Thursday, March 27, 2014

Webern Saves Australia!

 The Australian Chamber Orchestra in its barest bones (string quintet, piano, percussion and guest guitarists Brian Ritchie and Jim Moginie) breezed through Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan’s West Village last week - one stop on its five-city tour of North America. There was much that was disappointing in this hipster hodgepodge program, and it is sad to say that most of the blame rests on the ACO’s leader, arranger and brain, Richard Tognetti.

Gesualdo with Radiohead; Kurt Cobain with Webern? Are such pairings still considered cutting edge? The overall impression was provincial, but how thankful we are in this city that LPR has a full bar.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Angel’s Dark Lessons


 Ryland Angel, countertenor, was the standout of the NYC-based vocal group TEиT's March 15th concert. In residence at St. Ignatius Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, they featured an artist of uncommon gravity and purity in Mr. Angel. In an austere Lenten program anchored around chapters from Charpentier and Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres, this program was no walk in the park. Mr. Angel illuminated the profound truths chosen by the artistic director, Jolle Greenleaf, in the program notes:

 “I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.”   ~Dalai Lama
 “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”  ~Rumi
 “Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow then this light is nearest to all of us.”  ~Meister Eckhart

    Of these six serious musicians, Mr. Angel embodied these dichotomies with a somber rapture, balancing divine anguish with earthly hope stayed with an unwavering commitment to the highest standards of musical line, prosody, pitch and diction. His contribution to the last piece, Charpentier’s Psaume 50 Miserere, coalesced the full ensemble in a crowning accomplishment. His final tone was a rare gift, a sound hollow yet profoundly chthonic.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Home Bass

The prodigiously talented 14-year-old double bassist William McGregor was presented over the weekend by Juilliard’s Pre-College Division in Paul Hall. He has the sunny disposition and blond locks of a Californian surfer dude and the charisma of a young Jim Morrison. These characteristics are well served by his amazingly natural fluid technique and practically flawless intonation and harmonics. 
His program included solo Bach, the Vanhal Concerto and Williams' Theme from Schindler’s List, which had a singing wistfulness, never tortured or pompous. He concluded with Bottesini’s Fantasy on La Somnambula that was so deft as to be tongue in cheek. 
Though William sounds like a musician twenty years older, there is no affectation or portentousness. Infectious is the joy he takes in his own remarkable accomplishments. 
Albert Laszlo is his teacher. 

Remarkable in a scarring way was the accompanist, yours truly, Miss Colostomy Bag. Eduard Laurel’s orchestral tuttis, sight-read with flagrant shame, were eye-poppingly horrific. They brought to mind the desperate kicking of a deer just crashed through a windshield. Bless the soloist for remaining utterly unfazed. 

William McGregor is a virtuoso to watch. Look out, Gary Carr.