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Music
Opening Night at Tanglewood:
Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens
Boston Symphony Orchestra
James Levine, Conductor

Berlioz,  Les Troyens, Part 1 (The Capture of Troy)
Saturday, July 5, 8:30 pm


Marcus Haddock, Tenor (Aeneas)
Anna Caterina Antonacci, Soprano (Cassandra)
Dwayne Croft, Baritone (Chorebus)
Clayton Brainerd, Bass-Baritone (Pantheus)
Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano (Ascanius)
Jane Bunnell, Mezzo-Soprano (Hecuba)
Ronald Naldi, Tenor (Helenus)
David Kravitz, Baritone (Trojan Soldier)
Gustav Andreassen, Bass (Ghost Of Hector)
Kirk Eichelberger, Bass (Greek Captain)
Tanglewood Festival Chorus,
John Oliver, Conductor

Berlioz, Les Troyens, Part 2
(The Trojans at Carthage)
Sunday, July 6, 3 pm

Marcus Haddock, Tenor (Aeneas)
Anne Sofie Von Otter, Mezzo-Soprano (Dido)
Kristinn Sigmundsson, Bass (Narbal)
Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano (Ascanius)
Christin-Marie Hill, Mezzo-Soprano (Anna)
Matthew Plenk, tenor (Iopas)
Philippe Castagner, Tenor (Hylas)
Clayton Brainerd, Bass-Baritone (Pantheus)
Anna Caterina Antonacci, Soprano
(Ghost Of Cassandra)
Dwayne Croft, Baritone (Ghost Of Chorebus)
David Kravitz, Baritone (Trojan Sentry 1)
Gustav Andreassen, Bass (Ghost Of Hector
And The God Mercury)
Kirk Eichelberger, Bass (Trojan Sentry 2)
Tanglewood Festival Chorus,
John Oliver, Conductor

Michael Miller July 7, 2008
An hour before Part I of Les Troyens was to begin, I found myself wandering peacefully and somewhat aimlessly among the trees. The grounds were still unpopulated and quiet, providing an exceptionally favorable atmosphere for music. The first two acts of Berlioz’ epic masterpiece which awaited us are hardly what one would call contemplative music, but a contemplative mood seemed the right preparation for the violent, burning sweep of Berlioz’ romantic tableaux of the fall of Troy. It gave me an hour of so to forget whatever baggage I had brought with me, which amounted to some scepticism as to whether a Tanglewood reprise of the massive, impressive, but flawed effort of late April and early May would make much of a difference.

Les Troyens may still remain something of a connoisseur’s opera, but there are plenty of people who are fascinated with it—Hector Berlioz’ forgotten masterpiece, a vast stage work which only found any real currency with Hugh Macdonald’s publication of a scholarly edition of the score in 1969. Read more.


Theater: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
That Face
at the Duke of York's Theatre
by Polly Stenham

Director: Jeremy Herrin
Design: Mike Britton
with Lindsay Duncan, Hannah Murray, Matt Smith, Catherine Steadman, Julian Wadham

Huntley Dent July 7, 2008
Tube riders litter the train with newspapers, which other riders pick up to alleviate their boredom. Coming home last night I saw a grisly headline on one of these throwaways, “Sixth Stab Murder in Week of Death.” In London? The first sentence of the story was horrifying. “A schoolboy has been stabbed to death with a foot-long knife by a gang of thugs in south London.” It was within memory that a single shooting death made national news. Compared to America, the UK is still a kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb. Verbal and psychological violence are another matter. Read more.

Dance: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
The English National Ballet
at the Southbank Centre, London

Huntley Dent July 6, 2008
Walking across the Charing Cross footbridge, wishing the Thames didn’t look muddy no matter how blue the sky, I spied what looked like a Safeway supermarket attempting liftoff from the opposite shore. Actually, it was Royal Festival Hall. The building consists of a multi-storied cube topped with a plain barrel vault. You’d never suspect the interior was devoted to music and dance – it could easily be a widget factory. But gratitude is due the city planners, who plunked RFH down in 1951 when the South Bank was littered with little else but closed factories and depressing detritus from the war. This year the hall reopened after expensive  refurbishment, with public promises that its bad acoustics had been remedied. 


I can’t report on the acoustics because I went there yesterday for the English National Ballet, in town for a limited run --  they usually tour the land wherever railroads can take them (think Swan Lake in Bradford and Hull). Read more.


Theater/Cinema
Two of a Kind: Ronan Noone’s The Atheist and Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole

Williamstown Theatre Festival
Directed by Justin Waldman, with Campbell Scott/
DVD Criterion Collection

Lucas Miller July 7, 2008
It is hardly surprising that Justin Waldman’s production of Ronan Noone’s The Atheist is already being hailed as the best play of the Williamstown Theatre Festival so early in the season. In form, it is a dramatic monologue. The audience listens to the stereotypically amoral and inconsiderate American journalist Augustine Early talk about his rise to disreputable fame, after tainting the lives of so many (though, ironically, he seems to have an unfortunate case of the Midas Touch, making his victims more famous than himself). Read more.

Theater: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
Relocated
at the Royal Court Theatre
written and directed by Anthony Neilson

with Frances Grey, Phil McKee, Stuart McQuarrie, Katie Novak, Jan Pearson, and Nicola Walker

Huntley Dent July 7, 2008
Clouds over Sloane Square, and the posh and spicy girls known as Sloane Rangers weren’t tramping around with a slew of shopping bags over their arms. Or not that I could see two days ago.  A wag has renamed them the trustafarians, which seems to be sticking. I had a drink with a new friend named Warwick and told him that he and I were the only two people in the bar named after castles. “Presumably,” he said.  We had met while waiting to troop into the tiny, dark, primitively ventilated  Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre to be assaulted by Relocated, a stage  provocation that has divided the critics while scaring off the public. Read more.

Places
The United Buddy Bears from UNESCO visit Warsaw: Photo Gallery
Joanna Gabler July 5, 2008
When I visited my native city Warsaw, earlier this summer, there was a nice surprise waiting for me in one of my favorite places, the Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy). Crowds of Warsowians and tourists were towered by rows of the tall (6.56' each) and colorful bears shining in the afternoon sun.

The centrally placed information table explained it all. United Buddy Bears visited Warsaw on their tour around the world. Project conceived in 2002 by two Berlin artists, gained life of its own. The bears visited many cities on four continents, including Berlin, Hong-Kong, Istanbul, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Vienna and Cairo.To Warsaw, they came from Jerusalem, now, they are enlivening Stuttgart before going to Paris. What travelers the bears are! Read more.


Art & Architecture
Rockwell Kent and the Cape Cinema Mural
Lucy Vivante July 5, 2008
Part of the Cape Cinema’s appeal comes from the high contrast between outside and in. The church-like exterior is patterned after the nearby town of Centerville's Congregational Church. The murals you might expect inside–of a Puritan religious gathering or colonists working–are instead of exuberant figures dancing across the ceiling. Within the space of a few feet, just by crossing the lobby, we travel from stern New England to lush Art Deco. Read more.

Theater
Rowing to America, a Play
Kitty Chen July 4, 2008
Scene 1: The stage is bare. The sky is midnight blue, with a crescent moon and a few stars, the sound of waves slapping the side of a boat. GIRL sits on a box or bench, rowing with oars. She is weary. SISTER is in shadow. In GIRL’s first speech, SISTER may speak some of the lines simultaneously or alone.

GIRL

I'm rowing to America. The only thing I brought with me is a picture of a smile. Here in my head. Strong and radiant like the sun. The smile of my sister.

"When we grow up and go to America, everything will be all right," she would say to me. She told me all sorts of things about America. Have you heard them too? She said the streets are paved with gold lamé. A dollar a day keeps the doctor away. Apple pie and huckleberry finn for breakfast. Milk and honey flow down the avenue Fifth Avenue. A chicken in every pot-pie. Where the sun never stops shining, and spacious skies are blue, and amber grains are always waving at you. . . When we get there, we will wave back. Look, Sister—they have come to greet us! Hello! Hello! We are here—we have come to America! Read more.


Theater: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
Henrik Ibsen, Rosmersholm
Almeida Theatre, Islington

July 4,2008

Paul Hilton - Johannes Rosmer
Helen McCrory - Rebecca West
Paul Moriarty - Ulrik Brendel
Veronica Quilligan - Mrs Helseth
Malcolm Sinclair - Doctor Kroll
Peter Sullivan - Peder Mortensgaard

Huntley Dent July 4, 2008
Far from  celebrating our independence day, the British are probably trying to forget America and the whole era when Tony Blair was Bush’s poodle. After a miserably cold, damp spring, there was a national scare over strawberries – specifically, that the crop would go moldy and rot in the fields. Strawberries and cream are de rigeur  for finals at Wimbledon. Now it’s finals weekend and the berries came through. But there’s a smell of black mold seeping out under the doors of the tiny Almeida Theatre in Islington. Ibsen is afoot, and the fate of souls is being tossed around on stage like a medicine ball. A very heavy medicine ball. Read more.

Music: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
All-Sibelius Program
London Symphony Orchestra
The Barbican, July 3, 2008
Sir Colin Davis conductor
Nikolaj Znaider violin

Jan Sibelius
Les Océanides
Violin Concerto
Symphony No 4

Huntley Dent July 4, 2008
Ugliness, thy name is Barbican. No other great orchestra has been miserably consigned to a concrete mausoleum of art except the London Symphony.  I went to hear them last night in an all-Sibelius program under Sir Colin Davis. One approaches the Barbican by trudging through an underpass with four lanes of traffic two feet from your elbow and banks of jaundice-colored sodium vapour lamps overhead.  The building itself looks like something airlifted intact from East Berlin. The architectural style is a spawn of Brutalism, a masochistic favourite with the British in the post-war era,  but without being quite as punitive. Read more.

Music: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, July 2, 2008

Conductor- Mark Elder
Director - Christof Loy
Revival Director - Andrew Sinclair

Primadonna (Ariadne) - Deborah Voigt
Composer - Kristine Jepson
Music Master - Thomas Allen
Dancing Master - Alan Oke
Wigmaker - Jacques Imbrailo
Lackey - Dean Robinson
Tenor (Bacchus) - Robert Dean Smith, Richard Margison
Zerbinetta - Gillian Keith

Huntley Dent July 4, 2008
What better way to anticipate the Fourth of July than spending time with Richard Strauss, who fiddled while the Nazis burned Europe? He languished in apparent dotage as the Yanks stormed the beach at Normandy. Suddenly  the first oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra showed up at Strauss’s mountain retreat in Bavaria. Then a uniformed GI, the oboist commissioned a concerto from the snowy-haired, stork-like composer, and a minor masterpiece was born.


Strauss’s arch comic opera Ariadne auf Naxos appeared in 1912, in the delusional twilight that masked Verdun (714,000 casualties), the Munich putsch, and every satanic horror to come.  Blissfully unaware, Strauss also had the nutty idea of preceding his operatic confection by a complete performance of Moliere’s play, Le bourgeois gentilhomme, but the premiere, a flop, stretched the audience’s attention span, not to mention their Sitzfleisch, beyond human capacity. What we are left with is caviar, Strauss’s most sophisticated stage work and a bubbling treasure of melody unmatched by anything outside Die Fledermaus.  And like Fledermaus, Ariadne dreams of a heaven where the triumph of love is the same as the triumph of humor. Read more.


Theater: Huntley Dent's "A London Summer"
George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara
National Theatre, London, July 1, 2008

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Snobby Price : Paul Anderson
Charles Lomax : Tom Andrews
Barbara Undershaft : Hayley Atwell
Bill Walker : Ian Burfield
Jenny Hill : Katharine Burford
Bilton : Martin Chamberlain

Huntley Dent July 4, 2008
The long nights are already on the wane, but one leaves the theatre with a glow on the horizon, and a newspaper can be read outdoors well after nine o’clock.  Fresh off the plane (i.e., as grungy as five-day-old socks) I tried not to go groggy at the National Theatre’s production of Shaw’s Major Barbara.   Putting on a play by Shaw is like sticking your head out of a foxhole to see who shoots. Nobody could be more fusty and out of favour (perhaps the two Barries, James and Philip), but the London critics were mostly happy and none were snarky. Read more.

Music
A Ghostly Concert at Tannery Pond

June 20, 2008


David Finckel, cello

Da-Hong Seetoo, violin

Wu Han, piano


Ludwig Van Beethoven

Piano Trio Op.1, No. 1

Piano Trio Op.70, No. 1, “Ghost”

Piano Trio Op. 97, “Archduke”

Michael Miller July 2, 2008
The Tannery Pond Concerts, founded in 1991 by the renowned photographer and musician, Christian Steiner, is still in its youth, compared to its elders in Norfolk, Music Mountain and Marlboro, but it is true to the mold, such as it exists, and shows no signs of diffidence. Beginning in the 1960’s, Mr. Steiner’s position as the preeminent portraitist of musicians has given him a unique knowledge of the musical world. He is as much in contact with young, emerging artists as with the most established figures in the field, who have included Herbert von Karajan, Maria Callas, and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. As director of Tannery Pond, he is especially proud  of the debuts or early appearances he has sponsored of musicians who have since risen to the top of the profession. Another feature of Tannery Pond is the beautiful old tannery, built in 1834, now the chapel of The Darrow School, which occupies the site of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village. Its acoustics are remarkably present and intimate, and, since it seats only 290, its atmosphere is equally intimate. The audience, on the whole, appears to be composed of keen and educated music-lovers who have been attending loyally for some years. Many appear to know each other, and this enhances the family-like atmosphere of the concerts. Read more.

Theater
George Bernard Shaw, Candida

Berkshire Theatre Festival, June 30, 2008

Anders Cato, director


Jayne Atkinson - Candida
Michel Gill - the Reverend James Morell 

David Schramm - Mr. Burgess
Finn Wittrock - Eugene Marchbanks

Samantha Soule - Proserpine Garnett.

