Friday, February 3, 2017

we hear favorites and a new work

Friday night the Sarasota Orchestra performed two Tchaikovsky pieces and a new work by Tuur...

This Masterworks concert Tchaikovsky to Tüür showcased world renowned pianist Simon Trpčeski. 

Anu Tali calls Simon "An Amazing Fireball."  The Macedonian pianist has established himself as one of the most remarkable musicians to have emerged in recent years, performing with many of the world's great orchestras and captivating audiences around the globe.  He is praised not only for his impeccable technique and delicate expression, but also for his warm personality and commitment to the music.  The concert opened with one of Tchaikovsky's famous works Mélodie  from Souvenir d'un lieu cher for violin and orchestra.  Trpčeski closed the concert with Tchaikovsky's heart-rending Piano Concerto No. 1. 

some reviews: EVERY one of them completely deserved by this amazing performer!
His performance confirmed Trpčeski as belonging to that rare breed of musician who allies a flawless technique and concentration of expression with a natural gift for communication.
- Classical Source
Mr. Trpčeski was everywhere fluent, muscular and athletic in double-octave passages, light and humorous in more pointed moments.
- New York Times
Electrifying virtuosity. The most delicate feelings. Head plus heart, lots of heart.
- The London Times

The middle piece is dedicated to Anu Tali (the Music Director and Conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra) here are the program notes- 

As a mode of expression, an act of rebellion, and a vital method of cultural preservation, music has long been important in the small country of Estonia. Along with his compatriot Arvo Pärt, Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür - born in 1959 - has played a significant role in shaping Estonian music’s current landscape.  Interestingly, Tüür began his career in the second half of the 1970s as the leader of In Spe, a well known Estonian progressive rock band inspired by King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Genesis.

In the 1980s he changed course dramatically, becoming a classical composer who seeks to raise fundamental questions about our existence through his works. As Tüür describes his intent, “What is our mission? It is the main question asked by thinkers and philosophers from different cultures. One of my goals is to reach the creative energy of the listener. Music as an abstract form of art is able to create different visions for each of us, for each and every individual being, as we are all unique.”

To explore our individual visions, our missions, Tüür draws freely and gleefully from a wide range of compositional techniques—from Gregorian chant and minimalism, to tonality and atonality, to repetitive rhythmic patterns and irregular complex rhythms—and has gone through a series of compositional voices. Tüür’s Symphony No. 6 (Strata), composed in 2007 and dedicated to Anu Tali and the Nordic Symphony Orchestra, belongs to his self-styled “vectorial” period. As Tüür describes this particular musical approach, “On a grass roots level, the entire composition is encapsulated in a source code—a gene, which, as it mutates and grows, connects the dots in the fabric of the whole work. Why vectorial? An important role in voice leading is played by the position on the ‘blueprint’ of the various directions and ‘curves.’ I perceive them as vectors, which are defined by intervals (which are in turn indicated by a sequence of numbers). In any case, what one hears (especially in the harmonies) is very different from the ‘meta-linguistic’ work of the previous decade.”

To borrow from Doris Kareva:
All bodies are fully
different as rivers
on their way to the ocean.
The same spirit
flows in everything.

and here is my review of this piece- better than Stravinsky LOL but seriously just because you CAN make a sound doesn't mean you HAVE to..." so, not my favorite thing I have heard this terrific orchestra perform... but with the Tchaikovsky pieces we had another terrific evening from the SO... as I mentioned with the ballet- we are so lucky to have all of this great art so close by- and soon I will be able to write about our opera since I made sure to get tickets to an opera I had not yet heard sung - The Italian Girl in Algiers being performed in just a few weeks here... 

My class is in its final two weeks and after that we are again in full "company" and entertainment mode before I leave for Uzbekistan.... so as always stay tuned...

Thursday, February 2, 2017

don't read any further

if you aren't willing to read something dealing with politics - and I can understand why someone might want to take that position these days.

A bit of background- my undergraduate major was American History - with a concentration in Constitutional History- and in law school I did all the Con Law classes that were available.  So it was with great trepidation that I went to see "The Originalist" last night at the Asolo Rep Theater.

As the main character says - half the people in the country find him a hero and half a monster. Leaving out emotion- I would say - neither.  I found him a manipulative justice who under the guise of being a strict constructionist (his term is "originalist" for being tied to the "original" document) furthers a particular right wing agenda.  And many ways he did what liberals want the alleged "liberal" justices to do but that has never been their M.O. - hence the monster tag.

