by Daniel Felsenfeld for SundayArts
Hello Thirteen readers.
I’m pleased to be your new blogger about classical music. A little about me: while yes I too am a freelance journalist, I’m mostly a composer. So I’ll be bringing you things from that perspective, writing about concerts I’ve seen (or intend to see), CDs I’ve come to love (or not), books I’ve read, etc. Also I’ll share a little bit about life as a working artist in the trenches of New York City, my favorite place on earth.
I’m a huge believer in and enthusiast for “the blog” as a medium. I’ve run my own for years, and I think it is not only an important outlet, but is now an entrenched part of how we as thinkers (not to mention do-ers and consumers) shape our world. I read people’s thoughts online all the time—be they the thoughts of a volunteer or a professional writer at, say, the Times. Either way, this kind of fluid content is how information now gets passed, and I’m honored to be part of it in this professional capacity. And if this is my job—writing about the thing I love in the city I love—how hard is that, really?
This weekend, for example, is pretty choc-a-bloc full with musical events—which is good because as a chore I’ll be spending the next few days trapped in an airless room at An Important Musical Organization judging a competition. It’ll be not only good but necessary to counter that. Tonight I’ll be seeing that much-adored harpist-songwriter Joanna Newsom at Town Hall. (I am set to love her, I really want to love her, but so far I’m not loving her—tonight I hope will change all of that.) Tomorrow night, at Galapagos in DUMBO to hear Archipelago, which is apparently a great group (it will be my first experience with them)—though I’m really there to hear my friends soprano Melissa Hughes and composer (and singer!) Matt Marks perform his own piece, “The Little Death.” Both of these are sponsored by the formidable New Amsterdam Records, one of those “indie” labels that is genuinely independent. And Matt’s music is rangy and fascinating, like little other music I know—an oddly delicate send up of a lot of Christian pop, pop culture, and deep into issues of sex and death.
Past that, on Saturday night, I’ll be at the Juilliard School in the brand new state-of-the-art performance space, the Rosemary and Meredith Wilson Theatre, to hear one night of the Beyond the Machine festival. While I am there to hear my friend Paola Prestini’s piece “Listen, Quiet” (she is an absolutely fantastic composer: highly recommend her CD Body Maps on the John Zorn’s Tzadik label), I’m also looking forward to works by Edward Bilous, Kiresten Kelly, Michelle DiBucci, Milica Paranosic, Jakub Ciupinski and Cristina Spinei.
Somewhere in there, I’ve a piano trio (which is a piece for piano, violin and cello) for the Finistera Trio and a whole passel of teaching to do, so it promises to be the busiest of weekends. But full of music, which is how I like it.
Oh and if you cannot get to these events, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión Según San Marcos on the Detsche Grammophon imprint. It’s a fantastic piece in a stunning production. It’s what I’ve been listening to these last few days. Well—well—worth it.
by Jennifer Melick for SundayArts
The other day, I heard Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1, performed live on a nineteenth-century Corning Steinway piano. As Igal Kesselman, the pianist, made his way through that nocturne’s melancholy, stormy, and contemplative sections, in the background a woman checked out a flouncy silver-grey dress on the racks at Ann Taylor. The Steinway, it turned out, was also for sale. Kesselman was one of dozens of professional and amateur pianists who played on six pianos set up at the World Financial Center as part of “Chopin 200: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Composer and His Music” held at the Winter Garden and complex from March 1 to 5. These free events began each day at 9 a.m. with “aficionado open mic” performances, followed from noon to 7 p.m. by a parade of established and up-and-coming professional pianists, and at 7 p.m. a featured performer on the Fazioli concert grand piano on the big Winter Garden stage. The six pianos, with manufacturers ranging from Steinway, Fazioli, and Kawai to the lesser-known Sauter and Wilhelm Steinberg, were stationed near escalators, near shops like Ann Taylor and Ciao Bella, and in the big open area near the palm trees.
In case you had somehow missed the news, this year is the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth—March 1, 1810—with various celebrations including the major renovation and reopening on March 1 of the Chopin Museum in Warsaw, near Chopin’s hometown of Zelazowa Wola. On the last day of “Chopin 200,” here in New York, I stopped by the World Financial Center in late afternoon. The first Chopin I heard was Soyoung Min performing the famous “Marche Funebre” (aka “Pray for the dead, and the dead will pray for you”) from the Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35, on a very bright and resonant piano manufactured by Wilhelm Steinberg, a maker in Eisenberg, Germany. The program explained that Min, a master’s degree candidate in piano performance at NYU, will be performing Chopin’s entire piano repertoire over the next two years. As she played in the lobby of 1 WFC for the Chopin marathon, Min maintained her intense focus throughout mazurkas and impromptus and sonatas, although the backdrop included elevators dinging their arrivals, conversations, toddlers crying, and squeaky luggage being hauled through the corridors. I heard Junko Ichikawa perform four or five Chopin selections on a piano manufactured by the German maker Sauter, ending with the Ballade No. 4 in F minor, considered by many the most difficult of the ballades—competing all the while with the sounds of Wall Streeters whooping it up in a bar at the level just below.
