28 June 2007

guys gone wild

David McVicar’s production of Don Giovanni at San Francisco Opera is very dark – I mean physically dark, not emotionally, as in Why doesn’t someone turn on a torch or something? The action starts at dawn, but it looks like midnight the whole time, until it gets a little brighter at the very end, which is supposed to be around 2:00 a.m. Sometimes the singers were invisible also; the set has some large mobile walls and arches that move around and if the action is on the right of one of these those of us on the left couldn’t see. In a nice touch the mostly bare stage lies on top of a layer of bones and skulls, all painted black so that you had to be close to notice what they were. I enjoyed the performance but oddly enough this somber blackness would have been more suitable to the world-weary melancholy of our last Don Giovanni, Dimitri Hvorostovsky, rather than to the sinuous feline seductiveness of Mariusz Kwiecien. He entered from the darkness wearing his black pants and a loose white shirt that was soon torn away, so his muscular pale torso stood out Carravagioesque in the chiaroscuro. There’s a weird optical illusion by which the torso of a guy wearing pants but no shirt looks much larger than the same torso when covered even by a tight shirt, and this effect helped establish a physical command for Kwiecien in the very opening. It was useful to get that out of the way in the very beginning because fully clothed he is, though handsome, not a physically commanding figure, which was used to both comic and dramatic effect in his dealings with Leporello (Oren Gradus) and especially Masetto (Luca Pisaroni). For once Don Ottavio wasn’t washed out next to Giovanni; I was glad to hear by the audience’s reception that the fine-grained singing of Charles Castronovo (who should definitely continue rocking the van Dyke after this run) wasn’t being swamped by Elza van den Heever’s Donna Anna; she has the sort of large, bright voice that can make everything surrounding it sound recessive. I thought all of the singers came off well, though I did think that Claudia Mahnke lacked a bit of the country naiveté that Zerlina should have.

One other oddity of the production which I haven't seen commented on, in addition to the dim lighting, which I definitely have seen commented on: they changed the ending. When the Commendatore appears, he is not a statue, but a half-rotted corpse; Giovanni is not seized by devils, but struck down by the huge Angel of Death who looms over the stage waving his sword; and Giovanni is not physically dragged to Hell, but lies lifeless on the front edge of the stage, looking dashingly like The Death of Chatterton. In other words, Giovanni’s life is not cut off prematurely through supernatural intervention; instead, the inevitable – Death – just catches up with him suddenly and sooner than might be expected. It’s a subtle change, but a definite one.

