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papsrus

Concerts: previews / reviews

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I almost wish that somebody would book a classical (oh, ok, "new music") tour and book the band into bars, or, at least clubs of some kind. Not dives, but places where other things are going on, a joint where you can still listen, but not be afraid to order a drink or grab a bite while the action's going on. The right players playing the right music might actually enjoy the experience. Or not.

I do know that there was a bar in Dallas that actually had a "classical jam session night" for a whole. People would show up and play common repertoire, solos, duets, whatever with whoever. I was not incentivized to attend then, now wish I had been, would have been interesting to see how all that went down.

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I almost wish that somebody would book a classical (oh, ok, "new music") tour and book the band into bars, or, at least clubs of some kind. Not dives, but places where other things are going on, a joint where you can still listen, but not be afraid to order a drink or grab a bite while the action's going on. The right players playing the right music might actually enjoy the experience. Or not.

I do know that there was a bar in Dallas that actually had a "classical jam session night" for a whole. People would show up and play common repertoire, solos, duets, whatever with whoever. I was not incentivized to attend then, now wish I had been, would have been interesting to see how all that went down.

I agree. That would be fantastic!

There are sometimes recitals in offbeat places here. Not bars, but I walked into the middle of a Liszt piano recital once stepping through the door of a second hand shop. Small audience seated on one side, piano on the other, me coming through the door unaware stepping right in between them. Nothing to do but proceed into the store, which is the way they intended things, certainly.

That last YouTube you posted was terrific.

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This had a bit of buzz a couple of years back:

http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2012/mar/23/classical-clubbing-limelight-yellow-lounge

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/lucyjones/100058571/classical-music-just-got-cool/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limelight_%28classical_club_night_at_the_100_Club%29

Not sure if it has caught on. No string quartet clubs in Worksop. And I can't see any recent references.

Noel Gallagher needs to start name dropping Schubert; like I got intrigued by Yes name dropping Stravinsky or Henry Cow name-dropping Messiaen.

****************

If you are quick you can catch this in New York....or wait until late April for a Bradford-on-Avon set:

http://www.oae.co.uk/category/whats-on/?subsite=the-night-shift

The Night Shift ditches all the usual ‘rules’ of classical concerts. Grab a drink and enjoy a martini with your Mozart. Feel free to applaud, cheer, or (gasp) even whisper to your neighbour. Go to the bathroom half-way though. And actually be let back in afterwards. And get a rough guide to the music straight from the musicians on stage – everything is introduced by the Orchestra.

Sounds a bit comm-U-nist to me!

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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This had a bit of buzz a couple of years back:

http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2012/mar/23/classical-clubbing-limelight-yellow-lounge

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/lucyjones/100058571/classical-music-just-got-cool/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limelight_%28classical_club_night_at_the_100_Club%29

Not sure if it has caught on. No string quartet clubs in Worksop. And I can't see any recent references.

Noel Gallagher needs to start name dropping Schubert; like I got intrigued by Yes name dropping Stravinsky or Henry Cow name-dropping Messiaen.

****************

If you are quick you can catch this in New York....or wait until late April for a Bradford-on-Avon set:

http://www.oae.co.uk/category/whats-on/?subsite=the-night-shift

The Night Shift ditches all the usual ‘rules’ of classical concerts. Grab a drink and enjoy a martini with your Mozart. Feel free to applaud, cheer, or (gasp) even whisper to your neighbour. Go to the bathroom half-way though. And actually be let back in afterwards. And get a rough guide to the music straight from the musicians on stage – everything is introduced by the Orchestra.

Sounds a bit comm-U-nist to me!

Suppose it's only fair and right, as the new chairman of Carnegie Hall wants to bring in more Rock 'n' Roll, to the consternation of some.

:w

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Dresden Philharmonic, Michael Sanderling, conductor

with Johannes Moser (cellist)

Tchaikovsky -- Variations on a Rococo Theme Op. 33

John Williams -- Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha

(intermission)

Beethoven, Symphony No. 7

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

First, I should admit that I've probably in the past been a little too dismissive of the Van Wezel. The orchestra sounded wonderful. I suppose in contrast to the Arsht Center, where I attended the Cleveland Orchestra on Friday, with it's clear, reverberant acoustic, the Van Wezel today offered a warmer acoustic, and quite clear. Closing my eyes, the sound was right there in front of me. Perhaps it was the orchestra, perhaps my notions of the overall quality of the hall were too harsh to begin with. Whatever the case, a very solid, enveloping projection from the stage today. And I was up in the back of the house, center.

Moser was fantastic in the Tchaikovsky. Plenty 'o' fireworks, sensitivity, a little flair from the stage. The Williams' Geisha is an Asian-flavored piece, of course. Kind of odd listening to a German orchestra perform a piece like this, but Moser again took hold of his featured role with virtuosity. It's amazing watch someone with that kind of control over an instrument.

I don't know if this was the traveling band or what, but while Cleveland the other night numbered perhaps 90 to 100, Dresden today numbered about 60. Large string section, not much brass or woodwinds. The other interesting thing about the configuration of the orchestra was that for the first two pieces they were set up in typical fashion, with contrabass, cellos and violas on the right and violins primarily on the left (viewed from the audience), for the Beethoven they switched sides. And the four horns were split with two on the left side and two kind of on the right in the back. (The orchestra used a single riser platform for woodwinds, horns percussion in the back.

