I didn't make it to anything I planned to attend last weekend. I'm going to try something here and not post anything for a while, except perhaps links to interesting articles or upcoming performances. I'll be looking at your blogs, though, and please feel free to use the links in my margin. Click on them as much as you want and see what marvels of the Internet lie beyond. That's what they're there for.
Joseph Horowitz writes on why critics matter and about limitations of online cultural discussion and mass culture and the arts in general. Note the comment further down in his post about the role of local classical music radio stations.
Well, I don't know if that title works, but while I'm still here let's put in a word for this Duo Transatlantique classical guitar duo recital at An die Musik tomorrow, Sunday afternoon. Paulo Bellinati's "Jongo" is on the program. I know I'll enjoy the whole program, but I look forward to this piece, which I've heard on John Williams and Timothy Kain's Sony album, "The Mantis and the Moon".
(As I post, there's another recital about to start at An die Musik this evening -- Jenny Lin and Duo Stephanie and Saar in a piano recital.)
My heart truly goes out to some singers at a favorite local company who I just read about on Facebook. Apparently, springtime allergies have struck as they prepare for an opera coming up in May. The Neti Pot has been suggested. What do other companies do when this happens?
I can inhale pollen all day -- except wattle pollen, as I discovered on a trip to Australia -- but I have sinusitis and severe sensitivity to dust and bad ventilation. I'm not after pity here, but it's a good time to express appreciation for the superior housekeeping of most performance halls. As a result, I'm in much better shape when attending events in those places than I am in my own home or at work.
Wes Anderson's movie popped up on my radar again when I watched the vintage 1959 "North West Frontier" (previous post). I'm rather certain that the fugitives in North West are traveling through some of the same arid mountainous landscapes that appear in part of the later Darjeeling. (Perhaps even on some of the same length of track?) Any way, after watching another Anderson movie, the superbly loony "Bottle Rocket", I've been put onto the power of his soundtracks assembled from existing mostly pop music. I found the CD for Darjeeling at Borders earlier this week, and it's been providing a soundtrack for my life, too, as Anderson would have it. The folk pop selections ("Champs Elysees", for example), the Rolling Stones, a little Debussy, some Beethoven, tracks from Merchant-Ivory and Satyajit Ray movies and a little bit of Bollywood -- it all some how makes perfect sense put together this way.
1959 British action movie, known by many as "Flame Over India" -- its title when I saw it on a small black and white TV screen years ago. It's "The African Queen" -- one thing after another in a flight to safety -- transfered to a train journey in 1905 India, in the region that was to become Pakistan after the long Moslem-Hindu struggle which is the background here.
Kenneth More, Lauren Bacall (with Bogart nowhere in sight?), Herbert Lom, Wilfrid Hyde White, and a wonderful Indian actor who plays Gupta, the train engineer (his name is glaringly absent from the DVD cover and my main movie guide). The suitably stirring score was written by Mischa Sobiansky. Seeing this movie in color and in proper widescreen aspect brings out one of the most hair-raising fear-of-heights scenes that I've had to endure in the movies.
Opera Vivente director John Bowen begins a series of posts on Mozart's Magic Flute transfered to Baltimore. In explaining his production concept, Bowen reveals and explains more about what's going on in "The Magic Flute".
(I may not link to every post in this series, but the Opera Vivente blog is in my blog roll with latest post headlines visible.)
No matter what college or university, if you're a student with ID limited free tickets are available for this Peabody Wind Ensemble concert tomorrow night (April 14) at the Peabody in Baltimore. Check that link for the details.
I don't know how often they do that, but they don't do it for every concert. That's the first time I've noticed this offer. For the rest of the ticket-buying public, Peabody Conservatory events are still a bargain and sometimes are even free to all. I've been to many memorable concerts and operas at the country's oldest conservatory.