26 June 2007

stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

The San Francisco opera season resumed (for me, at least; I think Don Giovanni actually opened first) with Der Rosenkavalier. Lovely sets, excellent singers, new insights into the work, and I kept thinking, My God, this is so long. First the good stuff: I liked the recreation of the original Alfred Roller designs, though as always I wish directors were a little more conscious of sightlines – the opening scene had everyone in my left-hand side of the orchestra straining to see the Marschallin and Octavian tucked away in the left-hand corner of the stage. Everyone has justifiably been crazy about Joyce DiDonato’s boyishly manly Octavian, one of the more convincing trouser-role performances I’ve ever seen, but the ones who really caught my attention were Sophie and Baron Ochs. Sophie was performed by a gorgeous young Swede, Miah Persson, who was exactly the right combination of naïve and imperious; I especially liked the way she sang her part of the Presentation of the Rose as if she had carefully memorized it and was proud of herself for performing it flawlessly, as indeed Sophie would have done and felt. Baron Ochs was Kristinn Sigmundsson, who brought out the Falstaff in Ochs rather than reducing him to the usual crude country cousin. He physically towered over everyone on stage until Jeremy Galyon showed up as the notary and then the police commissioner, though it’s hard to tell if it’s because he’s especially tall or if the rest of the cast is fairly short. I especially liked the way he listened attentively and started applauding naively halfway through the Italian tenor’s aria; after the Italian signals disapproval, he shrugs and goes back to his negotiations; usually Ochs is entirely unmoved by art. Of course, making Ochs more sympathetic makes the third-act shenanigans even less amusing and more drawn-out than they already are. I never find pranks very funny, and they pall on repetition – the thought of having to sit yet again through the bohemians’ antics is just another reason for me to avoid La Boheme. Like it or not, most of us are closer to Ochs – buffoonish, status-anxious, oblivious – than to anyone else on stage, which brings us to the Marschallin, who of course is the character every audience member likes to think of him- or herself as being. Soile Isokoski, who is much better looking than her head shot suggests, was good if a bit subdued, and I give her full credit for pulling off the difficult task of performing a “wise” role and seeming actually wise instead of condescending – maybe the secret is to perform from a place of love rather than power (Hans Sachs is similarly difficult to pull off). But though her foresight and compassion with Octavian are what grabs the audience, it should be noted that at some level the audience is also taking in that, first, she has no problem finding younger lovers on whom to lavish the aforesaid foresight and compassion (which is a form of controlling them), and, second, she has an absolutely unassailable social and economic position – it’s all very well to sneer at Ochs, but his snobbish insistence on his social status comes from ignorance and lack of sophistication and a fear of being slighted, and is sadly where most of us find ourselves, much as we might like to pretend that we are immovable jewels in the crown of Maria Therese. I find the Marschallin a bit too much a wish-fulfillment figure (as opposed to her obvious model, the delicately sorrowful Countess Almaviva in Nozze di Figaro, the gently ironic treatment of whose relationship with Cherubino keeps her in a more realistic perspective). By the second or third time the Marshallin declares that “she had had enough of men, just then,” I started to find her renunciation a bit self-dramatizing. I also started wondering if her cuckolded husband had had enough of women, just then. Which brings us to one of my problems: there are so many beautiful moments in Rosenkavalier – I can put up with the third-act pranks knowing that they culminate in the trio, for example – but everything seemed to happen about twice as many times as it needed to. Four hours is a long time to sit through a domestic comedy; I can sit through Parsifal or the Ring or Tristan without a thought for time, because those stories demand the extraordinary, but it’s relevant to my point that the only Wagner opera where I go in thinking about how long it’s going to last is Meistersinger. I’ve always enjoyed Rosenkavalier, and its pre-postmodern play with parody, identity, and pastiche is something that would appeal to me. So what was my problem? I’m really not sure. I wasn’t in the mood to go to the theater (which is why I buy tickets in advance; if I depended on going when I felt like it I’d leave the house about twice a year). Usually a performance puts me in the mood, but this time, despite its many excellences, it didn’t. I was surrounded by talkers and felt tired. My failure to respond whole-heartedly could be my fault. I might have felt differently on another night. I might also have seen Rosenkavalier once too often for the glorious moments to overcome the sense of familiarity.

19 June 2007

avant the emerging edge

I heard two of the three “Edge Festival” concerts at Berkeley. I guess “avant-garde” has been relegated to the dust bin of history (which must be full to overflowing by now), since there is no garde to be avant, and even I recognize that touting “contemporary music” is not exactly like hanging out a sign saying Free Beer – I once knew a voice student in Boston who told me that classical concerts start on time (unlike stage plays, which for some reason start at ten minutes past the hour) except for new music concerts, which always start fifteen minutes late because everyone is hoping that a bus will break down outside and it will start pouring rain and lightning will shoot from the sky and everyone will have to come inside and listen. Sad to think that it’s so much harder to sell new music than new cell phones. At least Cal Performances didn’t use the ghastly term “emerging” (as in “emerging artists”).

I was sorry to miss Friday’s performance by Ursula Oppens, who is a goddess to me, and Frederic Rzewski, but I had already made plans for a farewell trip to the Giants/A’s game with a friend who is relocating. The A’s continued their usual pattern of getting hotter the later in the season it gets and the Giants continued theirs of just not quite doing it, but before the A’s walked out in triumph there was baseball weirdness aplenty, including the replacement catcher getting injured very late in the game, which meant they had to pull Pedro Feliz from third base to play catcher, which apparently he had done in college, and Randy Winn came from right field to take over at third, and Noah Lowry, a pitcher, went over to right, which apparently he had played in Little League. His convincing swagger out there hid any fervent prayers that the batter would hit to left. On entry we had all received orange bandanas which displayed logos for the Giants and Macy’s in roughly equal proportions. The Giants marketing department has tried to start an “orange Fridays” thing, undoubtedly because while most people have some sort of black T-shirt, an orange one would require a trip to the team store. It got so incredibly cold late in the game (despite my long-sleeved orange T-shirt worn under my black shirt, and that's June in the Bay Area) that I tried to wear the bandana. I asked my buddy how I looked. Once he stopped laughing at me, which took a while, he assured me that I looked great if I was planning to rob a stagecoach. Beauty knows no pain so off went the bandana. Happy trails to you, TS.

