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Archive for May, 2008

In Praise of Herbert von Karajan, with a Selective Critical Discography

My immediate reaction to Michael Miller’s commentary on the Karajan centenary [Oh no! He’s not back again, is he? – May 2, 2008] was rather choleric, but I’ve settled down a bit since then and can write this from a relatively balanced perspective.

Tannery Pond Opening Concert, 2008: Phan, Kim, Arron, Mužijević play Haydn, Fauré, Britten, Schumann

The summer season began for this concertgoer Sunday afternoon on a very high level in a very good place, Tannery Pond, on the Darrow School campus, which occupies part of the Shaker community at New Lebanon, New York. A bright, warm Sunday afternoon arrived on cue to inaugurate this season of a distinguished chamber music series which began in 1991. There is no more comely place to gather for music; the acoustics are intimate, clear, and warm in this converted tannery, originally built by the Shakers in 1834; and its founder-director, Christian Steiner, a distinguished pianist and photographer, provides a uniquely enthusiastic “one-man-show,” introducing the program, arranging chairs, recording and photographing the concert, turning pages, and picking up overturned flower pots, as was necessary this afternoon.






Berlioz, Les Troyens, a Concert Performance and a Symposium

Les Troyens is so widely accepted as Berlioz’s greatest work, that the progress of the Berlioz Renaissance is punctuated by performances of it in the opera house and in concert, beginning, arguably, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s moderately abridged 1947 BBC broadcast. Now Boston music-lovers may consider the Berlioz Renaissance to be something of a noble fiction, since his music has had its own secure place in the Boston Symphony repertoire for many years, maturing with Charles Munch’s arrival in 1949. During his tenure he and the BSO performed and recorded several of Berlioz’s most important works, and the recordings are still considered among the best. Later, both Jean Martinon and Seiji Ozawa continued the tradition most capably, and Berlioz has been one of James Levine’s great enthusiasms since early in his career.






Gala Restaurant and Bar at the Orchards Hotel

Gala Restaurant and Bar | Orchards Hotel 222 Adams Road, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 01267. Tel: 413.458.9611 | 800.225.1517 Fax: 413.458.3273 Email Price: Moderate | main courses $23-$39. As summer visitors converge on Williamstown, beginning with the Williams commencement and continuing on through the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which will conintue through late August, it will hardly occur […]

I blinked…More Arts Critics Eliminated at Major Papers.

…and now I have several items of bad news to report. Absorbed in the intricacies of first-year Latin and stunned by the Karajan Renaissance, I missed a few weeks of music world news. It seems to happen in the spring, whether it is in Atlanta or Minneapolis. Cutting costs right and left, managers in the traditional print media have been busy firing critics once again. Last May the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cut back on arts reviews and eliminated its specifically assigned arts reviewers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune eliminated the position of full-time classical music critic, and New York Magazine fired its illustrious music critic Peter G. Davis. This year it’s the Seattle Times, the LA Weekly, and the New York Times, which ran an article last June about the casualties of the previous spring after the news had done the rounds of various professional journals and blogs, some of which printed letters of protest. This year the toll is even more serious, but so far there hasn’t been much response outside of Musical America and the Music Critics Association of North America Web site. (Click here for their compilation of reports and letters., and here for my own comments, reposted on the Artsblog.) And this year, I doubt we can look forward to an article in the New York Times.






Cutbacks in Classical Music Coverage Worry Critics, by Michael Miller, from BFA, 6/12/07

When a “regular” disappears for a while, one always wonders… At Berkshire Fine Arts we don’t bother with markers for vacations or the like. It serves no purpose anyway. When I read “Paul Krugman is on vacation.” in the New York Times, I still worry. In fact, I took an informal sabbatical to finish a […]

Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor

Les Troyens is so widely accepted as Berlioz’s greatest work, that the progress of the Berlioz Renaissance is punctuated by performances of it in the opera house and in concert, beginning, arguably, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s moderately abridged 1947 BBC broadcast. Now Boston music-lovers may consider the Berlioz Renaissance to be something of a noble fiction, since his music has had its own secure place in the Boston Symphony repertoire for many years, maturing with Charles Munch’s arrival in 1949. During his tenure he and the BSO performed and recorded several of Berlioz’s most important works, and the recordingsare still considered among the best. Later, both Jean Martinon and Seiji Ozawa continued the tradition most capably, and Berlioz has been one of James Levine’s great enthusiasms since early in his career. Expertise in Berlioz seems to be a prerequisite for the job. Yet, this is the first complete performance of Les Troyens by the foremost Berlioz orchestra in America, which in the past has only played brief excerpts, above all the “Royal Hunt and Storm” from Act IV. Hence these concert performances of Parts I and II on following weeks, culminating in a complete performance on Sunday May 4, are in fact landmarks.






Daniel Lessner: Bach Goldberg Variations

Once again, the Williams Bösendorfer Recital program has given us the opportunity of hearing a gifted younger musician display his musicianship with the singular obstacles of a mismatched instrument in an unpleasant acoustic. A portable acoustical shell has been introduced to remedy Chapin’s muffled sound. I heard a favorable judgement of this innovation at the New England Baroque Orchestra concert, which I unfortunately missed, butit was of little help with a solo piano: the music, instead of sounding as if it were being played in another room with the door partially open, sounded as if it were being played in a tunnel, or perhaps a swimming pool. The Williams Bösendorfer has never been a credit to its justly famed manufacturer, partly, it could be, because of the Berkshire climate and partly because it is too much instrument for the hall. The instrument is extremely loud, and so was the pianist, painfully so, occasionally giving me the feeling of being in close quarters with a mad rhino.