Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Charlie Chaplin's City Lights

Chrlie Chaplin's City Lights, a silent film with music by Charlie Chaplin (Flower Girl's Theme by Jose Padilla) orchestrated by Arthur Johnston and Alfred Newman, original scoring restored by Timothy Brock. William Eddins, conductor.

Leaving Severance Hall tonight a pair of women on the stairs was heard remarking to the other "How would you describe this to know someone who wasn't here?" and it's true -- it's difficult to describe.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

28 States: West Virginia, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, as you may remember was Rachel and my first Anniversary -- but I was in Rochester, Minnesota all week. I got back into Cleveland late Friday and in a rare change Rachel was free of work for the weekend.

I've wanted to visit Fallingwater -- perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright's best known work -- for as long as I can remember and with the weekend free Rachel suggested a trip. Taking it one step further (and looking for hotels in the area) we, incidentally, crossed West Virginia off my list as the 28th state I've visited* in -- almost 28 years.
Leaving Cleveland yesterday morning we headed Southeast, and stopped at the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History -- two of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, colocated in the same building (we visited The Andy Warhol Museum, another CMP but located downtown, last summer). The Natural History side was way too dense with screaming children to be enjoyable, but the full-scale casts of landmark European buildings facades (and a 1/20th scale model of the Pantheon) were interesting. On the art side, the display was interesting with a large volume of art in relatively little wall space and I felt like with with the modern art I was doing a bit much of "Oooh, Nelson-Atkins [Kansas City] has one just like this one..." or "Walker Art Center [Minneapolis] has another of this artist's..." -- but Rachel humored me.

Continuing our journey East and South we did a quick stop by the Pittsburgh Ikea -- with nothing in particular in mind, we escaped relatively unscaled with two sodas, a pretzel, and two pieces of kitchenry being the only damage done on this trip.

Crossing the border in to "Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia" we made our way to Morgantown where after meandering through parts of the WVU campus we checked into our Hilton Garden Inn for the evening -- this is where Rachel will tell you I got giddy: Walking by one of the side doors I noticed the card reader won't accept cards. "Ooh! I think this may be one of the few hotels using prox cards!" -- and so it was. Rather than the by-now-traditional magnetic stripe ("credit card") key card for access to the hotel rooms, this property is the first I've ever stayed at that uses proximity cards for access to the room... it's a little weird to not insert the key into anything but so cool. What can I say, I'm a geek.

One of my friends is from West Virginia and she had suggested a handful of sights to see but based on timing and seasonality the only one that we could actually try was Cooper's Rock State Park -- but the road to the lookout was closed. With three miles each way and about 2 hours before we needed to be back on the road we didn't make it to the lookout but we did get a decent hike in through the woods. With the sounds of Interstate 68 in the far distance it was eerily quiet and still -- only seeing about three birds and not once hearing rustling in the underbrush it was easy to feel isolated but not detached.

With the appointed time approaching we found our way back to my car and hit the back roads stopping for lunch in a little cafe/general store in Ohioplye (which has an interesting history) before arriving at the ultimate destination: Fallingwater.

A beautiful and timeless property I love the exterior's crisp lines, while the interior's open public spaces and smaller,  more intimate, private spaces with narrowing doorways and lower ceilings but spectacular views from every room in the house and the wonderful white noise of the waterfall that runs under the house. I think my favorite feature of the home, as a matter of fact, wasn't any of the number of cantilevered patios but the descending staircase off of the living room (with a telescoping glass closure) that leads down to the stream... especially after all of the hiking we did today, it seemed like the ideal place to just let ones feet hang in the water to unwind.

While the basic tour is a little superficial and repetitive, the access to the building and its three buildings is worth it, though it would be nice if there was a floorplan for the residence (honestly I haven't looked that far) to really understand the relationship of the rooms on each floor...and I, of course, would have loved to see the home's systems and utility spaces -- as a matter of fact, the kitchen (described as utilitarian and for the owners' staff's use only) wasn't included, but it was certainly worth the visit and Rachel and I are contemplating returning for the in-depth tour perhaps closer to fall as our guide mentioned the foliage is beautiful.

Leaving Fallingwater we spent probably 30 miles working our way through tiny little towns on tiny, winding little hill roads and it was nice scenery if a little white knuckle at times -- before hitting Interstate 76 and riding the unchanging asphalt back to Cleveland via the Ohio Turnpike.


*- While I've set foot in Colorado (connecting flight at Denver International Airport) and Iowa (a few wrong turns while I was in you have to drive through a small corner of Iowa to get from the City of Omaha to Eppley Airfield) they don't meet my criteria [eat at least one meal or stay overnight] and aren't included. Wisconsin is also a little perfunctory, and probably shouldn't be included... but I ate the food, darn it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Seat Backs and Tray Tables/Absentee Landlord/Minneapolis

"Seat backs and tray tables up/Stow your newspapers and cups/we're about to touch down/Midwestern town through the haze" - Fountains of Wayne, Seatbacks and Tray Tables

"Andrew fox...paging Andrew Fox. Please proceed to your nearest airport...............assistance telephone" -- A public address announcement.

