Monday, January 16, 2017

Rachel Barton Pine

Yesterday afternoon David and I attended a recital given by Rachel Barton Pine, violinist, presented by Chamber Music Albuquerque at the Simms Center for the Performing Arts.

Ms. Pine is a genuine virtuosa on her instrument, which is a 1740 Guarnieri del Jesu. Her flawless technique and musicianship brought forth a vibrant recital which included no end of musical fireworks. 

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Her program included Partita No.2 in D Minor, BWV 2004 Of Bach, Sonata Op. 27,  No.4 (Fritz Kreisler) by Eugene Ysaye, Recitative and Scherzo, Op 6 of Fritz Kreisler, Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001 of Bach, Asturias (Leyenda) by Issac Albéniz, arr. Pine, Tango Etude No. 3 of Astor Piazzola, arr. Pine, Deep River, Op.59, No 10 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Caprice No 24 by Niccolo Paganini.

This was an enormous undertaking and she brought it off sensationally.

In 1995 Ms. Pine was tragically injured when departing a Metra train in Winnetka, Illinois, near Chicago. Her violin case was caught in the train door as she was leaving the train, which closed on the instrument case which was on her back, dragging her a number of feet and finally pulling her under the train until someone pulled the emergency cord, stopping the train. As a result she lost both of her legs. After this accident the Rail company had to install automatic devices to stop trains in such emergencies.

Ms. Pine chatted with the audience between pieces giving interesting and amusing information about the composers and the compositions.For instance her violin (which she saved in the accident) was  chosen by Johannes Brahms for a young violinist whom he was mentoring.

The Coleridge-Taylor work was premiered by Albert Spaulding, famed violinst, whose pianist was André Benoist. He also performed with Heifitz, Tetrazzini, and Casals. Eleanor Benoist, André's daughter in law, and I performed together as Burtis and Benoist in the duo piano repertoire for many years.

The final work on the program, Paganini's Caprice, was the basis for Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme of Paganini which Eleanor and I performed on our Carnegie Recital Hall debut in 1970.

There are always these interesting connections between music and musicians. All of this made for a memorable afternoon of music brilliantly performed.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Go west old man!

David and I arrived at our glamorous condo in the Sandia Mountains, near Albuquerque, where we will spend the month of January.

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We traveled through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, into New Mexico. I never saw so much flat land in my life. All brown. You could see to the horizon in all directions. Amazing. 

We stayed the first night in Liberty, Missouri,a nice town, and the second night in Guymon, Oklahoma. Skip this place if possible!

We drove for fifty miles after leaving Guymon without passing a car!

Tomorrow we will be having breakfast with our friends Nancy and Geffen, after which they will take us on a tour of Albuquerque.

Very different from many Januaries spent in Puerto Rico. Too much Zika virus there.

Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Magic Flute

Last night David and I braved icy temperatures to attend Mozart's Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera. It was quite an evening.

I hadn't seen the opera in a number of years. I think the last performance was at the Met with sets and costumes by Marc Chagall.

This was very different scenically. Dale Ferguson, the set and costume designer, decided to place the opera
in and around a house in the suburbs, say Oak Park, in contemporary times. A complete two story house filled center stage and revolved completely around as the opera advanced. It was an amazing set but I never quite got the reason for it. A young man, (non singer), supposedly got the idea to put on a show, a la Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, in his back yard. Neighbors gathered, bringing all sorts of chairs, to hear it during the overture. They were in modern dress. Then fully costumed singers and actors appeared from various directions to do the opera.

Once one accepted the premise, the singing was sensational.

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Tamino was sung beautifully by Andrew Staples, whose voice reminds me a bit of Fritz Wunderlich, light, high and very easy.

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Papageno was Adam Plachetka and he was simply wonderful. Great voice and a marvelous actor.

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Pamina was sung by Christiane Karg. She has a good voice but I would prefer a more limpid sound from Pamina.

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The Queen of the Night was sung by Kathryn Lewek. She is one of the best singers of this role I have ever heard. A sizeable voice with a very secure top. All of her high f's were perfectly in line with the rest of the voice.

The three ladies were Ann Toomey, Annie Rosen, and Lauren Decker. They sang very well and were good actors as well.

The Monostatos was Rodell Rosel and sang with a snarly voice that is perfect for this character.

Sarastro was Christof Fischesser. He had a resonant voice with the appropriate low notes. Between him and the Queen of the night they covered an enormous vocal range.

The conductor was Rory Macdonald and the stage director was Neil Armfield.  They kept the music and action moving at a fast pace making for a very enjoyable evening of musical theater.

I never did get the reason for the set but it worked out well in the end.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Shakespeare and Costello

Last night David and I saw The Complete Deaths at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It was put together by Tim Crouch. It is a work from the British group 'Spymonkey' which seems to be trying to resusitate Monty Python.

It doesn't quite work.

A woman sits at one side of the stage, apparently working a crossword puzzle, and as each of 76 characters from the Bard's plays bites the dust (in very quick succession), pushes a button which reduces the number of deaths on an electric board over her head.

The performers have to try too hard to get laughs out of deaths. They are Attor Basauri, Petra Massey, Toby Park, and Stephan Kreuss.

Shakespeare meets Abbott and Costello doesn't quite work.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Double Header!

This blog will be a double header since we saw one concert tonight (Tuesday) and we have a matinée tomorrow.

Tonight's concert was led by the incredible Jane Glover conducting Music of the Baroque in a concert entitled "The Family Bach". It featured music by Johann Sebastian and three of his sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Johan Christian.

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As is always the case, Johann won.

The concert opened with his Sinfonia from Cantata No. 42. Jane Glover somehow can get 25 or so musicians to perform and sound like a single voice. Very expressive, sensitive playing is the norm with this group. They are so well rehearsed and conducted that it as if a single person was doing the playing. Wonderful.

This was followed by Adagio and Fugue for 2 Flutes and Strings in D Minor by Wilhelm Friedemann. A charming but light-weight work by Bach's eldest son.

Then came Johann's Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major. This is a sensational work and was very well played by concert mistress Gina DiBello.

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After the intermission we heard C.P.E.'s Flute Concerto in B-flat Major. Mary Stolper was the soloist for this. It's not that interesting a work by Bach's second son.

 The concert ended with Symphony in G Minor, Op.6 No.6 by Johann Christian, the 'English' Bach.

Bach obviously produced a family of good musicians but he reigns supreme as the Master.

And Jane Glover brings every bit of his genius to the fore through her wonderful understanding of his music. Brava!


Wednesday's matinée was Massenet's Don Quichotte at the Lyric Opera House.

Ferrucio Furlanetto was sensational in the title role. His rich, easy basso soared the heights and depths of the role both vocally and emotionally.

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Clémentine Margaine was his Dulcinée. A rich voiced mezzo with a wide range, she portrayed a much more elegant, though no less sexy, woman from The Man of La Mancha roleI would love to hear her Carmen, which is one of her many roles.

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Nicola Alaimo was Sancho Panza. His agile baritone voice work well in this role.

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Other singers were Diana Newman as Pedro,Lindsay Metzger as Gervais, Alec Carlson as Juan, and Jonathan Johnson as  Rodriguez. All sang very well and are fine singing actors.

The sets were designed by Ralph Funicello and were exceptional.  The stage at the Lyric Opera has been there for a long time and does not have all the mechanical devices of the Met or of Broadway shows. Therefore, everything needs to be moved by hand. This was done fairly swiftly and the look of the sets was very fine.

Sir Andrew Davis was the conductor and led his band of musicians beautifully.

I must say a word about the acoustics in this hall. From where we were seatd in Row F they were perfect.