Tuesday, May 29, 2012

François Bard at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery

Last Friday our office closed early so I headed to Chelsea to browse the galleries. By accident I stumbled upon a show called Not Guilty by François Bard at Bertrand Delacroix, 535 West 25th Street.

For this series Bard, a French painter born in 1959, took his cue from an existentialist novel by Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe. According to Wikipedia:
The plot of the novel is Drogo's lifelong wait for a great war in which his life and the existence of the fort can prove its usefulness. The human need for giving life meaning and the soldier's desire for glory are themes in the novel. Drogo is posted to the remote outpost overlooking a desolate Tartar desert; he spends his career waiting for the barbarian horde rumored to live beyond the desert. Without noticing, Drogo finds that in his watch over the fort he has let years and decades pass and that, while his old friends in the city have had children, married, and lived full lives, he has come away with nothing except solidarity with his fellow soldiers in their long, patient vigil. When finally arrives the attack by the Tartars, Drogo gets ill and the new chieftain of the fortress dismisses him. Drogo, on his way back home, dies lonely in an inn.
At a distance, the paintings look photorealistic but up close they reveal a lush painterly style built on layers and transparencies. The gallerist mentioned that the works are all oil on canvas, painted from life, and are mostly self portraits as well as images of the artist's friends.

Bard's paintings are not specific to any time or place and notwithstanding the vague law enforcement theme there is no discernable narrative. Rather, they convey a primal anxiety, pictorially beautiful but also reeking of fear and unseen violence. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the paintings in the thrall of Bard's technique but also trying to understand why these cropped compositions left me so unnerved.

The exhibit runs until June 2, 2012.


Prisonnier I Jean
51 x 41 1/2 inches

Le trader
63 x 63 inches

Not guilty
63 x 63 inches

La montre
51 x 51 inches

Trop tard
51 x 51 inches

63 3/4 x 51 inches

Le chaos
63 x 63 inches

Prisonnier II Kader
51 x 41 1/2 inches

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Salome at Carnegie Hall

(photo courtesy of the Stamford Advocate)

The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, Music Director and Conductor
Nina Stemme, Soprano (Salome)
Eric Owens, Bass-Baritone (Jochanaan)
Rudolf Schasching, Tenor (Herod)
Jane Henschel, Mezzo-Soprano (Herodias)
Garrett Sorenson, Tenor (Narraboth)

Last Thursday the Cleveland Orchestra presented Richard Strauss's Salome in concert at Carnegie Hall. The opera, which ends with Salome kissing the decapitated, bloody head of the prophet Jochanaan, has to be among the grisliest ever written. According to the program notes, after the opera's first appearance in New York at the turn of the century,  a citizens' protest against the "moral stench" of this "loathsome, abhorrent" work closed the Metropolitan Opera production after one performance.

I thought that listening to this opera in concert would be a good way to experience the music in a visceral manner and sidestep the camp of most stagings. Under Welser-Möst, the orchestra played admirably but seemed to gloss over the restless dissonances of Strauss's score. During the first half I thought I was listening to chamber music. I could also barely hear the singers including Owens, who was stupendous as Alberich in the Met's Ring cycle, though his voice gained clarity as the evening progressed. Owens seemed to view Jochanaan as a coolly erudite seer, condemning but decidedly above being enraged by the queen's immorality. His repudiation of Salome's advances likewise seemed grounded in ethics rather than disgust.

Henschel was regal but obviously unhinged as Heroidas. Henschel played Herod as a cad who just happened to be the king: lusting after the title character then later denouncing her for being too high maintenance.

Stemme turned out to be a riveting Salome, especially after the Dance of the Seven Veils when she silences Herod's offers of riches by demanding the execution of Jochanaan. During her final, wrathful monologue with the severed head, Stemme fully expressed her character's psychosis. It was a privilege to listen to her and I hope that she makes more frequent appearances in New York. She is, after all, considered to be the reigning dramatic soprano in the Strauss and Wagner repertoire.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yunnan Kitchen

(photo courtesy of Grub Street)

Last night, I went to Yunnan Kitchen on 79 Clinton Street (corner Rivington Street) with a group of friends and tried almost everything on the menu.

