C. P. E. Bach in Cairo


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Nader Abbassi

Nader Abbassi

“He is the father, we are the children,” said Joseph Haydn, commenting on works by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Paralleling world celebrations of C. P. E. Bach’s three-hundredth birth anniversary, the Cairo Symphony Chamber Orchestra will present a concert with works by the composer as part of the “Composers’ Jubilee” series.

The concert will take place on Saturday, 22 November 2014 at the Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House and will include three compositions by the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach: Symphony no.1 in D Major, Concerto for Flute in D minor with Peter Olah as soloist, and a Magnificat featuring vocal soloists soprano Iman Mostafa, alto Amina Khairat, tenor Hisham El-Gindy and baritone Raouf Zaidan. A Cappella choir, with choir master Maya Gvineria, will also participate.

The Cairo Symphony Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nader Abbassi, is a newly formed ensemble consisting of Cairo Symphony Orchestra musicians. As a smaller formation, the chamber orchestra will give several concerts including compositions by C. P. E. Bach during this season.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach represents a transition between the Baroque music period and the following classical period. Throughout 2014, he has been celebrated across the world, particularly in German cities where the composer spent most of his life.

Ahram Online

Adversaries Sharing a Love of Bach


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Niklas Frank, author of In the Shadow of the Reich

Niklas Frank, author of In the Shadow of the Reich

In the dock at the Nuremberg trials of 1945 and 1946: Hans Frank, born in Karlsruhe; once Adolf Hitler’s lawyer and governor general of Poland for the Third Reich, now charged with crimes against humanity for his part in the murder of three million people, including those in the death camps at Treblinka, Sobibór, Bełżec and Majdanek.

For the prosecution: Hersch Lauterpacht, who grew up in the Austro-Hungarian empire, near the city now known as Lviv in Ukraine, and who, after studying law in Vienna and London, went on to teach at Cambridge. He was a key figure in developing the idea of “crimes against humanity”, laying the foundation stones for international law and the modern laws of war. In his 40s, he was part of the British prosecution team at the trials of Frank and others.

There were strange connections between the two men, on opposite sides in the courtroom. The area in which Lauterpacht had grown up had been invaded by the Germans in June 1941. Lauterpacht was in England during this period and had been unaware that most of his family had been among the three million exterminated on Frank’s orders.

And there is this: as the trial proceeded, Lauterpacht would repair to listen to his favorite piece of music, from which he took inspiration for this onerous task: St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244b) by Johann Sebastian Bach. Meanwhile, Frank, in his cell, discussed with the prison psychiatrist and summoned up in his head – seeking not only solace but affirmation – St. Matthew Passion.

Each man heard in the great masterwork – in the same sublime solos and chorales – an entirely different, indeed contradictory, message; two opposed promulgations in the same score, two contrary cries in the same edifice of beauty.

Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands came across this unsettling coincidence while researching a book about his own family, to be published in 2016. He has now turned this compelling discovery, and other circumstances around the trial of Hans Frank (for example, also working for the prosecution was Raphael Lemkin, who had studied in Lviv – in the 1920s, when it was part of Poland and called Lwów – and had recently coined the term “genocide”. Sands believes that his family, too, had been obliterated on Frank’s orders), into a remarkable event to be staged at the end of this month by one of Britain’s leading young directors of opera, Nina Brazier. It combines narrative, which Sands will read with Vanessa Redgrave, images and music (from Bach via Ravel to Leonard Cohen), with Sands’s friend from childhood, French bass-baritone Laurent Naouri, accompanied by Guillaume de Chassy on piano.

Among the more extraordinary elements will be a “hymn” written to Hans Frank by Richard Strauss, the text for which appeared in a book by Frank’s son, Niklas, who has himself been involved in preparations for the performance. “We became immediate friends,” says Sands of Niklas, “after an initially strange handshake with the man whose father murdered my grandfather’s family, and three million other people.” There will also be never-before-seen film from the Kraków ghetto found in Niklas Frank’s family archive.

Philippe Sands is an Anglo-French lawyer with Jewish family origins around what is now Lviv also. He is best known for his books Lawless World, which detailed the illegality of Tony Blair’s war in Iraq, and Torture Team, about instructions for interrogation from US secretary for defense Donald Rumsfeld that led to calls for him and others to be indicted for war crimes. On a wall at his home beside Hampstead Heath in London hangs a map of the small town of Zhovkva, whence his great-grandmother came, from the same street as Hersch Lauterpacht.

Sands’s staging tells how Lauterpacht left for England, Lemkin for America and then converged home, in their way, to the trials at Nuremberg. (Sands’s own career has proceeded in the slipstream of the work of Lauterpacht and Lemkin.) Hans Frank was Adolf Hitler’s lawyer in cases dating back before the Führer’s rise to power, a loyalty for which he was appointed governor general of Poland in October 1939, to which he promised: “We bring art and culture.” He also guaranteed that “the Jewish problem will be addressed”.

Frank was a man of letters, a talented pianist and friend of Strauss. The remarkable book by his son is unprecedented in Holocaust literature (published by Alfred Knopf in America as In the Shadow of the Reich, but incomprehensibly refused by British publishers) and a monument to his German generation’s reckoning with the Shoah. It is a visceral challenge to the father, whom the text addresses in the second-person singular like an open letter, but also describes him thus: “You could play Chopin so beautifully. You loved Beethoven. You were friends with Richard Strauss.” At the end, as the Red Army rolls back the Wehrmacht’s conquests, “even in the chaos of battle, culture and the arts maintained their same important place on your scale of values”. Towards the end of the Reich, recalls his son, Frank was even chastised by Heinrich Himmler for “gluttonous and inappropriate behavior, with those theatre and opera performances of yours”.

Sands’s narrative includes Frank’s inauguration of a new theatre, “sanctuary of art” in Lviv; Frank wanted rising star Herbert von Karajan to conduct the opening night’s performances of Beethoven’s Leonora Overture and the Ninth Symphony. (He got instead “an unknown Austrian conductor,” Fritz Weidlich.)

In his engrossing book, Niklas quotes from his father’s diary: “This evening I was . . . at the great festival concert which [Wilhelm] Furtwängler conducted at the Philharmonic Hall for the German People’s Winter Benefit for the Needy.” Hitler, Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels were also there. “It was a powerful, profound, thrilling experience,” writes Frank Sr., “to hear this true giant of a conductor recreate the overture to Der Freischütz, Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and Beethoven’s Seventh. A magnificent evening of consecration. With indescribable emotion, I felt the years I have experienced pass before me, accompanied by this glorious music.”

