Category Archives: Music

WHY DID THE SOVIETS NOT WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT THE PIANIST MARIA GRINBERG? ·

(Damian Thompson’s article appeared in the Spectator, 9/7.)

She was one of only four women to record the complete Beethoven piano sonatas but the state kept her in obscurity

Only four women pianists have recorded complete cycles of the Beethoven piano sonatas: Maria Grinberg, Annie Fischer, H. J. Lim and Mari Kodama. I’ve written before about the chain-smoking ‘Ashtray Annie’ Fischer: she was a true poet of the piano and her Beethoven sonatas are remarkably penetrating — as, alas, is the sound of her beaten-up Bösendorfer. Lim produced her cycle in a hurry when she was just 24; it’s engaging but breathless. Kodama’s set, just completed, is a bit polite.

Which leaves Maria Grinberg (1908–78), whose recordings remain just where the Soviet authorities wanted them. In obscurity. That is shameful — and not because she was the first woman and the first Russian to record all the sonatas. (In those days Jews from Odessa in Ukraine counted as Russians.) This is an unforgettable cycle. Unforgettable, that is, in the unlikely event that you’ve heard it.

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‘THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE’ FROM GILBERT & SULLIVAN PLAYERS (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Culturally, winter holidays and families may be more important to Arts curriculum than what is taught in schools.  During the recess, children can be exposed to The Nutcracker or Hamilton, see a movie, receive a book, or listen to show tunes—and something in them may open up.  Hopefully, they will feel surprise at what they discover, and suddenly, have a memory to savor for a lifetime.  The occasion can give a student special definition or identification, which has nothing to do with grades or societal programming, expectations or approval.  Some may even believe that such a turning point has the potential to turn the young into future ticket buyers, but that is too crass an estimation.   Building this secret place might begin with Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Lion King, or learning about the settling of New Amsterdam  or Winston Churchill.  The subject might be old-fashioned or quirky, like first reading Alice in Wonderland, going to the circus, or listening to a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. What is important is that, in a nation where most people do about the same things during a day, the mundane is broken and  individualism can emerge.

Cleverly directed, as well as conducted, by Albert Bergeret and choreographed by Bill Fabris, with ballet, comic marches, and even a nod to A Chorus Line, The Pirates of Penzance, from New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (which ran at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College from December 27-30) strikes this reviewer as a production with ingredients to inspire—coming from the kind of theatre company you always hoped was out there and getting supported. The cast, on the evening of December 28, included David Macaluso, Mathew Wages, James Mills, Carter Lynch, David Auxier, Katie Dixon, Hannah Holmes, Abigail Benke, Merrill Grant, and Angela Christine Smith, among other well-trained singers in an ensemble of pirates, police, and wards, working with good humor and high spirits. The set, an old-fashioned painted backdrop with rainbow lighting—including a Celtic ruin and the dangerous clifftops of Cornwall, England–was by Lou Anne Gilleland (scenic design) and Benjamin Weill (lights)—the period costumes come from Gail J. Wofford & Quinto Ott W.S. Gilbert’s libretto is nonsensical, using Queen Victoria as a deus ex machina, but there are moments in Shaw and Shakespeare that seem about as contrived, as well.

What is noticeable, however, is how well the tuneful music continues to captivate and flow–and here its orchestration is superior to the rather tinny, electronic hurdy-gurdy sounds used for the Joseph Papp production of 1980, starring Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt.  Maybe this is all a way of saying that this reviewer had something of an epiphany himself regarding Gilbert and Sullivan, after assuming that such a piece would be rather moldy.  But the presentation, played at a human scale, glistens like the bright, sparkling earrings worn by Dixon’s Mabel. Tell someone about the integrity of this company and perhaps recommend it to a young person looking for purpose—maybe he or she will ask the artists what they did over their holidays as kids.

Visit New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.   

Production photos: Carol Rosegg   

 

VERDI REQUIEM AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL: PROM 64, 2018 ·

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Live at BBC Proms: Verdi’s Requiem with the London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra with conductor Orozco-Estrada and Lise Davidsen, Sarah Connolly, Dmytro Popov & Tomasz Konieczny Live from the Royal Albert Hall, London Presented by Georgia Mann Verdi: Requiem Lise Davidsen, soprano Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano Dmytro Popov, tenor Tomasz Konieczny, bass London Philharmonic Choir London Philharmonic Orchestra Andrés Orozco‐Estrada, conductor Rising conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada continues this season’s sequence of Requiems with Verdi’s mighty concert-hall setting – an ‘opera in church vestments’. Embracing the full gamut of human emotion, from the most tender and fragile of hopes to the visceral terror of the Day of Judgement, it’s a work that transforms private grief into an astonishing public statement. An international team of soloists includes the exciting young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen and renowned mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN’S NEW YORK (BERNSTEIN AT 100) ·

Listen on BBC RADIO 3

Tom Service travels to New York City to discover if Bernstein’s musical and social legacy continues to echo through the streets of the Big Apple and the lives of New Yorkers. Visiting key places where Bernstein lived and worked, Tom meets the musicians, institutions and ensembles of today who are working towards goals Bernstein championed as a musician, communicator and humanitarian. Tom visits Jamie Bernstein at the flat where the Bernstein family archives resides, while at the archives of the New York Philharmonic, Tom finds a musical score which reveals a fascinating self-insight by the maestro himself, and with the orchestra’s archivist Barbara Haws remembers her time working with Bernstein, how he changed orchestral relations, and how his conducting traditions are still in place today. Historian Julia Foulkes explains how resonances of West Side Story are found in the hit Broadway musicals of the 21st century, and with Deborah Borda, CEO of the New York Philharmonic and conductors Michael Tilson Thomas and Joshua Weilerstein, Tom discovers initiatives aimed at bringing the joy of classical music to new audiences today, as Bernstein did. Tom visits National Sawdust in Brooklyn, which carries on Bernstein’s ideas on social and musical collaboration, and Humphrey Burton, Bernstein biographer, offers his views on where Bernstein’s legacy can be found today.