I don't really know what Yunnan food is supposed to taste like but the food was very fresh, delicious and expertly prepared with lots assertive flavors and unexpected seasonings. The dishes seemed more authentically "asian" than Lotus Blue, the other Yunnan place in Tribeca, while being in step with the modern sensibilities of Momofuku Ssam Bar and Wong.

I particularly loved:

King Trumpet Mushrooms - sawtooth herb, ham
Fried Potato Balls - Yunnan spices, soy-vinegar
Tofu Ribbon Salad - mint, cilantro, chilies
Shredded Chicken - tamarind, crispy taro
Charred Eggplant - sawtooth herb, crushed peanuts, chilies
Ham Rice Cakes - chilies
Scallion fried rice - egg
Grilled skewers (shao kao, particularly the crispy chicken and ground lamb).

For a full meal I'd recommend three or four small plates per person. The service was great and the room had a nice open feel with big windows.

The restaurant takes reservations for parties of six or more (closed Tuesdays) though smaller groups were seated without much of a wait. For something delectable and out of the ordinary, Yunnan Kitchen is definitely worth a trip to the lower east side. I plan to return soon.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monument Lane

(photo courtesy of Monument Lane on Facebook)

Fun fact from the New Yorker: "before the Revolutionary War, when most of the area was still fields, part of [Greenwich Avenue] led to a monument honoring General James Wolfe and his victory over the Québécois, and was known as Monument Lane."

Monument Lane is now a charming restaurant on 103 Greenwich Avenue (corner West 12th Street) that serves updated  American cuisine. It seems to be a bit under the culinary radar and I only heard about it on a Chowhound thread about neighborhood favorites in the West Village.

I went to Monument Lane a few times last winter and enjoyed the pimento cheese toasts (gooey and retro), crispy chick peas (like popcorn and just as addictive), roasted cauliflower quiche, farro risotto, baked dumplings with chard and mushrooms, and a sublime roast duck special.

During my most recent visit I noticed a few new items on the menu:

Mache and arugula salad, buttermilk blue cheese dressing, shaved red onion - delicious and perfectly balanced.

Braised chicken leg and chicken sausage, grits, mushrooms, leek cream, parmesan - excellent, this really was the best chicken stew ever.

Chocolate mousse, peanut butter mousse, chopped salted peanuts, rice crispies - layered in a whiskey glass, this creamy dessert was like the unholy love child of a Reese's peanut butter cup and a Kit Kat bar with 1000 times more calories. But who's counting.... OMG.

It's usually easy to walk in before 7:00 pm but I'd recommend reservations for prime time. The young, goodlooking staff is friendly and efficient and the restaurant has the appealing vibe of a popular gathering place for locals. Open for dinner daily, and for lunch/brunch Tuesday through Sunday. Highly recommended.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Charles Dutoit, Chief Conductor
Maria João Pires, Piano
The Philadelphia Singers Chorale, David Hayes, Director

GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé (complete)

Last Friday I attended the Phildelphia Orchestra's concert at Carnegie Hall.

The program began with a blazing account of Mikhail Glinka's overture to the opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila. This spirited piece affirmed that notwithstanding financial troubles, the Philadelphia Orchestra still ranks among the world's best with a distinctive sound that is surpassed only by the Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic.

I have a treasured recording of Bach partitas by Maria João Pires so I was excited to see her live for the first time. At 67, she is still in top form and her lustrous rendition of Frédéric Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 was nothing short of breathtaking. Her phrasing was full of longing and expectation and sounded achingly beautiful against the famous sheen of the orchestra's string section.

The complete ballet score of Daphnis et Chloé is considered to be Maurice Ravel's masterpiece though it's not my favorite work by the composer - not enough rhythmic variety for me, something like Bolero on a grander scale. Still, the impressionist soundscape has its own beauty and Dutoit drew a committed and polished performance from the orchestra and chorale.

I do hope that the Philadelphia Orchestra sorts out its financial affairs and emerges from bankruptcy soon. It is a national treasure and deserves the full support of its subscribers and classical music lovers everywhere. I'm looking forward to hearing them again next season.

Here is Pires performing the Larghetto from Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 1925-2012

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone singer, born May 28, 1925; died May 18, 2012. I've listened to many of his recordings over the years and regret that I never got to see him in a live performance. His Youtube videos of Mahler lieder were particularly wonderful. Rest in peace.

From The Guardian obituary:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the distinguished German baritone, has died aged 86. His protean career was surely unique, as he sang and recorded more vocal music than any who came before. In particular, he broached more lieder (German songs) than any of his predecessors of the genre, his recordings running into the hundreds. Many of these songs he recorded several times over: for instance, he made no fewer than eight recordings of Schubert's Winterreise.

This truly incredible output was the result of an inquiring mind, an insatiable desire to tackle any and every song he could find, and to be a proselytiser for the art of lieder and singing in general, all these underlined by an instinctive wish to achieve perfection in his craft. More than that, he was an inspiration to the vast number of singers who have followed his example in this field, and made the singing of lieder a common experience. He also created an audience for this kind of music-making. Look at the concert and radio listings, look at the myriad discs of songs released in the CD age, and you will hear the benefits of his pioneering effort.

Fischer-Dieskau was born in Berlin and studied there with the veteran lieder artist Georg Walter, then after the second world war with Hermann Weissenborn, who partnered him at the piano in early recitals. But many of his first successes were in opera in Berlin. He made his stage debut there in 1948, as Posa in Don Carlos at the City Opera, where he would go on to be heard in most of the major baritone roles, Italian and German. From 1949 onwards he was appearing regularly at the Vienna State Opera and at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He also sang at the Bayreuth festival from 1954 to 1956 as the Herald (Lohengrin), Wolfram, Kothner and Amfortas.

In 1961 he created, magnificently, the ego-mad Mittenhofer in Hans Werner Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers at the Schwetzingen festival and in 1978 the title role in Aribert Reimann's Lear at Munich, an overwhelming portrayal. His Covent Garden debut came in 1965 when he created an immense impression as the impassioned Mandryka in a new production of Richard Strauss's Arabella under Georg Solti. He returned later to portray Verdi's Falstaff, a large-scale but somewhat unidiomatic reading.

Among roles in which he was unforgettable and which he recorded for posterity are Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni, the Flying Dutchman, Wolfram in Tannhäuser, Telramund in Rudolf Kempe's classic set of Lohengrin, Busoni's Faust, Hindemith's Mathis, Mandryka, Barak in Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, and both Oliver and the Count in the same composer's Capriccio.

One of Fischer-Dieskau's first and most moving portrayals on disc was as Kurwenal in Wilhelm Furtwängler's legendary 1952 recording of Tristan und Isolde. Another classic recording with the German conductor was of Mahler's Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen. He twice recorded the same composer's Das Lied von der Erde, first under Paul Kletzki, then with Leonard Bernstein, taking the three movements usually sung by a mezzo-soprano and making them very much his own.

Tall, with expressive features, Fischer-Dieskau was a riveting figure on stage and a not inconsiderable actor. Nobody who caught him as Mandryka, Mathis or Wolfram is likely to forget the experience.

His enormous repertory also included many choral works. Besides recording many of Bach's cantatas, he was a sympathetic Christ in both that composer's Passions, an imposing Elijah in Mendelssohn and one of the original soloists in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, the baritone contributions written specifically for him. Britten in 1965 composed his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake for Fischer-Dieskau, just one of the many commissions his singing inspired.

Yet it was with his lieder that he achieved his greatest deeds. He recorded all the songs of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Strauss suitable for a male voice. He worked on them first with Gerald Moore, doyen of pure accompanists, and then was partnered by a host of distinguished solo pianists and the conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, each of whom inspired him to refreshingly new insights.

