Like I said last time, the workload prevented my contributing anything at all to either of the TONY music sections this week. What I forgot, though, is that in a small way I'd contributed to the front of the magazine... even the cover, if you extend the gatefold fully.
Time Out, the original, London-based parent of our local publication, notches its 40th anniversary this week. To celebrate, Time Out mags around the world put together special issues devoted to local heroes, newsmakers, trendsetters and what not. In London, the focus was on 40 figures from the magazine's full lifespan. (Choice quote from Michael Nyman: "I'm grateful to be the only 'contemporary classical composer' on the list!")
Here in New York, we also chose 40 subjects, but concentrated on the 13-year period since TONY was founded as our defining window of influence. (Chicago picked 40 as well.) If you live here, you might well have seen some of the media and blogosphere coverage devoted to some of our picks: Eliot Spitzer (whose inclusion was even kept a secret from the staff!), Michael Bloomberg, Jay-Z, Tim Gunn and Spider-Man were among the top attention-getters.
There were three people that I personally nominated and strenuously lobbied to include in this cover package. Two of them made it: Peter Gelb and John Zorn. (The third can console himself with his shiny new MacArthur -- though his boss made the cut.) Though the interviews were short and mostly consisted of boilerplate questions, each was a challenge in its own way. Each was also a great pleasure.
Most surprisingly, each included a genuine revelation. Would you have guessed that Peter Gelb is a romantic softy, or that John Zorn has no problem with the upscale invasion of his native East Village? I wouldn't have. Also worth noting that Christopher Wheeldon, who was interviewed by my amazing colleague Gia Kourlas (and whose bold choreography this confirmed balletophobe ate up in La Gioconda at the Met on Wednesday), picked Gelb as one of his own favorite New Yorkers.
Now that I've pointed out what you'll find in TONY this week, I feel honor-bound to tell you what you won't find there: three rather important concert listings, the press releases for which fell off my desk and into an overflowing mail bin, where they were subsequently buried until excavation two days ago. (I know, it sounds like "the dog ate my homework," but it's absolutely true.) I rushed all three up to the TONY website immediately, but I'm going to plug them here as well:
The first is mainly important for its novelty: When the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra opens the 55th season of concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art tonight (Sept. 26 at 8pm), the centerpiece of the concert will be Saint-Saëns's perennial charmer, Carnival of the Animals. What makes the performance unusual is that the Ogden Nash verses corresponding to the movements will be recited by Philippe de Montebello, marking the beginning of his final year as the museum's director. Completing the program are Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 10 and Mozart's Symphony No. 29.
The second I'm truly pained to have omitted: Miller Theatre devotes one of its important Composer Portrait concerts to Peter Lieberson on Saturday night (Sept. 27 at 8pm). Lieberson is best known now for his ravishing Neruda Songs, composed for and memorably recorded by his late wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. The Miller program offers a survey of chamber works spanning a period from 1971 to 1996, depicting a stylistic range from early modernist constructions to later, Buddhist-inspired contemplations. Jeffrey Millarsky conducts the Garuda Ensemble, a stellar array of local soloists; Lieberson, who survived a recent cancer scare of his own, will be on hand for a conversation with Fred Sherry. (Full details here.)
The third omission hurts most of all, because it was for an event by an impressive young organization that has consistently presented inventive programs on a shoestring budget. The American Modern Ensemble, operated by Robert and Victoria Paterson, opens its new season on Monday night (Sept. 29 at 7:30pm) in its new home at the Times Center -- in the New York Times building on Times Square, naturally. The program, "Women Who Rock," lives up to its name with pieces by Augusta Read Thomas, Missy Mazzoli, Alexandra du Bois, Gabriela Lena
Frank, Vivian Fung, Hannah Lash, Roshanne Etezady and Laura Schwendinger, including four local premieres. It's an incredibly impressive array of compositional talent, performed by yet another squadron of first-rate New York freelancers; the group should (and would) have had my full support, and deserves your consideration. (Full details here.)
Apologies to all concerned for my omission of your events. I hope this makes up for it, at least a little.
