Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Program at the New York Philharmonic



Andrey Boreyko, Conductor
Frank Peter Zimmerman, Violin

Mendelssohn - Overture to Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde (Son and Stranger) (1829)
Shostakovich - Violin Concerto No. 1 (1945-48)
Dvořák - Symphony No. 9, From the New World (1893)

On Tuesday night I attended the New York Philharmonic's concert featuring works by Felix Mendelssohn, Dmitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvořák.

At the age of 20, Mendelssohn composed his one act opera Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde for a private performance for friends and family. The overture remains its best known excerpt and features a sunny virtuosity that reflected the young composer's talents.

The Shostakovich concerto provided a stark change in mood. Its anxious melodic lines and disturbing rhythms probed the depths modern angst. The third and fourth movements contained  many dazzling passages for the soloist which Zimmerman met with ease.

The New York Philharmonic commissioned Dvořák to write his New World Symphony while he was the director of the New York Conservatory from 1892 to 1895. The composer incorporated American spirituals into the score and it was fitting to hear this expansive, optimistic piece as a prelude to Thanksgiving.

It was interesting to hear the Russian conductor Boreyko's interpretation of a Czech composer's impressions of American folk music. Boreyko imbued the performance with a lilting tenderness that somehow seemed fresh and very touching, and taken together with the two earlier pieces fully demonstrated his range as a conductor. I hope that the Philharmonic plans to invite him to lead many future performances.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mahler's Ninth with the Philharmonia Orchestra

(photo: Richard Haughton)

Due to a busy work schedule I haven't been able to blog about concerts lately but I just had to post about the Philharmonia Orchestra's incredible rendition of Mahler's Symphony No. 9 at Avery Fisher Hall last night.

All I can say is WOW. Mahler's Ninth, composed in 1910, is in my opinion one of the highlights of symphonic literature but it is the rare interpretation that can move this sprawling 90 minute score at a good pace and still leave the listener emotionally wrecked by the end.

The conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, did just that. He conducted the esteemed ensemble with glistening precision but not at the expense deeply felt emotion. The final movement in particular was just ravishing with otherworldly strings and slowly dissolving tempi. It felt like Mahler's farewell to romanticism and everything else that he loved in life.

The program, unfortunately, won't be repeated but New Yorkers will have a chance to hear this work again next spring with Michael Tilson Thomas leading the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Over the past two Saturdays I continued to experiment with acrylic.

I bought a 30 x 30 inch canvas which is huge for me and the portrait of Juan Michael, the model, was larger than life. I haven't worked with overscaled dimensions before but thought I might as well try it since one of the trends in contemporary portraiture is oversized head shots (see Andrew Salgado, Alyssa Monks, and Tai Schierenberg, among others).

I also tried saturated color, straight from the tube in certain areas like the shirt, hat, and parts of the background. Was I intensifying reality (like Lucian Freud) or flirting with garishness (like Leroy Nieman)? Who knows. I just felt like doing it and the experience was exhilirating. Using intense chroma over a large surface area was like a drug - my teacher had to tell me to stop painting before I ruined the pictorial balance.

We still have two more sessions with our current models. I think I'll continue with acrylic for now. Maybe I'll buy a few new colors or try using a weird surface - like plastic or aluminum. I wonder where I can buy those supports in Manhattan...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New paintings at the National Academy

Over the past four weeks I've been experimenting with acrylic on large canvases. A friend recently gave me a gift certificate to Utrecht so I spent it on several tubes of Golden acrylic paint. This is a new medium for me. I thought that I'd try to work with its quick drying properties for layering and abstraction.

Acrylic is great stuff. I'll admit that I had a bias against the medium since all the serious painters use oil, but I really liked manipulating its transparencies for atmospheric effects. I think they key is to buy a lot of intermediate pigments to minimize mixing and muddiness. I also tried masking (courtesy of Youtube) to get a prismatic thing going on - not quite resolved yet but I do like the results so far.

Our models were Brian and Jen, both young, goodlooking, and total professionals. It was a pleasure to work with them.