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Music, Art, Poetry, and Occasional Insomnia in New York City

Updated: 2018-04-10T06:59:08.532-05:00


The Knights at the Naumburg Band Shell


The Knights at the Naumburg Band ShellCentral Park, New York, NY July 10, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. Eric Jacobsen, ConductorJulia MacLaine, Cello Wagner Siegfried IdyllSchumann Cello Concerto in A Minor, op. 129Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un fauneAdès Three Studies from CouperinJacobsen/Aghaei Ascending Bird: Introduction and Dance for OrchestraThoughts on the program by James Roe. Program Overview “I must try for something else.”  --- Robert Schumann “new inspiration on every page”  --- Thomas Adès The incredible alchemy of an orchestra concert is achieved through its array of collaborative elements.  Composers—whether living or from the past—endeavor to represent the musical sounds they hear in their imaginations with written notation.  Performers, in turn, use the decidedly physical act of playing musical instruments to reach through the printed notation for the composer’s voice. In each of the works on tonight’s program there is an additional collaborative element, an inspiration outside the composer through which he reaches to us.  For Wagner, it was a private musical gift to his wife.  Schumann’s was the voice of the cello, an instrument he briefly attempted to learn after an injury prevented him from playing the piano.  Debussy created a musical “impression” of Stéphane Mallarmé’s symbolist poetry.  Thomas Adès’ inspiration was the keyboard music of François Couperin.  Colin Jacobsen and Siamak Aghaei based “Ascending Bird” on a traditional Persian folk song. Richard Wagner(b Leipzig, May 22, 1813; d Venice, February 13, 1883) Siegfried Idyll Composed: 1870, TribschenPremiere: privately, December 25, 1870, in the home of Cosima and Richard WagnerInstrumentation: flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, stringsDuration: 17 minutes Siegfried Idyll offers a glimpse into the intimate world of Richard Wagner.  Never intended for public performance, the work was written as a birthday gift for his wife Cosima, daughter of Franz Liszt and former wife of conductor and champion of Wagner’s music, Hans von Bülow.  Cosima bore Wagner three children while still married to Bülow, daughters Isolde (1865) and Eva (1867), and their son Siegfried (1869).  Cosima and Bülow were divorced in July of 1870 and she married Wagner a month later in Lucerne. On the morning after Cosima’s 33rd birthday, December 25, 1870, Wagner assembled a chamber orchestra on the stairs leading to her bedroom.  She awoke to the premiere of a work written for her alone, based on musical themes important to the couple, now at long last, husband and wife. She wrote in her diary: “A sound awoke me which grew ever stronger; I knew I was no longer dreaming, there was music, and what music! When it had died away, R. came into my room with the five children and gave me the score of his ‘Symphonic Birthday Greeting’ - I was in tears, so was everybody in the house. R. had placed his orchestra on the staircase, and thus our Tribschen is consecrated for all time.” The work opens with a gentle, arching melody that Wagner originally conceived for a string quartet dedicated to Cosima.  In the Idyll, he gives us a sense of how that unrealized work might have sounded, as the strings play alone for a full two minutes before the woodwinds enter.  The appearance of the fresh orchestral color, first the flute, and then oboe and clarinet, is magic.  One can imagine Wagner painting a musical picture of Cosima’s first stirrings on the morning of the premiere. The work is disarmingly tender and personal.  British music scholar and Wagner specialist, Ernest Newman, referred to it as “a series of domestic confidences.” It can come as no surprise that Cosima cried when it was sold for publication to help raise needed funds.  This, the most private of Wagner’s musical creations, has become his most performed instrumental work. Robert Schumann(b Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810; d Endenich, near Bonn, July 29, 1856 ) Ce[...]



