Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1957-68 (@ClevelandArt)

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to everyone! I'm staying in Cleveland this year and though it doesn't look like we're in for a White Christmas thus year, the performing arts seem to have pulled up their collective covers for a well-earned respite. I figured I'd take this opportunity, then, to continue my series looking back at The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, a rather large cache of back issues of which I was fortunate to come into several months ago and have been slowly working my way through. The rest of the series, including one from before the Museum's 1916 building had even opened, can be found here.

March 1957. Forty-Fourth Year. Number Three. This issue should--chronologically, at least--have been included in my last post but somehow escaped my hands. In the rest of the world, Standard and Poor's published the first of the now ubiquitous S&P 500 and the Treaty of Rome is signed forming the European Economic Community a major step to what is today's European Union. More amazing, however, is the story that lies under the heading A Missing Fragment Recovered:

"One of the finest objects in the Museum's collection of the Arts of the Americas is the seated figure of a man, Olmec culture, given by Mrs. R. Henry Norweb in 1939. The statute is damaged, the head, the left arm and the left knee are missing but despite these mutilations, it surprises with its classical form its resilience and viral intensity.
"The brilliant visual memory of a friend of the Museum has recently made it possible to restore one of the missing parts of this statute; the left hand and knee. A letter supplies the details of the story, 'When we were in Mexico, we went one evening to the more than modest home of an Indian woman in Inguala who works in the fields at harvest time [...] She had nothing at all of interest ... but as the two men were leaving the son brought out another box of junk, My husband recognized it as probably the missing piece from that figure in the Cleveland Museum. I thought he was mad however, the master's eye was certainly true' "

The odds, to me, of fragments a piece originally sculpted somewhere between 1200 and 300 BC separated by thousands of miles were reunited (after the first fragment had been in the Museum's collection for 18 years) on the strength of chance and visual recollection is stunning (the piece, with Accession Number 1951.179, can be found in the Museum's collection online)

Membership stands at 6,834

September 1957. Forty-Fourth Year . Number Seven. While September of 1957 may be better known in history for the "Little Rock Crisis" of the American Civil Rights Movement   The cover of this issue features a picture of the Northwest-Corner of the "New Wing" -- representing the first capital expansion of the Museum. While the "1958 Building" was demolished as part of the 2005-13 renovation and expansion (and it seems that some of the "damage" to the 1916 building's facade as part of that expansion is still being undone) it blazed the trail in several respects for the current expansion including the complete closure of the museum for a period of time and the and, perhaps most importantly, court-granted permission to use endowment funds to construction.

January 1968. Volume LV. Number 1. There's a ten-year gap in my cache of bulletins and at some point during this time the Bulletin has undergone a massive redesign including color covers and a larger size -- roughly 7"x8.5" instead of 5.5"x8.5" -- a trend that has continued with the bulletin's descendant, today's Members Magazine is a full 8.5"x11". This increase in mass is not wasted: The first entry in this Bulletin spans 17 full pages, more than the entire length of most prior bulletins. Mrs. Albert M. Rankin has joined the Board of Directors -- and she continues to be an active supporter of Cleveland arts to this day.

February 1968. Volume LV. Number 2.

April 1968. Volume LV. Number 4. Though Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, both neighbors to the Cleveland Museum of Art voted to federate in 1967, this issue ends by announcing "The Trustees and the Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art wish to join the University Circle community in taking formal notice of the presidential installation of Robert Morse and the inaugural year of Case Western Reserve University [...] The Museum has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the academic community of Cleveland and this relationship has now been made more intimate and productive by the new joint program in the history and criticism of art announced recently.

June 1968. Volume LV. Number 6. The inside front cover contains an artists rendering of the "Proposed Educational Wing" -- today's North Wing and main entrance -- although alterations have been made over the years, the image presented here is still very recognizable. The letter, signed by Emery May Norweb, President and Sherman E. Lee, Director -- is too lengthy to quote here -- but is filled with resonant echos of the current construction project "At the same time we also hope the prospect of things to come will enlist their material support; the physical discomfort of new construction is as nothing compared to the ensuing financial distress."

The annual report continues with reports that the Library's collection totals 59,925 volumes: Today, based on some reports (or rather, a somewhat recent library job posting) the collection exceeds more than 456,000 cataloged volumes and 500,000 digitized slides making it one of the largest art libraries in the United States.

And that seems like a fine place to stop this installment.

Happy Holidays!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Christmas Concerts

(the program listing for this concert may be found at the conclusion of this post)

The Cleveland Orchestra Christmas concerts have become a bit of an accidental tradition. And I was starting to wonder if it would become rote. To the contrary, both the orchestra and chorus seemed very fresh. Though there were some staple pieces, much of the material was new to me or at the very least lesser known.

The concert began with candle-holding choristers taking the stage and brightly lit garlands hanging from the Box and Dress Circle levels brightly glowing and lead into the happy Presonent hodie which ended with an explosion of voices. That lead into The First Noel where, although the chimes seemed a bit loud the mechanical precision with which the violinists bow strokes alternated was like watching a perfectly tuned 4-stroke engine in action -- but it sounded much better. The third piece in the program was actually a suite of three five carols, two featuring the Chorus, and one each for strings, woodwinds and brass. The story behind these carols was interesting, as was the very different texture given to the first  -- Caroling Carolling, and fourth -- Away in a Manger was interesting with the first being bright and cheerful, as if a group was caroling, and the fourth being quiet and delicate.

The first half of the program ended with two more well-known pieces, Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, where the introduction didn't strike me as familiar, but as the piece progressed it was the "a ha" moment.  The longest piece from the first part, this was also my favorite. While I love The Nutcracker (and would like to see more classical ballet in general) scheduling conflicts made it impossible to make it to PlayhouseSquare's one-weekend-only presentation of the Nutcracker this year, so this partially helped to fill the void. Last in the first half, the Hallelujah chorus from Messiah which included the obligatory crowd-standing. This year I've managed to avoid hearing the unabridged Messiah, and unlike The Nutcracker this completely filled the void.

I was sharing my box with a mother and daughters having a girls night out and during intermission offered to take their pictures in our box -- their first time at Severance Hall.

Part Two included the obligatory (I swear there's a law requiring its performance) Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, and the traditional-for-orchestra Twelve Days of Christmas with audience singalong. John William's Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas from Home Alone 2 where the chorus glistened and both chorus and orchestra in a very festive piece.

Walking In the Air from a 1951 short movie about a snowman that comes to life and takes a boy flying up in the air and was a particularly fresh addition to this year's program, and may have been my favorite piece for both chorus and orchestra.

While Jingle Bells at first glance on the program seems overdone, this particular arrangement was a delight to the ears.


The Program:
Traditional: Personent hodie (arr. Lara Hoggard)*^
Traditional: The First Noel (arr. Carmen Dragon)^
A Suite of Carols:
- Burt: Caroling, Caroling (lyrics Wihla Huston)*
- Traditional: Bring a Torchm Jeanette Isabella (arr. Leroy Anderson for strings)^
- Traditional: Coventry Carol (arr. Leroy Anderson for woodwinds)^
- Traditional: Away in a Manger (arr. John Rutter for chorus)*
- Traditional: I saw three ships (arr. Leroy Anderson for brass)^
Traditional: Suo-gan (arr. Mack Wilberg)^*
Menotti: Introduction, March, and Shepards' Dance from Amahl and the Night Visitors^
Traditional: Hark the Herald Angels Sing (arr. David Willcocks)^*&
Tchaikovsky: Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker^
Handel: Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah^*
Williams: Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas form Home Alone 2^*
Tchaikovsky: Final Waltz and Finale from The Nutcracker^
Blake: Walking in the Air (arr. Paul Bateman)^*
Traditional: The Twelve Days of Christmas (arr. John Rutter)*^&
Pierpont: Jingle Bells (arr. Morton Gould)^
Anderson: Sleigh Ride^
Martin and Blane: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (arr. Randol Bass)^*
Unannounced Encore 1: Silent Night^*
Unannounced Encore 2: We Wish you a Merry Christmas^*
With the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the Cleveland State University Chorale
Robert Porco, conductor
^ - With Orchestra
* - With Chorus
& - Audience Participation

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CIM: Elinor Rufeizen Junior Recital (@CIM_edu)

Debussy: Premiere Rhapsodie (Rafael Skorka, piano)
Hersant: In the Dark (for solo clarinet)
Reich: New York Counterpoint (solo clarinet with recorded  music)
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto, K. 622 (solo clarinet with chamber orchestra)
Elinor Rufeizen, clarinet, at Mixon Hall, the Cleveland Institute of Music.

I had been invited to Elinor Rufeizen's Junior Recital tonight by an acquaintance and patron of the arts. Although one of my goals has been to attend more individual student recitals, on the heels of my event last night I had contemplated a quiet evening instead. Rachel and I however made the quick trip to CIM for the recital and it was a delicious blend of music.

The program moved at a brisk pace and my interest never seemed to wane. From the two well known composers on the program -- Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie beginning on the program and Mozart's K. 622 Clarinet Concerto ending the program -- the passion was clear and the notes comfortably expanded to fill the hall -- in the latter, Ms. Rufeizen played dual roles as solo clarinet and conductor to a chamber orchestra that supported her playing without trying to out play her.

In the middle of that sandwich was Philippe Hersant's In the Dark--a composer and composition known to few, if any, of the audience members and had a catchy, almost jazzy sound. One recurring, rounded, series of notes reminded me of the musical signature used in the movie Catch Me If You Can (odd connection, I know) and the abrupt ending caught me a bit by surprise.

