MTT conducts the SF Symphony in Cowell, Mozart (with Gil Shaham), and John Adams’ Harmonielehre

Last week’s program at the San Francisco Symphony carried a sense of celebration with it. John Adams was in attendance, giving luster to the orchestra’s new performance and recording of his “Harmonielehre” under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. (Edo De Waart taped the piece in his final year as Music Director, when Adams was composer-in-residence.) There has always been a tendency to rally around the orchestra in San Francisco — cultural boosterism being one of the old-fashioned charms of this now rather important city, which sometimes still thinks of itself as a town and behaves like one in its enthusiasms — and John Adams is a local hero in the orchestra’s history. But the spontaneous applause I heard on Saturday seemed to go beyond these boundaries. It is a though, from the standpoint of an audience, Adams were being hailed for having rescued contemporary music — and indeed, he just may have.

Cantata Singers & Ensemble, David Hoose, Conductor: Vaughan Williams, Imbrie, Fine, and the Premiere of Wyner’s Give Thanks for All Things

For my part I could not be more pleased that the Cantata Singers, following their usual custom, have devoted this season preponderantly to the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams. Sir Colin Davis’ powerful rendition of his Sixth Symphony with the BSO in 2007 was memorable, but not nearly enough to counterbalance the neglect Vaughn Williams’ music currently suffers in the United States. In Boston, there is bound to be the odd choral work cropping up in one church or another or on the programs of the many secular choral groups in the area, but the Cantata Singer’s focus on Vaughn Williams in their 2010-11 season is none the less welcome.

Tea Party Invaders! Douglas Sirk’s No Room for the Groom (1952)

Amidst the patchy availability of important Hollywood films of the golden age, it’s sometimes surprising what turns up. Douglas Sirk fares better than most directors — his characteristic melodramas are available in well-produced editions. Beyond the famous films of his mature period — Written on the Wind (1956), All that Heaven Allows (1955), Imitation of Life (1958) (perhaps the ne plus ultra of weepies) — some more obscure Sirks are available, gems like All I Desire (1953), curiosities like the western Taza, Son of Cochise (1953), and the fascinating, startlingly bitter screwball comedy No Room for the Groom (1952).

Baroque Hors d’œuvres with a Bach Main Course : Berkshire Bach Premières Kenneth Cooper’s Reconstruction of J. S. Bach’s Vergnügte Pleißen-Stadt S.216 (1728)

Mr. Cooper, who is best known for his zesty performances of Bach’s chamber music, is also a musicologist of no mean accomplishment. Besides preparing scholarly editions of harpsichord music, he has been, as of late, in the reconstruction business: finishing or recreating works by masters from mere fragments. Last year he reconstructed the violin part to Mozart’s Adagio Quasi FantasiaK.396/385f from an extant five measures in Mozart’s hand. He has also reconstructed the original cadenza for Beethoven’s B-flat piano concerto. Tonight, we heard a United States première of Mr. Cooper’s extensive reconstruction of a wedding cantata by J.S. Bach, listed in the Schmieder’s catalogue as #216.

Julia Morgan Leamon, Painting and Video Art

Julia Morgan Leamon is a painter and adjunct faculty member at Williams College and, among other things, an equally gifted video artist. http://www.jmorganart.com/

When talking with her it’s hard not to be aware that a deeper level of insight is at work in the ways that visual artists channel imagery and memory. Maybe it’s because she processes language and vision in equal measure. She acknowledges Virginia Woolf and Francesco Goya among her greatest influences.

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