Jeremiah Wiggins - the Reverend Alexander Mill

Michael Miller July 1, 2008
I sincerely hope that nothing I say will encourage the Berkshire Theatre Festival to lower the standards for their season openers. The wonderful Unicorn production of Pinter’s The Caretaker raised my expectations so high that I find it impossible to rationalize the shortcomings of the season’s mainstage production of Shaw’s Candida, which was consistently awful, often painfully so. The production brought back an age when it was not quite proper for summer theater to be any better than third rate and even worse for anyone to be dissatisfied with it. One would have thought that this age had never passed over the distinguished Berkshire Theatre Festival, now celebrating its eightieth anniversary with this revival of a play that was part of its first season. Fortunately, Shaw built his play, first performed in 1897, like one of the Majestic battleships of the time, and his wit and human understanding are stronger than rivets and steel. If the BTF production proved that, it is at least something.


In fact Candida is a play in which we should find a mirror, with all the forced purposefulness of our own times and its attendant trust in “values.” Read more.


Music
Our American Cousin

An Opera in three acts by Eric Sawyer

Librettist: John Shoptaw

Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Conductor, Gil Rose

Stage Director: Carol Charnow

Academy of Music, Northampton, June 20, 2008

Heidi Holder June 29, 2008
A young man, having outsmarted a haughty woman seeking a wealthy husband for her daughter, crows in triumph: “I guess you found your hymnal page, you sock-dologizing ole man-trap!”  Hard as it may be for us to imagine, this line brought the house down every time in Tom Taylor’s 1858 hit play Our American Cousin.   And appropriately so: a “sockdologer” (a corruption of “doxology”), was in American slang a decisive or knockout blow.   The line might be lost to all but theater historians were it not for the fact that Taylor’s play was performed at Ford’s Theatre the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and that John Wilkes Booth used the famous line as a cue for his own decisive blow.  Eric Sawyer and John Shoptaw’s new opera, Our American Cousin revisits that night and charts the intersection of real life and that of the theater.   The opera offers us a play within an opera: a recreation of the performance Lincoln was attending at Ford’s Theatre the night of his assassination.  Taylor’s play was a popular and cleverly-made comedy/melodrama about a distant--and rich--relative from America who appears suddenly at the estate of his titled but financially troubled English relations.  The plot and characters of this largely forgotten play turn out to matter in unexpected ways, and point towards the thematic heart of the work. Read more.

Dance
Of Dreams and Waking: The American Ballet Theater Offers The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadére
Renée Dumouchel June 29, 2008
Have you ever forgotten something existed until, in a single, unexpected moment, you are reminded of it in a burst of splendor? Your senses rushed and awakened, a lightning bolt of recognition blazing from top to tail, urging you to store this moment in the recesses of your heart and the interstitial space beneath your skin, begging to not be so easily forgotten a second time. 


And the object of such anticipation? The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadére, recently performed by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Reac more.


Photography
Eloquent Nude - The Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson, a film by Ian McCluskey

A deluxe edition DVD is available directly from the producer for $25 plus $5 shipping and handling. [Click here to order.] It includes a "Making of Eloquent Nude" documentary, which includes much fascinating and essential supplementary material, as well as further interviews, as well as unpublished photography and journal entries.

Michael Miller June 21, 2008
When I was still quite young, my father gave me, along with the use of his old Leica, a copy of an illustrated history of photography. I was fascinated by the book, but above all by the chapter on Weston and the famous photograph of Charis lying on the sand dune, the simplest of them. I thought it the best photograph in the book and returned to it over and over again. I don’t remember the year exactly, but I was probably of an age when no hint of sex would have gone unnoticed. I remember distinctly that I saw no such associations in the image. It struck me as essentially chaste—an example of the formalism which I thought was the essence of great photography. I was inspired in this view, of course, by that very image, as well as the peppers, which seemed to me to be more overtly sensual than the nudes. It was only later that I learned that the subject was Weston’s wife, and still later that I learned something about what their relationship was like. I still think that the photograph is severe and formalistic to the point of the visionary. Weston’s work was one thing and his life another. Read more.

Cinema
The Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2008
Lucas Miller June 24, 2008, updated June 29, 2008
Cinema is without doubt the most popular art of our modern world. Museums are visited primarily by duty-plagued tourists; popular music is but a clamourous ruckus; books are an entertainment sadly lost on many and fine theatre is a luxury, which cannot be easily reached by the provincial. Film is entertaining, cheap, and easily accessed by folk of both urban and rural habitations. It is an art of swift movement which appeals to our poor attention spans. Most contemporary films are trivial and pointless, but others may contain great profundity and meaning. Cinema is the pinnacle of modern popular culture.


The Edinburgh International Film Festival has now reached its 62nd year. In past years the festival it corresponded in time with the hectic August Fringe. This year, however, it is to be run from 18-29 June to allow movie-goers to focus their energies on film alone. It is the last true festival around. All the others, to quote the hit King of Ping Pong (showing at the festival) are about “money, politics, and drugs.” It is the last “egalitarian” festival. The others (including Tribeca, Sundance and Cannes) have been mauled by Hollywood. Read more.

Reviewed to date (more to come!):

Before the Rains, directed by Santosh Sivan

 

Elegy, directed by Isabel Coixet

 

Married Life, directed by Ira Sachs

 

Helen, directed by Sandra Nettelbeck

 

The Edge of Love, directed by John Maybury

 

A Film with Me in It, directed by Ian Fitzgibbon, written by Mark Doherty

 

Standard Operating Procedure, directed by Errol Morris

 

---

 

The Award Winners!


Dance
Momix, Lunar Sea: The Decadence of Illusion
Renée Dumouchel June 6, 2008
Shifting positions, much less pre-conceptions (or misconceptions) are never easy. Minds, like bodies, are hard to change, and most would rather play an authoritative Queen of Hearts than an imaginative, forgiving, but much less in-control Alice. 


Creating its own kind of Wonderland, Momix calls for all manner of shifts—both physical and mental. Ninety minutes of shape shifting to amorphous music and distorted nature images could be a recipe for disaster. Luckily, the closest Momix comes to a resounding “off with its head” is over-saturation, thanks to the extreme technical prowess of the dancers and the whimsicality of each set of movements.


At times, the fluid, sensual, often humorous movements get lost amid a sea of recurring if not repetitive circles, parallelograms and Kabuki-like “puppetry.” Read more.


Theater
Williamstown Theater Festival, Nikos Stage

Beyond Therapy

by Christopher Durang

Directed by Alex Timbers


Charlotte - Kate Burton

Prudence - Katie Finneran

Bruce - Darren Goldstein

Stuart - Darrell Hammond

Bob - Matt McGrath

Andrew - Bryce Pinkham

Michael Miller  
The Williamstown Theatre Festival got off to a comfortable start with quite an entertaining offering by WTF familiars. Playwright-Actor Christopher Durang has appeared in Williamstown in both capacities. Katie Finneran is beginning her second WTF season as Prudence. Director Alex Timbers and Matt McGrath are both in their fourth season, and Kate Burton, of course, is a fixture, now in her 18th season. Beyond that, there is also an element of nostalgia in Beyond Therapy, which was first produced off Broadway in 1981 and on Broadway in a revised version in 1982. Not everybody will realize what a different place the world was back then. Hence the program notes attempt to explain this through a comparison with Sex and the City, which is steeped in the values of the turn of the century, when it started. Even that is beginning to recede into the past. Read more.

Music
Music Mountain, Falls Village, Connecticut, Sunday June 15, 3 PM

Special Benefit Concert for the Operating Fund

St. Petersburg String Quartet

Alla Aranovskaya, first violin

Alla Krolevich, second violin

Boris Vayner, viola

Leonid Shukayev, cello
Daniel Epstein, piano, replacing Charles Rosen


Debussy: String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 10 (1893)
Shostakovich: String Quartet #12 in D Flat Major, Opus 133 (1968)
Schumann: Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Opus 44 (1842)

Michael Miller June 19, 2008
Music Mountain has offered extraordinary chamber music since 1930, when it was founded as a summer home for the Gordon String Quartet. Audiences loyally drive up the winding country road to enjoy the beauty of the grounds and its surroundings, its long, narrow hall with its superb acoustics, and the major chamber groups who play there. Jazz is also a major component of the season, and there is also choral music. On the lawn which spreads out down the hillside from Gordon Hall, you will also find a tent with books for sale, a snack bar, wooden benches under the trees, as well as some rather funky abstract sculptures. There had been a violent storm the week before, which snapped the trunks of several large trees surrounding the lawn. The season, called “Borrowed Melody” this year, because works with themes borrowed from outside sources or the composer’s own works will be worked into most of the programs, got off to a strong start with a special benefit concert featuring the great St. Petersburg String Quartet. Charles Rosen was to have joined them for the Schumann Piano Quintet. He was unfortunately unable to play, but Daniel Epstein filled the gap with intelligence and sensitivity. Read more.

Theater
August: Osage County

by Tracy Letts

Steppenwolf at the Music Box Theater, New York

directed by Anna D. Shapiro


Ian Barford - Little Charles 

Deanna Dunagan - Violet Weston (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Kimberly Guerrero - Johnna Monevata 

Francis Guinan - Charlie Aiken (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Brian Kerwin - Steve Heidebrecht 

Michael McGuire - Beverly Weston

Madeleine Martin - Jean Fordham 

Mariann Mayberry - Karen Weston 

Amy Morton - Barbara Fordham 

Sally Murphy - Ivy Weston 

Jeff Perry - Bill Fordham 

Rondi Reed - Mattie Fae Aiken (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Troy West - Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

Michael Miller June 17, 2008
As I mulled over the play I had just seen, the much-acclaimed August: Osage County, over some bad, overpriced feijoada, I found myself probing around for just what had been lacking in the evening. I left the Music Box Theater thinking that it was perhaps not that strong a play. I liked its length (or perhaps out on the Plains people would conceive it as breadth) and its rambling quality. Most of its dozen characters were unattractive in one way or another, but I’d grown fond of them over the past three hours. On the other hand, I perhaps felt mildly frustrated that I didn’t know more about the characters, that too much was left open. (I won’t retell the story here. If you can’t quite follow the following streamof dysfunctional relatives, you should see the play or read it. You won’t regret it.) I found myself wondering what brought Bev together with Violet in the the first place. There must have been something, before the pills and the alcohol took over. Then it takes more than Mattie Fae’s word to convince me about what brought her together with Bev, presumably his frustration with Violet. Is the result of this adultery with his sister-in-law really enough to put the man into such a depression that he kills himself years later? On the other hand, it’s more than enough that he has come to the realization that “life is very long,” and the “the world is gradually becoming a place where I do not care to be anymore.” Bev is—or was—a poet, but his years of inactivity had been so long that it’s hard to imagine that it still bothered him. All he had to do was to stay drunk. Now Barbara, his daughter, followed in Beverly’s footsteps and became an academic. She and her husband left home for Colorado—a tragic abandonment of her parents in the eyes of some, because they could both find jobs there, but we never find out what her academic interests were, what her work life was like. As least we know that it didn’t offer her the same sexual temptations it proferred her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Bill. Weren’t these trivial questions? Perhaps, but I believe that fact that they kept appearing suggested that something was thin in the background to let them through. Read more.

Theater
Harold Pinter, The Caretaker

Berkshire Theater Company, Stockbridge

Jonathan Epstein – Davies

James Barry – Mick

Tommy Schrider – Aston

Eric Hill, director

Jonathan Wentz, set design

Michael Miller June 16, 2008
Harold Pinter is still very much alive, a potent and welcome presence in the world because of his political work, but when The Caretaker, or any other of the plays from the height of his fame in the theater, is produced, most of us take it as a classic from the past. After all Pinter’s announcement in 2005 of his retirement from the stage marked a significant break, and the world has changed significantly since the sixties. His powerful Nobel Prize lecture, Art, Truth, and Politics, meticulously prepared and taped by BBC 4, shows his current way of reaching his audience in a time when indifference, commercialism in the media, and unofficial censorship make it virtually impossible to get salutary and unpleasant messages across to anyone who is not already convinced. We deal with people who disagree with us by marginalizing them. When he wrote The Caretaker in 1959, his first commercial success, he established himself as the quintessential all-round man of the theater. Read more.

Photography
Don’t Smile for the Camera, at the Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield.

The exhibition will be on view daily from 11 am to 5 pm through November 2, 2008. At the Old Deerfield Summer Craft Fair on June 21 and 22, tintype photographer John Bernaski will demonstrate his craft for the public. Admission to the nineteen exhibition rooms on art, history, and culture in Memorial Hall Museum, 8 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA, is $6 for adults, and $3 for youth and students 6-21. For more information call 413-774-3768 x 10 or visit the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s website. Click here for a gallery of highlights from the exhibition.

Michael Miller June 13, 2008
In this day and age, when the good life revolves around a McMansion in a gated community and the destination of a family outing is more likely to be Six Flags than Old Sturbridge Village or Old Deerfield, few remember what these museum towns actually mean. The range of artistic and social movements associated with such places over the years give one an idea of the various facets of human interest they appealed to: preservationism, the Colonial revival, Arts and Crafts, historical pageantry and so on. At one time the opinions and designs of John Ruskin and William Morris or, later, the writings and the photographs of Wallace Nutting reached broad popular audiences through a variety of books and magazines. A housewife would not think of decorating her home without consulting them, or even paying a visit to a place like Deerfield, where she might even expect to purchase examples of traditional crafts from local artisans, as well as photographic records of the exhibits or reenactments she had seen on the spot. These she could take home for inspiration, either for practical decorative ends or simply to recreate the mood of times gone by. Read more.

LeissingCharles & Ellen Leissing


Theater
I Am My Own Wife

by Doug Wright

starring Vince Gatton, directed by Andrew Volkoff

Barrington Stage Company, Stage II

Michael Miller June 10, 2008
As a teenager under the Third Reich and son of an enthusiastic and rising party member of brutal ways, Lothar Berfelde found himself maturing into an especially difficult situation. From a very early age, he had felt himself to be a girl in a boy’s body. Disgusted by Lothar’s precocious effeminacy, his father had forced him to join the Hitler Youth, but eventually a Lesbian aunt enlightened him about cross-dressing and gave him an authoritative book on the subject, Magnus Hirschfeld’s book, Die Transvestiten (1910), which became his Bible, as it reminded him that he was not alone in the world. He killed his father with a rolling pin, as Väterchen threatened to kill his mother and the entire family. After psychiatric examination he was judged sane and sentenced to four years in juvenile prison. East German society was no more tolerant of homosexuals, but Lothar was able to pursue his inclinations, changing his name to “Lottchen,” formally Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the Berlin suburb in which he had grown up, and where he continued to live, obsessively collecting furniture and other objects from the Gründerzeit, that is, the age of Bismarck, a period of growing national wealth and security, the “world of assurance” (viz. Am. “insurance”), as Stefan Zweig called it, which was to collapse with the First World War. Read more.