The Knights Celebrate New Year's Eve 2011 at The 92nd Street YHenry Purcell (1659-1695)Fantasia upon One Note (c 1680) Terry Riley (b 1935)In C (1964) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67 (1807-8) ------NOTES ON THE PROGRAMby James Roe “There was a time (time out of mind)” — James McCourt, opening line of Mawrdew Czgowchwz “Time past and time futureWhat might have been and what has beenPoint to one end, which is always present.” — T. S. Eliot from “Buirnt Norton” no. 1 of the Four Quartets “Make a joyful noise” — Psalm 100 “The Joy of C”Happy New Year! Tonight’s Knights concert features three radically different (and radical) pieces that each focus on the note C. Through these works, we will explore the ways in which music enhances, disrupts, and even suspends our perception of time. New Years Eve—a time of heightened consciousness of time past, passing, and yet to come—is ideal for this exploration. In our concept of tonight’s concert, the note C and its continual presence throughout the music, represents time. The music’s relationship to this note changes throughout the concert just as our experience of time changes across any specific moment, hour, day, year, or lifetime. Music only exists in the passage of time. At the very moment a musical sound is created, it is instantly consumed by the listener and transformed into emotion and memory. Music cannot be held. The intricacies of its beauty cannot be examined in the present tense. Music is always in the past or in the future. Memory and anticipation dance while music plays. Why C? The note C is a fundamental sound in Western music. Middle C divides the piano keyboard between soprano and bass, right hand and left. The music student’s first lessons are always in C. Schumann described C Major as “simple, unadorned.” Schelling wrote that, “concerning the physical expression of this key, it appears to be completely pure.” Composers have gone to the key of C for major musical statements. Two of Schubert’s last completed works are in C Major, his Ninth Symphony, “The Great,” and the monumental Cello Quintet. Mozart set the complex splendors of his “Jupiter” Symphony in C. The gripping narrative of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is dramatized in the progression from C Minor to of C Major. (More on this later.) One of the most famous C Major chords in all of music is in Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation.” After the overture, which depicts the chaos before creation, the chorus quietly intones the words of Genesis 1:3, “God said, let there be light, and there was light.” On the final word “light,” the orchestra and chorus burst forth with a fortissimo C Major chord. An eyewitness to the premiere, wrote that the “enchantment of the electrified Viennese was so general that the orchestra could not proceed for some minutes.” The note C has pride-of-place in the world of music. It is a starting point and destination, beginning and end, foundation and culmination. Purcell: Fantasia upon one Note“Preserving a moment in music” Henry Purcell was the preeminent English composer of his day. In about 1680, he wrote a group of Fantasias for string ensemble, which demonstrated the 21-year old’s mastery of the current compositional techniques. The fantasia—or “fancy” as it was called in England—was popular during the 16th and 17th Centuries, and as its name suggests, it showcased a composer’s imagination and wit. These works were intimate entertainments, their principal preoccupation being the harmonious presentation of multiple, equal voices, a compositional technique called counterpoint. The counterpoint of Purcell’s Fantasias achieves an idealization of human interaction in the context of sophisticated musical conversation. In Purcell's Fantasia upon One Note, a middle C sounds through the entire piece. The other four voices harmonize around this gentle drone, traversing an wide array of sentiments. Li[...]



Hugues Cuenod (1902-2010)

It was impossible to feel down around Hughie. Remembering him this quiet, bright morning, I am grateful to have known this musician, whose irrepressible joy in life and art expanded the humanity of everyone he met.







German Knights

Die Ritter is headed to Germany. Home on 9 October.

See you then, or there!



Two Summer Knights

There are two upcoming Knights performances next week in New York City.

Tuesday • 3 Aug • 7:30
Naumberg Bandshell, Central Park at 70th Street

After being rained out in June, The Knights return to the Naumburg Bandshell with a free concert perfect for a New York summer night in August. It's been a distinct pleasure to rehearse this week with Vera Beths who will both lead as concertmaster and play the solo part in Beethoven's eloquent Romance in F Major.

