Saturday, April 12, 2014

One Great Phil

Make no mistake, when the New York Philharmonic plays well, they play fantastically. The evening of the eleventh of April they had every reason to. Christoph von Dohnányi effortlessly provided a gloved, crushed velvet support in the first Brahms Concerto for the British pianist Paul Lewis, who was sincere, heartfelt and soulful. If the orchestra’s opening exposition lacked luster, the pianist’s entrance (almost diffident - his untucked, unassuming grey smock made a statement: “Don’t look at me; listen to the music”) had a remarkable dignity, humility and forthrightness which compelled the conductor, orchestra and audience.
   An appreciation for the first movement was somewhat ruined by an elder’s hearing aid, apparently lost in her bag (impossible to fault any true music lover).  Nonetheless, this pianist’s depth and warmth was a constant through what will be undoubtedly a rich and rewarding relationship with this institution.

Monday, April 7, 2014

One Tough Phil

Pablo Heras-Casado made his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic Wednesday April 2nd in Avery Fisher Hall. Their relationship was not an easy one. Overall, this listener’s impression was that Mr. Heras-Casado, lacking in authority and command, was taken for a ride by an orchestra with personality problems.
   The well-chosen program began with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, here impossibly colorless from rhythmic rigidity, and indifferently balanced within and between the orchestral choirs. There was no swoosh in the ocean waves nor in the waking gull’s calls, in this Dawn so very overcast. The horns did not peal, but glared into Sunday Morning, as might be heard on Mercury  (yet brilliant in imagination were the trills and warbling by the principal flutist).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Love Letter to Manhattan's Café Luxembourg

   For over a quarter century, it has been an honor and privilege to be welcomed here, despite some bumps in the road. It was at this bar nightly, for years, that I fine-tuned my voice to a social lubricity, exploring the boundaries of excess in the context of good manners. The biggest part of my recovery from addiction came from involved, fearless conversations with countless wonderful patrons. Many of my favorite people work, or have worked, on the staff. They are the truly beautiful, fascinating and ambitious.