For literally ten plus years I have been telling anyone who would listen to me (limited numbers of people LOL) that we need a new constitutional convention and that it is time to update our archaic document - which was NOT handed down from the mountain top or written on stone...seriously folks - it's now more than 240 years since the nation was founded - an agrarian society which in order to form the union against the British made some unacceptable (in the year 2000 and beyond) compromises to create the nation.  The original sins of the documents they worked with back then still haunt us and it's time to let them go.

Rhode Island does not need two senators and neither does Montana.  Democracy should be and should have always been one person one vote and majority rules- states with smaller populations should not be able to dictate to larger ones and the vestiges of slavery (carried in the original sins of the electoral college and disproportionate representation) need to go.  This was all true long before the most recent election.

In September 2016 the U.S. Constitution celebrated its 229th birthday. It is the world's longest surviving written charter of government by several decades. It's time to move to the modern world.

Given that I have strong feelings about the document in the center of the drama last night I was not sure how it would react to the play.  Here are some things the theater said in promo materials -

The winter rep season kicked off on January 13 with THE GREAT SOCIETY, Robert Schenkkan's thrilling depiction of LBJ's divisive presidency.

On Inauguration Day, January 20, we opened THE ORIGINALIST, John Strand's remarkably timely play about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the search to find the common ground.

The fun continues next week when we open BORN YESTERDAY, Garson Kanin's beloved classic comedy about a not-so-dumb blonde's journey into Washington high society – officially kicking off The Washington Trilogy: Three Hot Shows – One Blazing City.

And -

Asolo Rep brings the Supreme Court center stage with this daring new political play about one of America’s most colorful and controversial figures, Justice Antonin Scalia. Half the country thought of him as a monster, half thought of him as a hero. With a unique mix of politics and humor, The Originalist follows Scalia and his young, liberal law clerk as they spar over issues and ideas to try to find the middle ground. Written by Charles MacArthur Award-winning playwright John Strand and starring four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Edward Gero (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Scalia), this powerful work depicts passionate people risking heart and soul to defend their interpretation of the truth.

and here are some materials from the program for those who wish to delve further -

so I looked past the arguments I may have had with the way the relationship was portrayed (totally would never happen) and the way the law was presented (for the drama rather than the routine) and what I ended up finding was a rather predictable script (could see it all coming from miles away) and terrific performances - not unlike much theater we see... the writing is hard and there are far fewer people who can create an amazing script/storyline than there are who can bring it to life...

in the end I didn't find the play upsetting in the way I expected it to be - it was too well balanced to be so, but the balance came at the cost of credibility... oh well - we go on... in our case to Tchaikovsky and the orchestra on tomorrow night! stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

arts & eats part 3

So this post is not only a little out of order it takes in several performances and yet another meal (it is arts & eats after all...LOL)

Last Saturday night we traveled up to Largo to the Cultural Center to see Al Stewart in concert with Dave Nachmanoff and Mike Lindauer.  We were treated to several numbers by Dave to start off the concert - including two that I really favored "That Guy" and "Midnight Sea" and one Phil loved "Thing of Beauty". Mike Lindauer - on bass - joined Dave for part of the intro set.

Then the lead act Al Stewart (of Year of the Cat and Time Passages albums which were huge sellers) started off an extended set that included favorites of mine "Broadway Hotel" and "On the Border" as well as "Palace of Versailles"... after intermission several additional favorites including an audience shout out for "Doesn't Come Naturally" and the big finale of "YOTC" - still after hundreds of listenings I am still grabbed by the mystery and lyricism evoked by this song and it's fabulous guitar riffs.

🎵🎵🎵 "She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolor in the rain...."🎵🎵🎵

Dave and Mike start the evening-

then Al joins them -

a fun evening made more fun by the fact that because Phil & Mike are friends we got to visit with the performers backstage before the concert (which is where I took this photo LOL)

and just because we are doing our arts & eats posts about last week I will also mention again that we went to a house concert that featured Brother Sun - which got kind of short shrift in the post about our friends visiting from Denmark because it was a week ago and we have bee extremely busy - but these guys were terrific- it is three artists who are solo but work together under the name Brother Sun- so another shout out to them! Many many good songs sung that evening but my favorite was the one entitled "So Far to Come" but the whole new CD called Weights & Wings is worth a listen to...

so to finish off the last week - we also had two more good meals - LOL- of course - and this is an "arts & eats" post so I will include them-

Louie's Modern with Mike before he left town and then Kasa Sushi just the two of us to have a quiet dinner and get home early...LOL -  including a couple of good wines

 Phil's lobster risotto-

my burrata salad-

the last 1985 Lynch Bages-

Mike's short ribs-

then on to Kasa Sushi - our new favorite place for sushi- we tried the excellent soft shell crab appetizer and then went to sashimi - I love that they will make the uni and the ikura with no rice and use cucmber bowls to hold those items-

the rainbow roll in front and "fire in the house" in back (previous fave) and in the middle a special for the night - with king crab and spicy shrimp and avocado--- all yummy!