The Knights
Eric Jacobsen,
Vera Beths,

Rossini Barber of Seville Overture
Beethoven Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F Major, op. 50
Shostakovich Two Waltzes (arr. Ljova Zhurbin for the Knights)
Debussy Children's Corner Suite (arr. Mouton)
Haydn Symphony in D major, No 101, "The Clock"


Wednesday • 4 Aug • 7:00
AppleApple Store, SoHo

The Knights
Lara St. John, violin soloist
Eric Jacobsen, conductor

This concert celebrates the release of a new CD of Mozart Violin Concerti played by Lara and Scott St. John with The Knights conducted by Eric Jacobsen.




Koolhaas & Lohengrin in a Beijing Taxi

Heading to the Beijing airport, our taxi driver spoke no English (and we no Mandarin), nevertheless, he was determined to give us a parting tour of the city. We spoke back and forth in different languages, the conversation moving quickly and incomprehensibly, articulated with brief moments of clarity.(image)

"Rem Koolhaas, CCTV."

Our driver said as we passed the Dutch architect's delirious addition to the Beijing skyline. It was not the most practical vocabulary, but we were glad he knew it.

Then we passed a caravan of cars covered in ribbons. Our driver honked and waved and smiled and told us many things in excited Chinese.

We weren't getting it.

He wrinkled his brow for a moment and then sang, Treulich geführt. Of course! Gamely, we all sang along and waved at the be-ribboned wedding procession passing us on the highway.

As we sang, my mind raced between other instances of this melody in my life, from Beijing to Lima to backstage at The Metropolitan Opera.

Years ago, I played with an opera company in Lima founded by my Juilliard classmate, Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Some members of the opera orchestra were hired to play a wedding. In Peru, Mendelssohn's Hochzeitsmarsch is played as the bride processional, while Wagner's march accompanies the newly-minted couple's first stroll down the aisle on the way out. Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn combined with South American Roman Catholicism in a Peruvian Baroque cathedral; playing "Here comes the bride" at the end of the wedding only enriched the admixture.

Years later, I would play in the stage band for Robert Wilson's contoversial production of Lohengrin at The Metropolitan Opera based in part on Japanese Noh Theater. The stage band musicians wait to play late into the night, there are hours between entrances. (It is actually possible to leave the theater and play a different concert during these breaks.) When the time finally comes, the musicians gather in the dimly-lit wings to play strains of Treulich geführt. Pretty lofty for "wedding gig," I thought, walking up the stairs backstage at The Met, another cathedral in its own right.

How could I have expected to find myself singing Wagner with a Chinese cabbie in Beijing, but I hardly could be surprised.

Would Wagner?



Happy Fourth of July

Surprise parade on the East River.

(image) (image) (image)



Seven Four

Waiting on the subway platform at 14th Street for the F train to Brooklyn, I heard a young woman in full-Williamsburg hipster regalia playing the accordion.

Her selection? "Ring of Fire" from Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

I love this song for so many reasons, but leading them is the instrumental refrain in seven-four time. Count it out. Once the entirely unexpected Mariachi trumpet passage starts, the song is in seven. (Da-dut da dah dah dee dah daaa - 5 - 6 - 7, Da-dut da dah dah dee dah daaa - 5 - 6 - 7) I'm not sure which is more surprising the meter or the orchestration.

Maybe fifteen years ago, I heard Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at Irving Place. Wonderful, amazing concert. They came with the best sidemen in the biz; country-western 2/4 back beat was elevated to poetry.

If you listen to June Carter and the Carter Family, you'll find a flexible metrical music that easily moves through odd-number bars and playfully skips over an eighth-note here and there.

Seven-four on the subway platform. I love New York City.




Zéphyros Winds is headed to Beijing as part of the the National Centre for Performing Arts' 2010 May Festival.

Click here for details . . . and tickets!



Questions of Vacation

Questions Of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"




A dear flutist friend stopped by for dinner tonight and wanted me to listen to her play a Bach unaccompanied sonata in preparation for upcoming performances. She played from memory and gave me the score, but I didn't follow along, I wanted to watch her play and enjoy this private performance from my couch.

