Contrary to one slightly waggish comment that came via social media, suggesting that perhaps I was feeling a certain pressure to "popularize" my writing for the Times, let me state for the record that my reference to the Twilight Saga in the opening graf of this particular review was a matter of providence and whimsy, and nothing more.
Tickled as I was to squeeze that timely reference into such a unobvious context, I was a lot more excited to get the brilliantly evocative yet apparently arcane adjective clatterbone into the pages of the Times. My only actual worry here was that the closing "gas giant with satellites" metaphor might be a leap just a little too far into a poetic void, but my copy editor asserted otherwise.
Lastly, my redoubtable colleague and friend David Shengold has politely reminded me that Jan DeGaetani was a mezzo-soprano, not a soprano, though he allows that her career was slightly "before my time" for the most part. He's correct on both counts, though obviously I'm not unaware of Ms. DeGaetani's work and renown, and certainly ought to have remembered her voice type. My explanation, if not an excuse, is that I associate Ms. DeGaetani with a certain quality of brilliance, and also with a student who has continued her exploratory innovations, the soprano Dawn Upshaw.
After a jam-packed run-up to an unusually relaxed and personally productive four-day weekend, time for a bit of catching up before the deluge commences anew. You've got three more chances to see this fine production of Mozart's Clemenza, which I'd take to be as strong and convincing an argument of the work's merits as can be made; for those not in New York, the Met's HD transmission is scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 1pm.
Not-insubstantial caveats about specifics aside, I continue to be impressed by the resourcefulness and pluck the Dicapo Opera shows in filling a useful, important niche in New York City's operatic ecosphere. As in most things aesthetic, a flawed attempt is far, far nobler than a timid adherence to rote and routine.
Midway down this page you'll find my 2010 review of The Hotel Casablanca, a Dicapo presentation of a Thomas Pasatieri opera I enjoyed pretty much unreservedly. You can also read Anthony Tommasini's review of Pasatieri's The Seagullhere, and Allan Kozinn's review of God Bless Us, Every One!here.
A slightly messy concert, but a consistently exciting one, too. After I posted this review on Facebook, a friend pointed out that Mr. Masur conducted only the second half of the program on Friday evening – cause for concern until the New York Philharmonic revealed on its Tumblr that Mr. Masur had been delayed by a traffic jam, prompting Philharmonic assistant conductor Case Scaglione's unplanned subscription-concert debut. I've read no reports of Saturday's concert, leading me to assume that everything went as planned. Masur's second program, running this Thursday through Saturday, features Brahms's Third and Fourth Symphonies.
And here I'll point out the virtues of beneficent editorial intervention: I did not see the announcement of Parkinson's Disease on Kurt Masur's website (nor Norman Lebrecht's related blog post afterward), and thus did not mention it in the review that I filed. The line was added by my editor, and rightly so. It certainly explained the slight but noticeable tremors in Mr. Masur's left hand, something I felt uncomfortable mentioning without a context that I lacked.
Posted here belatedly because sometimes there aren't enough hours in a day, a week or a life, this is a review of the only night I attended in Petr Kotik's ambitious, expansive festival marking the John Cage centenary, Beyond Cage: Cage at 100/Music at 2012. This was the only concert in the series that the Times covered, due to Superstorm Sandy… remarkably, every event in the festival actually took place, with one delay and one relocation if I have my details right.
As for other press coverage of the series, Alan Lockwood contributed a short Q&A with Kotik to Time Out New York; George Grella covered the opening-night performance of Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis with Winter Music at Carnegie Hall for Sequenza 21; and Harry Rolnick wrote an uproariously pained account of the same concert (though a not at all unthoughtful one) for ConcertoNet.com. Perhaps more reviews will follow in time.
I'm especially sorry to have missed the U.S. premiere staging of Salvatore Sciarrino's Infinito nero, which I was originally assigned to cover, but grateful that I was able to attend this one concert at least. Admittedly I went in wondering a bit whether four Feldman orchestral scores on a single bill, three of them late concertos, might amount to much of a muchness. I came away impressed by how different they are—and how substantial, as well.
It's unfortunate and a bit ridiculous, honestly, that Feldman's concertos aren't mounted more often; it's not at all difficult to imagine, say, Christian Tetzlaff or Frank Peter Zimmerman working wonders in the endlessly beguiling Violin and Orchestra with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic. Then again, these mysterious pieces require of their soloists a kind of self-abnegation that must seem counterintuitive to star performers.