My recent posts notwithstanding, I must enter a post about last night's terrific concert by the Del Sol String Quartet at Candlelight Concerts. The Del Sol is on a mission to circulate more modern music, and I'm all for that. I heard pieces last night that I hope to hear again, so let's give them some more currency on the Internet. Lou Harrison's (1917-2003) String Quartet Set (1979) opened the program with its five movements something like a Baroque dance suite through Harrison's more contemporary lens, starting with variations on a song by a certain Medieval Minnesinger and ending with a Turkish Usul. There was also a very beautiful French Rondeaux. Bela Bartok's String Quartet No 3 of 1927 was the oldest and most familiar work, still sounding ultramodern to some ears, as did Webern's Six Bagatelles played by the Ariel String Quartet here last weekend. (We got to hear some short recordings of Bartok speaking, played during a pre-concert lecture.)
Zhou Long's (b. 1953) "Song of the Ch'in" (1982) is a string quartet's imitation of the ancient zither of China, the ch'in or qin. This was followed by a musical tour on the other side of the Pacific -- "Leyendas -- An Andean Walkabout" (2001) by Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972). Frank was inspired by the music of her mother's native Peru, and the six movements encompass aspects of both the ancient Indian and Spanish-derived cultures. Just touching on two movements that are still ringing in my ears: "Chasqui", based on the runner of Incan society employed to carry news and messages across the peaks and valleys of the Andes; the closing "Coqueteos". In the latter, the lead violin mostly takes the part of a male villager belting out a red-blooded love song to the ladies while followed by a "storm of guitars", imitated here most atmospherically by the quartet's other three instruments.
A stirring "Huapango" (by ?) was an encore. The Del Sol shone in its playing and was most affable besides in talks to the audience to explain the works on the program (bad jokes and all). The selections last night featured a lot of "extended techniques" -- pushing the capabilities of the instruments and finding new sounds. Hey, I'm all for using the cello as a percussion instrument, if needed. That happens a lot in classical guitar music, too, and why not take advantage of such wonderful resonance?
Sundays at Three is in my margin links now. This series often involves musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Tomorrow they will be playing Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time", first written and performed under Nazi prison camp conditions.
Read somewhere before: Orchestra members playing in the chamber music circuit is good for the orchestra, too.
~~~~~~~ Yes, I missed another concert last night. I still plan to get to Candlelight Concerts practically next door to me for the Del Sol Quartet tonight, though I might not write about it.
Don't get me wrong: blogging and Facebook have been fun and even useful. However, there's definitely a problem with reading and surfing too much on line. Can it even be called reading or is it something else? I recently read about another conference of academics who were considering the way the Internet has changed our reading habits. One participant even suggested that not too far in the future we might have professional readers whose job will be digesting and interpreting the longer texts and documents which the rest of us will be unable to handle.
I'll continue to post but maybe with a different slant. Some adjustments and additions have been made in my blog roll and list of local music and arts organizations. In the blog roll, I've been using the Blogspot feature that shows the headline of the blogger's latest post. If you click on just the headline rather than the blog title, you download just the post, not the whole blog. Good for bandwidth-limited machines, besides not having to constantly check other blogs to see if there's a new post. The list of organizations is a fair portal to good things in the area. (Trying to link to individual musicians and singers has not been practical, but they get linked in the calendars and programs in my links.)
~~~~~~~ I'm reading more off line once again and taking a break from screen glare and flicker. Recently acquired anthologies of writers I've been wanting to get to know better: Alice Munro, Isak Dinesen, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Paul Bowles.... Some of these were suggested by the list in the back of Francine Prose's book, "Reading Like a Writer," and I've been studying that list more than the actual text of her book. J. D. Salinger -- I've heard his name all my adult life, and I still remember a junior high school teacher who pondered whether to have us read "The Catcher in the Rye", but I have yet to read anything by him. And I want to read the book that gave us the fabulous BBC series, "Brideshead Revisited".
Novels: Not something I read regularly, but they're on my list. Novels I've read in recent years: Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay", E. M. Forster's "A Passage to India", Joseph Heller's "Catch 22", Virginia Woolf's "Orlando".
Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" was written long before the advent of the Internet, but it seems tailor-made for Internet readers.
Opera Vivente is looking for just a few more male voices to complete its chorus for the upcoming production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute". This will be sung in English. I don't know how much of the chorus singing will display the Baltimore accent being cultivated for this special production. Contact General Director John Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or see operavivente.org for more information.