There regularly is music in my place. I practice, but practicing often is repetitive ruckus, metronome aclacking. I have chamber music rehearsals here, too, but what I heard tonight was a full-fledged performance: poised, eloquent, full of persuasive rhetoric. Even the finest hi-fi could not match the aural pleasures of a live chamber music performance in one's own home.

Let me encourage everyone: treat yourself. (Eschew Netflix for a night.) Invite musicians to play chamber music in your living room. Offer a good meal (they will say yes) and invite just one or two special friends to share with you. Not too many.

You will not forget the experience.



An Uplifting Proposal

Right before Tuesday's Imani Winds concert at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, the director of the series asked the ensemble whether a young man could propose to his girlfriend on stage during the concert.

Of course!

He and his soon-to-be fiancée live in Atlanta and had met at an Imani Winds concert eighteen months ago. They had travelled to New York City for tonight's concert.

Before the last piece on the first half, flutist Valerie Coleman told the audience that before we proceeded, there would be a special announcement. "Hello New York." the young man said into the microphone, his arm around his girlfriend. He calmly went on to explain that they were on stage to thank the Imani Winds for bringing them together and for their music which had continued to be an important part of the couple's eighteen-month relationship. And then he said good night and turned to leave the stage. We thought he had lost his nerve, but he swung back to the mic and said, "Oh, and one more thing . . . " whereupon he reached into his pocket and knelt. The audience exploded with applause and shouts of encouragement. The young woman, clasped her hands to her head, spun around, and before the question could even be asked, she yelled out: YES!!!

The ring placed on her finger, the couple thanked each of the musicians. Everyone was feeling a bit giddy, the audience was nicely stirred up, and before we continued with the program I stepped up to the mic, and asked, "Is there anyone else?"



IMANI WINDS in CENTRAL PARKIt will be a beautiful night for a summer concert in the park.Naumburg Orchestral Concerts104th Season - FINAL Concert of 2009IMANI WINDSTuesday August 4th, 2009 at 7:30 PMPROGRAMBozza Scherzo for woodwind quintet, Op. 48Marquez Danza de MediodiaMedaglia Suite Popular BrasileiraSchifrin La Nouvelle OrleansLigeti Sechs BagatellenBarber Summer Music, Op. 31The Naumburg Orchestral Concert begins at 7:30pm at the Naumburg Bandshell on the Concert Ground in Central Park located south of the 72nd Street cross-drive.Admission is free.No rain[...]



The Rest is SilenceTwo eighth rests, how long are they?I have had such a good time this summer playing with the Imani Winds while their oboist, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, is on maternity leave. I've enjoyed learning new repertoire for our concerts, but there is something special about working on pieces I've played for decades with Zéphyros Winds now with new colleagues. In these works—Barber's "Summer Music," Ligeti's "Six Bagatelles," Paquito D'Rivera's "Aires Tropicales," and Lalo Schifrin's "La nouvelle Oreleans"—I reengage my ears to another set of musical imaginations.In these situations, a musician's opportunity to learn is ripe. And if we don't hear other players and play with other players, our various "chops" can atrophy for lack of attention.In 1998, I was hired to play a single performance of "Annie Get Your Gun." It was a benefit for Lincoln Center Theater featuring Patty Lupone and Peter Gallagher. The audience was filled with notables, Rosie was there, Barbara Walters seemed unpleasantly shocked by how politically incorrect the show was, Rex Reed was reported to have said, "Well, they didn't have to cut 'I'm an Indian, too.'" (Political correctness? And, yes, it did have to be cut.) And the orchestra, contracted by Red Press, was filled was the finest cats on the scene. I was pretty green (OK, very green). Out of Juilliard for just three years, I didn't know any faces in the band, but over the next decade I would come to. The first rehearsal began, naturally, with the overture. It looked pretty straight forward to me. Often in "tutti" sections (times when the whole orchestra is playing), orchestrators will give the oboe the same line as the first trumpet. The oboe doesn't make its most important contribution during these sections—you can't really hear it—so, we end up playing along with the loudest instrument, and that way we stay out of the way. Though I didn't know him at the time, one of New York's top lead trumpet players, Bob Millikan, was on the job. The overture started and I began to play my part, pretty much exactly how it looked on the page, in other words, totally square. The lead trumpet was playing in such a different style, and with so much style, I had to just stop and listen. "How does he know how to do that?" He knew. I didn't, but wanted to, and here, I realized was my opportunity to learn how it really went.Each year in his Juilliard class, Albert Fuller would pick up a violin part to a Beethoven sonata and ask the students what he was holding. Always someone fell into the trap, "It's music." "No," Albert replied, "you cannot hold music. You can only hear music." Bob Millikan's trumpet playing brought that point home.Lalo Schifrin's wind quintet, "La nouvelle Orleans," ends with an elaborate oboe cadenza meant to imitate the sound of a blues harmonica. After several performances with the Imani Winds, their flutist, Valerie Coleman, asked whether she could offer me a suggestion for that solo. It was a small thing, she assured me, but it would really help. The oboe cadenza begins after a loud chord played by the whole ensemble. There are two eighth rests between the chord and the oboe solo. "Could you wait a little bit longer before you start?" Valerie asked. One of the most challenging sounds for a musician to make on stage is silence. Modulating the right amount involves some risk. Concerts are about sound, after all. That night, I held onto those rests, the silence, just a little longer. The tension increased, and the solo landed with much more force.When I was performing with Issa (Jane Siberry) a few years ago for her Carnegie Hall debut, she wa[...]



