8482382664_20a88e4311_oA couple of days late on this, but just learned that Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons died Sunday at his home in St. Petersburg, after many years of on-and-off health issues. He was 76. Famed for his passionate, intense interpretations of the music of Brahms, Strauss, Mahler and more, Jansons was one of the most revered conductors in the world, regularly leading the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (of which he was music director from 2004-15) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, which he led from 2003 until his death. Indeed, just last month, Jansons heroically led the BRSO in a program of Strauss and Brahms at Carnegie Hall, in what turned out to be his final concert. (He canceled a scheduled second concert the following night due to his illness.) Thanks to WQXR, you can hear the full concert below.

I was fortunate to catch Jansons' magic early on, while he was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1997-2004. In Pittsburgh, he was simply known as "Mariss", with the same rock star status normally reserved for its championship football and hockey players. If not quite as old school as Georg Solti or George Szell, Jansons had exacting standards, and was as demanding on his players as he was on himself.

“Nothing was ever good enough,” Pittsburgh Symphony senior vice president of artistic planning Robert Moir told the Washington Post in 2013. “It was a constant quest for that impossible, elusive perfection. No matter how blazingly outstanding the performance was — and they all were; I don’t remember a bad concert in the time he was here — I don’t remember him being satisfied.”

Jansons brought energy and deep humanity to the music of Tchiakovsky, Shostakovich - and, above all, Beethoven. I'll never forget his final concert at Heinz Hall, where he conducted a towering Beethoven 9th and was showered with rose petals as he exited stage left for the last time. Fortunately, I had several more opportunities to hear him in New York, as Carnegie's Clive Gillinson made sure he appeared here every season with one of the above mentioned orchestras. A difficult, deeply felt loss.

Times obit here. A tribute from Clive Gillinson here. More from his 2013 concert with the Royal Concertgebouw at Carnegie here

Category Is: Sonic Synesthesia at Baby’s Alright

by Kat Pongrace
IMG_4915In what seems to be the vanguard color of Gen-Z, a woman with electric green hair bounded onstage at Baby’s All Right last week (October 30) to open Category is: Sonic Synesthesia. The event was my first encounter with Pink Boot, an independent media outlet dedicated to celebrating women and femmes of color, and the line up for Sonic Synesthesia in no way came up short.

Brooklyn R&B songstress Alex Mali warmed up the crowd with songs from her recent EP Sweet + Sour, including her new track “Fighting Words.” Her intimate performance eschewed Baby's normally bejeweled backdrop in favor of a projection of the moon and clouds emblazoned with her name and her silhouette. For an opening act, she seemed to be highly anticipated, and from what I heard had been the primary attraction for many in the crowd attending. 

Following Mali, Los Angeles-based Mila J brought her signature girl group appeal with a side of some serious Scorpio energy. Mila, a former dancer and girl group singer (including an appearance in Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls"), exhibited a number of well-choreographed routines that avoided feeling overproduced. After recording a pair of EPs with Motown and recording with such artists as Jodeci and Timbaland, Mila is currently working on her debut studio album.

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"The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" at the White Light Festival

by Steven Pisano

Sonezaki_Shinju-hatsu_toku042.final_copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto-Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation(© Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation)

2019 marks the 10th anniversary season of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, offering works from around the world in music, theater, and dance that explore art’s power to "reveal the many dimensions of our interior lives." The festival opened this past weekend and continues through November 24.

The initial presentation, The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, is a Bunraku play written by the esteemed Japanese dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). A soy sauce company sales clerk named Tokubei and a prostitute named Ohatsu are in love, but many forces conspire to keep them apart. So, they decide that if they cannot be together in this world, they will commit suicide and be together in the next life. The show was such a big hit when it was first presented in 1703, that numerous young couples were known to commit suicide in the nearby forest, which caused the Tokugawa shogunate 20 years later to prohibit any further performances--a ban that lasted until 1955 (232 years later!).

This U.S. premiere was created by artistic director Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of the world's most celebrated photographers and architects, as well as a theater producer. The music was written by Seiji Tsurusawa, who is known as a Living National Treasure.

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Lez Zeppelin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Steven Pisano

20190913-DSC08329(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Consider, if you will, the following partial description of an object in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which ended this past weekend:

Archtop with F-holes and Venetian cutaway; laminated maple body and neck, rosewood fingerboard; 23½ in. scale; natural finish with white & black double binding, set neck with mother-of-pearl split parallelogram inlays and white binding to fingerboard; mother-of-pearl Gibson headstock logo with crown inlay; two PAF humbucking pickups,...

Sounds pretty fancy, doesn't it? Maybe a rare piece of furniture from a Renaissance craftsman, or a priceless treasure from a European estate?

Hell no! This is how the catalog begins the description of the Gibson ES-350T (ca. 1958) that Chuck Berry strutted on stage with in the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing hits like "Johnny B. Goode."

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