Sunday, December 11, 2011

Overlooked concerts

Performers in the Oct. 29 program of Russian music and poetry, from left: Katarzyna, Tatyana, Inna, and Rollin.

I let my blogging lapse for a while, and I’ve neglected to mention two memorable performances I attended earlier in the fall, both in Philadelphia.

The first was a Russian salon at the Institute for International Culture out on Lancaster Avenue. It took place Oct. 29, on the evening of the first snowfall we’ve had this season, which was appropriate, I think. Tatyana Rashkovsky sang, and Katarzyna Marzec-Salwinski and Rollin Wilber played piano. The music was by a bunch of Russians, including Rimsky, Rachmaninoff, Borodin, Scriabin and a young Boris Pasternak. My friend Inna Lobova-Heasley read Russian poetry from the early 20th century. The room was intimate, the performances committed, but Russian music is Russian music, and there’s only so much of it I can take. Intermission lasted almost an hour as guests consumed potatoes, blini with chives sour cream, caviar (which I avoided), and vodka punch (which I also avoided). I asked Inna how long these Russian soirees were supposed to last.

“Until the vodka runs out,” she said.

The other program was held Nov. 12 at Ravenhill Chapel on the campus of Philadelphia University - another concert Inna did the publicity for. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon. Lyric Fest presented premieres by Maurice Wright, Curt Cacioppo and Allen Krantz. Performers were soprano Elizabeth Weigle, baritone William Sotne, and the Ravenhill String Quartet, which consists of young musicias from the Philadelphia orchestra. The centerpiece of the program was Wright’s “To Kiss the Earth” for baritone and string quartet. The words were taken from the diaries of the Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain, translated into English by Stone, who was a student of Wildenhain and the motivating force behind setting the diaries to music. All three pieces on the program were well-crafted and attractive, though I can’t say much more about them so long after first hearing.

Wright remembered my earlier blog post criticizing his percussion piece “Movement in Time,” and he graciously gave me a recording of it.

After the concert, Inna, Krantz and I walked over to Suzanne DuPlantis’ home for a reception and buffet dinner. (The spread was as memorable as the concert.) Suzanne, accompanied by Laura Ward at the piano, sang La Vie en Rose and a song by Michael Tilson Thomas about the simple joys of life. The first stanza offered thanks for a wonderful plate of herring, and it made me uncomfortable. I know we should be grateful for our sustenance, but do we really need to rub in our status at the top of the food chain? I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor fish.

So we sat, we talked, we had a nice schmeer.

It’s a clear, cold afternoon, and I’m inside. My bicycle chain broke last Sunday afternoon while I was out riding, forcing me two walk several miles home, and I haven’t bothered to have take it to the shop for repair.

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