The third piece on the program, another lesser-known composer and the most interesting to me from the evening, Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint, a piece for solo clarinet with recorded music and electronic effects, was layer upon layer of music created a polyphonic chaos that grew and subsided, ebbed and flowed: A note would build, reverberate, then decay while another note existed in the same space. Then other notes would appear and take over the stage. You could hear the sounds of the subway ... then the hustle and bustle of a crowd on the sidewalk ... then a traffic jam. All of the ambient noise you encounter in New York captured by a solo and recorded clarinet. It should be mentioned that playing to recording is much less forgiving than playing with live ensemble who can adjust on the fly -- but tonight there didn't seem to be anything that needed to be forgiven.

After the recital, the acquaintance and patron who had invited us to the recital hosted a wonderful reception in her home with a variety of conversation to round out the evening.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Isabel Trautwein: Bach Ciaccona (In My Living Room)

Bach: Ciaccona (from Partita for Violin No.2)
Isabel Trautwein, violin.
At my home, Cleveland Heights.

Last year Heights Arts' 10th anniversary party had a silent auction where I bid on and won a performance by Cleveland Orchestra cellist Tanya Ell in my living room. This year, at one of the Heights Arts House Concerts, a similar silent auction included Cleveland Orchestra violinist Isabel Trautwein offering her services.

Based how much fun I had the first time I couldn't help but to aggressively bid again. With the privilege of placing the winning bid, tonight a small group of friends and acquaintances assembled in my living room to hear Ms. Trautwein play Bach's Ciaccona, the final movement from his Partita for Violin No. 2.

Before playing, Heights Arts Executive Director Peggy Spaeth provided background for the organization that ultimately made the event possible, and Ms. Trautwein provided a deliciously detailed background not only on the piece but on Bach's family (a line of well-respected church musicians) his life (as one to organize and save his family's music, and as one who travelled with his patron) and on the piece. It is said that Bach was traveling with his patron for six weeks and and upon his return he found that not only had his wife died in his absence, she was already buried. This clearly had a profound effect on the composer.

When the playing began it was almost overwhelming. The Ciaccona, to quote from Wikipedia, "This ciaccona is considered a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach's time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument." And Johannes Brahms is said to have written that "[o]n one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."

The Ciaccona runs 15 minutes, 256 measures, exceeding the combined running time of the preceeding movements in the partita.

After the music concluded there was a moment of brief, but absolute, silence before a guest exhaled a "Wow" and the applause erupted. In that 15 minutes of musical passion the rest of the world seemed to stop and when my conscious reappeared it is impossible not to acknowledge this as fantastic benefit to living in Cleveland: Not only do we have a world-class orchestra (and museum and performing arts and...) but the talented individuals that compose those institutions are passionate, engaged, and sociable.

A brief question and answer followed before we adjourned for a variety of foods (many deliciously prepared by Rachel), cheeses, an deserts -- not to mention wines flown in from Temecula, my hometown in Southern California -- and conversation lasting late in to the night.

It was a delightful evening and I hope to host another musical gathering  in the not too distant future.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Saint-Saens Organ Symphony

Barber: Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 
Bernstein: Serenade (after Plato's Symposium) (Peter Otto, violin)
Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 ("Organ Symphony") in C minor, Op. 78 (Joela Jones, organ)
Marin Alsop, conductor.

I spent most of today alternating between putting my house in order for the party I'm hosting tomorrow and fitting in some painful (to the ear, not physically) but much needed violin practice, so my trip to Severance Hall this evening was a welcome respite.

The first piece on the program and my unqualified favorite of the evening and one of the most enjoyable of the season thus far, Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 1 is a single continuous piece with four sections (It didn't sound any different than a four-movement piece played without pause, the labeling seems a semantic exercise). The piece began with a dramatic introduction and continued engagingly delightfully quickly until reaching the third section (adante tranquillo) where the music took a turn from bright and somewhat agitated to tranquil where the oboe laid in a soft bed of strings, before the piece ended with something that sounded vaguely familiar.

Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 ("Jeremiah") was on the program at the first Cleveland Orchestra concert I attended--one of the things that got me hooked on classical--so I was eagerly looking forward to his Serenade. I didn't feel the same connection to Serenade, though it was splendidly played by Peter Otto, First Associate Concertmaster. The five movements build upon each other and are all dominated by Mr. Otto's violin. If connecting to Plato's The Symposium, one almost gets the sense of the violin as speaker and the string orchestra as a quiet audience.

The second movement, struck me at first as a bit solemn then cheeky features a passage where it seems as if Mr. Otto's instrument was asking a question being answered by the harp. The third movement seemed the shortest of the five and was quite excited and punctuated with musical exclamation points. The fourth movement returned to a lonely feeling: As if it would be perfect music for a cinematic scene with the heroine sitting in the edge of a bed crying and the orchestra sweeps over when the the soloist stood idle. The fifth movement is where the orchestra finally seems to awake and for the first time overpowers the soloist.

During a conversation with a patron I asked if they had heard the Organ Symphony prior to this weekend's concerts: "I've heard some truly awful renditions and it was nice to hear it in the spirit that was intended" was the answer. Played in two movements that both span a variety of tempo notations for the majority of the piece the organ either idle or unobtrusive and was well-woven into the musical fabric. In fact, the first time I noticed Ms. Jones' Organ was midway through the first movement there the organ seemed to slowly awake with two quiet, layered, noted and then a long sustained rumble. The orchestra was passionate. The second moment, likewise, was well underway before the organ was noticed -- but when the organ was noticed it practically screamed and its presence was impossible to ignore (perhaps the one instrument that can out-volume the timpani)


Friday, December 9, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Chinese Art Music: Yang Wei and Ensemble (@ClevelandArt)

The Program as Presented:
Busy Horses Deliver the Grain (Harvest) (Yangquin,eng, ehru, cello)
Tai Ping Tune (Pipa, sheng, erhu, dizi, cello)
A Plum Blossom--3 Variations (Ruan, sheng, pipa, dizi, cello)
Green Song (sheng, pipa)
Three Sighs at the Guan Pass (vocals, cello, guanzi, pipa, sheng)
Jade (pipa solo)
Autumn at Dressing Table (ruan, sheng, dizi)
Melody of Jin (cymbals, sheng, pipa)
Jian Nan Ho (pipa, sheng, maguhu)
Xiang Yun (Musical Sound of Hunan) (ruan, sheng, ehru, dizi, cello)
The Ancient Battlefield (pipa solo)
Lantern Festival (erhu, sheng, cello, pipa, dizi)
(Yang Wei, pipa, yangquin, ruan, music director; Wu Wei, sheng; Wang Hong, ehru, guanzi, maguhu; Miao Yimin, dizi; Mike Block, cello, ruan, vocal. At the Gartner Auditorium, Cleveland Museum of Art)

Rachel suggested that we attend tonight's concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art and I accepted eagerly... this afternoon though I was under a bit of an Advil-resistant headache. Based on what happened last time we almost forwent this concert. But we didn't and it was a great way to spend an evening -- and a relaxing way to end a stressful day.

The program -- as you can see above -- was extensive, with twelve pieces selected from a total of fourteen listed in the program and announced by Mr. Wei as the program progressed. Being introduced to the Ehru earlier this week as a solo instrument with Wednesday's Concert in the Galleries it was interesting to hear that instrument tonight as a part of an ensemble.

Between most pieces Mr. Wei provided commentary and background information -- for example there is apparently a contentious debate as to if the Ehru is a traditional Chinese instrument or not -- and the long histories of the instruments in the Chinese tradition used for tonight's performance -- from as old as 8,000 years to as "new" as 1,000 years.

Generally speaking the moods of the pieces played fit into one of three groups: Festive, Meditative, or Anguished. My favorites from the evening fit into that first category: The celebratory and energetic Busy Horses Deliver the Grain, according to the program note inspired by a dance tune opened the program and featured the only use of the Yangquin, a "hammer dulcimer", on tonight's program. Coming full circle to the Lantern Festival, where through bright musical colors it was easy to imagine lanterns being released above a celebratory and festive crowd. In between, Melody of Jin (a place) was the most percussive of the pieces was bright and chaotic with the only appearance of cymbals on the program.

The most meditative of the pieces -- Jade-- a piece for solo pipa was introduced by Mr. Wei noting that that Pipa colors can be "warm, dark, fresh, or messy" and that the composer had asked for varied colors. As the playing commenced I slipped into another world while I just let my brain go blank. In Jian Nan Ho, literally "The Beauty of Jian Nan", the balanced melodic sound of the piece seems to emulate that of a gently flowing river that moves on to a bit faster trot.

Spanning the meditative and anguished worlds, one of my favorite pieces was Three Sighs at the Guan Pass, based on a poem about forced exile and a man departing friends for an unknown future. The Chinese text of the poem ("The morning rain of Wei city drenches the light dust. The willow leaves near the inn appear to be greener. Let us toast one more time before departing, for after going through the West Gate, we, old friends, might never meet again") was sung by cellist Mike Block and was haunting.

Green Song originally composed in the late 80s for soprano and pipa but played tonight with sheng and pipa, was inspired by the poetry of Li Po, and Mr. Wei mentioned that the same poet had inspired many of Fu Baoshi's works. Though the program notes give no further background, listening to the piece I get the sense of two instruments searching against a desolate sound scape in solitude and an unrelenting and extremely heavy sense of pure anguish.

