1. Avatar Geoffrey Clow
    February 22, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

    Two wonderful pianists gave recitals in La Jolla last week. Their programs were very different, but each seemed designed to make a point, and both succeeded completely. Schiff’s program of four familiar Classical / early Romantic composers gave him the opportunity to display (as you conveyed so well) the remarkable level to which technique can be refined. It was fun to see a man in his sixties take such childlike joy in employing all of his tools. His judicious pedaling was often very sparing, which made it all the more effective when it became generous; his touch ranged from shivering delicacy to forceful leaps; his keyboard runs were crystal clear; his tempos were rock-steady; the melody lines ranged from bell-like sounding to rich reverberations; and every technique transited myriad gradations. My musical experience is limited, but nonetheless, this performance gave me shivers.

    Another noteworthy performance last week was the Wednesday duo recital by pianist Aleck Karis and cellist Michael Nicolas. This was a modern music performance to seduce and possibly convert the most timid music fan. (I wish you had been there to report the results, Ken.) The program consisted of five “scary” names in modern music, Charles Wuorinen, Earle Brown, Ben Weber, Morton Feldman, and Elliott Carter. The works chosen seemed to achieve several ends: exhibiting key traits of each individual composer, demonstrating the range of techniques in modern music, and demonstrating that its innovation is also very musical in effect. The Wuorinen was atonal yet richly timbral. The Brown let us hear what palettes the instruments can be, beyond our conventional expectations. The Weber used serial techniques, yet reminded me of through-composed melody lines from many centuries ago. The Feldman created the amazing and somewhat disturbing sensation of time stopping. The Carter was a full four-movement sonata culminating the evening, showing how a traditional form evolves to remain relevant and satisfying.

    Karis and Nicolas are master musicians who clearly love their repertoire, but there was something extra-special in their performances Wednesday night. They had concrete, mutually-shared interpretations of the works, and had honed their collaborative performance to a point that I would call definitive.


  2. Avatar Ken Herman
    February 22, 2015 @ 4:25 pm

    I would have covered this concert at UC San Diego, but that night I was in Los Angeles attending L.A. Opera’s production of “The Ghosts of Versailles.” SanDiegoStory does not cover the Los Angeles performance scene, but since the San Diego Opera is opening John Adams’ “Nixon in China” on March 14, I thought the Corigliano work might provide some context or comparisons to the upcoming Adams piece.
    Thanks for your keen observations on this program of Carter, Feldman, Weber, et. al.


  3. Avatar KMW
    February 22, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    Fortunately, “Nixon in China” is a much more interesting opera than “The Ghosts of Versailles,”. Even w/o Patti Lupone.


  4. Avatar Ken Herman
    February 23, 2015 @ 8:28 am

    “Nixon in China” launched Adams’ career as an opera composer, including strong offerings such as “Dr. Atomic,” which was produced at the Met after its San Francisco Opera debut. It appears that “The Ghosts of Versailles” has stalled Corigliano’s budding opera career.


  5. Bill Eadie Bill Eadie
    February 28, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

    I saw The Ghosts of Versailles on Thursday evening. James Conlon’s pre-performance lecture helped enormously with my ability to follow the opera, both dramatically and musically. I was very impressed with the quality of the individual singing, as well as the ability of the ensemble to act as a unit (local favorite Darko Tresnjak served as stage director). Marilyn Horne, who originated the role played by Patti LuPone in this production, was in attendance Thursday, and she received a warm ovation when introduced at the lecture. Mr. Corliagno was rapturously received at his curtain call. I’m hoping that the success of this production will encourage other companies to give this fine work a try.


  6. Avatar Ken Herman
    February 28, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

    Bill, I agree that L.A. Opera’s production of “The Ghosts of Versailles” was sumptuous, the singers were clearly A-list, and the direction was sharp at every turn. And Conlon is a persuasive apologist for the work.
    But the opera is, in my analysis, fundamentally flawed. Composer and librettist attempted a grand opera buffa in the first act, but did not have sufficient plot to happily resolve in the second. So they turned their buffa into an opera seria with the trial of Marie Antionette and allusions to the bloody rampages of the Revolution. From a dramatic point of view, I found this rather empty.


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