On Whitman

This passage opens the second chapter of Susan Sontag's "On Photography."

As Walt Whitman gazed down the democratic vistas of culture, he tried to see beyond the difference between beauty and ugliness, importance and triviality. It seemed to him servile or snobbish to make any discriminations of value, except the most generous ones. Great claims were made for candor by our boldest, most delirious prophet of cultural revolution. Nobody would fret about beautify and ugliness, he implied, who was accepting a sufficiently large embrace of the real, of the inclusiveness and vitality of actual American experience. All facts, even mean ones, are incandescent in Whitman’s America—that ideal space, made real by history, where “as they emit themselves facts are showered with light.”



36 Hours in Aguascalientes

Our concert in Mexico was a great success. We signed autographs and posed for pictures for at least an hour after the performance.

The historic city center of Aguascalientes is a romanticized picture of Baroque, colonial decay mixed with 21st-century urban renewal. Low stucco buildings in pink, robin's egg blue, and pale yellow, impressive 19th-century French-style government buildings, and elaborate Baroque churches were interspersed with modern structures, cell-phone stores, and ATMs for world-wide banks. (North American chains were mercifully rare, the only exceptions were Starbucks and KFC.) Planted, manicured parks with fountains offered shade from the sun, and though the gardens were in the French style, the flora was decidedly Aztec.

On Sunday morning, handsome couples strolled to church, looking like Italian socialites from the 50s. Cowboys brought their families for a day in the city. Children ran and played everywhere. The churches overflowed with congregants, their interiors clangorous in pink, blue, gold, and silver, and their hefty Baroque spires supporting weightless neon crosses that advertised the resurrection next to gleaming Coca-cola signs.

In this part of the city, little poverty was in evidence, but when it came, it could be shattering. Walking back to the hotel after our concert we were approached by a man begging for money. He had no legs and was pushed in a low cart by a young boy. As they got closer, we realized that the man was made up as a woman, with a blouse, wig, and rouged cheeks. He spoke in an animated, hoarse falsetto. His elaborate appearance and gestures were in stark relief to the boy's affectless silence. What did they need from us? From the world? They were headed out into the city square at twilight; their stage set, though the stakes were higher than any performance I've been involved with. How many pesos should I give them? The contents of my pockets? My wallet? My bank accounts? Do I have empathetic capacity enough to imagine their life? Perhaps for a moment this morning in my Manhattan apartment high above West End Avenue, but hardly equal to the relentless, Baroque difficulties of their lives.