Speaking of anguish -- while the concert itself was delightful and far from it, the audience members surrounding us pushed both Rachel and I to our limits between the excessive -- and excessively loud program flipping plus elbowing and in-concert texting of one gentleman, and the pervasive conversations behind us left us both on the brink.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Concert in the Galleries (@ClevelandArt, @CIM_edu)

Britten: Three Movements (I, II, IV) from Suite for Harp (Jennifer R. Ellis, harp)
Handel: Andante Allegro from Harp Concerto in B-flat major (Jennifer R. Ellis, harp; transcribed by Carlos Salzedo for Solo Harp)
Scheidt: Selections (5) from Passamezzo (Paula Maust, organ)
Tian-Hua Liu: Bird Whispering in the Mountain (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Hai-Huai Huang: River Water (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Hai-Huai Huang: Horce Racing (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Klughardt: Quintet, Op. 79 (Hyunji Kim, flute; Chistopher Connors, oboe; Drew Sullivan, clarinet; Anthony J. Slusser, bassoon, Samuel Hartman, horn)
in Galery 201 (Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Gallery), 1916 Building, Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Cleveland Institute of Music and the historical performance program of Case Western Reserve University continues a series which brings students of those institutions, toting beautiful music, accompanying the art that graces the Museum's walls. The series continues the first Wednesday of every month until May, 2012.

Tonight's concert started at 6pm -- a little too early for me to escape from the office and make my way to the museum before the concert started. Luckily Rachel was in the area and staked out two stools for us. Arriving in the 1916 building after parking and journeying through the tunnel I let my ear draw me to the music. I found the empty stool next to Rachel in the front row while Ms. Ellis was performing the Britten Suite, a portion of which may have been the most ominous I've heard the harp -- what I typically think of as a "lighter" instrument -- play with a little bit of a theme that seemed "twilight zone-ey" for lack of a better description.

In Ms. Ellis's introduction to the second piece she helped the audience to understand the difficulty of playing the Harp Concerto on instruments of Handel's era, and explained the purpose of the harp's pedals -- 7 pedals, one for each note on the musical scale, each with three stops Flat-Natural-Sharp. The selected movement twinkled and resonated in the galleries such that the paintings on the wall behind seemed to come to life.

Following, Ms. Paula Maust, played five of twelve selections from Samuel Scheidt's Passamezzo. From Northern Germany we were warned of a Baroque-sounding  counterpoint and  that each of the selections shared a common chord progression. As the selections were played -- on an interesting looking organ from the Museum's collection (CMA has musical instruments in its collection!?!? How did I miss that one?) they sounded remarkably different -- some ominous and dark, others brighter. Not generally a fan of organ music, I found this interesting and pleasantly brief.

Though tonight's concert was generally of lesser-performed instruments, Ms. Yu-Cheng Lin offered a most unconventional (for Westerners) instrument -- the solo Ehru. A two-stringed bowed  instrument it bears a resemblance, in a long-lost cousin sort of way, to the violin, and its sound is a bit sweeter than a fidde, and it nearly instantly evokes an Asian connection. Though the three collectively were my favorite set from the evening, the first Bird Whispering in the Mountain composed by Tian-Hua Liu was my favorite with a delightfully romantic character.

Closing out the program, Klughardt's Quintet, Op. 79, was the only ensemble piece and was described as "Schumannesque". The second and third (Allegro vivace and Andante grazioso, respectively) movements were my favorites from the piece with a lighter, almost lilting that seemed pastoral and relaxed in the second movement providing a welcome relief from the dark and ominous Allegro non tropo first movement. The third movement was as relaxed and enjoyable but seemed almost regal at points. Unfortunately, there was an odd resonance or acoustical effect in the gallery -- or at least from my location in the gallery -- which  made the fourth movement a bit difficult to listen to.

Now that there's a regular series of formal presentations would I be pressing my luck if I asked for guerrilla presentations? ;)


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ohio Philharmonic Orchestra: A Christmas and Holiday Celebration

Verdi: Aida (Prelude, Triumphal March & Ballet)
Ravel: Ma mere l'oye / Mother Goose Suite
Anderson: A Christmas Festival
Styne: The Christmas Waltz (arr. Jerry Brubaker)
Arr. Bill Holcombe: Festive Sounds of Hanukkah
Depolo & Depolo: Spirit of Christmas
Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Berlin: White Christmas (arr. Russel Bennett)
Herbert: Babes in Toyland: March of the Toys
One Encore, unannounced
Domenico Boyagian, conductor
at First Baptist Church, Shaker Heights

Without a viable Cleveland Orchestra concert this weekend, until yesterday afternoon I was contemplating taking the weekend off, if you will. On Friday, though, I received an email from Artistic Director William Laufer suggesting that I attend the Ohio Philharmonic's concert at First Baptist Church in Shaker Heights. Not having other plans for the evening and not being familiar with the Ohio Philharmonic -- not to mention it being a free concert -- I figured I'd give it a spin.

Although I'm not familiar with the organization, as I settled into the pew at First Baptist Church and leafed through the program I recognized several of the orchestra members' names from the Cleveland Institute of Music or other local ensembles.

Before the program began, Mr. Laufer introduced the program and mentioned a new competition that will team composers with filmmakers to score short films with the results to be screened with the Ohio Philharmonic playing the score live -- certainly an interesting proposition, and exciting given the quantity of talent in both fields in Northeast Ohio

The program opened with two selections  from Verdi's Aida.. Though it seemed that the prelude was an inauspicious beginning to the concert -- seeming a bit emotionally distant -- and separated from the Triumphal March by comments from Mr. Boyagain (which left me momentarily confused about the location in the program) the Triumphal March had beautifully triumphant trumpets and innocent winds with an ominous string statement and was delightful.

Next on the program Ravel's Ma mere l'oye (Mother Goose Suite), five movements based on fairy tales (Pavane of Sleeping Beauty, Little Tom Thumb, Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas, Conversation of Beauty and the Beast, Fairy Garden). Pavene of Sleeping Beauty had a delicate, sleeping quality; Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas had a fun and decidedly Asian flair -- this was my favorite movement from the set and one of my favorites from the evening. Beauty and the Beast certainly seemed beastly -- as beastly as music can be -- though ended longingly and sadly. The Fairy Garden was quiet and leisurely slow, as if meandering through a garden.

After intermission the program shifted to unquestionably seasonal with Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival. Though Mr. Anderson's Sleigh Ride seems to be a immutable staple of Christmas concerts (and appears later on tonight's program) I don't believe that I've heard A Christmas Festival which was a boldly played lively medley of traditional Christmas sounds and was my favorite piece from the program. Taking a break from the speed, Styne's The Christmas Waltz, arranged by Jerry Brubreaker seemed like the perfect soundtrack for a walk down an old-town main street with a light snowfall.

Speeding things back up but with my mind still firmly in soundtrack mode, Festive Sounds of Hanukkah arranged by Bll Holcombe seemed like it could just as easily be an award show theme music.

At number six on the program, a world premiere Spirit of Christmas by twin brother composers Andrew and Jared Depolo was bright and celebratory while maintaining the rounded edges that typify Christmas music. In its short running time it certainly captured the spirit of the season. Following it, Anderson's Sleigh Ride was just as festive, particular note goes to the "clap" mimicking the crack of a whip--this is the first time I've heard the piece where that didn't sound overbearing. [I should admit that I couldn't resist doing a bit of air conducting from my seat]

Robert Russell Bennett's arrangement of Irving Berlin's White Christmas and Herbert's March of the Toys from Babes in Toyland didn't move me as much as the previous pieces on the program though the rendition of White Christmas was acurate enough for me to mentally sing along.

Following a standing ovation, the Orchestra performed one encore which was a delightful end to the concert.

It's worth noting that of all of the ensembles I've taken in, on first pass, the Ohio Philharmonic seems to be the most interested in shaping programs to fit audience interests -- or at least the only one I can recall explicitly stating as much and soliciting input.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

ChamberFest Cleveland: A Gala Concert to Benefit

Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 (Mvt. I) ¹²³ª°
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 (Mvt. I) ²ª*
Beethoven: Clarinet Trio in B flat major,  Op. 11 (Mvt. II, III) ª^*
Brahms: Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op. 120/1 (Mvt. II) ^*
Schubert: Fantasia in F minor for piano Four Hands, D. 940 (Mvt. I, II, III, IV) °*
Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 (Mvt IV) ¹²³ª°
At the Cowap Residence, Shaker Heights
¹- William Pruecil, violin; ²- Diana Cohen, violin; ³- James Larson, viola; ª- Mark Kosower, cello; °- Jonathan Biss, piano; *-Orion Weiss, piano; ^-Franklin Cohen, clarinet

Diana Cohen and her father, Franklin, are two of my favorite musicians both generally and in their respective instruments. Both are clearly passionate about their craft and when Diana told me that they were starting a summer music festival for Cleveland I was instantly intrigued and excited.

If tonight's concert -- a benefit for the young organization known as ChamberFest Cleveland with the Cohens serving as enthusiastic co-Artistic Directors -- is any indication, ChamberFest will be a force to be reckoned with when the concerts start in June 2012.

Before tonight's program a sampling of delicious Hors d'oeuvres and wine provided by Fire Food and Drink and it was interesting to see how many people the event had attracted and how many people I knew from how many different circles -- Cleveland Orchestra management, Cleveland Museum of Art staff, Heights Arts frequenters, patrons of those institutions and the many others that exist for Cleveland. After the concert, the reaction was unanimously positive.

