Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Ives Day

Gilbert Kalish will play the Concord Sonata Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Today is the 140th birthday of Charles Ives. In just world, it would be a national holiday. I've done nothing yet to mark the occasion. My observance will come  tomorrow, at I attend an all-Ives recital at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Dawn Upshaw will sing a handful of songs accompanied by Gilbert Kalish, who will then play the Concord Sonata. I wangled and interview with Mr. Kalish back in September, and the article went online on the tenth. You can read it here. Not that it matters. The concert has been sold for at least two weeks. Philadelphia is not a big Ives town, and I assume the sellout was due to Upshaw's name recognition  power -- which is kind a pity, because the program incoudes only about seven songs. She'll be onstage for all of twenty minutes.

She apparently doesn't do interviews, by the way. I tried several times to get in touch with her for  the article, and her management's publicist was sweet about trying to track her down, but she never returned any of their calls. The publicist told me she even passed on talking to Gramophone. Gramophone, people. So what chance does a dinky entertainment insert in suburban Philadelphia have? The publicist also said Miss Upshaw is a lovely person,  just press-shy. It was just as well. Mr. Kalish gave me so much material and such great quotes, that even if I had spoken with her, I doubt I could have given her more than a paragraph. Space is tight in the weekend tabs.

On another topic, today I received my CD of Klaus Stock's original-instrument performance of Schubert's wonderful Arpeggione Sonata. I don't  need to tell my followers the arpeggione was a sort of bowed guitar, and Schubert wrote his sonata for the inventor. The instrument never caught on, and it's not hard  to understand why. It's  a  thin, reedy sound compared with the modern cello, the instrument  on which the sonata is usually performed today. (It's also done on the viola, which gives a better idea of the original timbre.)  Still, it's a   fine performance of a delightful work. I love Schubert in his Biedermeier moments. Puts me in the mood for potato soup and beer.


john schott said...

Nice interview with Kalish - any chance we could read the out-takes? I'll bet there's way more than you could put in the paper. Happy Ives' Birthday!

Joe Barron said...

Not that many, really. We weren't on the phone a long time. And I don't record my interviews, so the notes are typed in very quickly. But here are a few.

On the performance, with Zukofsky, or the violin sonatas: "We prepared those for a long time. We spent a year on them. They’re very demanding pieces and I was young and very inexperienced with new music. After all that work, we performed them in a church in Brooklyn, with 15 people in the audience. I thought, 'Oh my god, all that work, and what a pity, there’s nobody here to here it.'"

On how his interpretation of the Concord has changed: "I have to tell you, I don’t know. I don’t listen to my recording. I just practice whatever piece I play in whatever fresh way I can. Forty years later. I don’t know how I’m different, as a pianist, as a person. You are who you are, and life gives us certain lessons. You do grow, even from your teaching and your interaction with so many musicians. I think I fell more comfortable with it. Perhaps it's more expansive. I don’t really know. It’s like an old friend in a way, but it’s also a challenge. ... You'll probably know better than me if it's different."

On Ives and Emerson: "Emerson was really a God to him. He's trying to express so many profound philosophical concepts. Maybe it's my favorite movement. [It's a] serious struggle with whatever he considered life's questions."

On Dawn Upshaw: "Dawn did not ever have the kind of mindset that some singers had that you need a coach to learn a piece, that you shouldn’t do new music because is will ruin your voice."