Stephen Kaye

August 30, 2015—Mixing young musicians with seasoned musicians can have the effect of making everyone more attentive, more on edge; the result at this two-week festival, where we heard rehearsals and four evening performances, suggests that the mix can produce utter joy.  Pieces that I thought of as tired clichés came alive with brilliant performances.

The final evening, held in the elaborately, laughably Baroque Aula Leopoldina in the university building in the city of Wrocław, Poland, opened with Handel's overture to Suite No. 1 of Water Music. It was a showpiece for Tamás Pálfalvi on trumpet. Pálfalvi studied at Bard's Conservatory of Music, where he played with a group of mostly Hungarian brass players. His trumpeting on Sunday was brilliant—clear, penetrating and perfectly backed up by the strong strings led by Viviane Hagner, the festival's music director.

Sitting in on a master class with the members of the Hermès Quartet and Alfred Brendel is like being inside that mystical process in which the ideas of the composer, as recorded in the written score, are translated by musicians two hundred years later into the most sublime music imaginable.

There is perhaps no one alive today that has a better or deeper understanding of Beethoven than the master of this master class. The Hermès players had a pretty good idea themselves, but they welcomed—no, treasured—the insights Brendel offered. We were struck by the amount of work that went into each measure, each note of this late quartet of Beethoven. “Lengthen the line, a little more on the first note, a little slower, play the fast part as if you do not want to be the fastest,” and then the constant reminder of musicality transmitted by Brendel’s da-ta-da as he as hummed the lines operatically. His mere presence is reassuring; his smile is the sign of approval.

August 17, 2015-

Sunday afternoon’s chamber series focused on seven 20th century Latin American composers, one of which was Carlos Chávez (1899-1978). The first four pieces were in the modern mode: we heard atonality, dissonance, 12-tone scale, the abandonment of melody and harmony.  Gabriela Ortiz’s “Patois Serenos” of 1985 was serene, spacey, pleasantly jarring like a good Bloody Mary. Robert Sierra’s Bongo-O was a solo on bongos that was emphatic, rhythmically elusive, and strangely expressive.  

August 15-

The Mostly Mozart Festival that is held every summer at Lincoln Center goes well beyond Mozart; last Thursday ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) was given the Kaplan Penthouse for a late night concert for an all Dai Fujikura program.  Dai Fujikura is a London-based composer who has worked extensively with ICE and its individual members.  He was a student of George Benjamin whose opera “Written on Skin” was performed earlier that evening; more Benjamin will be played on August 16 and 17. 

We caught up with Carlos Chávez and His World on Saturday afternoon at a program related to Chávez’s New York years (beginning in 1930), when he came into contact with Varèse, Copland, Cowell, jazz and blues. For many, these are not household names. These composers were at the beginnings of modern music in the United States. They had heard Stravinsky and Schoenberg and his school. The program gave us a selection of works by American composers and two Mexican composers who were similarly influenced—Chávez and Silvestre Revueltas.

The New York Times pointed out in its Thursday edition that Donald Trump, taking a cue from Sylvester, avoids talking about subjects he doesn’t know much about, things like government and government policy.  Like Sylvester, he lets out a throaty  braying that carries over the countryside. Unlike Sylvester, it signifies very little.

What they do have in common is that the media is the message, not the content. Being large and noisy is as much message as content and is as much content as we are likely to get.

We didn’t mention the Others because, as a group, they’re still in the preliminary warm-ups. Most haven’t learned their lines; they’re struggling to learn the score. The only soloist is Rand Paul, but he is still off-key. The best we can expect of the Others is one-night stands where they will appear during intermissions of minor league games. - SCK

Counterclockwise or clockwise?

August 8: Walk up to the second floor of the Madison Avenue gallery of Dominique Lévy and you will find a sight that needs explanation. You will be confused.  You will see a floor crowded with white sculpted figures.  You will notice that some of the figures are of a sitting or standing Buddha.  He is smiling.  He seems happy to see you.  Other figures, if you look closely, look like snowmen. Yet others are of animals.  They are all cut of white marble, which we learned from an attractive gallerist who came to our rescue that the marble is from Vietnam. 

1106 One Sun One Moon Banner1 by Peter Regli

The 28th Bard Music Festival, “Carlos Chavez and his World” opened Friday night with a pot pourri of musical offerings by a dozen Mexican composers from the Baroque to the radical modern of the 1930’s. How Chavez fits into this history was not yet revealed, but it will be over the next two weeks with ten more musical performances, seminars and a book.

August 5, 2015

Mike Kelsey, the county legislator for Amenia, Washington and part of Pleasant Valley, emerged vindicated in preliminary skirmish with the County Committee that had endorsed a total stranger to run on the Republican line this November.  As a result, Kelsey will be on the primary ballot on September 10. The Republican committee had challenged his petition to get on the ballot, but lost its challenge in a judicial proceeding. The stranger, who was the petitioner in the legal action,  is Sarah Washburn who lives in Pleasant Valley and works for the town of Lagrange as recreation director. 

Kelsey is battling a felony sex abuse charge in Saratoga County involving a camping trip in which teenagers, intoxication and politics played an unhealthy mix.  On the day the charges became public, the county Republican leaders called for his resignation.  Since then they have continued to pressure him to resign from his elected position.

Instead, he is running for re-election this November. 




August 2, 2015

 “There’s no such thing as perfection” may be a valid observation, but on Sunday afternoon a full house at Music Mountain was offered proof to the contrary.  The Penderecki Quartet joined by Matt Haimovitz were as near perfect in concert as this reviewer has heard in many a year.

It started with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor that Matt played in soft dulcet tones modulated to round out the sharp edges one sometimes hears in this piece. One had the impression he was playing for us, not for a muse nor for an imagined composer, but for us. The stately passages made us feel in the presence of majesty; he revealed the music as if he was liberating it; it floated across the sound waves as if it has always existed – he was just the instrument that sent it on its way with care and affection. The impression was one of exquisite lightness.  This was not the playing of some ancient piece but the creation of a gem that shone its many facets with brilliance.   

1094 Matt Haimowitz

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