

All very jolly and perfect for the time of year. 

Coming to this over two months late, but that reads like a concert I would have loved to have attended.

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Should possibly put this in a devoted Nancarrow or Bang On A Can thread but 1) in case you've not seen this 2) imagine seeing this live?

I believe clarinetist Evan Ziporyn also did the arrangement


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Violin Concerto No. 1


Symphony No. 2

I love this shit. Band in the pocket, music of substance (the soundness of the physics of Brahms continues to jar...why did his music sound "boring" to me for so long...,I'm an idiot,, no other explanation), everybody serving the music because they get served back even better, I mean, if I had my life to live over, I would have paid more attention more sooner.

There were a few technical flaws, but nothing major, and certainly none of the brain or of the spirit. Is that not what we want out of music? Well, here it was. Live.

When it is, live is best.

I want another 61 years, please. More, if possible.

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Heard Roomful Of Teeth last night at SMU, part of the Dallas Chamber Music Socitety season. Wasn't sure what to expect, since the "marketing aura" of the group is pretty NPR-ish/World Wonderment (Here's all these sounds younever thought a voice could make! But other people in the world do make them! and now YOU can hear them! and I'm like, well, ok, sure, whate3ver).

But skepticism and cynicism were over come (and at times overpowered) by the sheer, simple power of a vocal octet singing the shit out of some interesting music They put that bass all the way in it, and they let those ethereal female soprano things rise all the way to past the top. Just incredibly strong resonances, not unlike a bigass pipe organ, only, you know, these are voices.

I thoroughly enjoyed the gig, and left kinda amped up. Voices are amazing when channeled in certain directions.

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Yeah, mikes!


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Nah, it's from an online review, Scott Cantrell.

A really invigorating gig, though. Me and singing is like me and dancing, I'm fundamentally defective at them, but in my heart...oh how I wish I wasn't.

Finally able to get the set lsit and personnel:

Partita for 8 Voices                                  Caroline Shaw            
            I. Allemande
            II. Sarabande
           III. Courante
           IV. Passacaglia
High Done No Why To
                             William Brittelle
Render                                                     Brad Wells
Cesca’s View                                           Rinde Eckert
Suonare / To Sound                                 Eric Dudley
Quizassa                                                  Merrill Garbus


Roomful of Teeth
Estelí Gomez, Soprano
Martha Cluver, Soprano
Eliza Bagg, Alto
Virginia Warnken, Alto
Thomas McCargar, Baritone
Avery Griffin, Baritone
Thann Scoggin, Bass-baritone
Cameron Beauchamp,Bass

Brad Wells, Artistic Director

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Check this out:

Whatever other things there are going on, I can say that between Gene Puerling & Brian Wilson, Bobby McFerrin, and Aarvo Part, I was more....ready for this type of concert than I had imagined! Yes, there will be NPR-ishness, but I can live with that plentily easily enough.


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I really enjoy watching you wander off the trail.

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The loud parts of this were really loud, and not because of the mikes, but because of eight people who know how to do that.

There's elements in this type of thing that get a little naive/touchy-feely for me,'s real, or sure seems to be.

42 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

I really enjoy watching you wander off the trail.

HA! Doesn't feel like wandering off as much as it does stepping back and seeing trails that have been there all along.

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Listening now to a near final version of Roscoe's Montreal - Toronto project. I am having trouble imagining the reactions to come. 

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Whatever other things there are going on, I can say that between Gene Puerling & Brian Wilson, Bobby McFerrin, and Aarvo Part, I was more....ready for this type of concert than I had imagined!

Zap Mama too...all those people who have been dealing with voices as sound, as texture, as percussion, as anything beyond (but including) using a singer to deliver a lyric (which is just as likely to be sentimental cultural propaganda as it is anything, not that there's anything wrong with that).

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Back from the DSO Sunday matinee -

PHILIPPE SLY bass-baritone

BACH - St. Matthew Passion (Matthäus-Passion)


Ah, NOW I see what it is they were thinking they were trying to do.

All these years, I was seeing the cloud thinking it was the sky. Bach lifts the cloud and goes straight to the light. Not that there's not some storm along the way...


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Tonight's consolation prize for not being able to go to Austin for Henry (not that he's going to be there now...)

Soundings: New Music at the Nasher

Jörg Widmann’s Complete Cycle of Five String Quartets
Complete Cycle of Five String Quartets featuring the Minguet Quartett and soprano Claron McFadden.
No idea what to expect, but I'm game. The Soundings series generally does right.

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