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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rien que les Heures - Parisul lui Alberto Cavalcanti

Rien que les heures





Facut in 1926, Rien que les heures al brazilianului Alberto Cavalcanti era primul dintr-un sir de filme din a doua jumatate a anilor '20, dedicate capitalelor europene. Unele dintre ele foarte importante in istoria cinematografiei. Parisului lui Cavalcanti avea sa ii urmeze in 1927 Berlinul (Walther Ruttman, Berlin: Die Symphonie der Großstadt), in 1929 Moscova (Dziga Vertov, Omul cu camera de filmat), Amsterdamul (Joris Ivens, Regen), Bucurestiul (Jean Mihail, Viata unui oras), in 1930 Praga (Alexander Hackenschmied - mult mai bine cunoscut cinefililor pasionati ca Alexander Hammid, Bezúčelná procházka), iar in 1935 Budapesta (István Somkúti, Budapest fürdőváros). Tot despre Praga: in 1927 sau 1928 Svatopluk Innemann cu Praha v září světel , iar in 1934 Otakar Vávra cu Žijeme v Praje. Seria aceasta de filme a urmat unui film american din 1920, realizat de catre Paul Strand si Charles Sheeler, Manhatta.

Am avut privilegiul sa il cunosc pe domnul Tudor Posmantir, unul dintre pionierii cinematografiei romanesti, cameraman al filmului lui Jean Mihail (am povestit un pic despre el acum catava vreme, atunci cand cautand pe web informatii despre muzica pentru film compusa de Ion Vasilescu am gasit multe lucruri despre primele filme romanesti). Imi este teama ca filmul despre Bucuresti, Viata unui oras, s-a pierdut, si e pacat. Cat despre filmele lui Inneman, Vávra si Somkúti, ele sunt bine pastrate in arhivele cinematografice din Praga si Budapesta si au fost prezentate la Galeria Nationala de Arta din Washington in vara aceasta. Celelalte filme sunt accesibile pe dvd sau pe youTube.

S-ar putea crede ca filmele acestea sunt asemanatoare. De altfel au si fost considerate ca alcatuind categoria filmelor city-symphony. Eu cred ca este gresit. As considera city-symphony doar filmul lui Ruttman.

Pentru Ruttman intr-adevar, Berlinul are o structura simfonica. De altfel el a fost preocupat de la bun inceput (in seria lui de filme Opus) de echivalenta dintre limbajul cinematografic si cel al muzicii.

Cat priveste insa celelalte filme, fiecare este cu totul altceva. Pentru Vertov Moscova este o lume in dialog cu camera de filmat, descoperindu-se si redescoperindu-se una pe cealalta, fiecare din ele, lumea Moscovei si camera de filmat, analizand-o pe cealalta, incercand-o, metamorfozand-o. Pentru Sheeler Manhattanul este imagine de film, care va deveni fotografie, apoi desen, apoi ulei pe panza. Iar pe drumul de la secventa din film pana la pictura imaginea se clarifica pana la detaliu si apoi se abstractizeaza prin inlaturarea detaliilor. Pentru Ivens Amsterdamul sub ploaie este un poem pentru care cuvintele si chiar muzica sunt de prisos. Pentru Hammid Praga este o lume de crampeie pe care le observa din cand in cand, adancit in lumea lui de ganduri.

Dar Parisul lui Cavalcanti? Este un Paris polemic. Pentru ca vrea sa surprinda Parisul autentic, Cavalcanti respinge orice formula despre care crede ca nu ii reda esentialul. Iar in aceasta respingere polemica rezida una din calitatile filmului. Nu ca ar avea neaparat dreptate, dar argumentele lui Cavalcanti sunt exprimate intr-un limbaj cinematografic foarte direct, cu imagini taioase - este, cred, vana braziliana a regizorului, tara care avea sa ii dea peste ani pe Walter Salles si pe Fernando Meirelles.

Este esential Parisul monumentelor? Se spune ca in lipsa monumentelor toate orasele ar arata la fel, dar Cavalcanti crede ca monumentele arata si ele de fapt la fel. Dupa o imagine cu turnul Eiffel, in imaginea urmatoare il arata miniaturizat si introdus intr-un globulet de sticla, alaturi de alte monumente miniaturizate.

Este esential Parisul pictorilor? O imagine percutanta cu un ochi urias care ne priveste si a carui pupila se dilata enorm, apoi o succesiune de picturi de Matisse, Van Dongen, Utrillo, Vuillard, Dufy, Chagall. Apoi imaginea unei mari de ochi care ne privesc: fiecare pictor nu reda intr-un tablou decat un moment static, doar o succesiune de imagini ne poate reda viata orasului.

Este esential Parisul vietii mondene si al elegantei? Imaginea unor tinere elegante care coboara pe o scara monumentala - imaginea devine fotografie - fotografia este rupta in bucati si aruncata intr-o gramada de bucati de fotografii pe care le spulbera vantul. In alta imagine, un tanar bine imbracat isi ia pranzul intr-un restaurant - i se aduce friptura pe farfurie - deodata in mijlocul farfuriei apare imaginea muncitorilor de la abator.

Nu este orasul monumentelor, nici cel al pictorilor, nici cel al vietii mondene si al elegantei. Parisul esential al lui Cavalcanti este un oras ca toate celelalte in care traiesc o gramada de oameni amarati care o duc de azi pe maine. Este in fond viziunea naturalista a lui Zola dezvoltata in limbaj cinematografic. Parisul lui Cavalcanti seamana putin cu cel din Ménilmontant, filmul realizat de Dimitri Kirsanov tot in 1926. O lume trista, in tonuri mohorate, fara orizont.

Si totusi, in pofida solutiei radicale declarate de catre Cavalcanti, filmul lui nuanteaza naturalismul. Placerea cu care staruie pe placile de deasupra pravaliilor, inscriptionate cu insemne de meserii si de meseriasi, pe reclamele de bauturi de pe ziduri, pe placutele care poarta numerele caselor, placerea cu care ii priveste pe oamenii aceia amarati si vai de capul lor, dar bonomi, facandu-si uneori siesta pe trotuar, vioristul, acordeonistul, frizerul de caini, batranul care imbraca manechinele din spatele vitrinei, lucratorul care deschide dimineata grilajul statiei de metro, la concierge intrand dimineata in camera ei dela subsol, ghicitoarea care isi imbie clientii dela geam, muncitorii care ies seara cu bicicletele din fabrica dupa ce isi ponteaza fisele... universul filmului este Parisul fotografiilor lui Atget.

