Monday, November 28, 2016

Celebrate the Holidays in Columbus: Music, Drama, Dance

"Too much of a good thing is wonderful" said the late Mae West.

Mae would have loved Columbus, Ohio especially during the holidays.

I'm delighted to offer information on holiday offerings in our area. This list is by no means all inclusive. I have attended and enjoyed a number of these presentations in the past but am not
intending endorsements here (well.....) Please be sure to regularly check listings in the Columbus Dispatch or Experience Columbus dot com.

For tickets and further information simply google the events of your choice.

New Albany Symphony SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE of Holiday Music Saturday Dec 17 11.30 a.m.

New Albany Symphony Holiday Spectacular Sunday December 18 3 PM
     both at the McCoy Performing Arts Center,  New Albany

Chanukah Across Columbus find Facebook page of same name


Columbus Symphony Holiday Pops: Columbus Symphony and Columbus Symphony Chorus all conducted by Ronald J. Jenkins. Traditional holiday favorites. Audience carol singing. Dancers from Ballet Met, and a guest appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus You'll hear everything from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Deo Gracias from Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, to Biebl's exquisite Ave Maria. This is rte proverbial "something for everyone" program. Quality is very, very high every year.  Ohio Theater Friday, December 2 at 8 PM; Saturday December 3 at 3 and 8 PM; Sunday December 4, 3:00 PM

Ballet Met: The Nutcracker What's not to love? Sugar plums, Chinese princesses, Christmas Trees, a magical Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky's music, the Columbus symphony and the glorious Ballet Met choreographed by Artistic Director Edwaard Liang. December 9-24 Ohio Theater.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and Lancaster Chorale Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio  Handel Messiah (excerpts) Vaughan Williams Variants on Dives and Lazarus with Peggy Kriha Dye, soprano; Katharin Danzmayr, soprano; Laurel Semerdjian, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Bunsold, tenor; Aaron Waddell, baritone. David Danzmayr conducts

Saturday December 10 5.30 PM Worthington United Methodist Church; Sunday December 11, 7 PM, Southern Theater

The Ohio State University: 24th Annual Music Celebration Concert. This is a terrific annual event showcasing all ensembles, large and small from the OSU School of Music. The OSU Symphony, Choruses, Men's Glee Club, Jazz Ensembles, flute troupe and chamber ensembles. This concert is NOT a holiday themed program, but is always a fun evening of great music making.  Friday December 2 8 PM Mershon Auditorium

Capital University Christmas Festival 2016 . This unabashedly IS a Christmas concert. Choral and instrumental ensembles from the Conservatory at Capital university. Always fantastic. December 1-4 Mees Hall Capital University.

Magpie Consort Christmas Echoes music by William Billings, Craig Hella Johnson, Hugo Ditler plus plainchant and carols form around the world. Magpie Consort is a mixed choir perfromnig mostly a capella. Artsitic Director is Christopher Dent. 

Wednesday December 7 7, 7:30 at Indianola Presbyterian Church, 1970 Waldeck Avenue; December 9, 8 PM Trinity Lutheran Church, 404 S. 3rd St., Saturday December 10 8 PM, St. John's Church, 700 High St., Worthington; Friday December 16, 7 PM Franklin Park conservatory

A Christmas Carol at the Columbus Civic Theater. Richard Albert and his colleagues do great work bringing theater to Clintonville from their intimate space on Indianola Avenue. Civic Theater's annual production of  Dickens's A Christmas Carol .  December 1-18 at 3837 Indianola Avenue

CATCO IS KIDS A Seussified Christmas Carol , get the kids out of the house during school break. CATCO is  KIDS  at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Avenue, December 2-11.

A Service of Lessons and Carols St. Joseph Cathedral, Columbus Sunday  December 11 3 PM

A Service of Lessons and Carols First Congregational Church, Columbus Sunday December 20 4

Clintonville Community Band and Choir Sunday December 4  3 pm. Whetstone High School, 4405 Scenic Drive. Free. Canned goods requested for Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center.

MESSIAH- Handel:

St. John's Church 59 E. Mound St., Columbus Sunday December 4 10:15 .a.m Offering taken. St. John's Festival Choir , Chamber Orchestra and soloists conducted by May Schwarz.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra YOU ARE THE CHORUS "Side by Side Messiah Sing a long."David Danzmayr conducts Friday December 9 7.30 PM Southern Theater

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Columbus Symphony "Last Notes"

The Columbus Symphony conducted by Rossen Milanov performs Mozart's Overture to Die Zauberfloete, Steven Mackey's Four Iconoclastic Episodes and the Symphony number 6, Pathetique by Tchaikovsky, November 18 and 19 at 8 PM in the Ohio Theater. Pre-concert talks at 7. Come early. I'm a hoot.

