Sunday, April 03, 2005

Berlioz and brothers

It's been a busy few days!

It was ensemble week at Westminster this week, b/c of our performance of the Berlioz Damnation of Faust. (We got a glowing review in the New York Times! If you need to log in to read it, use the username "letmeinpiggy" and the password "chinnychin".) Charles Dutoit was conducting, and the soloists were Sir Willard White (a truly fabulous Mephistopheles), Paul Groves (a glorious Faust) and Susanne Mentzer (an admirable Marguerite.) The two male soloists were so absorbing that I didn't pay as much attention to the conductor during non-choral bits as much as in previous performances with the Philharmonic, but I quite like Dutoit on the podium. Unfortunately, I am able to say much less about him in rehearsal, since between his soft voice and strong French accent, I was hardly able to understand a word he said. However, he is certainly detailed and involved - he did not let communication problems prevent him from getting what he wanted during rehearsal, even if it took a few tries.

This was a much less involved experience for me - I attended only two of the choral rehearsals this semester, only half the orchestral rehearsals, and I'll miss the last performance due to a dress rehearsal for the division of Symphonic that I actually belong to. But I did learn a good deal about my learning process - namely, that I don't learn French as quickly as I thought, and that I need to start studying musical scores more in advance! I did my best to contribute with energy, expression, and an eye to accurate tempo rather than sparkling diction. It's also a fabulously fun piece to participate in, so I'm immensely glad that I was allowed to join up at the last minute!

The other exciting thing this week was a visit from my brother and his girlfriend.

They arrived on Wednesday night. I was worried about finding things to keep them interested, but I ended up just cooking dinner for them and we chatted until quite late, while listening to my splendid birthday mix. Thursday I sent them into the city via train to pick up Berlioz tickets and have dinner, and then we all rode home together after the performance on the shrieking, hyper-active Westminster bus. I am happy to report they appeared to suffer minimal trauma. Friday we met up after my rehearsal in the morning, and I took them to the best sushi place in town (absolutely huge pieces of sushi), then to the gourmet ice cream shop, then to Micawber Books (where we managed to while away about 2 hours) and then to the Princeton Record Exchange. At all of these places, of course, I ended up making the most purchases. But really, who can complain about 11 CDs for under $30? And these are good CDs, too! Or at least interesting - for $2, I can afford to pick up something completely unfamiliar. I acquired the following. Skip the below if you don't care to hear me rattle on about newly acquired recordings.

Classic Wynton (Marsalis plays some classical trumpet chestnuts)
Tan Dun: Out of Peking Opera, Etc. (I know his name, but not his music. This CD includes a piece called Orchestral Theatre II: Re for divided orchestra, bass voice, and audience with two conductors - that's why I picked it up, I was so curious)
Robert Shaw conducts Hallelujah and other great Sacred Choruses (can't say no to $2 Shaw!)
Panufnik's Westminster Mass (never heard of her, trying it out)
Of Eternal Light (music by various people - Meredith Monk, Robert Moran, Messiaen - inspired by chant)
Patterson: Mass of the Sea (again, never heard of him, trying it out)
New World Jazz, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (this includes Rhapsody in Blue by Gerschwin, La Creation du Monde by Milhaud, Ragtime by Hindemith - it looks like a good CD)
Thomas Ades, "Life Story" (again, not familiar, but DM highly regards his work)
Robert DeCormier conducts the New York Choral Society (this is all new music, and I'm not familiar with the group, so it will be educational on two fronts)
Lilith Fair, Vol. 2 (with Sinead O'Connor and Angelique Kidjo AND Queen Latifah, how can you possibly go wrong?)
Lena Horne (a 2 CD set!)

And today I cooked pancakes for my brother and his girlfriend (remember them? last paragraph? before we got side-tracked?) and we went our separate ways.

It was really, really excellent having them both here. Relaxing and enjoyable, and having time to hang out with my brother and just chat is a rare pleasure. I also had the pleasure of introducing them to Iron Chef. (Mom, it's a very excellent TV show on the Food channel. Competitive cooking, samurai style.)

I have one more day before the last month-long sprint to the finish of the semester. Wish me luck. Donations of highly caffeinated tea will be graciously accepted.


  1. Micah7:06 PM

    Congrads on the CD treasures. I'm very curious about the two mass setting you picked up. Maybe you could write a review? (wink, nudge) I've been listening to Frank Martin's works...overall excellent and interesting compositions. Lots of French though (or German depending on the piece). The Sixteen Harry Christophers (makes me smile saying it as one phrase) just released a CD of all Martin works. Check it out.

  2. Oo, I love the Sixteen! (Les Sixteen? :) I really want this CD of them singing Figure Humaine - apparently it has the highest written choral note, a high E for the sopranos, in Liberte. We heard it in Choral Lit. and besides being a fabulous piece, the sops nailed it.

    I'm going to be in the Sixteen when I grow up. This conducting thing is all a sham.

    I shall definitely have to check out their Martin! And once I get around to listening to my purchases, I shall share my opinions...but someone sent me all this fabulous Schnittke, and I want to listen to that first...

  3. Amelia9:18 AM

    You know, I would go lift weight with you sometimes. I've decided I should. And I need to make time to exercise. Walking isn't really enough, even if the dog is getting better. Plus, you can walk past my house on your way to the Y. So lemmee know.