Guest TurnLast year, the wonderful oboist of Imani Winds, Toyin Spellman-Diaz asked if I could cover her maternity leave this summer. I was thrilled. Imani Winds is the indispensable wind quintet and one of the nation's cultural treasures. On top of that, the members are, to a one, wonderful people and excellent musicians. Often, when I mention my own quintet to someone, the response is, "Oh, aren't you in Imani Winds?" Their cultural penetration is so deep that they have put the genre back on the musical map and made it relevent to new audiences and exciting for the establishment. The evidence is their packed schedule.The rehearsals this week have been nothing but fun. We have a number of concerts this summer, try to come if you're in the area.Sunday, July 19, 2009 Imani Winds in AGUASCALIENTES, MEXICO Festival de Música de Cámara Time: 6:00 pm. Festival Opening Performance. PROGRAM Scherzo – Eugene Bozza; Danza de Mediodia – Arturo Marquez; Suite Popular Brasileira – Julio Medaglia; La Nouvelle Oreleans – Lalo Schifrin; Sechs Bagatellen – Gyorgy Ligeti ; Aires Tropicales – Paquito D’Rivera; “Freyleka” from Klezmer Dances – arr. Gene Kavadlo Monday, July 27, 2009 Imani Winds in CHICAGO, IL National Association of Negro Musicians Annual Conference Time: 7:30 pm. PROGRAM Scherzo – Eugene Bozza; Danza de Mediodia – Arturo Marquez; Suite Popular Brasileira – Julio Medaglia; La Nouvelle Oreleans – Lalo Schifrin; Sechs Bagatellen – Gyorgy Ligeti ; Aires Tropicales – Paquito D’Rivera; “Freyleka” from Klezmer Dances – arr. Gene Kavadlo Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Imani Winds in BROOKVILLE, NY C.W. Post, Long Island University Chamber Music Festival Time: 8:00 pm. Masterclass 4-6. PROGRAM Scherzo – Eugene Bozza; Danza de Mediodia – Arturo Marquez; Suite Popular Brasileira – Julio Medaglia; La Nouvelle Oreleans – Lalo Schifrin; Sechs Bagatellen – Gyorgy Ligeti ; Aires Tropicales – Paquito D’Rivera; “Freyleka” from Klezmer Dances – arr. Gene Kavadlo Tuesday, August 4, 2009 Imani Winds in NEW YORK, NY Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park Time: 7:30 pm. PROGRAM Scherzo – Eugene Bozza; Danza de Mediodia – Arturo Marquez; Suite Popular Brasileira; Julio Medaglia; La Nouvelle Oreleans – Lalo Schifrin; Sechs Bagatellen – Gyorgy Ligeti; Summer Music – Samuel Barber; Libertango – Pizzolla/Scott [...]