Photo: Chicago Classical Review

‘QUEEN OF SOUL’ ARETHA FRANKLIN HAS DIED ·

(Mesfin Fekadu’s and Hillel Italie’s article appeared on the AP, 8/16; via Pam Green.)

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” who sang with matchless style on such classics as “Think,” ”I Say a Little Prayer” and her signature song, “Respect,” and stood as a cultural icon around the globe, has died at age 76 from pancreatic cancer.

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn tells The Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin died Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. The statement said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute” in Detroit.

The family added: “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”

The statement continued:

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.

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Photo: BBC

KRISTEN SCOTT THOMAS AND THE LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR PERFORM ‘PERSEPHONE’ BY STRAVINSKY ·

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Persephone begins at:  1:13:37

Composer Thomas Adès is fast becoming known as a conductor to be reckoned with, not only in his own music but also in a wide range of repertoire. This not-to-be missed concert begins with the suite from Powder her Face, the darkly comic opera which in 1995 helped established Adès as one of the UK’s leading composers.

‘I’ve never had any luck with sacristans,’ says Gerald Barry, whose youthful organ playing antagonised congregations and clergy alike. Barry’s new concerto, played by virtuoso Thomas Trotter on the spectacular instrument of the Royal Festival Hall, partly draws on memories of his Irish childhood. But don’t expect at pastoral idyll. Barry was also inspired by a picture of a cat to put the ‘fight for atonality against tonality into the concerto’ which ends with organ and orchestra (including 21 metronomes) joining in the hymn, Humiliated and Insulted.

The concert finishes with a rare performance of Perséphone, Strarvinsky‘s restrained and austere 1930s retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone whose descent to the Underworld to become the wife of Pluto plunges the world into winter and whose return to the living brings spring. Dame Kristin Scott Thomas narrates.

Martin Handley presents, live from the Royal Festival Hall.

Thomas Adès: Powder her Face Suite
Gerald Barry: Organ Concerto (London premiere)
Stravinsky: Perséphone

Thomas Trotter (organ)
Dame Kristin Scott Thomas (narrator)
Toby Spence (tenor)
Trinity Boys Choir
London Philharmonic Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Thomas Adès (conductor).

GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT WITH DAN WALKER, LONDON PHILHARMONIC CHOIR DIRECTED BY GRAHAM ROSS, BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG CHORISTERS, MORE ·

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Dan Walker presents an evening of music and reflection to mark Good Friday at BBC Maida Vale Studios in London. In the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Dan explores the theme ofpeace-making with personal stories from people doing extraordinary things to bring about peace in the modern world.

Dan is joined by double MOBO award winning grime/rap artist Guvna B and singer/songwriter Beth Rowley, as well as the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year. Other music comes from the BBC Concert Orchestra and London Philharmonic Choir directed by Graham Ross, with excerpts from Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace’ and inspirational songs, including a new arrangement of ‘You Raise Me Up’ for choir and orchestra.

Dan speaks with Ben Wintour, joint founder of Steel Warriors, which melts down confiscated and surrendered knives using the steel to build gymnastics parks to benefit local communities, and Clare Wilson who set up a refugee safe house for young boys from the Calais refugee camp. She talks about a peace-making initiative in local schools designed to support young people in marking the centenary of the end of World War I appropriately, by finding a positive narrative

COLE PORTER:  COMPOSER OF THE WEEK (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4) ·

 

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04brk6s

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs remain popular today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter. On his deathbed, Porter said to a close friend, “I don’t know how I did it”. His remarkable achievements include a huge catalogue of witty, sophisticated, and sometimes risqué songs, plus a raft of successful shows like Anything Goes, Can-Can and, his most popular musical, Kiss Me Kate. The opulence of these lavish productions was matched by Porter’s glamorous lifestyle; the parties were legendary, and his apartment at the Waldorf Hotel was photographed for Vogue magazine. Yet there were parts of his life that Cole Porter needed to shield from public view; he lived at a time when being gay was not considered acceptable.

Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, where his father ran a drugstore. His maternal grandfather was something of a tyrant, but also one of the richest men in the state. It was Porter’s mother, Katie, who encouraged her son in music, and she who published his first song, from 1901. 

Porter scraped through his college years, graduating in 1913. His mind was on other things than his education, including the composition of four musicals and over one hundred songs. Porter was refining his ability to write witty patter songs, including I’ve a Shooting Box in Scotland from 1916, and When I Had a Uniform On, also known as the Demobilisation Song.

Cole Porter’s activities during the First World War are somewhat sketchy. He journeyed to France where he acquired a number of uniforms, including a colonel’s which he wore with total disregard for the regulations. In Paris, Porter held a number of lavish parties, and it was there that he met the American divorcee who would become his wife.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY: A SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT SPOILER ALERT   ·

 

(Christ Jordan’s article appeared on app., 9/28; via the Drudge Report.)  

So Bruce Springsteen of Freehold, whose “Springsteen on Broadway” begins previews  Tuesday, Oct. 3, and opens Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Walter Kerr Theatre, should feel right at home.

“He’s the greatest living storyteller because of how he connected with everyone at his shows, all the way to the last row” said Matt Pinfield,  former host of MTV’s “120 Minutes” and author of the new book “All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life.” “There’s such a human element with his storytelling and his songs. He’s always been able to tell stories in between songs, that in itself is an art form.

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http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/music/2017/09/28/bruce-springsteen-broadway-spirit-night/704050001/