I'm sitting. At Gate E7. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, waiting to fly back to my Midwestern town. Last night I didn't get to my hotel -- the Minneapolis Hilton this time -- until about 7:45. Although right across the intersection from Orchestra Hall, with the Minnesota Orchestra show starting at 8, me having not yet purchased a ticket and feeling a bit more tired than motivated to hear classical I decided to sleep instead.

This morning I walked Nicolett Mall (home to Target's flagship store and headquarters, as well as the corner where Mary Tyler Moore threw off her hat for the opening credits of the eponymous '70s television show before strolling through Loring Park (much smaller but similar in feel to New York's Central Park) and walking across the bridge to the Walker Art Center.

Walker is one of my favorite contemporary museums, and not only because my membership level at the Cleveland Museum of Art allows recipricol membership access to Walker at no charge -- but beause it seems like the galleries are always eveolving and there's just enough whimsy to let you let your hair down.

On this visit, I found myself laughing out loud with Absentee Landlord whos exhibition introduction (by curator John Waters) by personification of the collection begs

"Ok, look out you current tenant artworks, there's a new absentee landlord in town, me. And I'm not going for rent control. Sure, the trustees left a security deposit of the permanent collection, but I want to clean house, reward troublemakers and invite crashers.

Aren't all curators landlords who allow fine art to live together in a sublet for a while and be uneasy roommates? Or is it closer to a dictatorship where I can order eviction by deaccession if they talk back, balk at my orders or fail to entice enough public comment?

Are prints, sculptures, painting and photographs relieved to be in a museum storage where they don't have to shine "art-off" and risk exposure to light? Or are they happy when they have to "work"? Get along with each other in public? Hear sometimes stupid comments from hostile museum going amateurs? Publicly humiliate themselves by being forced to live up to their auction prices?"
He continues rather amusingly -- and provocatively here. I also love his closing "Maybe the entire museum going experience in need of an intervention? Why is there no art in the parking lot? Wouldn't a symphony of car crash sound effects remind visitors not to drink too much and drive home after an opening? And why shouldn't the public know how much this show cost? Why not display all of the expense receipts (shipping, insurance, construction) in a vitrine like artistic ephemera and let the museum-goers snoop..."

And the show certainly elicits a certain amount of thought.

But that's certainly not all that's eye catching or provocative in the galleries -- a little bit of fun were a pair of miniature functioning elevators, by Maurizio Cattelan (Rachel will remember he as the artist we saw at the Guggenheim -- also with a miniature elevator, though in a far stranger setting and whole) as well as a giant folding card table and matching chairs (by giant I mean "I'm pretty sure they had to fold the table to fit it in the freight elevator and there's video of them using a scissor lift during the installation")

In "Life like" there's art imitating life, including an extremely life-like Janitor by Duane Hanson, on loan from the Milwaukee Art Museum but reminded me immediately of the Guard in Nelson-Atkin's collection (though so far I haven't been able to determine if they are both works by the same artist)

Unfortunately right around the same time I finished perusing Walker's galleries, the real world (i.e. my clients) surfaced and I found it necessary to return to the hotel business center post-haste where I remained until I drove to the airport.

There's always next time...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

This is a post of admitedly limited interest but while I'm sitting in Rochester Minnesota (yes, they're still washing my towels)...but tonight marks the 1st anniversary of my first date with Rachel, my girlfriend, so...

Happy Anniversary! :-)

(And yes, I sent flowers ;) )

I'll be in Minneapols tomorrow evening and thinking about hearing the Minnesota Orchestra again in addition to visiting my other favoirte Minneapolis institutions...anyone have any votes to cast?


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Guerrero Conducts Beethoven's Pastoral

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral") in F major, Op. 68
Hersch: Night Pieces (for Trumpet and Orchestra), Michael Sachs, trumpet.
Respighi: The Pines of Rome
Giancarlo Guerro, conductor.

The evening was structured a bit differently with the "heavy" piece, in this case Beethoven's Pastoral symphony, which set the evening off to a magnificent start. Each of the five movements, in addition to the typical tempo notation has a relatively detailed subtitle. In Awakening of serene impressions on arriving in the country -- perhaps under the influence of the wonderful weather in Cleveland -- the folksy sound had a very springlike feeling, and I could clearly imagine strolling down a dirt road surrounded by lush green landscapes. In the second movement (Scene by the brookside) I couldn't pin down whether I was hearing the sound of a bubbling brook (as the title would imply) or small waves in a lake lapping over pebbles. There was an oddly unsteady flute--and I wasn't sure what to make of it.

The third (Jolly gathering of country-folk) fourth (Thunderstorm: Tempest) and fifth (Shepherd's Song: Gladsome and thankful feelings after the storm) were played without pause and the mood progressed from an excited gathering with fir, confident strokes without being aggressive -- like a neighborly handshake. A confident solo oboe stood out with announcements...perhaps the event host? The seating position -- immediately next to the unsteady flute from the prior movement made the contrast really stand out. In the fourth movement the storm clouds gathered and the festive sounds turned dreary before becoming stormy. Finally the clouds part, and the sun comes out and the music turns warm.

Unfortunately, the second piece on the program Night Pieces -- a piece commissioned by the Orchestra and composed by Michael Hersch -- was utterly disappointing not to mention headache inducing. A shrill collection of mostly noise, I went into the piece desperately wanting to like it--if for no other reason than it featured the Orchestra's own Michael Sachs--and by the end of the first (of five) movements it took every fiber of my will to stay in my seat and not walk out of the hall. Had this been the last piece on the program I don't think I would have hesitated. The two fleeting highlights both came in the second movement, first a despondent harp comforting the trumpet, and a brief elegy in the strings--but this once again decayed. It probably would have helped if, beyond the composer's biography and comments on the piece there was something (anything!) to help understand why the Orchestra commissioned the piece and why listener should appreciate the piece.

The program concluded with Respighi's delightful The Pines of Rome, who's four movements were played without pause. I think I would have enjoyed it more sans the head pains left over from Night Pieces but even with a slight throbbing it was a series of four vignettes ranging from very festive with a child like exuberance to more mysterious where a religious chant emerges from the darkness and reaches a powerful crescendo. A bird -- a nightingale, to be specific -- is heard in the third movement. The program note observes that "The bird's voice is provided in Respighi's score by a gramophone for which a record used to be supplied by the publisher. Modern performances have more effective ways of suggesting the nocturnal song." -- it wasn't clear if the amazingly lifelike bird heard calling about Severance Hall tonight was the work of the orchestra's musicians or that of a modern take on the gramophone. The fourth and final movement starts with the muted sounds of an army marching and that army comes from the background to the glorious -- crescendoed -- foreground.

It's impossible to avoid drawing a parallel between that army and the Orchestra's return to Miami next week.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Improvise Anything from a Hotel Room (Or: I'm in Pittsburgh)

The next few weeks will be challenging, not necessarily because of anything in particular but because I'm bouncing from project site to project site.

I've also been under the influence of the flu (or something similarly nasty). I think I've finally conquered it -- or at the very least forced it into the background. I just don't have time to be sick. (Though I have penciled in March 29th as a sick day -- it's my first day free of client obligations)

Last night I arrived in Pittsburgh and checked in to what has become my "go to" downtown Pittsburgh Hotel, the Hampton Inn in the Strip District. It's clean, relatively new, and perhaps my number one reason for choosing any hotel over another... I don't have to valet my car.

I'm not sure why I reisst valets so strongly -- and I've certainly loosened up since acquiring my new car -- but I really don't like it if it can be avoided.

It turns out that this was also a good choice because my project for this trip -- in the U.S. Steel Tower -- is a very easy 10 minute walk from the hotel. And the weather has been glorious. I love places where I can walk-- New York City, San Francisco, next week's project in Rochester, Minnesota.

After finishing up today and dropping my stuff back at the hotel, I walked along the Allegheny River portion of the "Three Rivers Heritage Trail System" past Pittsburgh's convention center -- coincidentally designed by Rafael Vinoly, the same architect responsible for the Cleveland Museum of Art's ongoing expansion project -- before zigzagging through downtown and past the buildings housing many of my past Pittsburgh projects (It was interesting, for example, to see how 3 PNC Plaza looks now that construction is finished and the hotel has opened)

Looking at the shared history of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the latter's relative economic prospreity and downtown revitalization gives me hope of what downtown Cleveland can -- and should -- look like if we can get our act together.

On my way back to the hotel I was starting to get hungry but wasn't really being sold by any of the eateries I passed by, until I found one with sidewalk dining where all of the food  being consumed looked good. So I stopped in to Tonic Bar and Grill. Tables were scarce, and I wound up in this odd corner of the 2nd floor with only two tables: There was a couple at the other table and while we waited to order (and then waited for our food, and then ate our food) we chatted -- they were locals, but contrary to Clevelander's stereotype of Pittsburgh, they do not hate Cleveland.

