Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chronicle of January 2008

January 1

Radiohead's In Rainbows, available online for almost three months on a pay-whatever-you-want basis, is finally available in record stores, with a list price of $13.98. "One matter remains: will anyone buy the CD? . . . Though hailed by critics, the album is seen as an uncertain prospect commercially. That is because the band has declined to say how many copies have been distributed since October" [Jeff Leeds, The New York Times, 1/1/08].

January 4

Death of composer Mort Garson (b. 1924, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada), of renal failure, at 83. San Francisco, CA. "[His] greatest fame came fusing the Moog synthesizer with orchestral music. . . . He attended the Juilliard School of Music . . . and was inspired to write a work for orchestra about 10 neighborhoods, which he called San Francisco Suites" [Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/16/08].

January 5

Death of Irene Reid, of cardiac arrest, at 77. New York, NY. "[She was] a singer who toured and recorded with Count Basie's band and appeared on Broadway in The Wiz" [Peter Keepnews, The New York Times, 1/12/08].

January 6

Kile Smith's Vespers premiered by Piffaro. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA. "[T]he synthesis devised by Philadelphia-based composer [Fleisher Collection curator,] and WRTI radio personality Kile Smith for his ambitious 80-minute Vespers . . . updated the clock, with music that joined hands with centuries-old Lutheran hymn without the fakery of attempting some sort of musical time travel. The results are thoroughly engaging, sometimes ecstatically beautiful -- and evidence of fine compositional talent blessed with inspiration and strategy. This practice of making ancient things modern is more common in Europe, but few such endeavors by Peteris Vasks, Giya Kancheli or Arvo Part have Smith's lyrical immediacy and ability to find great musical variety while maintaining an overall coherent personality" [David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/8/08].

January 7

Death of Boris Lurie (b. 1924, Leningrad, Russia), of kidney failure, at 83. New York, NY. "[He was] a Russian-born artist who survived the Holocaust and then depicted its horrors while leading a confrontational movement called No! Art. . . . In 1959, along with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher, he formed a group that began exhibiting at the March Gallery. Their work, which appeared in displays with names like the Doom Show and the Vulgar Show, was intentionally jarring and provocative. . . A 1952 etching by Mr. Lurie, for instance, combined a swastika and a Star of David. A 1959 work, Railroad Collage, superimposed an image of a partly dressed woman over anther image of corpses stacked on a flatbed rail car. 'We are not playful!' Mr. Lurie wrote in a statement for a show in Milan in 1962. 'We want to build art and not destroy it, but we say exactly what we mean -- at the expense of good manners.' . . .
The artists gave a name to their movement [in 1963] . . . at the Gallery Gertrude Stein in Manhattan. That work was meant to be a rebellion against Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art as well as a protest against dehumanizing influences like fascism, racism and imperialism. 'They were saying no to a world that was saying yes, buy more, spend more,' said Ms. Stein [!] the gallery owner. . . . Lurie, the last survivor of the three artists who started out at the March Gallery, left no immediate survivors.. He continued to make art through the 1970's and 1980's but took part in only a handful of shows during those decades, all overseas. In 1993 the Clayton Gallery on the Lower East Side organized the first American show in 29 years to display Mr. Lurie's work. . . . His work is included in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington" [Colin Moynihan, The New York Times, 1/12/08].

Jeremy Denk in Charles Ives's Concord Sonata, Elliott Carter's Piano Sonata (1946), and Leon Kirchner's Piano Sonata No. 2 (2003). Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, PA. "Though this cannot be proved, Jeremy Denk probably holds the record for playing the most notes in a two-hour Philadelphia piano recital . . . built around . . . [the] Mount Rushmore-like Concord Sonata in a performance that was the most fully realized I've heard in concert or on recordings. . . . A program for critics, in effect -- though this one felt a bit trapped . . . in moments when Denk's steely fingers and the music's boulder-like sonorities made the air feel, well, crowded. . . . [E]ven Bach leaves him more enthralled with the physicality of the playing. . . . Carter's . . . can be a Coplandesque walk in the park -- when undersold (if only a bit} . . . Denk . . . seemed to shove [the work] back toward the cutting edge with bright, metallic sonorities" [David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/9/08].

January 9

The Jewish Americans. PBS. "These six hours . . . dwell in deeper detail on familiar names . . . [including Irving Berlin, who was a cantor's son who became the nation's new standard-bearer, writing God Bless America and even White Christmas" [Ned Martel, The New York Times, 1/9/08].