Anyways, I sensed they took the Beethoven 7th at a pretty good clip. Sometimes these touring bands can give somewhat flat performances -- another whistle stop. But while the audience received the first half of the concert with polite enthusiasm, it was a sincere standing O following the Beethoven 7.

William Tell Overture finale for the encore sent everyone off to the parking lot charged up and ready to lay rubber. Kind of funny sending a bunch of, lets say, senior folks out the door that way. German humor maybe?

All in all, a great time.

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Verdi Concert -- Sarasota Opera Orchestra, soloists and chorus

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but the Sarasota Opera has since 1989 been putting on at least one Verdi opera each season with the intent of performing the complete cycle. (This year it's Don Carlos, Paris version). They will finish the cycle next year.

As part of this obsession, the opera orchestra puts on a Verdi concert during the opera season. This year's concert featured the orchestra performing music from "Jerusalem," "Nabucco," "Un ball in maschera" and "Otello," followed by an intermission and more Verdi. Unfortunately I couldn't stay for the second half of the concert as I was playing hookie from work and had to return. (Fortunately for me, the opera house is three blocks from work).

Had a seat in the fourth row, dead center. First time I've not been in the balcony at the old opera house and while the singers certainly hit you full blast from that close range, and the orchestra sounded great, I think in the balcony you get a better overall balance. Nonetheless, a beautiful performance.

From my low perch I'd gauge the quality of singers we get for the main roles as pretty high. Not top level but certainly experienced, fully capable of wowing the audience and fully invested in the performances they give. Experienced. And most of those on stage tonight were from those main roles, so excellent singers.

It's entertaining watching them take on the personas of the characters they're singing, even though in a concert setting they're just on stage, not in costume, standing in front of the orchestra. They get into it.

The orchestra -- which was set up in a divided configuration that had violins split on each side, then the violas split on each side sitting behind the violins, and the cellos in the middle -- began alone for the variations and other pieces from "Jerusalem."

Soprano Kara Shay Thompson was powerful in performing an aria from Act II of "Nabucco." All lungs and actually had my ear drums fluttering on a couple of the high notes. Lots of power here.

In her aria from "Un ballo in maschera," soprano Michelle Johnson was somewhat less captivating than Thompson before her. Baritone Sean Anderson took his turn on another piece from "Un ballo," and was by comparison much more dynamic and imposing. Impressive.

The highlight of the evening for me were the pieces from "Otello." A beautiful, intertwining duet featuring tenor Rafael Davila and soprano Maria Antunez was simply mesmerizing. That was followed by eight soloists spanning the front of the stage with full chorus behind the orchestra performing the "Act III Finale written for Paris" to punctuate the first half of the concert with a fitting crescendo.

Disappointed I couldn't stay for the second half, but was quite happy to have enjoyed the first half.

Edited by papsrus

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La Musica Festival, Sarasota Opera House

Mozart -- String Quintet in B flat major
Claudio Cruz (violin), Federico Agostini (violin), Bruno Giuranna (viola), Daniel Avshalomov (viola), Julie Albers (cello)
Biilk -- String Quartet in Modus Lascivus (world premier)
Frederico Agostini (violin), Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Daniel Avshalomov (viola), Dmitri Atapine (cello)
Schumann -- Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op.47
Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Bruno Giuranna (violin), Antonio Meneses (cello), Derek Han (piano)
Outstanding. The festival attracts some really good musicians while trying to incorporate some local flavor. For this concert that local flavor was provided by the world premier piece by Biilk, who relocated to the area fairly recently. Don't know much about him other than he had some association with the University of Michigan and had composed both orchestral and marching band music as well as some film/television scores.
The Mozart was played beautifully. It's Mozart, and a piece that is characterized as marking some musical maturity for him, although still a teenager, and some independence as a composer.
The Schumann was my favorite -- beautiful melodies and interplay among the piano and strings, especially the third movement tinged with sadness but so damn gorgeous. Really breathtaking.
The Biilk, given his background, felt cinematic and modern. Very well put together with musical ideas that were clear and developed in a way that was straightforward. It was the first time he had heard the piece performed before an audience, and you could see he was thrilled as he took a bow with the musicians afterward. Very nice.
We sat in the upper balcony, forward, as is my usual preference. Very good sound and attentive audience. Although the orchestra level was mostly full, there was nobody in the balcony behind the first three rows. On the one hand, this affords great comfort and undisturbed listening. On the other hand I would have been happier had the balcony been full. The musicians, nonetheless, gave it their all and played wonderfully throughout.
A very fine concert. Going again Sunday afternoon. If circumstances permit, I may take in a few rehearsals as well.
EDIT: Oops. Mozart was quintet, not quartet. Math never my strong point.
Thanks Jeff!
Edited by papsrus

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I enjoy your reviews, James.

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Last evening was the final concert of the season by the Arizona Friends Of Chamber Music . The Berlin based Artemis Quartet performed. I was unfamiliar with this group prior to last nights performance.

They began with an excellent performance of Beethoven's String Quartet Op18/1.

It would be difficult to imagine that this delightful piece could be played any better than last nights version by the Artemis Quartet.

Next came Quartet No.5 by the Latvian composer Peteris Vaska. Though I am not a fan of most contemporary classical music, this piece composed in 2006 was more enjoyable to me than many other modern pieces I have heard.

