Monday, March 9, 2009

Organ Music in Griswold Hall (and at Emmanuel: assembly required)

Is the Peabody Conservatory's Leith Symington Griswold Hall one of Baltimore's best kept secrets? I have seen it full to standing room only for some concerts (notably the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble's Christmas concerts), but sometimes it seems that more people should be aware of this beautiful room. Most of the time, the lovely pipe organ in its housing painted a creamy white to go with the hall's color scheme is a backdrop for concerts involving other instruments, but bring in an organist and a Titan awakens. Yesterday afternoon's recital by Peggy Haas Howell was only the third or fourth time I've heard this organ played, and I've been missing something wonderful here. If Howell's program had been limited to the Baroque, it would have been remarkable enough, but we had some Mendelssohn and some Louis Vierne (1870-1937), whose organ symphonies seem to be represented on most programs in only selected (but colorful!) movements. Finally, we also heard Pamela Decker's (b. 1955) "Tango-Toccata on a theme by Melchior Vulpius". Yes, I'm going to be looking for that one in a recording so I can hear it again. If you ever see it on a program for an upcoming recital, get yourself to that recital. (Truthfully, I also need to hear plenty of other organ music.)

I searched for a picture and more complete description of the organ and Griswold Hall. Here's a link to a page by Acoustic Dimensions, the company that remodeled the hall in the late 1990's. (Now I must look up "tracker organ".)

Meanwhile, the Emmanuel Episcopal Church a few blocks away has received its new organ. I asked about it while picking up a copy of the season program for Opera Vivente, which performs at the church, and I was directed to a pile of long cardboard crates behind a partition in the vestibule. No, I never imagined that a pipe organ was freighted complete to its destination, but it was so strange to see a new one of these huge instruments lying in pieces, waiting to be put together and brought to life again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dutch and Baltimore Cityscapes

The current exhibit at the NGA, "Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age", was my main destination yesterday, and I definitely must visit it again. (It closes on May 3.) Do you ever find yourself basking in art? There were a couple of rooms in this exhibit where I entered, took a first cursory look round and then just stood there taking it in without focusing on a single picture. Eventually, I regained consciousness in a sense and started examining some of the pictures more closely.

The themes of this exhibit reminded me of another artist, closer in time and place, working in a different style and medium (watercolor), but on a mission similar to that of the Dutch artists: Martha Dougherty lives and works in Baltimore. I've seen her paintings in temporary exhibits at City Cafe, and later I realized that the paintings of various scenes in and around the Peabody which are hanging in that institute's grand arcade are by the same artist.

A good sample of Dougherty's work can be viewed on her web site:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Weekend of Two Cities?

Cultural opportunities are drawing me in both directions in the I-95 corridor.

My ticket for Opera Vivente's run of "The Coronation of Poppea" in Baltimore is for next weekend, but I'm really liking these dress rehearsal photos posted on the OV blog. (The first performance was last night, and the second will be this Sunday afternoon.)

Today, I think I'll head down to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for the exhibit of Dutch cityscapes, which opened recently. The big Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit closes in the middle of this month, so I might revisit it while I'm there.

This organ recital by Peggy Haas Howell on Sunday at 4pm at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory also entices. On the very varied program: Who can resist something called "Tango-Toccata on a Theme by Melchior Vulpius"? (Adult tickets, $15 each.)

If the cityscapes at NGA don't overwhelm me, before Sunday's organ recital at the Peabody I could visit the Walters Art Musuem and have a look at some current exhibits. That one about the 13th century illuminated manuscripts of "The Romance of the Rose" written in Old French looks interesting.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Opera Calendar: March 2009 in Baltimore

The Coronation of Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi, sung in English with Baroque ensemble at Opera Vivente, meeting hall of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Mar. 6, 8, 12, 14

La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. Peabody Opera, Friedberg Hall of Peabody Conservatory with Peabody Concert Orchestra, Mar. 11-14. In this production, Violetta is sung by three different sopranos to match Verdi's varied writing for this role.

Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart. Baltimore Concert Opera at the Engineers Club in concert performance with piano accompaniment, Mar. 25.

All of these performances are in Baltimore's Mount Vernon cultural district. Based on my experience (even if Baltimore Concert is a new company), I recommend buying tickets in advance.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Upcoming Productions at Opera Vivente; High-Register Male Voices

I bought my tickets on line yesterday for upcoming productions by Opera Vivente in Baltimore: Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea" (sung in English) coming up this week and next, then Britten's "Albert Herring" (sung in the original English!) in May. Britten's comedy will give us a look at a different side of this composer after the heavy stuff of "Peter Grimes" at Washington National Opera earlier in the spring.

I've seen a production of Poppea only once before, also in English, back in the late 1990's at the University of Maryland's Clarice Center. Do you remember that one? It was updated to modern Washington, DC, and portrayed Nero as a modern-day world leader. Nero was sung by a Greek countertenor, who I believe was the subject of a short feature in a recent issue of Opera News (or Gramophone?). That production was billed as one of the weekend's best bets for entertainment on the front page of the Post's Weekend section, so I think there were a lot of audience members attracted by that recommendation but unprepared for certain aspects of the show. For one, I recall an audible gasp among the audience when the countertenor first opened his mouth. I continue to meet music lovers who are not used to the concept of the high-register male voice, but I like to say, "Once you've heard a good high-register male voice, you'll never go back." (But I'm still a fan of Slavonic basses.)

Now we have male sopranos gaining recognition in recent years. Opera Vivente's upcoming Poppea will be my first time hearing any male soprano, and I am looking forward to hearing this singer, David Korn, as Nero opposite soprano Ah Hong as Poppea. As I understand the difference, countertenors train their voices to sing consistently falsetto, but a male soprano sings naturally in that range without modifying his voice. It could be a little more complicated than that, because a few countertenors claim they are singing naturally, as opposed to falsetto, in their register. Russell Oberlin, whose collection of Handel arias was remastered recently in Deutsche Grammophon's Spotlight series, was one such countertenor. Considering the variety among singing voices, it could, indeed, be true of some countertenors, but whatever is really happening inside the singer, the results we hear are astounding.

I rambled on here longer than planned, but I have been so excited by this area of singing and continue to be awed by it and intrigued by the difference in voice types even within this range. Some fine countertenors, including Peter Wen-Chih Lee, have studied at the Peabody Institute recently, and my opera and recital disc collection now includes the likes of David Daniels and Philippe Jaroussky.

Here is a link to Opera Vivente's current season page with cast and production details and hot buttons for buying tickets on line. (There is also a phone number, if you prefer that option.) I note that Harmonious Blacksmith's Joseph Gascho is conducting Poppea, and JoAnn Kulesza, who has conducted previous Britten opera productions at Vivente and Peabody, is conducting Herring.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

So many opera companies....

