Category Archives: Classical

‘You Us We All,’ well … I am very disappointed

I wanted to love “You Us We All,” the celebrity-citing, pop culture-driven modern opera in Baroque form — in its music, theatrical arc, staging, and costuming — that had its first performance Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater. (You can judge for yourself. Performances continue through Saturday. Buy tickets here.)

After all, I think Shara Worden, a classically trained singer who performs in the pop world as My Brightest Diamond and works the New Music circuit under her given name, wrote the music and is one of the singers.

I didn’t know anything much about Andrew Ondrejcak, who wrote the text, directed, and designed the production or about B.O.X. (Baroque Orchestration X), which commissioned the piece and provides the first-rate instrumental ensemble, but had high hopes.

I’ve frequently enjoyed Worden’s work in pop and New Music. And I’ve been itching for a new work to come along that as exciting and challenging as, say, Thomas Adès’ “Powder Her Face.” But this piece isn’t up to that task.

In fact, “You Us We All” ultimately left me wondering whether I had wasted my evening.
It isn’t without merit. The music is lovely, some of the singing is delicious, the chamber orchestra is splendid, and the text is wickedly funny at times. But all those positives created more of a pastiche than a written-through show.

I chalked up my discontent at first to being tired. I found the piece very difficult to follow, and the poorly projected supertitles almost impossible to read from my upper orchestra seat. (You might think supertitles wouldn’t be crucial for an English-language production, but you’d be wrong.)

But then I saw members of the opening night audience slipping out early. It’s not unheard of at BAM, but audiences there are generally more tolerant and attuned to avant garde work than audiences at, say, the Metropolitan Opera.

I realized I wasn’t just being cranky about this when I read  Zachary Woolfe’s review in The New York Times review, which declares the piece “earnest and eventually tiresome.”

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Bang on a Can cello star performs at at GARNER Arts Center Friday

(Ashley Bathgate/Facebook)

If you have an itch to hear one of the best New Music cellists around but hate the thought of traveling to Manhattan or Brooklyn to do it, Nov. 13 is your lucky day — even though it’s a Friday the 13th!

Ashley Bathgate, a member of the groundbreaking Bang on a Can All-Stars, brings her talents to the county’s own repurposed historic factory complex, the GARNER Arts Center at the Garnerville Arts &  Industrial Center. for a one-night-only performance.

Ashley Bathgate performs at GARNER Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 13.

Ashley Bathgate performs at GARNER Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 13.

If I weren’t committed to working late that evening, I’d be the first in line to get a good seat for what is sure to be an exciting performance by one of my favorite string players.

This won’t be her first time playing in an industrial space like GARNER. Bang on a Can members are quite used to such a setting. They run a summer music camp every year at MASS MoCA, the modern art museum that occupies an old factory complex in North Adams, Massachusetts. GARNER has a similar vibe.

Ashley will play amid  light and sound installations, including projections by downtown Manhattan art icon M. Henry Jones during the performance.

Check out these videos of Ashley in action. (Scroll past videos for venue and ticket information.)

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Ashley Bathgate, cellist

WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Opening at 6:30, performance at 7:30. Click here for more information.

WHERE: GARNER Arts Center, 55 W. Railroad Ave., Garnerville.

TICKETS: $15. $13 for seniors, students, military. Buy online by clicking here.

Classical pianist Vladimir Feltsman: Still looking for the sweet spot

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman arrived in the United States a quarter century ago after spending eight years as essentially a nonperson in the Soviet Union, his homeland. After finally being permitted to emigrate to the West, the former refusenik has tried hard to stop talking about those dark days.

After years of playing many concerts every year, he’s settled into a schedule of a smaller number of carefully selected appearances, always performing superbly, but always on the hunt for the sweet spot. As he tells me in a conversation for lohud.com/The Journal News: “On some good days — it’s not always happening — but when it’s happening, it feels great. There’s like an exchange of energy, which is very much real and tangible, between public and artist. So when that happens it feels really good.”

I spoke with Feltsman in advance of his concert Wednesday evening at Bedford Chamber Concerts (St. Matthews Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall, 382 Cantitoe St., Bedford, NY; 914-522-5150).

Please tap or click here to check out the conversation.