It's amazing the wonderful if completely random conversations you can have with strangers -- who in all likelihood

Anyway the food was good, and after finishing I headed back to the hotel.
For better or worse, it seems one of the NCAA March Madness games was held in Pittsburgh today (odd coincidence: the dress shirt I grabbed out of the closet this morning is orange. One of the teams playing locally was apparently Syracuse, who's color -- again, it seems -- is orange) -- which certainly explains why my room was as bloody expensive as it was -- Pittsburgh usually isn't cheap, but this was pushing it. It also means that I wasn't able to grab a suite.

No suite means no refrigerator or microwave, and generally more sparse accommodation all around. Certainly not the end of the world for a two-day stay but there is the downside: I prefer my caffeine cold. No refrigerator certainly hampers that goal, and I don't want to stumble down to the gift shop half awake.

If there's one thing spending +/- 60 nights in hotels each year will teach you it's how to improvise: How to get the wrinkles out of shirts when the iron looks like it was used as a door stop in a demolition derby (and the bathroom exhaust is working a little too well), how to fit an entire dinner's worth of take out trash into a garbage can roughly the size of a two-liter coke bottle, and :how to defeat the bloody occupancy sensing thermostat so the room actually stays at a comfortable temperature"  among other "great acheivements in hotel room engineering".

Tonight's objective: Using only the items found in your room keep two 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew chilled. One until the evening, one until tomorrow morning.

Now ice buckets have been standard hotel room furnishings since the beginning of time -- or at least since the beginning of rattling, dripping icemakers near the elevators -- but I haven't figured out a task that they're actually useful for. Yeah, you can submerge about 1/2 of one bottle of soda and it will keep it moderately less warm for a few hours, but that's it.

There's also the wirerd plastic liner bag that there's no clear consensus on the proper use of -- I think of it as insulation to keep the melting ice off of whatever you're chilling, while others insist that it's some sort of sanitary liner for the bucket itself (mixing both beverage and ice in the bag so that whatever you pull out is covered in water).

But there's the sink. I pull the stopper, lie down a bed of ice (one bucket), put the two bottles of glorious caffiene inside the plastic bag, and fold the end over to minimize water intrusion. Lay two more buckets worth of ice on top -- and here's the real trick -- take a bath towel, folded in two, and spread it across the top of the sink, anchoring it with the ice bucket, to help keep the cold air in the sink and the warm air out.
Based on past experience, the ice will slowly melt over the course of the night and I'll have a pleasantly chilled beverage at my disposal in the morning.

Ah... the joys of business travel...


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dance Cleveland: Ballet Memphis

After Joe Rebman's harp recital at CIM, Rachel and I headed back down to PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre for one of the two Ballet Memphis performances I previewed a while a back (the program repeats tomorrow at 3:00 PM). Having seen the slightly fictional Memphis two doors down at the Palace Theatre about a week ago I was interested to see and hear Ballet Memphis.

Tonight's program brought together a great mix of dance with classical and modern influences. Opening the program, Being Here With Other People (Julie Niekrasz, Stephanie Hom, Hikedo Karrasawa, Virginia Pilgrim, Rachel Shumak, Ben Warner, Rafael Ferreras, Brandon Rame; Choreographed by Steven McMahon, Music: III Movement (Rondo Allegro) from Beethoven's Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 61) was full of joy -- in the music, dance, and dancer's expressions. Choreographed by a Ballet Memphis member at the beginning of he recession at artistic director Dorthy Gunter Pug's invitation to choreograph something to bring joy to the audience -- and he certainly succeeded.

It was impossible not to settle in to your seat and find a happy place with that beginning of the piece. Subtle humor (and some not so subtle humor in the form of soloist Stephanie Horn's gestures) raised laughter from the audience and set the right tone for the performance.

Next up was an addition to the program Takademe (Kendal G. Britt, Jr.; Choreograped by Robert Battle; Music: Speaking in Tongues I by Shelia Chandra, a solo piece that was full of eye catching movement and ear catching (if slightly hypnotic) sound. Mr. Britt seemed at one with the music and at one point Rachel leaned over and asked if the human body could actually move that quickly. In a post-show question and answer session, Mr. Brit mentioned that both how the day and the specific dynamic of the audience affects his interpretation of the piece, with some audiences welcoming a bit more experimentation than others, and now two performances are exactly the same.

The last piece before intermission Curtain of Green (Crystal Brothers, Steven McMahon, Kendall G. Britt, Jr., Choreographed by Julia Adam, Music: Philip Glass Etudes No. 2 and Etudes No. 5 from Etudes for Piano, Vol.1 No. 1-10) is based on a short story by Eudora Welty about a woman who's husband is killed by a falling tree, and the mourns by taking after her garden where she takes out grief and anger on her Gardner. Seemingly a collection of storybook scenes this dance had a more linear feel (and was a bit more serious) than the first two. Though it was revealed at the post show Q&A that there were a couple technical glitches, the dancers recovered seamlessly and someone not familiar with the dance (including yours truly) would have had any reason to be suspicious.

