Paula Robison

Paula Robison talks to Michael Miller

On the day following her amazing recital with Katherine Chi at Jordan Hall, Paula Robison and I met at the house she shares with her husband, Scott Nickrenz, with its bird’s eye view of Frederick Law Olmsted’s house and garden. In the hour or so we talked we covered a lot of ground: the concert, her preparations for it, and some of the music she played…we talked about Sidney Lanier, the poet, linguist, and self-taught flute virtuoso, who died at 39 of tuberculosis contracted as a Confederate prisoner of war, and Charles T. Griffes, who died at 35 of the same disease, leaving behind a remarkable body of exploratory compositions, Paul Taffanel, the founder of modern flute playing and the teacher of Ms. Robison’s teacher, the great Marcel Moyse.

Vasily Petrenko and Joshua Bell in a Russo-English Program with the SF Symphony: Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, and Elgar

Hats off, ladies and Gentlemen! A conductor! And a great symphony!

Vasily Petrenko’s recent electrifying week with the San Francisco Symphony reminds the listener that Gustavo Dudamel is not the sole “conducting animal” to be found on the musical circuit these days. Esa-Pekka Salonen coined the term a while back, with the impassioned Venezuelan in mind. And indeed, Dudamel is the sort of refreshing performer who has the winds jumping to their feet like jazz musicians and bass players twirling their instruments. He is all about emotion as vitality. But physically, apart from the energy with which he beats time, his manner is unremarkable.

The fascination of Petrenko, by contrast, is his ability to reflect every quivering moment of the music somewhere on his face or body, as though he were a disembodied hologram. We joke about people who are “double-jointed.” But Vasily Petrenko might as well be quadruple-sprung and then some…this is a man who’d have no trouble tapping three heads, rubbing five tummies and signalling with numerous eyebrows at the same time!

Sol LeWitt III: The ABCDs of Sol Lewitt

This exhibition at Williams College Museum of Art is supplemental to the immense retrospective installation at MassMoca in North Adams. In some surprising ways it reveals more of the evidentiary by-products of the thought process of the seminal conceptual artist than the spectacular realizations at MassMoca.

Bad Art vs “Bad Art”

Many art dealers and some curators find any number of artworks randomly passing under their noses in endless variety on an almost daily basis. One can go from a putative Michelangelo to a catalogue of the work of some obscure short-lived Soviet abstractionist to, for example, a certain Ohio artist, who dresses like Abraham Lincoln and produces landscapes with magic markers in fast food restaurants, to a collection of Elvis music box liquor decanters without a pause to catch one’s breath. Such experience should, one would think, give one an infinite curiosity about human image-making, and a burning desire to uncover the secrets of any artifact that might come one’s way. Such is not the case, however. Even the most receptive among us are apt to let something go by, perhaps that modern Piranesi impression one has inherited or an attractive, but decidedly minor oil of boats in Provincetown harbor one has bought for a song in a flea market. These can liven up any back corridor or populate the attic unexamined. Then, there is Ebay…

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