What Helicon UnderstandsBy Albert Fuller (November 1996)“It’s not enough for poetry and song to be beautiful; they must entice the listener’s soul to follow wherever they lead. Just as laughing begets laughter in others, likewise our face responds to the tears of another. If you want me to cry, then you yourself must grieve.” --- Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 99-103, 23-20 BCEHelicon believes that art works are the principal recorded evidence of humankind’s consciousness. Existing from all periods of human life on earth, art works demonstrate the connectedness of the human family’s imagination in all times and all places.Helicon demonstrates this consanguinity with evidence of the sources of imagination by showing how the content and form of musical art works are arresting and lure the heart into profound imagination. Art not only offers a form of self-expression, it, in fact, creates an external, concrete vessel in which the souls of our lives can dwell and communicate with others. Just before his death, Albert Einstein noted to a friend: “To us [physicists], the concept of past, present, and future is only an illusion . . . albeit a stubborn one.” Einstein understood how humankind’s soul practices the arts to the benefit of all humankind, everywhere.Helicon’s musical activities seek to profit from our expanding knowledge of the many and diverse areas exercised by our own human nature. In the case of those composers whose creations strike us strongly and deeply, it is our specific intent to maintain the integrity of their affective messages by seeking musical results that reflect as closely as possible their creators’ expressive intentions. Unlike today’s normal performance practice, Helicon believes that music should be performed so as to preserve the affects of the composer. If the composer’s messages are not to the taste of the conductor, the performer, or the comfort of the audience, and, consequently, are changed to accommodate that, the composer’s intent is eroded if not actually betrayed. Therefore, the music we love must be understood as of greater value to us as a product of its own period, than if subjected to an attempt to bring it “up to date.”That is why Helicon so often employs the specific instruments (of the finest copies of them), techniques, and expressive interpretive styles that were the coin of our beloved composers. We do that for a single purpose: to recreate by approaching as best we can the emotional or affective content that the musicians form different times and places had in mind. The philosophy, demanding change and growth, has immeasurably enriched our artistic receptivity and experience. From this point of view, affective musical understanding are sharpened by observing them in historical context, integrating the meaning of music’s invisible—but not inaudible—messages with the other arts, and with the contemporary technological, philosophical, and socio-economic milieus of their times.All knowledge is based on the past; all work stands on what has gone before. However, present technology suggests to many that we are not connected with the same past that has brought us into being. Electricity’s new role in spreading information implies to some that we are only just now beginning to know. The flood of new information, carried around the world principally by the computer-satellite-television complex, has often obscured the role of feelings in human affairs. This leads a consumer-oriented society to care more for the agora than the individual; more for the [...]



Opera for All

Congratulations to the beleaguered New York City Opera. This week, the company that Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia nicknamed "the people's opera," brought three vibrant performances directly to the people of New York City in a series of free outdoor performances in conjunction with the River-to-River Festival.

From my seat in the principal oboe chair, I enjoyed watching the thousands gathered really engaged in the performances. Tonight, smiles spread throughout the crowd during Largo al factotum. The audience could barely conceal their delight, basking in the joy of live performance.

In the face of the company's very public missteps and a recent—and disgraceful—article in Times (no link supplied), this week the NYCO is working hard, directly focused on their mission. With The Met offering no operas in the park this summer, "the people's opera" has taken up at least some of the slack. And during the last three nights, there were rapt listeners, not picnickers, many standing through the entire performances.

I, for one, am encouraged. The tables selling season subscriptions were swamped tonight. Why don't you subscribe, too? You don't want to miss out, do you?



Vivaldi's "Big Band" with The Little Orchesta Society

Randall Ellis and I played Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Oboes in D Minor (RV 535) in Zankel Hall Tuesday night with The Little Orchestra Society and Dino Anagnost conducting. The concert was nearly sold out and many friends were there.

I was happy to read about it in the Times this morning. Vivien Schweitzer praised the "polished interpretation of Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Oboes in D Minor (RV 535) by Randall Ellis and James Roe, who both played with a clear tone and elegant phrasing." New York Times, June 20, 2009




Writing Jazz

Please come to Merkin Hall tonight. The Zéphyros Winds is joining forces with The Lark Chamber Artists and pianist Anthony de Mare for a program that ends with a world premiere by David Rakowski, Stolen Moments for winds, strings, and piano.






