CD REVIEW: 'Ombra Cara: Arias of George Frideric Handel' Bejun Mehta, countertenor; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, conducted by René Jacobs Harmonia Mundi HMC 902077; CD The New York Times, November 28, 2010
As plugged in this week's Arts & Leisure, the fine folks who bring you Darmstadt "Classics of the Avant-Garde" events sporadically throughout the year will open their third-annual Darmstadt Essential Repertoire festival at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on Wednesday. As always, despite the namesake allusion to modernist severity, the programming swings all over the place.
The series starts with members of the International Contemporary Ensemble and other new-music luminaries playing Luciano Berio's first 10 Sequenzas. Thursday's program includes three seminal Karlheinz Stockhausen pieces: Gesange der Jünglinge, Kontakte and Mikrophonie. On Friday, Petr Kotik conducts the S.E.M. Ensemble in John Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra (with Joseph Kubera at the piano) and additional works by Christian Wolff and Kotik. Kubera returns for the final concert on Saturday, during which he'll play An Hour for Piano by Tom Johnson; sharing the bill is violinist Mary Rowell, who unveils her new arrangement of the "Knee Plays" from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach. You'll find me at the first and last of these concerts; were it possible, I'd catch 'em all.
By a sizable factor, here was the White Light Festival offering that moved me most. (No, I did not see all of them.) That point is probably the reason why the way this review ended actually surprised me. I was also happy for an opportunity to cite an interview in the program notes by Anastasia Tsioulcas, a friend and colleague since around 2000. (Umm, wow: happy decade to us!)
I expended a considerable number of words in this review trying to describe what the set looked like and how it worked. Here on the web, though, you've got the option to just see for yourself. I recommend checking out the video embedded below--and whatever else you do, don't pause or turn away before the stupefying battle of jawharp and castanets.
As I mentioned in the post-before-last, The New York Times asked its classical-music critics and reporter to discuss the pros and cons of the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center on the paper's Artsbeat blog about a week ago. Those posts are all still available, but if you're more the Reader's Digest type, yesterday the paper printed an edited, trimmed version, linked above.
Over the past few weeks I've reviewed several events in Lincoln Center's inaugural White Light Festival, a series devoted to exploring spirituality in music -- or, more specifically, to promoting the notion that some kinds of music can provide a listener with the kind of access to an interior life that you might seek in yoga or meditation. I also wrote an advance piece on the festival, which would be finished now were it not for the fact that two performances of The Manganiyar Seduction were rescheduled from this week to next week due to visa issues.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I joined Times critics Allan Kozinn, Vivien Schweitzer and Tony Tommasini and reporter Dan Wakin in an online discussion about the festival, its implications and its success or lack thereof on Artsbeat, the paper's arts blog. Since I was unable to get my thoughts together until late yesterday afternoon, it appears that I get the last word in the sequence. But I strongly recommend reading through the whole series, which starts at the bottom of this page.
The page on the Q2 website with the chat transcript I cited in my Artsbeat post is still accessible here. And back on the Times site you can view a brief video from the "Riceboy Sleeps" segment of the "Credo" concert, featuring Jónsi and Alex, the Latvian National Choir and the Wordless Music Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky.