February 1, 2007
Toru TakemitsuAlex Ross has a fine but all-too-short piece on the music of Toru Takemitsu in The New Yorker this week (click here to read) which he describes as "rich in opulent chords, luminous textures, exotic tones that almost brush the skin, hazy melodies that move like figures in mist."
But it's music that's notoriously hard to bring off in live performance, and Ross wasn't too thrilled with the recent Takemitsu offerings at Zankel Hall by Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists.
"The players had intonation problems from the start," says Ross, "and during the periodic pauses, which should be like intakes of breath, the music simply stopped. Bashmet, who variously played violin and viola and also conducted, was on surer ground when he took the podium to conduct excerpts from three Takemitsu film scores ... music of a more extroverted, popular character ... and the Moscow Soloists dug in with vigor."
We heard a similarly disappointing performance of the same program here at the Library of Congress last week. Bashmet has been a tireless and invaluable promoter and interpreter of contemporary music (his recording of Sofia Gubaidulina's Viola Concerto -- which she wrote for him -- is essential listening), but he and the Moscow Soloists were only really at their best in the meatier works they played.
Kiri goes to courtAnd speaking of performance problems: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has a court date in Oz this week. She's being sued for up to $2 million (Australian) for breach of contract, after suddenly pulling out of a concert tour with Australian popstar/aging heart-throb John Farnham when she learned that his fans sometimes got a bit, um, warm at his concerts.
"It seems she was uncomfortable with the possibility that enflamed female fans might throw panties at the stage while Farnham was singing," reports Playbill.
And Dames don't do that, sorry.
The great Joe Queenan has finished up his serialized "A-Z of Classical Music" in The Guardian -- check out the last entry (with links to previous entries at the bottom of the page).
Queenen -- a former Spy writer, cultural critic and self-described "sneering churl" -- misses as often as he hits, but when he hits, it's dead on target.