Which was true of the entire performance -- if there were any other technical problems, the company was so elastic and responsive that they were easily overlooked.
Picking up after intermission, S'epanouir (Crystal Brothers, Stephanie Horn, Hideako Karasawa, Rachel Shumake, Ben Warner, Rafael Ferreras, Brandon Ramey, kendall G. Britt, Jr.; Choreographed by Jane Comprot and Company, Music: Journey to AbunDANCE or S'epanouir by Kirk Whalum) starts slow and dark ("A woman is in the depths of an emotional and/or spiritual crisis...") and I was wondering what to say--not particularly enjoying the dance or the music--until both blossomed into a much brighter and happier mood ("...until the community comes to her aid...") and concludes with a gospel choir and a powerful image ("...and lifts her to a joyous transformation.")

Last on the program In Dreams (Julie Niekrasz, Stephanie Horn, Virginia Pilgrim, Travis Bradley, Steven McMahon, Choreographed by Trey McIntyre, Music (all performed by Roy Orbison): Dream Baby, You Tell Me, The Crowd, I Never Knew, In Dreams, Crying. Playing homage to fellow Memphian Roy Orbison, it was an interesting concept and a lovely collection of warm songs but I didn't really sense a strong connection between the music and the dance -- and at times the warm sounds of the music (with dark costumes on a dark stage) tempted me to just close my eyes.
But if that's all I have to complain about it was a very good show...


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cleveland Institute of Music: Junior Recital: Joseph Rebman, harp (@CIM_edu)

Grandjany: Fantaisie Sure un Theme de Haydn
Rebman: Eros: Pithos Anesidoras (2011)
Debussy: Sonate for Flute, Viola, and Harp (Jeiran Hasan, flute; Julia Clancy, viola)
Saint-Saens: Fantaisie for Violin and Harp
Ravel: Introduction and Allegro (Andrea Hughes, Nicole Sauder, violin; Julia Clancy, viola; Cecilia Orazi, cello; Jeiran Hasan, flute, Elinor Rufeizen, clarinet)
Joseph Rebman, harp

The harp is an instrument relatively rarely encountered in the wild, and there seem to be relatively few orchestral peices that feature the instrument. I was delighted a while back when, at a Classical Revolution event a harp rolled through the front door and the attendees were given a unique and upclose exposure to the music of the harp. That harpist was Joseph Rebman (who I also heard at FiveOne Music's Sonic Cinema performance last year), and Mr. Rebman was kind enough to extend an invitation to his junior recital this afternoon, and it was wonderful to hear the instrument again.

Although today's recital was more traditional in both programming and setting than either of those events it was no less interesting. As expected, the harp was at the forefront and the range of both the instrument and Mr. Rebman were demonstrated.

Marcel Grandjany's Fantaisie Sur un Theme de Haydn for solo harp was crisply played and I was impressed by the nimble finger work -- the piece was festive with ever so slight a hint of mediteranean flair about midway though. Second on the program, an impressive composition by Mr. Rebman, Eros: Pithos Anesidoras was likewise interesting, beginning with alternating notes played by his left hand with plucked interruptions from the right hand. As the piece progresses there's a sense of building energy and frenzy into an explosion and then a more deep and meditative sound -- both deeper and more meditative than I typically think of for a harp.

Debussy's Sonate for Flute Viola and Harp, was technically interesting for contrast in instruments: In the first movement, the impulse of the harp, the sustained notes of the viola, and the flute as the wind outsider. Between the three the sounds of spring seemed to be floating in the air. In the second movement, the feeling becomes even warmer and you begin to feel as if you're running through the countryside, but the third and final movement starts with an opening that seems almost ritualistic and builds to an exciting crescendo.

After intermission the recital picked up with Saint-Saens's Fantaisie for Violin and Harp which was full of the somewhat sureal feeling (almost pastel-colored view on reality) that I associate with Saint-Saens's works, though it turned intense nearer the end

Closing out the program Maurice Ravel's Introduction and Allegro featured the largest ensemble from the afternoon's program with a slow, romantic introduction and strong relationships between the individual instruments, as when Elinor Rufeizen's clarinet met a note begun by Ms. Orazi's cello. The variety of sounds combined with the extensive solo piece made the piece quite enjoyable to hear, even if it isn't quite as striking as some of Ravel's better known works.


Cleveland Museum of Art: Ensemble Signal: Music of Steve Reich (@ClevelandArt)

Reich: Sextet (1984) (Jamie Dietz, Doug Perkins, Bill Solomon, David Skidmore, David Friend, Lisa Moore)
Reich: Double Sextet (2007) (Courtney Orlando, Olivia DePrato, Lauren Radnofsky, Caitlin Sullivan, Kelli Kathman, Jessica Schmitz, Bill Kalinkos, Ken Thomson, Doug Perkins, David Skidmore, David Friend, Lisa Moore)
Brad Lubman, conductor; Paul Coleman, sound director.