My page of links to opera companies in the region is almost complete and may never be absolutely complete. (See my extra pages in the side bar.) If you think I left any companies out, please comment here or send an e-mail to farlaf2000 at yahoo dot com. (There is also an e-mail button on my profile page.)

The list is not about who has the bigger budgets and flashier productions. It's about the number and variety of companies active in the general region -- Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania and Virginia. I've only seen productions by a few of these companies, mainly the ones around Baltimore and DC, but it's obvious that each one has something different to offer. I've read about Pittsburgh Opera, but Opera Theatre Pittsburgh is new to me, although they've been around since 1978. OTP's current season includes Bizet's "Djamileh" and Salieri's "Prima la Musica," so they're on a mission to circulate rarely performed works also. (They apparently have a special series of productions performed in unusual locations.) An opera friend told me about Opera Roanoke in Virginia. The company's artistic director is conductor Steven White, husband of soprano Elizabeth Futral (both have appeared with Baltimore Opera).

Yes, there is a Chamber Opera of Washington! The same opera friend was asking me if I'd heard about them, so I just tried a search and there they were. They're in the list now. They're planning to perform "The Turn of the Screw" in October 2009.

I'll add to the page as necessary, and I'll be working on links for my other extra page in the near future.

just nattering: more memorable albums; new albums; this economy

My list of 15 plus most memorable recordings in a recent post was typed up on the spot to see what would come to mind first (as truly memorable?). I made a couple of spelling and title corrections later, then I started thinking of other albums I might have mentioned on a different day. Rita Streich. Various collections of arias and lieder sung by Christoff, Chaliapin, Hvorostovsky... One chamber music set that came to mind was the Philips box of Mozart's six string quintets played by the violinist Arthur Grumiaux and friends. Then there's the DG box of Dvorak's complete music for string quartet played by the Prague Quartet. And what about a movie soundtrack? "Monsoon Wedding".

~Bjoerling and Melchior~
After I made my list the other night, I listened to some of the Nimbus collections of Jussi Bjoerling -- still magnetic as ever after repeated listening; would that he had not been killed by the drinking problem. Then I found my RCA disc of the Heldentenor Lauritz Melchior. The opening track of a both hypnotic and ringing rendition of "Mein lieber Schwann!" has been played here many times, but there is more on this album which I must revisit, including duets with sopranos Lotte Lehmann and Kirsten Flagstad. The photo of Melchior on the front of this album shows us one of the Nicest People of the 20th Century.

~A partial playlist of new discs on the player recently~

-- guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad's "Jardim abandonado" album on Nonesuch. It's a great disc to hear straight through in one sitting, but a couple of tracks that might get repeated listening are Sergio Assad's composition, "Tahhiyya Li Ossoulina", and the duo's rendition of "Rhapsody in Blue". (From memories of my early concert-going days: I heard the Assads in a performance on campus many years ago.)

-- "Immortal Soul". A two-disc set done by Rhino for Nordstrom, spotted in a counter display at Nordstrom the other night. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Little Richard and others. Some of the performers and titles were very familiar, some new to me. I had to have it. Listening to it at home also made me seek out my album of Sam Cooke.

~the economy (now Theater Project?)~
I won't post links to all the bad economic news I see. There's plenty of it for all of us to read, but the item about the Walters Art Museum in my last post was upsetting, and it provided a summary of other things that have happened. Note Theater Project fearing they might have to cancel next season, which I hadn't read about yet. This has been a location for some productions by Peabody Chamber Opera and American Opera Theater among other groups.

Some good signs, not really arts-related: A young family a couple of doors down from me who want a bigger house for the kids finally have an "under contract" notice on their house sale sign. For myself, this weekend on the social calendar: Taking a break from concert-going, I'm joining a sizable party of friends for dinner at a restaurant here in Columbia.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

OK, I'll play: 15 (or so) most memorable recordings, frequently played

I usually don't like memes, but this one appeals, and it's even something I've been thinking about recently. Alex on Wellsung
posted this idea, in which you list the 15 albums that made the most impression on you and which you played repeatedly, and ideally you can still remember events or feelings associated with the time when you first heard the music.

So here's my own list, which I'm going to type up without researching in my collection, and it might not be exactly 15:

1. Sibelius' Symphony No. 2, Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra -- borrowed on vinyl from the public library during college break around 1980; started a lifelong love affair with Sibelius' music

2. Borodin's "Prince Igor", Bulgarian forces with bass Boris Christoff as Igor and Khan Konchak on EMI. It is not a highly regarded set, and its deficiencies were more obvious to me later when I'd heard other performances -- but it's all about Christoff and it was my first exposure to a complete performance of what was an elusive opera to hunt down.

3. Russian orchestral masterpieces, including Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol and Gliere's Russian Sailor's Dance ending at breakneck speed, Ormandy and the Philadelphia (?)

4. "Dawn on the Moskva River" from Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina" played ever so dreamily by the NY Philharmonic (?) with Bernstein conducting

5. Probably several different recordings of "Night on Bald Mountain"

6. Paul Simon's "Graceland" album

7. Nimbus recordings of Jussi Bjoerling in song and aria, most notably his Puccini arias (in Italian, not Swedish) and Beethoven's "Adelaide", and the collection of various classical and popular songs sung mostly in Swedish but ending with "O, Sole Mio" in Italian. (An English uncle who had heard Bjoerling in performance spoke fondly of him before I started finding albums by him.)

8. Solti's Ring cycle on Decca (well, that's 14 or 15 discs right there); not that I've put this set on repeatedly, but many segments ring in the memory

9. Cafe Oran

10. "In the Fiddler's House", Itzhak Perlman and several great Klezmer ensembles

11. Suite from "Swan Lake" with Karajan conducting on DG

12. "The Wood Nymph", by Sibelius, Vanska and the Lahti Symphony on BIS

13. "Mazeppa", by Liszt, Karajan and the Berlin on DG; no other recording will do; heard many, many times in a very difficult year of my life

14. that demonic "Gigue" by Lourie on Marc-Andre Hamelin's "Kaleidoscope" disc

15. Neeme Jarvi and the Scottish National Orchestra's set of Rimsky-Korsakov suites on Chandos

16. I do have a Baroque one: Christie and Rousset's Couperin album on Harmonia Mundi -- now I'm double checking titles in my collection -- which ends with a stunning display of duelling harpsichords in Musete de Choisi and Musete de Taverni.