Eugène Atget: 106, Rue de Suffren, Entrance of a Brothel, 1900O imagine din film mi-a amintit clar de o fotografie celebra a lui Atget (106, Rue de Suffren), prin acelasi detaliu. Imaginea fatadei unei case in care se afla un bordel. Legea interzicea folosirea unei firme, dar nu putea sa reglementeze dimensiunea placii cu numarul casei. Asa incat patronii avusesera grija sa monteze pe casa un numar urias.

Peste numai cativa ani va incepe epoca realismului poetic al filmelor lui Carné. Vor fi peste alti ani sansonetele lui Montand, aceeasi lume, Parisul dintotdeauna. Este deci un penchant social clar in film, imblanzit insa de un c'est la vie, care vine desigur din empatia pentru sufletul Parisului.

Cavalcanti adopta aceeasi schema cinematografica pe care o vor adopta Ruttman si Vertov: urmareste strazile orasului timp de douazeci si patru de ore. Ruttman isi va sustine schema prin simfonic: logica filmului sau este logica unei simfonii ale carei parti sunt echivalente fiecarui timp al zilei. Vertov isi va sustine schema prin pendularea continua intre strada filmata si camera de filmat. Cat despre Cavalcanti, el isi sustine schema prin cateva personaje care revin de cateva ori de-a lungul filmului, amestecate in multimea anonima, dar creand iluzia unei naratiuni. Personajele apartin evident universului naturalist: batrana betiva care merge clatinandu-se si sprijinindu-se de garduri, cazand si adormind pe unde apuca, prostituata osciland ambiguu intre dorinta de dragoste si recufundarea in mocirla, pestele - talhar pe strazile cufundate in intunericul noptii, vanzatoarea de ziare atacata si omorata pana la urma de talhar, matelotul aflat in permisie si in cautare de aventura, singurul optimist si gata sa rastoarne muntii.

Va gasi Cavalcanti la sfarsitul celor douazeci si patru de ore acel esential pe care il cauta? Parerea lui este ca nu: putem fixa un punct in spatiu, un moment in timp, dar spatiul si timpul ne scapa. Sfarsitul zilei este inceputul unei zile noi. Intamplari la fel de insemnate sau la fel de marunte se petrec in acelasi timp la Paris dar si la antipozi, la Beijing. Finalul filmului ne prezinta o alta imagine soc a brazilianului Cavalcanti: harta lumii devenita pendul si miscandu-se intr-una intre Paris si Beijing.

Si totusi, aici regizorul este nedrept fata de el insusi: Parisul se afla acolo, plin de vitalitate, in filmul sau, care penduleaza intre polemic, naturalism si empatie si isi gaseste tot timpul echilibrul in empatie. Pentru ca empatia netezeste si asprimea, si deznadejdea, pentru ca da sens fiecarui fapt de viata.

(Filmele Avangardei)

(Cinéma Français)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Minimalist Music: Arvo Pärt

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three simple and great images in whose presence hist heart first opened - Albert Camus --- image from 'Blind Light', courtesy of Pola Rapaport
Arvo Pärt, Teiji Ito, James Tenney, Conlon Nancarrow: four composers very different one another, sharing the honesty, the courage to remain themselves, to resist success, to search only for their own truth.


Arvo Pärt














Arvo Pärt was born in Estonia in 1935.

By the sixties he was composing serial music (scandalizing the Soviet censors, of curse). Only he had the feeling that serialism was not his way. He was looking for something different in music, some basic simple structures of truth. So, he took a radical decision: to give up composition and to search firstly for his path.

He spent the next fifteen years by studying Renaissance music, Gregorian chant, Russian liturgical music, trying to find himself there, at the roots.

He started again to compose by 1977: Summa, Fratres, Magnificat, the Seven Magnificat Antiphons, the Beatitudes. And Spiegel im Spiegel, Festina Lente. And many other works of religious music, choral music, chamber music - it is now, listening to his works that I realize what Minimalism means in music - one note beautifully played is enough; and then silence, to meditate that lonely note. And the quiet development of music, with few and seldom notes, and long silences filled with music.

Minimalism does not mean only a movement of the sixties, it's much more. The boy in Andrey Rublyov, building the bell, he was a Minimalist, too. Malevich, giving us the black rectangle, he was a Minimalist, too. Minimalism is to give just a line, just a sound, and to fill the rest with silence, and beyond the line, beyond the sound, you will find your own self.

The image of Pärt, listening to the sound of the bell... And I think at the words of Tenney, each single sound is an event.

Just listen to Spiegel im Spiegel, it's pure beauty!




(Musica Nova)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Minimalist Music: John Adams

John Adams, photo by Deborah O'Grady


I listened to some excerpts from John Adams, on the web or in bookstores, as I intended to buy one or two CD-s with his music.

Tromba Lontana sounded festive and joyous. Harmonium was meditative. Later I found some words of Adams about his inspiration for Harmonium: he started by having in mind three poems - one of them is among my favorites, strange verses of Emily Dickinson:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
....

I found then on the web fragments from The Death of Klinghoffer: I knew about the controversy raised by this opera. Halellujah Junction gave me some more insight into his Minimalism. On the Transmigration of Souls was his tribute paid to the victims of 9/11: his Minimalism led him toward a litany meant to leave room for your own meditation on the tragedy from that day.

Eventually I made my choice for two CDs. The first one contained exclusively music by Adams. It began with a 4 minute piece, A Short Ride In A Fast Machine, exuberant, truly pure aural adrenaline. The next piece, The Wound-Dresser, was inspired by Whitman. During the Civil War the poet had volunteered to work in a military hospital as a nurse. The poem meditates this experience, in great Whitmanian respiration (An old man bending I come among new faces...). Adams created a recitative for baritone - the movement is slow, the musical phrases follow each other without rush, and here again room is left for your own meditation.