I'm getting this announcement from the company's chatter on Facebook and just passing it on as a favor. Additionally, the Facebook activity all points to some lively, interesting and funny goings-on in this concept of "The Magic Flute". It's set in Charm City, and Bowen has been dropping hints about the fact of two different birds associated with Baltimore. You can go to that site in the link above for ticket and performance information also. Dates are May 14, 16 (Sunday matinee), 20 and 22.
DMV Classical's consideration of Washington National Opera's "Porgy and Bess" possibly includes some points for opera organizers who are interested in why more people don't go to opera: link to post on DMV Classical.
...That doesn't mean some average or run-of-the-mill ensemble. I'm just delighted to find myself living so close to the world-class chamber music series run by Candlelight Concerts at Howard Community College here in Columbia's Town Center. (Years ago, I was driving over from Anne Arundel County to attend.) If Town Center were a little more pedestrian-friendly, I'm wondering if I could manage a walk from my house to the Horowitz Center on the HCC campus. Meanwhile the parking for evening events there is free and easy.
Last night, the Ariel String Quartet was superb. The Ariel actually was not the quartet postponed by the February blizzard but was scheduled on short notice to make up for the cancelled concert. Even so, this young group is touted as playing like a seasoned quartet in spite of being in their twenties. Sandwiched between Beethoven's "Harp" Quartet, Hugo Wolf's "Italian Serenade" and Brahms' Quartet No. 2 were Webern's Six Bagatelles. This concert was my first time hearing the Webern -- six fascinating, fleeting movements like meteors flashing and disappearing in the night sky. The Ariel commanded attention from a very quiet audience during this work, but the twelve-tonal piece from 1913 still gets negative reactions from some listeners.
Check out the program by the Del Sol Quartet coming up at Candlelight next Saturday: Lou Harrison's String Quartet Set (1979), Bartok's String Quartet No. 3, Zhou Long's "Song of the Ch'in" and Frank's "Leyendas -- An Andean Walkabout Suite".
Some names and ensembles on next season's schedule: Talich Quartet; Trio Cavatina (Naumburg winner); Berlin Philharmonic String Quartet; violinist Bella Hristova (Young Concert Artists winner); Wind Soloists of New York.
I had a look at what's going on closer to home, and tonight at Candlelight Concerts the Ariel String Quartet will perform a program of Beethoven, Brahms, Wolf and Webern. This is another event rescheduled because of the February snowstorm. I'm just going to show up and hope there are still tickets -- not a problem at the last couple of CC events I attended -- and this will be another excuse to visit Howard Community College's impressive new Horowitz Performing Arts Center.
The Ariel is sure to enjoy seeing Columbia this weekend as opposed to earlier in February. The early spring trees and flowers seem to have exploded in blossom over the space of two days. Columbia is full of this stuff, and I had to remember to pay attention to the road while driving home yesterday evening amid blazing Forsythia, cherries, daffodils....
Where the "U-" affix comes from, I'm not sure, but this is a film version of an adaptation of Bizet's opera, "Carmen", set in latterday South Africa. The Dimpho Di Kopane company sings and speaks the lines in Xhosa, one of the clicking languages of the region. (Is this the same language sometimes sung by the South African a capella group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo?) I'm not fond of opera filmed in outdoor scenes with the singing taken in the studio and dubbed over the acting later, but it works surprisingly smoothly here, and somebody did some remarkable camera work throughout. The famous clicking sounds of Xhosa range from slight kissing or smacking to what sounds like pronounced sharp smacks of the tongue against the palate and more. They're part and parcel of what European language speakers would consider normal phonemes. In this film, they're most noticeable during spoken dialogue and narration. I noticed less clicking during the singing, but it is there.
DDK's Xhosa version is very convincing -- no problems with "Carmen" sounding funny in another language -- and key scenes, such as the Habanera, are striking in terms of both acting and filming. A few liberties with the libretto are taken to account for the South African township setting, and there are references to apartheid. Bizet's orchestral score played against the harshness of township life (a corrugated metal maze of ramshackle huts) is both jarring and brilliant.
Produced in 2005 and released in 2007 by Koch Lorber Films on DVD. (I found my copy at the Daedalus Books outlet here in Columbia, Maryland.)