the eel - again served on cucumber rather than rice (by request)  - then a spicy tuna roll and black dragon roll...

so it was a busy two weeks for us- exactly 14 days ago we headed to Chicago and had a busy long weekend there- we came back south and saw Neil on Monday and had the house concert Tuesday (which is also my class day) and then Poul & Lene arrived Wednesday along with my cousin Cathy... she left Thursday and Poul & Lene stayed until Saturday morning then Saturday night Al Stewart, Sunday the ballet and Bern's and then Monday Louie's back to my Tuesday class and then a relaxing evening at Kasa Sushi... this is all in addition to the other stuff- LOL - I had meetings and physical therapy (SI joint problems being rehabbed) and Phil had his appointments with his trainer twice a week and then there were the business side things to handle- LOL so even though we aren't getting paid to work we still are somehow working ...LOL - retirement rocks! Stay tuned... tonight off to the theater....

arts & eats part 2

so still working back from last night to earlier activities -

On Sunday afternoon Barb and I went to the ballet- and here is the blurb on what we saw performed:
The Sarasota Ballet presented Ashton, Graziano & Tuckett. Sir Frederick Ashton’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, a series of waltzes created in 1947 and lost until its revival in 1986, returned to the Sarasota stage. Valses celebrates Ravel’s ravishing, swooning score with its rich costumes and romantic choreography. Resident Choreographer Ricardo Graziano brought his 2014 Before Night Falls back by popular demand. The long-awaited return of Will Tuckett’s Changing Light, which received its world premiere with The Sarasota Ballet in 2013, closed the program. Inspired by Sarasota’s majestic sunsets, Changing Light brought audiences to their feet with its uplifting beauty and vitality.

Both the Graziano and the Tuckett ballets got standing ovations- they were absolutely magnificent.  I couldn't even say which I liked most- because they were both terrific and the dancers amazing!

All the photos I have are from the ballet's website or promo materials - and sadly there is no way to convey the beautiful movement we saw in the performances in still photos-  but here are a few to give you a sense of the beautiful sets and costumes at least-

the above from the finale of the Tuckett ballet - Changing Colors...

the music for the Graziano ballet Before Night Falls was very dramatic and haunting - worth finding it to listen...

The ballet was sold out for all the regular performances and they added two more which also sold out!

here are some reviews- or excerpts from them-

"they have reached an entirely different level and they have outdone themselves! In fact, this weekend’s performance of the powerful line up of choreographers Ashton, Graziano, and Tuckett was transcendent...“Changing Light” by Will Tuckett was commissioned by Artistic Director Iain Webb for the Sarasota Ballet and was inspired by what Tuckett called “one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen, the Sarasota sunset.” This place-based piece is an ideal way to highlight the specificity of the talents of this tremendous company who all live and work in Sarasota."

another review- from the local paper- (heavily edited due to length)

"Valses," the nearly-lost Ashton ballet from 1947 which director Iain Webb and his wife, assistant director Margaret Barbieri, painstakingly reconstructed from an archival film five years ago...Set in a roseate post-war ballroom, with costumes of tulle and velvet and three transparent screens to dance around and behind and danced to an elegant Maurice Ravel score, it's always been a "pretty" ballet to watch, full of deceptively difficult classical vocabulary that's meant to look as easy as skipping down a lane.

The program was originally to have included a new work by dancer and resident choreographer Graziano, but his ongoing injury derailed that possibility. No matter. I'd been looking forward to a reprise of "Before Night Falls" since the first (and only other) time the company performed it three years ago. A series of duets by four couples (another three that come together for ensembles at the beginning and end) set to a hypnotic score by Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds, its focus is on partnering and relationship, though not literally so.  In barely there, dusky blue leotards, the couples seldom separate, each dancer reliant upon another as if for breath itself. Having recently seen Graziano's acclaimed "In a State of Weightlessness," I could recognize the birth of his signature style in this earlier work, which asks a lot of both the men (lots of lifting) and the women (you'd better be very flexible). But as impressive as the athletic moves and melting transitions, is Graziano's musical interpretation, which packs an emotional punch into every step. The final pose, with Wood reaching for the glowing globular helixes that descended from above while impossibly "kneeling" on Gonzalez' chest, had an almost religious feel. And the thunderous applause that followed had a genuineness and spontaneity.

