Like all the great institutions which are celebrating anniversaries this year, Aston Magna’s 40th anniversary season is much like any other. What better way to celebrate an important anniversary than to maintain the quality one has been known for and to reaffirm the founding principles? This year’s season, launched by gala events at Brandeis and at Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, will be rich in familiar repertory — Monteverdi, Purcell, Vivaldi, Telemann, the Bach family, and Mozart — and familiar faces: the violinist Daniel Stepner, the gambist Laura Jeppesen, harpsichordist John Gibbons, singers Dominique Labelle, Deborah Rentz-Moore, and William Hite. Of course Stanley Ritchie will be on hand. Some very distinguished artists will be joining them: keyboard players Peter Sykes and Malcom Bilson, and Eric Hoeprich, whose Glossa recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto I just now warmly praised in a review article—and this is only a few.
When composers and musicians are inspired by words — by poems or stories or simple everyday talk between friends — they find new and expressive ways to make those words part of the music itself. In this collaborative program, the Philadelphia-based Network for New Music joins the dazzling singers of The Crossing, directed by Donald Nally, in the world premiere of a major new chamber work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan, described by the New York Times as “a master of timbres and how to blend them.”
Hesperus is Phosphorus takes the form of a secular Vespers service. Drawing on the words of American poets, playwrights, and physicists (Wallace Shawn, Adrienne Rich, Richard Feynman, A.R. Ammons, Wallace Stevens, and David Eagleman among others), Spratlan’s beautiful new work explores growth and loss in our ever-expanding world of discovery.
The primary occasion for this writing was Emmanuel Music’s fine performance of Mozart’s last opera, La Clemenza di Tito, under Music Director Ryan Turner. However, two extraordinary recordings of works Mozart composed during those busy final months of his life have appeared, as downloads from Pristine Classics, and they are not only magnificent in themselves, but they provide an enlightening context for this somewhat elusive opera seria. These recordings are of the legendary 1951 Salzburg performance of Die Zauberflöte under Wilhelm Furtwängler in the spectacularly improved sound we have come to expect from Andrew Rose, and a magnificent studio recording of the Requiem under Sir Thomas Beecham from 1954-56.
That Ted Shawn founded the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 80 years ago speaks to how old the art form is. Of course it is difficult to speak of ‘modern dance’ as an art form or even an art movement, when its main characteristic and initial need to exist, a need going back to Nijinsky’s and Diaghilev’s to create Le Sacre du Printemps in 1913, is a highly individual self-expression through movement, though it seems that from year zero as important as this honest self-expression of the choreographer and dancer(s) are common qualities such as a sense of theatre, for like ballet this is theatrical dance, and a degree of training, a technique, even a theory (however batty). Also as important is a company for the choreographer to work with and a school attached to the company, perhaps because of the difficulty to communicate the new choreography and its ever changing styles to the dancers. But one doesn’t want to be too rigid about it. What does “Self-expression” even mean in a cooperative performing art involving many “selves”?
The summer festivals of the Berkshires and Hudson Valley are to a large extent about young artists. Some festivals, like Tanglewood, Marlboro, Jacob’s Pillow, Shakespeare & Company, Yellow Barn, and Norfolk, are basically music schools or have an educational institution as a core adjunct. Marlboro and the Tanglewood Music Center focus on musicians who have just completed their conservatory work and are ready to begin their professional careers. Others, like Music Mountain, offer courses for adults and students. The benefits cut both ways: young musicians, actors, and dancers get to perform, and audiences get to hear fresh talent and new insights.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Schaffer’s Amadeus are fundamentally monologues. Even as arresting a character as Lady Macbeth is given a relatively short part. As the play nears its end, she is effectively eliminated with only a short sleep-walking scene allowed her. Salieri, in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, basically tells the story he is the main actor in. Mozart is given considerable stage time, but even his most tragic appearances are always book-ended with dry ice comments, increasingly cold, from Salieri. Why? These two masterpieces have mostly to do with the power of narrative, how the story is told. How it is told becomes continually becomes the main character. Central to any kind of narrative predominance is the ever-present passing of time. Macbeth’s time moves rapidly, at a headlong pace. Salieri’s time drags along on a path of morbidity, and at the end he cannot really die. Interruptions to the flow of time in both of these dramas are quickly dispatched or folded into the larger narrative structure so that they seem excrescences. I looked forward to Shakespeare and Company’s touring performance of Macbeth because Sean Kazarian was a terrific Mercutio a couple of years ago on a similar tour.
On 25 May 2012, Yellow Barn presented a unique event: an open-air performance of Gérard Grisey’s Le Noir de l’Étoile. This roughly hour-long work for six percussion players encircling the audience was Grisey’s response to his discovery of the sound of pulsars. Neither Grisey, although he taught at Berkeley for four years, nor the largely European movement to which he belonged for a while, Spectralism, is very well known in the United States. Last year’s American tour by Les Percussions de Strasbourg in which they played Le Noir de l’Étoile (for a review of their Lincoln Center performance, click here) and the New York Philharmonic residency of Grisey’s pupil, Magnus Lindberg, have done something to correct that. Susanna Mälkki recently conducted Grisey’s 1977 work, Modulations, with the San Francisco Symphony, reviewed here by Steven Kruger.
STILL LIFE with BAER
Joanna Gabler, Richard Harrington, Henry Klein,
David Lane, Bruce MacDonald, Barbara May, Emily May,
Ann McCallum, Michael Miller, Julia Morgan Leamon,
Viola Moriarty, Anna Moriarty Lev, Katherine Pavlis Porter,
Dan Rose, Martha Rose, Sam Wickstrom
Catered reception open to the public with refreshments
7 East Hoosac St. Adams, MA
Saturday, June 2nd, 4:00 to 7:00
For more information contact BAER’S DEN BAKERY & DELI:
Tel: (413) 776.7310
email : email@example.com