American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
The New York Times, March 31, 2011
The New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall
The New York Times, March 25, 2011
Writing reviews is seldom easy, but this one was an exception; somehow, once the opening bit came to me, the rest flowed without much effort. I had real fun with it. And yes, the opening quotes are genuine.
Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien at Weill Recital Hall
The New York Times, March 22, 2011
Already deeply impressed with Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova through her remarkable series of recordings on the Hyperion label -- one of which I reviewed for the Times, here -- I was thrilled to finally get a chance to hear her perform. Ibragimova's playing was even more striking live, and in Tiberghien she has an ideally sympathetic and responsive partner.
Poking around for external links when I was polishing this review, I made a terrific discovery: Ibragimova's complete performance of Huw Watkins's Violin Concerto, filmed live in its premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on August 17, 2010, during the BBC Proms, is available in its entirety on YouTube.
Coincidentally, Huw Watkins has a piece being played at Zankel Hall this Wednesday (March 23): Coruscation and Reflection, part of an ambitious all-contemporary recital program to be presented by Midori with Charles Abramovic.
Kamēr... at the Baryshnikov Arts Center
The New York Times, March 19, 2011
My thanks to Whit Bernard -- director of development for the International Contemporary Ensemble and provocative blogger at Dolce and Gomorrah -- for indirectly tipping me off about this sensational Latvian youth choir. (Longtime readers will remember that Whit's been cited here before.) I'm very happy to have had a chance to hear these wonderful young singers perform -- and I loved the Joshua Bright photograph that ran with my review so much that I had to borrow it.
I truly wish I could have seen the second concert Kamēr... presented, at the Park Avenue Christian Church on Saturday night -- they really were that good. Of their many recordings, evidently only one is readily available here: Dawn Is Breaking, a lovely collection issued in 2009 on the Quartz label. At the concert I was provided with three more, each beautifully recorded and packaged.
Some smart American indie should think about picking these records up for distribution or licensing them outright, especially World Sun Songs, a lavishly packaged 2-CD set that includes works composed for Kamēr... by an international lineup of composers, including John Luther Adams, Giya Kancheli, John Tavener, Pēteris Vasks, Sven-David Sandström and Alberto Grau.
For a taste of what this remarkable choir can do, lend an ear to "A Drop in the Ocean," the most fascinating of the four works by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds included in the Baryshnikov program.
Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music; due April 12)
Anthony Braxton - Septet (Pittburgh) 2008 & Sextet (Philadelphia) 2005 (New Braxton House)
Jean Sibelius - String Quartet in D minor ("Voces Intimae"); Arnold Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 1 in D minor - Tetzlaff Quartet (Cavi-Music)
Tim Berne - Insomnia (Clean Feed)
Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep (Downtown)
Dickie Landry - Fifteen Saxophones (Unseen Worlds)
Reformed Faction - Until (Greytone)
Morton Feldman - Neither - Petra Hoffmann, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kwamé Ryan (Col Legno)
Build - Place (New Amsterdam)
Rhys Chatham - Outdoor Spell (Northern Spy)
Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out (Kill Rock Stars)
YOB - The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
Black Flag - Everything Went Black (SST)
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 8 - Hallé Orchestra/John Barbirolli (BBC Legends)
Emmylou Harris - Hard Bargain (Nonesuch; due April 26)
Shackleton - Fireworks (Honest Jon's)
Ted Nugent - Double Live Gonzo (Epic)
Nasum - Helvete (Relapse)
Peter Gordon and Love of Life Orchestra - Love of Life Orchestra (DFA)
Etta Jones and Houston Person - The Way We Were (High Note; due April 26)
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Virgin)
Rand Steiger - Dreamscape - Mosaic; Traversing - Matthew Barley, Southbank Sinfonia/Peter Wiegold; Nested Etudes - Karisa Werdon; Ecosphere - Olivier Pasquet, Ensemble Intercontemporain/Patrick Davin (EMF)
David Tudor - RainForest (Mode)
Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 3 ("The First of May") - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko (Naxos)
:Zoviet*France: - Gris (No Man's Land)
"Avant-Garde Dancing Feet, Tickling Composers' Minds"
The New York Times, March 18, 2011
An article about the making of Music for Merce, a newish 10-CD box set issued by the invaluable New World record label. The box is devoted to a well-chosen cross-section of the myriad musical scores that came into being through the auspices of choreographer Merce Cunningham and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, which is currently bidding farewell with its Legacy Tour.
Speaking with Christian Wolff and John King about their memories of working with Merce, and about the process by which they selected the contents of the box with David Behrman and Takehisa Kosugi, was a genuine treat. I'm only sorry that further hoped-for conversations with Alvin Curran and David Behrman didn't take place.
I also regret that I was unable to write this blog post until now. It's Sunday night, and as I type these words, Behrman, King and Kosugi have just started to perform Annea Lockwood's Jitterbug live at Roulette in SoHo, during the second of two concerts celebrating the release of Music for Merce. I know this because I'm listening to the concert live on my sofa in Queens, via Ustream. King is playing an electronically treated violin; Behrman is drawing a bow and tapping a dangled weight on what might be a tabletop guitar; Kosugi is making a racket with all manner of little noisemakers. It's a stately bit of jitter and rumble, lovely in both its calm volition and its unpredictability.
But there's one more scheduled event that warrants advance mention: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company starts a six-day, seven-performance run at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea on Tuesday. The program includes three dances: CRWDSPCR, scored by King; Quartet, to music by David Tudor; and Antic Meet, a collaboration between Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg (using John Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra) that prior to this tour has not been staged since 1969. I can't speak for all of the pieces, but King confirmed he'll be playing live during CRWDSPCR.
Alistair Macaulay, chief dance critic of The New York Times, reviewed Antic Meet during its initial revival in Berkeley a few weeks ago. I confess that I have not read so very much dance criticism, and I was surprised at first by how little mention of the music figures into Macaulay's piece; Brian Eno, who created the music for Pond Way (also performed in Berkeley), is not mentioned at all. But perhaps this is beside the point in evaluating dance performances, and likely even more so when evaluating Cunningham, where a coexistence without co-dependency between music and dance was precisely the point.
I understand that tickets are already scarce for the Joyce performances. New Yorkers who miss it will have three more opportunities to see the company: Merce Fair, a 12-hour multimedia presentation at the Frederick P. Rose Hall on July 16 during the Lincoln Center Festival; a Brooklyn Academy of Music run December 7-10; and something enticingly billed as "Park Avenue Event" at the Park Avenue Armory December 29-31 -- the last night being the company's final bow.