Links beyond this blog have been known to expire, sometimes rather quickly. I wish things weren't this way (but they are). I will do what I can to choose wisely (but don't say you weren't warned). Click away!
It's been quite a few years since the Celebrity Series presented a speaker series (technically, not since the 1930s) so there is excitment in the ranks, to say the least. The novelty of a speaker series alone is exciting, but for an opener we have liberal firebrand Frank Rich. Everyone at the Celebrity Series remembers Mr. Rich as "The Butcher of Broadway" and we eagerly read his dissections on and of The Great White Way. But Rich and Rich's column have changed. Bryan Curtis writes about what subjects Frank Rich is covering these days (if you don't already know) in his article,The Butcher of the Beltway for Slate.com.
FYI: You can catch our illustrious President and Executive Director, Martha H. Jones (Marty for anyone that knows her) in a cameo walk-on as the Chestnut Seller in Boston Ballet's Nutcracker today (December 17) at 2pm at The Wang Theatre.
The above photo is of an actual chestnut seller. Here is one of the actual Marty Jones backstage preparing for her turn as The Chestnut Seller in Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker:
ArtsJournal is hosting another of its compelling online public conversations. This time the topic is dance; specifically, dance in New York and whether or not the Big Apple has lost its claim as the world's dance capital. This description launched the discussion, which is entitled The Center of the Dance World?:
"Is it true, as Gia Kourlas declared in the New York Times in September, that "New York is no longer the capital of the contemporary dance world"? New York has, for so long, been at the center of dance, the idea is taken on faith in the US. Has the city lost its edge? And if not New York, where are the new capitals of dance? In Amsterdam or Bucharest? Berlin? Brussels, Paris or Vienna? Or has some of the energy that used to propel the New York scene spread elsewhere in America?"
The venerable Italian chamber ensemble, I Musici, which the Celebrity Series has presented on five occasions since its founding in 1952 (see photo above), has stepped in to complete the tour originally organized around the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg (press release). The March 5 concert was to have been conducted by Ivor Bolton with piano soloist Stephen Hough.
I Musici is a conductorless ensemble, so Ivor Bolton will not conduct, but Stephen Hough remains as soloist. The program, including the Mozart concerto Hough was to have performed, has changed.
The jazz staff at WGBH radio, Steve Charbonneau, Eric Jackson and Steve Schwartz, have started a blog and it's already filling up with items near and dear to my heart as well as illustrative of Celebrity Series history. Eric Jackson's post of November 29, "Say Amen Somebody!" (sorry can't link to it specifically, that's not part of their setup) sets up his December 12 Monday Night Spotlight broadcast, Jazz Goes to Church, which will feature "jazz versions of hymns, spirituals and Gospel music."
In the same post Eric talks about the Fisk Jubilee Singers (photo, above), which set off a synapse somewhere, so I opened our archives and sure enough, the Fisk University Jubilee Singers sang in Boston on Aaron Richmond's series (our founder's series, prescursor to the Celebrity Series) during the 1928-29 season. I also found that Mr. Richmond had presented other programs of spirituals in Boston: J. Rosamond Johnson (photo, right) and Taylor Gordon at the Copley Theatre in 1926 and 1928 and Paul Robeson in 1932.
Of course, a lot of other Celebrity Series concerts have featured great singers that sing spirituals; Marian Anderson, William Warfield and Leontyne Price, to name a few. But it isn't common knowledge that the great early practitioners found their way to Boston via the Celebrity Series, so I offer my thanks to Eric and the 'GBH blog for supplying the impetus to go find this history; at the very least, it feels good to have unearthed it. It's little journeys like these that make it worth the going.
I could offer a number of musical impressions from Richard Goode's Jordan Hall recital yesterday afternoon, but not wanting this mere blog post to veer into a review, I'll keep them to a minimum. I give myself free reign on non-musical impressions however:
Of the couple seen resting heads on shoulders throughout, I couldn't help thinking how a recital such as this one could be a perfectly cliche-free romantic outing. I Musici on an anniversary? Maurizio Pollini on Valentine's Day? No need to check your schedule, the Celebrity Series performance closest to Valentine's Day this season is New York Times columnist Frank Rich, which could also work for the right couple...
A rather large number of students attended Mr. Goode's recital and many of them (presumably) could be seen leaning forward expectantly throughout. In fact, there were a number of pianists - clearly - scattered around the hall wiggling fingers furiously (trying to keep up?) and pouring over scores.
The applause was immediate and genuine, but not being a fool, Mr. Goode chose not to return for an encore after closing the program with Opus 111 with its second and final movement of such meditative peace. As one patron beside me put it, "There's nothing left to play after that."
In the previous post I had a little fun imagining how our contemporary culture might have suggested Beethoven medicate his madness/creative genius into submission. But as Mr. Stearns correctly, I think, observed, it isn't difficult to hear how the sheer number of ideas pouring out of Beethoven's scores could suggest madness, and certainly a pianist of Goode's caliber brings a clarity to each performance that makes the breakneck pace of ideas plain. It can be dizzying and is usually captivating.
Consider the following passage on the "Pathetique" Sonata, performed on Goode's program yesterday, from yesterday's program notes by Eric Bromberger:
"The “Pathétique” is one of Beethoven’s most popular works, and this was true even in his own time. The pianist Ignaz Moscheles has left a wonderful account of the sonata’s effect on young musicians of the era (Moscheles was ten when the incident he describes here took place): 'It was about this time that I learnt from some school-fellows that a young composer had appeared at Vienna, who wrote the oddest stuff possible—such as no one could either play or understand; crazy music, in opposition to all rule; and that this composer’s name was Beethoven. On repairing to the library to satisfy my curiosity as to this so-called genius, I found there Beethoven’s Sonata 'Pathétique.' This was in the year 1804. My pocket money would not suffice for the purchase of it, so I secretly copied it. The novelty of its style was so attractive to me, and I became so enthusiastic in my admiration of it, that I forgot myself so far as to mention my new acquisition to my master, who reminded me of his injunction, and warned me not to play or study any eccentric production until I had based my style upon more solid models. Without, however, minding his injunctions, I seized upon the pianoforte works of Beethoven as they successively appeared, and in them found a solace and a delight such as no other composer afforded me.'"