Go out and listen to something…

April 27, 2006

National Symphony Orchestra

Filed under: music — burnett @ 12:12 pm

The NSO presents Dawn Upshaw, Mstislav Rostropovich conducting, in Correspondance of Henri Dutilleux.� This is the first time I’ve heard Dawn in person.� I have heard her overwhelming recording of the Gorecki 3rd Symphony, in which her performance sends a huge chill up the spine.�

� Dutilleux proves that he is among the few living composers who drives his music with emotion, in addition to his virtuosity with the orchestra itself.� The timbres are arresting, and the overall effect proves that this work is up there with the Vier Letzte Lieder of� Richard Strauss.� We hear so many skilled composers who bring works into the concert hall that lack the power to engage the heart and mind together.� Dutilleux is a master.�

� Dutilleux himself is here for the performances.� He sat in the 8th row this morning, and after each section motioned like the pope to Slava that he was cool with the performance.� Dawn sounded great, but is struggling with a few passages.� � I have no doubt that she’ll pull it together for the concert.

Slava has brought his relationship with the NSO to an historic low this week.� His pedantry has been excessively acute, and really has no place in this environment.� His faults as a conductor have been amplified to a roar, and the miscommunication� and his � incompetence have severely� impaired � the orchestra’s ability to get a handle on this otherwise terrific program

April 22, 2006

Ma XiaoHui

Filed under: music, film — burnett @ 3:56 pm

My next big project is a concert with Ma XiaoHui at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on June 3, 2006.� We last performed together in 1999, also at the Kennedy Center, and the following day on the U.S. Capitol grounds, a concert series that closed after 9/11.� I will have to research the program a bit, but it included her own remarkable compositions for piano and erhu, solo erhu pieces, Liebesleid by Fritz Kreisler and ended with the famous tango, Por Una Cabeza.�

There are several truly astonishing artists that I have worked with over the years, and they can be counted on 3 fingers.� Without naming the other two, Ma XiaoHui is one of them.� Her performances are extremely emotional for me, as the sound of the� erhu in her hands is like the crying of the human soul.�

I was watching the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a couple years back and was unmoved by the cello performance.� The cellist� gave the cello the same sound for the atmosphere of a Chinese fantasy story as� one would for a Czech folk song, and it was� inappropriate and� truly irrelevant.� The erhu performance in the movie was a different story, and was always stirring.� � The credits scrolled by at the end, and sure enough, at the very end, the erhu playing was attributed to Ma XiaoHui.� I just about fell out of my chair.

The Helen Hayes Awards

Filed under: music, theater — burnett @ 3:42 pm

The 22nd Helen Hayes Awards took place on Monday, April 17. My old friend Joanne Schmoll was a nominee, and I attended the whole evening. The VIP dinner was a “This is Your Life” scenario, with a host of old acquaintances popping up. The ceremony itself was notable because of the onstage music presentation. The orchestra was led by Glenn Pearson on piano, who has a charismatic presence and pulled the whole thing off quite well. George Hummel was the orchestra arranger for the evening, as he has been for countless shows now at various theaters, including Ford’s, Arena Stage, Signature, etc. The orchestra included Sue Kelly on cello, reed players Hummel, Charlie Young, Lee Lachman, trumpeter Dave Detwiler, percussionists Mark Carson and Tom Jones, guitarist Phil Matthieu, and others. The Warner Theater was packed, and at $400 a ticket, quite an impressive display of theater-philia.

The amplification of the orchestra was not good, and although the piano was well mic’d, the orchestra was poorly mixed, and much of Hummel’s work went to waste. How a nameless audio engineer can ruin the work of top performers like George and the others always amazes me. In the studio, there is such infinite attention to detail, but in public performance there is almost always a significant failure. This is not a new problem, but is repeated on a daily basis somewhere in Washington, whether at the military band concerts or at the Kennedy Center.

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