Then followed Berceuse élégiaque, an orchestral arrangement for a piano work by Ferruccio Busoni (known first of all for his great Bach-Busoni Edition; he was also pioneering in the realm of electronic music, along with Varèse; Busoni was a Kulturmensch, considered as one of the more open-minded spirits of his epoch). Well, Berceuse élégiaque is quiet, it starts like the movement of sea during a very calm afternoon - then an instrument develops a story (possibly about some storm that took place, or is just now evolving somewhere far away), another instrument enters to comment this story, while the background remains calm, just listening, taking the control by the end, as to conclude the story.

The main piece of this CD was Shaker Loops. It's considered his Minimalist flagship. The loops are small melodic segments where the end is tied to the beginning: so, repetitive structures result, further converted in trills and tremolos, to give the shaking. The music tells us about a religious experience: worship in a New England community of Shakers. There are four parts: Shaking and Trembling (wildly frenetic), Hymning Slews (giving a break from the excitement of the first part), Loops and Verses (following the mood of the second part), A Final Shaking (referring the first part, only in a cooler way).

As for the second CD, this was full of surprises. It was violin literature: the soloist was Chloë Hanslip (who is now 20 years old and has already performed the major concertos). The Violin Concerto of John Adams was present on this CD, near the Red Violin Chaconne of John Corigliano, Tristan and Isolde of Franz Waxman, and a fragment from the First Romanian Rhapsody of George Enescu.
Chloë Hanslip
I had seen the Red Violin one or two years ago and I was not remembering all details. A violin traveling through centuries and across countries, passing from a master to another one, living with each passing master stories of great music, love and death, bound by some kind of a spell from the beginning, haunted by a superb melody, inseparable from the terrible spell, a melody inseparable from love and from death - this was what that movie was about.

John Corigliano had scored the movie - he used then the haunting melody as a backbone for his Red Violin Chaconne; Joshua Bell had played the violin in the movie; here on the CD it was Chloë Hanslip, with the British Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin as conductor.

The Red Violin Chaconne was followed on the CD by a fragment from Enescu's first Romanian Rhapsody; what I like mostly from Enescu is the Prelude in Unison (from his Suite No. 1); but I like also the Rhapsody and each time its freshness sounds for me anew.

Actually Enescu was not the only Romanian presence on the disc. Franz Waxman had scored Humoresque, a movie made by Jean Negulesco in 1946; another story where violin and violinist intertwine with love and jealousy; I haven't yet seen the movie, I am curios to find out how the music sounds there, as Tristan and Isolda is a Fantasia based on the score from Humoresque.

The Violin Concerto of Adams was closing the CD: challenging for the soloist, who almost never stops playing. I enjoyed the second part of the Concerto (a Chaconne), and especially its third part (marked as Toccare: soloist and orchestra exchanging series of ongoing rhythmical phrases).


(Musica Nova)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani - Tudor Arghezi

Tudor Arghezi - Autoportret

Cel ce gandeste singur si scormone lumina
A dat o viata noua si-um om de fier, masina,
Fiinta zamislita cu gandul si visarea,
Neinchipuit mai tare ca bratul si spinarea.
Cu ea brazdezi pamantul in lung si lat si sameni,
Si una tine locul la mii de mii de oameni
Topitorii, cuptoare, mori, puturi, fierastraie,
O sarma de lumina, o teava valvataie,
O lampa duce graiul si da-n vazduhuri vesti
Ca omul zamisleste puterea din povesti
Se face departarea mai scurta decat pasul
La mii de posti s-aude si se cunoaste glasul.
Vorbesti cu fundul lumii, la tine, din odaie
Secunda-ntrece veacul si timpul se-ncovoaie:
Pe-o sfoara cat e firul de par si se agata
Vecia, nesfarsitul, pe un crampei de ata.


Se-nalta slabul, omul, pe aripi in Ţarii
Si-aduce de acolo noi legi si marturii.
Iata-l, scoboara-n hauri cu coiful lui rotund
Si racaie oceanele pe fund,
El trece prin valvoare, prin cremene si gheata,
Pornise de cu seara, sa-ntors de dimineata,
Si nu l-a ars dogoarea, nu l-a-mpietrit nici gerul,
E tara lui pamantul si l-a-mpletit cu cerul.
Si-aprinde langa Arges, luleaua, si vapaia
Din pipa inca-i arde, ajuns pe Himalaia,
Si painea coapta-acasa, intr-un cuptor domol,
I-o gusta pinguinii tot proaspata, la Pol,
Si, in sfarsit, urmasul lui Prometeu, el, omul,
A prins si taina mare, a tainelor, atomul.
El poate omenirea, in cateva secunde,
S-o-ntinereasca noua pe veci, ori s-o scufunde.

E timpul, sluga veche si robul celui rau,
Tu, omule si frate, sa-ti fii stapanul tau.


Este poemul cu care Tudor Arghezi isi incepe Cantare Omului. Mi-a placut mult poezia lui Arghezi, iar acest imn inchinat celui ce gandeste singur mi-a ramas inscris in micul florilegiu de stihuri pe care nu le-am uitat niciodata, alaturi de alte versuri, ale lui Eminescu, ale lui Alecsandri, ale lui Cosbuc, ale lui Blaga, ale lui Barbu, ale lui Bacovia, ale lui Toparceanu, ale lui Minulescu... Si de alte versuri, tot argheziene, cu care el isi incepea Cuvintele Potrivite:

Nu-ti voi lasa drept urme, dupa moarte,
Decat un nume, adunat pe-o carte...

Anii au trecut peste versurile pe care le-am deprins in liceu, le-am purtat cu mine in gand pe unde m-a dus viata, uneori cand mi-a fost mai greu, amintirea lor m-a ajutat.

Dar anii mai sterg din prospetime, si incepi sa mai uiti. Uitasem cateva versuri din poemul arghezian, il incepeam in minte, ma poticneam pe undeva pe la mijloc. Si ma durea, ca o rana.

Am intrebat astazi cativa prieteni, daca stiu unde as putea gasi pe web versurile. Doamna Edelina Stoian a avut generozitatea sa imi raspunda aproape pe loc, indicandu-mi adresa de pe site-ul Agonia unde am gasit versurile. In acelasi timp cu Edelina mi-a raspuns si domnul Adrian Boldan, aBeul cum ne place sa il alintam intre prieteni. Amandurora, Edelinei si aBeului le inchin versurile cu care Arghezi continua dupa numele adunat pe-o carte:

In seara razvratita care vine
De la strabunii mei pana la tine,
Prin rapi si gropi adanci,
Suite de batranii mei pe branci,
Si care, tanar, sa le urci te-asteapta,
Cartea mea-i, fiule, o treapta.

si apoi:

Aseaz-o cu credinta capatai.
Ea e hrisovul vostru cel dintai,
Al robilor cu saricile, pline
De osemintele varsate-n mine.