Back to the Edge (nope, don’t like that term either) in Berkeley. Saturday’s concert, The Tyrant, A Solo Chamber Opera for Tenor and Six Instruments, composed by Paul Dresher and starring John Duykers, actually started well over half an hour late, due to technical difficulties rather than some misguided hope for a rare California thunderstorm to bring in the milling crowds. The singer’s microphones were picking up another feed, resulting in a high-pitched humming. While waiting I read the program more closely and discovered that, though I thought I had never heard anything by Paul Dresher, he had composed the incidental music for Berkeley Rep’s To The Lighthouse. My heart sank and I wondered if I should have spent all my cash on quite so many of his CDs at the lobby sales desk without having heard the piece first. I didn’t object to his music for To the Lighthouse, but I didn’t particularly care for it either. One reason I don’t worry too much about my tendency to post late is that sometimes it takes a while for the corpse to start stinking, and by now everyone involved in that production has been tainted for me. The Tyrant did redeem Dresher for me, I’m happy to say. The program said the opera was based on Calvino; it reminded me more of Autumn of the Patriarch or I the Supreme, though the political aspect was fairly minimal – you could easily interpret the work more generally as an exploration of how we are all trapped in our own consciousness, and even the imagined voices of love also come from inside our head. Duykers sounded a bit strained at times to my ears, but easily held my interest for an hour. He’s a commanding performer, as I realized when I saw Young Caesar a few months ago. Ever since I realized he was Chairman Mao in Nixon in China I hear bits of that whenever I hear him sing. My only major complaint about the evening was the amplification – not because of the delay, but because I really was not sure why, in the intimate confines of the Zellerbach Playhouse, a singer and six instrumentalists needed to be amplified. If your voice/instrumental playing can’t fill that space. . . .

Sunday afternoon it was more Rzewski and Oppens, playing music by Gao Ping and Elliott Carter as well as Rzewski. I preferred the piano pieces; Rzewski’s percussion pieces, though interesting and enjoyable, didn’t seem as individualistic to me. William Winant declaimed To the Earth to his mellifluous gonging of clay flowerpots, and a young percussionist named Ben Paysen took care of the world premiere of The Fall of the Empire: Act 6: Sacrifice. During that piece Rzewski and Winant sat down in the front row, a few empty seats down from me. Damn! So close! In the space of a year I will have heard live performances from Thomas Ades, Rzewski, and (according to the plan) Philip Glass. Occasionally the Bay Area really does live up to its own hype. All four performers went on stage for the last piece, Bring Them Home, Rzewski and Oppens on piano and Winant and Paysen on percussion. I enjoyed the piece but frankly found it a bit meandering. Maybe late nights and decongestants were catching up with me, or maybe it does meander a bit. I think a problem with it is the source material, which is a fairly obscure (I am using the word in the standard sense of “something I have never heard of”) Irish folk tune, and though the lyrics have to do with soldiers going away, they aren’t really going to spring to most ears and resonate there, so the piece doesn’t have the emotional resonance that would come from familiar words or even a familiar sound, the way that works by Thomson and Copland sound like Protestant hymn tunes even if you don’t know the particular hymns, or even if they've simply invented melodies that sound like hymns.


Now with exclamation points for added excitement. . . .

I've added Clayton Koonce's Operatically Inclined, which concentrates on musical happenings in the Baltimore/DC area. Clayton, my apologies for not adding you sooner, but your blog isn't linked on your profile in the usual place so I didn't realize you had one. I've also added Mopsy in Her Hutch, by a grad student in cell biology (V, you can explain the hard words to me. . . .).

Check them out!