17. one of the Los Lobos band's collections, "Del Este De Los Angeles" (along with other albums by them, especially "La Pistola y El Corazon")

18. Rutland Boughton's rare opera, "The Immortal Hour," on Hyperion.

19. Chris Norman's "The Man with the Wooden Flute"

20. Carlos Kleiber conducting "Der Freischutz" by Weber with Gundula Janowitz gorgeous in her arias besides other attractions to the set

21. The Seekers: There was a vinyl LP of their hits in the home when I was a kid, then I bought the 5-disc set of The Seekers Complete.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Duo Transatlantique's Recital, Feb. 19

Remember the Peabody Camerata? I heard a concert by them for my second time last weekend. Well, I happened to come across the program from the first Camerata concert I heard back in February 2006 (and the date was Feb. 19 also). Maud Laforest was the soloist in Richard Rodney Bennett's Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Ensemble.

Laforest has teamed with Benjamin Beirs (pronounced to rhyme with "wires") in the guitar duo, Duo Transatlantique, since 2003, and they returned to An die Musik last Thursday evening. All but one of the works on the program were transcribed from the literature for other instruments, and guitarists stealing from other musicians was a theme in Beirs' lively commentary. When transcriptions sound so convincing on guitar (solo or duo), it hardly matters that it's borrowed music. There's been some Manuel de Falla in both of the Transatlantique's recitals I've heard, and I think I've heard de Falla's orchestral music performed on guitar more often than by orchestra. A highlight of Thursday's recital was a set of two pieces by Scott Joplin: "Cleopha" and "Maple Leaf Rag". The audience withheld applause until the end for most sets in the program, but we broke out into applause right after "Cleopha", so stylish was Beirs and Laforest's playing.

The one work on the program written originally for guitar or guitars was "Variaciones Concertantes" by Mauro Giuliani, the 19th century Italian composer who made it his life's mission to provide a literature expressly for the guitar. I'm also remembering some works I've heard by Fernando Sor, who was doing the same kind of work for the guitar in Spain. This is wonderful music to hear -- it's influenced by other composers of the day (Giuliani was influenced by Rossini, among others), it sounds like it could be played on piano or by some ensemble, but it sounds so good on guitar and brings out the full effect of that "little orchestra" label that has been applied to this instrument.

I bought Duo Transatlantique's first CD on their last visit to An die Musik. ("Le Gris et le Vert" or "The Gray and the Green".) Program notes announce a second CD coming later this year which I must add to my collection, but let's hope we can hear the Duo many more times in recital, too!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Guitar: the "Little Orchestra"

In my late 20's, frustrated by my lack of musical education, I bought a second-hand classical guitar and tried to learn to play it. It was a student instrument made in Japan, and people in the know thought it was of rather good quality for a student instrument. I ended up giving it to a musically talented nephew along with all the lesson books and accessories a few years ago, and he put it to much better use than I could. (I went through a similar process with a clarinet earlier in that decade of my life.) During my attempt at the guitar, I at least learned a new appreciation for its history and music, and I amassed a special collection of recordings of music for lute, vihuela and guitar. I also read a book: Frederic V. Grunfeld's "The Art and Times of the Guitar" (Da Capo, 1974 edition, copyright 1969 by Grunfeld). A couple of passages which have continued to strike a chord with me follow:

"The 6 strings of the guitar have a compass of over 4 octaves: more than half that of a grand piano. They can all be played at once, giving the 'little orchestra' its characteristic luxuriance of harmony. Highly responsive to the player's temperament and mood, the guitar, when skilfully played, combines a pure singing tone with deep resonance. This is not bad for an instrument 3 feet long and weighing 3 1/2 lbs." Grunfeld is quoting a 1967 poster for a Spanish guitar studio in London which he felt summed up the attractions of this instrument very well.

Later in the book, in a chapter called "Guitaromanie":

"Berlioz himself was a guitarist -- not in Paganini's class, perhaps, but from all accounts a remarkable player. He was the first important symphonic composer who was not at the same time a virtuoso on some more exalted instrument, such as the violin or piano, and this singular deficiency was to have important consequences for the development of his orchestral style....Everything that Berlioz composed is conditioned by the fact that he was not subject to the tyranny of piano habits. The way he spaces out his orchestral chords, the way his phrases are shaped and his rhythms change reveal a fresh, flexible mind that has been trained in the school of the guitar rather than in the boxed-in formulas of keyboard harmony...."

(Quoting that last bit is not meant to be a slight to composers who are proficient on the piano, but it helps explain to me why Berlioz sounds so different from other 19th century composers.)

guitars; Ives; opera potpourri

A quick note as I'm on my way to work: I almost didn't go to the Duo Transatlantique recital at An die Musik last night, it being a weeknight and I'm anticipating another trip into Baltimore on Saturday night. So glad I went though! The Duo played an engaging program complete with encores, and they have wonderful rapport with their audience. (I hope to write a better post soon with details about the program.)

Once again, a review by the Baltimore Sun's Tim Smith (on his Clef Notes blog) draws me to a Baltimore Symphony concert I've been thinking about. Ives is always interesting. Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony is not one of my favorites, but I was curious to hear how it fares in live performance (and with the Baltimore Opera's James Harp at the organ!). There are two more performances of this program, tonight and tomorrow at the Meyerhoff, but now I'm saving myself for the parade of Italian Baroque and Bel Canto opera at the Peabody Institute tomorrow night.

While I was browsing in An die Musik before last night's recital, I found and purchased a sought-after Ives CD. "An American Journey" on RCA with Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony, baritone Thomas Hampson and choruses is on Alex Ross's list of recommended recordings of 20th century music in his book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Baltimore Opera Company!

I'm at my other computer adding my new opera links page to my side bar, and there's an article on Tim Smith's Clef Notes blog about the new Baltimore Concert Opera.

the post on Clef Notes with link to the new company's site

Later: I had read all of Tim Smith's post before writing this post. He spells out the details of the new Baltimore Concert Opera's relationship to the Baltimore Opera Company (which earlier filed for bankruptcy and cancelled the remainder of this season). Briefly, the BCO provides a forum for Baltimore Opera singers to perform while their original company recovers. I thought I'd better expand on this post after finding another note clarifying the situation elsewhere on the web. Meanwhile, both companies are included in the links on my page of opera companies.

Art Museums, Galleries, Gardens, Other Interests

(To see the main blog page, click on the blog title above.)


> Artists' Gallery
> Columbia Art Center
> Columbia Film Society
> Daedalus Books and Music (and Movies)
> Rep Stage
> Savage Mill

> Howard Community College Visitors and Community page with link for the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center

> early Frank Gehry buildings in Columbia (brochure in PDF download)

> -- site with feeds from many Howard County blogs


> Baltimore Museum of Art
> The Charles Theatre (arthouse cinema)
> Cylburn Arboretum
> Mount Vernon Cultural District
> Walters Art Museum

> Blogs by Baltimore Sun writers


> Freer and Sackler Galleries (Smithsonian Institute)
> National Gallery of Art
> The Phillips Collection
> U.S. Botanic Garden
> U.S. National Arboretum

> Washington Post's Local Blog Directory (directory home page with links to the rest of the newspaper)


Mostly local and a few beyond, these artists are mainly contemporary painters and photographers whose work I've seen and sometimes purchased. (Also see the link to the Artists' Gallery in Columbia above.)

> John Borrack - mainly watercolor and gouache (Australia)
> Martha Dougherty - watercolor
> Kesra Hoffman - gouache
> Deborah Maklowski - pastel; colored pencil; graphite
> Stewart Skelt - photography (Australia)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Condensed Calisto and More Italian Opera Gems at Peabody This Saturday, Feb. 21

I'm anticipating other musical events this week; however, posters at the Peabody last Saturday evening caught my eye. The program of the Opera Workshop this Saturday evening was revealed, and I might have to attend. It's a little bit of Baroque and a little bit of Bel Canto, starting with an abridged version of Cavalli's "La Calisto".

Peabody opera workshops are also free. They used to take place on weeknights, but this timing makes this one a little easier to attend. The workshops might have less production frills than a full-blown staging, but don't let that put you off. A workshop of Ravel's "L'Enfant et les sortileges" ("The Boy and the Spells" or "The Bewitched Boy") was among my best memories of the opera season a couple of years ago.

Here is the full program with lovely reproductions of related historical paintings and hints of updated stagings for this performance. They may have simplified the plot of Calisto, but there is still much Baroque gender-bending going on.

In this version of the program from the Peabody's events calendar, you can click on a headphones symbol and listen to a short talk by music director, Adam Pearl. (Pearl is the harpsichordist and conductor for many of American Opera Theater's Baroque productions.)

The performance will be at 7:30pm in Friedberg Hall, the Peabody's main concert hall. (The Friedberg has real caryatids! See if you can spot them.)

Mihaly Virizlay

I just learned from the spring 2009 issue of the Peabody Magazine that the great cellist, Mihaly Virizlay, died at the age of 76 in October 2008. It was a great pleasure for me to see Virizlay on stage at the Meyerhoff in his last years with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -- he played in the BSO from 1964 to 2002 -- and in a performance with student and faculty cellists of Arvo Part's "Fratres" at the Peabody a few years ago. He was also on the Peabody faculty, joining them in 1964.

One of Virizlay's mentors in his native Hungary was the composer Zoltan Kodaly, and he also studied with Janos Starker. Being aware of a connection like that makes one feel witness to a great musical legacy.

Here is a link to a page in honor of Mihaly Virizlay on the Peabody Institute's web site.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Listening to the Peabody Camerata -- Tommasini on Modern Music

A couple of related veins I'm following here: Last night I went to hear the Peabody Camerata, my second time attending one of their performances. (Of course, it's understood that membership in any Peabody student ensemble changes a little from year to year.) On last night's program, the Babbitt and Carter pieces represent a block of American composers I have not approached yet for listening -- although I seem to be reading about them all the time! Music theory aside, Elliott Carter's "Canon for 3" and Milton Babbitt's "All Set" were enjoyable listening that encouraged me to seek out more music by these composers.* The music theory, by the way, was eloquently explained in a manner friendly to the layman by the Camerata's conductor and Peabody faculty member, Gene Young. "Interbalances IV" by Barney Childs (1926-2000), the one unfamiliar name for me on the program, was the one piece that tried my patience. It was chance music, with a trumpet soloist selecting passages randomly from a "score" provided by Childs while a speaker (Gene Young here) read a literary passage.

The concert closed with Britten's Sinfonietta, Op. 1. As Young pointed out, Britten wrote this piece when he was 18, about the same age as last night's musicians. Next to the more challenging listening on the program, this piece sounded reactionary.

The ensembles varied from piece to piece, and the playing was excellent. The Camerata's concerts are free, an opportunity that should not be overlooked if you're interested in new music.

*Well, this Carter piece, written in homage to Stravinsky, was very short, under two minutes, so it might not be accurate to call it enough of a sample of the composer's work. After a first performance of it last night, Young gave an explanation of its workings with demonstrations by the three flutists, then they performed it a second time for us. It's written for three unspecified instruments, so besides moving on to other works by Carter, one could try to hear this one in different instrumental combinations.


The other vein of interest? I was just looking at Ionarts' regular "In Brief" feature and saw the link to the current NY Times project in which Anthony Tommasini is fielding questions from readers. A first look shows a blog-like discussion with some points about modern music (among other issues of interest) relevant to last night's program and commentary at the Peabody. (I'm recalling Young's mention of how Babbitt dominated the field of music composition for many years. See the first question and answer in the following link.) Here is a link to the Tommasini discussion.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

well, I might go to this concert instead

After harping about other concert opportunities this weekend, I noticed this one by the Peabody Camerata tonight at 7:30pm. It's contemporary music, or more recent at least: Babbitt, Carter, Britten, Barney Childs. And it's free.

Griswold Hall in the Peabody Conservatory, where this concert will take place, is itself a "jewel in the crown" of concert locations around Baltimore. This is on the same Monument Square (or Place) in Baltimore's Mount Vernon district as the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion discussed in my last post.

Classical music is dead, or in its death throes? Here I am choosing between three concerts in locations all within a metronome's throw of each other in downtown Charm City this weekend. Two of them could very well sell out, and one is free. And I'm looking ahead to the coming week and being careful not to spend too much on tickets or overwhelm myself with concerts.

An Aristocratic Location for Concerts

When I planned this post, I was going to refer to the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion as one of the jewels of Baltimore, and I see that the mansion's own web site designates it as one of the jewels in the crown of Baltimore's historic homes. Some people know the Garrett-Jacobs as the Engineers Club, an organization that resides there. It also serves as a site for events, including concerts. It's nice to go to concerts in "ultramodern" places, like the new Horowitz Center in Columbia, which was the subject of a recent post on this blog, but it seems equally nice to hear and see performances in historic settings with all that ornate, period charm.

As I learned on 91.5 FM, WBJC, yesterday morning, the Concert Artists of Baltimore have a Music at the Mansion series at Garrett-Jacobs. This Sunday at 2:30pm, WBJC's own Jonathan Palevsky and Mark Malinowski will be the readers in CAB's performance of Walton's "Facade". As I heard Palevsky say in his interview with CAB's Artistic Director, Edward Polochik, the concert is likely to sell out.

