Ideally, this is where I'd be sounding off about Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall last night... that is, before some fast-acting stomach bug put paid to that notion. Lieberson happily turned up; unhappily, I did not. A quick scan for feedback finds Alex Ross at a loss for new adjectives (and somewhat understandably distracted besides), but Sieglinde has more than a few lovely words to share. The Times covered a Boston performance; maybe a New York report will follow. And Richard Dyer -- whose impending departure from the Boston Globe so distracted Alex, and rightly so -- penned the loveliest tribute to the Boston performance that one might hope for. Tommasini's report made me somewhat sad to have missed the Monday night NYC reprise; Dyer's review made me positively heartsick.
Meanwhile, I was back in the saddle tonight at Stern Auditorium for Earl Wild's 90th birthday concert, and a more elegant evening of patrician pianism I could hardly wish for. After setting the tone with his stately transcription of the Adagio from Marcello's D-minor Oboe Concerto, Wild played Beethoven's Sonata No. 7. I could imagine a more transparent and precisely rendered reading, but not a more completely dramatized one: The room could scarcely breathe for the gravitas Wild found in the Largo, to the extent that the playful Menuetto came as a sigh of relief. The final Rondo was a giddy dash.
Wild opened Liszt's Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este with sun-dappled ripples, offering a vision so picturesque it verged on cinematic. A flexible, impulsive Chopin G-minor Ballade closed the first half. After the intermission, Wild offered more familiar Chopin: the Scherzo No. 2, Ballade No. 3 and Fantaisie-Impromptu No. 4, the last a furtive, fleeting dazzle that fairly sighed into song. Wild closed the program with his Jarabe Tapatio, a play of bluesy virtuosity spinning variations on the Mexican Hat Dance. A rousing ovation brought Ned Rorem scampering out to accompany the audience in a rendition of "Happy Birthday." The evening ended with a single encore, which sounded like a Rachmaninoff miniature (and which Jed Distler subsequently suggested to have been one of Wild's Rachmaninoff song transcriptions), a hushed patter of raindrops playing over a melancholy ballad.
Throughout the evening, I was struck again and again by Wild's still-generous virtuosity at 90, as well as the general rightness of his readings -- flexible, personal, but never ostentatious or trashy. It's pianism without mannerism, a strain increasingly hard to find. Jed had the best line of the evening: "Earl Wild makes me proud to be an American artist." And somehow, despite the cell phones, the apparent outbreak of emphysema and the woman in the back row who didn't seem to understand how the balcony overhang amplified her constant whispering to her neighbor, I still managed to lose myself in beauty for the most part.
Wow, feels good to stretch these muscles again! There was no live music consumption during my Houston sojourn, although I did catch several lengthy stretches of a Houston Grand Opera Roméo broadcast on NPR's World of Opera that put to shame the Met's opening night on any number of levels. As in New York, Ramón Vargas was a handsomely sung Roméo; in Houston, he was partnered with the Juliette of Ana María Martínez, whose praises were recently sung by vilaine fille. (Now, granted, I haven't heard Dessay and probably won't until March...)
Anyway, I'm belatedly filling my dance card for the next few weeks, to the extent that I'm very nearly exhausted just looking at my calendar: Janine Jansen and Neeme Järvi's NJSO doing the Britten Violin Concerto at NJPAC... An American Tragedy at the Met... Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto at Carnegie Hall... Charles Curtis playing Alvin Lucier at Diapason...
Still, I plan to update the blogroll this weekend, so if you've linked to me and I've not repaid your kindness, please rattle my cage. I have definitely noticed some welcome links from blogs I dig, for which I'm genuinely grateful. I've also spotted one that puzzles me just a little bit, although I'm no less appreciative. It seems that my Marcello Giordani gush earned a spot on the blogroll at Viviane's Sex Carnival. (Only a few friends and colleagues know just how ironic that particular citing is.)
Anti-Social Music - Sings the Great American Songbook (Peacock)
Joseph Haydn - Trio in G; Ludwig van Beethoven - Variations on "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu"; Franz Schubert - Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat - Jacques Thibaud, Pablo Casals and Alfred Cortot (Naxos)