After the intermission the Artemis played Quartet No.1 " From My Life" by Smetana. Listening to the Artemis Quartet do their magic with the deep emotional content of this magnificent piece was a thrilling experience that almost brought tears to my eyes a few times.

The Artemis Quartet played each piece with a combination of great technique, sensitivity, and serious intensity. It is a group I hope to have an opportunity to hear again. I also plan to look for recordings by this steller string quartet.

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At the Meyerson this evening:

Joshua Weilerstein conducts
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

ROUSE Iscariot (Dallas premiere)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4
Intermission
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3, Scottish

This will be my first time hearing the DSO tackling something composed past 1930 or so, definitely my first time hearing them play something by a still-living composer. My exposure to Rouse's work has to this point not induced too much more of a reaction than a few indifferent shrugs of shoulders, but on the stage is like in the playoffs, anything can happen!

Otherwise, just looking for a nice night out, fully expecting to have one.

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Rouse/Iscariot - significantly more style than substance in the music itself, although a timpanist beat the holy living shit out of a tympani with a wooden anvil the size of a ship;s anchor, and although the DSO executed flawlessly, and although the composition itself is chock full of meaningful signifiers as to what the music is telling us, I most respectfully call bullshit, because all that ends up being is soundtrack music with a showy pedigree. To perpetuate a cliche, there is not "there" there, no core. I can hear people saying "I guess I just don't like that kind of thing"...well, guess what, I DO like that kind of thing, but I don't like THAT thing. But who gets to go to a gig to hear enough of that thing of a thing to be able to recognize the difference, or even that there IS a difference? A piece that's supposed to be "about" personal betrayal, hell, this is America, we deal with deep personal betray every damn day we wake up, you know, what did Jimmy Ruffin say, "as I walk this LAND of broken dreams". right? It's not a house, it's not a street, it's not a region, hell, it's the whole fucking LAND that is fueled by betrayal, glimmerous spots of right being where you come in to get out of the rain for a little bit, not where you move in and settle down, It's going to take more than slow somber clusters and predictable dynamic arcs and "clever" harmonic juxtapositions to make me feel like why I am I hearing this without a movie being shown, and even then, I don't like movies all that much, especially he ones with acting, and what. this guy is COMPOSER IN RESIDENCE at the NY Phil? Well, I'm sure that's an apolitical process free of agenda. and every time I see/hear Iscariot the "new masterpiece"game is always getting pimped around in some form or fashion, like THIS IS THE TITLE THIS IS THE MUSIC HOW DO YOU NOT FEEL CRUSHED!!!!!!, but me, I remain staunchly unconvinced, not just of programmatic effectiveness, hell, like I said, America RUNS on betrayal, why is there a need for po(o)rtrayal but of the music itself,. Not buying any of that, any of it.

Ohlsson playing Beethoven, otoh....interesting. It looked boring, felt a little boring, actually, but this might well have been one of the...clearer elucidations of the piece I've heard, one that got me to thinking how Beethoven wrote this(and much of his earlier work) to play himself, and, frankly, with the hope that his performances would be buzz-worthy enough to sell sheet music Classic Pre-Record Business Record Business!. So I'm listening to Ohlsson running all these scales and arpeggios just as clean fast and carefree and could be done, and I'm thinking to myself, damn, this guy is blase, and then it hit me, no, wait, those would have been Beethoven himself playing this and Beethoven was doing the dazzle to sell the charts, and then *very soon, in fact) the music started doing the off-the-wall-harmonic sleight of ear things that Beethoven was DO adept at, and I almost started LOL-ing about imagining Beethoven himself composing this, saying do we really need more of this predictable fluff, we need to fuck with this a little but fatten it up a little bit, wake everybody up, So all these little things start happening, but remember, composer performs the debut, so it should be a tease, not an assault, we want people to be challenged, like how you want a woman to be at once put off by your impudence, yet intrigued by your confidence, and yeah, you know you got THAT one and... drift back to Ohlsson, and he's playing nothing to counter my image, but interestingly enough, he;s not presenting ANY alternative either. He's just playing with perfect execution and letting the music create its own image, and unlike the Rouse piece which preceded it, Beethoven's music has enough meat, spine, and core that that is all you really have to do - just ensure that you let it speak clearly and unambiguously, sometimes I think you can subtract from it by adding too much "interpretation", that;'s a fine line to walk, and with that thought, it became evident to me that Mr. Ohlsson had chosen that as his line to walk - that his interpretation was simple play the music, all the music, that Beethoven had written, and let you figure out where the places were when Beethoven must have been laughing impishly to himself for being the crowd pleaser, the places where he was laughing a little devilishly for being such a crowd teaser, and the places where he was laughing at the simple fact that he was one baaaaaad motherfucker, period, which is ultimately the only laugh there is when it comes to Beethoven,

Mendelsson was "delightful", of course, not dissimilar at all to a B-Grade Red Garland record...you could hear it 100 times and not get tired of it, but you could also hear any other number of things of its ilk, and notice the difference only if you were REALLY paying attention, and, c'mon now, would you be?

It was a nice night out. Good weather, good music, "critical thoughts" aside, I'm not so jaded (yet) that I don't enjoy a nice night out with my wife. Besides, seeing that man hit that timpani with that MONSTER beater, I swear to god, WHOA!

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Hilary Hahn recital at Orchestra tomorrow afternoon.