Luckily, there are other chances during the year to attend a concert in the mansion. An die Musik occasionally holds recitals here, and before the performance you can wander around the mansion's lower floor and goggle at the lovely antique furnishings, carved wood and a spiral staircase with Tiffany skylight.

a link to the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion web site

a virtual tour of the mansion provided by the Engineers Club

Concert Artists of Baltimore web site

Friday, February 13, 2009

Starting a long weekend; a ramble about TV and movies

As I surfed my blog roll last night, I was amused and interested to see two bloggers holding forth about their DVD collections and how they provide much more satisfaction than the hundreds of channels they get on cable TV. I don't have cable, but I do have a nice flatscreen and a gradually increasing DVD collection of my own. The flatscreen was an upgrade from my iMAC theater a couple of years ago. My only broadcast TV comes through the rabbit ears on a trusty old Sony picture tube TV (so the flatscreen is a Sony, too). I only watch news and weather on this old TV, so when we go digital at the end of the month, I'm not following along. I'll see how long I can get by with news and weather on the Internet and radio. (Disclosure: If I'm stuck in a hotel room on a road trip, I'll surf the cable channels to see if I'm missing anything. On my last vacation, I became addicted to "Cops," but as the vacation stretched out, I did feel like I had better things to do than watch that show. It was strangely fascinating before it got depressing, though.)

So this weekend I have a stack of new DVD's of old movies to explore -- "Dinner at Eight", "Twelve Angry Men", "The Children of Paradise" (a favorite which arrived quickly when I ordered at Borders)....I already watched the original "Lost Horizon" from the 1930s, with those stills taking the place of scenes too damaged to restore, but they are few and the movie is beautiful, and the score is by Dimitry Tiomkin with Max Steiner as music director....The other night I watched "The Black Swan" again. Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara are in it, but for me the most delicious roles to watch are George Sanders as Captain Leech (sp?) and larger-than-life Laird Cregar as Captain/Sir Henry Morgan. Can that really be the same Sanders of "All About Eve" and "Rebecca"? He's obviously eating up his pirate role here, with great results, somewhat like Geoffrey Rush in the first "Pirates of the Caribbean". Eye-grabbing Technicolor. Wish I could see that opening scene of a ship in full sail on a big theater screen.

I'm not a vintage movie snob, but I'm going to the cinema much less than before. Of recent releases, I chose to go see "Valkyrie" and was not disappointed. I could see it again on DVD, too. There are plenty of bad old movies, to be sure. My Black Swan DVD has some trailers, and one can tell the "Pirates of Tortuga" is absolutely awful without seeing the whole movie. But the trailer is entertaining. The announcer informs us that we can watch the star of the movie conquer his female lead just as he would conquer any pirate (as he grabs her in his arms and kisses her full on the mouth). Run that by me again, please?

Well, there is also another concert this Sunday which I hope to attend, and I just heard about another interesting one that day as I listened to 91.5 FM, "Baltimore's classical music station", this morning. Perhaps more about that later, but this news made me aware of a couple of links I need to add to my list. (And I'm still working on those opera company links in my new page, previous post.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Post for Australia

Responding to the news of deadly wildfires raging in part of southeast Australia:

I'm trusting that friends who I know there are physically safe, though I'm afraid that they in turn have friends and relatives in the fire area. I still hope that one of my friends can visit Maryland as planned soon. Thoughts go out for the people who have been less fortunate in this disaster.

Two writers in my blog roll are based in Sydney and Melbourne: "Prima la musica..." and "On Stage Melbourne". Some of my best opera and concert experiences were in those fine cities.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Columbia's New Performing Arts Center

I was so pleased as punch: Just a couple minutes' drive from my house in our suburban-planned-community-urban-village of Columbia, Maryland, a famous string quartet played in a theater on a community college campus last night. The significance of the opportunity wasn't lost on me, but I was almost as thrilled to see Howard Community College's renovated Smith Theatre and new Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center. I had not seen the Smith for a few years, and the Candlelight Concert Society, host of the Talich Quartet last night, was itself graciously hosted by the nearby Wilde Lake Interfaith Center during construction and renovation. Candlelight returned to the campus some time this season. Last night, I parked somewhere close to where I had parked in the past, but before I found the Smith Theatre, I had to walk around the outside of a couple of buildings that weren't there before, across a new quad and into the completely new building, the Horowitz Center, which had sprung up around the Smith's old home. The Horowitz is ultramodern with an airy, spacious, tiered main lobby. The University of Maryland's Clarice Center on a smaller scale came to mind as I looked around. In addition to at least three performance halls, there are also bright, ultramodern art exhibit spaces.

I found that the Horowitz Center's main grand entrance is on the other side from where I entered, and there seemed to be more parking there. (I think there is plenty of free parking, as before, but I must double check the parking regulations on the HCC site.) The less grand entrance is on the new campus quad, which bears visiting again during daylight for a better look. (Check out what looked like a dragon mosaic brick path!)

a link to the Horowitz Center's page on the HCC web site, with a link to an events calendar

a map of the Horowitz Center showing the layout of the Smith Theatre

Rep Stage, HCC's resident drama company, another cultural opportunity to explore

Saturday, February 7, 2009

on my calendar: February into March

Here are some upcoming events which I don't want to miss, but I might not make it to all of them, and I might add to the list.

~~ First, tonight I plan to go to the concert by the Talich Quartet at Howard Community College (Columbia, Maryland), almost right next door to me, in the Candlelight Concerts series. Web site says there are still tickets available ($29 for adults). (See Candlelight Concerts in my links list.)

~~ I'll also make a note that baritone John Dooley, soprano Theresa Bickham and the McDaniel College Gospel Choir will be singing with the Columbia Orchestra nearby in the Jim Rouse Theater tonight. The orchestra will play film music, and the vocal part of the program is African-American spirituals. Dooley was an exquisite demon of lust, Ashmodeus, for Opera Vivente's production of Dove's "Tobias and the Angel" last year (and it's nice to see that he's not being type cast!).

~~ Feb. 15: The Monument Piano Trio most likely will draw a capacity crowd again in An die Musik's recital room next Sunday evening. I don't see a program announced anywhere yet, but it wouldn't be the first time I've attended one of the Monument's recitals without knowing the program in advance and come away musically fulfilled in spite of that.

~~ Feb. 19: Also on An die Musik's busy calendar is the Duo Transatlantique, classical guitarists Benjamin Beirs and Maude Laforest.

~~ Feb. 20, 21: Marin Alsop conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question", Mozart's Symphony No. 29 and Saint-Saen's "Organ" Symphony.

~~ Feb. 26, 27: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's program with guest conductor Peter Oundjian includes Benjamin Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from his opera, "Peter Grimes". Cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott is the soloist for Dvorak's Cello Concerto, and Elgar's "Enigma Variations" close the program. (Part of this program will be a Casual Series concert that Saturday morning.)

~~ Mar. 6-14: Opera Vivente's production of Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea" (in English). Please to enjoy Director John Bowen's posting of costume designer Jennifer Tardiff's sketches.

~~ Mar. 22: The Sundays at Three chamber series at Christ Episcopal Church here in Columbia only recently appeared on my radar. I'm interested in that recital by the Prometheus Chamber Ensemble on this date, and note other recitals involving musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. (Thanks go to the local free paper, Columbia Flier, for making me aware of this series.)

~~ Following from the BSO program above, Washington National Opera performs the complete Grimes this spring. (My ticket is for April 4.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mendelssohn's birthday; Decca's demise

I'm remarking on the recent and current "headlines" in my blog roll. It lit up with Mendelssohn's name for a couple of days, and now, found courtesy of Letter V, Norman Lebrecht writes about the demise of the venerable Decca label.

My last playlist post happened to be mostly Decca, and my opera recording collection is full of classic Decca sets.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A movie on order: "The Children of Paradise"

Or "Les Enfants du Paradis". I understand that the usual English title is a mistranslation and that paradis is actually the word for the topmost gallery in French theaters. "The Children of the Peanut Gallery" would not work, I'm sure.

This is one of those movies we fall in love with when we're exposed to finer cinema in our college years (if we were not lucky enough before that). I've seen it a few times on rented tapes since then and thought that it wasn't available on DVD yet. I don't know what made me check Borders' database tonight while I was in the store, but there it was in a fairly new release on the fairly pricey Criterion label. I ordered without hesitation.

The story of the making of the film by a partly Jewish crew in Nazi-occupied Paris is as interesting as the film itself. I first learned the details in Volume II of Roger Ebert's "The Great Movies".

a correction and an upcoming recital

Daniel Schlosberg, the pianist for Ryan de Ryke's song recital at An die Musik last Friday, sent an e-mail to thank me for my post. Also a correction: Daniel Schlosberg was the author of the program notes, as is clearly printed at the bottom of the page, now that I look there. I've corrected the post. By the way, last night I got compulsive and typed in the entire recital program at the bottom of that post with a couple of notes about composers.

Mr. Schlosberg added that there will be a mostly-Haydn recital by Ryan de Ryke and soprano Ah Young Hong with Mr. Schlosberg at the piano at the Austrian Embassy in DC on May 22.

Thanks for the notice and the correction.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Playlist: Another Side of Shostakovich and Some Nubian Music

Since Saturday night's experience with the 8th Symphony at the BSO, I've been getting reacquainted with some of Shostakovich's lighter (?) music. Riccardo Chailly recorded these three albums on Decca/London with the Philadelphia and Concertgebouw orchestras during the 1990's:

-- The Film Album, which I'm listening to this evening, and it's the kind of movie music that stands up very well to hearing without the visual element (The Romance from "The Gadfly" will be recognized by some as the theme for the old British TV series, "Reilly, Ace of Spies".)
-- The Dance Album, suites from various works;
-- The Jazz Album, such lovely waltzes in the Jazz Suite No. 2, and the album ends with the composer's interpretation of "Tea for Two".

I sometimes put these discs on as background music while I'm busy at home, but they invariably draw me to stop and pay attention to the music.

Another change of pace, a favorite non-classical album:

-- "Salamat: Mambo El Soudani": Nubian Al Jeel music from Cairo, on the Piranha label, 1994. My favorite track is "Salam Cairo Salam", a kind of concertante arrangement for accordion and Al Jeel music's special brand of brass and percussion and other instruments.

Vasily Petrenko's blog

Last week's Russian guest conductor with the Baltimore Symphony, Vasily Petrenko, has his own blog on Blogspot.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tim Smith reviews de Ryke recital

It slipped by me in my blog roll, but I just checked Clef Notes and found Smith's review of last Friday night's recital at An die Musik. I was particularly interested in reading his views, so I am posting a link to the review here. There's a nice photo, too.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Michael Sheppard's web site

Pianist Michael Sheppard is the keyboard section of the phenomenal Monument Piano Trio and a regular soloist and accompanist in Baltimore. The Trio's web site is in my links already. Sheppard has been working on his own site. I stopped checking for a while, but it's finally working:

(I will add this one to my links when I can get to a better computer. I was just there yesterday and made some additions to my blog roll.)

At the Bal'timorsk Symphony

Last night was my first time getting to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this season. I was attracted to the BSO's all-Russian program, led by guest conductor Vasily Petrenko, and reading Tim Smith's review on Clef Notes of Thursday night's "incendiary" performance cemented my resolve to go into the city a second time this weekend. Incendiary, yes. The conclusion of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 drew some spontaneous applause, which pianist Stephen Hough kindly acknowledged. Before proceeding with the rest of the concerto, he had to mop the perspiration from the keys. I also enjoyed hearing Liadov's "Kikimora" in live performance, and Petrenko led us on an unforgettable symphonic journey with the titanic Shostakovich 8th. The BSO turned the symphony's serene closing passages into one of those world-halting moments in the concert hall that silence all the noise of outside distractions.

After reading all the bad news about financial troubles, I was glad to see the Meyerhoff quite packed last night. The sections where I prefer to sit were almost full. I was able to get a seat there, buying my ticket at the box office on the evening of the concert, but I didn't have the usual luxury of moving to a less crowded row, if I had wanted to do so. The box office employee also informed me that rush tickets were not available last night, because sales had been rather good for this performance.

Further to good news in spite of recent cutbacks: According to the BSO's Overture magazine, they recently hired two new musicians. They are bassoonist Fei Xie, 26, and associate principal hornist Gabrielle Finck, 29.

There is a large Russian community in and around Baltimore. I have stopped being surprised when I hear Russian being spoken in the city, but last night I seemed to overhear it more as I passed by groups of people in the lobby. (So I sometimes fondly refer to Charm City as Bal'timorsk.)

Only one cell phone went off during the concert, as far as I could hear from my section. That's still one cell phone too many, and I recall hearing one the last time I attended a BSO concert. Please, please remember to turn them OFF -- or leave them in the car or at home????

I like this different but positive view of music in general with commentary on this concert in particular in the last paragraph. The link is to a post by "introverted excavator".

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vancouver Opera's blogging experiment; Lucia storm; Florez speaks

One of the more interesting comment threads I've seen on a blog recently is this one on Opera Chic. It's about Vancouver Opera's live-blogging experiment during a recent performance of "Carmen". Note that the invited live-bloggers themselves chime in to make some points. I love that photo posted by OC. One commenter makes an apt comparison to the art of Caravaggio.

Noticing with great interest the storm of criticism on other blogs over the Lucia at the Met. Very instructive regarding voice types, suitable roles, possibility of an off-night, etc. (The related post titles in my blog roll have been roiling.)

My own opera news after a fashion: I just want to put in a pitch for the CD attached to Gramophone's February issue. The featured artist in the monthly interview is tenor Juan Diego Florez, talking about Bel Canto composers, Donizetti in particular. At forty minutes, this might be the longest interview yet in this series by Gramophone, but I wouldn't have minded if it had gone on longer. Florez's speaking voice is almost as lovely to hear as his singing voice. (Wonder if he could melt the ice on my front walk this morning, if I play one of Florez's albums outside on a portable player?)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

wintry mix; webby mix; Armenians singing in Turkish

We're having what some of the local weathermen call a wintry mix today. We've had snow, and I think we're getting some of Anthony Trollope's "half-frozen abominations". "Wintry mix" always sounds like a box of candy to me, but we know there's nothing sweet about the real thing.

The top of my web page where I view my blog at home looks a little mixed up, so I'm making sure that I can post. If any changes do affect my posting, I at least can afford to leave this blog put until I upgrade.

I have a CD on the player this evening which bears mentioning. I bought this some years ago: "Armenians on 8th Avenue", Crossroads label, released 1996. It's a collection of vintage recordings of various Armenian performers in cabarets on New York's 8th Avenue during the 1940's. What I learned from the album notes is that their repertoire was considered Anatolian music rather than of any particular nationality, and it was customary to sing these songs in Turkish (at least in the Armenian emigre community). The performers include names like Kanuni Garbis, Marko Melkon and "Sugar Mary" Vartanian.

A New Pipe Organ for Baltimore

I did not know that: John Bowen, director of Opera Vivente, is also organist and choirmaster at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, OV's headquarters. In addition to preparing for upcoming opera productions, Bowen just inspected a new organ to be delivered to the church soon. There is a link in Bowen's post to the Le Tourneau organ builder's web site. Emmanuel is getting a beautiful instrument, and congratulations to them!

(Intrigued, I hope Emmanuel can offer some recitals on the new organ.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

miscellany musical and literary (and support your local fuel fund)

It's getting colder again and snow might be on the way and more people are having money problems. I've been working on blocking up the worst draughts in the house while thinking of news we sometimes hear concerning house fires caused by candles and other means taken when some people can't afford electricity and heating. My utility bill comes with a separate contribution envelope for the Fuel Fund of Maryland, so I responded with a check.

~Another Arts Blog~
Found via Ionarts, another local arts blog: The Dressing, whose author did make it to Hydrogen Jukebox. I have to wait until I can get to a better computer before adding to my blog roll.

~Browsing at Borders Books~
Maybe I was in the wrong book store, but I browsed in the Columbia Borders last night and could not find any books by Robert Benchley (grandson Peter Benchley was represented on the shelves), and some notable large anthologies of poetry did not include Dorothy Parker. There was a paperback volume of her complete short stories, but I'm going to see first what I can find by her in collections I already have. Borders' in-store computers show that I can order plenty of Benchley's essay collections. (My last post was about the related movie, "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle".)

I'm hungrily watching Borders' short story anthology section for the next little volume in what seems to be a new series by the Everyman's Library publishing company. Short on additional notes by editors, long on great short fiction ranging from classic to more modern authors, they're compact books with beautiful bindings and coordinated dust covers that will look really fine shelved together. So far, I have "Ghost Stories", "Christmas Stories" and "Love Stories". Vladimir Nabokov and Elizabeth Bowen have won representation in all three of these first installations in the series. "Christmas Stories" is not all Christmassy. It ends with a delicious dysfunctional holiday story by Richard Ford.

~Master Classes, Upcoming Concerts~
Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman is in Baltimore this weekend. He just gave a master class at Peabody, and apparently he is performing with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra today. (Alas, the BCO is another group affected by the current hard times.) Veteran singer and Peabody faculty member John Shirley-Quirk is giving a master class at Peabody later this week. (See the Peabody Institute calendar of events in my links for more information.)

I've read some good reviews of recent Baltimore Symphony concerts on Ionarts and Clef Notes. I still plan to go to the all-Russian program concert at the Meyerhoff this coming Saturday. There is also a recital by baritone Ryan de Ryke at An die Musik on Friday night. Of course, I'm choosing this recital out of many other events, classical and jazz, on An die Musik's busy calendar (also in my links list).

~Watching and Listening to a Favorite Movie~
Watched Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers" for the 111th time this weekend. Christopher Komeda's score makes some interesting listening, varying from what sounds to me like 1960's pop-influenced vocal background music to the more eerie effects he achieves for scenes such as when the camera wanders over the weird portraits of the Krolock family. From extra features on the "Chinatown" DVD: Komeda was Polanski's favorite film music composer, and he would have employed him for that later movie if not for a tragic accident. There are a gay vampire and a Jewish vampire in the vampire tribe, with appropriate twists, but I wouldn't recommend the movie for your corporation's next diversity event. Love that scene where the Count first breaks into the inn with the snow and Komeda's deep strings swirling around him. Filmed (mostly?) in England's Shepperton Studios, but where is that fabulous Gothic pile of a castle?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A movie: "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle"

I'm just mulling over this movie which I watched last night and must watch again soon. I stumbled on the DVD in the sale bin at Borders the other night, but I had to check a couple of reviews before purchasing. They wavered over how good the movie was but were enthusiastic about some of the character portrayals. They also implied that I should take an anti-depressant before viewing. I had a beer instead. What the hell? Most of the characters in the movie were drinking, and a lot, too.

The movie was released in 1994, directed by Alan Rudolph. Watching it was like a crash course in American culture and society of the early 20th century. Mrs. Parker is poet, author and heavy drinker with suicidal tendencies, Dorothy S. Parker. The supporting cast can be summed up as her fellow artists who formed an informal dinner and discussion group that came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table, which took place at New York's Algonquin Hotel in the 1920's. Not all of these artists are fully fleshed out in the movie -- there are too many! -- and they become a circus of wits in the background. The reviews I checked rightly praised Campbell Scott as Robert Benchley and Matthew Broderick as Charles MacArthur, who we do get to know better. (I also liked the portrayal of Alexander Woollcott, a large person in every sense, played by Tom McGowan.)

As the movie progressed, I recognized names I had seen in Jon Winokur's Curmudgeon books, which include curmudgeoness Parker. Reading the essay on Benchley in "The Big Curmudgeon" this morning explained a lot of other things going on in the movie -- note Campbell Scott's rendition of Benchley's comic monologue, "The Treasurer's Report". Harpo Marx is also hanging around at the Round Table's parties in other locations. Other luminaries' names come up here and there, and at one point Parker asks at a party, "Who's that sitting with Deems Taylor?" Yes, apparently composer and music critic Taylor was part of this circle.