The reprise of Tuckett's "Changing Light," an abstract work the British choreographer created for the company in 2013, was elating in a different way. Full of exuberance, joy and streaks of color in the simple orange (principals) and blue (secondaries) ombre costuming representing the Bay area sunset that inspired the piece, it is set to an expansive score by Tuckett's friend and colleague, Jeremy Holland-Smith that reminds me of Aaron Copland's best.  There's no story here - it's pure dance at its finest. ...there's also something kind of wonderful about seeing such a cluster of energy contained without a collision.

In a program largely devoid of backdrops, sets or elaborate costuming, the tone set by the lightning is of magnified importance. So special kudos go to the often-unheralded Aaron Muhl, who subtly provided just the right ambience for all three ballets, ensuring this evening of visual delights came off at its best.

Really - to my mind perhaps the best two performances I have seen since the Graziano choreographed In a State of Weightlessness.... which was simply breathtaking! - so a wonderful way to start off the day which ended late into the evening with the trip from arts & eats part 1.... but there was more to the weekend - which I will detail in a third post to ensure we get it all in LOL... stay tuned!

Monday, January 30, 2017

arts & eats part 1

so it has been a busy few days and this will take at least two posts to cover because I want to give everything it's due space and details-

since I have the photos ready to go on last night's wine and food I am going to start with that and then I will fill in the days before in another post - that would be the Saturday night concert with Al Stewart and Sunday's fabulous ballet performance by the Sarasota Ballet- but first we eat as MFK Fisher says... so off we go to Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood....

Bern's is mecca to wine lovers- at one point their cellar had over a million bottles - they told us last night 1.2 million and also told us it is down to a more manageable 600,000 bottles now - LOL we have less than 1/100 of that and can't keep track of them I have no clue how the somms there do it...

But anyway- our somm there for the last goodly number of years has been Brad Dixon (his cousin went to kindergarten with Phil's mom and the cousin worked in Phil's grandfather's store- LOL- small world - we are talking Belleville IL and we met Brad here in Tampa) and he really knows how to to work the cellar.  Phil gets in touch with him and then he and Brad work out a plan before we go because there is absolutely NO WAY you could go and make your way through the entire list to decide on the spot what to order.

So last night we had worked a list ahead of time with hopes that some of our prior favorites were still available and two of the wines we drank were prior WOE (wine of the evening) winners then we had three others including one that was an open choice for Brad and a wild card for us - and OMG it won WOE hands down against some really tough competition.

so off we go- and I will add the spoiler at the beginning - here are my happy campers in the dessert room after the meal - and the wines - which I should mention were also shared by good friends from TPA CBGB of wine trip to Argentina (first blog posts in 2010) and wine trip in Burgundy (blog posts in May 2014)

We started with two whites - a Chablis and a Puligny - Montrachet

by this time we had the cheese toasts - which I laugh at every time because they are like wheat thins that they melt cheese on - a la 1950s  and now we are on to our mini french onion soups which were marvelously retro and very tasty...

then the reds started arriving - the first was a former WOE winner and still showing fabulously from 1983 the Cru Beaujolais St Amour from Devillaine -

 then the wild card and winner of Wine of the Evening WOE the Grancey from Latour vintage 1970! (before I graduated from high school by a couple of years- and the Bordeaux guys always say burgundy isn't long lived---HA!)

then another WOE from prior visits - the 1975 Cahors still showing vigor - I think that may be a characteristic of the grape blend... Malbec (which they call something else in Cahors) and Merlot...

 the food arrived (not shown loaded baked potatoes) but here is the rest- we shared a large Chateaubriand for five and had plenty to take home for lunch-

in the dessert room I chose the cappuccino creme (a deconstructed tiramisu) and Phil and Mike had other things they liked - Mike's had raspberries and chocolate and Phil's some kind of hot fudge and nut ice cream or something- I was too busy polishing off my own dessert to notice LOL

Mike had a couple of ports and Phil and I had Madeiras from our birth year 1954- and speaking of 1954 here is a throw back to that time - in each of the pods in the dessert room they have a sound system to choose your own background music- LOL

so in recap here were the wines (we drank them right to left)

and if you got this far on the post I will let you in on a secret - the wines - all five bottles cost a vast sum of just under $280 total  (I defy you to find another high end steakhouse in America where you can drink five fabulous bottles of wine for less than 56 per bottle on average!) Now we know these old value wines will not last forever, but we have now been going here for similar wine dinners since February of 2011.  Each year, sometimes twice a year,  along with our somm, we have been able to scour the list for value wines and have been amply rewarded for the effort put into planning the visit.

It was great fun for all but since CBGB have joined in on nearly every one of the events over the years - it was fun for all of us to see Mike's eyes get wide and hear his comments on the wines as they arrived- that is how we got to the photo from the end of the night -

Next I will circle back to the concert Saturday night and the Ballet on Sunday--- so stay tuned as I always say... more fun coming up!