I first consciously heard Steve Reich's music in the form of New York Counterpoint played by Elinor Rufeizen at her Junior Recital at CIM and then again in the Museum's Contemporary Galleries. This year marks Steve Reich's 75th birthday and over that period of time his music and from of minimalism have snuck into culture through film and other avenues.

Sextet, from 1984 the first piece on tonight's program, was heavily percussive and shared many of the same textures and feelings of New York Counterpoint, and like that piece I loved the vibrant feeling of the energy of an urban landscape that evolves. While sometimes ambiguous (in the program note the composer observes "In music which uses a great deal of repetition, I believe it is precisely these kinds of ambiguities that give vitality and life") the overlapping sounds and constant motion gave a nicely drifting focus from instrument to instrument. Pushing forward it was interesting to hear as impulses from the vibraphone had effects of rippling through the pattern established by the other instruments, like a drop of water disturbing the glassy surface of a still lake.

Taking yet a different feeling, the piece earns a slower, more dark and ominous feeling making me think of a dark side street near a happening district at night. That feeling didn't last long with a dramatic shift and punctuated change to brighter sounds that would have been right at home in a busy elevator lobby with cars quickly arriving and departing with the accompanying chimes, transitioning into what I scribbled to myself as a "time clock tango" with the hustle at the end of a shift to punch out and go home -- with the next feeling being unquestionably one of rush hour.

Throughout the piece the insistent, driving, feeling of the percussion was stunning.

After intermission, Double Sextet finished the program. According to the program note it can be performed either by a single sextet playing against a recorded iteration of itself or by two different sextets simultaneously occupying the stage. The use of a single group of musicians playing against is similar to the technique in New York Counterpoint, and is an interesting challenge for the performer. Tonight's performer was the much rarer true double sextet and while I didn't have any clear images formed while listening to the piece it was interesting to hear the relationship between instruments at any given moment and the amazing cohesiveness (Honestly, 12 different musicians playing 6 different instruments, rarely--if ever--playing the same thing, has to be a difficult feat to pull off). Once the initial bright energy faded a more melancholy sound emerged and the sound that hovered over the ensemble made me think of a slowly played accordion.

After the performance it was interesting to hear reactions -- virtually everyone enjoyed the concert, but if you asked someone to pick a favorite the results were nearly perfectly split. 


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Dohnanyi Conducts Beethoven's Ninth

Ligeti: Atmospheres
Wagner: Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 ("Choral")
(Meagan Miller, soprano; Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano; Eric Cutler, tenor; Iain Paterson, bass-baritone and The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor.

Periodically a word pops into my head that seems appropriate I just have to check the definition of; listening to tonight's concert gobsmacked was that word--it's definition "utterly astonished"-- perfectly applicable to tonight's nearly sold-out concert.

Based on information on the Orchestra's website shortly before the concert's start time there were only about 60 seats (plus some standing room) available in the house: Surveying the hall from the side of the Box Level, that number actually seemed high. (If you're attending any of the remaining 3 concerts this weekend, allow plenty of time: I arrived an hour and fifteen minutes before the concert and the Severance Garage was already full

The first two pieces come from different composers from different eras that when played without pause seem amazingly closely related. The program note mentions that portions of Atmospheres along with other works by Gyorgy Ligeti were used (without permission) in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey  and in listening to the piece it's easy to understand why. The feeling throughout is of rugged darkness, as if the listener is drifting through space encountering planets and constellations along the way. Some of the sustained notes early in the piece were reminiscent of an organ, others where the wind players passed air through their instruments creating a very desolate sounding wind. A piano is found on the opposite side of the stage from its usual home--and it's played exclusively by percussionists directly manipulating its strings.

The prelude to Act I Wagner's Lohengrin, had an easy by contrast the sensation was one of being distinctly Earth bound. Instead of the isolated darkness of Atmospheres, it seemed to be the restrained glory of the first rays of sunrise wit just a hint of wind sweeping across a field of grain (that imagery may have been helped by a slight draft of pleasantly refreshing cool air at about this time in the piece.

Through both of those I think there may have been times when my heart stopped beating for fear of intruding upon the specialness of the connection between Mr. Dohnanyi and the orchestra -- there was clearly mutual respect.

Following intermission, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 -- perhaps the best known piece in the classical literature and I know a few people thing the piece has become a little overworn and threadbare -- but that couldn't be further from the truth with The Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, and Christoph von Dohnanyi. All four of the movements were wonderful but I was particularly pulled into the confident and celebratory second movement (Molto vivace--Presto--Tempo I) and, of course, the fourth movement (Presto--Allegro assai--Presto, Finale on Schiller's Ode to Joy) which brought out the full and unrestrained power of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. The balance between orchestra and chorus was spot on with occassional explosions of vocal energy to hit home the point.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cleveland Museum of Art Young Professionals (@ClevelandArt)

One corner of the Atrium as viewed from the Boardroom.
A single photo does not do it justice.
Anyone who knows me -- or who has read more than a few installments of this blog -- knows that I'm a passionate supporter of the arts in Cleveland and a relatively young professional.