The movie plays a clever trick by having some sequences in black and white and some in color. A comment is intended, with a clue given by Parker near the beginning. I don't want to give the game away, but some of the black and white scenes are of Parker reciting her poetry to the camera. This seems a better introduction to her poetry than reading it for the first time in a book. Reviews describe actress Jennifer Jason Leigh's portrayal of Parker as eccentric, a bit hard to take for the full length of the movie, but I assume that Leigh is basing her interpretation on what was known about Parker. I didn't find it hard to take, and the poem recital scenes are very engaging.

Later in life, Parker was in one of those celebrity marriages in which the husband was gay, and the fact was acknowledged by the wife. We get to see some of husband Alan Campbell in the movie, but it's a very small sub-plot. [CORRECTION: I seem to be mistaken here, but it's what I gleaned from watching the movie. Other sources, including a documentary in the DVD's extra features, indicate that Dorothy and Alan did not get along, and Dorothy made insinuations.]

Campbell Scott is a fascinating actor, one I don't recognize right away as I see each of his movies, so varied is his work. He's Robert Benchley here. He is also not to be missed in "Big Night" and "The Impostors". I will be watching out for more movies featuring Scott in the cast. I'll also be doing a little more reading before I watch "Mrs. Parker" again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the eye of the storm: Inauguration festivities and Hydrogen Jukebox

Briefly, because Ollie the Cat is upset at my blogging on: Inauguration Day traffic was lighter than expected, even lighter than a normal day, in my neck of the suburbs. I think I missed the early rush of people traveling from Baltimore to DC. (If you could have seen the warnings we were getting about traffic that day....) Anyway, apparently a lot of people who made it into DC did not make it to their ultimate destination, and many had trouble getting back out of DC.

After seeing the photographs on the Yugen blog, I regret even more not being able to get to Georgetown for a performance of "Hydrogen Jukebox". Please see Yugen in my blog roll for some striking images from the production and comments from Director Timothy Nelson. It sounds like it was a great show!

Here's a link to the photos of Hydrogen Jukebox on Yugen.

Speaking of the blog roll: That's my main newspaper now. I have enjoyed watching the titles of other bloggers' latest posts related to current events rolling by over the past few days.

Carlo Bergonzi ~ his visit to Baltimore

Opera Chic just posted about Carlo Bergonzi's receiving a Lifetime Achievement award. If the accolade identifying someone as one of the greatest in his field of the century seems overused, it's not lightly given in Bergonzi's case. He truly was one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century. His voice graces many classic opera recordings (in my collection, too), but we also heard him once in performance here in Baltimore. In the early or middle 1990's, Bergonzi sang the role of Nemorino in Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'amore" for Baltimore Opera. It was one of opera's typical contradictions -- a sixty-year-old man in the role of a young lover -- but it's the voice that really counts, and it didn't matter whether Bergonzi was in his twenties or sixties. I remember that this performance was announced as his last one in North America. He was retiring while still in good voice, and he sounded great that night.

Here's a link to Opera Chic's post on various MIDEM awards for Bergonzi and other artists (including a favorite countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monotonous Forest in DC

Bruce Hodges, writer of Monotonous Forest (see my blog roll), is now in DC, ready to join the Inauguration Day crowds. He plans more posts about the experience.

Here in the suburbs, it appears that just enough snow fell today to make things look pretty without gumming up tomorrow's expected heavy traffic even more. I hope to catch some of the proceedings on television.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

just linking out loud

I've added a few more links to my blog list and music sites' list. The latest post feature in the blog roll really helps, and reading the post titles all the way down the list at a given moment sometimes creates lovely, absurdist found poems. As in former blogs I've kept, the blog list includes bloggers near and far, and the music list is more local. I'm also finding out more about concert-going opportunities closer to home here in Columbia and Howard County, Maryland.

making Texas toast with California sourdough

First, I note that Yellow Barn Music School is scheduled to play at An die Musik in Baltimore tomorrow evening. I've been looking at their information, and I hope to get into Baltimore to hear their performance of Janacek, Schumann and Steven Mackey.

My plans for this long weekend are changing by the hour. I will not make it to HJ at Georgetown, but I must put in a good word about the Davis Center box office and the campus parking authority for quick, helpful responses in a phone message and e-mail. I could not call back to get a ticket because of mundane personal circumstances I won't go into. Tonight's performance is sold out. I'm already searching for reviews to see how things are going with the production.

Any readers in the region already know how cold it is around here now. A quip I heard the other day: "It's cold enough to make you throw shoes at Al Gore." If you want figures, they're getting down in the single digits, Fahrenheit, at night, and the wind chill on some days has made the cold downright polar. (Scant snow is visible on cars in the mornings; possibly some real snowfall is coming soon.)

Thankfully, it is expected to warm up to around the freezing point for Inauguration Day. Preparations for Tuesday's Event indicate that if I can't get into DC to join the crowds, I can watch the ripple effect on the roads out here in the suburbs. I already celebrated in Election Day's long lines and will mention that I voted for Mr. Obama. His beautiful family's time in the White House will be the stuff of opera (more of the good than the bad stuff, I hope).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Byzantine Entertainment (a book quote)

"Alongside supplies of bread, the state also guaranteed public entertainment, which took place in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, renovated by Constantine I. This racing arena was designed to seat the entire population of the city, senators and dignitaries on the marble seats nearest the track, with the rest seated on wooden benches above, and even women and children packed into the standing room at the top. The Byzantines were passionate enthusiasts for horse and chariot racing and very partisan in their support for teams identified by colour. The Reds, Whites, Greens and Blues, imported from Rome, were organized by professional corporations. By the sixth century, only the Greens and Blues were significant, but they had become large, powerful bodies with full responsibility not only for racing but also for displays of gymnastics, athletics, boxing, wild animals, pantomime, dancing and singing, which filled the entractes between the races."

--from "Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire" by Judith Herrin (published in US and Canada in 2008)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Playlist: Three Ladies in Vocal Music

~ Elena Cecchi Fedi, soprano, with Auser Musici ensemble: "Or si m'avveggio, oh Amore", cantatas for soprano by Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) on Hyperion (2008)

~ Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano, accompanied by piano and Chamber Players of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra: "Gomidas Songs", by Armenian composer Gomidas Vartabed (early 20th century) on Nonesuch (2008)

~ Savina Yannatou with the Primavera en Salonico ensemble: "Sumiglia", interpretations of folk songs from various cultures around the Mediterranean and eastern Europe, on ECM (2005). I recently rediscovered this disc in my collection. One of the highlights I've been listening to frequently is "Tulbah", a Palestinian wedding song, but the whole recital is wonderful to hear in one listening.