Fischer-Dieskau had a full, firm and resonant baritone, which could be honed down to the most delicate mezza voce. It was used with the utmost care in managing and projecting the text. He could on occasion be too emphatic in his treatment of words and was sometimes accused of overloading climaxes, but these were only the downside of a singer who was totally immersed in everything he undertook. An excellent linguist, he was almost as happy singing in Italian, French and English as in his native tongue, and he spoke English with virtually no accent.

In a career lasting more than 40 years, there was, as the years went by, inevitably some deterioration in his tone, but he compensated for the decline with a new lightness of approach and an even deeper penetration into the meaning of each song, as his 1986 recording of Winterreise with Alfred Brendel reveals. After he had retired from singing in 1992, Fischer-Dieskau took up another career reciting literary texts, often associated with song. He was also willing to give private lessons to carefully chosen singers to whom he imparted his immense experience as an interpreter.

He published a book of memoirs, Nachklang, in 1987, translated into English as Echoes of a Lifetime. It was an unusual autobiography in showing a man who, for all his many achievements, was uncertain of himself. That reflected the impression made when you met him. He was initially shy, but you always felt that behind the quizzical, sly, humorous eye and manner lay a man of philosophical bent, perhaps amazed himself at what his genius, for it was no less, had led him to achieve.

He is survived by his fourth wife, the soprano Julia Varady, whom he married in 1977, and three sons by his first wife, the cellist Irmgard Poppen, who died in 1963.
Here he is singing Bach (lyrics).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lucian Freud Drawings at Acquavella

My object in painting pictures is to try and move the senses by giving an intensification of reality. Whether this can be achieved depends on how intensely the painter understands and feels for the person or object of his choice. Because of this, painting is the only art in which the intuitive qualities of the artist may be more valuable no him than actual knowledge or intelligence.

The painter makes real to others his innermost feelings about all that he cares for. A secret becomes known to everyone who views the picture through the intensity with which it is felt. The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn. It is just this self-indulgence which acts for him as the discipline through which he discards what is inessential to him and so crystallises his tastes. A painter's tastes must grow out of what so obsesses him in life that he never has to ask himself what it is suitable for him to do in art. Only through a complete understanding of his tastes can he free himself of any tendency to look at things with an eye to the way he can make them fit in with a ready-made conception. Unless this understanding is constantly alive. he will begin to see life simply as material for his particular line in art. He will look at something, and ask himself: “Can I make a picture by me out of this?" And so his work degenerates through no longer being the vehicle of his sensation. One might say that he has come to crystallise his art instead of his tastes, thereby insulating it from the emotion that could make it alive for others.

The painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work. People are driven towards making works of art, not by familiarity with the process by which this is done, but by a necessity to communicate their feeling about the object of their choice with such intensity that these feeling become infectious. Yet the painter needs to put himself at a certain emotional distance from the subject in order to allow it to speak. He may smother it if he lets his passion for it overwhelm him while he is in the act of painting.

Painters who deny themselves the representation of life and limit their language to purely abstract forms, are depriving themselves of the possibility of provoking more than an aesthetic emotion.

Painters who use life itself as their subject-matter, working with the object in front of them, or constantly in mind, do so in order to translate life into art almost literally as it were. The subject must be kept under closest observation: if this is done, day and night, the subject-he, she, or it-will eventually reveal the all without which selection itself is not possible; they will reveal it, through some and every facet of their lives or lack of life, through movements and attitudes. through every variation from one moment to another. lt is this very knowledge of life which can give art complete independence from life, an independence that is necessary because the picture in order to move us must never merely remind us of life, but must acquire a life of its own. precisely in order to reflect life. I say that one needs complete knowledge of life in order to make the picture independent from life, because, when a painter has a distant adoration of nature, an awe of it, which stops him from examining it, he can only copy nature superficially, because he does not dare to change it.

A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure. The artist who tries to serve nature is only an executive artist. And, since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not, depends entirely on what it is in itself what is there to be seen. The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with. If all the qualities which a painter took from the model for his picture were really taken, no person could be painted twice.

The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh. The effect that they make in space is as bound up with them as might be their colour or smell. The effect in space of two different human individuals can be a different as the effect of a candle and an electric light bulb. Therefore the painter must be as concerned with the air surrounding his subject as with that subject itself. lt is through observation and perception of atmosphere that he can register the feeling that he wishes his painting to give out.
A moment of complete happiness never occurs in the creation of a work of art. The promise of it is felt in the act of creation but disappears towards the completion of the work. For it is then that the painter realises that it is only a picture he is painting. Until then he had almost dared to hope that the picture might spring to life. Were it not for this, the perfect painting might be painted, on the completion of which the painter could retire. lt is this great insufficiency that drives him on. Thus the process of creation becomes necessary to the painter perhaps more than is the picture. The process in fact is habit-forming.

- Lucian Freud, "Some Thoughts on Painting," Encounter 111, no. 1 (July 1954)
Among painters, Freud's thick impastoed style has come to define contemporary figurative art and has always been the expressionists' rebuttal against classical realism and photorealism. Freud has been a huge influence on young British artists such as Jenny SavillePaul WrightTai Schierenberg, and Tim Benson, and even inspired a page on Flickr where amateurs like me, who were very much affected by his death last year, did portraits of him in tribute.

There's an exhibit of Lucian Freud's drawings and works on paper at Acquavella Galleries on 18 East 79th Street (between Fifth and Madison Avenues). The exhibit is a great way to see his smaller works which trace his evolution from flat cartoons to densely rendered, almost sculptural figures. There was quite a bit of virtuosic experimentation going on though the playfulness was always kept in check by the introspective, somber mood of his subjects. The exhibit includes a few paintings, fully realized and very fine examples of his craft.

The show closes on June 9, 2012, just a few more weeks to see this rarefied side of Freud.

Some images here.

Boy on a Sofa (1944)
Pencil, charcoal, and chalk on paper
15 x 17 in. (38 x 43.2 cm)

La Voisine (The Neighbour) (1947)
41.3 x 34.3 cm (16.26 x 13.5 in)

Portrait of Peter Watson, Head and Shoulders (1950)
Charcoal and white chalk on grey-brown laid paper
48.1 cm x 36 cm

Study of Francis Bacon No. 2 (1951)
Crayon and chalk on paper
21 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.

Self-Portrait (1961)
Watercolor on paper
13 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (34.6 x 24.8 cm)

Bella (1981)
Oil on canvas
14 x 12 in. (35.5 x 30.5 cm.)

Head of a Man (1986)
Charcoal on paper
25-1/2 x 18-3/4 inches

Self Portrait: Reflection (1996)
35 x 28 cm

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kin Shop

(photo courtesy of Serious Eats)

There's a great little restaurant called Kin Shop on 469 6th Avenue near 11th Street. I used to go there a lot last summer and enjoyed Harold Dieterle's interpretation of Thai food - not authentic by any means, but the flavors are definitely Southeast Asian with a well balanced blend of heat, sweetness, acidity, and salt.

I dropped by last week to try the Thai fried chicken which has been discussed considerably on Chowhound but alas, my server said that they were taking a break from it while figuring out "timing issues." She did assure me that the fried chicken would be back on the menu soon.

At any rate, I tried a few new dishes:

Miang of Fluke, lychees, shiso leaves, chili jam and fried garlic - I have no idea what a "miang" is but the fluke was chopped and served like ceviche on whole shiso leaves. The flavors were remarkably strong, not something that you would associate with delicate raw fish but I loved it, especially the fried garlic.

Fried broccoli, Chinese sausage, young coconut-gooseberry chutney, fermented plum vinegar - Fried broccoli is the best invention ever though you rarely find it in restaurants. Kin Shop's version is lightly battered, non-greasy, and totally crispy. The Chinese sausage was used sparingly so this was a pretty light, almost healthy dish. What more can you ask.

Massaman: braised goat, fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens and toasted coconut - Goat kind of freaks me out but I decided to try this anyway and was glad that I did. The dish didn't  taste goat-y at all. It was almost like osso bucco in a curry sauce. I'll definitely get this again.