It was great to hear top-notch pianists playing wall-to-wall Chopin for free, outside the usual concert hall space, for passersby who might not normally hear this music. The background noise and corporate/mall setting weren’t the only things differentiating it, though, from the intimate salons in the homes of the upper class, or public concerts in small halls of Chopin’s time.
The bigger issue when it comes to Chopin may be the piano instrument itself, which has changed greatly over the past 200 years. In classical music nowadays, we are mostly accustomed to the sweet, singing sounds of a modern Steinway, whether it’s Beethoven or Chopin or Brahms or Schubert. The hundred-year-old Corning Steinway at the World Financial Center sounded more muted—individual notes popped out less, and the sound seemed more diffuse—than newer Steinways played in concert halls. Jan Swafford’s excellent article in Slate this month is full of enlightening examples of how the piano that Beethoven or Liszt played is so different from the ones we hear now that it drastically changes the way their music sounds. Swafford demonstrates with audio examples the difference between the opening of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” sonata played on a Steinway by Alfred Brendel and by Gayle Martin Henry on an 1805 Viennese Katholing piano; or between Brahms Rhapsody No. 3 played on a moder Steinway by Radu Lupu and on an 1871 Streicher by Ira Braus. When you first listen to the opening from Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata as played on the 1805 Katholing, your ear will barely register the sound as audible. But within several minutes, you get used to hearing the more woody, less “ringing” instrument and begin to appreciate how well it can suit Beethoven’s often pummeling, rhythmic counterpoint, even if this all takes place within a narrower dynamic range. It’s quieter, but the wood actually rattles more, which can create hair-raising effects.
One of Swafford’s most interesting points is how our ears need time to adjust to the narrower sound world of pianos from 150 or 200 years ago. There’s a lot of discussion of changing dynamics in rock music, where the average decibel level has been inching up for the last few decades. But over a longer time span, pianos have also been getting louder.
Coming soon: more on musical instruments in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum’s recently reopened André Mertens collection.
Photo: At the Winter Garden for “Chopin 200″: Fazioli concert grand piano, on stage in background Shigeru Kawai amidst palm trees, closer in foreground.
Grammy-winning singing sensation Michael Bublé comes to Great Performances this week (Thursday, 10pm) for an unforgettable Madison Square Garden concert.
As part of THIRTEEN’s March campaign, Bublé sat down with SundayArts host Chistina Ha to discuss his music and the importance of Public Television.
Preview the breaks below:
In the first clip, Bublé talks about his recent Grammy win, his long, but solid path to stardom, and the early days of his career — including some of the obstacles he overcame:
Bublé discusses his album sales success, the mistake of labeling him a “jazz musician,” his latest CD, Crazy Love and the music he loves:
In the final clip, Bublé gives viewers a look into his songwriting process and the emotion involved and explains why artists such as himself want their concert on Public Television:
Don’t miss Great Perfomances: Michael Bublé Visits Madison Sqaure Garden, premiering on THIRTEEN on Thursday, 3/4 at 10pm. Bring home the singing great’s music on CD and DVD – check out our complete selection of Michael Bublé thank-you gifts.
On March 5 and 6, WNET.org hosts the 2010 fifth annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning. In honor of this event, on March 4 the Empire State Building will shine with the program’s colors – red, blue, and yellow.
A prominent educator once dubbed the Celebration as the “World’s Fair of Education.” Our fifth anniversary will focus on the theme of Creativity and brings experts and content from the areas of English Language Arts, Instructional Technology, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Social Studies and Whole School Issues.
Throughout the two days, Celebrants will experience four distinct learning environments through our six plenary sessions, nearly 40 Featured Speaker sessions, over 100 hands-on “In the Classroom” workshops, and two filled exhibitor halls featuring the latest in educational tools, interactive events and book signings.
The Celebration is perhaps best known for its remarkable Keynote Speakers, men and women who are at the very top of their fields and whose insight will raise your expectations for your profession and for yourselves. Past notable speakers have included UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, world-renowned autistic scholar Temple Grandin, MacArthur Genius Award-winning environmental pioneer Majora Carter, and many more.
For more information, visit thirteencelebration.org.
WNET.org would like to thank the Empire State Building for this special lighting.