Ca sa schimbam, acum, intaia oara,
Sapa-n condei si brazda-n calimara,
Batranii-au adunat, printre plavani,
Sudoarea muncii sutelor de ani.
Din graiul lor cu-ndemnuri pentru vite
Eu am ivit cuvinte potrivite
Si leagane urmasilor stapani.
Si, framantate mii de saptamani,
Le-am prefacut in versuri si-n icoane.
Facui din zdrente muguri si coroane.
Veninul strans l-am preschimbat in miere,
Lasand intreaga dulcea lui putere.
Am luat ocara, si torcand usure
Am pus-o cand sa-mbie cand sa-njure.
Am luat cenusa mortilor din vatra
Si am facut-o Dumnezeu de piatra,
Hotar inalt, cu doua lumi pe poale,
Pazind in piscul datoriei tale.
Durerea noastra surda si amara
O gramadii pe-o singura vioara,
Pe care ascultand-o a jucat
Stapanul, ca un tap injunghiat.
Din bube, mucegaiuri si noroi
Iscat-am frumuseti si preturi noi.
Biciul rabdat se-ntoarce in cuvinte
Si izbaveste-ncet pedepsitor
Odrasla vie-a crimei tuturor.
E-ndreptatirea ramurei obscure
Iesita la lumina din padure
Si dand in varf, ca un ciorchin de negi,
Rodul durerii de vecii intregi.
Intinsa lenese pe canapea
Domnita sufera in cartea mea.
Slova de foc si slova faurita
Imparechiate-n carte se marita,
Ca fierul cald imbratisat in cleste.
Robul a scris-o, Domnul o citeste,
Far-a cunoaste ca-n adancul ei
Zace mania bunilor mei.



(Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani)

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Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani - Lucian Blaga

Lucian Blaga

Suflete, prund de pacate,
esti nimic si esti de toate.
Roata stelelor e-n tine
si o lume de jivine.
Esti nimic si esti de toate:
aer, pasari calatoare,
fum si vatra, vremi trecute
si pamanturi viitoare.
Drumul tau nu e-n afara
Caile-s in tine insuti.
Iata cerul tau se naste
ca o lacrima din plansu-ti.





Am citit poezia aceasta cu multi ani in urma. Am regasit-o azi pe web, pe site-ul Agonia, inscrisa de catre doamna Raluca Valentina Petcu.

Am gasit apoi pe alt site un alt poem blagian, Psalm:

O durere totdeauna mi-a fost singuratatea ta ascunsa,
Dumnezeule, dar ce era sa fac?
Cand eram copil ma jucam cu tine
si-n inchipuire te desfaceam cum desfaci o jucarie.
Apoi salbaticia mi-a crescut,
cantarile mi-au pierit,
si fara sa-mi fi fost vreodata aproape
te-am pierdut pentru totdeauna
in tarana, in foc, in vazduh si pe ape.

Intre rasaritul de soare si-apusul de soare
sunt numai tina si rana.
In cer te-ai inchis ca-ntr-un cosciug.
O, de n-ai fi mai inrudit cu moartea
decat cu viata,
mi-ai vorbi. De-acolo unde esti,
din pamant ori din poveste mi-ai vorbi.


Iata-l si talmacit in engleza, de catre doamna Liliana Mihalachi:

Always grief to me have been your concealed solitude
But God, what was I to do?
I played with you as a child and
Let imagination take you to pieces like a toy.
Then the untamed grew stronger within,
my songs died away,
and without ever having felt you close
I lost you for ever
in dust, in fire, in air, and on waters.

From sunrise to sunset
I am all clay and suffering.
You have confined yourself in the sky as in a coffin.
Oh, weren't you a closer kin to death
than you are to life,
you would speak to me. Right from where you are,
within the earth or within the tale- you would speak to me.

Show yourself among the thorns here, God,
so that I should know what you want of me.
Shall I catch in the air the poisoned spear
thrown by the other from the depths to wound you beneath your wings?
Or there is nothing that you want of me?
You are the mute, still identity
(a round itself is a),
and you ask for nothing. Not even for my prayers.

Look, the stars are coming into the world
along with my questioning sorrows.
Look, it is night with no windows outside.
What am I going to do from now on, God?
In you I take off my mortal flesh. I take it off
as if it were a coat left on the way.



(Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani - Ion Barbu

Ion Barbu

Castigate pulsuri, camp de sabii. Tencuirii-sclave garantii,
Lege egaland lunula navii Tamplelor de apa ce retii ;
Aule, exalte stari concave Din rapita clima — Edgar Poe.
Orgi ! Si locuind aceste grabe ! Cer induit, strain ca un halou


(Ion Barbu - O Insurupare in Maelstrom)

Am fost zilele acestea la Baltimore (imaginea din fotografie pare ciudata - fotograful a realizat-o prin joc de lentile) si am ajuns la mormantul lui Edgar Alan Poe. Micul cimitir apartine unei vechi biserici presbiteriene devenita azi sala de concerte.




Voi incerca sa revin pe 17 ianuarie, aniversarea nasterii lui Poe. Cineva m-a intrebat care este explicatia interesului meu pentru el. Ei, dintr-una din cartile lui am invatat multa engleza.

Si apoi sunt versurile lui Ion Barbu, care reiau Coborarea in Maelstrom. Le tineam minte de demult, insa vad acum ca le stiam gresit. Tineam minte asa:


Fulgerate pulsuri, camp de sabii. Tencuielii-roabe garantii,
Lege egaland lunula navii Tamplelor de apa ce retii ;
Aule, exalte stari concave Din extrema clima — Edgar Poe.
Orgi ! Si locuind aceste grabe ! Cer induit, strain ca un halou



Iar acum vreo doua saptamani am ascultat si A Descent to Maelstrom, a lui Philip Glass. Replici schimbate in timp, Poe, Barbu, Glass...