So what did Hans Frank the war criminal and Hersch Lauterpacht who wrote the law on crimes against humanity hear in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion? “I do not stake any claim to expertise in music,” Sands says. “I’m an amateur enthusiast, and not even that when it comes to Bach. But I’ve read and thought a lot about this, and there is an interpretation whereby Bach used the passion of Matthew to register a Lutheran affirmation of the creativity of the individual against the Catholic commitment to the centrality of the group, the whole. It’s about the direct relationship between the individual and God in which, one may infer, Lauterpacht found an inspiration for his idea of individual human rights.

“I wonder about Frank,” muses Sands. “Whether he was an intelligent and cultured man, and if he was, did he really understand St. Matthew Passion? Frank may have heard in these glorious chorales an assertion of the collective, the rights of nation over those of the individual, which was the basis for his defense, such as it was. But there’s an irony here, because Bach writes in such a way as even the chorus sings in the first person singular – ‘ich.’ This is the individual celebrant communing with the deity, which opposes the Catholic idea of communion through celebration.”

In open court, Frank said: “I bear the responsibility” and: “I am possessed by a deep sense of guilt.” In his cell, Frank converted to Catholicism – to the derision of his son, whose book goads the father on his final pleas for divine mercy, for himself and family. Sands is less immediately dismissive: “It’s debatable why he converted, but having done so, he invokes the St. Matthew Passion as an affirmation of his conversion. Which is strange: he must have known that Bach and his intellect were Lutheran. I think Frank’s conversion was a strategic one and as such it reminds me of Blair. They were incomparable, of course, and we assume they converted in good faith, but in a way, Catholicism is the easy way out to self-absolution, and that is one of the things Bach takes issue with in this music.”

Sands explains how he and Laurent Naouri had to choose a section from the St. Matthew Passion to illustrate the obsession of each man. “For Lauterpacht I wanted Geduld, Geduld!” Sands says, “which means ‘patience’, but Laurent said it wasn’t in his range.”

“We chose Gerne will ich mich bequemen,” Laurent says: “‘Gladly would I, fear disdaining/ Cross and cup, without complaining’ – which is about determination and patience. And for Frank, it has to be Erbarme dich – ‘Have mercy . . . regard my bitter weeping’ – praying that he will live. I think he probably knows that he won’t [Frank was executed in 1946], but there is a part of him attuned to this music, some last feeling of hope.”

But did Hans Frank believe his own defense? If anyone can be the judge of that, it would be Sands, who has faced people in Frank’s shadow when he has acted for Human Rights Watch against General Augusto Pinochet, or cases in international courts involving Yugoslavia or Sierra Leone, and who now confides what everyone wonders about trial law: “When you are involved in a case, there’s a moment where you may come to believe your own arguments, however implausible. Frank was a courtroom lawyer too, and in a courtroom there can be this suspension of disbelief. I think Frank as a defendant may well have gone through that process, of not necessarily believing his own argument, but believing it enough to think it might get him off the hook. I don’t think he believed he was innocent, but I think he may have thought he was not sufficiently culpable to warrant the death penalty.” Sands befriended an interpreter from the trial, Siegfried Ramler, who told him: “I looked Frank in the face and thought, ‘This is a man who knows he has done wrong.’ He was looking for mercy, but not exoneration.”

Niklas Frank is a man of wit and charm; the dry humor that charges his book with bitterness makes his conversation agreeable. He became a war correspondent for  Stern magazine and we were both in Iraq and former Yugoslavia, though we never met. I talk to him about finding concentration camps run by Bosnian Serbs in 1992 and he talks about “finding books, some in German, left in abandoned houses in empty Serbian villages” after the Croatian offensive around Knin during 1995. “There,” says Frank, “even the animals were dead. I felt like the loneliest man in the world.”

Niklas Frank was born in 1939 and, as he says: “My memories of the Third Reich were those of a child.” He recalls “a harmonium in the attic at our home in Bavaria, up a narrow staircase. I watched him play. He would improvise a great deal and the music always seemed sad to me, as though he knew what his end would be.”

Hans Frank “was so well educated,” says his son. “He was a close friend of Strauss; he knew every kind of classical music and he loved it. When Strauss discussed music with my father, he was on his own level.” In his book, Niklas recounts how such exciting movements as expressionism and naturalism “passed you by,” but in conversation relates how he found something unexpected in the programming of concerts sponsored by his father in occupied Kraków: “There was work there that was not just the usual cliche of Bach and Beethoven. There was modern music from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, which would have been considered decadent in Berlin – but this was Kraków. It’s there, being played, and I was astonished to find it.”

To perform such new music, Hans Frank had wanted as his programmer and concertmaster a man called Friedrich Franz Stampe, of whom Goebbels, who controlled the arts, disapproved, “but my father petitioned Goebbels and – amazingly – succeeded.”

The heating system at Laurent Naouri’s home in Paris, where he, Sands and Nina Brazier are rehearsing, has broken, so he has adjourned, as must our conversation, to a hotel on Boulevard Raspail. He gets directly to the point, without so much as a coffee between him and his argument: “Hans Frank was a great pianist; when he had to make a decision, he would play a while on the piano – something beautiful to help him with his thoughts. And it comes as a shock to think of Frank doing this – that he was a mass killer, but he had sensibility, a soul.”

“But the meaning of music is wide open,” Naouri explains. “Most music moves between tension and release, tension and release. Everything is built around the dominant seventh and the tonic, building pressure and the orgasmic conclusion. And this is primal, it affects all beings, whatever their ideology. Why would the same music move Lauterpacht and Hans Frank? Because they are both human beings. They both get hungry and both need food; they both experience these moments of tension that need to find rest. This has nothing to do with morality – it’s physical.”

I ask Naouri about Nazism and the cult of the sublime irrational. “What Bach composes in the St. Matthew Passion is rational,” he replies. “What is irrational is the feeling of sheer beauty that comes out of it. Not how the music was done, but why it does this to us.”

Niklas Frank writes in his book: “Here’s something I don’t want to suppress: a song for you, written by Richard Strauss. Yes, Strauss sang a song for you and accompanied himself on the piano. You were standing next to him, in his home, struck dumb in your vanity, flattered by the fact that this world-famous composer, for you alone, only you, had made up this little ditty and turned it into a song. You hum the melody and I’ll write the text: ‘Who enters the room, so slender and swank?/ Behold our friend, our Minister Frank/ Like Lohengrin sent by God, our master/ To save us all from every disaster . . . ’ What’s he thanking you for, Father? I have yet to discover that,” concludes the author. The song will never have been performed – apart from a dry run at the Hay Festival – until Sands’s event at the end of this month.

Niklas explains: “When my mother died, on my twentieth birthday in 1959, I said to myself, ‘I’ll work through all the papers and pictures, lots of stuff.’ Luckily she had always copied out letters she wrote to my father, by hand that is, words between her and her husband at the time of the Nuremberg trials.

