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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Felsenmusick PSA: Cabaret Songs at the Neue Galerie

I recieved an email about an event which, though I will not attend due to financial reasons, looks totally fascinating. The more monied readers might want to consider it.
Thomas Meglioranza and pianist Thomas Sauer
Songs of Arnold Schoenberg and three pupils:
Hanns Eisler, Marc Blitzstein and John Cage;
and William Bolcom

Thursday March 2 & 9, 2006
The Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie
1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street

Performances at 9pm,
preceded by a prix-fixe dinner at 7pm.
Combined cost is $90.

(Although this is pricey, it not only includes a very fine dinner and a show, but last year the museum remained open from 6-7 for cabaret partons ONLY, which is a great opportunity to see the amazing collection of early 20th c. German and Austrian art. Call to confirm that you would like to come to the museum at 6)

Tickets: 212-288-0665

I happen not only to love this museum, but the cafe as well, so I am sure the music is destined to be interesting, the performances sublime, and the food out of this world--and far away from this century. Hell, go for the bookstore alone!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Just Plain Strange

I direct you to Kyle Gann's rare theatre review of the hon. George Tsontakis' odd trodding of the boards. Reading this one (and admitting to all present I am a Tsoktakis fan), I had to pinch myself several times to remind me it is not April Fools' Day. Still not convinced.

And I believe the sentance "Last year I missed him in Barefoot in the Park" may go down in New York New Music history. Though now I have to run--Elliot Carter is doing a Noel Coward evening, and his George Pepper is sublime on every level. Not something I'd like to miss. After that, John Adams will be playing, well, John Adams in 1776. Should be the dancenest version yet!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Felsenmusick PSA: Mark Adamo's Lysistrata at New York City Opera

This is an email I got from my close friend, the excellent composer-librettist-renaissance man Mark Adamo, regarding an upcoming production. You'd all be wise to see this, as it is a really beautiful score, story and show.
Hail, friends: I'm delighted to report that New York City Opera, where I've served as composer-in-residence for the last five years, will be giving the New York premiere of my second opera, Lysistrata, or the Nude Goddess, this March and April: Michael Kahn directs and George Manahan conducts a production designed by Derek McLane and led by Emily Pulley, Chad Shelton, Myrna Paris, Victoria Livengood, and Jennifer Rivera, which was introduced last March by Houston Grand Opera. I write only because, to my surprise and delight, my company manager wrote me just yesterday that the first of the five performances (March 21) while almost a month away, is already virtually sold out; so if you are interested in hearing the piece (which is beautifully, beautifully performed) of course I'd like you to have the best seats available. Here's the schedule, and here's a link to an interview I gave on the occasion on the Houston premiere, which gives a little background.

Hope to see you there: cheers meanwhile....Yours, Mark

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Mystery Solved

This from Edwin Outwater, conductor and soon-to-be-blogger, on the Arnold Schoenberg and his Second Viennese School:

I have had this for many years. It's a prank (one of many) played by the conducting staff of the Cleveland Orchestra (including Matthias Bamert, James Judd, Kenneth Jean) during the Maazel era. The narrator is Robert Conrad, longtime Cleveland Orchestra broadcast announcer and co-conspirator, and the raving German thing at the end is the voice of the great Kenneth Jean, an awesome conductor and all-around funny guy.

Mystery solved, for those who don't already know. Now if we can only solve the "who is doing that screaming?" connundrum.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Let's Dance

Being essentially a closetet luddite, I am unable to make the hysterical 12-Tone Masters Commercial available here for you, so I will direct you to Alex Ross' post, where he's somehow made it available for download. Hilarious. (And how does one do that, tech-wise?) He told me he was persuaded by the Lulu Scream; myself, I was in stitches at the announcer's saying "Let's Dance" in reference to a Schoenberg Waltz. Thanks to close close friend Stephanie Mortimore for passing it on, and to another old friend, Edwin Outwater, for cluing Alex and myself in on the source of this hysterical sound byte--which I've now listened to at least 20 times!

One of Ten

I feel I would be remiss in my duty if I did not weigh in on one of the new music concerts that was woefully underattenderd on that fateful Night of the Ten New Music Concerts. I saw Double Exposure, mostly to hear the hilariously sweet "Take Jazz Chords Make Strange" by David Rakowski. The concert is a fantastic idea: Bruce Adolphe, in association with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, hosts (catskills style, which did my heart good!) an evening of chamber pieces, excellently played--TWICE! The composers were all there--Rakowski, Kieth Fitch, Anthony Gatto--and all gave pre-concert chats (pre-piece chats really). Then the music was played...THEN refreshments were served...then the music was played again, with the composers able to field questions from the now-educated audience. Gatto's piece, The Sheltering Sky, had a gorgeous slow movement; Rakowski's piece is pristine and elegant, but not unsexy as such--burbly with dissonance, spirited, consumed with aching melodies.