Art & Architecture
Pollock Matters, edited by Ellen G. Landau & Claude Cernuschi; Chestnut Hill, MA; McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2007.
Michael Miller June 9, 2008
This is the second part of my review of the exhibition Pollock Matters [click here to read Part I], which I promised back in December of last year as a separate discussion of the catalogue. If the flow of events has not permitted me to fulfill my promise until now, I shan’t apologize too abjectly, because the catalogue is of permanent value—as much to art historians as to the scientists of art—and during the intervening period our appreciation of Pollock has since been enriched by an added dimension. His drips and spatters have made their entry into the fashion world, paraded on the most fashionable sidewalks on garments of all kinds for both sexes: shirts, tank tops, dresses, and shoes. While Pollock’s drip paintings were made as the most quintessentially unique of unique artworks, characteristic motifs are now made into the most quintessentially multiple of multiples, mass-produced designer clothes: the distinguishing criterion of these articles is not the quality of workmanship or quality of design applied to an individual, bespoke example, but the uniformly recognizable distinction of a brand name. The purchaser, in wearing them, surrenders a certain portion of his or her individuality in order to assume, by being branded in this way, an extra-personal distinction, not the mark of Pollock, the artist who “invented” the design, but that of the late Yves St. Laurent and others, who borrowed it. In this the borrowing is a more potent gesture than creation. Some fashion-conscious people, either through thrift or through mischievousness, have gone a step further, dripping their own patterns on to blank garments, co-opting the brand distinction by re-borrowing it and restoring some of their individuality and some of the hand-made craft of art—which is apparently legal, since these drip motifs cannot or have not been copyrighted. Doesn’t the Pollock-Krasner Foundation have anything to say about this? Read more.

Music
In Praise of Herbert von Karajan, with a Selective Critical Discography
Huntley Dent May 31, 2008
My immediate reaction to Michael Miller's commentary on the Karajan centenary [Oh no! He’s not back again, is he? - May 2, 2008] was rather choleric, but I've settled down a bit since then and can write this from a relatively balanced perspective. 

I bought those 1962-63 Beethoven symphonies, too, which by the way are in such bad sound that three remasterings later, including the most recent in SACD, they remain boomy and muddy. I'm not sure where you heard them praised. But Karajan's quasi-hypnotizing style didn't appeal to me back then. I dropped out until the mid-80s. Since then -- don't be shocked -- I've bought his entire EMI output from 1947 until the early Eighties, all his Decca recordings (which are relatively few), a huge chunk of his DG catalogue, and many highlights from the historical archives. As a result, I incline toward his English biographer, Richard Osborne, in believing that Karajan was among the greatest conductors of the century. And not just in the Fifties, that canard notwithstanding. Read more.


Music
Concerts at Tannery Pond. Season Opening.

Sunday May 25, 2008, 3pm


Edward Arron, Cello

Pedja Mužijević, Piano

Soovin Kim, Violin

Nicholas Phan, Tenor 


Franz Joseph Haydn, Piano Trio In C-Major, Hob. 15:27

Gabriel Fauré. La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61

Benjamin Britten, Folk Songs

Robert Schumann, Piano Trio No.1 In D-Minor, Op. 63

Michael Miller May 28, 2008
The summer season began for this concertgoer Sunday afternoon on a very high level in a very good place, Tannery Pond, on the Darrow School campus, which occupies part of the Shaker community at New Lebanon, New York. A bright, warm Sunday afternoon arrived on cue to inaugurate this season of a distinguished chamber music series which began in 1991. There is no more comely place to gather for music; the acoustics are intimate, clear, and warm in this converted tannery, originally built by the Shakers in 1834; and its founder-director, Christian Steiner, a distinguished pianist and photographer, provides a uniquely enthusiastic “one-man-show,” introducing the program, arranging chairs, recording and photographing the concert, turning pages, and picking up overturned flower pots, as was necessary this afternoon. Read more.


Music

Berlioz, Les Troyens, a Concert Performance and a Symposium

Boston Symphony Orchestra Symphony Hall, Boston,
James Levine, conductor 

Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, Part 1 (The Capture of Troy) 

Sunday, May 4, 2008, 3pm

 

Marcello Giordani, Tenor (Aeneas) 

Yvonne Naef, Mezzo-Soprano (Cassandra) 

Dwayne Croft, Baritone (Chorebus) 

Julien Robbins, Bass-Baritone (Priam) 

Clayton Brainerd, Bass-Baritone (Panthus) 

Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano (Ascanius) 

Jane Bunnell, Mezzo-Soprano (Hecuba) 

Ronald Naldi, Tenor (Helenus) 

David Kravitz, Baritone (Trojan Soldier) 

James Courtney, Bass-Baritone (Greek Captain) 

Eric Owens, Bass (Ghost of Hector)

Tanglewood Festival Chorus 

  John Oliver, conductor 

Les Troyens, Part 2 (The Trojans at Carthage) 

Sunday, May 4, 2008, 6.30 pm


Marcello Giordani, Tenor (Aeneas) 

Anne Sofie Von Otter, Mezzo-Soprano (Dido) 

Kwangchul Youn, Bass (Narbal) 

Christin-Marie Hill, Mezzo-Soprano (Anna) 

Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano (Ascanius) 

Eric Cutler, Tenor (Iopas) 

Philippe Castagner, Tenor (Hylas) 

Clayton Brainerd, Bass-Baritone (Panthus) 

David Kravitz, Baritone (First Trojan Sentry) 

James Courtney, Bass-Baritone (Second Trojan Sentry) 

Yvonne Naef, Mezzo-Soprano (Ghost of Cassandra) 

Dwayne Croft, Baritone (Ghost of Chorebus) 

Julien Robbins, Bass-Baritone (Ghost of Priam) 

Eric Owens, Bass (Mercury; Ghost of Hector) 

Tanglewood Festival Chorus 

  John Oliver, conductor

Michael Miller May 16, 2008
Les Troyens is so widely accepted as Berlioz’s greatest work, that the progress of the Berlioz Renaissance is punctuated by performances of it in the opera house and in concert, beginning, arguably, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s moderately abridged 1947 BBC broadcast. Now Boston music-lovers may consider the Berlioz Renaissance to be something of a noble fiction, since his music has had its own secure place in the Boston Symphony repertoire for many years, maturing with Charles Munch’s arrival in 1949. During his tenure he and the BSO performed and recorded several of Berlioz’s most important works, and the recordings are still considered among the best. Later, both Jean Martinon and Seiji Ozawa continued the tradition most capably, and Berlioz has been one of James Levine’s great enthusiasms since early in his career. Expertise in Berlioz seems to be a prerequisite for the job. Yet, this is the first complete performance of Les Troyens by the foremost Berlioz orchestra in America, which in the past has only played brief excerpts, above all the “Royal Hunt and Storm” from Act IV. Hence these concert performances of Parts I and II on following weeks, culminating in a complete performance on Sunday May 4, are in fact landmarks. Read more.

Dance
Akram Khan: Between Baggage and Nihility
New York City Center
Renée Dumouchel May 6, 2008
Tackling questions of being and knowing is a bit like a circus act. Like tightrope walkers, choreographers must be prepared to wobble, bend, contort and above all, have an indelible sense of balance and purpose, lest they plummet to their demise through a net of trite observations and half-truths. 


Akram Khan, a choreographer whose vision is both grounded and deliciously stratospheric, engages this challenge head on, face forward, toes poised to the next tine of an already thin rope in each of his two evening-length pieces, Bahok and Zero Degrees, recently performed at New York’s City Center.


Set in a fictitious transportation hub whose information board cycles through symbols and a series of frustrating edicts and subtitled translations, Bahok weaves Khan’s quietly violent movement and exquisitely abstracted score (composed by Nitin Sawhney) with his keen eye for the delicate intricacies of human behavior, speech and rhythm. Zero Degrees takes a more minimalist but no less effect approach, chronicling the struggles and discovery of two dancers experimenting with their relationship to each other, space and themselves. Read more. 


Food & Drink
Gala Restaurant and Bar at the Orchards Hotel

222 Adams Road, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 01267

Tel: 413.458.9611; 800.225.1517

Fax: 413.458.3273

E-mail: reservations@orchardshotel.com


Rating: 4/5; Price: moderate; main courses $23-$39. Open seven days  a week: breakfast served in the Dining Room from 7:00AM to 10:15AM daily; Sunday Brunch from 11:00 AM to 2:15 PM; Lunch 11:30AM to 2:15PM (entrees $6-15); Dinner from 5:30PM to 10:00PM (entrees $16-28); Lighter fare in the Bar from 5:30PM.

Michael Miller May 21, 2008
As summer visitors converge on Williamstown, beginning with the Williams commencement and continuing on through the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which will conintue through late August, it will hardly occur to many that a refuge is available from whatever mild stresses the largely depopulated college town may offer. The Orchards Hotel, with its recently reinvented and renamed restaurant, Gala (formerly Yasmin’s), has stood on Main Street (Route 2) for some twenty-five years, just at the point where the town proper begins. Hotel, restaurant, parking, and their attractive landscaping are surrounded by a massive wall, which shields the buildings from traffic noise most effectively, but has in the past encouraged among locals a sense of exclusivity—borne out in the past by Yasmin’s ambitious and pricey menu. With new owners and the arrival of Chef Peter Belmonte, a Berkshire native, all that has changed. The new menu, which changes regularly, maintains a neat balance of the familiarity and innovation, and prices are refreshingly accessible. Festival regulars will also be pleased to learn that the popular Cabaret, absent from the Orchards for several years, will return in July and early August. Read more.

Art
Hoosac River Lights, April 26, 2008
Photo Gallery by Joanna Gabler and Michael Miller May 22, 2008
Ralph Brill, of the Brill Gallery, initiated the Hoosac River Lights - an outdoor artistic lighting project that drew crowds of thousands to its Inaugural Event on the evening of April 26, 2008. The Hoosac River Lights Project celebrated the Hoosac River and brought it back into people's consciousness. Over time it might become an annual City of North Adams Event lasting several days. Once a dynamic river that powered the old textile and shoe mills in the region the Hoosac was placed in a concrete channel in the 1950s to prevent costly flood damages. Today, the Hoosac River remains largely unnoticed as it winds its way through the center of North Adams. See the gallery.

Music
Daniel Lessner, piano

Williams College Bösendorfer Recital

Chapin Hall, April 26, 2008, 8 pm


J. S. Bach, Goldberg Variations

Robert Schumann, Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13

Michael Miller May 9, 2008
Once again, the Williams Bösendorfer Recital program has given us the opportunity of hearing a gifted younger musician display his musicianship with the singular obstacles of a mismatched instrument in an unpleasant acoustic. A portable acoustical shell has been introduced to remedy Chapin’s muffled sound. I heard a favorable judgement of this innovation at the New England Baroque Orchestra concert, which I unfortunately missed, but  it was of little help with a solo piano: the music, instead of sounding as if it were being played in another room with the door partially open, sounded as if it were being played in a tunnel, or perhaps a swimming pool. The Williams Bösendorfer has never been a credit to its justly famed manufacturer, partly, it could be, because of the Berkshire climate and partly because it is too much instrument for the hall. The instrument is extremely loud, and so was the pianist, painfully so, occasionally giving me the feeling of being in close quarters with a mad rhino. Read more.


Music
Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine conducting

Symphony Hall, Friday, April 18, 8 pm

 

John Harbison, Symphony No. 5 (2008), on texts of Czesław Miłosz,  

Louise Glück, and Rainer Maria Rilke 


Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano 

Nathan Gunn, Baritone 


Gustav Mahler, Das Lied Von Der Erde

(after Hans Bethge’s “The Chinese Flute”)


Anne Sofie Von Otter, Mezzo-Soprano 

Ben Heppner, tenor, replacing Johan Botha, who was ill.

Michael Miller May 5, 2008
[N.B. The Boston Chamber Music Society will offer a performance of a Das Lied von der Erde in Schoenberg’s arrangement for chamber ensemble, Sunday, May 17, 7.30 p.m. at Sanders Theater in Cambridge.]


As in November, James Levine has chosen to pair a work of Mahler with the premiere of a commissioned work, this time, not Elliot Carter’s brief, dense, but deceptively limpid Horn Concerto, but an ambitious symphony for mezzo-soprano, baritone and massive orchestra by John Harbison. It was only after Harbison had begun to make sketches that Maestro Levine, exercising his substantial gifts as a patron of new music, suggested that voices would be a welcome addition. The composer responded by taking up works by three poets who have been particularly highly regarded in recent years, the late Czesław Miłosz, Louise Glück, and, as the classic guest, Rainer Maria Rilke. These texts extend throughout the four movements like wall-to-wall carpeting, and one might get the impression that they had come to dominate the symphony, if its orchestral foundations and symphonic structure were not as strong as they are. The result is a work which attempts to do justice to two objectives: the expressive setting of narrative and lyrical verse and a fully-realized symphonic work. One might think that such a duality might prove a recipe for disaster, but in Harbison’s intelligent and experienced hands, the result is a double, if still somewhat divided, success. Read more.


Theater
Black Watch
from the Natonal Theatre of Scotland

Written by Gregory Burke
Director - John Tiffany

Lucas Miller April 19, 2008

The Iraq War is an infuriating abomination and I am more than happy to see anything that attacks it. I am also, as it happens, not against seeing fine theatre. Therefore, I was delighted to see two birds killed with one stone at the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of the Edinburgh Festival hit Black Watch at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow, as the play continues its tour through the UK, and then on to North America. [Since its first performance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006 in an unused drill shed, Black Watch has played before sold out audiences and won numerous awards, not only the Fringe First, but South Bank Show Award for Theatre, the Critics’ Circle Awards (to John Tiffany as Best Director) and others. It played to sold-out audiences at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn in October-November 2007, and will return there in October 2008. - ed.]