Cage Six Melodies

Lang light moving
Bach Partita No. 3 for Violin
Debussy Sonata for Violin and Piano
Auerbach Speak, Memory
Schumann Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano

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Hahn did a nice job on the Cage pieces from 1950, in the same bag as the String Quartet -- Satie-like, no vibrato. The Lang piece was brief and Reich-like. The Bach Partita was excellent, the Debussy merely OK; Hahn and her pianist Corey Smythe (also a jazz guy who has played with Braxton, Tyshon Sorey, et al.) didn't seem quite in synch in terms of dynamics; one would be too loud, then too soft, seldom together. The Auerbach was interesting but perhaps too brief; it and the Lang were among the series of encore pieces that Hahn has commissioned. The Schumann was superb; the dynamics disparity of the Debussy was solved from the first phrase, with Hahn really leaning into things with fitting Romantic schwung (no schmaltz though) and Smythe right there with her. A lovely piece, too, though the rather monothematic nature of all three movements might be taken as a sign of Schumann's growing obsessiveness/mental distress.

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La Musica Festival -- Sarasota Opera House

Brahms, Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 4

Eric Ruske, Jennifer Frautschi, Derek Han

Villa-Lobos, Trio for Violin, Cello, Piano No.1

Claudio Cruz, Antonio Meneses, Derek Han

Murphy, Piano Trio No.1, "Emotions" * WORLD PREMIERE *

Federico Agostini, Julie Albers, Derek Han

Brahms, String Sextet in G Major, Op. 36

Federico Agostini, Jennifer Frautschi, Bruno Giuranna, Rebecca Albers, Dmitri Atapine, Julie Albers

Bit of a mixed bag today. The Brahms horn trio that kicked things off was a bit thin, I thought. Disjointed maybe -- it's probably me, but there was something about the separateness of sounds of the three instruments (piano, violin, horn) that didn't quite come together for me. No flow. Nicely played and all, just ... not quite there.

The Villa-Lobos, who I had no familiarity with at all (Brazilian), was very good -- with beautiful, vibrant, flowing themes, haunting at times, lush piano darting here and there and everywhere. A lot of energy here. Enjoyed this one. Here's a YouTube link to another performance of the piece.

The third slot in the program was a composition by a young student from the area -- college-aged perhaps, but just barely, I think. And while pleasant enough, it was what you'd expect from a young student. Not a mature piece, let's just say. But kudos to him for putting himself out there and on the whole it was a worthy stepping stone in a young musical career -- something anyone can be envious of. I'm sure it was a thrill for him as he took a bow with the beaming musicians.

The best, by far, was saved for last. The Brahms string sextet was a truly elevated performance. You can sense almost instinctively when a performance -- the musicians, the audience, everything -- seems to come together in the moment and transports everyone involved to another level. This was that. The sound of the string sextet fully enveloped the house -- compared for instance to the first horn trio piece that opened the concert, which was thin in tone and almost hesitant or "by the numbers." This Brahms sextet was instead lush, flowing, the musicians fully engaged, in sync, the audience pretty much rapt. Certainly made up for the unevenness of the rest of the concert, and more.

All in all, a great afternoon of music.

A minor annoyance: Some dude arrived halfway through the first piece with two women in tow and they plopped themselves down a couple of rows in front of me and immediately started whispering back and forth, snapping open mint containers, giggling and chuckling away. The guy in front of me finally leaned forward and told them to "knock it off." They shut up from then on, but seriously -- arrive late, which is disruptive enough but OK, then talk and giggle through the music? I think they might have been there for the student's "world premier" cause they gave that number a standing ovation. In the end, no biggie.

Edited by papsrus

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Rehearsal (so, not a concert, but this thread seemed appropriate)

Ernst von Dohnanyi -- Serenade for String Trio in C major Op. 10

Federico Agostini, violin; Rebecca Albers, viola; Dmitri Atapine, cello

Mildred Sainer Pavilion of New College Florida

I wish I had familiarized myself with the piece beforehand. The passages played were no doubt some of the more technically challenging parts. And while I'm not familiar with the composer, judging from what I heard and the accompanying notes, Dohnanyi had a penchant for fireworks. To quote from the notes on this piece: "... A romanza follows, rewarding the viola with a thematic droit du seigneur, followed by a scherzo for which safety goggles and flameproof clothing are recommended."

The musicians didn't communicate with the sparse audience about which passages they were practicing, and being unfamiliar with the piece, I'd only be guessing, but it's quite possible parts of this flame-throwing scherzo were among the sections they practiced.

I sat front row, center, in the small auditorium, fine acoustics. Fascinating to listen to the three of them go back and forth about the nuances of how each of them should play -- individually, collectively, more forceful here, more forward movement there, let the viola elevate here, hold back the support there. A lot of the time they would speak in these sorts of non-technical terms about the music. "Let it flow forward here," "We need to hold (as in, embrace) the viola here," etc.

The other thing of note is that each suggestion that any of the three made about changes in tempo, attack, etc., were accepted and tried out. There was no, "Oh, I don't like that. Let's not try that." It was always, "Yes, ok let's try that." And so, with each run through a section (sometimes two or three, sometimes a half dozen) the music almost magically evolved into a more cohesive and unified sound.