Thai iced tea ice cream - I've has this before and I still think it's the best ice cream in New York. There's a peppery zing going on, maybe ginger, which is really nice after an Asian meal.

It's not too hard to get a table and there are plenty of seats at the bar and kitchen counter. Service is always charming and attentive. I'm glad that Kin Shop is still going strong and am looking forward to returning soon for the Thai fried chicken.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Refractions (series)

Here are a few recent oil sketches where I experimented with refracted light and rippled effects.

As I mentioned in a Wetcanvas thread, I usually begin with a classical portrait then start playing around with the palette knife, adding concentrated pigments which (hopefully) would mix optically to resemble the underlying skin tone (like Chuck Close). The vertical palette knife applications are closely spaced around the brightest highlight then alternate with blurred passages to form ripples, similar to viewing the subject through a window while it's raining.

The tricky thing is that I have to work alla prima so that I can move paint around, which can turn messy if I fiddle with it too much. But I like the voyeuristic feel and the rhythmic tension between abstraction and realism. I got the idea from videos (Matrix and Talking Heads among others) and also from contemporary artists such as:

Alyssa Monks
Daniel Ochoa
Andy Denzler
Paul Wright

One of the ladies in art class said they all look like they're taking a shower. I thought that was pretty funny but that's exactly what I had in mind.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Picasso and Françoise Gilot at the Gagosian

Last Saturday after art class I walked over to the Gagosian Gallery at 980 Madison Avenue (between 76th and 77th Streets) to see Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris–Vallauris 1943–1953.

It was a great show, not quite as broad and varied as Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou last year but nevertheless full of striking images. Picasso seemed to see Gilot as cool, willowy creature, somewhat distant and impenetrable. Her imagery was full of graceful verticality with a sort of botanical element.

Gilot was 21 when she met Picasso. She was also an artist and the show included a few of her paintings. The most interesting ones were those that didn't have Picasso's overt influence, especially her early portraits and still lifes. I wished she had explored her own style but I guess that would have been hard to do with prolonged and constant exposure to Picasso's work.

The exhibit also included several archival photographs as well as Picasso's paintings of their children. Catch it while you can. The show closes on June 30, 2012.

Femme au Collier Jaune (1946)

Femme au Fauteuil N. 1 (d’Après le Rouge) (1949)

La Femme au fauteil (1948)

La femme-fleur (Françoise Gilot) (1946)

Maternité (1948)

Enfant Dans Sa Voiture (1949)

Paloma et sa poupée (1952)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ellen Altfest at the New Museum

Last Sunday I came upon the work of Ellen Altfest in the lobby gallery at the New Museum. Altfest, born in 1970, is a hyperrealist whose recent work seems to be about cropped, voyeuristic, and intimate pictures of men, or rather, sections of male body parts.

Her technique is pretty amazing. In her watercolors and oil paintings, she depicts individual strands of hair, thousands of them, against skin. I have no idea how she does that. Her small scale images seem so intrusive and yet unbearably tender at the same time. The exhibit also includes a few still lifes.

Altfest's paintings will be on view until June 24, 2012. More images here:

Head and Plant (2010)
Oil on canvas, 11 x 10 inches

Armpit (2011)
Oil on canvas, 8 3/8 x 7 inches

Gourds (2007)
Oil on canvas, 19 x 38 inches

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jerome Robbins at the New York City Ballet

The Rubinstein Atrium across from Lincoln Center is offering half-price tickets to the New York City Ballet this season so last night I attended a program that featured four works by Jerome Robbins.

In the Night (1970), set to Chopin's nocturnes, featured three duets that portrayed romantic love (Janie Taylor and Tyler Angle), courtly love (Maria Kowrowkski and Andrew Veyette), and tempestuous love (Wendy Whelan and Jared Angle). The final nocturne featured all three couples in various configurations and it still packs an emotional wallop - such an achingly beautiful performance by everyone involved. I rarely cry at the ballet but came very close with this one.