The production is unique in its dynamic approach to theatre and accessibility. Because it is “building-free,” it travels well, each time creating a different experience for a different audience. The primary objective, as always it should be, is to entertain. This is achieved through an interesting integration of acting, singing, dancing, and technical effects. At the SECC, the theatre was set up in a peculiar way, with the stage nestled between two large bleachers running parallel to one another. Read more.


Music
Benjamin Moser plays, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Holliger, Tchaikovsky, and Skryabin at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, March 27, 2008
Michael Miller April 4, 2008
This was an important event, not only because of the superb playing of a young musician I hope to hear many times again, but also because it showed what the Colonial Theatre can really do for classical music in our community. I have already commented enthusiastically about the acoustics in the hall, which remind me somewhat of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and are excellent for small string ensembles, chamber music, and piano, if the piano is of the right sort, that is, smaller than a full sized concert grand. The Colonial has acquired a splendid rare instrument in an 1894 Hamburg Steinway, a nine foot Model D, which in a modern instrument would be too powerful for the hall. Read more.

Music
Biava Quartet

Austin Hartman and Hyunsu Ko violin, Mary Persin viola, and Jason Calloway cello


Clark Art Institute

Sunday, April 6, 2008, 3 pm.


Haydn, String Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, no. 2

Kodály, String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1916–18)

Mendelssohn, String Quartet in F minor, Op. 80

Michael Miller April 9, 2008
It is perhaps not entirely accurate to call the Biava Quartet (named after the distinguished Philadelphia violinist and conductor Luis Biava.) a “young” quartet, since it is already ten years old. During that time they have collected an impressive array of prizes, including the Naumberg Chamber Music Prize and a first at the London International competition. Today they hold the Lisa Arnhold Quartet Residency at the Juilliard School, serving as graduate quartet in residence and teaching assistants to the Juilliard Quartet. This Juilliard connection is not without significance, since, as cellist Jason Calloway mentioned while introducing the Kodály, the Juilliard Quartet were their mentors. During the Biava’s Sunday afternoon concert, the relationship was constantly apparent, not only in their tight ensemble and disciplined rhtyhm, but in their sound, which recalls not so much the mellowed timbre of the Juilliard Quartet today, but the brilliance and bite of their earlier years. On the other hand, the Biava Quartet’s approach to ensemble textures is quite different. Read more.

Theater
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Chichester Festival 2007 Production, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 2/12-3/24/08; now at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway

 

Rupert Goold - Director; Patrick Stewart - Macbeth; Kate Fleetwood - Lady Macbeth

Michael Miller March 28, 2008
If the first performance of Macbeth (most likely some time in 1606 or 1607) was a historic event, it would have been that chiefly because it was the first time that a Scotsman was ever presented on a London stage as anything other than an object of ridicule and contempt. This obviously had much to do with King James’ Scottish origins, not one of his more popular traits, but surely to be respected, at least in public. But that is not Shakespeare’s only effort to please the monarch. James set great store by his descendence from Banquo, a major theme in the play. There is also a good deal about the nature of kingship and political legitimacy. Witchcraft, a favorite topic of James’, on which he wrote a learned treatise, is close to its core and ubiquitous, even amplified by interpolations which provided an opportunity to make the witch scenes even more vivid through music, spectacle, and dance. Read more.


Music
Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes

Montagu Slater, libretto


Metropolitan Opera House, March 15, 2008, 1.30 pm (transmitted “live” in HD, March 29)

Donald Runnicles, conductor

 

Peter Grimes – Anthony Dean Griffey
Ellen Orford – Patricia Racette
Captain Balstrode – Anthony Michaels-Moore
Mrs. Sedley – Felicity Palmer
Auntie – Jill Grove
Niece –  Leah Partridge
Niece –  Erin Morley
Hobson – Dean Peterson
Swallow – John Del Carlo
Bob Boles – Greg Fedderly

Rev. Horace Adams – Bernard Fitch
Ned Keene – Teddy Tahu Rhodes
John – Logan William Erickson

Production – John Doyle
Set Designer – Scott Pask
Costume Designer – Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Designer – Peter Mumford
TV Director – Gary Halvorson

 

Michael Miller April 2, 2008
Peter Grimes' first performance in 1945 was a triumph, and the opera has settled into a secure place in the repertory—accessible to a broad audience, as its creators intended, but commanding respect among critics as a serious and important effort, considered by some to be Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece. The composer and his librettist, as well as his companion, Peter Pears, who premiered the role of Grimes and consulted during its composition, achieved a rare success in combining a leftist program of popular appeal, social criticism, and authentic tragedy—a feat many have attempted, but few have brought off. Inspired by the atmosphere of his native region around Aldeburgh, where he grew up and lived most of his life, as well as formative influences like Berg’s Wozzeck, which left its mark almost everywhere in the opera, Britten took a section (Letter XXII) from The Borough by George Crabbe, the Aldeburgh-born poet and coleopterist, and, with the indispensible assistance of the left-wing writer Montagu Slater, transformed it from a black morality tale into the tragedy of an outcast who was hounded to his destruction by the hostile community into which he was born. Read more.

Music
New Morning for the World

a concert by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Joseph Schwantner, with speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. performed by Omar Sangare; The Williams Symphonic Winds conducted by Stephen Dennis Bodner; Filmed live by Berta Jottar [link1/link2], Sunday, February 3, 2008, produced by Sandra Burton and Stalwart Originality.

Michael Miller March 29, 2008
When Americans celebrate their more significant secular holidays with art, they notoriously reach for hackneyed expressions which are at best well-intentioned and at worst, totally empty. Williams College, however, produced a notable exception to this in New Morning for The World, a concert piece for winds, percussion, and piano, with recitation, by the distinguished American composer Joseph Schwantner. Regrettably I missed the performance, but I recently came upon a video of the event, filmed by the Mexican video artist and activist Berta Jottar, who is a member of the Williams faculty, along with Omar Sangare, who recited the texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. to the accompaniment of Schwantner’s music. The music and the selection from Dr. King’s speeches was work of a high order, powerful in its effect, as was Dr. Sangare’s recitation and the performance of the Williams Symphonic Winds under their director, Stephen Dennis Bodner, who has been responsible for a series of ambitious, original programs over this academic year and before. Read more.


Dance
Jonah Bokaer: The Invention of Minus One
Renee Dumouchel March 21, 2008
How do you talk about a piece that is simultaneously disturbing and thought-provoking, poignant yet devoid of discernible emotion? Jonah Bokaer’s The Invention of Minus One, presented at the Abrons Art Center in New York, whether intentionally or not, stirs up provocations of perception and misperception, voyeurism, dehumanization, digital and organic interaction, form, function and functionality.


Moving among and between a set depicting an active photo studio, complete with tripods, reflective umbrellas, video screens and costume racks, a trio of dancers (Holley Farmer, Rashaun Mitchell and Banu Ogan, like Mr. Bokaer, formerly of the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company) sporting sequins and nautical-inspired dinner jackets designed by Isaac Mizrahi, and moving to punctuating music that almost sounds like the inner workings of a photo development machine, interact in near perfect disillusionment that there is anyone else on the stage but them. It is not so much narcissism as a complete lack of emotional interaction between counterparts that leave the piece feeling cold and unconnected. Read more.


Music
Eastman Studies in Music from The University of Rochester Press and Boydell & Brewer publish their 50th volume and then some.
From the music-book blog From Beyond the Stave edited by Michael Miller March 25, 2008
In February the University of Rochester Press published the 50th volume in its acclaimed series, Eastman Studies in Music: Music Theory and Mathematics: Chords, Collections, and Transformations (edited by Jack Douthett, Martha M. Hyde, and Charles J. Smith). "When we began, I didn't dare dream that this could happen," says Ralph Locke (pictured right in front of the URP offices), a professor at the Eastman School of Music for more than 30 years and series editor since 1994. "We started producing two books a year, and now we are up to seven and growing, which means we can publish books on a range of topics and reach a wider spectrum of the reading public."

Reviews of some volumes from the series will be appearing in The Berkshire Review for the Arts over the next weeks and months: The Substance of Things Heard: Writings about Music, by Paul Griffiths; Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community, Edited by Carol K. Baron; and others. Read more.


Dance
Paul Taylor Dance Company at the City Center—Food for Thought: Byzantium, De Sueños and Arden Court
Renee Dumouchel March 20, 2008
There are enough people who are Paul Taylor supporters that I don’t feel I need to throw myself into the ring just for the sake of safety in numbers. I can fully appreciate his dancer’s pristine technique, his keen eye for flawless presentation and seamless transitions, his undeniable innovation and daring and the obvious thought and care that he so painstakingly infuses into each of his works. The disconnect, for me, then, is not one of execution, but of personal taste—and as we all know, taste varies. 


In the past works that I have seen, there is nothing that stirs in me that visceral internal furnace that signals the ignition of something explosive—something that resonates with the core of my being and awakens the dormant morsels of past experience. My eyes have feasted, but I am left feeling hollow. While his work has great substance, his particular flavors haven’t excited my palate and nourished my hunger in a way that has felt satisfying…until now. Read more.


Food & Drink
Café des Artistes

One West 67th Street

New York, New York 10023

(212) 877-3500


Rating 4/5. Moderate to expensive: main courses $23-$39. Prix fixe $35 (Restaurant Week All-Year Round), Open seven days  a week, lunch 11 to 3 pm and dinner 5 to 11pm. Jacket recommended but not required.

Michael Miller March 23, 2008
So much has been said about the current craze for restaurant-going by people who are striving to understand it, either for enlightenment or profit, that it seems a truism to observe that a visit to a restaurant is a kind of travel, not entirely ersatz, but something between dreaming of Capri in an armchair and jumping on the train to Fire Island. The decorator has provided the sets, the chef a motive for going there, the staff a supporting cast; the diners at the table have their relationships, their hierarchy, and their desires, and, if the evening out is going to be any fun, they’re ready to play their roles. Dining out is also a self-generated theater, the ultimate interactive entertainment. It can be a journey in time, as well as a mildly-imagined land travel. Most people will go out for something old just as readily as something new, although the longevity of restaurants is tenuous enough these days to put that in question.


I was recently put in mind of the Café des Artistes, which I used to frequent rather a lot through the 1980’s. In fact some major life-changes germinated there. The collector-artist-developer Ian Woodner lived not in the famous Hotel des Artistes which houses the restaurant, but in an artist’s studio up the street where he had lived since his student days. Like the hotel residents in bygone days, Woodner used the Café as a dining hall. We were organizing an exhibition of Woodner’s drawings, and, either as his guests or on our own, we kept going back to the Café des Artistes. Often we’d go there on the late side, when the dining room and bar were in full swing, always fortissimo. Read more.


Music and Recordings
G.F. Handel, Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742)
The Dunedin Consort and Players
John Butt, director
Susan Hamilton, soprano
Annie Gill, contralto
Clare Wilkinson, contralto
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass


Recorded at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh: 1-4 May 2006

Linn Records CKD 285, available as CD, Vinyl, or downloads in MP3, CD, or Studio Master Quality; click here for samples.

Michael Miller March 20, 2008
Two of the best recordings of Messiah are among the most recent. They could not be more different; one is a performance of the Dublin version of 1742 by a small consort using historical performance practices and the other is an eclectic text performed by larger forces using modern instruments, Sir Colin Davis' most recent version, a live performance recorded at the Barbican in December 2006; but they are unquestionably among the finest performances of Handel’s masterpiece ever, and only a listener who has a seated prejudice against one mode of performance or the other could have any reason to choose between them. One must have both. And don’t forget Malcolm Sargent’s classic 1946 performance with the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Huddersfield Choral Society, available in a superb transfer on Dutton Records, for something completely different!


John Butt, driector of the Dunedin consort and Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow, does not offer the Dublin version as the best or the most original of the ten identifiable versions from Handel’s lifetime.Read more.


Music and Recordings
G. F. Handel, Messiah (includes bonus DVD with interview with Sir Colin Davis)

Sir Colin Davis conductor
Susan Gritton soprano
Sara Mingardo alto
Mark Padmore tenor
Alastair Miles bass
Tenebrae Choir
London Symphony Orchestra

Recorded live, December 2006, Barbican, London
LSO Live, LSO0606, available as 2 CD/SACD + DVD discs or as download from iTunes, eMusic, or Amazon (USA) Click here for an excerpt.

Michael Miller March 20, 2008
Two of the best recordings of Messiah are among the most recent. They could not be more different; one is is an eclectic text performed by larger forces using modern instruments, Sir Colin Davis' most recent version, a live performance recorded at the Barbican in December 2006, the other a performance of the Dublin version of 1742 by a small consort using historical performance practices; but they are unquestionably among the finest performances of Handel’s masterpiece ever, and only a listener who has a seated prejudice against one mode of performance or the other could have any reason to choose between them. One must have both. And don’t forget Malcolm Sargent’s classic 1945 performance with the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Huddersfield Choral Society, available in a superb transfer on Dutton Records, for something completely different!

Two of the best recordings of Messiah are among the most recent. They could not be more different; one is is an eclectic text performed by larger forces using modern instruments, Sir Colin Davis' most recent version, a live performance recorded at the Barbican in December 2006, the other a performance of the Dublin version of 1742 by a small consort using historical performance practices; but they are unquestionably among the finest performances of Handel’s masterpiece ever, and only a listener who has a seated prejudice against one mode of performance or the other could have any reason to choose between them. One must have both. And don’t forget Malcolm Sargent’s classic 1945 performance with the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Huddersfield Choral Society, available in a superb transfer on Dutton Records, for something completely different!

I have chosen to review this magnificent live recording under Sir Colin Davis together with the equally cogent historically informed performance by the Dunedin Consort under John Butt, because they have appeared within a year of one another and because they are both of such superb quality. I do not intend to compare them in detail or to make a judgement between them. Rather I hope to point out what can be gained from both approaches. Read more.


Music
A Night at the Opera: Gary Lehman and Janice Baird Sing Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera
Michael Miller March 15, 2008
The evening began with Peter Gelb’s suave announcement that Ben Heppner was ill and recovering at home in Canada. He reminded the audience that only perhaps five tenors in the world were able to sing Tristan, but a replacement had been found, a tenor named Gary Lehman, who would be singing the role for the first time in public. Great promises he did not make. It would be wonderful to say that Lehman electrified the house and became an instant star, just like in the movies—not so, unfortunately, but almost. As pleasing and appropriate as Lehman’s very attractive dark, baritonal voice was, and as thorough as his understanding of the role, and as elegant and intelligent his phrasing, especially in the quieter, more reflective passages, it might have been better for him to have sung the role for a few years in smaller opera houses—there must be some left in Germany or Scandinavia that would still tackle Tristan—before taking the plunge at the Met. What's more, he is a tall, handsome fellow who actually looks like what we expect Tristan to look like. All he lacked was confidence and experience. He deservedly earned a powerful ovation for his effort, but I sincerely hope he will allow himself to develop a bit more, before, God willing, he returns as a master Heldentenor. In fact, he is a singer of considerable experience, although Heldentenor roles are a new direction for him. I thought it better to address the question which will be on everyone’s mind straight out at the beginning before continuing with the other convolutions of this rather strange night at the opera. Read more.

Dance
Jacob’s Pillow 2008 Festival Season Preview
Renee Dumouchel March 11, 2008
Jacob’s Pillow may have evolved beyond biblical allusions to the Book of Genesis, but the spirit of its namesake is exquisitely infused into the fabric of the choreographic creations that have swept across the Pillow’s three stages, carving a legacy that is nothing short of divine. Opening with Garth Fagan’s theatric masterpiece Griot New York and concluding with the wit and charisma of Larry Keigwin’s Keigwin + Company, the 2008 Festival season, I have no doubt, will be no exception. 


Garth Fagan’s foray into fantasy, in a collaboration with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and sculptor Martin Puryear, sets the bar high, promising originality and an exuberant dance language born of a rare fusion of African, Caribbean, modern and ballet disciplines. Stravinsky aficionados will find music set ablaze as Heddy Maalem’s fourteen dancers hailing from across the African continent re-imagine The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) in a combination of effervescent movement and the striking imagery of filmmaker Benoit Dervaux. Read more.


Food & Drink
San Domenico, 240 Central Park South, (212.265.5959) 

Lunch Mon-Fri 12-2:30 pm; Dinner Mon-Thu 5:30-11pm Fri-Sat 5:30-11:30 pm Sun 5-10 pm. Jacket required. Expensive.

Arlene B. Isaacs March 11, 2008
At the westernmost end of Central Park South, where you find the towering Time Warner Center and Columbus Circle you also find an elegant avenue of luxury condominiums and world-class hotels. Steps from Columbus’ statue, you will find San Domenico Restaurant. There you will experience dining in the most elegant Italian tradition. The ingredient-driven food is at once simple, flavorful, light, and always very Italian. San Domenico consistently earns its reputation for the top-quality materials supplied by its purveyors and the refinement of chef Odette Fada’s cooking. Tony May established his internationally renowned restaurant with authentic cuisine and its impeccable service in 1988 and his daughter Marisa has since joined him in the enterprise. Read more.

Music
A Musical Weekend at Williams, I:

Berkshire Symphony Orchestra
Ronald Feldman, conductor
Chapin Hall, Williams College, 02/29/2008 - 8:00pm

“Three Premieres and a Classic”

Kevin Kaska: from the video game “Lair”

David Kechley: WAKEFUL VISIONS/MOONLESS DREAMS: A Symphony in Four Movements

Felipe Lara: Onda

George Gershwin: An American in Paris

Michael Miller March 11, 2008
Williams has traditionally placed a high value on the arts without exactly pursuing the disciplines to the level of more specialized institutions, like Bard or Oberlin, except perhaps in the visual arts. The ‘62 Center has changed that in respect to theater, and the new facilities, as well as the distinguished faculty who have been hired to go with it, like Omar Sangare, the brilliant Polish playwright, poet, and actor, have attracted the sort of students who might otherwise have chosen Yale or Tisch. The Williams community, Berkshire residents, and whoever decides to make the trip, can expect great things in the future. Music, while very much a Cinderella in terms of physical plant, considering the problematic acoustics of Brooks-Rogers and Chapin Hall, is nonetheless richly endowed with talent of the first order, and many of these assets were much in evidence this past weekend in departmental chairman David Kechley (recently awarded an ASCAPlus Award as well as an Aaron Copland Award composer residency from Copland House), cellist-conductor Ronald Feldman, and, on Sunday, David Porter, Harry C. Payne Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts, who is as much a classicist as a musician. Read more.

Music
A Musical Weekend at Williams, II:

Charles Ives (1874-1954), Piano Sonata No. 2, “Concord, Mass., 1840-1860)

1. Emerson

2. Hawthorne

3. The Alcotts

4. Thoreau


David Porter, Piano, with Anne Royston ‘08, flute

Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, Williams College

Michael Miller March 11, 2008
Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata is without a doubt one of the great monuments of American music. It is not heard often, because it is difficult for both the pianist and his audience, and perhaps that is a good thing. It would be a pity if, like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, it were played too often in unworthy performances. It embodies the highest principles of American thought and American music, and a performance of it should remain a special occasion, as if it were a secular Missa Solemnis. Read more.

Music
Alfred Brendel, piano
Friday, February 22, 8pm, Symphony Hall, Boston (Celebrity Series of Boston)

Haydn, Variations in F minor, Hob: XVII/6
Mozart, Sonata in F major, K. 533/K. 494
Beethoven, Sonata in E flat major, “quasi una fantasia” Op. 27, no. 1
Schubert, Sonata in B flat major, D. 960
Michael Miller February 28, 2008
For his Boston farewell program, Alfred Brendel chose a selective cross-section of the repertoire he has cultivated through much of his career, and a fascinating selection it was, both in terms of Mr. Brendel’s taste and the inter-relationships between these mostly classical composers. There was no Schoenberg, no Schumann, and Liszt only as an encore. One felt that he had concentrated on the very marrow of his repertory. On the other hand, it came as a powerful discovery to experience the various forms—the overall shapes—of these four works within the compass of a single concert. Brendel has always been especially strong in comprehending and delineating classical structure and form, and now, at the very end of his public career, he appears to have distilled it to the utmost. Read more.

Music
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, Music Director and Conductor 

Deborah Voigt, Soprano 

Alfred Brendel, Piano 


Webern, Six Pieces for Orchestra

Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491

Berg, Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6

R. Strauss, Final Scene from Salome

Michael Miller February 20, 2008
It comes as particularly sad news that Alfred Brendel will retire from public recitals at the end of this year. He will have been playing for sixty years, and I’ll have been attending his performances for over forty, ever since one of his first Boston concerts in 1967. Since then he has been for me the musician who was always present throughout my musical life and who has served as the reference point for my musical experience, in my estimation, the musical personality most characteristic of the late twentieth century. During this period, the music of the Second Vienna School made progress into the basic repertory. Performances became more polished and masterful. Brendel, as a pupil of Eduard Steuermann, has been one of the great exponents of this music, above all Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto. Following the example of Artur Schnabel, Brendel adopted Schubert’s late piano sonatas, making them a regular feature of his concert programs and recording them numerous times. His love of Schubert was also developed by another of his teachers, Edwin Fischer, as was his approach Mozart’s piano concertos. The weight, emotional range, and intellectual rigor of his interpretations of these works, have to my mind set the standard for the past generation. His Beethoven sonatas again set the standard for the late twentieth century, just as Schnabel’s did for the first half of the century, as did his performances of the piano concertos. Finally, no other musician has done as much to promote the reevaluation of Franz Liszt’s work, stressing his strongest music rather than pieces which offered the most fruitful resources for virtuoso display. Read more.

Music
Opera Orchestra of New York, Eve Queler, Music Director

Carnegie Hall, February 27, 2008


Vicenzo Bellini, La Sonnambula


Eglise Gutierrez, Amina

Dimitry Korchak, Elvino

Ferruccio Furlanetto, Count Rodolfo

Elisabeth Caballero, Lisa

Laura Vlasak Nolen, Teresa

Brian Kontes, Alessio

Luke Grooms, A Notary


Ira Siff, Stage Director

Arlene B. Isaacs February 28, 2008
If you were in Carnegie Hall on February 27, attending The Opera Orchestra of New York’s performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” you were indeed fortunate. Founder/Conductor Eve Queler established the company in 1971, and since then it has provided an annual series in Carnegie Hall in which the Maestra has conducted over 90 operas. OONY is one of New York City’s cultural phenomena. Long noted for important discoveries of repertoire and singers, each performance at Carnegie Hall is judged a “must attend” event for serious opera-goers from around the world and loyal subscribers who convene during intermissions to exchange insights, reminiscences, and comments. Read more.

Cinema
There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson after the novel Oil by Upton Sinclair, with Daniel Day-Lewis
Alan Miller February 12, 2008
In architecture school, the worst criticism a student can receive is an extended silence broken by the comment -- “Well, I like the font you used.”

That’s a snarky way to begin. There will be Blood is hardly that bad. Even if it were that bad surely it would be bad in a way that is worthy of serious discussion.


Anything Paul Thomas Anderson does is worthy of discussion. And that font is amazing, a real old fashioned title card on a black background, separated from the rest of the film by cuts. Without Saul Bass, it’s the best way left to do opening titles. Believe me, I walked out of the theatre wanting to join the TWBB  cool kids fan club. I walked out knowing I’d committed to writing a review and having no idea what to say. Should you bluff and write an appreciation of Magnolia, nine years on? Do you describe There will be Blood as a stylistic departure, the oily murky images, the stilled camera, the lack of an ensemble? All of these elements are very assured, and Anderson is a greater director in my estimation after this film than he was before. And yet I can’t say that I liked it much or that I would want... Read more.


Theater
The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams, directed by Jemima Levick

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 11 January - 9 February
Presented by special arrangement with The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Lucas Miller February 12, 2008
From time to time, the American expat, no matter how unpatriotic his sentiments may be, develops a certain homesickness for his motherland. This regret may take on a gluttonous form, causing a longing for hamburgers, fried chicken, hot dogs or “freedom fries.” Being rather put off by the thought of an heart attack, I decided to feed my cravings instead by attending Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, directed by Jemima Levick. Read more.

Letters - Review Essay
Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, Two American Eccentrics, Pt. I

Introduction and review of Searching for Thoreau: On the Trails and Shores of Wild New England, by Tom Slayton, illustrated by Ethan Slayton, Images of the Past, Bennington, Vermont, 2008, 240 pp.

Michael Miller February 12, 2008
Two books about great American literary eccentrics have captured my imagination recently. They are not only exceptionally good books in their different ways, but they also discuss themes which have occupied me particularly in my recent travels and readings: wandering, exile, and walking, the unfathomability of human relationships, particular places and people, notably New England and Southern California, and what Pope, Durrell, and others have called “the spirit of place,” following the ancient concept of the genius loci. Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, who in their individualism—alienation even—were both exiles in their own country (in Thoreau’s case his own home town), have more in common than would appear on the surface, just as Los Angeles, the city with no past, has as powerful a genius loci as Walden Pond, now skirted by a constantly roaring Route 2 and a parking lot for tourists: today a cheap and convenient resort for any family with an S.U.V., a boat, and a gaggle of raucous children. Both men were grounded in the Greek and Roman classics, and both made significant and interesting use of their learning in their writings; both men were attracted to much older women, not that Thoreau ever did much about it; both men lived with or close to forceful mothers well into maturity; both men have been thought to be closet homosexuals; and both Thoreau the teetotaler and Chandler the alcoholic could be intensely priggish in their own veins. And both men would have been horrified at the thought of all those little brats pissing in Walden Pond.


Tom Slayton, editor emeritus of Vermont Life, has brought his incomparable knowledge of the trails and landscapes of New England to a thoroughly engaging commentary and practical hiker’s guide to Thoreau’s haunts in nature, all within a morning’s drive of the Berkshires, if not within the county; and novelist Judith Freeman has brought off a brilliantly successful tour de force in her account of her peregrinations—mostly be car, of course—around Chandler’s and her own adoptive home town, with the appendage of a research trip to Oxford (where a part of Chandler’s papers rests in the Bodleian Library) in search of an understanding of his obsessive devotion to his wife Cissy, who was eighteen years his senior. Both books are particularly fruitful explorations of the relationship between literature and the physical experience of place enjoyed by the reader who travels in search of whatever intangible goal his reading has planted in his mind. After all, reading is a kind of locomotion: one walks with one’s eyes, as, walking, one sees with one’s feet. Read more.


Letters - Review Essay
Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, Two American Eccentrics, Pt. II:

Judith Freeman, The Long Embrace, Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, New York, Pantheon, 2007, 368 pp.

Michael Miller February 12, 2008
Both the subtitle of Judith Freeman’s The Long Embrace: “Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved,” as well as its author’s stated purpose, lead us to believe that its primary subject is Chandler’s enigmatic older wife, Cissy. Freeman’s obsessive interest in Chandler led her to read selections from his letters, and from that she became obsessed with Cissy, with whom Chandler himself was clearly obsessed. Part of her fascination is the very paucity of information which has come down about her, only a handful of photographs and a few notes. However, Raymond Chandler himself comes first, both in the subtitle and in Freeman’s obsession, and, while Cissy is most prominently the leitmotiv which holds the book and its various themes together, we get more exposure to Chandler’s other love (in what was most definitely a love-hate relationship, as was the possibly other) the city of Los Angeles, since much of Freeman’s research consisted of finding and motoring to the many furnished houses and flats in which they lived over their forty mostly reclusive years together, and much of her text consists of personal, even intimate narrations of her experiences in these visits. In her work Freeman could not help becoming more deeply immersed in the city, which she and Chandler made their adoptive home. Read more.

