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Archive for April, 2010

Minsoo Sohn, Pianist

Minsoo Sohn in Beethoven, Liszt arrangements, Ravel, and Kirchner at Jordan Hall, Friday, April 30, at 8 pm.

I first heard Minsoo Sohn play at an Emmanuel Music Bach concert in January 2008, where he played with a chamber group as well as solo, in a couple of Busoni arrangements of Bach chorale preludes. I was so impressed with the musicality and seriousness of his playing, that I made a note to follow his future appearences. Although he has been very active, this has been my first opportunity to hear him play a full solo recital.



Uncle Vanya, Maly Theatre, BAM, NYC

Time passes so slowly in the Maly Theater’s production of Uncle Vanya, as souls pace the width of a sparse, unforgiving stage, that tensions and grievances dissipate into the ether, or else sink like dead weight. For characters flush with passion on the hottest day of summer, the air is cool and still with inertia. This production bares its soul when it just lets its characters be, enunciating the language, allowing itself to breathe and become suspended in the byt, the banality of everyday existence.





La Salle Pleyel

Pristine Audio brings back the Salle Pleyel of 1929/30: Pierre Monteux Conducts Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, Ravel, etc.

The special sound of the Orchestre de Paris playing in the splendid Salle Pleyel was still fresh in my ears, when the latest crop of releases from Pristine Classical arrived, offering recordings of Pierre Monteux conducting the “Orchestre Symphonique de Paris” in the Salle Pleyel itself. The most important of these extremely rare 78 sets, made between January 1929 and February 1930, is a complete Sacre du Printemps, the earliest of the seven live or studio recordings, which have been released of Monteux performances. This brings us within two decades of the historic 1913 premiere with the Ballets Russes. Monteux’s authority in this score never diminished, and the performances from the end of his life are as vital as this early effort and are still revered today. Like the later ones, this performance is marked by its flow and coherence—a complete grasp of the shape and drama of the great ballet, which give the performance a sense of unity, without compromising its angular rhythms and its vivid, often harsh colors and textures. You will never hear a Sacre more musical than any of Monteux’s recordings.



Igor Stravinsky and Anton Bruckner

Orchestre de Paris: Blomstedt and Mustonen in Stravinsky and Bruckner

I am always delighted to attend any concert under Herbert Blomstedt, who fortunately conducts the Boston Symphony quite often, both in Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood, where he is especially valued, not only as a conductor, but as a teacher at the Tanglewood Music Center. At 82, after an impressive career as music director of several great orchestras, including the Dresdener Staatskapelle, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the San Francisco Symphony (all of which have been received a good deal of attention on the Review of late…look soon for a review of the partially great Dresden Ring). After Steven Kruger most perceptively reviewed his Bruckner Sixth with the San Francisco Symphony, I was lucky enough to catch up with Maestro Blomstedt in Paris, where he conducted Bruckner’s pivotal Fifth Symphony. I was also fortunate to have a brief, informal chat with him after the performance, as well as with the brilliant soloist, Olli Mustonen, who is less well known than he should be, because, like Sibelius, he spends a good deal of his time in rural Finland, enjoying family life and composing. After this concert, he was looking forward to going home to his wife and his week-old son.



Spoils of Conquest: Crescendo Performs Latin American Choral Music (1600–2010) Saturday, April 17, 2010, First Congregational Church, Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Christine Gevert, the indefatigable choral conductor, early music specialist, harpsichordist, and composer, consistently makes her mark in producing unusual and meticulously prepared theme-centric vocal concerts. In the past, we’ve heard rarities of the Mendelssohns (Felix and Fannie), a U.S. premiere of Telemann’s impressive oratorio the Hamburische Kapitänsmusik, and tonight, an exotic syncretism of indigenous Latin America culture and seventeenth-century western European Christianity.





The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Grab a beer and a bowl of pretzels when you sit down with The Big Short by Michael Lewis. You’re not just reading a book, you’re going to a game – a big, ugly, but oh-so exciting game. Lewis reports the causes of the current financial disaster with all the passion, pacing and testosterone of John Madden calling NFL plays – not surprising from the author of The Blind Side and Moneyball. He makes a complicated story easy to understand (most of the time) and takes us inside the heads, souls and maneuverings of several fascinating players.



Five trees to be removed, Wahroonga Railway Station, April 2010. Photo © 2010 Alan Miller.

Tree to be Removed: Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness Turns 50

Robin Boyd wrote The Australian Ugliness fifty years ago. Our question is obvious: is that ugliness still with us? EXHIBIT A: An Ugly Scene in a Beautiful Place… A leaf blower whines as I write this. Mozart cannot be played loud enough to drown it out. No matter, it reminds me of a limpid Friday evening a few months ago. A ruddy sun sparkled on the leaves of the blue gums, the breeze was a gentle early summer whisper, an evening one could fall into like a calm sea. I could take it no longer. I traced the errant whine to the dead end of my street. After waving for a few seconds to catch my neighbor’s attfention, he turned off his blower and removed his sensible hearing protection so we could have a conversation which went something like this:





A Passion for Bach: a composer’s greatness shines through at the Leipzig Gewandhaus

Each spring, Easter offers us a time for family, a time for oversized rabbits, for pastel-colored eggs and for Bach oratorios. Since the 19th century, the St. John Passion (as well as the longer, more complete St. Matthew Passion) has become a holiday standard for classical music buffs with its musical retelling of the Easter story, replete with arias, ariosos, recitatives, choruses and some of the most memorable hymns in the Western canon.