Jewels Of Silent Film Music

There are few things worth giving up a perfect fall after­noon in Upstate New York for, but Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman with live music is one of them. A din­ner break and a return for F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, beginning as the sun sets on the other side of Lake Cayuga seals the sac­rifice of those […]

Unexpected Encounters With Greatness

Being present at a musical performance of unex­pected greatness is even more memorable than having high expectations met. When I heard Rostropovich with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa in 1985 play­ing the Dvorak Cello Concerto (they recorded it that year) I was ready to be transported–and was. A whole ritual led up to the […]

Bach On The Accordion? High Plains Trudgery

An increasing number of drawing-room revolutionar­ies have begun to discuss their strategies to overthrow that despot, the musical score. Rather than treat the notes on the page with slavish admiration, these musicians — Uri Caine’s gloriously rough-and-tumble treatment of Bach’s Goldberg Variation is but one example — use the musical canon not to fire off […]

On The Road To Skaneateles

The drive from Ithaca, New York, at the southern end of Lake Cayuga to the old-and-new money town of Skaneateles at the northern end of Skaneateles Lakes takes a little less than an hour, but traverses two worlds, the one affluent (at least in parts) the other rural and poor. As a member of an […]

Did John Adams Save The Day?

Before I Am Love, directed by Luca Gaudagnino and released into American movie theaters this summer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Adams had never written a soundtrack. In a way he still hasn’t, since more than 30 minutes of music he supplied for this Italian soap opera without the suds were cannibalized in one […]

How BP Harnesses Music To Its Message

There is nothing more sincere than a guitar. A few simple chords, plucked or picked one note after the other at a gently swaying tempo summon reflexive feelings of trust, comfort, love, and hope. This elemental musical style works for the lullaby and the love song, the medi­tation and the memorial. Few musical tasks are […]

Why Bach Didn’t Go Swimming

Bach never went in the ocean for a refreshing dip. He never even set eyes on the Atlantic. He could have made it to the North Sea at Lübeck during his sojourn there to learn from Dieterich Buxtehude in the Winter of 1705-6. But the old city was an island moated by the Trave River […]

Christian Bach’s Castrato Arias

Bach’s sons remained in the homeland — until the last, Johann Christian. Born in 1735, he was called, though even from beyond the grave, father Bach might have regretted that second name after his youngest had moved to Italy in 1755 and converted to Catholicism, that sect feared and hated by Orthodox Lutherans with an […]

Anna & The Glass Ceiling

When it comes to the commemoration of dead musi­cians, few women enjoy even a moment in the posthu­mous spotlight. They were rarely given the chance to compose, and until the 19th century — and even then — did so for the most part furtively, if at all. The influential Viennese music critic, Eduard Hanslick, writing […]

Three Cheers for Renée Fleming

The musical terrain stretching between the entrenched aesthetic positions of parents and those of their teenage children is dotted with mines and ordnance laced with mustard gas. After enduring countless bom­bardments of Lady Gaga singing “Alejandro, Alejandro” over the car radio, with one of my kids having fed the coordinates into this long-range howitzer, I […]

‘Armida’ With My Favorite Uncle

Last Saturday I returned from my early errands to find a mid-morning message on the phone from my uncle, who by happy coincidence also lives in Ithaca, New York a few miles from my house.: “Lump Lump, you’re going to come and pick me up about noon for the opera. Toodaloo.” My uncle has a […]