And it's easy to see why: Aside from the two Cohens (the elder of which is Principal Clarinet and a long-time member of the Cleveland Orchestra) the event featured Cleveland Orchestra Members William Pruecil (violin) and Mark Kosower (cello), pianist Jonathan Biss, fresh off of a engagement as soloist with the Orchestra (in fact, the last of his concert series was played earlier this afternoon) -- established world-class musicians, along with Orion Weiss and James Larson, not as well known (at least not to me) but certainly not slackers.

And like the Hors d'oeuvres, tonight's program was a tasteful sampling of music that was as pleasing to the ears as the food was to the tongue. From the passioned, bold and sweet sounds of the first piece on the program, to the dramatic and breathy Piano Trio the program left me craving more, particularly Mr. Kosower's impassioned work in the Piano Trio.

The second movement adagio of the Beethoven Clarinet trio was such a sweet and tender lullaby it was impossible not to be moved, while the third movement had more of a trotting feel to it. Meanwhile, the Clarinet Sonata was searchingly soulful as if the Clarinet (Mr. Cohen) was searching for a long lost love.

Thought musically it wasn't my favorite, I'd be remiss not to mention the sheer technical challenge (and perfection) presented by Schubert's Fantasia in F minor for Piano Four Hands, played by both Mr. Biss and Mr. Weiss on the same piano -- to say that I was impressed by the coordination, and the sound that arose (as if there were one musician with four hands playing rather than two distinct musicians with their individual sounds) -- and by the end of the piece, both pianists had beads of sweat visibly running down their respective foreheads. But the result was splendid. (It should be noted that the piano for tonight's event was a Steinway Concert Grand provided by Steinway Hall Akron replacing the diminutive piano normally in the space)

The younger Ms. Cohen announced that in addition to the partnerships that brought tonight's event to fruition that ChamberFest has forged relationships and partnerships with WCLV (for media support) CIM (for performance space) and others.

I eagerly await the first concert in the ChamberFest, which promises to "present world-class musicians for an intensive summer chamber music festival, exploring unique and immersing thematic programming, and creating original engaging musical experiences for its audiences"


Glass Blowing at J & C Glass Studio

Rachel had mentioned a while ago that she was interested in glass blowing and when we found a Groupon for an "experience" at a local studio it seemed like a great idea.

The Groupon was good for either pumpkin or ornament making day workshops or just for $50 worth of merchandise -- which, of course, wouldn't be nearly as fun -- at J and C Glass Studio. From the Groupon we both thought that the studio was in Little Italy, as it turns out the gallery is in Little Italy but the actual studio is in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood (in the same building as Fourth Wall Productions had a short-lived theatre space)

We decided to book the Ornament Making class and upon arriving at the studio this afternoon there were two things that immediately struck us: First the hospitality of the studio staff and second the intense heat. This was certainly somewhere to be on a cold winter day. The class consisted of two instructors and 8 students, with each student guided through the process of making two ornaments.

First, we heated our blowpipes, and once hot (with my body about a yard from the furnace it felt like my wrist was on fire) we dipped in molten glass to pick up a glob. From this point on, spinning the pipe became important to keep the liquid glass on the blowpipe from drooping.

Rolling in the color of your choice (I did red and green, Rachel did green and blue) you then returned to the furnace to melt the color in. Coming out of the furnace the glass is rolled out into a oblong pellet about the size of a roll of quarters.

The first step requires an amazing amount of human-provided air pressure to form an air bubble in the ornament while rolling the blow stick back and forth across the rails. A trip back to the furnace to soften the glass a bit and some light air pressure with a bit of forming assistance from the J&C staff brings the ornament to its final shape.

The ornament, now a definite object, is cut free from the blow stick and a final blob of glass added and formed over to form a hook and the ornament is done -- the only step remaining is to be annealed which requires an overnight stay in their ovens.

Rachel and I will return soon to pick up our ornaments -- but it was quite the fun (if a bit sweaty) experience.

J and C also had a sampling of glass products for sale at very reasonable prices -- Rachel picked up a paperweight for $5 and I found a glass flower (to give purpose to a vase I picked up on one of my last visits to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City) for only $10. Still, there were a collection of glass vessels with faces whose expressions were just too cute. I'm particularly enamored by one green one with a beret and bow tie -- but it was not priced, and I'm a little hesitant to email the artist for price (under the heading of "if you have to ask...")


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Fabio Luisi: Mozart and Strauss

R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K453 (Jonathan Biss, piano)
R. Strauss: Aus Italien, Op. 16
Fabio Luisi, conductor

I was on my way to hear this program last night when I was involved in a minor traffic accident -- everyone is OK, and this is, after all, what insurance is for. But this is most certainly not the time of year I'd like to pull a grand out of my wallet for the deductible -- it may reduce my performing arts attendance in the near term.

Anyway, thanks to the courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra staff I was able to make this evening's concert and while I had originally contemplated just missing this weekend's program I'm glad I made it to tonight's concerts.

Before we get to the music, though, one of the interesting things about sitting on the box level is the stories of people who have been life-long orchestra supporters. Before tonight's program a woman in the next box over made eye contact "I'm curious about you," she begins, "I see you at all kinds of concerts....are you connected with the orchestra?" -- that's actually a question I'm getting with increasing frequency -- and after I answer in the negative we exchange idle chatter. At Intermission I learn that she's had her seats for the past fifty years.

Though her husband, once an actuary for the Musician's Union, passed eight years ago, she's kept both seats "so I don't have to come alone" Though her tenure started with George Szell (and she didn't particularly care for Boulez's stint in Cleveland) she's kept up -- in what she thinks are the best seats in the house -- but back problems have her concerned that this season may be the last that she's able to attend, possibly ending that 50-year stretch.

The concert tonight, under the baton of recently-named Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Fabio Luisi, was one of those concerts wherein dedication spanning five decades needs no further explanation.

From the opening notes of Till Eulenspeigel's Merry Pranks the orchestra sounded happy and the playing was at ease. Mr. Luisi, likewise, when the profile of his face could be seen was clearly pleased with the sound he was drawing out of the orchestra. The piece has a innocent melody in the ends with a few minor echos in the strings -- where it's easy to imagine a character strolling along innocently -- with occasional explosions of music where a prank was slipped in.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 was a beautiful blend of orchestra and Jonathan Biss's fine work at the keyboard. Perhaps most interesting contextually was the fact that Mozart scored this piece not for himself but for one of his students (also, according to a tale retold in the program notes, Mozart had taught his pet Starling to whistle the last movement of the piece) -- the first movement was so smoothly played that at one point Mr. Biss took up a solo cadenza that was well into it before it occurred to me that the orchestra had stopped playing. The second movement was a bit too relaxing where I almost drifted off, and I had no distinct feelings about the third movement.

Closing out the program was Strauss's delightful "Symphonic Fantasy" Aus Italien [From Italy] the program notes describe it as perhaps four symphonic postcards and I think "postcard" implies too static a scene. From the opening notes of the first movement (In the Country - Adante) I got the sensation of dawn peaking over the horizon, with a pastoral morning and a glorious mid-day sun. The second movement (Amid the Ruins of Rome: Fantastic Scenes of Vanished Splendor; Feelings of Sadness and Grief in the Midst of Sunniest Surroundings - Allegro molto con brio) started with a feeling of sweeping happiness but became unsettled and ended with a feeling of intense drama. The third movement, On the Shores of Sorrento - Adantino, had a slow and leisurely development and didn't really garner my attention until a sweet line in the cellos deliciously grew over fading flutes. The movement also featured the occasional burst of orchestral color appearing seemingly from nowhere. The last movement Neapolitan Folk Life (Allegro molto) began with an explosive introduction and then unmistakable variations on Funiculi, Funicula, a song written six years earlier and which Strauss had, apparently, mistaken for an Italian Folk Song -- while it wasn't at the time it arguably is now -- with a particularly beautiful showing from the strings.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Ton Koopman Conducts Bach

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major BVW 1046
Bach: "Wedding" Cantata, BVW 202 (Treresa Wakim, soprano)
Bach: Sinfonia in B minor, from Cantata BVW 209
Bach: Sinfonia in D minor, from Cantata BVW 42
Bach: Suite No. 3 in D major, BVW 1068
Ton Koopman, conductor.

The crowd at tonight's Cleveland Orchestra concert seemed odd -- and the first concert in recent memory where I didn't see any other audience members I recognized. Following performances last season (earlier this calendar year), baroque conductor Ton Koopman lead tonight's collection of five Bach pieces.

While Mr. Koopman was as effervescent as always, tonight's program wasn't as inspiring or as captivating -- I suspect that this reaction was partially due to programming: I'm realizing that single-composer concert-length programs don't hold my attention.

The program opened with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 after Mr. Koopman's animated entrance (and it wasn't until this movement that the reason the stage looked odd was because Mr. Koopman was conducting from a bare stage, not standing on a podium as seems to be the custom). The first movement -- scored without a tempo indication -- was bright and sweet and well paced. The second movement, stood in sharp contrast with a dulled restrained sadness that seemed especially slow. We returned to a fast lively mood -- almost as if the mourning has ended -- in the third movement allegro. The fourth movement is a series of seven tempo notations, where as played each section was distinct. Perhaps most impressively were the standout performances by the winds during the two Trio sections, and William Preucil's solo violin contributions.