The Residents - The Bunny Boy (Santa Dog/MVD); Commercial Album (Cryptic/Mute); WBR:RMX (Euroralph)
The Dears - Missiles (Dangerbird, due out Oct. 21)
Tindersticks - The Hungry Saw (Constellation)
Willie Nelson - Phases and Stages (Atlantic/Rhino)
Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club - Zanzibara 1: A Hundred Years of Tarab in Zanzibar (Buda)
Michael Rother - Remember (The Great Adventure) (Random/WEA Germany)
Neu! - Neu! (Astralwerks)
DJ Envy & Tapemasters Inc. - Purple Codeine, Vol. 18 (mixtape)
TV on the Radio - Dear Science (4AD/Interscope)
Kyle Bobby Dunn - Six Cognitive Works (Kning Disk/eMusic)
Nas - Nas (Columbia)
George Frideric Handel - Concerti Grossi, Op. 3; Sonata a 5 - Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr (Harmonia Mundi)
Dave Holland Sextet - Pass It On (Dare 2/EmArcy)
Groupe Issaoua - title unknown (Fassiphone)
Groupe Ahl Touate - Groupes Dar Dmana (Fassiphone)
... a genius -- and now it's official. Warmest of congratulations to Alex Ross for being named one of 25 new MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant recipients today. Ross is one of four music-related prizewinners; the others are violinist Leila Josefowicz, jazz saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón, and composer-instrument builder Walter Kitundu. The New York Times has a complete list of winners.
Elsewhere, sadly, the news is far less sunny: Donald Rosenberg, the highly respected longtime critic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has been told by management that he will no longer be allowed to cover the Cleveland Orchestra, for the crime of having been too critical toward Franz Welser-Möst, the orchestra's director.
Tim Smith, music critic for the Baltimore Sun (and president of the Music Critics Association of North America), broke the story on Friday afternoon. The comments under his post, both pro and con, are worth scanning. Tim Mangan at the OC Registerblogged about Smith's story Monday, adding a valuable personal anecdote; Geoff Edgers at the Boston Globeblogged the story as well. That Welser-Möst has long been among the more uneven, frustrating leaders at a major American orchestra -- by all accounts, not just Rosenberg's, and by my own limited experience as well -- just
makes a responsible professional's shabby treatment all the more upsetting.
See that scowl on Ice Cube's face? That's about how I feel at having written nothing for this week's TONY except for a short preview of his upcoming show at Irving Plaza this Sunday (Sept. 21). And that's one more piece than I managed to write for next week's issue. It's not slack, I assure you. Oh, no, it's just that at present I'm still doing the work of two editors and a part-time contributor, which doesn't leave much space or time for anything else.
Don't get me wrong: I genuinely love being an editor. I enjoy working with good writers, and being able to assign and oversee pieces like Molly Sheridan's stylish, evocative review of Jenny Lin's latest CD, InsomniMania, and Danny Felsenfeld's breathless assessment of Philip Glass's latest recording of Music in Twelve Parts.
The same goes for my new duties on the pop side of the street. I field terrific pitches from a great group of writers, both staff and freelancers. It's also very satisfying when I can be more proactive and match projects to writers, as in the case of Bob Bannister's preview for the concert Tuxedomoon presented at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Tuesday.
Still, I consider writing to be one of my primary services here at TONY, and I'm bothered when I'm prevented from doing anything larger than the dozens of anonymous bite-size performance listings I crank out each week. I do have a few projects on my upcoming schedule that make me very happy, at least one of which is probably evident to anyone who scans the playlist below and the one that preceded it. As we get back up to proper size and speed here during the next few weeks, more space will open up and I'll be able to flex those muscles again...or at least, that's the plan.
The Residents - The Bunny Boy (Santa Dog/MVD); Animal Lover (Cryptic/Mute); Duck Stab! (Cryptic/Mute); Eskimo (Cryptic/Mute)
Bun B - II Trill (Rap-a-Lot/Asylum)
Robert Schumann - Dichterliebe; Heine Songs - Gerald Finley, Julius Drake (Hyperion)
AC/DC - No Bull (Columbia DVD)
Keith Rowe - The Room (ErstSolo)
King Crimson - Palazzo dello Sport, Brescia, Italy, March 20, 1974 (DGMLive download)
Philip Glass - Symphony No. 5, "Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya" - Ana Maria Martinez, Denyce Graves, Michael Schade, Eric Owens, Albert Dohmen, Hungarian Radio Children's Choir, Morgan State University Choir, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies (Nonesuch)
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 7 - Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä (Bis)
Julian Priester - Love, Love (ECM)
LL Cool J - Radio (Def Jam)
Fugees - The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia)
Run-D.M.C. - Run-D.M.C. (Arista/Legacy)
Xzibit - At the Speed of Life (Loud)
Method Man - Tical (Def Jam)
Reformed Faction - Vota (Klang Galerie) and The War Against… (Soleilmoon)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concertos Nos. 5, 6 & 8 "Lützow" - David Greilsamer, Suedama Ensemble (Naïve)
Here's the latest of those occasional Times CD roundups that I've always enjoyed reading, and now have the privilege of helping to create. The mandate was to choose five discs -- or, more properly, "releases," which let Allan Kozinn get away with picking the Young People's Concerts DVD box set. At least one was to represent Bernstein the composer; some chose more.