National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.
Invites you to a special abbreviated screening of the award winning PBS Documentary
UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?
Raising awareness to understand how race, class, wealth, housing, power and education translate into poor health and life expectancy!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Englewood Hospital & Medical Center Auditorium
350 Engle Street, Englewood, NJ 07631
Watch a preview:
The screening will be followed by a forum addressing Health and Advocacy Issues
in Bergen and Passaic Counties and beyond ….
Speakers and Panelists include:
• Steve Adubato, Ph.D., Host of New Jersey Capitol Report THIRTEEN/WNET(PBS)
• Michellene Davis, Esq., SVP, Policy Dev. & Gov. Affairs, St. Barnabas Health Care System
• Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., MPH, Sr. VP, Healthy Communities, The California Endowment
• Robert L. Johnson, M.D., FAAP, Interim Dean, UMDNJ, New Jersey Medical School
• Colette Lamothe-Galette, Acting Exec. Dir., NJ Dept. of Health, OMMH
• Janet Taylor, M.D., MPH, Bd. Chair, National Black Women’s Health Imperative
• Senator Loretta Weinberg (District 37, NJ)
For more information, please visit www.ncbwbergenpassaic.org or call (201) 287-9600
Jahdan Blakkamoore performs “The General” from his album Buzzrock Warrior with DJ/producer Shadetek at Brooklyn’s Public Assembly, 10-24-2009. Visit thirteen.org/nyontheclock to watch an interview with Jahdan and other New Yorkers.
What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans. The series premieres on THIRTEEN Wednesdays, February 10 – March 3 at 8 p.m. Ask your own questions of Professor Gates on the PBS website.
Q. What makes FACES OF AMERICA so special?
Gates: After my work on the African American Lives series, I got thousands of letters from people all over America saying, “Why not do my history?” So, I decided to do the same kind of analysis and research on people of Irish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and other ethnicities, and the results are just as dramatic as in African American Lives. All of the guests on FACES OF AMERICA were deeply moved by what we revealed about their ancestry. We were able to trace the ancestry of Native American writer Louise Erdrich back to 438 A.D. We found that Queen Noor is descended from royalty, and that’s before she married King Hussein of Jordan. We found that the African American poet Elizabeth Alexander is related to the emperor Charlemagne!
We went even further and used DNA analysis to look for “deep cousins” — common ancestors among our guests — and we found genetic connections between eleven of our twelve guests. I found that despite all our apparent differences in terms of culture and history, we are all the same. Read More …
From the iconic exchanges between Katie Couric and Sarah Palin – to the dramatic story of one of the army’s most successful recruiters – to a local news team uncovering an underworld of prescription drugs, the 2010 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards once again honor the best in broadcast journalism. Host Maria Hinojosa goes behind-the-scenes with award-winning reporters and producers to examine how their stories came to be and why they continue to be impactful.
The 2010 awards also bring a number of highlights: for the first time, Katie Couric goes on the record about her memorable interviews with Sarah Palin. In addition, six local television stations were awarded the silver baton – the highest number of local reports to win in more than two decades. And 2010 is the first year in which the duPont Awards recognized a web-based production – in the form of Jonathan Togovnick’s multimedia effort that tells the harrowing stories of rape survivors from the Rwandan genocide.
Watch TELLING THE TRUTH – THE BEST IN BROADCAST JOURNALISM – an insightful look into the work of reporters and producers as they uncover injustice and chase down important stories.
Celebrate Black history throughout the month of February with THIRTEEN.
“Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness” examines the forgotten legacy of Melville Herskovits, a controversial Jewish anthropologist whose writings challenged widely held assumptions about race and culture. Premieres Tuesday, 2/2 at 10:30pm. Read more…
NOVA “Forgotten Genius”
“Forgotten Genius” is a fascinating and largely unknown story of scientific triumph and racial inequality. It covers the extraordinary life journey of Percy Julian, one of the great chemists of the 20th century.
A Ripple of Hope
“A Ripple of Hope” captures one poignant day in the life of Robert Kennedy. The film explores Kennedy’s little-known act of personal courage and responsibility the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated — April 4, 1968. The film dramatically retells the events of that tragic day 40 years ago through the eyes of those who were there.
Read More …
As public television celebrates the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street this year, Barack Obama delivered a special message about the impact of Sesame Street on all our lives. “There are many adults who could stand to learn again the lessons that Sesame Street offers: lessons of compassion, and kindness and respect for our differences. The world is a better place for the world you create on Sesame Street — a world that enriches our children’s minds and hearts each and every day,” he said. Watch the full speech below, and watch Sesame Street every week from Sunday – Friday at 7am on THIRTEEN.