January 10

Lark Chamber Artists in Jennifer Higdon's Soliloquy and Scenes from the Poet's Dream. Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY

January 11

Kings of Crescent City, with music of Louis Armstrong (including West End Blues), King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton (including Hyena Stomp). Rose Theater, New York, NY.

Ensemble ACJW in Alan Hovhaness's Mountains and Deserts Without End and Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Paul Recital Hall, Juilliard, New York, NY. "There are 10 players: a wind and brass quintet, a harpist and four percussionists. . . . Hovhaness . . . loved big, often violent contrasts, with slender, modal-flavored reed solos set next to sudden pounding drums. Hovhaness also liked the spaces between conventional pitches . . . . [Flute, oboe, and clarinet] take on the properties of Asian wind instruments and their non-Western attitudes toward pitch . . . [Trumpet and trombone] are similarly slippery but with a happy American forthrightness. . . . Alan Pierson prepared Mountains . . . but sat in the audience, evidently conducting by remote control. . . . Like the title, these eight movements [of Quartet] . . . . are neither old nor new. . . . The music exists outside, far beyond the politics of 20th-century composing. Any idea of avant-garde or reaction is rendered meaningless. . . . Messiaen is both hypnotic and hypnotized. . . . Andrew Beer was the violinist for the composer's piece-ending climb toward his own private heaven" [Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 1/14/08].

January 12

New York Philharmonic in Music4 Story: Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Rajon Herbert's Fairy Mount, Edward Pichardo's Wild Glissando, Claire Wegh's Instrumental Conversation, Nathan Mannes's Traveling the N.Y. Streets, Abraham Pagan's Storm, and Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY. "The audience perked up when the orchestra played five brief, vibrantly imaginative works created by fifth and sixth graders in the Very Young Composers program. . . . One of Strauss's most child-friendly works, it still couldn't retain attention at the end of a long concert with no break" [Steve Smith, The New York Times, 1/14/08].

Winter Jazzfest. Knitting Factory, New York, NY.

January 13

Globalfest 2008. Webster Hall, New York, NY.

Gail Archer in Olivier Messiaen's La Nativite du Seigneur, as part of the centenary celebration of the composer's birth. Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York, NY.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Edgar Meyer's Serenade. Society for Ethical Culture, New York, NY.

January 14

The Mars Volta. Terminal 5, New York, NY.

January 15

The producers of Jonathan Larsen's Rent announce its upcoming closure, after the evening performance of June 1. New York, NY. "Nine hundred thirty thousand, one hundred eighty minutes. That's how you measure the total running time Rent will have played on Broadway . . . making it the seventh-longest--running Broadway show in history" [Campbell Robertson, The New York Times, 1/16/08[.

January 16

John Adams's Christian Zeal and Activity (1973), Gavin Bryars's Sinking of the Titanic (1969), and Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver (2005), performed by the Wordless Music Orchestra. Church of St. Paul the Apostle, New York, NY. "Popcorn . . . [is] a gritty, energetic string orchestra work. . . . named for a shortwave radio, as a study in white noise . . . But it also contrasts old and new technologies: white noise is approximated by antique instruments made of wood, horsehair and catgut. And where pure white nose is an undifferentiated hiss, Mr. Greenwood's score, even at its most densely atonal, has a consistently alluring shimmer and embraces everything from lush vibrato glissandos and sudden dynamic shifts to slowly rising chromatic themes. Toward the end his clusters give way to a prismatic full-orchestra pizzicato section: imagine the scherzo of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony on steroids, or acid, or both" [Allan Kozinn, NYT, 1/18/08].

Juilliard Vocal Department presents A Modern Person's Guide to Hooking Up and Breaking Up, featuring Frank Loesser's Standing on the Corner, Christopher Berg's Is It Dirty and My Little Green Cactus, William Bolcom's I Knew a Woman and At the Last Lousy Moments of Love, Justine F. Chen's Internal Monologue Drinking Song, Ed Kleban's Do It Yourself, James Sellars's JNNY, Gabriel Kahane's Neuroic and Lonely, Adam Guettel's Light in the Piazza, Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango, Peter Winkler's Tamara, Queen of the Nile, Andre Previn's Vocalise, and music of Leonard Bernstein, Paul Moravec, Kurt Weill, Olaf Bienert, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. Juilliard, New York, NY.