“And suddenly, in the letters she is very excited, as if every danger to his life was passed: a Swiss newspaper had reported Strauss as having written this song to Hans Frank. And she was so excited: Strauss is now saving her husband! We will be free! She was so convinced that in another letter, she plans another child with him.”

Niklas Frank believes the song predates the war. “These are not stupid people,” he argues, “and it’s funny.” He recreates the scenario: “My father is passing by Garmisch, where Strauss lives, and telephones to plan a call at short notice: ‘I’m nearby, why don’t I drop by?’ Strauss thinks up a little welcome, a surprise for his friend. He writes his little song. My father opens the door and there is Strauss at the piano, singing this gay verse. It’s easy-going, an afternoon piece. I think it’s obviously during peacetime; such an occasion wouldn’t make sense during the war.”

The Frank family tried to ascertain whether any music survived, to be told by Schott, publisher of most of Strauss’s music, that it did not. Niklas Frank is unconvinced: “Strauss was a vain character and would never have thrown away even the smallest piece of music. I believe it has been hidden.” Sands was told “it has disappeared.”

But whether the music was lost or is hidden, it does not exist for performance at the Purcell Room. “Could we reconstruct it?” Sands asked Naouri. “We could try,” replied Naouri. “I wrote to a friend, Frédéric Chaslin, a composer, conductor and master of spoof,” he now recalls. “Chaslin brilliantly pastiches Debussy and I asked him to do the same with Strauss. Two days later, back came the score, the full kitchen sink, more Strauss than Strauss!

“It’s not black and white with Strauss,” says Naouri. “He was noted to be in favor of the regime, but he had Jewish relatives. He intervened with the government to keep Stefan Zweig as a librettist. He did what he could for the Jews he knew.” Quotes from his diaries register contempt for a “criminal . . . anti-culture regime”.

In January 1993, Vanessa Redgrave convened a rally at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Hitler’s seizure of power, at which Holocaust survivors and deportees from Bosnia shared a platform, to denounce the gulag of camps in Bosnia, siege of Sarajevo and continued desecration by neo-Nazis of memorials built by Germany to Jews murdered during the Shoah.

Now, Redgrave and I sit outside a cafe near Twickenham Studios in London, while she smokes, drinks coffee and talks about these entwinements across history, of horror and defiance, that propel her work, and command her interest and involvement in Sands’s piece.

After a long opening conversation about Bosnia and the world today, she poses the question that pervades this work: “How and why is it possible that the Nazis knew classical music, and listened to classical music, while the crematoria were aflame? It runs though my head all the time.”

But Redgrave is a proud heretic and adds: “Is all this so far from what we’ve been talking about? How do those politicians in the UK sit in a concert hall and enjoy Beethoven while all this is going on? What do they think they are listening to after what they do?” Her eyes dart from behind spectacles, with righteous rage. “Mass murder was committed in Bosnia, with concentration camps, the torture of rape. Outrageous antisemitic acts of arson in Germany, in 1992/3, coincided with lethal attacks against Turkish immigrants. Then came Srebrenica, which was later defined as genocide. Were not European governments complicit?”

Then she invokes the defiance of art, and her profession, the kind of resistance that made for Rock Under the Siege, lunchtime concerts of chamber music and Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo: “I remember that both in Sarajevo during the siege, and in Kosovo, the artists and musicians played music and performed to strengthen survival and resistance. At all times music and theatre: to help civilians suffering intolerable hunger and war or the violence of occupation.” However, she adds: “The essential horror is that the perpetrators of war, siege, murder and occupation apparently also need, appreciate and promote music! To assist them in mass murder! Which is why I am glad Philippe has asked me to join him for A Song of Good and Evil.”

“I think,” posits Sands, regarding Redgrave’s last point, kernel of his piece, “that we find this unsettling because we want to hope that beauty, the notion of beauty, only makes us better people, that great art is good for humanity. This story shatters that illusion. It illuminates how bad people, too, appreciate beauty – and use it.”

Why, I asked Niklas Frank, could people such as his father love Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, music of such beauty? “I have never found an answer,” he replied.

Ed VulliamyThe Guardian

William H. Scheide (1914-2014)


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William H. Scheide

William H. Scheide

William H. Scheide, the Princeton philanthropist and Bach enthusiast who made significant contributions to scholarship in various fields of study and curated one of the largest rare book and manuscript collections in the world, died early on 14 November 2014, a source close to the family confirmed. He was one hundred years old.

Born in Philadelphia on 6 January 1914, Bill was the only child of John Hinsdale Scheide and Harriet Hurd. His parents were passionate about music, culture, rare books and human rights. His father played the piano, and his mother, a social worker, sang. At age six, Scheide began piano lessons. He later learned to play the organ and the oboe.

A 1936 graduate of Princeton University, Scheide majored in history because there was no music department at the school at the time. He wrote music criticism for The Daily Princetonian and enjoyed attending concerts in Philadelphia and New York. His senior thesis, “Adaptations of Christianity to Chinese Culture,” explored the pervasive Christian influences Jesuit missionaries brought into Chinese culture centuries earlier.

Scheide earned his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1940. His graduate thesis explored what happened to Bach’s music in the first century after his death. 

Known as one of the most famous Bach enthusiasts in the music world, he was the first American published in the Bach-Jahrbuch, one of the world’s most respected Bach literary periodicals.

He taught at Cornell University for two years and played the oboe with a group of amateur musicians who performed an all-Bach repertory. He founded the Bach Aria Group in 1946 and served as its director until 1980. For more than three decades, the group enjoyed international acclaim for its concerts, broadcasts, and recordings. Scheide also helped fund the reconstruction of the Woolworth Music Center at Princeton University and endowed a professorship of music history at the school.

Scheide also expanded the rare book and manuscript collection begun by his grandfather and enlarged by his father. The Scheide Library is housed within Firestone Library at Princeton University. Scheide completed their collection of the first four printed editions of the Bible in 2002. Other items in the collection included musical manuscripts by Bach and other famous composers, a fourteenth-century Magna Carta, a first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and letters by Christopher Columbus. On his ninetieth birthday, Scheide announced that he would bequeath his rare book collection to Princeton University upon his death. He donated rare books to several other academic institutions, including Princeton Theological Seminary and Westminster Choir College.

Throughout his life, Scheide used his inherited fortune to support a variety of philanthropic causes, including civil rights issues. He was the chief funder of the landmark 1954 lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education that ended public school segregation. For more than five decades, he played a crucial and invaluable part in advancing the goals of The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He was a member of the NAACP’s national committee and was a principal funder of the organization. He donated around $200,000 to hire poll-watchers on the lookout for race discrimination at the Florida polls in 2008. He was also a major supporter of Centurion Ministries, the Princeton-based nonprofit that works to free the innocent from prison.