standing by and seeing it done

Right after my return from Pittsburgh and DC, I saw Oliver Twist, adapted and directed by Neil Bartlett, which has been touring around and ended up at Berkeley Rep, and which was fairly enjoyable, unlike the disastrous To the Lighthouse earlier in the season. But, again, when you adapt a novel to the stage, the big moments are preserved, but out of context; the plot is simplified in ways that inevitably distort the story; and any sort of interior monologue tends to be lost or distorted (more of a problem with Woolf than Dickens, but more of a problem with Dickens that one might think). The idea here is that Oliver Twist comes out of the world of Victorian melodrama, and should be presented as such, with plenty of bold action and stark lighting and big gestures. Oliver Twist actually seems a bit early for Victorian melodrama, though it certainly has affinities with that world, but it also has affinities with Romantic literature in the doomed figure of Monks (even the name conjures up Maturin and Radcliffe), who disappears from this version, and with eighteenth-century prison stories of the sort Fielding parodied in Jonathan Wild, so concentrating on melodrama narrows the style of the novel already. Mr. Bumble (Remo Airaldi) and Nancy (Jennifer Ikeda) particularly suffer from compression. You can tell that Dickens has a soft spot for Bumble, cruel and stupid though he is; Bumble, among his great sympathy for himself, has some glimmers for Oliver, and there’s something laughable rather than contemptible in the greed that motivates his marriage to Mrs. Bumble. Many of the novel’s memorable moments (Oliver wants more, it’s meat ma’am, if the law thinks that the law is a [sic] ass the law is a bachelor) center on him. Airaldi was rotund and self-satisfied but the character might just be too far from contemporary experience to be understood when you only see peaks and not the whole range. Ikeda as Nancy sported the disheveled unkempt hairstyle that signifies moral disrepair, streetwalker-division, in the theater. She’s also extremely beautiful, which the novel’s Nancy is not – it’s interesting to wonder if it’s just our contemporary theatrical convention that prostitutes are beautiful, or if it’s an early nineteenth century convention that a lower-class prostitute would not have the delicate beauty of Rose Maylie (who, like Monks, isn’t in this version – and has any version ever kept Henry Maylie, the most unlikely clergyman in nineteenth century fiction?). I’m guessing, given general conditions, the nineteenth century version is closer to actuality than our version is. In any case Ikeda, probably to make Nancy less of a victim, gives her a feisty edge, but given the stage’s compression of events, her whipsaw conversion back-and-forth from capturing Oliver from Mr. Brownlow to defending him from Bill and then handing him over again to Bill for the robbery and then telling Mr. Brownlow where Oliver is makes her look not so much like a woman struggling towards goodness while trapped by her love for an unworthy man as a woman who is simply emotionally unbalanced. Bill was the muscular and threatening Gregory Derelian, who also doubled as the muscular and threatening Mrs. Sowerberry. Carson Elrod was outstanding as the narrator and as the Artful Dodger, though again his character gets misrepresented when he, rather than the sneaky Noah Claypole, is the one to spy on Nancy – such low activities would be beneath the Dodger’s sense of himself, and if you miss a nuance like that, you miss the whole Brechtian underworld Dickens presents. (Also, despite Bartlett’s claims that almost every word came from the novel, Dodger does not die in prison but is transported to Australia – like Bumble, he’s a bad guy that Dickens finds endearing.) As Oliver himself, Michael Wartella met the main challenge, which is to keep Oliver from looking like a simp. Fagin (Ned Eisenberg) is of course a bit awkward for contemporary audiences. The word “Jew” is never uttered in the play, though Fagin is repeatedly referred to as such in the novel (nor does it appear in the film of the musical, even though all of Fagin’s songs sound like out-takes from Fiddler on the Roof – rather endearingly, he is not executed at the end, possibly because the murder of Nancy and hanging of Sykes were considered enough deaths for musicals not involving meat pies; instead, he and the Dodger toddle off together into the sunrise, practically hand-in-hand, to continue their jolly life of crime). Several years ago I read an interesting article by Garry Wills in which he suggested that Fagin’s Jewishness is a covert reference to his pedophilia, both groups being outside and opposed to the normative masculinity of the time (a view also discussed, though not in specific reference to Fagin, in George Mosse’s The Image of Man, which I read recently). The Fagin of this production is not the mild-mannered, sneaky insinuator of the book; he licks his lips and speaks boldly in lascivious tones. His accent and mannerisms are those of a stage Jew, though sometimes more so than others and I wasn’t sure if this was some comment on the construction of stage stereotypes or if the actor was simply inconsistent. And before his execution, when Dickens makes a point of saying he rejected the ministrations of holy men of his own persuasion, this version has him bursting out into “Hear, O Israel” in Hebrew, no less. Perhaps this is meant to show a desperate mind casting around for any comfort, but it seemed like an odd addition. Fagin’s last night is a striking scene in the novel, given from inside Fagin’s mind, sort of early stream-of-consciousness only with punctuation, as he varies between frenzy and flatness, blankly noticing strange little details and then frantic with dread. This is exactly the sort of interior mental shift that loses much of its detail and insight on stage, where the outer necessarily swamps the inner. This is a valid, powerful way of presenting the world – we tend to see the outer with most people, and can only guess at their interiors. But what the novel can do is try to clue us in to someone else’s interior, which makes it a very different animal from the stage. Which brings us to my plea: This was a pretty successful evening, but can we maybe give a rest to adaptations of novels on stage? If the feeling is that they are known properties that will draw in audiences, then I don’t see why Woolf and Cather are bigger magnets than, say, Ibsen or Marlowe would be. The RSC’s Nicholas Nickleby was one of the greatest days I’ve ever spent in a theater, but it took over eight hours and the full resources of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and that is a fairly episodic novel. More tightly plotted novels suffer accordingly. In the past few years, and a merciful memory may be causing me to forget some, I’ve seen My Antonia vandalized at Theatreworks in a wretched travesty that a few good performances could not save, The Overcoat at ACT that was mainly interesting for the thoroughness with which it altered absolutely everything that makes Gogol’s story distinctive, and the utterly awful To the Lighthouse earlier at Berkeley Rep. Kids, if you really can’t think of any other actual playwrights to produce, there’s always Shakespeare.

