Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Friday, January 20, 2006


It was incredible, the final night of the New York Philharmonic's performances of John Corigliano's wild, masterful thrill-ride of a Violin Concerto with Josh Bell, as part of the HEAR & NOW series. Though the pun that is the series' title is punishingly bad, the idea is an excellent one--composer Steven Stuckey, of a recent Pulitzer Prize, interviews composers of former Pulitzer Prizes--and this concert, its maiden voyage, a success. In it, John spoke of his involvement with film music, beginnng with the (literally) trippy Ken Russell drug carnival Altered States. The orchestra, under the tenuous baton of Jonathan Nott, played one of the Three Hallucinations, an atavistic scene in the picture and an angry circus of a piece (this meant, from me, as the highest praise). Then there were snatches of The Red Violin, film and score (though the latter oddly piped in from the recording) and as the piece de resistance, a full, hot-blooded reading of the concerto JC derived from the movie's themes. From the solid journey of the first movement, through the hush and rush of the second and third and on to the barn-burner of a finale, this is a piece both rooted in tradition and yet thoroughly of today. It never aims to be ech, but rather aims to do what JC does best: use the wildest sounds qua sounds (as opposed to politics), incorporate them into what might sneer as a conservative cast--the tradition--and spit out a vibrant piece that really dances on the edge. In short, he's a true progressive, and this piece the sine qua non of that progress. Josh Bell, shuffling off the teen hearthrob image as best he could (at least until the autograph signing post-concert), is truly a remarkable player of the old school who is also aware of the sound people like today. Composer and performer, therefore, are an excellent match. Stuckey is an odd choice to carry off the host's role--he hemed and hawed in the tradition of Deems Taylor--but was not an unaffable presence. And if that's the worst to say about this enterprise, and in my opinion it is, then really, as problems go, these are the problems to have.

Alas, as I write this (which is so often the case) you will only have to imagine you'd been there, because it was indeed the final night. Next time, I suppose

John was graceful and informative in the post-event Q&A, and had some excellent news to report:

The Ghosts of Versailles will be once again played at the Met.

Allow me to repeat that...


He was not able to offer a who or when, but keep your eyes peeled. This is one of the great operas, a piece that's languished for some unknown reason. Perhaps there will be a resurgence? A recording? A telecast? Stay tuned!


And I would like to mourn for a moment the demise of the Lennox HIll Bookstore on Lexington Avenue. I sometimes teach nearby, and have spent many happy hours browsing (and more often than not purchasing) from what was their spectacularly rangy collection. I guess not enough people aside from myself bought the Pushkin Press editions of Stephen Zweig, and so they go, they go, no doubt to be replaced by a much underneeded swanky boutique store, fashions for puppies or custom doilies I suppose. So I bid this store a fond farewell, as I am sure do thousands of readers on Manhattan's Upper East Side.


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