On The Horizon … Death Becomes Us?

Death - medieval

ON THE HORIZON (by Liz Friedman) — Here we go again … heat and humidity. At least last week gave a small window of reprieve to spend an evening at Tanglewood with a picnic on the lawn and listening to music provided by the the orchestra and chorus of Boston-based Emmanuel Music in Ozawa Hall. If you didn’t catch the performance of John Harbison’s Great Gatsby (known to us because of the Albany Symphony performances of the Suite from The Great Gatsby), Mary Jane Leachs Times Union review of last Thursday’s concert can be found here.

But dang … the heat and humidity hits us again according to this week’s forecast! It’s really going to be deadly brutal, reinforcing a bit of a theme on stage this week.

One of my all-time favorite performers, Thibaudet will be performing Franz Lizst’s Totentanz for piano and orchestra. This “Dance of Death” is a work notable for being based on the Dies irae plainsong as well as for its daring stylistic innovations. Lizst had a bit of a fascination with death, as well as with religion, and heaven and hell. Totentzanz is only one of his pieces that manifests this. Apparently Liszt frequented Parisian “hospitals, gambling casinos and asylums” in the early 1830s, and he even went down into prison dungeons in order to see those condemned to die *. Liszt also became a priest in 1865 by taking minor orders in the Catholic Church, although he was forbidden to say Mass.

  • If you read Joseph Dalton’s article for the Times Union about this summer of music anniversaries, he notes that to catch some opera by Benjamin Britten this summer you’ll have to head up to Segal Music Colony on Schroon Lake. They will be doing four performances of Britten’s comic opera, Albert Herring (Juy 17 – 20th). A detailed synopsis can be found here.
  • For those who would not be caught dead this summer without indulging in a bit of Bang on a Can … do not fear!  The Bang on a Can Festival begins at MASS MoCA this week! Under the dedication of the leadership of Julia Wolfe, Mike Gordon, and David Lang this festival devoted entirely to adventurous contemporary music brings all kinds of wonderful to a three week residency at Mass MoCA.  Composers have their new works performed. Players perform in ensembles sitting alongside their teachers. The Festival includes daily performances in the museum galleries (free with museum admission) and concludes with a six-hour blow-out Marathon Concert performed by the Festival ensembles and special guests. Be sure to check it out.
  • And speaking of David Lang, the Glimmerglass production of Lang’s Pulitzer Prize winning the little match girl passion opens on Saturday, July 20th. With is paring of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater under the title “Passions,” Glimmerglass presents the pain and catharsis of two deaths – that of an anonymous, impoverished little girl and that of a controversial prophet, as seen through the eyes of his grieving mother.

This seems to be a bit of a “deathly” week on the stage as well as with the heat and humidity.

So keep cool my friends, keep hydrated, and enjoy the music … wherever you may find it!

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 * Walker, Alan (1983). Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years 1811-1847. Faber and Faber. p. 152.

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