The so-called "Wedding" Cantata held the most interest for me going in -- and it started with a soaring orchestra and haunting note from Ms. Wakim, but overall the piece did not meet expectations. Musically  it was interesting in that Mr. Koopman was playing the harpsichord and that for what seemed like the majority of the piece there were never more than two instruments being played. But Ms. Wakim's voice felt out of place -- and judging by conversations overheard from adjacent boxes that feeling was relatively widely held.

Following intermission we were treated to two works that while nearly 300 years old the Cleveland Orchestra had never presented before this weekend. While the Sinfonia in D minor left no impression whatsoever (see what I was saying about my attention wandering with single-composer programs?) the Sinfonia in B minor struck me as the beautiful solo flute unabashedly flirting with the strings.

The final work on the program, and tied for favorite with the Brandenburg Concerto, was Suite No. 3. A series of six movements, each with a very distinct musical sound and personality was a delight to listen to. The second of those movements, Air, perhaps one of Bach's best known compositions (same conductor, different orchestra on YouTube here) was so lovingly played by our orchestra that it was very difficult to resist the urge to applaud between movements.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Brian Ulrich Buyer's Remorse Event (@ClevelandArt)

When I frist walked through Brian Ulrich's Copia-Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores 2001-11, the exhibition in the East Wing Photography Gallery (through January 16, 2012) it immediately struck me and captured my attention and interest

Divided into three sections, the exhibition visually explores the retail boom and conspicuous consumerism (Retail), the inital recession and rise of Thrifting, into the era of Dark Stores: Cavernous buildings once bustling with goods and people now sitting idle and empty. In that first section, the number of nondescript homogeneous scenes that could be "Anywhere, USA" (A line of cash registers from a Target in Granger, IN, for example, could just as easily be found in any Target in the country) and in the sheer expanse -- the foreground starts around Register #10 and you approach the softly-focused horizon at Register #32 leads you to wonder how we got to the point where a retailer would need 32 registers.

Likewise the completely absent expression on shoppers faces is uniquely disturbing -- and eerily uniform, be it a woman eyeing groceries, a child in a toy store, or a man selecting a fishing rod. Are we really in there?

While Thrift didn't appeal to my senses in the same way as the outer movements, Dark Stores is perhaps where I lingered the longest -- a shot of long-abandoned escalators in the infamous Dixie Square Mall has a strangely unique context for what is quite possibly the most photographed scene in the Dead Mall world; nearby a sign in an abandoned store announces a "Over 100 year" history -- and you can't help but to wonder what did them in? What about the people who worked there? What about the craftsmen whose work is now visible in the form of naked walls?

But that wasn't the reason Rachel and I were at the museum tonight. One of a rapidly growing number of exciting events the museum is hosting on the Wednesday and Friday evenings (when the galleries are open until 9pm), tonight's Buyers Remorse Young Professionals event featured cocktails and a DJ spinning tunes with casual conversation in the Museum Cafe (where one of Rachel's robots watched from the sidelines as part of the 2011 Staff Art Show in the same space) and the photographer Brian Ulrich in the Photography Galleries with his photographs. By the time Rachel and I made it from the Cafe to the galleries, Mr. Ulrich was in the tail end of talking about the project, and gladly fielded a stream of questions from a gallery full of curious attendees and provided humorous yet detailed answers to each question.

While the physical distance between galleries and reception is a bit of a hurdle (at least until the atrium opens in the Fall of 2012) to creating the ultimate event, events like these certainly gives both regular museum attendees and those who may be living in Cleveland blissfully unaware of the treasures we have a unique and hands-on experience with the art...and in this case, the artist.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Music in the Galleries with Gregory Fulkerson, Violin (@ClevelandArt)

Bach: Partita no. 3 in E major, BVW 1006
Bach: Sonata no. 2 in A minor, BVW 1003
Bach: Sonata no. 3 in C major, BVW 1005
Gregory Fulkerson, violin
In Gallery 20, at the Cleveland Museum of Art

I've often thought that it might be nice to bring music into the museum's galleries -- at least one Member's party for a special exhibition included the sounds of a small chamber ensemble wafting through the galleries, and I was intrigued.

But until recently that was it. Earlier this month the museum began a series that will repeat monthly bringing music into the museum's art-filled galleries. The prior outings I've had previous engagements, but I was bound and determined to make it to this session especially after a comment on a different CMA post strongly suggested attendance.

Rachel and I made our way to the museum and then to the galleries about 20 minutes before the 7:30 starting time. On our way to the gallery hosting the concert (Gallery 20 in the 1916 building, just West of the Rotunda) we ran into a guard and upon answering in the affirmative to "Are you here for the concert?" he warned "It's going to be cozy...lots of people got here before you". Closer to the musical epicenter, one of the guards I know suggested that we grab stools on the way in. The gallery was comfortably full -- just enough room to breathe, and certainly an appreciative audience.

We caught the tail end of Associate Director of Music Tom Welsh's introduction before the concert quickly got under way with the mesmerizing Partita No. 3, the first movement of which (Preludio) provided a very lively and thrilling introduction to the evening as the notes resonated throughout the gallery it was impossible not to enjoy the movement. It took me a while to figure it out, but part of the reason the movement felt so familiar is that it is one of the few classically inspired pieces on my iPod--and one I delight in listening to over and over--in the form of violinist Vannessa-Mae's Bach Street Prelude. While the Bach Street Prelude has a decidedly energetic techno flair, Mr. Fulkerson's Preludio exuded no less energy and simply came alive in the galleries.

Rachel's favorite from the evening was the Gavoette en rondeaux, the third movement from the Partita, which had a delightfully lively dance like flare.

Sonata no. 2 took things much more slowly and sensually with the first movement (Grave) being particularly sensual and the third movement (Andante) played lovingly. The second movement (Fuga) had hints that reminded me of the Partita, and overall while my ears were soaking in the sounds, my eyes were delighting in the art in ways that I've never noticed while strolling the galleries.

Ending the trilogy was Sonata no. 3 with a slow delicate adagio first movement, leading into a danceish fuga second movement, in which I resisted the urge to kiss Rachel solely and barely because we were in a fulll view of a crowded gallery. I was apathetic about the third movement (largo), my least favorite of the evening, but the program ended with the lively allegro assi fourth movement. Closing my eyes, I picked up some hints again of the preludio though transformed and less closely related than in the earlier piece.

In the end though, it was a delightful evening of wonderful music in a nearly perfect setting.


Monday, November 14, 2011

I [heart] New York: The Rest of the Trip

As it turns out I was  too busy showing Rachel The City (capitalization intentional) that by the time we made it back to our room I was too exhausted to actually write about it.

Her original flight in to La Guardia was cancelled, so while I waited for her I went ahead and hit up MoMA -- the Museum of Modern Art -- since Rachel tends to prefer more classical art. She didn't miss much. Last time I did MoMA there were works I didn't get and works that really captivated me. This time nothing really captivated me (and the galleries seemed particularly overrun with tourists) -- that is until I made it back to the Industrial Design section which is where I lingered for the longest period of time and had the greatest appreciation for: Commercial art that is eye catching and selling a product (PanAm destination posters)... Fonts and typefaces (Finally getting the attention they deserve)...every day products where function follows form.

After leaving MoMA I had just enough time to get back to the room get off my feet for a few minutes and confirm the route to La Guardia. Arriving several hours later than expected when Rachel landed she found her way to the Q33 bus to Jackson Heights where I met her after arriving on a Queens-bound (funny, since we were in Queens) 7 Train.

Taking her back we found a Manhattan bound E Train and rode in comfort back to the 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal stop and the quick walk back to the hotel. One of many reasons why the Hilton Times Square is my favorite hotel in The City (and perhaps period) is that it, as near as I can tell, sits on top of  the largest subway complex in NYC... and if you can't get where you want to get from Times Square/42nd/PABT directly, a short subway Shuttle (S Train) ride to Grand Central will get you there.

Dropping her bags off on the 43rd floor -- room 4320 -- we descended back into the subway station, caught the Shuttle (despite it now being almost 8pm, still packed) and at Grand Central found a downtown 1 Train to meet a friend of hers (and her boyfriend) for dinner. We found a barbecue joint on 3rd Avenue somewhere in the 30s that had good food -- and even better margaritas. (Not having to worry about driving, I indulged in two). We had ice cream in the friend's apartment and by the time we returned to street level a light rain had started. We found an uptown train and retired to the double-Queen room for the evening.

Getting a lazy start on Friday morning, we worked our way downtown to the Meat Packing district using the Shuttle and a C Train to 14th street -- before we got to our actual destination we discovered Tom Otterness's Life Underground, an art installation as part of the MTA's Arts For Transit program and quite an extensive installation at that. Mr. Otterness's little creatures are always so cute and that was particularly true in this case. Once we left the station a quick (although blustery) walk got us to our actual destination: The New York High Line, a former elevated freight rail road structure adapted, converted, and reused now as a public park. Its quite an impressive project, and I would have liked to linger a bit longer had there not been a biting cold wind pushing us around.

Working our way uptown we found our way to the southeast corner of Central Park (though I'm not sure which combination of trains we took to get there) wandered through the lower section of the park eyeing the people and wildlife (and downing a hot dog) before arriving at Rachel's prime destination: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now I will admit that last time I visited The Met I wasn't overly impressed, but walking the galleries with Rachel it was delightful to see her eyes bug out as she excitedly bounded from artwork to artwork like a kid in a candy store "I've seen that one in books!" "We studied that in my classes!". We grabbed lunch in the Cafeteria lingered around the Europeans for a bit and then hit my highlight of the visit: The Met's renown Musical Instrument Collection displaying an evolution of musical instruments from the odd to the common... and a couple Stradivari violins.

Leaving the Met we walked further up 5th Avenue and toured the Guggenheim which currently has a rather odd installation hanging from the ceiling. We didn't spend long but I did buy a new watch.

Walking towards Lexington Avenue, I misjudged the direction for the nearest Subway so instead of walking two blocks downtown to the nearest 4/5/6 station we walked eight blocks uptown and caught a 4 Train back to Grand Central, shuttled to Times Square and kicked off our shoes for a few minutes before departing to another destination Rachel wanted to check out: The Morgan Library and Museum, founded by Pierpont Morgan. Open late Fridays with live music we stayed and lingered until the guards kicked us out at the 9 PM Closing.

Returning to Times Square we had dinner at Schnippers Quality Kitchen on the corner of 41st and 8th Avenue. I had tripped over this place while I was in NYC for the Tony Awards (and staying at a different hotel) but it's literally right down the street from the hotel's back door. The Mac and Cheese with Bacon hit the spot. Returning to the 43rd floor... high above the city...we both quickly disappeared into slumber.

Waking up Saturday morning we realized our time was limited, and although we had been staying in the middle of Times Square, Rachel had never actually seen Times Square so I walked her through the highlights and we popped into the Hershey Store. Curiosity satisfied, we hopped on a train downtown, emerged from the surface at a random stop and among other sights window shopped Chinatown. From City Hall Park we uptown trained to NYU where Rachel poped into one of the Manhattan branches of an employer to look around, and realizing that we were starting to run short on time, we returned to the hotel for the last time, collected our belongings, and checked out.

Entering the Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station, I made a near fatal error -- already cutting the time close (by my standards) -- In a snap judgement thought that the A, C, or E trains would get where we wanted to go. Until we got on an A train, and I looked at a map. And Paniced. Only the E train ultimately ended up where we wanted to go, we popped off at the next station, and I misread signs... so we missed the first E train, and waited.

It felt like an eternity before the next E train showed up (all the while the station announcements blared "There is a...uptown...local...train approaching the...upper level...platform. Please stand clear of the platform edge, especially when trains are entering or leaving the station." on a seemingly constant basis. Rachel, sensing my fermenting panic had started to ask "Well, how much would a cab cost...?", but finally the "There is a Queens Bound...Express...E...Train approaching the...lower level...platform" announcement finally came. Getting back to Jackson Heights/Rosevelt, we left the station and immediately hopped on a waiting Q33 bus. Found seats, and made what felt like the interminable ride to the Central terminal. I checked in and checked my bags with Continental, then Rachel checked in for her much later flight with American... and with about 30 minutes left until I was set to board and since our gates were behind different security checkpoints, we grabbed a quick lunch in the terminal before bidding each other a temporary adieu.

Both of our flights home were uneventful.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chamber Music Guild: Trio Unnamed

Beethoven: Trio in E Flat Major Op. 70, No. 2
Beethoven: Sonata for Piano and Violin in D Major Op. 12, No. 1
Brahms: Trio in C Major Op. 87
(Susan Britton, violin; Linda Atherton, cello; Elizabeth DeMio, piano; at Lyndhurst Community Presbyterian Church)

I'm still a exhausted from my trip to New York and wound up alternating between napping and lounging most of today between the time I delivered Rachel to work and the time I picked her up (I promise the rest of the story from my vacation is coming soon-ish).

After I picked her up from work we grabbed a quick dinner (with drinks) at the Fairmount before heading East to tonight's Chamber Music Guild concert. I heard the same trio in the same venue last year. In the intervening year, they still haven't found a name but they sound just as good.

The program opened with the sequel to last year's Ghost trio in the form of Beethoven's Opus 70 No. 2 which opened sweetly in the cello and violin for the first movement before turning darker and taking a decidedly agitated feel for the second movement, ending with a very lively fourth movement. Rachel commented that the sound,  particularly of the first movement, sounded like a 18th century French court.

Giving cellist Ms. Atherton a break, Ms. Britton and Ms. DeMio gave a lovely performance of Beethoven's Sonata for Piano and Violin which traversed musical territory from smooth and loving to stormy and agitated.

The third piece on the program, from a different "B" composer, Brahms's Trio in C Major, which was my favorite from the evening and gripped me from its deep and contemplative first movement. The second movement evolved that emotion to something a bit more introspective and searching but not as deep. The third movement dims the light further and remains dark with only occasional hints of light, but the fourth movement emerges from the shadows and had familiar, almost easygoing feel.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Alan Gilbert Conducts

Beethoven: Romance No. 2 in F major, Op. 50 (for violin and orchestra, William Preucil, violin)
Webern: Im Sommerwind [In the Summer  Breeze]
Bruch: Adagio appassionato, (for violin and orchestra, William Preucil, violin)
Schoenberg: Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 5
Alan Gilbert, conductor.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and based on tonight's concert -- the first back in Severance Hall since the orchestra's European tour and residency and my first after returning from a week in New York state -- would tend to support that assertion.

I wasn't sure if I'd be back in time, in fact, for tonight's concert -- and assuming I would be back in time I was waffling, between being dead exhausted from the trip (I hope to have blogs for the remainder of my visit up tomorrow) and being woefully unimpressed by the NY Philharmonic, where Mr. Gilbert is Music Director my bed was looking awfully luring.

Tonight's concert, though, lived, breathed, and had a wonderfull variety of textures. The first half of the program were three pieces each of about 10 minutes in length. Starting with Beethoven's Romance No. 2, a wonderfully romantic embrace between solo violin (played by Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil) and the orchestra. Delightful but not overly sweet this piece moved and may serve as my favorite Beethoven for now.

Next Im Sommerwind (In the Summer Breeze) by Anton Webern was aptly titled and a warm choice as the leaves have turned colors and the days are getting colder. While I lost the feeling to a degree in the ending the beginning and ending were clearly Summery with a breeze of music wafting throughout with occasional gusts of powerful music, closing my eyes, I could swear that I also heard frolicking children amongst the notes.

Finishing out the first half  of the program Bruch's Adagio appassionato, again with Mr. Preucil playing the violin solo part, gave me the sensation of the soloist wandering alone, much more emotional and restrained than Beethoven's Romance but no less enjoyable to listen to.

After intermission, Mr. Gilbert addressed the audience with comments about Schoenberg's Pelleas and Melisande, and had the orchestra to play samples of the various motifs used to tell the stories of the various players in the drama-turned-tone-poem, which was unique and added to the performance, though as a matter of personal preference, I thought the excerpting was a bit excessive. When the performance of the piece began I simply closed my eyes and let vivid imagery fly through my head. Some of it related to what Mr. Gilbert had introduced, and some was completely unrelated, but it was  where I entered the meditative state that I so enjoy about the Cleveland Orchestra and just let the weeks behind me slip away.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

I [heart] New York: Day 1 Part 1 - The New York Philharmonic

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM (after finally retiring to bed around midnight, not because I was tired but because I wanted to be well-rested for today. Rachel was supposed to arrive just before 4... but thanks to American Airlines, that's changed to just before 6).

While I was getting my bearings on what might sound interesting I had noticed that the New York Philharmonic was offering an open rehearsal at 9:45 AM for, if I recall correctly, $19. While I've wanted to hear the NY Philharmonic, if for no other reason than to compare it to my Cleveland Orchestra, I didn't really want to dedicate an entire evening to the endeavor, much less an entire evening while Rachel was in town -- the open rehearsal sounded like a splendid way to make this work. Plus at closed rehearsals I've been invited to I've been thrilled by the artistic finesse and fine tuning that occurs between orchestra and conductor.

The concert being rehearsed consisted of two pieces (Strauss: Don Quixote, Op. 35, Cynthia Phelps, viola; Carter Brey, cello; Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 ("Pastoral"), Bernard Haitink, conductor), however I elected to leave during the rehearsal break as I was becoming hungry, and a bit restless -- not a good combination for 11:24 in the morning.

To put it simply, though, the Cleveland Orchestra is in no danger of loosing my musical heart. While Don Quixote was initially played through delightfully and without pause, it was no more musically satisfying than listening to something on my iPod. The precise reason why I don't listen to classical music on my iPod. I'm not sure if it's the orchestra or the acoustics of the visually uninspiring Avery Fisher Hall [It isn't far removed in size shape or decoration from an airplane hanger with seats and a stage left over from the dark days of design: The 70s] or even something particular to my seat (LL107) but there was no texture or emotion. I'm used to hearing classical music with nuances and individual character -- that is to say, a work that breathes with the collective breath of the musicians. I didn't get that, and had I paid much more than $19, I would have been remarkably disappointed. While the music was lively, the subject matter is after all Don Quixote, the delivery seemed mechanical. That said, both soloists, were captivating, particularly Ms. Phelps viola.

After the piece was played through in its entirety, specific passages were revisited, and reworked -- this is normally my favorite part, as it gives you a clear idea of what the conductor feels is most important about a piece,  however, as I was unable to hear a word Mr. Haitink was saying from the podium (as, of course, the comments were primarily if not exclusively intended for the benefit of the musicians) this provided no benefit to the audience.

The program notes and format were quite helpful on the other hand. I've long been a fan of the detail and organization of the Cleveland Orchestra's program books (the one addition I would suggest if given the opportunity is adding the approximate running times of movements, ala the Minnesota Orchestra) but the Philharmonic might win by a nose here of for nothing else than the sheer amount of well organized detail.

[Side note: The New York Philharmonic's Music Director, Alan Gilbert, is conducting this week's Cleveland Orchestra concerts -- it will be interesting to hear the Cleveland Orchestra under his baton on Saturday (if I make it back early enough) or Sunday (otherwise).

The NYC Ballet isn't presenting anything at the moment (slightly disappointing as I haven't found a more convenient source of ballet, namely one in Cleveland) and I absolutely cannot build any enthusiasm whatsoever for the Metropolitan Opera... so it seems unlikely that I'll return to Lincoln Center on this trip.

On my way back I went hunting for food and stumbled into a random deli and ordered a random sandwich. It was good.

Now I'm off to do some more exploring before picking up Rachel...


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I [heart] NYC Day 0: The Mountaintop with Samuel L. Jackson

The work part of this trip ended when I returned the rental car for the "business" portion out in the 'burbs, dropped my coworker off at Newark Terminal C, and boarded NJTransit bound for New York Penn Station (not to be confused with Newark Penn Station, the first stop after the airport).

It took a bit longer than I expected but the trip was utterly uneventful and about $12.50. Leaving Penn Station on foot I walked uptown to 41st street and checked in to my favorite hotel in New York City, the Hilton Times Square -- where this time, my room on the 43rd floor has a fantastic panorama of Manhattan including the New York Times and Empire State Buildings. The very city texture which I love of Manhattan.

After dropping my luggage in the room at about 7:30 I continue walking up town -- I love how easy Manhattan is to navigate (uptown = street numbers get bigger / downtown = street numbers get smaller) and find the Theatre Development Fund's TKTS booth. I was in the mood for a musical, but all of the musicals on the board -- and it now being about 7:45 I had either (a) seen before (b) was planning on seeing the touring version at PlayhouseSquare [so why waste a night on Broadway?] or (c) had heard enough about to have no interest in seeing.

So in Lincoln fashion and with less than 15 minutes to published curtain I did what I normally do: Picked one that I haven't even heard of from the board, bought a ticket for a play called The Mountaintop and walked (this time downtown) to the Jacobs Theatre on 45th between Broadway and 8th for The Mountaintop, staring Samuel L. Jackson (as Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Angela Bassett (as Camae) in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968.

If that date doesn't click for you (for some reason when read the setting line in the program the room number was what triggered my recollections): Mr. King was assassinated outside that room on April 4th. . The beginning is a bit mundane: He relieves himself, then begins working on a speech. Calling for room service -- discontinued the previous week -- a housekeeper, Camae (Angela Bassett) delivers the coffee and a relationship between the two of them grows as they share cigarettes and she slips a bit of whisky ("Irish Cough Surup") into his coffee. But then it takes a surreal turn and it turns out Camae is an angel -- sent to bring Mr. King to heaven.

We see an even more human side of Martin Luther King--he's not prepared to be a martyr. There's too much left undone and he has to see it through to completion. It's difficult for me to summarize and like Next To Normal the total profundity is just starting to hit me -- and work on my emotions -- now, two plus hours after I left the theater. It seems like something worth seeing and both Ms. Bassett and Mr. Jackson turn in compelling performances where, combined with a realistic grungy 1960s hotel room set, you leave the decade for a good ninety minutes.

Returning to 2011 and leaving the theatre I bought my Unlimited Ride Metro Card. At $29 for 7 days of unlimited MTA rides, I'm still convinced that it is one of the best bargains in New York and made it Carnegie Hall's neighborhood of 57th and 7th for a quick and light dinner at Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridian. The psychological break and total incongruity that one passes while crossing from the hotel lobby (a high-end New York hotel that isn't cutting edge design trend-wise, but isn't by any stretch dull) to Burger Joint (a place that serves Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Grilled Cheese, Fries, and nothing else in an environment whose decor (and the ancient TV hanging on the wall) is most reminiscent of 1964, including paneled walls.

Subway back to the hotel... and I am ready to sleep.

More tomorrow.


To Be Prototypical

I'm in New York this week, the first half of the week in suburban New York/New Jersey (literally: the state line runs through my vendor's parking lot) and the second half of the week in Manhattan for vacation.

I spent the weekend sick and was generally hating life (and seriously considering canceling or curtailing the trip) through Sunday evening, but thanks to some excellent nursing on the part of Rachel I made it vertical and to the airport: As I sat in seat 21F, the exit row right over the wing, that wonderfully guttural roar of the engines as we took off into the sunset I was generally feeling OK.

Arriving in Newark, for the first time I elected to eschew both the recommended car service and the recommended hotel -- previously I've not been particularly impressed by either and I was able just as cost effectively to rent a car and book at a hotel where I can earn Hilton HHonors points -- recently anointed with Hertz Gold status it was a breeze to just find my name on the board and walk to my car (If I don't earn it for free next year, I'm convinced the time savings alone may make that worth the annual fee.

One of the reasons I decided to go it my own for the hotel was that the recommended hotel is always a bit of an unknown quantity. With "My" hotels, there is the prototype. There are the brand standards. I know what to expect and I am not easily confused (If you haven't read it from one of the times I've posted it before, Larry Mundy's The Hotel Guest With Half a Brain is entirely true).

While I sometimes bemoan the homogeneous prototype it provides a certain level of comfort away from home. But within the prototype you can also judge how much a particular hotelier actually cares. Within the Hampton Inn brand I am convinced that one of the brand standards is that the bathroom amenities will include a minimum of four of the following: Face soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, body wash, sewing kit, shower cap. Now the two soaps and shampoo are guaranteed. Conditioner is a safe bet. But some locations--usually those which are not freeway-side overnight pit stops--go a bit further. Body wash is a usual #5, the mouthwash is somewhat rare but becoming more common either as #5 or a #6.  Both the sewing kit and shower cap are virtually unheard of.

But this location has the full array. So vast, it seems, the assortment at this Hampton Inn barely fits on the cute little brand-standard tray upon which they are presented. Looking further at the amenities, you can tell how frugal the hotel's management is: I select those amenities I need on my first night and place them in the shower. A thrifty hotelier (or Housekeeping Manager) may mandate that once removed they are not replaced for the duration of the stay--which is wonderful when you run out of your 3 tablespoons of shampoo on the 3rd day. Others (like this hotel) replace them daily.

[As an aside I'm still trying to figure out exactly where I can hang my towel that means "Yes, I read the 'Be green' card and I really don't need you to launder my towel every day. I actually prefer towels that are a bit fluffy and haven't been laundered to within a fiber of their lives. Please leave this one where you found it" The hooks on the wall don't do it. The handle/towel rack on the shower door doesn't do it. There aren't many other places in the bathroom to hang something. I'm considering a multi-lingual "Please don't launder me" sign.]

The other nice -- if somewhat freaky thing -- about being prototypical is that I can find my way through just about any Hampton Inn room -- indeed just about any Hampton Inn -- with about as much effort as it takes for me to get from my front door to my bed in my own house. Except when there are subtle differences.

There are three or four clear prototypes in the Hampton Inn family from the original -- narrow roomed, originally-built-for no frills "Roadside" hotels, the first evolution where the rooms got a bit bigger but function didn't really change, the first "Focused Service" evolution with fitness rooms, business centers, and the like where the rooms have gotten slightly larger, and the the current prototype (my favorite) where the room size hasn't really changed but the geometry has: Instead of beds being against the common wall staring at a wall, the beds are rotated 90 degrees with the headboard against the bathroom wall looking to the TV (and window) on the window wall.

This prototype seems to be #3 -- placing the property at roughly 4-10 years old if I had to guess -- and based on the date of manufacture for the phones (2006) it's in the right ballpark.  The typical furniture arrangement for Prototype #3 on the wall in line with the door is trashcan, short chest of drawers, refrigerator/microwave, TV, Chair (or Wardrobe), Desk (that's built into the wall and not a separate piece of furniture)

I realized how much I've become used to the prototype when for the fifth time I found myself walking to the prototypical trash can location to throw something away then becoming confused. Why? In this room, the trash can is in the corner by the desk. Arguably more logical, right? But it's not where it is in every other Prototype #3. It is, to say, like swapping hot and cold on a faucet: You don't realize how used you are to hot on left and cold on right until someone decides to mess with it. And it doesn't seem like a major change either.

Of course, being prototypical has its disadvantages. Every. Single. Hampton. Inn. has the same bleh stock art collection hanging on the walls. The homogeneity is surprising. The lack of local color. There have been times where I've had to look at the phone to remind myself where I am. But it's a bit like comfort food. I know what it will taste like. I know what I'll find in the bathroom. I know what I'll find on the bed.
And ultimately I realized that's why I went out of my way to stay here (at roughly the same cost) vs. the suggested hotel. I've stayed there before. And it's OK. Nothing spectacular -- bland and homogeneous in the Comfort Inn style. But it's not a prototype I recognize. I've always felt a bit off center because I never completely find my travel center at that hotel. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to expect (and I certainly don't get the Hilton HHonors VIP level of service and problem resolution tools.

But each hotel does occassionally add it's touches -- here it's an evening snack evey night in the lobby, a location near Grand Rapids has (had?) a nightly manager's happy hour, the Ann Arbor-North Location (one of the original prototype-narrow room locations) comes by your room with a snack cart for HHonors members each night. And it's those touches that remind you that the hotel is ultimately of people, by people, and for people in a way totally uique to lodging.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Bu

I wasn't feeling well on Friday (And I'm still not feeling all that well this morning) but when I met Rachel last night she surprised me with tickets for that evening's Viva and Gala performance of Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Bu.

I had read the description, which sounded interesting and had I been feeling better I probably would have suggested it myself. Unfortunately the program got off to an inauspicious start more than 15 minutes past the announced starting time, and never really recovered.

Well... I can't say "never" because the longer the music went on, the worse I felt. We snuck out after the fourth piece, and it is entirely possible that we missed some dramatic turn. This, though, was the first time I left the museum feeling markedly worse than when I got there -- usually the museum is one of my medative spot, somewhere to recenter myself.

The program notes contained no set list and advised that the program would be announced from the stage -- but this seemed to be a bit hit-or-miss and when they were announced I couldn't understand them well enough to make note.

There were strong moments -- by the third piece I had closed my eyes and got the sensation of a lively dance around a campfire, eventually morphing into something that would sound more at home in a '60s club -- perhaps most clearly embodying the promise of a blend of traditional instruments and modern sounds and techniques.

-- but overall the audio mix was unnaturally bass heavy, distorting the sound, and by the fourth piece causing every one of the steady beats to hurt more than the last.

Also interestingly -- I'm not sure if it was the performance, the audience, or just my state of mind -- it was one of the flattest and most two-dimensional. From my seat at the back of the Gartner Auditorium's balcony it seemed more as if I were watching a film than a live performance; there seemed to be no audience<->performer dynamic.

(With Bassekou Kouyate, lead ngoni & ngoni ba; Amy Sacko, lead & backing vocals; Fousseyni Kouyate, ngoin; Moussa Bah, ngoni bass; Alou Coulibaly calebasse; Moussa Sissoko, percussion; Moustafa Kouyate, ngoni)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CIM Chamber Orchestra: Mozart, Ante, and Strauss (@cim_edu)

(This marks the 400th Lincoln In Cleveland post. Thanks for reading!)
Mozart: Symphony No. 39, K.543 in E-flat Major
Grgin: Theme and Variations No. 2 (Nikola Djurica, clarinet)
Strauss: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, TrV 228c, Op. 60 (Der Burger als Edelmann) Suite
Carl Topilow, conductor.

Tonight's concert at CIM was preceded by a collaborative event between CIM and the Cleveland Museum of Art bringing live music to CMA's galleries -- unfortunately, by the time I made it home from work I had just enough time to get to CIM for this concert's 7:30 start time. My understanding is that music returns to the Museum on November 16th and I hope to sneak over there to check that out.

Tonight's concert seems to be the first this year for the CIM Chamber Orchestra and my first this year in the visually stunning Mixon Hall, where the clear glass wall behind the stage gives glimpses of the beautiful fall scene outside matched the music inside.

The program opened with Mozart's Symphony No. 39 and it took most of the first movement for me to settle in -- and the orchestra seemed to also take at least a portion of that movement to really hit its stride. The second movement can be described simply as strolling, and was very relaxing -- I found myself slightly craving a light snowfall beyond the glass. The fourth movement, though, was my favorite from the piece with a playful opening, a persistent flutter of notes and particularly strong winds.

In the middle of the program and my unreserved favorite from the program was Ante Grgin's Theme and Variations No. 2 with the Nikola Djurica playing the clarinet solo magnificently and both he and the orchestra had a great energy. ("Virtuoso" was an adjective thrown out by many of the audience members around me immediately after the piece and I have no grounds upon which to disagree).  The piece had two distinct moods: In the first part, it is a dance--a slow loving embrace between Clarinet and Orchestra both in spirit and execution. Inexplicably, outside the all two leaves fluttered from somewhere above the hall and oh-so-carefully drifted to the ground, perfectly capturing the mood of the piece. In the second part, the connection between soloist and orchestra remained just as strong, but the sound took on a more energetic and swingy feeling.

The standing ovation was  immediate, unsurprising, and quite enthusiastic.

In a true case of "the show must go on" it's worth noting one of the cellists spent much of the second half of the piece apparently trying desperately to stifle a sneeze--while obvious in physical discomfort she managed to keep the music flowing.

The program ended with from Strauss's Le  Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite which didn't match the strength of the Theme and Variations. The overall balance for the first three movements seemed a little wonky, though the third movement was enjoyably lively. The fourth movement (The Entrance and Dance of the Tailors) evoked the imagery of dancing tailors and had a beautiful solo violin part, and the fifth and sixth movements were acceptable, but the seventh movement (Entrance of Cleonte, after Lully) would prove to be my favorite from the piece: Beginning with a restrained air, it gives way to lively winds before ending with a decidedly regal mood, while the ninth movement had a triumphant feeling with a beautiful passage featuring harp (uncredited) and principal cello (Thomas Carpenter) playing alone)


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Schola Cantorum de Venezuela (Viva & Gala)(@ClevelandArt)

If it seems like many of the recent posts have revolved around the Cleveland Museum of Art it may because of how accessible -- both physically and psychologically -- the institution is--and how much there is going on at any given time . Tonight I had driven to the Museum to find Rachel in the galleries, but when I walked into the North lobby I bumped into Tom Welsh, the museum's Associate Director of Music, who had asked if I was planning on attending the concert.

"Concert? Tonight?" I asked momentarily confused and he mentioned the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela -- a Venezuelan choir. Not knowing if Rachel would be up for it I didn't commit, but when I found her hiding in "A Passion for Prints: The John Bonebrake Donation" she was also interested so we made our way back to the lobby.

I initially confused the ticket seller by asking for "two tickets" -- For what, she needed to know: The film, The lecture, The exhibition, The Choir. Confusion resolved and tickets in hand we found or way up to our seats on the balcony. My first time up there, I was interested to see how it would compare: While it offers a great vantage point, I felt a bit emotionally distant from the performers on stage.

The program assembled by the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela -- hailing from a country as known for its musical culture as anything else -- came in two parts: Aqua (Water) and Fiesta (well...Fiesta) with the Fiesta generally bolder and a bit more lively.

While I'm generally attracted to sharp contrasts, in Agua the subtle variations in texture from piece to piece and between voices within a piece were mesmerising, and the relative even keel of that half of the program created the perfect mood for some quality meditation. Cloudburst, "a ceremony, a celebration of the unleshed kinetic energy in all things" was a favorite the program with bold statements performers and the perfect vocal representation of rain (along with support from a handful of instruments). In the next piece, Binnamma, the rise and fall of voices sounded like the ebb and flow of waves. Closing out the first half, Yemaya, with soloists Paul Sojo, Javier Silva, and Victor Gonzalez, was a very light, happy, and moving choral piece and was my favorite from the first half of the program.

After intermission the show resumed with Primavera Portena from Las Cuatro Estaciones (Spring in Buenos Aires from The Four Seasons) with the program note that "the four tangos that comprise The Four Seasons are instrumental and in this program, the chior [sang] them with instrumental accompaniment." -- of course, a fiesta should start with a tango! Mule Rendeira (Lacemaker Woman) with percussion was hypnotic and rythmic. Cerezo Rosa (cha cha cha) was a lively dance, and all of the other pieces in the program were likewise lively and enjoyable. I'd be remiss to not mention Besame Muchowith the translated lyrics "Kiss me, kiss me much...", Son de la Lomay (They are from the Hill) with a good rhythm and, to borrow a lyric "con suis trovas fascinates que me las quiero aprender" [and I want to learn their fascinating rhythm].

The program ended with Nuestra Navidades (Our Christmas) including a bit of an audience sing along and concluding with a true fiesta on stage -- including a couple who had been dancing in the aisle joining the chior.


Part I: Aqua
Calcano: Evohe (Text: Planchart; Venezuela)
Castellanos: Al Mar anochecido (To the sea in twilight) (Text: Jimenez; Venezuela)
Whitacre: Cloudburst (Text: Paz; USA)
Golijov: From Oceana (Text: Neruda; Argentina)
A. Grau: Binnamma (Spain/Venezuela)
G. Grau: From Aqua (Text: Palacios; Venezuela) [Cancion de los rapidos remeros (Song of the Rowers); Yemaya

Part II: Fiesta
Piazzolla: From Las Cuatro Estaciones (The Four Seasons) (Arr. Escalada; Argentina) [Primavera Portena (Spring in Buenos Aries)]
Brazilian Folk Song: Muile Rendiera (Lacemaker Woman) (Arr. Fonseca; Brazil)
Lopez-Gavilan: Mambo que rico e (Mambo, how nice it is) (Cuba)
Ruffino: Cerezo Rosa (cha cha cha) (Arr. Alvarado; Cuba/Vinezuela)
Frometa: Toy Contento (Arr. Sauce; Venezuela)
Zapata: El Menciona'o (The Named One) (Arr. Ruiz; Venezuela)
Velazquez: Besame Mucho (Arr. A. Grau; Mexico)
Matamoros: Son de la Loma (They are From the Hill) (Arr. A. Grau; Cuba)
Galindez: La Arestinga (Arr. A. Grau; Venezuela)
Barros: Engo una forma mas (I have another way) (Arr. Raga; Cuba)
Rojas: Nuestras Navidades (Our Christmas) (Venezuela)