Bangin’ it up at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival

To call Mark Stewart a guitarist would be a disservice. The multi-talented redhead leads participants at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

It’s a disservice to call Mark Stewart a guitarist. He leads a group at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

18 days of fantastic summer music in the Berkshires

Today’s subject: MASS MoCA.

I’ve written a lot lately about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, especially in the last month or two because of Wilco’s splendid Solid Sound Festival, held on the museum campus in North Adams, Mass., in late June.

When Wilco announced the inaugural Solid Sound back in 2010, I pretty much knew it would be great because I had already seen MASS MoCA host many, many editions of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival — colloquially known at Banglewood.

If you’ve been a regular reader of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?, you already know something about the Bang on a Can program. This summer’s program is the 12th annual festival on the beautiful industrial MASS MoCA grounds.

But maybe you’re not a musician, or at least not one who wants to participate in the festival. How does this matter to you?

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

That’s easy. Festival participants do their learning in public, putting on recitals six days a week and participating in a public Marathon concert on the final day. There’s also a performance of Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe‘s Steel Hammer, a full-length piece that weaves together the many variations of the John Henry folk legend.

So there’s plenty of professional-quality entertainment  for people who are just interested in listening and looking at some modern art. (Click through to the jump for schedule and ticketing information.)

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Make time for Lincoln Center Out Of Doors | ALL SHOWS FREE

Singer-songwriter Erin McKeown performs at the 2012 Lincoln Center Out Of Doors festival. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Singer-songwriter Erin McKeown was one of many performers at the 2012 Lincoln Center Out Of Doors festival. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Stellar summer lineup of free concerts

The flyer for Lincoln Center Out Of Doors arrived in my mailbox the other day. It reminded me that I hadn’t posted a single word about this free outdoor concert series yet.

So here goes. It’s a super linuep, as always, meticulously planned by Bill Bragin, director of public programming, and his amazing team.

For now, just let me mention a few names: Kronos Quartet, Asphalt Orchestra, Allen Toussaint, Sahr Ngaujah, Dan Deacon, Jherek Bischoff, Jacob Garchik, Dan Zanes and Ozomatli. (Along with Nick Lowe, My Brightest Diamond, Trixie Whitley, James Burton and Desert Blues. And Rubén Blades, Jason Isbell, Sleepy LaBeef and Amanda Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra.)

Does that whet your appetite? If not, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

The free outdoor shows start July 24 and run through Aug. 11 at various locations around the Lincoln Center campus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Check out the whole lineup by clicking or tapping here (http://bit.ly/15MOo6P).

I hope to see you there.

New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini marries

Screen grab from music writer Tim Page's Facebook pages with his post about Anthony Tommasini's wedding.

Congratulations to Tony Tommasini and Ben McCommon

Music writer and USC prof Tim Page broke the news on his Facebook page earlier today: New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini married Ben McCommon in Manhattan on Friday.

The couple, who have been together for 21 years, tied the knot at New York City Hall, Page reports, complete with a photo of the happy couple displaying their wedding bands.

McCommon is a 1998 graduate of Columbia University’s medical school, is  assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia and attending psychiatrist at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital according to his hospital profile.

Tommasini, a Brooklyn native born in 1948, has been at the Times since 1996. He became chief classical music critic for the paper in 2000. He also is a pianist and the author of two books, Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle, and Opera: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Works and the Best Recordings.

Tom Chapin headlines rocking Sandy fundraiser for Piermont TONIGHT!

Veteran singer-songwriter helping to raise money for his own Superstorm Sandy-devastated village

When the doors open at 7 o’clock tonight at The Turning Point, the venerable music club in Piermont, there will be a greater sense of urgency and community than ever inside.

Tom Chapin

A slew of local favorites, including Tom Chapin, a longtime Piermont resident, will rock out starting at 7:30 p.m. to raise money to help get the village back on its feet in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The Old No. 7 Band, Joe Grunfeld from the Riley Etheridge Band, Becky Deloatch and Billy Procida are also on the schedule. And other guests and favorites are sure to show up and join in.

Tickets are just $25, and available here and at the door. Bring extra cash for a 50/50 raffle, too.

The Turning Point is at 468 Piermont Ave. in the heart of Piermont. Call (845) 359-1089 or click here for more information.

It’ll be a lot of fun and will help a really worthwhile cause.