Sunday, April 21, 2013

four concerts and a movie

Yes, it's been a busy week.

Concert no. 1. So, about three weeks ago, I mentioned that "It looks like I have an additional classical reviewing gig." I do. Behold, the Redwood Symphony reviewed in the San Mateo Daily Journal, a free local paper that I've often picked up when I've been in that area.

This was one of those grapevine pickups, I having learned of the SMDJ's interest in a new reviewer (their previous one died last year) from the Redwood Symphony publicity people, who'd been on me to cover their next concert regardless of whether SFCV assigned me or not. ("Well," I'd said, "I have this blog ...") Some e-mailing and a succinct in-person interview with the paper's editor later, I have the gig. So you'll be hearing more.

The link is to the online version, of course, but this is actually a print publication, which makes it my first concert (as opposed to book) review in print, and also my first newspaper (as opposed to magazine or journal) review of anything in print. So that was cool also, and I'm saving a print copy as a souvenir.

As for the review, it speaks for itself. I enjoyed writing this one, freed of SFCV's copy-editing restraints (such as a deprecation of the word "but"), and I think I got in some of what I would say if I had written it for this blog.

Concert no. 2. SFS, Blomstedt, week 2. I was assigned this one. It was not, overall, as successful as week 1. Talking with Lisa Irontongue afterwards, she was grumbling about the concerto performance and making a crack about wanting to stick a pin in the conductor, and I responded that someone had stuck a pin in the concerto, because it fizzled out by the end, and at that moment I suddenly realized that I was talking about what I've described before as a Blomstedt Special; I just hadn't realized it because it hadn't started out high-energy.

So, without using the term, I described the concept in the review, which, again, is one of my more casually written efforts; I expect to be accused of being needlessly sarcastic, but it hasn't happened yet.

Concert no. 3. SFCV sent me back up to the City two days later for the Cypress Quartet concert at Herbst. The Higdon premiere threw my reviewing chops off a little because it's really a song cycle, not a string quartet; I mentioned that. Song cycles are a bit out of my groove in a way that string quartets are not. If it's not clear from the review that I spent the performance of the Schubert gaping in a puzzled "what are they doing?," that's because I reverted to my usually genteel reviewing voice for this one.

Concert no. 4. I went to the Ives Quartet concert at Trianon purely because I wanted to! I didn't have advance tickets and I wasn't reviewing it for anybody. It's their last concert at Trianon, at least for now, because they're abandoning it for next season, and it had the String Quartet Set by Lou Harrison which I much wanted to hear. "Set" is a genre title that Harrison picked up from his teacher Henry Cowell, and the work is a bit Cowellish, and also, due to its medieval and near-eastern influences, resembles Hovhaness as well. An unbeatable pair of influences as far as I'm concerned. Weird and lovely piece. Pretty good Mozart (K. 589) and Brahms (Op. 111 quintet, with a guest) as well.

Movie. After years of legal struggle, Peter Beagle has won some rights back for the 1982 animated movie made (with his screenplay) from his novel The Last Unicorn, and his manager decided to celebrate his 74th birthday by renting the Castro Theatre and holding a celebratory showing as a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum. It's also a kickoff for a peripatetic national tour (info here, eventually). This seemed a worthy cause, so I went. Besides, I hadn't seen the movie since it was new.

The theatre was packed, mostly, it seemed, by women too young to have seen the movie when it was new, many of them in costume and wearing horns on their foreheads. My god, I thought, it's become a cult movie while I wasn't paying attention. I was stunned. Among the few oldsters like myself I found LDH and we shared delighted astonishment.

But it was great to see Peter feted, and the upstairs lobby selling his books afterwards was packed, and the line for autographs stretched back to the staircase, and everybody had a great time. Besides, it is a good movie. The animation, though cheaply made, is attractively stylized in design; it has an all-star voice cast headed by Mia Farrow in the title role; and the script is faithful to the spirit of the book while intelligently abridging it, another model of How To Do It Right for my anti-Jackson collection.

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