Of course, it was no competition for any of the other nine concerts you could have seen that night, but I've always rooted for the underdog.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


"My go-to worldview is pessimism. I see a Times Square billboard promoting a musical that has its audience 'dancing in the aisles' and I can't help but think, 'That is a fire hazard.' "--Sarah Vowell

Friday, February 17, 2006

Schoenberg and Beethoven

Some anonymous soul sent me a link to this well-reasoned article by Richard Dyer on the topic of Schoenberg. It is really an excellent assesment (even if you disagree) of the Viennese master's still-divisive work, hooked to a concert given by strict adherent James Levine (leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra). See what you think.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Thank God there will be JazzFest this year. I've never been, but the thought of never being able to go because New Orleans (where I visited for the first time some two weeks before it fell) would never be the same again was too depressing. But in the spirit of that truly great city, it will soldier on, levee or no. A list of the acts here. Looks like it will be a good one; by all means, those who can go, GO!

Not Icarus

More like the Phoenix, or perhaps Prometheus, is andante. It's baaaa--aaack...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Violence Begets Violence

And people wonder why there's so much violence in the world, what with heads of major orchestras in collusion with a mad bomber. Someone get that man a chainsaw--or tie him down before he hurts anyone.

Careful, that program you read could self-destruct; and if Pierre's on the podium, I'd be cautious of drinking from the fountain.

And is it me, or does anyone else agree that it is in excessively poor taste to pull this quote in the same sentance with the numbers "9-11"? Call me overly sensitive, but...

I Apparently Do Not Have a Problem, I Do Not Have a Problem, I Do Not Have a Problem

Do You? Click here and see if Glass is problematic in your own life.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Caroline Worra and Ryan MacPherson

I absolutely must rave about a recital I happened to catch at Weill Recital Hall the other snowy night, joint effort between soprano Worra and Tenor MacPherson, joined by pianist Janice Wenger and pianist/composer Edwin Penhorwood. Both singers are consummate artists, excellent actor/singers with an eye to music's future. The fare was lovely, from arias by Tobias Picker and Mark Adamo to art songs by Benjamin Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett and (surprisingly, fascinatingly so) by Charles Griffes, one of those too-overlooked composers. Both performers are not only very attractive, but are gifted with those fortunate faces that read as beautiful from the back row--and they both know how to work this to their advantage. Worra's soprano manages to be both broad and pointed, never shrill, always careful, and perfectly expressive; MacPherson's tenor is both light and yet somehow firm. And both are able to sing in their native tongue, alas all-too rare. (And I must say, from a composer's perspective, it is refreshing to hear an entire evening in English.) An especial highlight for me was Caroline's gently insane reading of Penhorwood's intentionally demented setting of e.e. cummings' "who knows if the moon is a balloon," a realistic and yet amusing mad scene. This was followed by a lush, fearlessly tonal setting of "A Lute Will Lie" (poet unknown to this writer) and a cheekily rollicking rendition of Dickinson's "Wild Nights!" (Very minor criticism: where were the texts, or the names of the poets?) Her wistful portrayal of Carlisle Floyd's "Ain't it a Pretty Night" from Susannah reminded all present that someone ought to cast her in this part and quick--she was born for it!

MacPherson sings Britten like a dream, but it was his captivating "The rose of the night," poem by Fiona McCloud and music by Griffes, that was his most winning contribution to the evening. It was, simply put, dreamy. And his Tom Rakewell was appropriately scabrous and forthright as the part demands--again, presenters take note.

Together they made excellent music out of the famous "Watch Duet" from Fladermaus (urgh, not exactly my favorite fare but they certainly did it to the hilt), including a hilarious moment where Worra's dress proved too modest to seductively recieve the watch into her cleavage!

It is rare to see an un-precious recital like this, and small attendance due to imminent (and ultimately record-breaking) noreasterner did not diminish their communucation. Really, quite a night.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Danny, Violin

This from French Horn Mark Adamo.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dotcom Classical

I want to second Alex Ross' praise of Anne Midgette's Times piece about classical music online. Not two years ago, I wrote an article for Early Music Magazine about the dark, frustrating odyssey of trying to download concert music (often a piece was simply listed as "motet" or "gigue," with no composer or ensemble listed, reasonable for the layman who does not really care, I suppose, but frustrating for the genuine enthusiast). As research, I went to ten or so sites with specific agendas--downloading, say, Furtwangler's version of Beethoven's Ninth or any version of Mozart's 40th--and, alas, more often than not ended up pounding my head against the keyboard. What a difference now, as companies get clued in to the vast potential for profits and dissemination these sites offer. (For many, this music is something of a shameful secret they come to know slowly, and as we all know, trips to the bins can be deeply frustrating with so many options.) What I think gets people is the ability you've got on iTunes to sample the goods--many might not know how much they do know the standard repertoire, and buy on recognition. I am now not only amazed by how much I can actually pay to download, but how easily I can see what I am getting.