Whelan was as good as ever in one of her signature roles, The Novice in The Cage (1951). The theme is a colony of female creatures that prey on men, set to Stravinsky's Concerto in D for String Orchestra. Andantino (1981), on the other hand, was a more standard classical duet seemingly inspired by Balanchine, featuring Tyler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia in a radiant pairing, set to the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1.

The program ended with In G Major (1975) featuring Ravel's complete piano concerto. I heard the piece with the Boston Symphony Orchestra back in March and it was such a different experience seeing the music animated by ballet steps. Robbins's choreography here is full of wit and humor and he captured the youthful, jazz-age insouciance of the score. Sterling Hyltin and Adrian Danchio Waring were wonderful in the second movement. Danchio Waring in particular has such a noble stage presence and breathtaking line - he deserves to be promoted to principal soon.

Now I'm in the mood for Balanchine. I'll have to check the calendar.

Here's an except from In the Night performed by Sara Webb and Connor Walsh of the Houston Ballet.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Here's today's portrait sketch from the National Academy, oil on linen board.

I'm still deciding whether to leave this as is or develop further. My teacher liked the unfinished background but to me it seems messy. I guess I'm not used to all that raw canvas. I'll look at it again next week.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Mahler, Shostakovich, and Mahler

Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Carnegie Hall

Matthias Goerne, Baritone
Leif Ove Andsnes, Piano


MAHLER "Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft"
SHOSTAKOVICH "Morning," Op. 145, No. 2
MAHLER "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen"
SHOSTAKOVICH "Separation," Op. 145, No. 4
MAHLER "Es sungen drei Engel"
MAHLER "Das irdische Leben"
MAHLER "Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen"
MAHLER "Wenn dein Mütterlein"
MAHLER "Urlicht"
SHOSTAKOVICH "Night," Op. 145, No. 9
MAHLER "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen"
SHOSTAKOVICH "Immortality," Op. 45, No. 11
SHOSTAKOVICH "Dante," Op. 145, No. 6
MAHLER "Revelge"
SHOSTAKOVICH "Death," Op. 145, No. 10
MAHLER "Der Tamboursg'sell"

BEETHOVEN "An die Hoffnung," Op. 94

Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Carnegie Hall

New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert, Conductor

MAHLER Symphony No. 6

Last Tuesday I attended a recital at Carnegie Hall with baritone Matthias Goerne accompanied by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, featuring songs from Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder, and Dmitri Shostakovich's Michelangelo Suite.

Goerne's Papageno at the Metropolitan Opera made a huge impression when I saw him in Die Zauberflöte many years ago, and Andsnes's Schumann Piano Concerto has always been one of my favorite recordings. I was curious to hear both of them again.

At first glance the program seemed rather bleak - lost love, the death of children, mortality - but it turned out to be a stimulating evening. Goerne has a warm, polished baritone which he used to great effect in Mahler. His phrasing was studied and scrupulous (perhaps overly so in Nun seh’ ich wohl where I wished for more abandon) but his emotional commitment was fully evident. His renditions of Urlicht and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen were just heartbreaking.

The Shostakovich songs were like shots of iced vodka between glasses of Mahlerian bordeaux, if you'll excuse the metaphor. More than anything they seemed like declamations set to music and to be honest Goerne's vocal nuances were lost on me. But this is where Andsnes seemed to shine - he conjured many distinct moods with the spare melodies.

The Beethoven encore, An die Hoffnung, was one of the loveliest songs of the evening.

On Wednesday, the New York Philharmonic played Mahler's Sixth Symphony - an unabashed, propulsive rendition of the same themes of love and death. It was good to hear the orchestra at Carnegie Hall where the strings took on an unusual glow. Gilbert chose to play the Andante as the second movement and his was a ravishing, deeply romantic interpretation. The final movement was literally earthshaking: it was almost like hearing it for the first time. The Principal French Horn, Philip Myers, received well deserved bravos at the end.

I'm now curious to hear the orchestra's Memorial Day concert where Gilbert will be conducting Mahler's Ninth. Especially since it's free. Tickets will be handed out at arund 6:15 pm for the 8:00 pm concert at St. John the Divine.