Steven Mackey born in 1956,  is Chair of the Department of Music at Princeton University. I'm hoping he will join me for this weekend's pre -concert talks, so we can all meet him and hear about Four Iconoclastic Episodes. I do know that this work, written in 2009 for the Irish Chamber  Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, is a concerto for orchestra, violin and electric guitar. The electric guitar is Mr. Mackey 's primary instrument. He'll be on stage with the Columbus Symphony and violinist Anthony Marwood.

Here's Steve Mackey talking about Four Iconoclastic Episodes.

"I am fascinated by the sensation of movement in music. Journey metaphors are often aptly applied to my music, and I'm interested not only in the illusion of travel and arriving, but in delineating topographies and viscosities of the medium traveled through. a desire for transformation, for a sense that something-the material, me, the listener is changed by the journey. As a result, my music tends to be a one way trip"

Mr. Mackey is a composer worth knowing better:

Rumors, rumors! You conduct the first performance of your latest work, a sprawling symphony called Pathetique then die unexpectedly nine days later and the world calls your final work a forty minute suicide note.

About that term, Pathetique. The composer agreed to it. A catchy name is good for sales. He withdrew his consent the next day, but the plates had already been prepared, so the score was given to the world as the Pathetic symphony. Tchaikovsky understood this term as "passionate" or "emotional", certainly not as pathetic as we use that word today. Tragic some of the overtones may be, but pathetic? Pitiful, pitiable, piteous, moving (maybe) distressing"...not on your bloody life.

And why would Tchaikovsky commit suicide? We know he died of cholera after drinking a class of unboiled water in a St. Petersburg restaurant.  A Russian musicologist called Alexandra Orlova suggested in the late 1970s that Tchaikovsky had a liaison with a young nobleman who was a member of the Tsar's private guard. When this became known Tchaikovsky was told to kill himself to avoid public scandal, and did  so. Michael Steinberg doesn't buy it and that's good enough for me.
(I'm indebted to Steinberg's The Symphony, pp. 635-641)

This four movement symphony begins with a hushed figure for solo bassoon over tremolo strings. at Classical 101 we have to throw the pots up to the max) Then comes the first big tune, and no big tune is ever wasted:

The second theme of the first movement contains a four note figure rooted in the Orthodox Requiem, E,G, F#, A which has come to be called his 'crucifixion' theme, thus feeding the rumors.

There's a  flowing but off kilter waltz in 5/4 instead of 3/4 and the third movement is the famous march. At the end pf which people applaud vociferously and reach for heir coats. Except this is not the finale.  Keep your coat off. The finale is adagio lamentoso, not a big finish, but a dying away.
Don't leave early. This, after the brazen third movement, is not a fade down but a loving fade-out:

And no, Tchaikovsky did not consider this Symphony to be his final work. At his death fresh sketches were found for a third piano concerto. He fully expected to go on working and living.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Columbus Symphony Beethoven Festival

The Columbus Symphony presents a Beethoven Marathon in the Ohio Theater,
November 11 and 12.  Come early and stay late.
Today, more than ever, many of us need this music.
And there's never a bad time to hear Beethoven.

Here's the rundown for both evenings:

6 PM  Beethoven Quintet for Winds, Op. 16
7 PM  CP, that would be me, talks about Beethoven
8 PM  Columbus Symphony conducted by Peter Stafford Wilson

           Symphony 2 in D, Op. 36
           Concerto for violin, cello and piano in C, Op. 56

              with Alicia Hui violin; Luis Biava, cello and Caroline Hong, piano
Symphony 7 in A, Op. 92

10 PM:  String Quartet in c sharp minor, Op. 131 with Joanna Frankel, Robert Firdman, Karl Pedersen and Pei-An Chao

Joanna Frankel is the Columbus Symphony's new first chair violinist, or concertmaster.