16 June 2007

got my Irish up

I used to be pretty thrilled in a low-key, understated way about the Irish side of my background until PBS disillusioned me. They showed a documentary on the Irish and I realized that I had been thrilled about the Anglo-Irish, who were the overlords from whom my actual ancestors had to flee, leaving behind their brutish sod cottages and mealy potatoes for the crowded tenements and filth of America. (That’s not why I stopped supporting PBS, though. That was when they started ignoring opera and theater in favor of nostalgic band reunions for aging wealthy hippies. If PBS doesn’t do it, who will? Well, VH-1 for starters. Who needs that?) My disillusionment was not really a watershed event, given my tendency to avoid any group to which I might reasonably belong. I’ve always hated St. Patrick’s day, from the silly "pinches if you're not wearing green" in grammar school to the adult form, which is vomiting up cheap green beer. I knew a guy in Boston who did a hilarious impression of South Boston residents the rest of the year (stereotypical Southie accents) versus St. Paddy’s Day (out come the faith and begorrah brogues). I imagine my patron saint himself was a fairly fierce and driven man, not some boozy twinkler dancing with the leprechauns, whom he probably would have considered imps of the Devil if he thought about them at all. I tend to avoid Irish plays too (again, not Anglo-Irish, so the boycott doesn't include Wilde, Shaw, or Beckett), having a fairly low tolerance for sorrowing spinsters and drunken dreamers and The Troubles, so I had completely missed out on Martin McDonagh’s work until I was urged to see The Pillowman at Berkeley Rep a few months ago. It’s pretty fantastic, in every sense, and the outstanding production helped make up for the evening I wasted at To the Lighthouse. The playbill articles, in what may have been either canny promotion or Irish self-mythologizing, acted as if his works were sui generis, whereas I felt that certain scenes picked up exactly where Pinter’s The Birthday Party (which I had seen the week before) left off; there are trace elements of Pinter, Mamet, and Orton, not to mention the grotesqueries of the Jacobeans, who can never resist making adulterous liaisons incestuous as well, and scorn murder by knifing when poisoned lipstick might do. Anyway, McDonagh is now on the list of Irish writers with whom I feel affinity. Once in Boston I saw an animation festival that featured a short based on one of Edna O’Brien’s stories. I don't remember the exact plot, except that I assume it had an unhappy ending, since that’s the sort of thing that gets my attention, but what really got me was the realization that if that story had been by a Jewish author I would have bought the book on the way home from the theater. I’m sure that if I were an actual Jew instead of just an honorary one my interests would be reversed. Irish and Jewish brings us to Leopold Bloom – I’d like to wish a very happy (is that the right word?) Bloomsday to all of my mountain flowers out there. And here’s a fun website to check out: http://www.james-joyce-music.com/. Since I re-read Ulysses just a few years ago, I think I will start re-reading Portrait of the Artist today. I last read it when I was thirteen, and I suspect I missed a few subtleties.

12 June 2007

eternal verities

As part of the massive clean it up/throw it out/get it organized excavation in my house, I went through a box today that, judging as an archeologist would from surrounding detritus and other shabby fragments of my past, must date from the early 1990s era. In it I found an index card on which I had copied out the following quotation from Frances Burney's Camilla:

"His time was devoted to deliberating upon some lucrative scheme of future life, which his literary turn of mind rendered difficult of selection, and which his refined love of study and retirement made hateful to him to undertake."