Heretofore the Cleveland Museum of Art has not had an organization targeting its appeal at the Younger Professional and I have to admit that I've been a bit concerned that the sharp and stately appearance of the Museum's physical presence may unfairly color others impression of the institution. Namely, as something "old" "stuffy" and "academic"; something that as I've become closer to the museum is certainly not true of either the Museum, its staff or current leadership.

In short something should be done to take the sharp edge of the granite exterior to help other young(er) Clevelanders to enjoy and appreciate the gem we have in our back yards.

Luckily I'm not the only one who has felt this way and a group of staff within the museum over the past few months has been quietly reaching out laying the groundwork for such an endeavor, culminating in the first official task force meeting tonight.

Tenatively named RallyMUSE, there are some really exciting ideas in the air and it will be exciting to see what comes out out meetings between  now and when the group officially launches later this summer.

I probably shouldn't say much more -- and perhaps I shhouldn't have said that much -- but while I'm on a roll, it's clear that this endeavor has the enthusiastic support of all levels of museum staff. Likewise the crosssection of individuals in attendance was wonderfully diverse. Through conversations that bubbled across the course of the evening it's clear there are a lot of passionate people inside and outside the museum prepared to invest time and energy to help make this a success
I'm looking  forward to the process and already can't want of the official launch!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

PlayhouseSquare: Memphis The Muscial

In 2010, I was lucky enough to win a PlayhouseSquare-sponsored trip to the Tony Awards as a seat filler. Though that evening was at once both a blur and unforgettable, looking back at that show the most memorable performances were American Idiot (featuring blinding light and the music of Green Day) and Memphis -- for the sheer energy of performance during the show and then the unadulterated joy that seemed to break free in Radio City Music Hall when the Best Musical Win was announced (YouTube video).

Combined with the inclusion of the song Memphis Lives in Me on a Broadway Sampler digital album I picked  up somewhere along the way, I was eagerly awaiting Memphis's arrival in Cleveland. Tonight seemed like a good night to head downtown -- and fortuitous timing with DanceCleveland presenting Ballet Memphis next weekend.

Collecting Rachel from work and heading towards PlayhouseSquare the evening got off on the wrong foot with quite possibly the most inattentive, slow, and generally lackluster service[1] (combined with overpriced and mediocre food) I've experienced in a restaurant from Star at PlayhouseSquare--it reminds me why I don't dine in the district more often. Putting more weight on the wrong foot, I have to say I despise PlayhouseSquare's practice over the past year or so of forcing ushers to march around the house with "No Cameras" signs on poles. It's distracting, seems rather amateurish and a bit demeaning.

Luckily, when the curtain rose and the houselights dimmed that all faded  into the background as we slipped back into the 1950s where Huey (Brian Fenkart) is a white man who seems either willfully or blissfully ignorant of the matter of race as a societal divider. Huey is drawn to "race music"--facing challenges and finding success as a DJ then television host, chasing the love of a talented black singer, Felicia (Felecia Boswell) in a time when such a relationship wouldn't be tolerated. Felicia finds success and a New York recording contract, Huey has the opportunity to follow her to New York and take his television show nationwide but only if he replaces his dancers with whites -- which he refuses to do, and after kissing Felicia on TV fades to obscurity while she finds success. (The Wikipedia entry has a full synopsis)

The music is powerful and as compelling as the story and weaves the elements together; my favorites being Everybody Wants to be Black on a Saturday Night, Memphis Lives in Me, and Steal your Rock and Roll. Every time I looked over at Rachel she was enjoying it -- frequently laughing to a degree usually reserved for one of  my truly awful puns. And I have to say that Mama's (Julie Johnson) performance in Change Don't Come Easy and the scene leading up to that number reminded me of Rachel's mom.

Though minor little technical issues tend to drive me crazy, an have been a factor in attending fewer PlayhouseSquare performances, this performance was pleasantly free of such warts: The audio was clear and competently mixed; lighitng was compelling and directed the audience's attention without being distracting.

Although said to be based to some extent on the life of Memphis DJ Dewey Philips (the first DJ to play an Elvis Presley record on the air), sitting in the Palace Theater, just down the block for the former location of the WJW-AM studios it's impossible not to consider some of the parallels to Cleveland DJ Alan Freed -- credited with popularizing the term "Rock 'n' Roll" and to wonder how the same love story would have unfolded in a "northern" city during the same period.