Eram deci in Baltimore, iar gandul imi sarea de la Poe la Barbu la Glass. Am vizitat dupa aceea Fells Point, un cartier marinaresc fabulos, cum nu am mai vazut in alte orase americane pe unde am fost, iar spre seara, prietenii la care fusesem invitat mi-au aratat un album cu poze facute de ei in Romania. Am revazut Caru' cu bere, apoi Biserica Stavropoleos, apoi Biserica Kretzulescu, apoi alte poze, din Suceava, din Mihaileni, din Piatra Neamt, Cheile Bicazului, Hotelul Coroana din Brasov...



(Intalniri neasteptate cu Romani)

(Edgar Allan Poe)

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Boris Ignatovich - Stories in a Building designed by Le Corbusier, Moscow, 1933

Boris Ignatovich - Stories in a Building designed by Le Corbusier, Moscow, 1933
Boris Ignatovich - Stories in a Building designed by Le Corbusier, Moscow, 1933

(Modernism - Designing a New World - 1919 - 1939,
exhibition at Corcoran Gallery of Art
)


Boris Ignatovich - Strastnoy Boulevard, 1935

Boris Ignatovich was a Constructivist artist, one of the pioneers of Soviet photo. He was great in using tilted aerial perspectives and extreme foreshortening (Philip Brookman, Paul Greenhalgh, Sarah Newman: Essential Modernism, published by Corcoran).

Like most of the Constructivists, Ignatovich was an enthusiast Communist and depicted the radical changes that took place after the Bolshevic Revolution.

Only his photographs were witnessing such a huge talent, with their unexpected angles, their choices for framing, the view they offer, that he began to be considered too non-conformist, too far from the orthodoxy of the Socialist Realism; he was even expelled for a period from the Communist Party.



Boris Ignatovich - May Day



Boris Ignatovich - Motherhood, 1937





Boris Ignatovich - Bath, 1935





Though most of his photographs are devoted to the urban, industrial and agricultural landscape of the Soviet Union, there are some works of him of pure artistry. Bath dates from 1935 and is famous, for good reasons. It finds the Surreal in the banality of everyday!

But look at Motherhood, it gives us the fundamental, as only great Russian art can give.




(Suprematism and Constructivism)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Minimalist Music: Philip Glass

Philip Glass in 1976: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManWhen you say Philip Glass you mean Minimalism, when you say Minimalism you mean Philip Glass, while Philip Glass says he's not a Minimalist. So it goes.

Here's a photo of him from 1976: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as probably Joyce would have noted. Philip Glass entered this year his seventies.

NY Times published one month ago an article devoted to Minimalist music, putting together opinions from several critics: James R. Oestreich, Anthony Tommasini, Bernard Holland, Allan Kozin, Anne Midgette, Steve Smith, Vivien Schweitzer. I will offer you a copy at the end of this post.

For Bernard Holland, Minimalist music means talking much and saying little. So, Mahler wasn't a Minimalist, as he said as much as he talked. Saint-Saëns wasn't a Minimalist either: he talked little, said little. As for Webern, well, he didn't talk at all and said a lot.

So we know at least who are the non-Minimalists (should we name them Maximalists?). We still don't know who are the Minimalists. James R. Oestreich considers that Minimalists don't carry cards; they are guilty by association: Minimalist composers are those who befriended Minimalist artists. And we know, of course some Minimalist artists, Richard Serra for instance, or Sol LeWitt.

As for Anne Midgette, she's even found a proto-Minimalist: Bruckner, who was composing music like writing great paragraphs (whatever it means).

Okay, but who are the Minimalists in music, after all? Here's a short list: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams, John Cage, Arvo Pärt, Count Basie (yes, also him). Now, each one denies the label, suggesting that it mischaracterizes his work. But, let me ask you something, what's so bad in being called a Minimalist?

After all, what does it mean this, Minimalism in music? From what I listened myself (my own list being much, much shorter: I listened music by Glass, by Adams, and by Pärt), I would say that essential in their works is the use of repetitive structures that create some kind of obsessive, hypnotic hallo in the listener. It is in the same time an accessible music, user friendly (Bernard Holland even suggests that you can listen while going to the fridge to take a glass of water or answer the phone, as Minimalist music is anyway repetitive).

My first encounter with Minimalists was Philip Glass. I was in a bookstore, in the music department, listening excerpts from various composers, at random. So I listened to fragments of his Aguas da Amazonia. Actually this was a collaboration between Glass and a Brazilian percussion group, Uakti. Glass had composed 12 Pieces for Ballet, for piano, and the Brazilians produced a version for marimbas. The music was sounding crazily beautiful. Tiquie River: you feel the sound of the water, playful and serene. Japura River: the sound is a bit different, like people dancing by the river, sometime in the morning. Purus River: it seems to be other time of the day, the mood gets a bit more serious. Negro River: something is flowing on the surface of the river, mixing its sound with the sound of the water. Madeira River: as the day advances, the mood becomes more meditative. Tapajos River: the mood is again a bit playful. Paru River: it's like a small story told nicely. Xingu River: a tribal ritual seems to take place. Amazon River: it's carrying the water from all tributaries, their spirit, their mood. Then Metamorphosis I, played at marimbas!

Then I listened to some excerpts from A Descent into the Maelström. This time the music was solemn, while in the Aguas da Amazonia the mood had been mostly playful. I listened then a little bit to In the Upper Room, and then some other stuff of him, organ and synthesizer sounding greatly.

Eventually I bought a DVD with a movie scored by him: Koyaanisqatsi. I watched the movie the same evening. To be frank, the movie did not impress me too much, and this because I have just seen the movies of Maya Deren. Her works are so pure that after the contact with them any other movie sucks.

So, Koyaanisqatsi seemed for me too loaded but I enjoyed definitely its language. A language of great images and great music. An environmentalist documentary without words, speaking only through images and music. A great balance between the images and the music! The same repetitive structures in the images, in the music, the same hypnotic effect. The harmonies were reminding me of Vangelis.

Only Vangelis means melodicity, and here, at Glass, it was something else. The repetitive patterns, moving slowly, creating a trance. His music is ritual, a universe of incantations.

Well, Maya Deren means also the music of Teiji Ito - only I need to listen to more music of him to make a judgment and to place Glass in a larger context than Minimalism.