Won't go on too much, but one thing's for sure. I need to search out this piece of music right away (won't be able to attend the performance, unfortunately). And the musicians are each outstanding -- Julliard, Yale, etc. No slouches, these three.

Nice way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.

Edited by papsrus

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Music of Beethoven, Shostakovich & Dohnányi

with the Modigliani Quartet

Monday, April 20 at 8pm

Caruth Auditorium, SMU

6101 Bishop Boulevard, Dallas 75275

Beethoven String Quartet Op. 18, No. 4 in C minor .

Shostakovich String Quartet No. 1

Dohnányi String Quartet in A minor

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Music of Beethoven, Shostakovich & Dohnányi

with the Modigliani Quartet

Monday, April 20 at 8pm

Caruth Auditorium, SMU

6101 Bishop Boulevard, Dallas 75275

Beethoven String Quartet Op. 18, No. 4 in C minor .

Shostakovich String Quartet No. 1

Dohnányi String Quartet in A minor

Nice program. More Dohnanyi. Be interested in your impressions of that one. Enjoy.

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As will I, as I'm not yet familiar with his work. :)

Becoming less enamored with Shostakovitch as time goes by, but not yet disillusioned. And Beethoven...the only time I've not had ears for Beethoven was that time from before I heard him for the first time, and that's been a bit of a while now.

Should be a nice evening out, looking forward to it.

Also looking forward to this on Friday evening: http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/engage/event?id=149&nomo=1

Music from Yellow Barn: Works for String Quartet and Percussion by Bach, Beethoven, Berio, Rzewski, Tan Dun, and Wood

Percussionist Ian Rosenbaum and the Parker String Quartet

And then this on May 20:

Music on the Brink of War

Music From Yellow Barn: Pierrot Lunaire with Soprano Lucy Shelton and Songs of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht with Actors Walter Van Dyk and Liza Sadovy

At a mere $20 a ticket, Soundings is by far the best non-local-artist classical concert value in town. That both players and concepts continue to be as top-shelf as they are makes it an almost criminal bargain...so...jail me!

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The Dohnányi piece was a very welcome and enjoyable surprise. The program notes led off making a big deal about how it was a tonal piece in a time where atonality was becoming all the rage, comparing it to Gershwin's Preludes as an example of a young man of that time looking over his shoulder, and I'm thinking, oh shit, not that, but no, fears unfounded. Tonal, yes, but stretchily so (very) and an earthy rhythmic muscularity, that, as a deeper reading of those same program notes pointed out, got pretty damn involved. Also heard a lot of thematic coherence/overlap/references/whatever between the three movements. A very rewarding listen, at least as truly rewarding as a real-time first hearing of something like this can be..."pleasing" might be a more accurate word, in the non-glib sense.

The Shostakovich...not so much. I heard the notes, they all fit together, but I just didn't feel any "there" there, as they say. Moms/Clem made the comment here a while back to the effect that so much of Shostakovich's music is startling in that once you got over how good it sounds, there's really not that much to it, and at the time I though that was a bit snide/too easy, but I'll call bullshit on Our Man In Provocation when I think there's a call to be made, and the more I listen to Shostakovich, the less near the phone is, if you know what I mean. Exceptions, of course, but not here.

And then, for the opener, there was Beethoven. Trite times call for trite people, so let me be one and summarize my feelings about Beethoven in as tritely and accurately was as I can muster - THAT guy!

I mean geez, some music is great, very little music is Great, and even less is Great Music, but Beethoven? Hell yeah, Beethoven - THAT guy! When you know what's coming and it still surprises you intellectually and emotionally...yeah.

I really don't know enough to make any meaningful "world-specific" comments about Modigliani themselves, but some personal impressions, nevertheless. First, perhaps most obviously, is that geez these guys are young (or young looking). Fashionable stubble on boyish faces in hipster allblack with plentiful hair up on top, and, I'm willing to wager, some quartet face-chorography being thrown out there, but they could have worked that angle a lot more than they did. Musically, they seemed to have a darker timbral quality than some of the other quartets I've heard, but that might just be an impression, not a reality. What I do know is that their blend was mesmerizing, just enough lead line to provide direction, but the inner parts very, very much given a full hearing just underneath the top.

There were some pretty interesting intonational choices made in some exposed parts as well as at key ensemble points as well. I remembered the first really serious classical player I hung out with once I had gotten out of school (aka an ADULT player) telling me, "Classical players play out of tune ALL the time. But it's not always when you think they are!" She's dead now, bless her, but those words have lived on...like Ornette famously said, sharp in tune/flat in tune, etc...it works everywhere where things need to be real, I think.

Also, what I always "knew" but had genuinely underlooked was the almost infinite variety of coloristic shadings that are available to string players through bowing techniques. It makes this tenor player jealous, actually. This season of attending chamber music concerts, hearing all that up close and personal, has really head-snapped me more than a few times, and tonight was certainly no exception. There were points in the 3rd movement of the Dohnányi where the violist, and then the 2nd violin took on a eerily uncanny flute sound, I mean played on a record as in-and-out background music, you may very well think it WAS a flute. Brenda said she heard an oboe once or twice in the same movement, and I didn't hear that, but my wife has significantly better ears than she gives herself credit for, and sometimes I'm so busy trying to hear everything all at once that I end up hearing nothing due to overload, so very well could have been that. Anyway, good stuff.