You can hear all three of the concertos from this program on YouTube, an increasingly vital resource for finding seldom-encountered music. (The fourth piece, Structures, is available on an essential 2011 Mode CD conducted by Brad Lubman.)
Pretty happy with the way this one turned out…I feel like I'm getting better at creating an equilibrium in covering events that present a ton of ground to cover, if that makes any sense. Where once I would have struggled to make sure every single name, concert and tie-in was cited, in the process destroying any semblance of engaging prose, I think I'm finally getting a feel for providing just enough and not too much. (Comments to the contrary are welcome.)
One more thing I have to mention: Every journalist I know has at least one equipment-failure story. I've got two good ones and one great one from the analog-tape era, but this article represents my first-ever digital-era malfunction—Gilberto Gil granted an interview for this article, not a moment of which ended up on my high-end Edirol. (Since there were no problems with the other interviews, I'm inclined to think the failure was actually in the ubiquitous cheap, plastic Radio Shack phone adapter.)
Even if I don't think the article suffered much from the loss, ultimately, I was thrilled and honored to speak with Mr. Gil, and thus crestfallen to discover the snafu. Unquestionably there's something to be said about old-school pen-and-pad, if you're up to it.
Wolf Fluorescence - Unwavering, Achronymous (Jozik, via Bandcamp)
James MacMillan - A Deep but Dazzling Darkness; Í (A Meditation on Iona); Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - Gordan Nikolic, Colin Currie, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic/James MacMillan (Challenge Classics)
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 18, No. 6; String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 127 - Belcea Quartet (Zig-Zag Territories)
Wolfgang Mitterer - Massacre - Elizabeth Calleo, Valèrie Philippin, Nora Petroczenko, Jean-Paul Bonnevalle, Lionel Peintre, Wolfgang Mitterer, Remix Ensemble/Peter Rundel (Col Legno, via Naxos Music Library)
Wolfgang Mitterer - inwendig losgelöst - Wolfgang Mitterer, ensemble recherche, Freiburger Barockorchester/Lucas Vis (NEOS, via Naxos Music Library)
Motion Sickness of Time Travel - Motion Sickness of Time Travel (Spectrum Spools)
Jethro Tull - Thick As a Brick (Chrysalis Special Collectors Edition)
Bastian Void - Fluorescent Bells (Field Hymns, via Bandcamp)
Crippling / Ala Vjiior - split CS (Worn Habit, via Bandcamp: 1, 2)
Kui Dong, Larry Polansky & Christian Wolff - Trio (Henceforth)
Nova Scotian Arms - Winds Over Silmäterä (Hooker Vision, via Bandcamp)
Grateful Dead - Dick's Picks, Vol. 26: Electric Theatre, Chicago, IL Apr. 26, 1969 & Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN Apr. 27, 1969 (Grateful Dead/Rhino, via MOG)
The following is a Top Live Shows preview I wrote for the current issue (Nov. 1–7) of Time Out New York. The concert in question has been postponed indefinitely due to storm- and transit-related concerns, so I'll just post it here for the time being.
Aaron Dilloway/Jason Lescalleet
Bobby Redd Project Space; Sat 3
When arts journalism is your bag, quoting other critics is a weak way to make your case. Then again, it’s hard to resist repeating what the redoubtable Bill Meyer wrote in his Dusted review of Grapes and Snakes, the new LP by avant-garde provocateurs Aaron Dilloway and Jason Lescalleet: “If used stereo components could scuttle under a table and hide, you’d see a lot of emptied shelves whenever either of these men walks towards the back of the Goodwill store.” His point is well-taken: For anyone put off by one too many gigs featuring inscrutable laptoppers who could be checking their e-mail onstage, know that Dilloway (ex–Wolf Eyes) and Lescalleet are supremely physical sound-surfers whose electric-junk performances partake of punk-rock aggression and guerilla-theater chaos.
Supremely well documented by the German label PAN, Grapes and Snakes is a tactile tour de force. Burbling analog synths get manhandled, magnetic tape gets stretched and, at one point, Godzilla gets strafed by flying saucers, or so it seems. The pair come to the collaboration in prime form, each having released an aesthetic-expanding, critic-wowing double album (Dilloway’s Modern Jester, Lescalleet’s Songs About Nothing) destined to be cited among the year’s top releases. In this rare Brooklyn outing, for which presenters promise ultra-high-fidelity sound, each will have a solo set before the inevitable clash of the titans.—Steve Smith
Nov. 4 addendum:Erstwhile Records proprietor Jon Abbey indicates that this show might arrive belatedly in January, date and location to be determined. Stay tuned.