For the last seven years, Scheide and his wife Judith hosted an annual concert that showcased famous orchestras performing rare works. The money raised through the sold-out performances benefited organizations including Westminster Choir College, the Princeton Recreation Department, the Princeton Public Library, Centurion Ministries, and Isles.

Krystal KnappPlanet Princeton

A Renaissance for Rameau


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Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau

It’s not very often that one receives international recognition two hundred fifty years after being placed in the ground. But with help from University of Wisconsin-Madison musicology professor Charles Dill and a host of international scholars and musicians, that’s exactly what’s happening for Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rameau, a French composer (1683-1764) who lived during the reign of Louis XV, has become famous for his contributions to music theory, his early harpsichord works, and especially his operas. His 1722 Treatise on Harmony is considered revolutionary for having incorporated philosophical ideas alongside practical musical issues. His operas were equally famous for their rich choral singing and elegant dancing. In the last few decades, interest in Rameau has intensified, with French scholars leading the way and organizing major festivals in Europe. Because of Dill’s renown as a scholar of Rameau and the Baroque, the UW-Madison School of Music will present a series of performances and talks about Rameau during the 2014-2015 academic year.

On 13 November 2014, the first of these events will kick off with a discussion about the expressive qualities in Rameau’s music (with visiting opera director David Ronis and Professor Anne Vila of the Department of French and Italian), followed by a concert the next day featuring Marc Vallon, UW-Madison professor of bassoon, in a mostly-Rameau concert. You can read the full schedule of events here.

We asked Prof. Dill to tell us a bit about himself and what makes Rameau an important figure in music.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM)  How did you first become interested in Rameau?

Charles Dill (CD)  Modern audiences often view all composers of the past as struggling visionaries. This may be true of composers after Beethoven, but it isn’t true – or isn’t true in the same way – for earlier composers, even composers like Mozart or Haydn. They considered themselves to be working at a job. They wrote pieces to suit their performers, and the compositions were “disposable.”  If something needed changing, the composer changed it, generally without much grumbling. They didn’t continue to garner attention for decades.

What first interested me about Rameau, then, was that he revised his operas extensively and these revised versions continued to be performed. This suggests all sorts of remarkable things about him and his works. Notably, he was alert to how audiences responded to his works to an unusual degree, and he felt some kind of obligation toward “getting the work right,” as it were. That’s a very modern way of thinking about music. Because of this attitude, he also took risks as a composer. He was a remarkably creative individual, and he was rewarded for it. His works dominated French opera for a period of fifty years, until well after his death. For his time and place, this truly was an unusual relationship between composer and audience.

Add to that Rameau’s work as a theorist. Thinkers had been speculating about how music works for as long as music had existed, but Rameau was the first to envision a comprehensive system that accounted for all of its aspects: how keys or tonalities come into being, why some harmonic progressions are more effective than others, how musical knowledge influences performance. We still employ his basic terminology for describing fundamental principles of music – chord inversion, tonic, dominant. There were flaws in his ideas, to be sure, and there have been countless other systems proposed since that make similar claims, but if you imagine music as an organized, coherent system – something we do every day – then you are, to a degree, following in his footsteps.

And finally, around the year 2000, everyone became much more interested in Rameau, in response to a series of extraordinarily good performances and recordings, many of them under the direction of William Christie. It is no exaggeration to say the world thinks of Rameau differently as a result of William Christie’s work with the group Les Arts Florissants.

UWM  How did you become a Rameau specialist?

CD  I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. When I began working in Parisian libraries in the late 1980s, as a graduate student completing my degree, there were only a handful of people studying Rameau. Students from that generation have done influential work. Thomas Christensen explained the development of Rameau’s music theory, Sylvie Bouissou became the general editor of the Rameau edition, and William Christie specialized in interpreting Rameau’s music in performance.

I was interested in Rameau’s relationship with audiences. Music criticism was still a fledgling enterprise in the eighteenth century, and yet his compositions elicited strong opinions, both for and against. He was one of the first composers to be treated not simply as a commodity, but as a public figure, one of the first to take that role seriously. To an unusual degree, he felt the need to experiment in his compositions, and yet he was also forced by circumstances to consider listeners and their perceptions in everything he wrote. After all this time, I still find this story remarkable.

Times have changed. Nowadays, France recognizes Rameau as one its most representative composers and devotes time, money, and effort to developing our knowledge of him. A small army of dedicated French researchers is poring over every available source and producing first-rate scholarship. They’re doing wonderful work.

UWM  What contributions have you made to scholarship?

CD  When I began writing about Rameau, there was a longstanding trend to approach composers solely from the vantage point of what they wrote. We could describe this as the “great composers” or “great works” approach. Discussing composers in this way cuts out some of the most interesting material: what audiences believed, how they liked what they heard, how they received the composers, and how composers responded to criticism. My book, Monstrous Opera: Rameau and the Tragic Tradition (1998), which Princeton University Press has recently reprinted as part of its Legacy series, addressed some of these questions. As an eminently public figure, Rameau was subject to intense scrutiny. Some critics distrusted opera as an overly sensual medium, and some regarded Rameau’s colorful music as an especially egregious example. Rameau encouraged these kinds of responses. Where earlier composers generally wrote simple, unobtrusive music, Rameau wrote music that demanded attention. In a way, then, he challenged critics and audience members to define their expectations regarding music openly and publicly. It is telling that, during the period in which he became popular, audiences changed, coming to resemble modern audiences more and more: they began to learn difficult and complex music by heart, they grew more quiet and became more attentive during performances.

My other contributions have had to do with aspects of his career. My early publications often dealt with the relationship between Rameau’s ideas as a music theorist and his actual compositions. Having an eighteenth-century composer who was so active on both fronts is truly unusual, and it allows us to think more carefully about the relationship between theory and practice. More recently, I’ve been interested in reconstructing Rameau’s intellectual life. He was a bit of a magpie, really, taking ideas from the writers and philosophers who most suited his needs, but given the time and place in which he lived, he could take from the best: Descartes and Malebranche were early sources of inspiration, but eventually, like so many of his contemporaries, he turned his attention to Locke. Among those who collaborated with him on projects were Voltaire, Diderot, and d’Alembert. So I’ve been developing a clearer sense of what he himself actually believed, based on what he drew on from these various sources.”

UWM  How does Rameau fit in with other well-known composers of the day?

CD  Rameau was two years older than Handel and Bach, almost an exact contemporary. Interestingly, although there’s no evidence to suggest he knew their music well, he helped popularize in France the kinds of music they were writing. From the Handel side of things, he took the kind of virtuosic playing and singing we associate with Italian composition, and from the Bach side, he took an interest in complex counterpuntal and harmonic language. To these he added an extraordinary sense of color – few at this time were combining orchestras and voices in such surprising ways – and an endless gift for invention comparable to Bach’s and Handel’s. During the late 1740s, a faction arose at the French court that wanted to set limits on how many operas Rameau could compose, because they felt he was dominating the music scene so completely.