Last thing, about the youthfulness of this quartet - the DCMS season opened with the Takács Quartet, and that was a...weighty experience. Veteran players who have lived through enough music long enough to have made their decisions, true interpretations. Modigliani did not even attempt to deliver that type of performance, they would have had to have gone Show Biz to even attempt the illusion, I think. What they did do, and which was every bit as effective, and to my mind, meaningful, was to take a sober approach to the music, to let it speak for itself, and to be open to whatever revelations that might come at any given time. There felt like there was still a high ceiling for them as far as discovery, and I mean that in the exciting way, not the dismissive way. At least that's how it felt, that this was in no way going to be their final take on these pieces. They were relaxed, expert, confident, but in no way locked up.

The encore was a quartet arrangement of the Polka from Shostakovich's the Age Of Gold. It was effective, and it was concise.

Again, just impressions, in no way a critique. I don't know anywhere near enough about this world to even begin to "critique" anything. But at some level, performance practices and cultural background aside, music is music, and it is from that perspective that I speak, hopefully not in total ignorance. I will say this with absolute confidence though - live music and recorded music are two wholly different experiences, not just sonically, but environmentally, the whole "in the moment" thing is REAL, and finally figuring out that this applies to classical music, especially chamber music, as well as to jazz (or what used to be jazz used to be) is a figuring out it has taken me waaaaay to long to get to.

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(...)

I will say this with absolute confidence though - live music and recorded music are two wholly different experiences, not just sonically, but environmentally, the whole "in the moment" thing is REAL, and finally figuring out that this applies to classical music, especially chamber music, as well as to jazz (or what used to be jazz used to be) is a figuring out it has taken me waaaaay to long to get to.

I'm right there with you, having taken a swan dive from the high platform into "classical" (big umbrella) music just the past couple of years, except that you have the advantage or perspective of a practicing musician, and all that brings to the table.

Going to a rehearsal of the Dohnanyi string trio piece last week (referenced above) really opened my eyes about how much room there is for "interpretation" in chamber music. (Thus the counterbalance of the HIP movement, which seeks to perform these pieces without interpretation, but rather exactly as the composer intended, whatever that might mean). And I would guess this latitude for interpretation (outside the HIP movement) is particularly wide in chamber music, where each instrument has its own part in that conversation among the instruments -- each musician bringing their own insights and preferences to their parts, with elevating "the whole" very much at the forefront. In any case, all this adds up to this: the music you hear live at any given performance is very much in the moment and unique, as you describe. And (not to get too sappy) shared among musicians and audience.

With musicians coming and going and typically playing in more than one ensemble, I'd guess this sort of evolution of interpretation is pretty constant, even in longstanding groups, but perhaps even moreso in festival settings where you get musicians coming together from hither and yon learning how to play with one another in a relatively short period of time.

​Anyways, glad you enjoyed it. Check out that Dohnanyi Serenade for String Trio in C major, Op. 10, if you get a chance. At first blush, I'm less enamored of his piano quartets -- they sound like they could be anybody in that bag, if you know what I mean. Small sample size, but stripped of the piano something else emerges, judging by your and my impressions of two different string pieces of his.

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(...)

I will say this with absolute confidence though - live music and recorded music are two wholly different experiences, not just sonically, but environmentally, the whole "in the moment" thing is REAL, and finally figuring out that this applies to classical music, especially chamber music, as well as to jazz (or what used to be jazz used to be) is a figuring out it has taken me waaaaay to long to get to.

I'm right there with you, having taken a swan dive from the high platform into "classical" (big umbrella) music just the past couple of years, except that you have the advantage or perspective of a practicing musician, and all that brings to the table.

Bold added, because that's true but only up to a point. It works on some aspects of the music, but for things interpretational, there's a real "shock" I still get from live classical. The way I've played music, there has been one set of "right" for things like timbre, attack, blend, and, especially, pitch (not even going to deal with volume here, that's a bigger thing than all of us). The music I've worked the most in/on has always spoke in terms where our goals coalesced into one esthetic about performance practices/goals/ideals, and performers in these musics have an altogether different esthetic about stuff like that.

The idea of hearing so many notes played so "perfectly" in tune...if you've spent your time developing a playing voice that embraces "roughness" and pitch that is purposely fractional and frictional, pitches that go between the lines and rhythms that do the same, to hear this music - meaty music indeed -executed live with an entirely different esthetic, is very much a bucket of cold water to the face, albeit an immensely pleasurable one. Overtones working in an entirely different way than in "our" music. With strings, and all the possible outcomes there, wow...it's an inspiration to hear a whole other set up possibilities than the ones in your own imagination coming to life just a few feet away, ya' know? I've known classical player to get that from jazz, no good reason at all for it not to go the other way as well.

Meaningful takeaway - one can either fret about different techniques being put to different uses, or one can be invigorated by different techniques being put to the same core use - to communicate an idea in its own language as clearly and effectively as possible. And of course, the better the idea, the better technique/execution it deserves.

And this - the most bottom line of bottom lines - hearing great musicians getting involved in playing great music there on the stage/bandstand/wherever, confronting it, and doing their damnedest to make it work as well as it can be made to work (and not willing to settle for where that is), that's about as big a vicarious thrill as life has to offer...and if you allow yourself to get into the music as its happening, it's anything but vicarious.

I've yet to come home from one of these concerts not pumped up and unable to get to sleep at my regular hour. Even an excellent but perfunctory DSO set stirs the life in me.

