Showing posts from February, 2018

IndyBaroque's indebtedness to a prolific composer expressed in "Love Letter to Telemann"

Years ago, when the late Charles Rosen visited DePauw University, I raised a question about Georg Philipp Telemann during the Q-and-A session following his talk. Polymath though he was, Rosen gave a somewhat dismissive answer. Either he didn't have much to say about Telemann or he figured I was a Telemann fan seeking for an expert endorsement that would raise him to J.S. Bach status. The Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra showed its love for Telemann. As harpsichordist Thomas Gerber's program note for Monday night's Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra concert at the University of Indianapolis indicated,  posthumously Telemann has had to struggle for respect since the Bach revival initiated by Felix Mendelssohn nearly 200 years ago raised the profile of both composers. Martin Ruhnke's 1980 Grove Dictionary article takes up the cudgels expansively, righting its taciturn 1954 predecessor. Few would claim Telemann the equal of Bach, but there's no reason why the latter

'Last Week I Heard the Strangest Speech': Donald Trump's to CPAC, recommending teachers be equipped with firearms

Carmel Community Players' "American Buffalo": the small-scale banality (and comedy) of evil

The quest for any advantage over others is often glorified as an American prerogative. David Mamet has long run a mine-sweeper over this well-worn terrain, finding improbable comedy in the unexploded ordnance and grubby miscalculations of wannabe winners. Switching to above-ground weaponry, "American Buffalo" hits the target dead center. The show had its second performance Saturday night in a Carmel Community Players production at the company's soon-to-be-vacated home on Clay Terrace Boulevard. From the title onward, the 1975 play is about bewilderment. It literally designates a rare buffalo nickel that triggers a plot to get rich off stolen coins. In classic American slang, if you're buffaloed, you're baffled, and Mamet's three characters are the picture of such a condition in varying degrees: the captious lout Walter "Teach" Cole at the one extreme of knowingness that turns out to be shallow; Chicago junk-shop proprietor and poker buddy Donny

Strong stuff from the ISO: Major Elgar and Beethoven

All these years of reviewing concerts, and I've barely paused to consider how much my impression of Nikolaj Znaider brings a violinist's suavity to conducting. a work as performed may be influenced by its program-mates. For instance, I can't claim to remember in detail what I thought of Raymond Leppard 's interpretation of Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 2 in E-flat. November of 1989 was the last time the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra played the piece until this weekend. The printed review I've saved jogs my memory, but consider this: On the same program was Henryk Wieniawski's second violin concerto and Franz von Suppe's Overture to "Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna." Both are in some degrees substantial, but lean toward the lighter side of the repertoire. This time around, with guest conductor Nikolaj Znaider on the Hilbert Circle Theatre podium, the weighty symphony rubbed shoulders with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-fla

Unitarian Universalist Sleight of Hand: Weaponizing Scripture, or the Invasion of the Meaning Snatchers

Masaccio's Adam and Eve bewail their expulsion from the garden. As a religious liberal, I endorse pushing back against attempts to compromise the full humanity of unjustly marginalized people. But to enlist venerated Scripture in the cause of LGBT rights is questionable, particularly the way it was done in a sermon I heard last Sunday at First Unitarian Church of Dallas. If you have to distort the obvious meaning of the first few chapters of Genesis, for example, in order to provide spiritual depth to firm beliefs in the "inherent worth and dignity" of everyone, you might be better off leaving Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel to the religiously orthodox. "We won't allow you to weaponize Scripture," the Rev. Aaron White declared to the opposition at the climax of his 22-minute sermon Feb. 18.  But he made that point after having done so himself, at considerable cost to the meaning of the familiar Judeo-Christian myth. The story holds three lessons for u

The predatory lender wants "money, honey" and the new CFPB says "Go for it!"