Rameau was well known internationally. Initially, this was the result of his theoretical ideas, which he began publishing in the 1720s; reviews appeared almost immediately in Germany. By the 1750s, when his theoretical ideas were being popularized, his work was receiving attention in Italy as well. He also became an international figure musically in this period. His works were performed in Italy and Germany, and they were influential among the reform composers of that generation – Traetta, Jommelli, and Gluck. (For example, the famous opening scene of Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice, which begins in the midst of a funeral procession, was directly modeled on the beginning of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux.)

UWM  What activities have taken place around the world this year, and where?

CD  Well, as is always the case with composers, there have been performances around the world – in France and, more generally, Europe, obviously, but in the states as well, notably in New York and Washington, D. C. In fact, a phone app has circulated in France so that one can follow where Rameau is being performed every day this year.

Raphaëlle Legrand, who teaches at the Sorbonne, has put together a fascinating year-long series of presentations, open to the public, that combine historians, music theorists, professional musicians specializing in period instruments, and professional dancers specializing in historical dance techniques. This project is called the “Atelier Rameau” and it has an excellent website. It has been especially interesting to have singers, instrumentalists, and dancers working together, because dance is so basic to Rameau’s musical style. Performers quickly developed a new sense of what was and wasn’t possible when they began talking to each other!

The biggest events, however, were two international conferences that united all of the scholars currently working on Rameau. The first was held last March in Paris. Sponsored by the French national library and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), the French government’s principal sponsor of scholarly research, “Rameau between Art and Science” was held over three days at the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Cistercian abbey at Royaumont (where an important research library is housed), and the Opéra Comique (which premiered a new production of Rameau’s comedy, Platée). The second, “Jean-Philippe Rameau: International Anniversary Conference,” was held at St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, this past September. It was part of a vast research effort, The Rameau Project, which is being overseen at Oxford by Graham Sadler and Jonathan Williams. Both conferences were remarkable.

Among the surprises, those in attendance learned that we are still discovering eighteenth-century production scores for Rameau’s earliest and most important works, and that Rameau was the composer of the famous round, Frère Jacques, which he included in a recently discovered composition manual. I can honestly say that this past year has advanced our knowledge of Rameau and his music in unprecedented ways.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rostropovich at the Berlin Wall


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Rostropovich in 1989

Rostropovich in 1989

Sunday, 9 November 2014, marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For more than twenty-eight years, the wall completely cut off East Berlin from West Berlin, and its collapse was accompanied by public events and celebrations that asserted music’s role as a symbol of unity and reconciliation. Some performances were impromptu.

Moved by television images of East and West Berliners reunited, the Soviet-born cellist Mstislav Rostropovich flew in on a private jet from his home in Paris. All regular flights to Berlin were booked solid. Soon after, he went to Checkpoint Charlie to welcome East Berliners – with music.

The world-famous musician borrowed a rickety old guard’s chair and parked himself in front of a graffiti-filled part of the wall. He began to play Bach cello Suites (BWV 1007-12) for admiring East Germans getting their first taste of freedom.

“I did it from my heart,” Rostropovich said at the time, underscored by the fact that he had been living in exile since 1974 and was stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1978. Rostropovich later said that in that moment he managed to unite the two parts of his existence that had been separate: his life in Russia before 1974 and his life in the West afterwards.

Bachstock – WQXR

Lies Do Not Empower Women


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Detail from Schwanberg's title page

Detail from Schwanberg’s title page

The New Yorker’s Alex Ross has become the second journalist – out of more than fifty who, according to Google News, have written about the story in the last week – to treat with even a modicum of skepticism Charles Darwin University musicologist Martin Jarvis’s theory that Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suites for unaccompanied violoncello (BWV 1007-12) were written by his second wife Anna Magdalena Bach.

National Review Online broke the story on 29 October 2014 that Jarvis’s thesis is almost totally unsupported, slanderously speculative, and rejected by legitimate scholars of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century musician. Ross followed up on Halloween with a report that contains some important new information (and a commendable New Yorker attention to the details of diacritical marks):

[Jarvis] fixated on a phrase that appears in the lower-right-hand corner of the title page of Anna Magdalena’s copy of the suites, one of two principal manuscripts through which the pieces have come down to us. “Ecrite par Madame Bachen, Son Epouse,” it says. (The aigu accents are missing.) Here, Jarvis says, was the “coup de grâce of my prolonged and intensive research”: the phrase “literally translates as ‘Written by Mrs. Bach, his wife’ – that is to say, composed by Anna Magdalena.”

This is suggestive stuff. But when you look at the manuscript itself you see something quite different. (There is a scan in the digital archive of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin.) The cello suites are found together with a copy of the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001-6); the title page for the collection was written out by Georg Heinrich Ludwig Schwanberg, a Bach pupil. It says: “Pars 1. Violino Solo Senza Basso composée par Sr. Jean Seb. Bach. Pars 2. Violoncello Solo Senza Basso composée par Sr. J. S. Bach. Maitre de la Chapelle et Directeur de la Musique a Leipsic.” Only then, in the lower corner, do we see “ecrite par Madame Bachen.” The not insignificant detail that the cello suites are described as being “composed by Sr. J. S. Bach” is missing from Jarvis’s popular expositions of his theory, and, by extension, from the media coverage, which has tended to ignore Bach scholars and jump to sensational conclusions (“Bach Didn’t Write His Greatest Works”). Jarvis’s 2007 thesis is a bit more judicious, though still perplexing.

There is a further problem. If, as Jarvis proposes, “ecrite” really means “composed” (and, presumably, “composée” means something else), wouldn’t it follow that Anna Magdalena Bach should also be considered the true author of the Sonatas and Partitas? The positioning of the text in the corner of the page suggests that it applies to both pieces. Yet, as Jarvis does not deny, a manuscript of the Sonatas and Partitas in Bach’s own hand exists. Indeed, Jarvis says that his doubts about the authorship of the cello suites arose when he perceived “vast differences” between these works and the ones for solo violin. The suites didn’t strike him as “musically mature,” he said in one interview. In all, Jarvis’s reading of this title page is irrational in the extreme. Looked at upside down or sideways, it still says the same thing: the Sonatas and Partitas and the suites were composed by Bach and copied by his wife.

The Jarvis theory has gotten plenty of totally uncritical attention, and I wasn’t expecting my reporting to make much of a dent in that consensus. As commenter “Jack Simpson” at the U. K. Telegraph sniffed, the minority opinion isn’t even worth clicking on because NRO is “a keep-women-in-the-kitchen and blacks in the fields website.” Maybe the authority of The New Yorker and of Ross, a highly regarded classical music journalist, will make a difference.

Arts and Entertainment journalism is scandalously lousy, and it shouldn’t be. Culture is important. Passing along a wild notion like Jarvis’s, without even making a phone call to somebody in the field, is a level of reportorial negligence that would be unacceptable in coverage of crime, politics, science, business, or sports. Though this kind of thing does happen on all of those beats, it’s much more common in A&E coverage, even when the subjects are living celebrities rather than long-dead composers. Countless items get passed along about the antics of, say, Lindsay Lohan, with no supporting evidence or corroboration, because what the hell – she’s already made such a mess of her life that this one is maybe true as well. (I’m referring here more to slackers like whoever puts together the painfully shoddy, witless and dull items in Washington Post Express rather than to dedicated entertainment sites like TMZ, which does a lot of real reporting.)

In this case, you didn’t even need to contact professional skeptics. As I noted in the original piece, after communicating with Jarvis and one of his collaborators (the third, British composer Sally Beamish, has been promising to get back to me for a few days), I got the distinct impression that they themselves don’t really believe the theory is true in the literal sense.

Ross concedes that Jarvis had “noble intentions” in trying to bring more attention to women composers, but is that even true? There are very good reasons to search back through the history of Western culture with an eye toward finding neglected contributions from women. Such searches have turned up many fine examples of overlooked works – particularly in literature, where you could make the case that the boom in women writers in the nineteenth century (allegedly denounced by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in a quote that is truly too good to check, as a “damned mob of scribbling women”) invented the modern concept of the bestseller. Feminist-oriented cultural reporting has also highlighted neglected influences, as with Stacy Schiff’s biography of Vera Nabokov and Brenda Maddox’s of Nora Joyce, which drove home that wives have a strong pull even on highly talented men.

This last approach, emphasizing influence and collaboration, would seem to be especially promising in the case of J. S. Bach, who descended from and raised long lines of musicians, making it almost impossible that his superhuman output was solely the result of one guy locked in a room with a pen and paper. Experts know quite a bit about Bach’s influences and the way lack of intellectual-property protection helped him become so productive. Who can say who whistled what melody that somebody else made use of? One of Jarvis’s odd beliefs – that Anna Magdalena wrote the hauntingly contemplative air that opens and closes the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) but not the variations themselves – is actually kind of charming. It’s just that there’s no evidence for it.

Tim Cavanaugh – National Review Online

A Futile Distinction


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Karen Zacarías

Karen Zacarías, author of The Book Club Play

In a time where I can download Ulysses and have it sent straight to the Kindle that I toss into my purse with the rest of my personal debris, the distinction between high and low culture becomes less concrete. This line is further blurred when I put on my headphones and listen to Nicki Minaj on Spotify in the Starbucks while beginning to tackle the nine hundred page monster that is James Joyce’s seminal masterpiece. The cultural gulf that we have constructed between what art is “good” for you and what popular art is for “funsies” has become intangible and irrelevant. People tend to blend their consumption of high and low art. This makes our tendency to place literary high art for the “cultural elite” on an unscalable pedestal seem out of touch.

The Book Club Play, directed by Chris Hanna and presented by the Virginia Stage Company through 16 November 2014 at the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, VA, topples this pedestal as it poses the philosophically heady question “What constitutes literature?” in the realm of everyday people. The show connects high and low art to a real community of people. Throughout the action, the characters endear themselves to the audience by inviting them into their personal struggles that are simultaneously comic and authentic. The book club, lead by the “smart . . . accomplished . . . mother bee” Ana, argues about whether it should be reading Twilight and The Da Vinci Code or Moby Dick and The Age of Innocence.

After reading Karen Zacarías’s script, I couldn’t help but think about how the distinction between high and low art creates a value system which says that certain art is for certain people. Alex, a character in the book club, advocates for Twilight, “the cultural phenomenon,” by Stephenie Meyer. Ana argues against the book club taking a turn for the popular, saying the the book club is about “real literature.” She wouldn’t be caught dead reading something so “trivial.” I caught myself agreeing with Ana; it wasn’t hard for me to picture her lines coming out of my mouth: “No, of course I don’t like that book” or “that song.” And I think we have all made similar statements that try to distance ourselves from popular culture that is somehow below us.

But how do we make that determination? And when we make those statements, what are we saying about the “other kind of people” that consume that art? I mean, it is popular for a reason: people enjoy it and are clearly getting something out of their interaction with that art. And isn’t that the point of all art, to give something to the people that enjoy it to affect them in some way? Does it matter whether the effect is intellectual and “good’ for you or is emotional and is just for “funsies?”

The Book Club Play reminds us that art and culture only truly happen when people get together as a community to exchange ideas prompted by artistic and cultural products. In other words, the value placed on art has to be based on its impact within culture. It doesn’t matter if the art is being discussed between a college professor and her students or people sitting on the train on the way to work. In this respect, the value or relevancy of a work of art, whether it be The Fault in Our Stars or Paradise Lost, is created when people connect through the work itself. As it turns out, good and fun art don’t have to be antonyms after all. Or as Alex puts it in The Book Club Play, “A truly cultured person sees La traviata, Swan Lake and American Idol; a truly cultured person listens to both Bach and Beyoncé.”

Kat Martin – AltDaily

Jimi Hendrix in London


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Jimi Hendrix in 1967

Jimi Hendrix in 1967

Mick Eve, sax player for Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames, was mooching around the musical instrument shops in London’s Denmark Street as one did in 1966. His friend Chas Chandler, whom Mick had known as bassist for the Animals but who had recently returned from a talent-fishing trip to America, ran out of a guitar store and said excitedly in broad Geordie: “Mick, Mick! You got to come and hear this bloke play; I found him in New York!”

“I don’t need to go into the shop, Chas,” replied Mick in droll Cockney, “I can hear ’im from ’ere,” which he certainly could – a restlessly remarkable, eerily savage sound emanating from within. This was the afternoon of 22 September 1966, Jimi Hendrix’s first full day in England.

Eve’s is one of the many stories not included in the biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side, narrating the life of unarguably the greatest guitarist and blues magician of all time, as he left New York for London.

Hendrix had arrived aboard a Pan Am flight, little known in his own country and a stranger to London. He had been born of Native and African-American blood in Seattle to a poor father who cared moderately for his son and a mother whom he adored but barely knew, and who died when Jimi was fifteen.

He had joined the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army to avoid a jail sentence for car theft (under a judge’s ruling) but hated the army immediately. A regimental report read: “Individual is unable to conform to military rules and regulations.” It is important, says Paul Gilroy, a historian of black culture, to see Hendrix as an ex-paratrooper who gradually became an advocate of peace.

Reared on Muddy Waters and Albert King, music was Hendrix’s love and after teaming up with army colleague Billy Cox on bass, he played for Little Richard and the Isley Brothers before venturing out on his own.

Hendrix collected a small coterie of dazzled admirers in New York, among them John Cale of the Velvet Underground who, after playing a concert with Patti Smith in Paris last week, recalled going down into a dive bar in Sullivan Street to see Hendrix play during the mid-60s. “There was this fella heckling him all the way through, giving him gyp until Hendrix said, ‘I see we’ve got Polly Parrot in the house tonight.’ He got no trouble after that.”

Hendrix also amazed Chandler at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village one night, enough to fly him to London where the hunger for blues was inexplicably greater than in America. “Black American music got nowhere near white AM radio,” says the man who met Hendrix at Heathrow, Tony Garland, who would manage Hendrix’s British company, Anim. “And Jimi was too white for black radio. Here, there were a lot of white guys listening to blues from America and wanting to sound like their heroes.”

One of them was Eric Clapton of Cream, who invited Hendrix to sit in on a performance of Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor at Regent Street Polytechnic, but who afterwards told Chandler irritably: “You never told me he was that fucking good.”

In London, Hendrix with his band Experience forged a new soundscape, stretching the blues to some outer limit of expression, ethereal but fearsome, lyrical but dangerous, sublime but ruthless. And yet, he wrote: “I don’t want anyone to stick a psychedelic label round my neck. Sooner Bach or Beethoven.”

This was not serendipitous, nor was it as effortlessly “natural,” as Hendrix himself often suggested, or even pure genius: Hendrix had found an alchemist with sound in the unlikely form of a sonic wave engineer in the service of the Ministry of Defense, Roger Mayer.

Mayer was an inventor of electronic musical devices, including the Octavia guitar effect which created a “doubling” echo. “I’d shown it to Jimmy Page,” Mayer recalls at his home in Surrey, “but he said it was too far out. Jimi said, the moment we met: ‘Yeah, I’d like to try that stuff.’”

Mayer left the Admiralty and thus began a partnership that changed the sound of sound. “And don’t forget,” says Tappy Wright, who had been a roadie but joined the management team, “these were no Fenders or Stratocasters. These were Hofners we bought for a few quid. Very basic but stretched to the fucking limit.”

Mayer is fascinating on the science of the sound: “When you listen to Hendrix, you are listening to music in its pure form. . . . The input from the player projects forward the equivalent of electronic shadow dancing so that what happens derives from the original sound and modifies what is being played. But nothing can be predictive . . . if you throw a pebble into a lake, you have no way of predicting the ripples. It depends how you throw the stone, or the wind.”

Casting this magic around working men’s clubs in the north of England, and opening for the Walker Brothers and Engelbert Humperdinck, Hendrix forged his furrow with what Gilroy calls “transgressions of redundant musical and racial rules.”

“He would take from blues, jazz only Coltrane could play in that way,” says Keith Altham, a reporter for the New Musical Express, who became a kind of embedded Hendrix correspondent. “And Dylan was the greatest influence. But he’d listen to Mozart, he’d read sci-fi, and it would all go through his head and come out as Jimi Hendrix.”

Mozart, Handel, Bach, Mahler: influences which Hendrix listed in a collection of writings recently assembled by his friends Alan Douglas and Peter Neal to create the nearest we have to an autobiography. And appositely so, for Hendrix’s address in London, which he called “the only home I ever had,” with the only woman he ever really loved, was the same at which George Frederick Handel had resided in another era: 22 Brook St, London W1.

On the night he arrived in England, Hendrix met Kathy Etchingham, his match and lover. Her recollections are priceless: she remembers Hendrix buying music by Handel and jamming along with his guitar on the sofa. “People often saw Jimi on stage looking incredibly intense and serious,” she said over dinner in London a few years ago accompanied by her husband, an Australian GP. “And suddenly this smile would come across his face, almost a laugh, for no apparent reason.”

“I remember very well [Jimi] sitting on the bed or the floor at home in Brook Street; sometimes he would play a riff for hours until he had it just right. Then he’d throw his head back and laugh. Those were the moments he’d got it right for himself, not for anyone else.”

Except perhaps Kathy too: Hendrix wrote The Wind Cries Mary, her middle name, when she had stormed out after an argument.

Hendrix returned to America to record Electric Ladyland, during the making of which producer Eddie Kramer remembers “his wonderful, swaying dance coming off the keyboards [played by Steve Winwood], in a waltz with the guitar.” Hendrix then gave the name “Electric Ladyland” to his grand studio project in New York. And any suggestion that he had some kind of “death wish” is given the lie by his own written intentions to record there “something else – like with Handel and Bach and Muddy Waters and flamenco.”

Patti Smith remembers the opening party in summer 1970, from which Hendrix himself took a break to join her on the steps outside. “He was so full of ideas,” Smith recalls, “the different sounds he was going to create in this studio – wider landscapes, experiments with musicians, new soundscapes. All he had to do was to get over to England, play the [Isle of Wight] festival, and get back to work.”

Hendrix never made it back to work. He died in the street on which I was born: Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill. I’d moved a block away by the time I picked up the Evening Standard on the way home from school on 18 September 1970, flabbergasted by the news. The front-page picture showed Hendrix playing at that Isle of Wight festival less than three weeks beforehand. I’d been there; his searing cry against war, Machine Gun, was still ringing in my ears.

Back home, I changed into all white and waited for cover of darkness to go round to 22 Lansdowne Crescent, where Hendrix had died in the basement, swallowing vomit after a night out with wine, amphetamines and a German girl called Monika.

There was no one there. I took a piece of chalk out of my pocket, scrawled “Kiss the sky, Jimi” on the pavement and crossed the road to ponder the gravity of the moment and place. A man emerged and washed away my scanty tribute with a mop.

Ed VulliamyThe Guardian

The Twyla Tharp Ballet We Nearly Lost


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Scene from Bach Partita

Scene from Bach Partita

A new ballet requires weeks of intensive rehearsal in order to reach the stage, and if it’s not properly taken care of, it can become extremely difficult to revive. In fact, if it isn’t performed for a substantial period of time, and if the dancers on whom it was made start to lose their muscle memory of the choreography, then the piece can slip away altogether.

Last fall, American Ballet Theatre rescued an important piece from that oblivion. Twyla Tharp’s rigorously beautiful Bach Partita had been made for the company in 1983, performed no more than ten times through 1985, and then vanished.

Thanks to the dedication of Susan Jones, a longtime and indispensable ballet mistress with the company – who was in the studio as Tharp’s assistant as the ballet was created thirty years earlier – Bach Partita came back to the stage. It was danced with astonishing commitment and panache by a new generation of dancers.

New Yorkers now have another chance to see this nearly-lost sensation. After playing Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater last year, it has returned to the space this month as part of ABT’s fall season in New York.