Music
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Friday, January 25, 2008


Sir Edward Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius 


Sir Colin Davis, conductor 

Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano 

Ben Heppner, tenor 

Gerald Finley, bass-baritone 

Tanglewood Festival Chorus 

  John Oliver, conductor

Michael Miller February 3, 2008
Once again, less than two months after James Levine’s great reading of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Symphony Hall audiences heard a truly unforgettable performance—on the very highest level in nearly every respect and even miraculous in some—of a very great work, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Even the widespread neglect of this great work in America offered an advantage of sorts. Hearing it out of its secure context in the repertoire of the English choral societies, one could more readily appreciate its universality, its power to move audiences in purely human terms, beyond its ostensible religious, particularly Roman Catholic, origins. However, as rich as its musical and spiritual rewards were, the event posed just as many questions, above all, why is the music of Elgar so dismally neglected in this country, when critics have singled Elgar out as the most international of British composers?* In his own time, he was regarded as the true successor to the great German symphonists, and Gerontius itself enjoyed its first successes in Germany. Its freedom from religious specificity, the universality of its effect on audiences, poses another question. If it isn’t a church work, just what sort of music is it? Read more

Photography
Paul Taylor, Themes and Variations, and Susan kae Grant, Night Journey
at The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography, 85 Avenue A,Turners Falls, MA 01376
(413) 863-0009; info@hmcp.org. Open Thursday through Sunday, 1 p. m. to 5 p. m.; Closes March 16, 2008. Admission free.
Michael Miller February 5, 2008
The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography has expanded. It now boasts two state-of-the-art galleries, each in separate buildings, which it is now using to host two one-person shows, one a retrospective of Paul Taylor’s impressive photographic work, and the other a specific project by Texas photographer Susan kae Grant. Both exhibitions were inaugurated by slide lectures by the artists, making for a full and extremely stimulating evening. These were held at the equally impressive Hallmark Institute of Photography, which specializes in commercial photography and the business of photography, but, as this evening showed, it provides students with a constant flow of inspiration from the very best fine art photography. The present exhibitions are particularly sophisticated examples of this. As Paul Turnbull, the executive director and curator of the HMCP, pointedly asked the students at several points in the evening, “Are you making photographs, or are you taking pictures?” hence the lectures contained more technical considerations than those addressed to the general public. All the better. Read more.

Music
The Handel and Haydn Society, Harry Christophers, conductor

Friday, January 25, 8.00pm, Symphony Hall, Boston


Handel: Water Music Suite No. 3
Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3
Purcell: Selections from The Fairy Queen
Handel: Royal Fireworks Music

Michael Miller
February 3, 2008
If there is a baroque equivalent of an old-fashioned Tanglewood program, consisting of perhaps Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, this is it. In fact, during the break, I overheard one perky female voice exclaim, “Yes, I actually know that song. That’s the Air on the...G string!” Some people may be too jaded to enjoy that imaginary program from the old days or the Handel and Haydn Society’s offering from this past weekend, no matter well performed, but the appeal of hearing this superb, if familiar music performed by a first-rate period band in Symphony Hall, is irresistible. When the results are as ebullient and musical as on Friday evening, such tried and true programming can only seem brilliant. Read more.

Music
Emmanuel Music: Russell Sherman presents three concerts featuring the complete English Suites of J. S. Bach. Each program will also include one of Bach’s three Viola da Gamba Sonatas and Bach-Busoni Chorale Preludes.
Michael Miller February 3, 2008
CONCERT 1: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 8:00 pm, Emmanuel Church, Boston

English Suite No.2 in A minor, BWV 807
     Russell Sherman, piano
Sonata No. 3 in G minor for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard, BWV 1028
     Mary Ruth (UV) Ray, viola
     Minsoo Sohn, piano
Chorale Prelude, In dir ist Freund, BWV 615 (Bach-Busoni)
Chorale Prelude, Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659 (Bach-Busoni)
     Minsoo Sohn, piano
English Suite No. 5 in E minor, BWV 810
     Russell Sherman, piano

I should stress at the beginning of this review that I write it as one of Russell Sherman’s most ardent admirers. His knowledge of his extensive repertoire, his penetrating understanding of it, his technique (even at the age of 76), and his imagination and resourcefulness of expression are second to none, in my opinion. He has distilled all his sensitivity and intelligence into a highly personal, even idiosyncratic method, which is not equally palatable to all listeners, perhaps inevitably in our age of conformity. While I can respect, enjoy, and learn from an O’Conor, an Ohlsson or an Ax, Russell Sherman brings a unique insight and sensibility to his performances, which are only accessible in the unique form he has developed over many years. I have collected his recordings and travelled many miles to attend his concerts, which in recent years have focused on Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Liszt. Read more.

Music
Alfred Brendel, piano
Friday, February 22, 8pm, Symphony Hall, Boston (Celebrity Series of Boston)

Haydn, Variations in F minor, Hob: XVII/6
Mozart, Sonata in F major, K. 533/K. 494
Beethoven, Sonata in E flat major, “quasi una fantasia” Op. 27, no. 1
Schubert, Sonata in B flat major, D. 960
Michael Miller
February 28, 2008
For his Boston farewell program, Alfred Brendel chose a selective cross-section of the repertoire he has cultivated through much of his career, and a fascinating selection it was, both in terms of Mr. Brendel’s taste and the inter-relationships between these mostly classical composers. There was no Schoenberg, no Schumann, and Liszt only as an encore. One felt that he had concentrated on the very marrow of his repertory. On the other hand, it came as a powerful discovery to experience the various forms—the overall shapes—of these four works within the compass of a single concert. Brendel has always been especially strong in comprehending and delineating classical structure and form, and now, at the very end of his public career, he appears to have distilled it to the utmost. Read more.

Music
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, Music Director and Conductor 

Deborah Voigt, Soprano 

Alfred Brendel, Piano 


Webern, Six Pieces for Orchestra

Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491

Berg, Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6

R. Strauss, Final Scene from Salome

Michael Miller
February 20, 2008
It comes as particularly sad news that Alfred Brendel will retire from public recitals at the end of this year. He will have been playing for sixty years, and I’ll have been attending his performances for over forty, ever since one of his first Boston concerts in 1967. Since then he has been for me the musician who was always present throughout my musical life and who has served as the reference point for my musical experience, in my estimation, the musical personality most characteristic of the late twentieth century. During this period, the music of the Second Vienna School made progress into the basic repertory. Performances became more polished and masterful. Brendel, as a pupil of Eduard Steuermann, has been one of the great exponents of this music, above all Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto. Following the example of Artur Schnabel, Brendel adopted Schubert’s late piano sonatas, making them a regular feature of his concert programs and recording them numerous times. His love of Schubert was also developed by another of his teachers, Edwin Fischer, as was his approach Mozart’s piano concertos. The weight, emotional range, and intellectual rigor of his interpretations of these works, have to my mind set the standard for the past generation. His Beethoven sonatas again set the standard for the late twentieth century, just as Schnabel’s did for the first half of the century, as did his performances of the piano concertos. Finally, no other musician has done as much to promote the reevaluation of Franz Liszt’s work, stressing his strongest music rather than pieces which offered the most fruitful resources for virtuoso display. Read more.

Music
Opera Orchestra of New York, Eve Queler, Music Director

Carnegie Hall, February 27, 2008


Vicenzo Bellini, La Sonnambula


Eglise Gutierrez, Amina

Dimitry Korchak, Elvino

Ferruccio Furlanetto, Count Rodolfo

Elisabeth Caballero, Lisa

Laura Vlasak Nolen, Teresa

Brian Kontes, Alessio

Luke Grooms, A Notary


Ira Siff, Stage Director

Arlene B. Isaacs
February 28, 2008
If you were in Carnegie Hall on February 27, attending The Opera Orchestra of New York’s performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” you were indeed fortunate. Founder/Conductor Eve Queler established the company in 1971, and since then it has provided an annual series in Carnegie Hall in which the Maestra has conducted over 90 operas. OONY is one of New York City’s cultural phenomena. Long noted for important discoveries of repertoire and singers, each performance at Carnegie Hall is judged a “must attend” event for serious opera-goers from around the world and loyal subscribers who convene during intermissions to exchange insights, reminiscences, and comments. Read more.

Cinema
There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson after the novel Oil by Upton Sinclair, with Daniel Day-Lewis
Alan Miller
February 12, 2008

In architecture school, the worst criticism a student can receive is an extended silence broken by the comment -- “Well, I like the font you used.”

That’s a snarky way to begin. There will be Blood is hardly that bad. Even if it were that bad surely it would be bad in a way that is worthy of serious discussion.


Anything Paul Thomas Anderson does is worthy of discussion. And that font is amazing, a real old fashioned title card on a black background, separated from the rest of the film by cuts. Without Saul Bass, it’s the best way left to do opening titles. Believe me, I walked out of the theatre wanting to join the TWBB  cool kids fan club. I walked out knowing I’d committed to writing a review and having no idea what to say. Should you bluff and write an appreciation of Magnolia, nine years on? Do you describe There will be Blood as a stylistic departure, the oily murky images, the stilled camera, the lack of an ensemble? All of these elements are very assured, and Anderson is a greater director in my estimation after this film than he was before. And yet I can’t say that I liked it much or that I would want... Read more.


Theater
The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams, directed by Jemima Levick

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 11 January - 9 February
Presented by special arrangement with The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Lucas Miller
February 12, 2008
From time to time, the American expat, no matter how unpatriotic his sentiments may be, develops a certain homesickness for his motherland. This regret may take on a gluttonous form, causing a longing for hamburgers, fried chicken, hot dogs or “freedom fries.” Being rather put off by the thought of an heart attack, I decided to feed my cravings instead by attending Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, directed by Jemima Levick. Read more.

Letters - Review Essay
Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, Two American Eccentrics, Pt. I

Introduction and review of Searching for Thoreau: On the Trails and Shores of Wild New England, by Tom Slayton, illustrated by Ethan Slayton, Images of the Past, Bennington, Vermont, 2008, 240 pp.

Michael Miller
February 12, 2008
Two books about great American literary eccentrics have captured my imagination recently. They are not only exceptionally good books in their different ways, but they also discuss themes which have occupied me particularly in my recent travels and readings: wandering, exile, and walking, the unfathomability of human relationships, particular places and people, notably New England and Southern California, and what Pope, Durrell, and others have called “the spirit of place,” following the ancient concept of the genius loci. Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, who in their individualism—alienation even—were both exiles in their own country (in Thoreau’s case his own home town), have more in common than would appear on the surface, just as Los Angeles, the city with no past, has as powerful a genius loci as Walden Pond, now skirted by a constantly roaring Route 2 and a parking lot for tourists: today a cheap and convenient resort for any family with an S.U.V., a boat, and a gaggle of raucous children. Both men were grounded in the Greek and Roman classics, and both made significant and interesting use of their learning in their writings; both men were attracted to much older women, not that Thoreau ever did much about it; both men lived with or close to forceful mothers well into maturity; both men have been thought to be closet homosexuals; and both Thoreau the teetotaler and Chandler the alcoholic could be intensely priggish in their own veins. And both men would have been horrified at the thought of all those little brats pissing in Walden Pond.


Tom Slayton, editor emeritus of Vermont Life, has brought his incomparable knowledge of the trails and landscapes of New England to a thoroughly engaging commentary and practical hiker’s guide to Thoreau’s haunts in nature, all within a morning’s drive of the Berkshires, if not within the county; and novelist Judith Freeman has brought off a brilliantly successful tour de force in her account of her peregrinations—mostly be car, of course—around Chandler’s and her own adoptive home town, with the appendage of a research trip to Oxford (where a part of Chandler’s papers rests in the Bodleian Library) in search of an understanding of his obsessive devotion to his wife Cissy, who was eighteen years his senior. Both books are particularly fruitful explorations of the relationship between literature and the physical experience of place enjoyed by the reader who travels in search of whatever intangible goal his reading has planted in his mind. After all, reading is a kind of locomotion: one walks with one’s eyes, as, walking, one sees with one’s feet. Read more.


Letters - Review Essay

Henry David Thoreau and Raymond Chandler, Two American Eccentrics, Pt. II:

Judith Freeman, The Long Embrace, Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, New York, Pantheon, 2007, 368 pp.

Michael Miller
February 12, 2008
Both the subtitle of Judith Freeman’s The Long Embrace: “Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved,” as well as its author’s stated purpose, lead us to believe that its primary subject is Chandler’s enigmatic older wife, Cissy. Freeman’s obsessive interest in Chandler led her to read selections from his letters, and from that she became obsessed with Cissy, with whom Chandler himself was clearly obsessed. Part of her fascination is the very paucity of information which has come down about her, only a handful of photographs and a few notes. However, Raymond Chandler himself comes first, both in the subtitle and in Freeman’s obsession, and, while Cissy is most prominently the leitmotiv which holds the book and its various themes together, we get more exposure to Chandler’s other love (in what was most definitely a love-hate relationship, as was the possibly other) the city of Los Angeles, since much of Freeman’s research consisted of finding and motoring to the many furnished houses and flats in which they lived over their forty mostly reclusive years together, and much of her text consists of personal, even intimate narrations of her experiences in these visits. In her work Freeman could not help becoming more deeply immersed in the city, which she and Chandler made their adoptive home. Read more.

Music
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Friday, January 25, 2008


Sir Edward Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius 


Sir Colin Davis, conductor 

Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano 

Ben Heppner, tenor 

Gerald Finley, bass-baritone 

Tanglewood Festival Chorus 

  John Oliver, conductor

Michael Miller
February 3, 2008
Once again, less than two months after James Levine’s great reading of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Symphony Hall audiences heard a truly unforgettable performance—on the very highest level in nearly every respect and even miraculous in some—of a very great work, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Even the widespread neglect of this great work in America offered an advantage of sorts. Hearing it out of its secure context in the repertoire of the English choral societies, one could more readily appreciate its universality, its power to move audiences in purely human terms, beyond its ostensible religious, particularly Roman Catholic, origins. However, as rich as its musical and spiritual rewards were, the event posed just as many questions, above all, why is the music of Elgar so dismally neglected in this country, when critics have singled Elgar out as the most international of British composers?* In his own time, he was regarded as the true successor to the great German symphonists, and Gerontius itself enjoyed its first successes in Germany. Its freedom from religious specificity, the universality of its effect on audiences, poses another question. If it isn’t a church work, just what sort of music is it? Read more

Photography
Paul Taylor, Themes and Variations, and Susan kae Grant, Night Journey
at The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography, 85 Avenue A,Turners Falls, MA 01376
(413) 863-0009; info@hmcp.org. Open Thursday through Sunday, 1 p. m. to 5 p. m.; Closes March 16, 2008. Admission free.
Michael Miller
February 5, 2008
The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography has expanded. It now boasts two state-of-the-art galleries, each in separate buildings, which it is now using to host two one-person shows, one a retrospective of Paul Taylor’s impressive photographic work, and the other a specific project by Texas photographer Susan kae Grant. Both exhibitions were inaugurated by slide lectures by the artists, making for a full and extremely stimulating evening. These were held at the equally impressive Hallmark Institute of Photography, which specializes in commercial photography and the business of photography, but, as this evening showed, it provides students with a constant flow of inspiration from the very best fine art photography. The present exhibitions are particularly sophisticated examples of this. As Paul Turnbull, the executive director and curator of the HMCP, pointedly asked the students at several points in the evening, “Are you making photographs, or are you taking pictures?” hence the lectures contained more technical considerations than those addressed to the general public. All the better. Read more.