Money Honey Well, they texted me, they called me, rang my doorbell What they wanted from me I knew damn well: I’d borrowed a thousand from Golden Valley Lending, Now they wanted 4K — and they were unbending. It was: Money honey, un-un-huh, money honey Money honey: You got no friend at the CFPB. I said, I thought the bureau was here to protect People hard up from having their lives wrecked He said, Fairness in lending is strange and foreign; I suggest you take it up with Elizabeth Warren. I want: Money honey, un-un-huh, money honey Money honey: If you want to get along with me. When Trump won, the sun shone; now it’s looking rainy Consumer finance help’s in the hands of Mulvaney, He once called the agency “a sick, sad joke” Now he’s got the power to make sure I stay broke, And it’s: Money honey, un-un-huh, money honey To rip you off is official policy. I screamed: The bureau’s not doing its job for the nation He said, it’s about humility and moderation; I said Mulvaney feeds fr

East Coast Chamber Orchestra brings works for strings to IVCI Laureate Series

Susie Park (inset) and the versatile ECCO (with different personnel from Sunday's concert here) Besides presenting a couple of the 20th-century masterpieces for string orchestra Sunday afternoon, the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) added the local premiere of Derek Bermel 's "Murmurations" and a well-worn showpiece for founding member Susie Park, a Laureate in the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis . The IVCI Laureate Series concert at the Indiana History Center showed off the 17-year-old conductorless orchestra, a cohesive group despite regular changes of distinguished young personnel, in Bartok's Divertimento and Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony in C minor, op. 110a. Of the Hungarian composer's works of serious mien, Divertimento is the most genial. Despite the  acerbic quality of the first-movement melodies, in the opening movement cheerfulness keeps breaking in. ECCO's performance of it honored that buoyant quality.

A fantasy song: Threatened by the intrusion of veganism, he says, 'I'm gonna fry me a liver!'

Carmel Symphony Orchestra heralds the love holiday with all-American concert

At home in the Paladium as the Center for the Performing Arts ' local resident orchestra, the Carmel Janna Hymes, music director Symphony Orchestra is adding luster to its history with a new music director in her first season. Janna Hymes and the 85-piece ensemble delivered hearts and flowers to the CSO's supportive audience Saturday night with a concert that included a seasonally appropriate premiere, "Love Letter" by Michael Thurber, a violin concerto written for Tessa Lark, silver medalist in the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis . Reinforcing both the American and love themes of the concert were pieces by American masters George Gershwin, Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein, and Howard Hanson. Hymes has elicited alert, unified playing from the orchestra, as was evidenced by the short works that preceded the concerto. Though Gershwin's Overture to "Girl Crazy," a hit show from 1930, set the celebratory mood immediately, it t

Paul Taylor Dance Company visits Clowes Hall with three strong pieces from its vast repertoire

The Paul Taylor dance universe was subject to some focused star-gazing Friday night at Clowes Hall. Masked and elegant: The climax of "Cloven Kingdom" The visiting modern-dance troupe, a solid force in its field for several decades, presented a program constructed like a concerto: a challenging, attention-grabbing, fast-paced first movement; a contemplative, slow-paced Adagio, with some briskness inserted; and a finale weighted toward a memorable "message" of stress and resolution. The program spanned 1976 to 2002, and, taken together, the works displayed the versatility of the dancers in the 18-member touring troupe. "Cloven Kingdom" made for a high-relief calling card: Its coordinated crudity and elegance are woven into unity through a striking score juxtaposing Corelli concerto grosso movements from the baroque era with percussion ensemble (Henry Cowell and Malloy Miller). This ambitious classic requires a wide range of expressive movement, som

Rust Belt blues in "Sweat," the Russell Stage finale at Phoenix's Park Avenue home

Having advanced in the workplace, Cynthia (Dena Toler) tries to explain to her friends what their employer's up to. Reading, Pennsylvania's most eminent literary native son, Wallace Stevens, only glancingly captured his hometown and its environs in his poetry, an observation I owe to John Updike, whose hometown was Shillington, a small Reading suburb. A solid bourgeois manufacturing center that came into its own long after the poet (1879-1955) left for New York City, then Connecticut, Reading i n the early 21st century could be placed in contention with many other places as a Great Recession poster child. It's this era, in a play seesawing between 2000 and 2008, that Lynn Nottage focuses upon in "Sweat," which won last year's Pulitzer Prize in drama. During a run from tonight through March 4, Phoenix Theatre 's production will give audiences' emotions a good drubbing even as it confirms the excellence that the 35-year-old company will carry to

