Monday, February 27, 2012

Gerald Finley Astounds at Alice Tully Hall

 Gerald Finley is one of the most sought after recitalists in the world because of his diction, colors and overall musicality.  After attending tonight's recital with Gerald Finkey, bass-baritone, and Julius Drake, piano I was inspired.  These two artists are quite the dynamic duo, not only because of their technique, but because of their artistry.  It was interesting to hear another setting of Goethe's poem Erlkonig, set by Carl Loewe in addition to the famous setting by Schubert.  Loewe was a professional singer, and nicknamed the Schubert of Northern Germany according to Kenneth Lafave. Schubert was a tenor himself interestingly so. The Schubert set was a series of gems.  To perform a difficult set ending with Schubert's setting of Erlkonig is not an easy task.  However, the performers made it seem easy,  Finley's performance of "Der Zwerg" was the best I have heard to date.  What a dynamic range, and what control from both artists.   The second half of the program featured songs in English, whereas, the first half was all German.  I was hoping the performers would do some Ravel, but alas, I can't have everything. The beginning of the second half featured a set called "Look down fair moon" by Huw Watkins.  I thought that the performers were doing War Scenes by Ned Rorem when I first saw that, but instead they did a North American premiere of this work. I was moved that the title is a poem by Walt Whitman.  Finley and Drake again made a very difficult set seem easy.  The range is from a low F to a high G.  The set was very interesting, and very difficult.  The Britten folk song arrangments were a joy to listen to, and The Tale of the Oyster by Cole Porter was a delightful encore. I really like the arrangments of "Greensleeves" and "I Wonder as I wander", which both artists performed so beautifully.  What makes Gerald Finley and Julius Drake special is that performing means something to them, so they are a pleasure to watch.  They are two of the greatest classical performers today.  Finley takes risks when he performs, which takes a lot of courage, and certainly pays off for him.    

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lin Slur

I hate any type of racism, period and end of story. Jeremy Lin is a new celebrity, and a lot of things come with that territory. But, I didn't read any manual which said that racist comments come with the territory, but it does. That goes for everyone, not just celebrities. There's a lot of racism which goes unnoticed with people who are not celebrities. Using the word Chink in a headline is unacceptable. Jeremy Lin's turnovers mean that he is pressing to hard because he wants to win. He is a man who wants to win basketball games. He's so humble in interviews that he credits his teammates above himself. It doesn't matter at all who he is. What matters is the fact that racism is out there. I really cannot get a grip on the logic of racism. People are just people. I forget who wrote the slur, and I know he apologized, but to me that just doesn't cut it. He should be fired because he could have just commented on the turnovers and not made the racial statement. I was really taken back when I heard about this on CNN this morning. The CNN crew wouldnt even repeat it. We are all just people, and that's the end of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Unanswered Question

The Unanswered Question     Charles Ives, who was an American composer wrote a gorgeous piece called "The Unanswered Question", where there is a mixture of serenity, questioning and uneasiness.  I decided to listen to this work again yesterday, and it is one of those works of art that takes my mind off of things and keeps me focused on the actual piece.  I started playing this piece and the cat sat next to me on the bed.  I don't know if she has an affinity for music.  However, I do know that she dislikes certain things.  The piece starts out with a serene chorale in the strings which represents some type of peacefulness.  Ives said it represents the Druids, and I can hear the pious nature in it.  When I think about the string chorale, i picture outer space with the stars and planets in the background.  When the solo trumpet enters, the question is being asked.  The question of why we are all here is what I get from it.  There are a lot of questions in human nature which are unanswered.  Such as fear of the unknown.  No one knows what is really going to happen in the future.  That uncertainty can be heard in the wind instruments, but that fear goes away when the strings come back in with the chorale.  This whole piece is like trying to meditate with the mind being an ease, then thinking about something intently, then back to piece again.  Interestingly, the most clear tonal aspect of this piece is in the strings.  The solo trumpet asking the question, and the winds with their uncertainty are more ambiguous tonally.  Charles Ives was a versatile composer in that he could be philosophical, spiritual, humorous, sensitive and patriotic.  This piece, "The Unanswered Question" is spiritual and philosophical.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ernani is Revived at the Met

Vengeance and loyalty are two significant themes in Victor Hugo's "Hernani", which was set to music by Giuseppe Verdi in 1844.  Verdi's opera is under the Italian title of "Ernani." This opera is early Verdi at it's finest where he takes the melodies of Bellini and declamatory style of Donizetti and increases the size of the orchestra while raising each voice parts tessitura.  The current production of "Ernani" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York features Angela Meade as Elvira, Roberto De Biasio and Marcello Giordani as Ernani, Dmitri Hvorosrovsjy as Don Carlo and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Silva.  The Metropolitan opera chorus and orchestra are conducted by Marco Armiliato.  The opera "Ernani" requires very good singers.  How do these singers measure up?   Angela Meade sang with ease from bottom to top, and with power in the big ensembles.  Roberto De Biasio sang Ernani solidly, but was not on the same level as Ms. Meade.  His tenor carried well in the Metropolitan Opera house though.  Dmitri Hvorostovsky got applause from the audience when he came out, and it was well deserved.  His presence and upper range as Don Carlo were strong.  His singing of "vieni meco" at the end of act two was a lovely moment.  His lower and middle range seemed manufactured in that he was trying to make it sound bigger than it was, and therefore, it was not authentic.  Ferruccio Furlanetto is 62 years old and still singing brilliantly.  He wisely mentioned in an interview that it is smart to wait until you are older and more mature to play an older character.  Ruy Gomez di Silva is one of those older characters.  He is near death, and his love for Elvira keeps him going.  Furlanetto not only sang well, he also acted the character  with great intention.  Maestro Armiliato led a strong performance from the orchestra and chorus.  Although, he and the soloists were not together in a few spots.  The chorus sang well, and they did not drag behind the beat thanks to the maestro.  I like Armiliato's approach to the score, and was especially pleased with the Act I prelude. The opera is being performed February 18th and 25th with Marcello Giordani taking over the role of Ernani.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leonora The Cat

This post is dedicated to my Maine Coon mix Leonora. She is quite a character in the true sense of the word. She has a variety of vocalizes ranging from chirps to meows to trills. Rarely does she go above a whisper, but she can get pissed off when she wants to. Try to force her into her carrier. She knows what she wants when she wants it. She is patient about asking for food, but when she hears the laser toy, we must play instantly. This cat is a lifesaver for me, that is why I am blogging about a cat. Although, those who have pets understand the whole attachment business. This cat is quite attached to me as well already. There was no way I thought I would get a female cat. This cat was too good to resist though. There is a special bond between us. She greets me when I come in most of the time, except for the one time I found her under the covers. She likes to guard the table by the window and go into my cd cabinet when I am looking for music to listen to. Maybe she thinks she's helping, I don't know. She's one and a half and still has kitten characteristics. She is very playful. I've had an affinity for animals for most of my life. Having an English Springer for 12 years was a big reason for that. I was afraid of dogs before then. I'm not sure what changed my mind. Same thing with cats. I got bitten once and I used to hate them. However, I learned that they are simply different then dogs. This cat is a winner, and I stumbled upon her by chance. Pets are really good anti-depressants. I'd be lonely without a pet, so I am happy I got her.