January 17

Death of chess master Bobby Fisher (b. 3/9/43, Chicago, IL). Reykjavik, Iceland. "A few years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, obtaining F.B.I. records under the Freedom of Information Act, . . . found compelling evidence that Bobby Fischer's father was not the man named on his birth certificate, but a brilliant Hungarian scientist, Paul F. Nemenyi, with whom his mother had an affair. . . If that identification is accurate, the paradoxes of Mr. Fischer's virulent anti-Semitism become still more profound, since Mr. Nemenyi, like [his mother Regina] Wender, was Jewish. . . . The gift of early insight into chess or math or music is often also accompanied by a growing obsession with those activities, simply because of the wonders of connection and invention that unfold in the young mind. . . . At least in mathematics and music, we may be grateful . . . that ultimately, with the coming of maturity, the world starts to put constraints o abstract play. Great music attains its power not simply though manipulation and abstraction, but by creating analogies with experience; music is affected by life, not cut off from it" [Edward Rothstein, The New York Times, 1/19/08].

Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble in Pierre Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maitre and Sur Incises, conducted by the composer. Zankel Hall, New York, NY. "In 1952 Pierre Boulez wrote that 'any musician who has not felt. . . the necessity of the dodecaphonic language is of no use.' A year after this youthful, narrow-minded declaration, Mr. Boulez indulged his open-minded interest in the music of foreign cultures by evoking non-European sounds in a chamber work featuring a groundbreaking combination of instruments. . . . The sonorities in [Marteau], a homage to Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, are often bewitching. But the exotic sounds are still part of Mr. Boulez's stern serialist language, and the piece sometimes feels interminably static. Bu the opposite is true of Mr. Boulez's riotously kaleidoscopic Sur incises written more than 40 years later and scored for an equally unusual lineup of three harpists, three pianists and three percussionists. The often relentlessly driven, exuberant piece (based on Incises, an earlier short piano work) is sometimes so exhilaratingly intense hat you're almost grateful for the intermittent periods of sonorous calm, as if you were retreating into a quiet corridor from a room crammed with brilliant people shouting out ideas at full blast. The 'Organized delirium (as Mr. Boulez calls it) of Sur Incises demonstrates a remarkable mellowing of the organized tedium of early serialism. It was certainly hard to imagine Mr. Boulez, dapper and charming as he amiably chatted with [host Ara] Guzelimian, as the polarizing firebrand he once was. 'I like virtuosity not for the sake of virtuosity but because it's dangerous,' Mr. Boulez said" [Vivian Schweitzer, NYT, 1/19/08].

Ursula Oppens Celebrates Elliott Carter. Symphony Space, New York, NY.

Opening of David Mamet's play November. Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York, NY.

Alexander Scriabin's Symphony No. 4 ("Poem of Ecstasy") (1905) performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY.

January 18

Kelly O'Connor sings William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs and Waitin'. Weill Recital hall, New York, NY.

New York City Ballet in Traditions, including Sergei Prokofiev's The Prodigal Son. New York State Theater, New York, NY.

Paul Haas and the New Century Chamber Orchestra in Rewind, including Alfred Schnittke's Violin Concerto, Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella and Suite for Small Orchestra No. 2, Aleksandre Raskatov's Five Minutes from the life of WAM, and Arnold Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, San Francisco, CA. "The program ran nearly two hours in a single unbroken stream. The repertoire consisted of a dozen or so short pieces, ranging from the 17th century to the 21st, all pasted together with musical connective tissue written for the occasion. . . . [R]etrospective snippets that were interlaced with the main repertory work, three contemporary composers -- DJ Mason Bates, Joshua Penman, and Judd Greenstein -- would rehash the music the audience had just heard, fragmenting it, reassembling it or turning it to another direction. Some of the Rewinds were literal samplings, like Bates' electronic collage drawn from the just-completed performance of Stravinsky's Suite . . . . Others were newly composed, like Greenstein's afterward to Verklarte Nacht, which isolated and expanded on the work's final chord" [Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/21/08].

January 19

Death of Andy Palacio, of respiratory failure after a stoke and heart attack, at 47. Belize City, Belize. "[He was] a bandleader and songwriter who spearheaded a revival of the Garifuna music of Central America. . . . The Garifuna (pronounced ga-RI-foo-nah) are descendants of West African slaves who were shipwrecked in 1635 off the coast of what is now the island of St. Vincent and intermarried with local Arawak and Carib people. Garifuna villages arose on the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. There are now an estimated 250,000 Garifuna people worldwide, a minority culture under pressure from assimilation and coastal development" [Jon Pareles, The New York Times, 1/21/08].

Death of John Stewart, of a brain aneurysm, at 68. San Diego, CA. "[He] wrote the Monkees' hit Daydream Believer . . . [and] came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the folk group the Kingston Trio" [The New York Times, 1/21/08].

