Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Simone Dinnerstein with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, NYC 7/8/09

The pretext of the evening’s performance was “From the Danube to the Rhine,” the two feeder rivers of northern Europe and some of the composers associated with them. Simone Dinnerstein’s warmly lyrical recording of the Goldberg Variations topped the classical charts a couple of years ago: this time out, she matched rapidfire precision to a fluidly expressive style , joining the orchestra on Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto in A. Essentially, it works two themes, a nocturne and a stomp, variations on some glimmering upper-register work and a fiery cascade down to the lowest registers, respectively. Dinnerstein pulled out every piece of shimmering moonlight in the former and a gatling-gun staccato on the latter. Musicologists disagree on how many movements the piece has: the conventional wisdom is six; thematically, there seem to be half as many, the highlight being a deliciously anthemic, crushingly chordal Rachmaninovian run up the scale in what would be the second. She didn’t make it look easy, because it wasn’t, and her unaffected intensity earned her a well-deserved standing ovation. Not bad for her second-ever Lincoln Center performance.

After the intermission, conductor Bramwell Tovey led the orchestra on an inspired romp through Brahms’ Hungarian Dances #4 and #10. In 19th century western Europe, popular composers’ gypsy themes tended to be of the ersatz variety, akin to most of what fueled the 1950s’ mambo craze here. With this suite, Brahms sought authenticity, and the first of the pair show off some stark chromatics and trills, set aloft on the wings of the strings. The second could have been a pretty folk dance from pretty much anywhere.

The orchestra had warmed up with Johan Strauss’ Overture to Der Zigeunerbaron, a perfect illustration of faux-gypsy if there ever was. To the credit of conductor and orchestra, they did their best to endow it with the dynamics and passion of a work far more substantial, but even that failed to elevate it above the level of schlock. In a perhaps intentional stroke of irony, they closed the program with Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite. The opera itself is completely buffo, a drag drama that plays off all kinds of buffoonery created by multiple disguises. Yet the incidental music, first assembled as an integral suite decades after the opera’s 1909 debut, is impressive, from the strikingly modernist atonalities that begin the soaring, passionate overture, to several spot-on parodies of Johan Strauss waltzes that recur throughout. There’s also a recurring “uh-oh” motif, usually before Baron Ochs, the opera’s lumbering bull in a china shop, gets to wring some cheap laughs from his lines. As much as everyone onstage was obviously having a good time with the silliness, it was the lush, cinematic string-driven exaltation that carried everyone away. It was a worthy sendoff for retiring bassist Shelly Saxon, bowing out after 38 distinguished years with the ensemble.

The NY Philharmonic has some tantalizing outdoor concerts coming up in the next week before departing for Vail for a series of shows (see our live music calendar for dates and programs); Simone Dinnerstein plays selections from her highly anticipated cd of Beethoven works for piano and cello with cellist Zuill Bailey at le Poisson Rouge on August 27.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Insound Digital Mixtape July 2009

Quick, how many New Order wannabes can you name? This mixtape seeems to have all of ’em, many of them featured at this year’s Seaport Music Festival. If the original wasn’t enough for you, here are the sons and daughters of Bernard, Gillian and Steve (Peter deserves better than most of this because he’s a good musician whose personal taste in music runs far afield of this catchy but mostly derivative stuff). Let’s see what we have here:

 

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Tooth Decay. Vocoder vox, hypnotic 80s synth, New Order meets Midnight Starr – catchy and simple. They’re playing South St. Seaport on 7/24.

Blank Dogs – Waiting (mix 2). Uptight, untight drums, early New Order i.e. circa Movement, when they were a guitar band but with a late 80s shoegaze edge. Could be better, but it has some promise.

Casiokids – Verdens Storste Land demo. Closer to the synthy stuff New Order were doing on Brotherhood and afterward

Dan Friel – Ghost Town Pt. 1. New Order as played on a dollar-store imitation Casio through the bottom-of-the-line Guitar Center brand amp

Here We Go Magic – Fangela. Less New Order than 60s psychedelic pop done demo-style with a drum machine and barely demo-quality vocals. A good guitar band like the Motion Sick could have a field day with this.

Obits – Two-Headed Coin. Catchy 60s bass riff, reverb-drenched 60s garage guitar, kinda noir. Best track on the cd so far. Hmmm…ought to check this band out sometime. They’re at South St. Seaport on 7/31 opening for Polvo, supposedly sometime around 7.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Come Saturday. Total Teenage Fanclub ripoff, i.e. middle-period Jesus & Mary Chain without any balls. The first real dud here. How come of all these bands so far, only the Obits have ever heard of a minor key?

Polvo – Beggar’s Bowl. Now this kicks ass! Hypnotic swirling intro, evil growling leads, a stomping rhythm section and then some eerie slightly Middle Eastern flourishes. And how about that flameout at the end, damn! Were these guys the best guitar band of the 90s or what? Sounds nothing like New Order either. They’re at South St. Seaport on 7/31.

Ribbons – Inclusion. OK, back to the New Order wannabes, at least this has some passion and some percussive guitars. New Order play Television maybe.

School of Seven Bells – Face to Face on High Places. Arty, kinda 4AD, ornate synth giving way to trebly, minimal Bernard-style guitar, then the synth comes back. So unoriginal. At least they’re not ripping off Pearl Jam.

Slow Club – It Doesn’t Have to Be Beautiful. Rich white kids with a drum machine taking a pitiful stab at bluegrass. Barf.

Superchunk – Misfits and Mistakes. Yawn, booooring. Strictly for 35-and-overs who miss hearing this garbage at college parties in the 90s.

Versus – Eskimo. Not their best song (Fontaine wrote most of their real good ones) – this is just a simple poppy riff over and over again until suddenly the eeriness kicks in. But then it’s gone. Fast forward…

The Wave Pictures – Just Like a Drummer. Oh jeeeezus…a 30-year-old guy singing like he’s 13. And he uses the word “hipster” in a way that might not be a slur. Puke. Next…

Zaza – Sooner or Later. OK, back to the New Order…or maybe Clan of Xymox. This is nice – swoopy, minor-key synth, incisive electric piano and now a little rhythm guitar.      

 

So here’s what you get for free (download it here for the next week): three solid hits, a bunch of ok-to-good stuff and only three real duds. Plus you can dance to most of this. Burn the best of this for your kid sister to help wean her off the Jonas Bros.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/9/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #384:

The Replacements – The Ledge

Paul Westerberg bragged that when the band was first getting started, he’d drag out old Stooges songs and teach them to his bandmates, claiming that they were his. Here’s one that actually succeeds at evoking a Stooges vibe, Naked Bob’s searing, metalish guitar swirling over a pounding rhythm section as the jumper on the roof ponders whether or not to end it all. We’re not going to spoil the ending. The only good song on the otherwise cloying Pleased to Meet Me album, 1987; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the original video that MTV refused to play because – OMG – it addresses a serious topic like suicide.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment