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February 2012

The Purplehearts - Bowery Electric

By Brian TellJOFF
As the stars were lining the red carpet Sunday night, I opted to check out The Purplehearts at Bowery Electric instead. The rock quartet filled the basement space with their unique sound fronted by Joff Wilson, doubling on old-school punk vocals and lead guitar.

The set started with a protest song reminiscent of the 60's spirit, "When the War is Over," engaging the crowd with it's simple, still-relevant message.  Accompanying the band was a veteran of the 60's movement itself, David Peel: an Apple Records artist back in the 70's, and well known for his relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 

Wilson's guitar playing was impressive as he danced about the stage lost in the music. The band's raw energy reminded me of 70's arena rock - especially once the saxophone fills mixed in. Solid drums and bass guitar rounded out the sound, keeping the beat moving. 

Berlin and Vienna Back-to-Back




Ten years ago this week, I flew to Berlin where, for the first time, I saw the Berlin Philharmonic, at their home concert hall, the Philharmonie. Exactly one week later, I found myself back in New York where, also for the first time, I attened a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall . Needless to say it was one of the more intesnse weeks of my life, musical or otherwise. As a memento, I framed the programs from both concerts where, for the past decade, they've been hanging on my living room wall (see above.)

History has a funny way of repeating itself, and this week, the Vienna Phil returns to Carnegie, exactly one week following the Berlin Phil's triumphant appearances here last weekend. Usually, Carnegie spaces out these two historic orchestras a bit more on their schedule, so as not to invite immediate comparison (not to mention give the critics a minute to catch their breath.) But, thinking about all of the music I've witnessed since that first back-to-back week ten years ago, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

The Vienna Phil arrives this Friday for a three-concert run, conducted by Lorin Maazel. Amazingly, tickets are still available for all three concerts; call the box office or go online. Programs below.

Friday, 3/2

  • SIBELIUS Symphony No. 7
  • SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5
  • SIBELIUS Symphony No. 1

Saturday 3/3

  • MOZART Symphony No. 40
  • WAGNER / LORIN MAAZEL The Ring Without Words, for Orchestra

Sunday, 3/4

  • R. STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
  • R. STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Suite
  • J. STRAUSS JR. Overture to Die Fledermaus
  • J. STRAUSS JR. Secunden Polka, Op. 258
  • J. STRAUSS JR. Kaiser Waltz, Op. 437
  • J. STRAUSS JR. Csárdás from Die Fledermaus
  • J. STRAUSS JR. Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214
  • J. STRAUSS JR. An der schönen, blauen Donau, Op. 314

Tune-In Music Festival: The Philip Glass Ensemble Plays Music in Twelve Parts

By Caleb Easterly


The Philip Glass Ensemble gave a rare marathon performance of Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts as part of the Tune-In Music Festival Saturday night at the Park Avenue Armory. The 1974 piece, rarely performed in its entirety, lasted longer than five hours, including two short intermissions and a one-hour dinner break. 

The piece, considered to be Glass' breakout work, is a smorgasbord of musical techniques, demonstrating his skill as a composer and the development of his personal musical voice: his trademark arpeggios, the instrumentation, slow change in rhythm and harmony. Even the most discerning listener can barely notice the changes until they've already happened. Yet other moments both within and between the parts give a the audience a welcome jolt out of their reverie.

The sold out crowd was huge and enthusiastic. A large screen was erected behind the stage, and I hoped for some interesting visuals, knowing how well film and Glass’s music can meld (Koyaanisqatsi anyone?). The screen, however, was only used to display simple colors and patterns; while well matched to the mood of the music, it seemed more an afterthought than an integral part of the performance.

As any lover of minimalist music will tell you, the best way to experience longer pieces is in one sitting without interruptions. The 3 intermissions, especially the hour long dinner break, turned out to be too much of a distraction, compared with to listening to a recording. However, a recording can never match the energy and immediacy of a live performance. The musicans were fantastic, tearing through the 12 parts with surety and style. The mesmerizing sound filled the massive space, and all of the performers seemed completely absorbed. Although most of them were hampered by mics, Glass made up for their stiffness, bobbing, dancing, and cueing with his entire body.

Glass’ detractors have accused him of creating cold and inaccessible music, but seeing how deeply he feels its' expressiveness has forever erased that thought from my mind.

Tune-In Music Festival: Phil and Patti Blow Up the Armory

by Angela Sutton

201201-music_festival james ewing 

Photos:  Philip Glass by James Ewing / Patti Smith by Jean Baptiste Mondino

If I told you that a poet, for her composer friend's birthday, offered a tribute performance to another, deceased poet, and that the performance would draw heavily on Buddhism, sex, rabble-rousing, and the Hindu pantheon, you would probably expect the exercise to collpase under its own preciousness. When the poet is Patti Smith and the composer-friend is Philip Glass, however, you get electrifying theater.

The cavernous Park Avenue Armory was the scene for this unusual collaboration Friday night, with floor seating near the stage on a set of threadbare Eastern rugs, creating a Gothic coffeehouse atmosphere. The performers required only a Steinway grand and a few mics, clearing the way for projected photographs of Allen Ginsberg and his associates on a screen behind.

Mr. Glass served primarily as poetry accompanist, taking only one solo feature, an extended piano twiddling titled Etudes #2 and #10.  His music has been labelled "Minimalist", and while this may not be fair to all of his works, it did apply to this offering.  His playing had the prinicpal effect of putting experiences beyond the piano in relief - the obbligato sirens of the FDNY on Lexington, for example, or the fundamental oddness of sitting in a giant room with hundreds of silent people.

The night truly belonged, however, to Patti Smith.  Her voice has lost none of its "Piss Factory"-era, eardrum-grabbing, power.  Her own poetry provided calming punctuation to her full-throated projection of Ginsberg's works, which, in "Wichita Vortex Sutra" and "Magic Psalm", approached shamanic dimensions.  Her own songs, backed up by daughter Jesse Smith and longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye, drew the loudest applause, particularly the foot-stomping closer, "People Have the Power", attaining new depth in this era of Occupy Wall Street.