The Drum Is the Thunder, the Flute Is the Wind, presented by the Kevin Locke Native [American] Dance Ensemble. Symphony Space, New York, NY.

January 21

Grand Piano Marathon. Gyorgy Ligeti's Poeme Symphonique for 100 metronomes (1962), John Adams's Hallelujah Junction, Michael Riesman's transcription of three movements from the Philip Glass Dracula (1998), Frederic Rzewski's Piano Piece No. 4 (1977), Martin Bresnick's Dream of the Lost Traveler (1997), William Bolcom's Ballade (with Ursula Oppens). Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY.

January 22

Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 ("Jeremiah") performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Christophe Eschenbach. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.

January 23

Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry. Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ. "Aldridge incorporates gospel music and hymns into a classical idiom, as Carlisle Floyd and Gershwin weaved the vernacular into their operas. . . . Though unlikely to have atheists on their knees, the opera is a tunefully entertaining and thoughtful piece of theater" [Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times, 1/25/08].

American Songbook. Deborah Voigt sings music from Mary Poppins, Mame, Jerome Kern's Sweet Adeline, the Robert Wright / George Forrest Kean, Ingenue (Wally Harper / David Zippel), and of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Kurt Weill, and Stephen Sondheim. Allen Room, New York, NY.

Richard Foreman's play Deep Trance Behavior in Pototoland. St. Mark's Church, New York, NY.

New York City Ballet in Passages, including Oltremare, (with music of Mauro Bigonzeni), George Gershwin's An American in Paris, and Jean Sibelius's Waltz Triste. New York State Theater, New York, NY.

January 24

San Francisco Symphony in Olivier Messiaen's L'Ascension. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA.

Gershwin's Porgy and Bess set on Katrina-like flooded rooftops. Austin, TX.

January 25

American Songbook: A Leonard Bernstein Songbook. Allen Room, New York, NY.

Focus! 2008 Festival: Elliott Carter, conducted by Pierre Boulez, including Carter's Triple Duo (1982) and Penthode (1984-85), Boulez's Derive I, and Edgar Varese's Integrales. Peter Jay Sharp Theater, The Juilliard School, New York, NY. "Carter . . . will turn 100 in December" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 1/28/08].

January 26

Fort Worth Symphony in Osvaldo Golijov's Mariel (1994). Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.

January 27

Met Chamber Ensemble in Arnold Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces and Pierrot Lunaire, Anton Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments and Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, and Alban Berg's Four Pieces for Clarinet. Zankel Hall, New York, NY.

John Corigliano Festival. Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, NY.

Xiao Bai's Farewell My Concubine. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY.

Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman, in the Philadelphia premiere [!] of Pierre Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maitre. Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA. Repeated 1/28, Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore [PA]. "10 rehearsals . . . probably will be just enough, said Boulez, 82 . . . [T]he Philadelphia premiere -- hatched because . . . Freeman simply decided it was about time -- left Boulez visibly pleased. . . . 'I'm surprised [the piece hasn't been done in Philadelphia] but also surprised for the good. . . . I write what I think is for me necessary to write. And I try to give performances that justify what I've written. After that, what can you do?'" [David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/24/08].

January 29

Richard Thomas's Jerry Springer: The Opera, with Harvey Kettle. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY. "Will it turn out that the great American musical of the early 21st century is an opera born in Britain? A convincing case for the rights to the title was made" [Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 1/31/08].

January 30

Loren Maazel conducts the New York Philharmonic, with Synergy Vocals, in Luciano Berio's Sinfonia. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY. "Sinfonia . . . is . . . emblematic of the 1960s. . . . Maazel . . . is at his best in . . . contemporary works. . . . [The] performance was mesmerizing, especially the audacious third movement, the core of the piece. Berio quotes the scherzo movement from Mahler's Second Symphony, using this familiar music as a jumping-off point to scramble and recompose not just the Mahler but also a panorama of musical (and cultural) history. He slips in snippets of scores form Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony to the Viennese waltz form Strauss's Rosenkavalier to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 2/1/08].

Sequitur in Scott Wheeler's The Palace at 4 a.m., Lee Hyla's House of Flowers, Steven Stucky's To Whom I Said Farewell, Ned Rorem's Two Sermons, and Arthur Levering's Furies. Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY.

January 31

Viviane Hagner in Bela Bartok's Sonata for Solo Violin. 92nd Street Y, New York, NY.

Joanna Newsom. Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, NY.

Robert Sirota's 212 performed by the Manhattan School of Music Symphony. John C. Borden Auditorium, New York, NY.

Ottorino Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and Albert Roussel's Bacchus and Ariadne performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA.