you may perhaps find it odd that i choose to principally write about food and not music. there are many reasons for this, the most pronounced having to do with making manifest my displeasure with aspects of the industry, at the same time as having success in it. very tricky ground. thomas ades has been hailed as one of the great composers of today, and quoting the new yorker, "has outgrown his status as the wunderkind of a vibrant british scene and become one of the most imposing figures in contemporary music".
ades just performed a piano recital at zankel auditorium (new yorkers are accustomed to the aural assault of the city but i can't be the only person disconcerted by the rumble of the subway eight feet underneath the hall-- i mean this is carnegie, and that is almost comical) at carnegie and i was among the many in the industry (artist managers, orchestra managers, musicians) in attendance. the program consisted of janacek miniatures, in the mist, ades' own compositions --traced overhead and darknesse visible, stravinsky miniatures, niccolo castiglioni miniatures, and conlon nancarrow canons which were .... you guessed it miniatures as well.
the longest single piece on the program was about 12 minutes. i'm not sure where the criticism is there, but i realized afterwards that i really had not a clue what ades was about except that he can play the piano, he has a fondness for janacek, (two of the three encores), and a nice sense of humor; oh, and of course as well .............he likes miniatures.
having read the ecstatic reviews of his music, and liking the titles of his pieces (yes a bit like buying wine according to the label design) (asyla, ...but all shall be well, five eliot landscapes, these premises are alarmed ) among them, i was hoping to find some new music to play. instead i found there was no 'there' there, or not as much as i'd hoped. traced overhead was in need of some editing. (ades was very charming and earnest in his comments between pieces, but if as he suggested he was attempting to mimic angels' circular ascents, i'd suggest not having a downward descent of the keyboard as one of the opening gestures....... )
to my ears darknesse visible was much more successful, though i have to say it still gave no indication of genius. i'd like to hear some orchestral, vocal, and chamber music, but for me this was not remarkable music. i also must comment that i felt emboldened, as many a listener should by bernard holland's both recent and older articles in the new york times about the validity of my first impressions; though of course nicholas slominsky's the lexicon of musical invective essentially inveighs against such preliminary judgments. ultimately though i do hope however that i'm missing something, for he has a candor largely absent from our musical discourse, quoting here an article by alex ross of the new yorker.
"Granted, Adès has got into trouble for insolence. “Prodigy with a notable talent for sounding off” was the headline over an early account of him in the English press. The writer, keeping his options open, said that Adès was either “the new Mozart” or “the biggest piece of arrogance and pretension to hit British culture since Damien Hirst pickled his first fish.” The problem wasn’t simply that Adès had fallen victim to the obsessive cattiness of English criticism; he had, in fact, made several questionable statements. He said that Benjamin Britten was not a major twentieth-century opera composer. He described Shostakovich’s solemn Eighth Quartet as “a terrible con,” and compared the minimalist religious music of John Tavener to “dog psychiatry—utterly bogus.” He has learned to rein in remarks of this sort. It’s too bad, in a way, because Adès’s disdain for received opinion is one of the vital signs of his mind. For him, the great composers are not distant idols but noisy neighbors, and he has his ups and downs with them.
Lately, he’s been quarrelling with Brahms. “Oh, I used to like him,” he mused on the train back to London. “I used to go to bed whistling the Clarinet Trio, just like the next person. Then, one day, I woke up and said to myself, ‘It won’t do! No, it won’t do at all! He’s wretched, he’s tedious, his finales are dutiful and are there only for the sake of appearances.’” The tirade became more elaborate as I—a confessed Brahms lover—grew visibly more crestfallen. Brahms also had committed the sin of declaring that the greatest music had already been written. “No one has the final word,” Adès said, looking out the window at the neat, bleak villages of the Midlands. “No one exhausts the possibilities.” He recently returned to this theme, by E-mail: “Nabokov, in ‘The Gift,’ pictures someone who claims there are no mountains left to climb—only to look up and see a tweedy Englishman waving cheerfully from a higher peak.”
this concert was not one of the great pianistic concerts of the season, and i daresay that the times critic would have had many sarcastic remarks for anyone playing a program as 'light' as this one no matter how adventuresome; but as i predicted they gave a very positive review as they are wont to do for those whom they proselytize. (note the music director searches for the new york philharmonic, as well as hugely unjust/unfair criticisms of almost everything lorin maazel does.)
the positive upshot though is that i did however come away with some possible repertoire additions for my miniatures program. ... :)
happy thanksgiving all.