Back in 1981, the versatile and ever-surprising Tharp was on quite a roll with her own company. The Catherine Wheel, set to an original David Byrne score, played Broadway that year, and in 1982 she had a huge success with the sensuously elegant Nine Sinatra Songs. For her return to ABT (where she’d created the exuberant and witty Push Comes to Shove, a huge hit in 1976), Tharp chose a thirty-minute Bach score and choreographed fiercely complex, purely classical choreography for a cast of thirty-six.

New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff’s delivered an enthusiastic review: “Miss Tharp thinks amazingly big here in every sense of the word,” she wrote. “For the first time, she has attempted a true neoclassical ballet whose movement is rooted in ballet’s academic code rather than her own modern-dance idiom with incorporation of ballet steps.” She later described the piece as “a treasure house of dance invention for those fascinated by formal intricacy and experiments with movement.”

Recalling Bach Partita, Jones says, “I think it was really Bach that drove her. She has her point of view about the music and how it should be played, how it’s meant to be. She was really challenging the dancers. I think that the hardest thing for them – aside from absorbing Twyla’s style and getting it into their bodies – was the speed she required. It was choreographed to a Heifetz recording that is just faster than the speed of light!” [The ballet is always performed with a live violinist.]

The original cast included three principal couples, seven soloist couples, and an ensemble of sixteen women. “Twyla was developing her relationship with ABT and was discovering more things about the classical vocabulary,” recalls Robert La Fosse, who was the youngest of the six principals. “She was pushing the balletic partnering to new limits and challenging us with movements that changed directions constantly.”

Jones, who rehearses many Tharp dances, often staging them for various companies, is passionate about this one. “I feel it’s one of her best pieces. The fact that it’s Bach, and that it’s all of these dancers dancing their hearts out to this one violinist who’s making this incredible sound – I think it’s exhilarating. I didn’t think this ballet would ever go away.”

The challenge of finding a violinist who could play the score superbly at the tempi Tharp required was one reason the ballet slipped out of repertory. Programming demands – ABT devotes most of its performances to full-evening, narrative ballets – and other company considerations also played a role.

But Jones always kept it in mind. She recalls a 1996 dinner with Tharp when they discussed what it would take to get Bach Partita back on stage. Little did Jones realize, when about fifteen years later that became an actual possibility, how complicated the process would be.

No visual documentation of decent quality was available to help jog Jones’ memory. There was a black-and-white performance videotape, but it was overexposed. “At center stage, there was detail that was missing from the steps that I knew was there,” she says. “It was a process of seeing the root step and dusting off the cobwebs.” A studio rehearsal videotape was filmed a week before the premiere, but afterward Tharp made some pivotal changes in the distribution of the roles.

Over the years, Jones would urge Kevin McKenzie, ABT’s artistic director, to commit to a revival of the ballet. Considerable rehearsal time would be required, however, and casting the many demanding roles would be a challenge.

On her own, Jones began preparing. “Around 2011, I thought I would just start looking at these tapes. In whatever free time I had, I started notating and trying to reconstruct the ballet. And I did that for two years.”

Finally, last year, ABT had a longer-than-usual rehearsal period, substantial enough for Jones to delve into re-staging the work for the dancers of today. Tharp herself was present at rehearsals regularly for four of the six weeks. “She was really involved in the coaching. She knew that it needed that,” Jones says.

La Fosse was in the audience last November at the Koch to witness the rebirth of Bach Partita. “The new cast at ABT is superb,” he says. “They have a better grasp at the technical aspects of her style. It was like seeing a whole new ballet unfold in front of my eyes. So many moments stay in my memory. I can’t wait to see it again.”

For Jones, seeing the ballet come to life again was “incredible, really phenomenal.” But now that it’s back in repertory, her focus is on keeping it in top shape. “Now that they’ve gotten it in their blood, now it’s my job to make sure that the edge is there, and that they don’t let it become generic movement,” she says. “It has to reflect Twyla’s style. It’s part of the life of any ballet. You have to keep it fresh and keep the spontaneity there.”

Susan ReiterTDF Stages

Saturday Night at the Palladium


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The Hollywood Palladium

The Hollywood Palladium

Flux Pavilion recently said he does not believe dubstep is dying as a genre, and that certainly seemed to be the theme of the Safe In Sound Festival. Five artists lined up at the Hollywood Palladium on 18 October 2014 to prove that catchy synths and wobbling basslines are still very much in fashion.

One would not peg the Hollywood Palladium as a venue to host a music “festival,” but surprisingly, it gelled extremely well with the size and theme of Safe In Sound. The circular dance floor, surrounded by balconies on all sides, ensured that everyone could have the type of concert experience they preferred. Lines were manageable for the concert, and getting inside took less than fifteen minutes, which is almost unheard of for a lineup such as this one.

The lineup could best be described in one word: eclectic. Every single artist brought something new to the floor that distinguished him or her from the rest, yet kept with the dubstep genre in some way. Terravita opened up the night with some pulse pounding basslines and revved up the crowd in preparation for the bigger acts to come. The band’s style is most distinctly reflected in their popular single Bach Off, where they combine orchestral sounds akin to those of Bach [Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565)] with nervewracking bass to create a powerful mixture. The trio, hailing from Los Angeles, proves that not everything in dubstep is generic.

Caked Up, the duo comprised of Oscar Wylde and Vegas Banger, went on next, showcasing the kind of music that can only be enjoyed with bass that pops eardrums. Their blend of trap and dubstep featured some surprises, such as a remix of the Tetris theme that nobody expected in what was an applause-worthy set.

It was at first confusing to see a drumset and guitars being set up on stage next, but all was explained once Destroid, the heavy metal trio, came on. Never has the medley of dark chords on the guitar, metal band screaming and wobbling bass sounded so right. Donning matching suits with Tron-esque lights synced to the music, their performance was certainly one to remember.

Then came on the first of the two headlining acts: Adventure Club. Their signature style of dubstep infused with reflective melodies and heartwarming vocals are always a pleasure to hear. They played tracks that have shot them up to fame and also debuted two unreleased singles. With some stage dives and bouncy props, they interacted with the crowd the most out of any act, which is admirable considering the size of the event.

Staying true to tradition, the festival saved the best for last, as a roaring crowd welcomed Flux Pavilion himself to the stage. His thumping beats infused with catchy synths stand as a testament to his superior control over this genre. But rather than stick to dubstep, Flux played tunes from a whole range of genres, including trap, drum and bass, and a great rendition of Queen’s We Will Rock You. He sent shivers through the crowd with his signature track, I Can’t Stop, and surprised everyone when he pulled out the theme for Star Wars Rebels that he had been working on. This was one night where Flux proved he was as diverse as any artist in the electronic dance music scene.

All in all, Safe In Sound was as its name describes; a comfortable and fun music experience that brought along some great surprises, a sold out Hollywood Palladium and stellar performances from each of the artists.

Aditya Sareen – Daily Trojan


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