After that movie I bought a CD with music by Philip Glass. My choice was a disc containing both Glassworks and In the Upper Room. Here you can enjoy with a small excerpt from Glassworks (along with other stuff of him: excerpts from Metamorphosis, Einstein on the Beach, The Hours, etc).

Glassworks sounds nice (and the title is very well chosen, suggesting delicacy and miracle: the delicate miracle of an artwork made from glass). There are six parts: an Opening that is solo piano, the Closing repeats the Opening in an orchestrated version. The others (with unexpected titles: Floe, Islands, Rubric, Façades) are all orchestrated. Each part is based on a repetitive structure - after the atmosphere is created, a development appears, another phrase that is in dialog with the basic structure. Some variations towards the end.

Well, I listened again a bit at the music from Koyaaniskatsi. The same architecture: a repetitive structure is played by organ, after the atmosphere is created, a development appears, played by the choir, in dialog with the basso continuo of the organ.

I found then on the web a piano music very much alike with the Glassworks: Metamorphosis. Again Opening, then five Metamorphosis, The Poet Acts, Dead Things, Modern Love Waltz. Music from Koyaaniskatsi sounds solemn, while here in the Metamorphosis there is delicacy. I am just listening now to the Dead Things and trying to follow the meditation... How would sound the Modern Love Waltz? Yeah, it is of course a bit different, a bit playful, the same delicacy. Click here to listen yourselves!

But let's come back to the CD with Glassworks, followed by In the Upper Room (click here to listen some excerpts). The music was composed for a ballet, played by the Twyla Tharp troupe. The CD-s sleeve was giving some information about the dance performance itself: a mix of traditional and modern ballet, dancers dressed from black and white to red, colors mixing with the repetitive patterns from the music of Glass, to create the hypnotic effect. Universe of ritual, of magic, universe of incantations.

I will come to the music of Adams and of Pärt in other post, this one is a bit too large, only let's try to conclude about Glass.

The joke about Vivaldi (did he compose 300 concertos or one concerto three hundred times?) fits perfectly to Glass. If you listen to one piece of him, you know all his pieces. Well, of course it's not true, but many would say that he has no melodic inventiveness, that his repetitive patterns become boring... and this is not true either. The truth is that his musical universe is different. I will say again, his music is not melody, it is incantation.

Composer of operas (Einstein on the Beach is Glass's famous opera), ballets, movie scores, symphonies, chamber music, of course very prolific, owning its music ensemble, having great records, I am tending to think that he is a successful composer with all the good and the bad of what success means. A great composer should follow only his way (as Tenney or Nancarrow did), while a success story in the music business means to leave your own universe to come to the world of mortals, to make concessions to the taste of the public, and to loose the unique in you: in the case of Glass, it is about the world of magic where gods are implored through long litanies and real wizardry becomes possible.

-----------------------------------

And here is the copy of the article from NY Times. Enjoy!

August 10, 2007
Don't Call It Minimalism (Just Listen)
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
BY and large musical Minimalists don't carry cards. But they do know something about guilt by association.

Most composers commonly called Minimalists have disavowed the label at one point or another, suggesting that it mischaracterizes their music, which can be mind-bogglingly intricate -- and huge. And they certainly don't consider themselves part of a school. The designation arose mainly from the friendships of composers with Minimalist artists: Steve Reich and Philip Glass, for example, with the sculptor Richard Serra.


But there certainly was something new and big (however minimal the means) stirring in the second half of the 20th century. With roots in the styles of Lou Harrison, La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, John Cage and others, music characterized by great rhythmic drive, simplified harmonies and hypnotic repetition blossomed in signal works by Terry Riley, John Adams, Mr. Glass and Mr. Reich. The pollen carried far and wide, even to Eastern Europe with the ''mystical Minimalism'' of Arvo Pärt and others as a spiritualized offshoot.

The 70th-birthday year of Philip Glass, which is being widely observed, seems as good a time as any to take stock of the Minimalist achievement by way of recordings. So the classical music critics of The New York Times have singled out favorite recordings of music by various forerunners (including the jazz great Count Basie), the early giants and those who later fell under the influence (including the Dane Poul Ruders).

None of this is likely to settle disputes about what, if anything, the various composers have in common, for the music is wildly varied. But it should at least lay out some of the terms of the argument, in addition to providing good listening. JAMES R. OESTREICH

ANTHONY TOMMASINI

REICH ''Different Trains,'' ''Electric Counterpoint.'' Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch 79176; CD).

ADAMS Piano works. Ralph van Raat, pianist (Naxos 8.559285; CD).

ADAMS ''The Death of Klinghoffer.'' Vocalists; Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, conducted by Kent Nagano (Nonesuch 79281; two CDs).

RUDERS Violin Concerto No. 1; other works. Rolf Schulte, violinist; Riverside Symphony, conducted by George Rothman (Bridge BCD 9057; CD).

Well before the spring of 1989, when I first heard the Kronos Quartet perform Steve Reich's ''Different Trains,'' Mr. Reich's music had grown far beyond the confines of the stylistic label Minimalism.

The concept for this ingeniously complex 1988 work came from Mr. Reich's memories of childhood travels on transcontinental trains in the late 1930s and early '40s to visit his divorced parents: his mother in Los Angeles, his father in New York. The constant clacking of the train on the tracks imprinted itself on his musical imagination. While contemplating this piece, Mr. Reich realized that, as a Jew, had he been in Europe during his youth he would probably have been traveling on quite different trains.

The piece's repetitive rhythms, cyclic riffs and persistent whistles convey the nervous, hypnotic sounds and feelings of train travel. Weaved into the textures are the recorded voices of the governess who accompanied Mr. Reich on his journeys and an old Pullman car worker, as well three Jewish refugees. The speeches, as transcribed with uncanny accuracy into pitches and rhythms, become another element in the music. The work is at once exhilarating, haunting and ominous, qualities arrestingly conveyed in the Kronos Quartet's recording.

John Adams was initially associated with Minimalism. A beguiling recent recording of his complete piano music, performed by Ralph van Raat, includes scintillating performances of ''Phrygian Gates'' and ''China Gates,'' early scores that show the composer at his most openly and sonorously Minimalistic.

