Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wonderful Weekend

Visited my old friend (and sometime commenter) Cal in DC over the weekend. It turned out, unexpectedly to be something of a musical time. Saturday afternoon, the two of us had lunch near Capitol Hill with a young woman I used to work with at Montgomery Newspapers. Afterward, when she and her husband went home, Cal and I made our way over to the National Gallery of Art. We weren’t sure what we wanted to look at until I spotted a poster for Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, 1909-1929: When Art Danced With Music over in the East Wing. I cooed like a chimpanzee and insisted we go. Cal, ever the gracious host, agreed.

The exhibition was a joy, with set designs, costumes, and filmed excerpts of the Ballet Russe’s major productions, including Petroushka, Prélude á l’après-midi d’une faune, Parade, and The Prodigal Son. Naturally, I spent more time in the Rite of Spring exhibit than in any other. I stood gaping, inches away from the costumes worn at the premiere. They seemed too well-preserved and colorful to be original, but assume they were, since nothing on the cards mentioned reproductions. The room also contained Picasso’s and Cocteau’s famous drawings of Stravinsky.

One complaint: The Faune and Rite rooms were close together, and looking at the video for one, I could hear the music from the other. The effect was more Charles Ives than Debussy.

Sunday, Cal and I drove around the Beltway to Virginia, where we met another old friend of mine for a free recital by the young violinist Jehshua Karunakaran. The program was mostly lightweight fiddling, despite Part’s Fratres and fourth-fifths of Bach’s Second Partita, but it was an enjoyable way to spend and afternoon, and what Mr. Karunakaran lacked in precision, he made up for in gusto. (He even managed a quick stomp during Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”)

I lived in DC for ten years, and this weekend only reminded me how much I miss it.


Cal said...

Being more of an art person than a music person, I was struck by the way sketches (themselves beautiful objects framed) were presented alongside the costumes and scenery they envisioned. One arrangement included a sketch of some scenery, a 3D cardboard diorama of the sketch, and (I think) the scenery itself as finally used in the filmed version of the dance. The diorama reminded me of the architectural models I used to see in the architecture building at the University of Maryland when I went there to take history classes. I remember one especially cool one of the agora in Athens with each column made out of individual stubby cylinders like the originals.

At the recital, I was a little miffed at the beginning. Out of the corner of my eye I kept seeing lights flashing. I assumed it was some self-important jerk blowing off the no-texting rule, until part way through the program I chanced to look that way just as the lights went on. It was not a jerk at all but a little girl who had probably been dragged to the recital against her will, was obviously bored, and was kicking her feet aimlessly under the seat. The flashes, like reflections off the facets of diamonds and rubies, were from the little lights on her sneakers. I almost laughed out loud but Joe was sitting right next to me and I knew better than to interrupt his concentration during a concert. The violin and the light show didn't quite come together like a Ballet Russe production, but the sneakers were in keeping with the spirit of the stomping during "Sabre Dance".

Joe Barron said...

The diorama was for the production of Les Sylphides, as I recall.