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Also looking forward to this on Friday evening: http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/engage/event?id=149&nomo=1

Music from Yellow Barn: Works for String Quartet and Percussion by Bach, Beethoven, Berio, Rzewski, Tan Dun, and Wood

Percussionist Ian Rosenbaum and the Parker String Quartet

Holy shit, talk about a night of music...let me see if I can type all this correctly without giving up..

The doors did not open until the "performance experience" began, which was, ok, maybe "attitude for "classical" but...nothing new there for me, it happens at wedding receptions all the time, and Quartet Out was not at all averse to starting playing outside the room and then walking in on the audience. So..."cute". Whatever.

The music played during all this was an electronic piece by Jonathan Harvey, Mortuous Plango, Vivos Voco. It was nice, but I felt I was being maybe being subject to a manipulated "mood" that I really didn't need to be manipulating into.I went there knowing what to expect, generally, they had me at "Berio", dig?

During all this, the performers were seated on the front row, and once the piece stopped and everybody was seated/stopped talking/etc., the took the stage, and then shit started getting good in a big hurry.

The program was presented in medleys of sorts, sometimes with a very unclear pause between the end of one piece and the beginning of another. That might have been a gimmick, but I didn't feel it like that, especially when the pieces were of a similar enough nature that it took a while to tell that, hey, this is not the same piece we started out with. That "de-objectifying" of composer/composition works for me (as does the more traditional presentation), because there's not really any pivot point to tell you to start "thinking" about any of it. You're "there" at all times, and it's either getting to you or it's not...kinda like putting Wynton on an Organissimo BFT, my god, what if don't know it's Wynton and actually you LIKE it. :g

Anyway, the first set was two medleys of this nature:

Medley #1.1 -

  • An excerpt from Webern;s Three Bagatelles
  • Eight Colors For String Quartet by Tan Dun

I'm coming around on Webern, slowly but surely, and it helps me when I here it performed as here, with a lack of the..."angst" that I seem to get out of so many older performances. I get why that was the way it was, and I get that maybe being Relax And Enjoy It with Webern might not be a universally embraced notion, but..it's working for me at this point.

The transition to the Tan Tun was less than immediately obvious, and I hadn't really looked at the program notes beforehand, but at some point I was like, whoa, this is not Webern, this is like...Chinese Webern or something...and in a delightfully "warm" way. I only know a little bit of Tan Dun's work, but the language used was a real headsnap, and the Parker Quartet was on it like white on rice (as they used to say). Totally, totally enjoyable music, and I definitely feel the need for some more Tan Dun.

Medley #1.2 -

  • Tawnie Olson - Meadowlark
  • Tawnie Olson - The Blackbird at Evening
  • James Wood - Deploration sur la Mort de Gerard Grisley

Total loss here as to which was which or what or when, but from reading the program notes during intermission, it appears that the Wood was the focus of the medley, and there seems to have been a lot of math involved in the composition, but I didn't hear math, I hear from and development. There's almost always some math in music, it's a pretty shaky state of affairs when there's not, but if it's not the first thing I either hear or remember during/after, I'm happy. I was happy and still am. It also appears that Olson's works were two pieces for solo marimba (with and without electronic modification), and they were interesting (and expertly executed, Rosenbaum is one helluva player). Don't know how aggressively motivated to check out more of either of these composers, but I am in no way de-motivated, either, not at all, although...Wood more inviting than Olson, measurably so, in fact. Still - living composers, 21st Century compositions, if not now, when?

Then there was the break, and they played a break tape. They played a break tape at a classical concert. They played a break tape at a classical concert and listed it in the program. It was music by Jeff Beck, John Lee Hooker, John Catler (who I though was Blood Ulmer until his math got obvious, which didn't take that long), and Radiohead. Gimmicky, perhaps, but if anybody on the stage was under 35, I'll eat Jimmy Durante's hat, and if anybody on it was under 30, I'll put bad ketchup on it before I do. So...this is not your grandfather's "classical music" in either content or attitude (which is all for the best, because I don't think either of my grandfathers had any classical music, although I'm told that my maternal grandfather enjoyed some fiddling for his own amusement).

For some of y'all in Major Metropolitan Areas, this is probably old hat by now. For us/me here, not so much. Not sure if needed/effective (like I said, they had me at "Berio", I do NOT need any of tat, especially Jeff Beck playing "A Day In The Life", to stay for the second set), but...there it was.

Second set was three medleys.

Medley # 2.1

  • Harry Partch arr. Ben Johnston from Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales Olympos' Pentatonic.
  • Luciano Berio - Naturale

Familiar with Partch in a "general" sense, only recently have become introduced to Johnston, and...how much more time do I have left to learn about all these things...not enough, no matter how much it is. Sad if you want it to be, but also motivating as hell, and that's a good, happy thing. I feel like a hick with this music sometimes, at least relative to the personal experiences I've had with jazz (and party bands!...alas, not always the same thing...), but...we are where we are when we're there, or something. Anyway, onward.