Knight after KnightAs part of the run-up for their first European tour, The Knights are giving two performances in New York City.Please try to catch these fascinating programs on whichever side of the Atlantic you happen to find yourself.May 15, 20098:00 PM Schubert and Solitude with Osvaldo Golijov - Angel Orensanz Foundation, NYCThe New York Institute for the Humanities and the Humanities Initiative at NYU in association with In a Circle present "Schubert and Solitude" with Osvaldo Golijov, in conversation with Fred Child.The KnightsEric Jacobsen, conductorTehila Nini Goldstein, sopranoBrooklyn RiderGolijov - She Was Here (a cycle of four songs steeped in Schubert)Works by Beethoven, Schubert, Glass, and IvesArt Exhibition and Projections by Lennie PetersonFree and Open to the Public• May 16, 20098:00 PM Benefit Concert for Riverside Food Pantry - Riverside Church, NYCThe Knights present a benefit concert for the Riverside Soup Kitchen. This will be the final concert before they head off to Germany and Ireland for their European tour!The KnightsEric Jacobsen, conductorBach (arr. by S. Beck) - O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Chorale for Orchestra)Copland - Appalachian Spring (13 instrument version)Songs of Golijov, Sondheim, Rodgers, and BernsteinBeethoven - Symphony No. 7Suggested donation $10Riverside Church -• May 20, 20098:00 PM Opening Night at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele - Dresden, GermanyThe Knights, in their first European tour will open the Dresdner Musikfestspiele with soprano Dawn Upshaw as their guest soloist at the Frauenkirche.The KnightsEric Jacobsen, conductorDawn Upshaw, sopranoIves - The Unanswered QuestionGolijov - She Was HereGolijov - Night of the Flying HorsesRodgers - He Was Too Good To MeSondheim - There Won't Be TrumpetsSondheim - What More Do I Need?Bernstein - "Somewhere" from West Side StoryBach (arr. by S. Beck) - O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Chorale for Orchestra)Beethoven - Symphony No. 7Dresdner Musikfestspiele -• May 21, 20098:00 PM The Knights with Christina Courtin at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele - Dresden, GermanyThe Knights present their second concert at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele with Nonesuch recording artist Christina Courtin at the Alter Schlachthof.The KnightsEric Jacobsen, conductorChristina Courtin, vocalRyan Scott, guitarIves - The Unanswered QuestionBeethoven - Coriolan OvertureGlass - CompanyCopland - Appalachian Spring (13 instrument version)Christina Courtin - Original SongsDresdner Musikfestspiele -• May 23, 20097:30 PM The National Gallery in Dublin, IrelandThe Knights continue their European tour in Dublin with soprano Dawn Upshaw and Nonesuch recording artist Christina Courtin.The KnightsEric Jacobsen, conductorDawn Upshaw, sopranoChristina Courtin, vocalsBach (arr. by S. Beck) - O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Chorale for Orchestra)Glass - CompanyGolijov - Night of the Flying HorsesRodgers - He was[...]



Ryo Toyonaga at The Vilcek FoundationFrom 18 March to 15 May 2009, The Vilcek Foundation presents an exhibition of eighteen ceramic-based sculptural works by Ryo Toyonaga, curated by Midori Yamamura. Created in the seclusion of a cabin in the Catskill Mountains from 1991 to 2003, these works seem to arise from both organic and man-made sources. To contemplate these objects pulls the mind through the paradoxes of appearance and reality. This duality between archaic and contemporary, of organic and constructed, brings to mind the similar duality in the best work of Martin Puryear. As either fossils from the future or distant past, the question is unavoidable: How did these things come to be? And the corollary question, Why can't I take my eyes off of them? The creative impulse that birthed this work—and their organic quality makes the metaphor of birth particularly apt—had to have been a well-spring, the sculptures in this show were selected from a body of 300 pieces. Each is a perfectly conceived unity, almost with its own DNA, making sense by the force of its own presence. We all have thoughts, fantasies, obsessions, whose force on our lives is as powerful as any physical object; sometimes these unseen forces are stronger than reality. Toyonaga has given form, shape, and physical presence to the actors of our unconscious theater, and offers the chance to confront them face to face.•From part 15 of Esthétique du Mal by Wallace StevensAnd out of what one sees and hears and outOf what one feels, who could have thought to makeSo many selves, so many sensuous worlds,As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarmingWith the metaphysical changes that occur,Merely in living as and where we live.•Ryo Toyonaga: Mephistophelean18 March through 15 May 2009The Vilcek Foundation167 East 73rd StreetNew York City10021(212) 472-2500info@vilcek.orgViewing fromWednesday through SaturdayNoon to 6:00 P.M. and by appointmentCatalog available[...]