But Mr. Adams had bigger musical things in mind, like his landmark opera ''Nixon in China.'' Though I greatly admire this work, I am especially affected by ''The Death of Klinghoffer'' (1991), written with the same librettist, Alice Goodman, and director, Peter Sellars. The opera has been attacked for what is perceived as its sympathetic depiction of the Palestinian terrorists who murdered Leon Klinghoffer aboard an Italian cruise ship in 1985. But the creators think of the opera as a reflective work in the spirit of the Bach Passions, which mix storytelling and commentary. The score flows in undulant waves of luminous yet piercing harmonies, with elegiac, melodic writing and violent, searing outbursts.

The Danish composer Poul Ruders acknowledges that he has been influenced by Minimalism. The repetitive figurations, jittery thematic lines and obsessive rhythms that abound in his invigorating Violin Concerto No. 1 (1981) would seem to prove the point, though I'd be careful about labeling it a work of Minimalism, at least in the presence of its formidable composer.

BERNARD HOLLAND

REICH ''Drumming.'' So Percussion (Cantaloupe CA21026; CD).

ADAMS ''Nixon in China.'' Vocalists; Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Edo de Waart (Nonesuch 79177; three CDs).

CAGE ''Two2''; works for two pianos. Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles; CRI 732; CD).

BASIE ''Complete Clef/Verve'' (Mosaic Records limited edition; eight CDs).

Minimalism is a musical art that says very few things over long periods of time. This is in opposition to music that takes a long time to say many things (Mahler), music that says very little in normal amounts of time (Saint-Saëns) or music that says a great deal in practically no time at all (Webern).

Minimalism can be employed by several percussionists (''Drumming'' by Steve Reich with So Percussion) or an entire opera company (John Adams's ''Nixon in China''). It is also comfortable on two pianos (''Two2'' by John Cage, played by Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles). Minimalism, in other words, is user-friendly.

''Drumming'' is in four parts and goes on for quite a while (73 minutes 8 seconds, to be exact). It starts unpromisingly, but once the mind attaches itself, the music gathers an adhesive strength. As color and complexity of movement gradually evolve, the paradox of Minimalism sets in: Listeners enter a trancelike involvement but can answer the phone or go to the refrigerator and not miss much at all.

''Nixon in China'' translates repetition into a kind of theatrical energy. Diplomatic ritual is made to dance; political and personal anxieties take on a machinelike tic. Minimalism becomes a dramatic tool, proving its further usefulness.

I like the Cage piece precisely because so little happens. It is a slow, calm appropriation of musical space. ''Two2'' is from 1989 and at quite a distance from the two other Cage pieces from the mid-1940s on this recording, ''Experiences'' and ''Three Dances.'' Both are quite busy.

It is hard to leave the subject of Minimalism without mention of Count Basie, master of the art of leaving out. Basie's piano solos framed unspoken musical phrases with dabs of music: chords doing the work of a jazz-music continuo and fragments of melody that point at things present but unsaid. The richness of the silences -- the tantalizing promises therein -- were at odds with the art of Basie's colleague Art Tatum, who seemed determined to fill musical space with as many notes as possible. Minimalism, here as elsewhere, fills time with a minimum of means.

ALLAN KOZINN

ADAMS ''Shaker Loops,'' ''Light Over Water.'' The Ridge Quartet; other performers (New Albion NA014; CD).

GLASS ''Satyagraha.'' Vocalists; New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christopher Keene (Sony-BMG Masterworks M3K 39672; three CDs).

GLASS ''Koyaanisqatsi.'' Western Wind Vocal Ensemble; Philip Glass Ensemble, conducted by Michael Riesman (Nonesuch 79506, CD; MGM 1003766, DVD).

REICH ''Tehillim,'' ''The Desert Music.'' Ossia; Alarm Will Sound, conducted by Alan Pierson (Cantaloupe CA21009; CD).

It sounds oddly conservative and spare now, but ''Shaker Loops'' (1978) was a bombshell in its time, and it introduced John Adams as an important voice in the still fresh Minimalist rebellion against modernist complexity. Mr. Adams offered all the repetitive energy that propelled Philip Glass's and Steve Reich's most popular scores, but his quicker harmonic development, sudden dynamic changes and other startling touches pointed toward the next step -- emotional and dramatic -- that this style needed to take.

Mr. Adams's later orchestration gave the work a graceful sheen, but the original chamber recording has an endearingly homespun quality. The companion piece, ''Light Over Water'' (1983), is a pleasantly spacey oddity for brass and synthesizers.

''Satyagraha'' (1980) was Mr. Glass's move toward Romanticism, a leap from his wheezy, rhythmically intricate writing for amplified chamber band to full-fledged scoring for orchestra, chorus and operatic voices. Its stage action shows the development of Gandhi's nonviolent resistance techniques to combat racism during his early years in South Africa. But with the text drawn directly from the Bhagavad-Gita, the story of an epic clan battle, and sung in Sanskrit, the work is also a magnificent oratorio version of this classic Hindu text. Nearly three decades on, it remains Mr. Glass's most wrenching opera. Though a new recording is long overdue, this 1985 performance captures much of the work's spirit.

''Koyaanisqatsi'' (1983) extended the neo-Romanticism of ''Satyagraha'' with picturesque scoring and a refreshed harmonic vocabulary. It also works brilliantly as the soundtrack of the first and best installment of Godfrey Reggio's film trilogy about humanity's mostly malignant influence on the earth, its alternately lyrical and vigorous movements accompanying visions of everything from the grandeur of Southwestern deserts and cloud formations to urban crowds in slow motion and sped-up film of highway traffic. The 1998 remake on Nonesuch is superb, but the way to experience this work is on the DVD.

Except for a few early works in which recorded speech was mined for its rhythmic qualities, Steve Reich devoted himself to instrumental works until 1981, largely because he didn't want his musical line dictated by the text. Biblical Psalms and a William Carlos Williams poem about the nuclear age helped him solve that problem. In ''Tehillim'' (1981) the Hebrew texts lend themselves to Mr. Reich's sharp-edged rhythmic style, which in turn yields a timeless, almost ritualistic quality. And in ''The Desert Music'' (1984; heard here in a texturally transparent 2001 chamber version), the haunting setting of the Williams text is magnified by percussion that evokes a ticking clock, and an eerie instrumental shimmer that suggests the desert after a nuclear test.

ANNE MIDGETTE

RILEY ''In C.'' Bang on a Can (Cantaloupe Records CA21004).