Berio...jesuschrist, Berio...how long was that piece,you say? Ohhh.... about six feet or so, I'd wager. HAR HAR HAR. But seriously... I don't know if violist Jessica Bodner gave anything resembling a "definitive" reading of the piece or not, but that's what's cool about stuff like this, I don't think it's been played/heard/processed enough by either player or listeners yet for there to ba a "definitive" ready yet, there's still alot of room left for interpretation (literally and figuratively). All I can tell you is that Bodner played the living shit out of it, Rosenbaum was right there with her, they were both right there with the taped vocal, and it gripped me in a way that had not yet occurred this evening. Not that the previous music, not that the other things had been "inferior", but just...Berio. Gottamn it, BERIO! People ask me sometimes, what do you want out of life, Jim, and right now, I'm thinking the correct answer might as well be "more Berio, please!"

Medley #2.2 -

  • Harry Partch arr. Ben Johnston from Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales Study on "Archyta's Enharmonic"
  • Beethoven - Grosso Fuga

This second Partch/Johnston thing was obviously microtonal (which was sort of a "theme" for the evening, although to what extent, or how much of that was Partch, how much Johnston, I have no idea. I dug it,though, short as it was. This whole area of microtonal mathematics...I don't know if I'm intellectually able to absorb the math, all I know is that the results are very pleasing to my ear far more often than not. again, so much more left to learn...

And Beethoven. THAT guy. And THAT piece. Holy shit. Right from jump, it was like, wow, all this 20th/21st Century stuff that had come before, it's all here, right freaking here, just waiting to be dissected, isolated, magnified, everything. And even without that aspect...WHOA!

Can't say that the Parker quartet gave it the "best" reading I've ever heard (unlike Berio, Beethoven has definitely been around long enough for there to have been some conclusions more or less drawn, but...you see how long that's taken, and still, maybe some significant wiggle room still to be discovered, perhaps?), but they got in there with it, and really, what else do you want out of a live performance? Some of the greatest music ever created re-created with a high level vim/vigor/vitality, hey, I'm happy. I was happy a lot during this gig.

The Beethoven got them a Standing O from the older attendees (and discouragingly but perhaps not surprisingly, about 30-40% of the audience did not return after intermission), but they still had a little left on the program.

Medley #2.3 -

  • Webern - another piece from Six Bagatelles
  • Frederic Rzewski - To The Earth

Webern was again appealing...either I'm starting to "get it", maybe this is the type of the interpretation, maybe a little bit of both, who knows/care. Whatever. I heard it, and I dug it. That's enough.

I know Rzewski mostly from his collaborations with Braxton, so really did not know what to expect out of this one. Turns out it was a solo percussion piece, only the percussionist is playing four tuned flower pots while simultaneously chanting reciting a "new age-y" poem to "Mother Earth", and ok, before you start puking/gagging, that's what I though when it started up, but soon realized that A) the flower pots were creating a nice gamelan-like effect; B) again, Rosenbaum is one hell of a player, he executed the very specific demands of the percussion part perfectly while also executing the at times cross-rhythmic vocals seamlessly; and most importantly for me C) This whole thing very quickly began to resemble a biblical Psalm in lyrical content, and we know that Psalms were meant to be sung (or at least, "sung") and probably had instrumental accompaniment. So is it really THAT goofy/ill-advised/whatever to have a "song of praise" accompanied by a pentatonic tuned gamelan-esque type sound? Not at all, I have to say, not at all. A fine line perfectly walked, imo.

The theme of the whole presentation was explicitly "microtonality" in all of its manifestations, and the director of the series gave a little introductory "few words" in the lobby before the doors opened to the effect that "microtonality" is a scary word that scares people off by its association with coldness of math, etc. but that he was having lunch with one of the quartet members today and they told him that after playing this stuff for a whole that ALL music sounded microtonal now, and I think that was the point of the break tape, but...as I mentioned here a few days ago, one of the biggest rushes for me in hearing a traditional ensemble play the traditional repertoire is the thrill of hearing perfectly "in tune" passages. That's not how I've heard, ever, nor still. I've never not thought of pitch as malleable/interpretational, nor have I ever lived in a world where "non-traditional techniques" were in fact non-traditional to one degree or another. I grew up on big bands, hillbillies, rock (and roll), jazz, everything except "perfectly in tune". They tried to break me in school, and I tried to get broken, but, jeez, no going over to the other side on that one, the wiring is just not there. So, although I could relate to the intent of soothing potential anxieties (which didn't work all that well, based on how many people left at intermission), I could not relate to the need to even consider it being a need in the first place. But the sociology of the whole evening would have been interesting enough had the music not delivered. And the music most assuredly did deliver.

However - fullest frontal affection to the guy for presenting this program, and allthewaymusicsexlove to the Parker Quartet and Ian Rosenbaum for knowing that suretheyright and for bringing it accordingly.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but...it was an exciting night, and these are my immediate post-concert impressions, in full, file under "FWIW". At least you didn't have to ride home with me. :alien::excl::rfr

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Heh heh. Yeah. A full meal indeed, sounds like. With plenty of side dishes.

As for the folks who decided to leave at intermission, I often find the most compelling performances come after intermission, for whatever reason -- the place is loose, everyone's settled into the rhythm of things, the musicians are up and ready to finish with flourish. Whatever the reason, it's almost never a good move to split at intermission, for purely selfish reasons, never mind just out of respect for the performance.

But, sometimes you've got to go. Back to work or whatever. I've had to bug out early on a few occasions, but never have been happy about it.

Edited by papsrus

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Anybody who has to get back to work at 8:15 on a Friday night is either a musician, a server, or a professional concert leaver. :) .

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