And thank you Anne for telling folks to not knock bloggers. I believe very strongly that, with coverage disappearing from the mainstream print media, blogging will take on a larger, more important role in all of the arts. Alex and his progeny (myself included) now offer a wide range of educated opinions from all sides. It is important, and will become more so.

Just today in the Times, Daniel J. Wakin has a piece about the New York Philharmonic, in concert with Deutsche Grammaphon, will be making their concerts available for digital download. This is largely because many of the players have agreed to wave their flat fees, opting instead for shared profits (which we all know will likely mean very little money, if any). So for that, we have the members of the orchestra to thank, and let's hope that this is not a unique experience but that other orchestras follow suit.

I also do want to say that Anne cited (wisely) Joseph McKesson, who is my boss at MTV, they who will, come 21 March, offer URGE!, a content-driven alternative to iTunes. When she says that there will be a classical component to this site, I will be the "informer" guiding those who wish to know more through the morass.

The real reason andante.com failed is that it was an amazing idea, too big and brilliant to succeed, Icarian in its demise--that and it attempted, by its swank and all-too-highbrow appearance, to charge for discs or content or concerts that are available elsewhere without fee. The lesson: opulance isn't everything, even for the highest of brows. But as this for profit venture was collapsing, much new Web content on this topic was evolving, proving that, in light of this accumulation of swelled ground, The Death is on the wane. Cassandras who imagine the demise of this one ambitious site as being synonymous with the end of this tradition need only investigate further to find out just how untrue that is. Or, in the words of Mark Twain: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

JT is for Fake

The Education of JT Leroy, read here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Overheard at Barnes & Noble, Union Square, Superbowl Sunday

For my centenial post--this marks number 100--I wish to pass on the quote I overheard while trying to get some help from a W'burg looking hipster type loafworking on the third floor, only feet from the books I wrote. His friend was trying to persuade this Tim-Burton-fanboy looking character to go to the opera. His response (cue timpani): "Opera, FUCK opera! Did you know opera is the Vietnam of Music?!"

Anyone wishing to translate this, please feel free to email. It has been puzzling me all afternoon.

Thanks to all who read: here's to the next 100 posts!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Felsenmusick PSA: Marc Mellits Brick at Carnegie with Orpheus

Everyone get out there to Carnegie Hall this Saturday, February 4, to hear the fantastic Marc Mellits' orchestral piece Brick played by the non-pareil Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. I've seen the score, and the piece is not only fascinating, driving, full of life, but it's also funny, as is Mr. Mellits. For those who do not know his work, its sparkly, optimistic, not-take-oneself-too-seriously minimalism. There's intricacy, there's beauty (he can really write a good tune) but mostly there's bonhomie and spirit without an ounce of turgidity.

There's a nice article in the Times about it and him and some other topics here, and you can get tickets here. Also on the program will be lesser lights like Prokofiev, Ravel and Beethoven, all worth suffering through as well.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Born to Run

Last night I got quite the education into a realm I'd not explored, and did not know how much I would enjoy. Emboldened by my new friend, novelist Andrew Conn (author of the absolutely fantastic P: A Love Story--read it, but leave the kids at home for this naught odyssey, part James Joyce, Part Portnoy, all soul and heart) who, along with my girlfriend Elizabeth, persuaded me to listen to some Bruce Springsteen, I sat down with Born to Run. Knowing she was a fan, I got Eliz the new boxed set anniversary edition, for the holidays, but never had occasion to listen to it myself--until yesterday.

Allow me, then, to be the absolutely last person on earth to hail this record as a particular kind of masterpiece. It is emotionally resonant, musically tight, expressive without just being screamy, and Tolstoy-like in its stuck exuberebce. So exciting, so poetic, so sad, the great American record about the not-so-great American experience. And watching the documentary that accompanied the CD, hearing the uneducated educated Mr. Springsteen talk about his process with niether pomp nor pretenstion was really something. Knowing the record, uncannily raw as it sounds, was the product of measured, hurculean effort on the part of all involved (there's even a short scene of BS conducting with a drumstick that made me smile for an hour or so!) is nothing short of inspirational to me as a composer: we all have to labor for our ease, even Mozart, even Yo-Yo Ma...and even Bruce Springsteen.

Once, when on the Jersey Shore, I proclaimed "Now I understand Bruce Springsteen!" Now, hearing him--really hearing him--I now feel I understand the Jersey Shore.

Tonight We Mourn

The sad passing of andante.com, which had the potential (unrealized) to be one of the great classical music outlets ever. My first job in New York--and my first 200 or so articles (now suddenly vanished from the web). Read details here.