Watch it now! It's the Mueller Bully! GOP leaders in Congress consider their options

Music of our time for solo piano: Vicky Chow at Newfields

Maybe the performance in an art museum of new music for piano influenced me, with two- and three- Vicky Chow is committed to new music. dimensional art in all its silent wholeness so close at hand. In any event, Vicky Chow 's solo recital in the Pulliam Family Great Hall at Newfields Tuesday evening had me thinking more of sound sculptures than a linear art form with an implied narrative behind every piece. It started with the program's first piece. "The Arching Path," by Christopher Cerrone, whose title by itself prompted the audience to think of a journey: a path doesn't mean anything unless it leads somewhere. In fact, Cerrone was inspired by a bridge in Rome, Chow said after playing the 16-minute piece. Its gentle curvature was suggested by an evolution of its basic material: a steady, high-note pulse increasingly inflected by short phrases lower down that insinuate themselves against the prevailing pattern. Somehow, the dynamic dappling of that high-

Smoke Gets In Our Eyes: revision of an old song to comment on the President's rhetorical fires

Smoke Gets In Our Eyes They said he had potential To be presidential (oh-oh) I of course replied, not meaning to sound snide, “He couldn’t if he tried.” They said, he knows how to deal; I said, first he has to feel Beyond firing up his base, so it’s no surprise When we realize Smoke gets in our eyes. It appalls us, when he calls us “Traitors,” ‘”un-American,” more or less, After we fail to cheer and hail His self-serving State of the Union address. It’s clear that he meant to stoke The fire — that was no joke — oh,no: He pours fuel on his lies, as democracy dies Smoke gets in our eyes. Smoke gets in your eyes too: When will you get wise?

Two ways of proclaiming in the public square: Symphonic Choir performs Stravinsky and Vaughan Williams

Choral music inherently asserts music's role in addressing our collective will. But composers often seem to enjoy the tension between serving that function and choosing texts focusing on the individual. They hope to speak to the polarity that pulls us toward understanding our private experience as well as what connects us to widely shared traditions. Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem" display different paths toward achieving such a synthesis of public and private. The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, under the direction of Eric Stark, performed both works with clarifying intensity Saturday evening at Butler University. It's likely that no greater gathering of musicians has performed onstage in the Schrott Center's short history. The acoustically admirable hall was hard put to allow the large, well-trained chorus to come through consistently against the large instrumental ensemble. This was more

2010 IVCI bronze medalist Benjamin Beilman returns to town to solo with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Bramwell Tovey displayed rapport with ISO in debut appearance. The mood was relaxed, animated, and picturesque in the first of two Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend at Hilbert Circle Theatre. On Friday, British guest conductor Bramwell Tovey, making his first appearance on the ISO podium, gave an amusing, informative account of the action behind Igor Stravinsky's 1911 ballet score "Petrushka" before an expansive, colorful performance of that work occupied the concert's second half. And Benjamin Beilman , who earned a bronze medal (third place) in the 2010 International Violin Competition, showed there's plenty of spine in Camille Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor — not just sweetness and Second Empire charm. I've heard performances of this that indulge overmuch in the music's sugary quality. Benjamin Beilman: Grit and glory. What won me over Friday was the grit and glory he exhibited from the start of his

No strings attached: PRISM Quartet widens the spectrum of the Ensemble Music Society concert series

Timothy McAllister, Zachary Shemon, Taimur Sullivan, Matthew Levy. Central as it has become in various popular genres, particularly jazz, the saxophone — a family of instruments whose tonal and expressive range is as broad as any — exists somewhat on the margins of classical music. Its invention in the mid-19th century militated against ready adoption by composers. The symphony orchestra was already a closed club by Beethoven's time; refinements on instruments in good standing were introduced as the 1800s progressed, and the percussion section blossomed. Otherwise, it was chiefly the French who found any place for Adolphe Sax's invention in orchestral or chamber music: A staple of today's repertoire, Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition , features a beautiful saxophone solo. Yet the instrument has been subject to odd hostility over the years, partly because of its association with jazz at a time when that music was roundly scorned