I don't think I need to add anything to that, except that it looks as if it's on page 672 of the Oxford World Classics edition, and if you've never read anything by Burney you should treat yourself and check her out. She gets compared to Austen, mostly because they're both women, and Evelina, Burney's first novel, does have some similarities to Austen, but her three big novels (Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer) remind me more of Dickens. I was fortunate enough years ago at Berkeley to take some classes with Margaret Anne Doody, a professor who specializes in Burney and Richardson, and I'm grateful she introduced me to two of my favorites. Burney was the daughter of Charles Burney, the musicologist, and there are some funny scenes in her novels showing that opera audiences in eighteenth-century London were not any better than they are today.

11 June 2007

nessun dorma

A friend of mine told me recently that several years ago he was sitting at breakfast thinking that since Coco Puffs are great, and beer is great, wouldn’t it be doubly great to mix the two together? This is undoubtedly the sort of thing Rimbaud was hoping for in urging a deliberate derangement of the senses. You’ve probably already guessed that being great separately did not in this case make for double greatness. A similar impulse must have inspired the SF Symphony to put Mozart’s Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano as the opener for the Mahler 7. The original first half of the bill, the final scene from Salome, made sense to me historically, thematically, and musically. The only sense the Mozart made is by complete contrast. It’s a lovely piece, but then the Pequod was a trim vessel until Moby Dick smashed her. The substitution was made, by the way, with absolutely no announcement from the Symphony, even though they send both e-mail and postcard reminders for smaller things like the lack of an intermission in the recent Berlioz Damnation and even though Tilson Thomas seems willing to pick up a microphone at the drop of a hat and tell us stuff we’ve already read in the program. No e-mail, no postcard, no announcement from the general director, no sign in the lobby, not even a forlorn little insert in the program that can slip out and litter the floor like autumn leaves. What if my reason for buying a ticket was the Strauss? Could the Symphony really not find anyone to sub for Salome? If they liked Salome with the night-music symphony, couldn’t they do an instrumental excerpt, and isn't the Dance of the Seven Veils kind of made for such excerpting? Years ago a New Yorker cartoon showed a tuxedoed manager before a theater curtain asking, “Can anyone in the house sing Siegfried?” Maybe next time the Symphony can have open-mike night for the first half hour if they just want to kill time. The meaty Mahler would have been sufficient without the lagniappe. Between this and the brouhaha with the Don Giovanni cast, sopranos should watch their backs at the intersection of Grove and Van Ness. No word yet on possible threats to mezzos or counter-tenors. Back to you with the Mozart, Bob.

As I said, the Mozart was lovely, but there’s a quality of intimacy with two instruments that oddly enough you don’t have with soloists (having to do with listening in on communication between two people rather than display), and it makes such a duo not really suited for a cavernous concert hall. The piece is brief, and was followed by an intermission that was longer than the sonata. As for the Mahler . . . I felt bludgeoned. The first few seconds were fine, and then, in my technical way, I thought, Is this supposed to be this loud this soon? And then we had almost 90 minutes of relentless musical climax. Michael Steinberg’s always reliable notes use or quote descriptions like nocturnal patrol, serenade, fantastic chiaroscuro, good-humored victory. I heard the Symphony perform this piece a few years ago and could feel those qualities, and I can feel them in the various Mahler 7 recordings (including the recent one by Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony) that I've been listening to since. This time, I felt that if this were a walk in the night-time woods it involved being repeatedly slammed into rocks by the string section and then garroted by the brass. I sat in the third row, but far to the left away from the brass section; this is almost exactly where I sat for A Flowering Tree, and I did not walk out then feeling that an armored division had just run me over. I was in the very first row for Das Lied von der Erde a few seasons ago and did not feel that I had just been on the losing team in an unusually violent and lengthy football game. To a lesser extent, I had this feeling after the Brahms 4 back in September. Is this some new phase in Tilson Thomas’s conducting? If so, I hope someone pulls him back.

07 June 2007

does anyone know?

I have a question about the new "Live from Wigmore" release of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's 30 November 1998 recital: is this disc just a re-release of the earlier BBC Music release, or is there some significant difference that makes it worthwhile upgrading? I know Alex Ross told us all to buy it, and normally I would do whatever Mr. Ross told me to do, but he didn't say anything about those who already had the earlier issue -- does anyone have any knowledge or opinions?

more blogroll

Check out Brian Roessler, who plays the double bass and does many other things up in beautifully named St. Cloud. . . .