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July 2013

Preview: "Soundings" Exhibition at MoMA

Tristan Perich, Microtonal Wall, MoMA

Tristan Perich, Microtonal Wall, 2011

On August 10, MoMA opens its first major exhibition of sound art, called Soundings: A Contemporary Score. (Long overdue, for those of us who have long been following trends in sound art.) The exhibition features new works by Carsten Nicolai, Jacob Kierkegaard, Tristan Perich, Susan Philipsz, and others that use sound to redefine visitors' expectations of what an art museum should be, blurring the lines between audio and visual stimuli.

As MoMA Director Glenn Lowry told a gathering of press representatives this morning: "Our mission is to follow artists, to go where they're going and offer access to the public. Sound is an area which has created some of the most interesting work of the last several decades."

More pics from this morning's preview after the jump.

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The Knights Bring Bach and Britten to Naumburg Bandshell

The Knights, Naumburg Bandshell

On a near-perfect evening last night, The Knights—Colin and Eric Jacobsen's ambitious "flexible orchestra"—performed at Central Park's Naumburg Bandshell, now in its 114th season. The mostly geriatric older audience packed every one of the 1,500 available seats for a wide-ranging program that opened with music by Bach—both J.S. and C.P.E.—and Stravinsky.

After intermission, they acknowledged Benjamin Britten's centenary with a performance of his rarely heard Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, featuring Michael P. Atkinson on horn and the fast-rising Nicholas Phan, who was pitch-perfect in his tender, yearning delivery. If Phan is this strong in Britten's concert music, it surely can only be a matter of time before we see him on the opera stage. (Messrs. Gelb and Steel: Are you listening?)

But the real surprise came at the end, when The Knights went free-form with ...the ground beneath our feet: a melange of everything from free jazz to bluegrass and calypso. At the end, violinist Christina Courtin—who moonlights as a successful singer-songwriter—came front and center with her cuatro to sing an uplifting song about overcoming adversity. Who knew we were in for an indie show?

If you missed it, the concert was broadcast live by WQXR, and will be archived soon on their website here. More pics on the photo page.

David Lang's "Little Match Girl Passion" at Glimmerglass Opera

glimmerglass opera

COOPERSTOWN, NY — I've seen David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion on at least three separate occasions now, and while the music has never ceased to haunt me, I've always thought the heartbreaking Hans Christian Andersen tale about a girl who freezes while trying to sell matches on the street would be well served by staging.

Enter Glimmerglass Opera, which last week premiered its new staged version of little match girl at the Alice Busch Opera Theater in Cooperstown, as part of an evening-length program under the dubious header "Passions." There were some indubitably fine moments to Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, which opened the evening—particularly Jessica Lang's (no relation) evocative choreography—but I couldn't grasp any real relation between Mary's sorrow at Jesus' passion and the Andersen story. Enough with these false umbrellas!

The second half opened with the world premiere of Lang's when we were children, for a cappella children's choir. The text, a quote from St. Paul, took on an unexpectedly dark meaning in the mouths of these babes:

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

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JP Jofre's Hard Tango Chamber Band at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Robert Leeper

JP Jofre 1

Don’t be fooled by the picture above: JP Jofre is no typical accordion player. In fact, he doesn’t even play the accordion. The Argentine musician is a young star and advocate of the bandoneón, a member of the concertina family known for being an essential part of tango ensembles in South America. Last night, Jofre and his Hard Tango Chamber Band brought a bit of their tango flair to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar, presenting three sets that included works by ubiquitous tango composer Astor Piazzolla, Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer, and original music by JP Jofre himself.  

Jofre roundly refutes the stereotype that his chosen instrument is strictly for buskers and raucous dancing; coaxing a tender vibrato throughout the evening, he brought a nostalgic and melancholy sound to a number of slower songs, like Astor Piazzolla’s classic “Oblivion” and the Jofre original “After the Rain.” These mellower, passionate songs showcased the talent of his group—often featuring sweetly singing violin and viola lines—as well as their ability to create intimate moments of overwhelming beauty, even while throngs of people packed into the Met’s Great Hall. 


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