Music
The Handel and Haydn Society, Harry Christophers, conductor

Friday, January 25, 8.00pm, Symphony Hall, Boston


Handel: Water Music Suite No. 3
Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3
Purcell: Selections from The Fairy Queen
Handel: Royal Fireworks Music

Michael Miller
February 3, 2008
If there is a baroque equivalent of an old-fashioned Tanglewood program, consisting of perhaps Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, this is it. In fact, during the break, I overheard one perky female voice exclaim, “Yes, I actually know that song. That’s the Air on the...G string!” Some people may be too jaded to enjoy that imaginary program from the old days or the Handel and Haydn Society’s offering from this past weekend, no matter well performed, but the appeal of hearing this superb, if familiar music performed by a first-rate period band in Symphony Hall, is irresistible. When the results are as ebullient and musical as on Friday evening, such tried and true programming can only seem brilliant. Read more.

Music
Emmanuel Music: Russell Sherman presents three concerts featuring the complete English Suites of J. S. Bach. Each program will also include one of Bach’s three Viola da Gamba Sonatas and Bach-Busoni Chorale Preludes.
Michael Miller
February 3, 2008
CONCERT 1: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 8:00 pm, Emmanuel Church, Boston

English Suite No.2 in A minor, BWV 807
     Russell Sherman, piano
Sonata No. 3 in G minor for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard, BWV 1028
     Mary Ruth (UV) Ray, viola
     Minsoo Sohn, piano
Chorale Prelude, In dir ist Freund, BWV 615 (Bach-Busoni)
Chorale Prelude, Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659 (Bach-Busoni)
     Minsoo Sohn, piano
English Suite No. 5 in E minor, BWV 810
     Russell Sherman, piano

I should stress at the beginning of this review that I write it as one of Russell Sherman’s most ardent admirers. His knowledge of his extensive repertoire, his penetrating understanding of it, his technique (even at the age of 76), and his imagination and resourcefulness of expression are second to none, in my opinion. He has distilled all his sensitivity and intelligence into a highly personal, even idiosyncratic method, which is not equally palatable to all listeners, perhaps inevitably in our age of conformity. While I can respect, enjoy, and learn from an O’Conor, an Ohlsson or an Ax, Russell Sherman brings a unique insight and sensibility to his performances, which are only accessible in the unique form he has developed over many years. I have collected his recordings and travelled many miles to attend his concerts, which in recent years have focused on Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Liszt. Read more.


Music: Recordings
Hector Berlioz, L’enfance du Christ, Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra
Michael Miller
December 24, 2007
Sir Colin has a long history with L’enfance du Christ. He made his first recording of it in 1960 at the age of 34. It was well-received in its time and is still respected today, but the current performance, part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s brilliantly successful series of live concert recordings made in the renovated and sonically improved Barbican Hall, is an absolute triumph. Read more.

Theater
Dialogue ONE International Theatre Festival (Click here for picture gallery.)

directed by Omar Sangare


December 6 - 8, 2007

‘62 Center for Theater and Dance, Williams College

Michael Miller
December 13, 2007
“There are no monologues. You are involved in dialogue at least with the Universe itself.”

December 6, 2007, 7:30 PM
Mme. Tussaud, LIVE

Ilya Khodosh ’08 as Meyer Lansky

Amanda O’Connor ’10 in The Last Battle of Lannes (Jean Lannes)

Terence Tamm ’08 in On the Rocks (Jack Kerouac)

Andres Lopez ‘09 as Bud (Marlon Brando) 


December 7, 2007, 7:30 PM

Mme. Tussaud, LIVE


December 8, 2007 from 2:00 PM to 9:30 PM

2:00 PM Vamping - Kali Quinn, GUTworks, directed by Jonathan Maloney and  assisted Daniel Burmester

3:30 PM Oblivious to Everyone - Jessica Lynn Johnson

6:00 PM American Cake - Jonathan Pereira, directed by Kristen Williams

7:30 PM Story of My Dovecote - Herbert Kaluza, directed by Johannes Talmon-Gros

8:30 PM Closing Ceremony and Reception


The pleasant, but potentially mind-numbing routine of holiday entertainment was relieved most satisfyingly this past weekend by Dialogue One, a new international theater festival of solo performances at Williams College. Its founder, Omar Sangare, Assistant Professor of Theater at the College is to be thanked warmly for this serious and extremely stimulating festival, which will be an annual event. Read more.


Art
Pollock Matters, exhibition, The McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, September 1-December 9, 2007: Part I
Michael Miller
December 7, 2007
Herbert Matter recalled that in 1942, when they first met over dinner, Jackson Pollock said to him, “It’s a really wonderful time to be living.” He added,“That gave us plenty to think about the rest of the evening.” I wonder how many people would say that today. For my part, after rehearsing a string of problems and miseries irrelevant to the present topic, the amazing exhibition, Pollock Matters, which closes this Sunday (December 9) at the McMullen Museum of Boston College, I would say that we take controversy too seriously. As the debates among the presidential candidates drivel on in equivocation, and the incumbent goes about his work of ruining the country, those Americans who are interested in one of their country’s greatest painters may or may not find themselves sufficiently clear-headed to realize that this exhibition has been so much wrapped up in controversy, that few see its real issues or even care about them. It concerns the discovery of a cache of small experimental works, according to a label made by their owner, Herbert Matter, in 1958, the work of Jackson Pollock, and the collision of the discoverer, Matter’s son, Alex, with the blue-chip institution established by Pollock’s widow. Read more.

Music
Music Mountain: the Triton Trio, William Purvis, Michae Lee, and Ani Kavafian play Mozart, Schumann, Brahms and Ligeti; preview of upcoming concert at Yale
Michael Miller
December 9, 2007
Music Mountain offers gift vouchers...and a reminiscence of Brahms, Ligeti, Schumann, and Mozart by the Triton Trio. William Purvis, Ani Kavafian, and Mihae Lee at Gordon Hall (Sept. 9, 2007), with preview of concert, Dec. 11, 2007, in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall, Yale University, 470 College Street, New Haven. 

A recent announcement by Music Mountain seems to be such an excellent idea for seasonal gift-giving, that I shall repeat it here, especially as it gives me an opportunity to reminisce about one of last summer’s very great concerts, a program of chamber music for violin, piano, and horn by the Triton Trio, founded in 2004 by William Purvis, his wife, Michae Lee, and Ani Kavafian. William Purvis, a member of the faculty at Yale and Juilliard and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is surely of of the great musicians playing today. His mastery of his instrument is unmatched, and, with his lively interest in contemporary music, he is actively exploring the limits of the instrument and beyond. Read more.


6. Special Commentary
The Australian Election: Howard and the Liberals Out, Rudd and Labour In - O Joy O Rapture Unforseen!
Alan Miller
December 4, 2007
Did it really happen? Is he really gone? The anxiety, the fear campaign, the year of a hundred opinion polls; they’re all over. John Winston Howard, Liberal, former member for Bennelong, George W. Bush’s “man of steel,” the most willing of the coalition, Australia’s second longest serving and most conservative Prime Minister, suffered a resounding electoral defeat at the hands of the Australian people on November 24, 2007. Read more.

Places
Edinburgh Walks - Part I of a Series
Michael Miller
December 1, 2007
One of the most astonishing passages in Homer is the simile in Book XV of the Iliad, which describes the rapidity of Hera’’’s flight to Olympus (Il. XV, 79ff.):

 

but went back to tall Olympos from the mountains of Ida

As the thought flashes in the mind of a man who, traversing

much territory, thinks of things in the mind’s awareness,

‘I wish I were this place, or this’, and imagines many things;

so rapidly in her eagerness winged Hera, a goddess.

—trans. Richmond Lattimore

βῆ δ' ἐξ Ἰδαίων ὀρέων ἐς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον.

ὡς ὅτ' ἂν ἀί̈ξῃ νόος ἀνέρος, ὅς τ' ἐπὶ πολλὴν

γαῖαν ἐληλουθὼς φρεσὶ πευκαλίμῃσι νοήσῃ

ἔνθ' εἴην ἔνθα, μενοινήσειέ τε πολλά,

ὣς κραιπνῶς μεμαυῖα διέπτατο πότνια Ἥρη.

The poet compares the travel of the determined goddess, not to the flight of a bird or the rush of a leopard, or to any other physical movement, but to the movement of the human mind, as it recalls past experience, ponders, and projects its will into the imagination through the optative mood of the verb, all in a split second...Read more.


Art
Alex Hartley, John Stezaker, William Blake: A Stroll through Some Edinburgh Galleries - Part II of a Series
Michael Miller
December 1, 2007
Richard Long has observed that the best and safest way to cross Dartmoor is to walk in a straight line, but in the city things are rarely so simple. Long’s important exhibition at The National Gallery of Modern Art was postponed to another day, and I shall postpone it to a review of its own, while I follow our ramblings southwards towards the Old City, seeking out addresses my friend had given me. As sophisticated and rational as Edinburgh may be, at least the New Town, certain prospects encourage one to think of it as a city of the earth. It is mostly built of stone, after all, as neatly chiselled as it may be. As you turn the corner around the façade of the new Parliament, Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, appears ready to swallow it up...or is that only wishful thinking? The classical structures on Calton Hill, stone-built as they are, only draw attention to the chthonic presence of the eminence on which they stand. (Like Rome, Edinburgh has seven hills: Calton Hill, Castle Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hills, Blackford Hill, Arthur’s Seat.) This theme, moreover, had its way of cropping up, not only in Richard Long, but in other exhibitions as well. Read more.

Art
Richard Long - Walking and Marking - Part III of a Series
National Galleries of Scotland
30th June to 21st October 2007, Modern Art Galleries
Michael Miller
December 1, 2007
Setting off alone along the now familiar route down Henderson Row past a silent Academy, now in break, I savored a sense of purposefulness and anticipated my visit to the Richard Long show at the NGS Modern Galleries, their major exhibition of the year, open for the Festival, and an important one for Long as well. He hasn’t had an exhibition of this size in Britain in over fifteen years. I also relished another walk along the Water of Leith. Crossing unnecessarily over to elegant and brightly sunlit Dean Terrace, I crossed back at the bridge and descended into the path just before St. Bernard’s Well, a sulfurous source discovered in the mid-eighteenth century and decorously enclosed in a pump house designed by Alexander Naismyth, following the circular design of the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli, a favorite destination on the Grand Tour. A statue of Hygieia stands within ten Tuscan columns, a sober northern interpretation of the original’s Corinthian order. Read more.

Theater
Hobson's Choice, Chichester Festival Theatre Travelling Production, at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Lucas and Michael Miller
November 30, 2007

Directed by Jonathan Church; John Savident, Hobson; Carolyn Backhouse, Maggie Hobson; Dylan Charles, Will Mossop.

The eternally popular play, Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse, tells the story of Henry Horatio Hobson, a misogynistic alcoholic who lets his business slide, tyrannizes his three daughters, viciously abuses his pub mates, and falls down a basement door in a drunken stupor, premiered at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester in 1916, when news from the trenches grew increasingly grim. Today attitudes have changed even more than they had between 1880, when the play is set, and 1916. It is easy to imagine how Mike Leigh or Mike Nichols might handle the subject. (Actually, I think Leigh, a native Salfordian, would work wonders with the play.) As undesirable as alcoholism and domestic abuse are...Read more


Photography
Paul Taylor, photographs of Cappadocia and the Connecticut River

Catherine Dianich Gallery, Brattleboro, Vermont, Nov. 2- 28, 2007


Open Thursday through Sunday,12–5 p.m., and by appointment.

Hooker Dunham Building, down the alley and through the glass doors.

139 Main Street

Brattleboro, Vermont, 05301

Phone: 802-254-9076; E-mail: diangruv@aol.com

Michael Miller
November 24, 2007
The awareness of works of art as objects has not fared well among art historians in recent years, but I’d like to think that it shows signs of life in the world of galleries and collecting, and occasionally in museums. Any admirer or buyer of Chris Ofili must appreciate the material differences between metallic lamé and elephant dung, just as only the most uneducated beginning collector of photography must be unaware of the commercial if not the aesthetic qualities of a vintage print. Fine art photographers, especially today, in the early years of digital photography, are keenly experimenting with new papers and inks in their efforts to make their images come alive as objects. What’s more, gelatine silver, die transfer, platinum/palladium, and carbro, to name only a few, are all actively pursued in their respective niches, large or small. Now that inkjet printing has become the workhorse of the photographic industry, in fact, gelatine sliver printers should enjoy a certain sense of liberation. Paul Taylor, whose magnificent exhibition is about to close at the Catherine Dianich Gallery in Brattleboro, is a telling example. Read more.

Photography
Joanna Gabler, Reflections (click on image to view gallery: Adobe Flash necessary, download.)
Joanna Gabler
November 14, 2007
Joanna Gabler, Reflections

Music
Ignat Solzhenitsyn, piano

Sponsored by The Brattleboro Music Center

Centre Congregational Church, Brattleboro, Vermont, November 9, 2007, 8 pm


All-Brahms recital

Scherzo in E-flat Minor, Op. 4 (1851)

Four Ballades, Op. 10 (1854)

16 Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann in F-sharp Minor, Op. 9 (1854)

Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118 (1893)

Michael Miller
November 14, 2007
Some of the most stimulating musical events in New England are organized by the Brattleboro Music Center. Founded in 1952 by artistic director Blanche Honegger Moyse, also a founder of the Marlboro Music Festival, "The Brattleboro Music Center is a unique, community-based organization, exceptional for the breadth and quality of its programs. When first established, the BMC's activities included a community chorus as well as chamber music concerts which were performed both publicly for community members and in schools for children. Today, over fifty years later, the BMC consists of performance, participation, and education programs, all of which are supported by the many people who wish to ensure, through music, a special sense of community and spirit in the Brattleboro area. We aim to engage the larger community in the world of music through performance, participation, and education."

 

This review will also give me a chance to mention an extraordinary series of concerts on Sunday, September 16, when the Kalichstein, Laredo, Robinson Trio played an unforgettable marathon of Beethoven's complete piano trios...Read more.


Music

Boston Symphony Orchestra

James Levine, conductor 

Christian Tetzlaff, violin
Symphony Hall, Boston, Thursday, November 8, 2007 8:00pm


Alban Berg, Violin Concerto 

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 9

Michael Miller
November 13, 2007
The Berg Violin Concerto (1935) and Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1910) are indeed a magical pair. Not only did Berg have a great affection for Mahler, both works are suffused with an elegiac, deathwards-inclined but lifewards-looking mood and a kindred morbid lyricism. The formal affinities between the two works are also intriguing. Read more.

Music
The Venezuelan Miracle:
The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel conductor
Wednesday, November 7, 2007, Symphony Hall

Bela Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Leonard Bernstein, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Michael Miller
November 10, 2007
Gustavo Dudamel’s 2006 performance with the BSO at Tanglewood was terriffically exciting and musical, and I was especially keen to go to hear him with his own orchestra. As the date approached, news of his appointment as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the appearance of an article about him in the New York Times Magazine made it clear that he is now the hot item in the classical music world. It would therefore be a dire oversight to pass this concert over. An exceptionally large crowd of people, including many young people and many South Americans, thronged the Mass. Ave. entrance to Symphony Hall, which was, in fact, as full as I've ever seen it. Read more.

Theater
Tim Supple's Indian Midsummer Night's Dream Comes to Edinburgh
Lucas Miller
November 2, 2007
Midsummer Night's Dream at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh It has become fashionable for directors to take liberties with the plays of Shakespeare. Usually I thoroughly disapprove of such productions. But, one must keep an open mind, as I found last Thursday at a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh, directed by Tim Supple. This production was done in the languages of India, modern and ancient: English, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Sanskrit. The culture of the Indian people, their languages, their music, and their customs, all contributed to the wonderful success of this production. Read more

Music
Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen: Siegfried, Royal Opera House Covent Garden under Antonio Pappano with John Tomlinson as Wotan
Michael Miller
October 26, 2007
When, in my review of his recent performance to Haydn’s Creation, I was reflecting on Sir Colin Davis’ career, I mentioned the Ring Cycle he conducted at Covent Garden in 1976. I thought that Siegfried was the most successful of the performances, because Sir Colin seemed to have fallen in love with its spectacular score. In no other work are the beauties of Wagner’s composition so constantly and so openly present. As I sat raptly in my seat, the orchestra and all the wonderful qualities Sir Colin could reveal in it were without a doubt the focus of my attention. And so it is for most of us in most performances, past or present, whether it is Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Solti, Böhm (whose splendid Bayreuth performances, available on Philips, should be better remembered), Boulez, or Levine. The orchestra functions as storyteller—a surpassingly eloquent one, with all the resources of Wagner’s musical imagination.
 
Last Sunday’s Siegfried was different...Read more
Click here to see scenes from Siegfried in the Gallery. All photos © Clive Barda.

Music
Bard Music Festival, Edward Elgar and his World, Weekend 3, October 26–27, 2007: Nostalgia, Patriotism, and Aesthetic Ideals
Michael Miller
October 30, 2007
The third weekend of the 2007 Bard Music Festival offered a wealth of very strong, even great performances of important music, some of it rarely heard in this country if at all, as well as a free-wheeling panel discussion on Anglophilia and imperialism. Although Saturday began with the panel, I’ll begin with the music and conclude with a discussion of the panel, since there are some issues I wish to address.
 
Introduced by Bard music historian Peter Laki, the afternoon chamber music program began with Frank Bridge’s First String Quartet in E minor, played with eloquence and vigor by Chinese students at the Bard Conservatory...Read more

Music
Frans Brüggen, Viviane Hagner, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in an All-Mendelssohn Concert at Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 10/18/07
Michael Miller
October 24, 2007
One doesn’t often encounter all-Mendelssohn programs. If I were to find one in the Tanglewood season, I’d suspect it was a somewhat excessive gesture towards the more conservative members of the audience. On the other hand, from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Frans Brüggen, who has maintained a long-term relationship with the orchestra over the years, it meant a fresh look at three important works by a towering figure in nineteenth century music. Our view of Mendelssohn is still colored by the popular conception of him as a genial, highly privileged composer of tuneful works, who sadly died at the young age of thirty-eight. In truth, he was, both as a composer and a conductor, an extremely influential leader in the highly theoretical and factionalized world of Romantic music, the central figure in the more conservative, “classizing” group... read more

Theater
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at The King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Lucas Miller
October 15, 2007

When one is in town, one amuses oneself; when one is in the country,one amuses other people.

Oscar Wilde, from The Importance of Being Earnest


It was with this truthful witticism in mind that I withdrew myself from the unpleasant drudgery of a Wednesday evening to “Bunbury” along to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.


The house was absolutely full, with people of all ages in attendance. The production was brilliantly cast, with Penelope Keith as the perfectly pompous Lady Bracknell, William Ellis as the insatiable Algernon Moncrieff, and Harry Hadden-Paton as Jack Worthing in the country, Earnest in town. The secondary actors were likewise impressive, assuming their roles with unmitigated excellence,conveying commendably the wit and satire of the play. The production was directed by Peter Gill whose vast dramatic experience was made clear by his management of the production. Read more


Music
Haydn, The Creation, Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican, London, October 7, 2007
Sally Matthews, soprano
Ian Bostridge, tenor

Dietrich Henschel, baritone

Michael Miller
October 15, 2007
Colin Davis, together with Claudio Abbado and a few others, is at the very top of the older generation of conductors we have today, and it is wonderful news that, as he celebrates his 80th birthday this season, he is showing no sign of slowing down. He is a bit stouter than he was so thirty-five years ago, when I first heard him conduct the Boston Symphony, and perhaps a trifle stiffer, but even that didn’t show Sunday evening at the Barbican, when he began his birthday celebrations with Haydn’s greatest work, his oratorio, The Creation. Sir Colin will follow it with a season of his favorite works, and he will take it to New York later this month for his and the LSO’s residency at Lincoln Center. You can read this as a preview of an event not to be missed. read more

Music
Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Thierry Fischer, Conductor
13 October 2007, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


Beethoven, Symphony No 5 in C minor (1808)

Haydn, Harmoniemesse (1802)


Joanne Lunn, Soprano 

Tove Dahlberg, Mezzo soprano 

James Gilchrist, Tenor 

Stephan Loges, Bass baritone 

SCO Chorus

Michael Miller
October 15, 2007
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1974, has enjoyed a world reputation for some time now for the work they have achieved over the years under Sir Charles Mackerras, who still conducts the orchestra on occasion. And they are anything if not versatile, playing a repertory spanning the Baroque and the contemporary. Saturday evening they were in their Classical mode, playing Haydn and Beethoven with a slightly relaxed compliment of original instruments (i.e. cellos on pins and metal flute alongside gut strings, natural horn and trumpet, etc.) under the direction of the brilliant Swiss conductor, Thierry Fischer. The evening was a splendid success, full of imaginative insights and intense music-making. read more

Art/Photography
Two Remarkable Men: Konrad Oberhuber and Nicholas Hlobeczy
Michael Miller October 2, 2007
Last month two remarkable men died, Konrad Oberhuber on September 12 and Nicholas Hlobeczy on the 14th. Since they both exercised a similar beneficent influence on the world through art—and on me personally, I think it fitting to honor them together. They were on the surface quite different. One was a prominent curator and art historian, a specialist in the Italian Renaissance and in the art of drawing; the other was a photographer and poet, vividly familiar and loved by those who knew him and his work.

Neither man knew the other, but both were closer to art than most people who work in museums. In fact art was central to both. Nick had direct access through his photography, while Konrad made an art of art history and the teaching of it. Since art was as much a part of them as their own hearts and lungs, they found themselves guided into spiritual paths in which art held a high, almost supreme place. Nick, through his study with Minor White, took up the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff, while Konrad, for much of his life, studied the work of Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy. Later he became absorbed in other aspects of Christianity. Read more.
Konrad Oberhuber
Konrad Oberhuber, 1935-2007
Nicholas Hlobeczy
Nicholas Hlobeczy, 1927-2007

 
Music
Albany Symphony Orchestra: Mendelssohn, McClellan, Britten, and Haydn
Michael Miller October 2, 2007
The 2007-08 Berkshire Bank Concert Series at the Colonial, Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
A musical journey to Ireland, Scotland and Britain
Saturday, September 29, 7:30 pm, Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield
Saturday evening everything was absolutely as it should be at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Virtually every seat was filled, virtually everybody in them was having a good time, and so did David Alan Miller, the musicians of the Albany Symphony, Robinson McClellan, composer, Amanda Boyd, soprano, and Ivan Goff, the extraordinary virtuoso of the uilleann pipes, who played the solo part in Mr. McClellan’s absorbing Bagpipe Concerto. The concerto was a big success... Read more.

Places
The Hairshirt Compulsion: Singlespeed Mountain Bike Racing
Alan Miller
October 2, 2007
Singlespeed racing is a subculture within a subculture (mountain biking) within a subculture (bike racing) within another subculture (endurance sports). Given the suffering involved, it is surprisingly popular throughout the world. Though the singlespeed world championships are held in a different country each year, the “prize” is always the same, a compulsory tattoo (“if you don’t want the tattoo, don’t win”). Read more.

Music
The John Cage Tribute Concert at Bard; Lecture on the Weather
Michael Miller October 2, 2007
John Cage Tribute Concert
Sosnoff Theater of the Fisher Center at Bard College, Annandale-n Hudson
Thursday September 27, 2007 at 8:00 pm
 
John Cage (Los Angeles 1912-New York 1992), Four3 (1991), performed by Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC)
 
Musicians: David Behrman, John King, Takehisa Kosugi, Stephan Moore, and Christian Wolff.
 
John Cage, U.S. premiere of Dance Music for Elfrid Ide (1940),
performed by Nexus: Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Robin Engelman, Russell Hartenberger, and Garry Kvistad.
 
John Cage, Water Walk (Milan, 1959), performed by David Behrman.
 
World premiere of For John (2007), performed by MCDC Musicians.
 
John Cage, Lecture on the Weather (1975)
Sosnoff Theater of the Fisher Center at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
Thursday September 27, 2007 at 8:00 pm
 
During his career, which lasted from the late 1930’s up to his death in 1992, John Cage revolutionized music by reducing its vocabulary (even to silence!) and expanding its sonic range by assimilating a vast array of unusual and exotic instruments and non-musical sounds. Meanwhile he ventured into other art forms, drawing, poetry, theoretical writings, stage, dance, and film, either alone or with collaborators, notably his lifetime creative partner Merce Cunningham. Through this the musical notations developed new symbols and formats not found in traditional scores. While his indications are often quite detailed and precise, performance practices involve many aspects, which cannot be recorded on paper, or even conveyed in the many recordings and films of his works, which were made during his lifetime and under his direction. For this reason, it is a most important event that was celebrated by these two evenings of performances. John Cage’s records and materials have passed from the care of Merce Cunningham to Bard College, as The John Cage Trust at Bard College... Read more.

Places  
Letter from Sydney: Post-APEC Ruminations  
Alan Miller
September 24, 2007
As you may or may not have heard, last week was a strange one here in Sydney. The arrival of twenty world leaders and George Bush’s mountain bike warranted the erection of a five kilometre fence around certain grade A, mostly waterfront, parts of the central business district. There was debate and consternation, protest and, unexpectedly, pro-Bush counterprotest. While Bush rode his bike on my local trails, the leaders of countries like Chile and South Korea were unable to travel to the suburbs to meet their countrymen and women living in Australia. Then a group of comedians, one dressed as Osama Bin Laden, breached the exclusion zone in a fake Canadian motorcade. Which was funnier, the stunt itself or the pundits who insisted it wasn’t funny? read more

Music
Leon Botstein and the ASO with Bard Conservatory Students from China and Korea Triumph in Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Ibert, and Dvořák at Bard's Fisher Center
Michael Miller September 24, 2007
It seems particularly felicitous that this first concert review in The Berkshire Review for the Arts celebrates the very fine performances of two young musicians, who are not far from the very beginning of their careers. Pianist Shun-Yang Lee from Taipei, Taiwan, is a student of Melvin Chen and Peter Serkin at the Bard Conservatory of Music, and Korean baritone Yohan Yi is also a Bard Conservatory student. Lee performed this weekend as winner of the Second Annual Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition, and Yi recently performed at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in the Golijov/Upshaw Young Artists concert. This was a great evening for seasoned musicians as well. Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra in a thoroughly Brahmsian performance of the Academic Festival Overture and a truly revelatory reading of Dvořák’s Symphony “From the New World.” read more

Music
Tanglewood Retrospective 2007
Michael Miller September 25, 2007
I’ve already said much more than I ever wanted to about the state of the Tanglewood Festival and the pointless discussion stirred up by a few articles and editorials in the Berkshire Eagle—both in Berkshire Fine Arts and our current Commentary. Since the festival faces no real crisis either in finances or attendance, what matters is the music. This is James Levine’s fourth season as music director of the Boston Symphony. The various difficulties arising from his intense working methods, his health, and, I believe, the evolution of his own musicianship are now in the past. The orchestra and Tanglewood now form a larger part of his commitments. The orchestra now play better than they have in years, consistently on a very high level for Mr. Levine and for guest conductors as well. He conducted more BSO concerts than in previous summers, and he is thoroughly involved with the Tanglewood Music Center. read more

 

 

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