Conductor Peter Stafford Wilson says,  "No matter how often I visit these works, I always discover something new in them music of Beethoven.. I think  its as relevant now as when it was written. And what a treat to explore the Triple Concerto with Caroline, Alicia and Luis!"
Beethoven's Second Symphony was completed in the summer of 1802. By this time, the composer was thirty two years old. He had been complaining of a roaring in his ears, and the idea of impending deafness weighed heavily. Beethoven made his living as a pianist/conductor/composer, as had Mozart and Haydn. A deaf composer can still write down what he hears in his head. What he cannot do is perform with other musician. Thus an important avenue of public acclaim and money was becoming unavailable. Difficulties with the publisher Breitkopf and Hartel continued. Composers made their money from sales of their music. Chamber music sold because it was perfect for home use. Symphonies brought applause, but little money.

The Heiligenstadt Testament is a letter Beethoven addressed to his brothers. He had come to this village outside Vienna on doctor's orders, thinking that quieter surroundings would treat his troubled hearing. Such was not the case,

  "Though born with a fiery, active temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was soon compelled to withdraw into myself, to life live alone. If at times I tried to forget all this, oh, how harshly was I flung back by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing. Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, "Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf."

In the midst of despair came the rollicking Second Symphony. Beethoven was still able to step outside of himself to craft music that may have been devoid of Mozart's elegance, but which possessed a stronger kind of grace and proportion. It is wrong to call Beethoven a romantic. He was still bound to the traditional forms Haydn loved. Still, the muscular textures of Beethoven's music looked forward.

The second movement, the larghetto (not as slow as slow!) of the second symphony was encored at the first performance. This was a monster concert, given in Vienna on April 5, 1803. Beethoven conducted his First symphony and his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, along with the Third piano concerto.

The final allegro molto begins with a loud, syncopated figure. It's been called a hiccup, and worse:

   "Beethoven's gastric problems, particularly in times of great distress, like the fall of 1802, were legendary. It has been understood almost since the day of its premiere that this is what this music is about . Beethoven never refuted it. In fact, he must have encouraged it. Otherwise, how could such an interpretation become common coin? And common coin it is."--Robert Greenberg  author, musicologist, San Francisco Conservatory of Music

One critic wrote, "this symphony is a wounded, writhing dragon that refuses to die, but writhing in the last agony, in the final movement, is bleeding to death." This critic needed to get over himself. The D Major symphony is filled with dance, light and humor. OK, there's along, dark and wonderful intro to keep us off kilter, but tinta here is one of delight.

The piano trio is a much loved genre in chamber music, not least by Beethoven. The Triple Concerto, Op. 56, for violin, cello and piano was completed in 1803 and introduced the following year. I find this a more intimate work than the symphony. The dialogue, a sort of "catch the ball" between the cello, violin and piano humanize the music for this listener. The finale is alla polaca-a Polish dance movement in 3/4 used in a later generation by Chopin.

The Seventh Symphony was completed in 1813 has been called the symphony of rhythm more than tunes.There are tunes a-plenty, but they are almost beside the point.  This A Major symphony is all about forward momentum. From a lesser composer, this 'race to the finish' would be a bore. Beethoven infuses it with drama, not least from moving through keys distant to A Major. Michael Steinberg writes, of " great harmonic spaces....The excursions to C and Fare entered upon with startling bluntness"  "The forward momentum becomes evident the first big tune. The contrasting allegretto-lively, not really faster than fast-does a lot with one note and repetition. It's like watching a flower slowly bloom and prosper. It was cheered to
the walls by the first audience in Vienna. An encore was demanded.

Composer Ludwig Spohr was a young violinist who reproved from the first night of Beethoven's conducting, "At a sforzando he tore his arms with great vehemence asunder. At the entrance of the forte, he jumped in the air!"

 As for the wild finale, its good to recall the words of conductor Thomas Beecham "What can you do with this? It's like a lot of yaks running about!"

What can you do? Peter Stafford Wilson and the Columbus symphony will know. join them this weekend and find out.

Friday, November 04, 2016

About Mrs. Roosevelt: An Interview with Blanche Wiesen Cook

The third and final volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, The War Years and After, 1939:1962 is now out from Viking.

Ms. Cook is distinguished professor of history at John Jay College and Graduate Center, City University of New York. In addition to her biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, her other books include The Declassified Eisenhower and Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution. 

Eleanor Roosevelt volume I was a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and both volumes
were New York Times bestsellers.

I spoke with Ms. Cook yesterday from her publisher's office.

CP: Should I call you professor Cook or Doctor Cook, how would you like me to address you?
BC: Call me Blanche
CP: That makes it easy. Could you tell me what your initial attraction was to Mrs. Roosevelt?