For me, the first half of the assignment was the harder part, naturally; there were so many outstanding recordings to choose from, including some items currently out of print and a few that have yet to appear on CD. The Columbia recordings of Shostakovich's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies (now on Sony CD); the Roy Harris Third, Randall Thompson Second and David Diamond Fourth, also from Columbia (ditto); the Nielsen Fifth (last seen in a Sony "Royal Edition" release with a Prince Charles watercolor on the cover, now available on demand from ArkivMusic) -- these were some of the very honorable mentions that ultimately didn't make the cut.
As for Bernstein the composer, I ignored the notion of "greatness" and picked a set with the Bernstein pieces that I heard -- and just as importantly, performed -- first. Ultimately they're the ones responsible for winning me over in the first place, and they're still excellent introductory splashes.
So, here are my picks; if you read the Times article online, my essay starts on the third page. I've noticed that ArkivMusic has already compiled a handy sale page including almost all of the Times picks -- though the Mahler Fifth to which that page points is not the lower-priced "Grand Prix" reissue I specified, which is 50 cents cheaper. I've included direct ArkivMusic and Barnes & Noble links for my picks (including the correct Mahler) below.
CHERUBINI: ‘MEDEA’ Maria Callas, Fedora
Barbieri, Gino Penno; La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by
Bernstein (EMI Classics 5 67909 2; two CDs). (ArkivMusic, Barnes & Noble)
SIBELIUS: SYMPHONY NO. 2, ‘POHJOLA’S DAUGHTER,’ ‘LUONNOTAR’ Phyllis Curtin, soprano; New York Philharmonic, conducted by Bernstein (Sony Classical SMK 61848; CD). (ArkivMusic, Barnes & Noble)
I'm sure that everyone reading this will have Bernstein picks of his or her own, favorites that weren't mentioned by any of the contributors to the Times piece. Tell me about yours in the comments section.
Squashed flat by deadlines during last week's holiday-shortened frame, I only managed to squeeze out a single measly record review for TONY. I'm glad to have managed that much, though, because Juliana Hatfield's How to Walk Away is among the highlights of a career I've followed since those long-ago Blake Babies days of the late ’80s. The disc actually came out some time in August, but the review was timed to draw attention to her show tonight (Friday, Sept. 12) at the Bowery Ballroom. (No, I won't be there.)
The Residents - Meet the Residents (East Side Digital); Not Available (East Side Digital); The Third Reich 'n Roll (Cryptic/Mute, via Rhapsody); Fingerprince (Cryptic/eMusic); Mark of the Mole/Intermission (Cryptic/Mute); The Tunes of Two Cities/The Big Bubble (Cryptic/Mute); Freak Show (Cryptic/Mute); Wormwood Live (Cryptic/eMusic); Demons Dance Alone (Cryptic/eMusic); The Bunny Boy (Santa Dog/MVD)
Matt Moran's Larobok i - Blurred and Somewhat Indistinct (Geode)
Tony Malaby Trio - Adobe (Free Lance)
N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless)
Ice Cube - Raw Footage (Lench Mob)
Metallica - Death Magnetic (Warner Bros.)
Charles Hamilton - Death of the Mixtape Rapper (Okayplayer mixtape)
Opeth - Watershed (Roadrunner)
Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything (Nonesuch)
Hans Werner Henze - Die Bassariden Suite; Nachtstücke und Arien; Symphony No. 8 - Claudia Barainsky, Gurzenich Orchestra of Cologne/Markus Stenz (Phoenix Edition)