Memphis, through March 11 at the Palace Theater, PlayhouseSquare.

[1] Of many examples, we're seated: We wait several minutes before our waitress shows up, asks us if we'd like a wine or martini list. I say yes please. She disappears. Several minutes go by before she reappears and asks us what we'd like to drink, we remind her that we still haven't seen the wine list. Several more minutes go by before we see a wine list. More time passes  before she returns to take our drink order. It was nearly a half hour between being seated and  first drinks.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1000+ Visitors plus Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1968-70

February marked a milestone for Lincoln in Cleveland: During the month this blog had more than 1,000 unique visits. While I've been flirting near the thousand mark for the past several months this is the first time I've hit that number. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to read -- I always welcome comments and suggestions.

Since this week has been quiet (though Rachel and I are thinking about seeing Memphis at PlayhouseSquare Frideay) Below I continue with the series looking that the Cleveland Museum of Art, through old issues of its publication, The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art. All of the posts in the series, in reverse chronological order, can be found here.

My collection of Bulletins continues with September 1968. The format changed sometime in the 1960s and by the September issue, the bulletin no longer carries a issue or volume number and it is devoid of information about the Museum, instead presenting extensive essays on specific pieces.

This format continues in November 1968 but the back cover announces Design and the City: An Architectural Exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art from December 11 to January 12: It sounds interesting, and I wonder if any lasting change came out of it:
"...conceived by the Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and brings together the interest of the public and professionals alike in planning for choesive improvement of the Metropolitan Cleveland Area. The ehxibit [...] consists of the efforts of over 60 architects, planners, engineers, and desigeners as well as numerous public officials of the city and the county, the Cleveland Board of Education, Case Western Reserve University, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, and the Seven County Transportation Study. Interesting physical features of past and present Cleveland are shown together with possible directions for future planning of the city"
December 1968 through February 1969 are also again devoid of institutional infromation, but June 1969 includes the 1968 annual report which is full of gems, some foreshadow the Museum's current expansion and renovation projects. The new Educational Wing, designed by Marcel Bruer, began construction on June 17, 1968:

The curtailment of the Museum's exhibitions and activities -- due to a lack of classrooms or auditoria for the duration of construction -- is in fine focus, as is the work of the Museum's "inhabitants" -- which from the description has probably not changed much in the 43 years since, but in reading
"[68.206] is the Museum's registration number and has also been carefully painted onto the back of the painting by a member of the Registrar's Department. Here at least four cards must have been prepared [...] these are the permanant records by which the Museum mantains its inventory of works in the collection."
I have to assume that these cards (and the "notebook with much additional information gleaned from previous and continual research" maintained by the Paintings Department) have been supplanted by technology, but I'm sure the process is much the same. The introduction, announcing the addition of 365 new works to the collection and pinning completion of the Educational Wing Construction as 1970, continues "We are more certainly justfied than Mr. Micawber in repeating that, "Things will be much improved in the not too distant future" -- as it will be when the current renovation and expansion is concluded.

Although reports of individual departments are interesting, very little jumps out as being strongly relevent after 40 years, though it was interesting to read the Registrar's report noting a collection of 41,287 objects (I haven't been able to locate the 2011 current collectcion size), and Public Relations noting Museum attendance of 435,106, "a reduction attributed in part to inconveniences occasioneed by the construction of the new Education Wing."

The Printing department is proud to announce that a IBM Selectric Composer was installed to facilitate printing of some publications formerly printed outside. Admission to the museum continues to be free -- and Monday remains day off for the Museum's galleries, with normal hours being published as  Tuestday, Thursday, and Friday 10-6, Wednesday 10-10, Saturday 9-5, and Sunday, New Year's Day, and Memorial Day 1-6.

The February 1970 and February 1974 bulletins have little text but serves as an illustrated "Year in Review" for acqusitions from the previous year, and it's interesting to compare acquisitions over time and to see how many of the pieces from both I can recall seeing in the Museum's galleries -- somewhat suprisingly, I recognize more pieces from the 1970 edition.

June 1974 ends this tour through the Museum's history-via-Bulletin with the 1973 annual report. Light on institutional (vis collection) information, Betsey Belkin is noted as joining the Cleveland Museum of Art Library -- today, Ms. Belkin is Ursuline College's Director of Library. Also coming of note from the Library is the note that the circulating collection of the library's photography department has been phased out (with much of the contents donated to the Cleveland Public Library). This change makes the Museum's library for the first time completely non-circulating.

Burried near the end of the report, in the sea of text, "A decision was reached to permanently install The Thinker in its present damaged condition in front of the museum's south entrance. A bracket was designed and manufacturerd to support the sculpture on a new granite pedestal which was imported from Italy." -- it's easy to forget that the well-weathered and slightly deformed statute wasn't always the way we see it today.