BC: Joe Lash said Eleanor Roosevelt is infinite. She never stopped growing and changing. Her vision of the needs of the people was prescient, and enduring.

For me I was most moved by the fact that she identified with the people in want, in need, in trouble. People like her own family.

Blanche Wiesen Cook
Her mother died when Eleanor Roosevelt was eight. Her father died of alcoholism at the age of thirty-four when Eleanor Roosevelt was ten. And you really have to pause and think, how much you'd have to drink, to die at the age of thirty four of alcoholism. This was really was formative for Eleanor Roosevelt. She wanted to make life better for all people. And devoted her life to trying to do that. Education for all. Heath care for all. Housing for all. Dignity for all.

"Men hate women with power"

CP: I was very surprised that during her lifetime, during her work she was very often unpopular and reviled. Here was someone who was trying to get health care and housing for everyone and people called her a socialist. A lot of people did not like her. That's hard for me to grasp.

BC: J. Edgar Hoover hated her. He called her the old cow, and the old hen. He monitored her phone. He bugged her hotel rooms. He always called her a communist because she was against racism. The largest proportion of her file, which is over 3000 pages, is everything she said against lynching, against degradation.

I think we need to pause to realize that all integrationists in the 1940s and 50s were called Communists. Everybody who wanted civil rights was called a communist. Eleanor Roosevelt's commitment to ending segregation, and for building a civil rights community was particularly reviled. Also, Eleanor Roosevelt would say, "Men hate women with power". And Hoover, in particular, hated Eleanor Roosevelt. And her women allies who campaigned for more democracy and decency for everybody.

My Day

CP: She wrote a newspaper column for may years called My Day. It began as I understand it as kind of a diary. But eventually it became an outlet for her. How important was that daily column?

BC: It was very important. It started out by her writing these letters to great friend Lorena Hickok as to how she spent her day. I think this became her therapy. She really needed to write and express herself, and Hick said, Why are you sending me all these letters? The whole world wants to know how you spend your day. From 1936 to the end oh her life, she wrote a daily column. It was widely syndicated, in newspapers around the country. And then after 1946 around the world. People read her column in which she talked about the issues of the day, as well as her own day. It became very popular and influential, and then she became the first lady of radio. She had a radio program. Spoke all over the country and then all over the world. She had really a very important voice in which she called for civil rights and human rights.

From the 1930s on she does something called trouping for democracy. She really believed we needed to build movement for social change.  One politician and allies are not going to do it. We need movement. And that was her goal.

Marriage of Eleanor and FDR 

CP: The marriage of the President and Mrs. Roosevelt was troubled. FDR had an affair with Lucy Mercer. Do you think if there had been no Lucy Mercer and everything had been copacetic, she would have had the same kind of career?

BC:  I think she probably she would not have had the same kind of career. She would have been much more the handmaiden to FDR. But the fact that they had two separate courts, she had a lot of freedom. FDR trusted her to go around the country and be his eyes and ears. He really had great respect for her. He said, people are willing to tell anything to my wife.. So he really trusted her to go around and get information, and bring it back to him, and support his programs, She always believed they shared an ultimate vision. Even when she didn't approve of his priorities or compromises . She always believed they shared an ultimate vision for what was good and right . They were really partners and allies.  But I think the fact that they led two separate lives gave her a lot of freedom  to do what she wanted to do.


CP: My mother loved Eleanor Roosevelt. I was a little kid when Mrs. Roosevelt died but I remember my mother sitting in front of the TV being upset, and talking about Mr.s Roosevelt. What is Mrs. Roosevelt's legacy today?

BC: It's so immediate. Eleanor Roosevelt would always say she's rather be chloroformed than run for office. What she meant was that women at the time were not yer organized to run for office. And Eleanor Roosevelt wanted equal pay for equal work. She wanted equal citizenship, equality for women and equal power for women.

Her legacy is, okay, now we're more organized, now we understand, that we need to build a community of activism to support the things we care about, and the women in leadership we believe will make the country a better place. And restore democracy.


CP: Lastly, I;'m sure everyone is asking you this, what would Eleanor Roosevelt make of the current presidential election?

BC: I think she;d be heartbroken. That we have a man who speaks with such hate. Who is calling for violence. For people who are calling to disrupt the peace of election polling places and is a racist. I think she'd be appalled. And I think she'd fight for what she fought for all her life, which is dignity,  justice, civil rights, and human rights.  FDR said in 1940, We will have the triumph of democracy , or we'll return to the dark ages.