GLASS ''Einstein on the Beach.'' Vocalists; Philip Glass Ensemble, conducted by Michael Riesman (Nonesuch 79323; three CDs).

REICH Music for 18 Musicians. Amadinda Percussion Ensemble (Hungaroton 32208; CD).

ADAMS ''Harmonium''; ''The Death of Klinghoffer'' Choruses. San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by John Adams; Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, London Opera Chorus, conducted by Kent Nagano (Nonesuch 79549; CD).

Anton Bruckner was a proto-Minimalist, the composer Ingram Marshall suggests: ''He writes music like he's writing great paragraphs.''

That comment helps define a musical term that has been overused, misunderstood and often rejected by the very composers to whom it is usually applied. Minimalism can be understood as a form of musical dramaturgy in which the music grows not out of the contrast between linear phrases but from the juxtaposition of building blocks of sound.

But the term Minimalism fails to connote the aural richness that can arise even in the early, most repetitive pieces, a richness that is being increasingly mined by the current generation of performers. Minimalism, in its fifth decade, is encountering the same issues of original versus modern instruments that arise with any bygone music.

The early recordings have a scrappiness, a defiance and, in some cases (like the original 1979 recording of ''Einstein on the Beach''), the limitations of old synthesizers. But today the music is in musicians' fingers and ears. Just as it took a generation for pianists to conquer Beethoven's ''Hammerklavier'' Sonata, the most intricate patterns of a Steve Reich are no longer in themselves a challenge.

I like the toughness and aura of what you might call the period instruments of the 1970s, but when it comes to choosing recordings I seem to come down on the side of opulence. Terry Riley's 1964 ''In C,'' the defining work of Minimalism, belongs in every music library, and Bang on a Can's performance has a fluidity that brings out the depth of the repeated, interlocking patterns and the pleasure of listening to them.

''Einstein on the Beach'' is another -- if not the other -- seminal Minimalist work. The Nonesuch recording, made 17 years after this opera's 1976 premiere, approaches it with the reverence due a masterpiece, smoothing down the rough edges and stressing the seriousness. It also restores 30 minutes of music that was cut from the original cast recording. On grounds of completeness alone, not to mention aural beauty, this 1993 recording is the one to get; here, the subtly changing kaleidoscope patterns of sound that grow out of the repeated syllables and notes only gain in color and depth.

Steve Reich himself waxes eloquent about Amadinda, a Hungarian percussion ensemble, and its performance of his seminal Music for 18 Musicians, which becomes a feast for the ears in this reading. Having expressed my enthusiasm for Mr. Reich's music sufficiently elsewhere, I have refrained from filling this list with his works alone.

''Harmonium,'' the first John Adams piece I heard, remains a personal favorite. Mr. Adams, unlike Mr. Glass, shows a specific awareness of vocal timbre; these settings of three Emily Dickinson poems play deliberately with the qualities of vocal sound. There is also a sense of the Americanness of this music: at once straightforward and with a kind of baroque fullness. This quality is increasingly evident in the later work of Mr. Glass and Mr. Reich as well as the work of Mr. Adams, for whom the term Minimalism is today decidedly a misnomer.

STEVE SMITH

GLASS Music in 12 Parts. Philip Glass Ensemble, conducted by Michael Riesman (Nonesuch 79324; three CDs).

GLASS ''Glassworks.'' Philip Glass Ensemble, conducted by Michael Riesman (Sony Classical SK 90394; CD).

ADAMS ''The Chairman Dances''; other works. San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Edo de Waart (Nonesuch 79144; CD).

GLASS ''Akhnaten.'' Vocalists; Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies (Sony Classical Germany 91141; two CDs).

Among admirers of Philip Glass's work, Music in 12 Parts has long been considered his rough equivalent of Bach's ''Art of Fugue.'' Written from 1971 to 1974, the extensive cycle is a four-hour compendium of Mr. Glass's early compositional concerns. Fragmentary melodies and pulsating rhythms repeated at length evoke something of a trance state, so that tiny shifts in pitch or meter feel like major events. Yet the work also pointed toward future possibilities; the vocal writing in particular seems to predict ''Einstein on the Beach.''

In 1981 Mr. Glass was signed to an exclusive recording contract with CBS Masterworks, the first composer afforded such a berth since Aaron Copland. ''Glassworks,'' Mr. Glass's first CBS release (now available on its successor label, Sony), acknowledged and even partly enabled his potential for crossover success. Whereas earlier recordings had documented music from his ensemble's active repertory, the six pieces on ''Glassworks'' were specifically conceived as an album accessible to new listeners. Concise, evocative works like ''Floe'' and ''Rubric'' anticipated Mr. Glass's lucrative sideline as a film composer; the melancholy ''Facades'' remains a staple of his concerts.

The music on ''The Chairman Dances,'' a 1987 CD of works by John Adams, might not originally have been conceived as an introduction to his work, but the disc serves that purpose nonetheless. Mr. Adams reconciled techniques pioneered by Mr. Glass and Steve Reich with the resources of the Romantic orchestra in the 1985 title work, an uninhibited explosion of succulent melody and swooping French horns inspired by the scenario of Mr. Adams's first opera, ''Nixon in China.'' Casting his net wider still, he evoked traditional hymnody in ''Christian Zeal and Activity'' and summoned the spirit of Charles Ives with the lonely trumpet lines of ''Tromba Lontana.''

Also in 1987 CBS issued a recording of Mr. Glass's third opera, ''Akhnaten,'' a portrait of the iconoclastic pharaoh who briefly imposed a monotheistic religion in Egypt. Compared with ''Einstein'' and its successor, ''Satyagraha,'' the opera seems almost conventional in its procession of narrative tableaus. But Mr. Glass's lean, percussive score includes some of his most viscerally exciting music, and assigning the lead role to a countertenor was a bold stroke.

''Hymn to the Aten,'' the pharaoh's second-act paean to his deity, is one of the composer's most communicative and ineffably beautiful creations; Mr. Glass, who must have had a sense of his achievement, instructed that the aria always be performed in the native language of the country where it is being performed.

VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

ADAMS ''Shaker Loops,'' ''The Wound-Dresser,'' ''Short Ride in a Fast Machine.'' Bournemouth Symphony, conducted by Marin Alsop (Naxos 8.559031; CD).

GLASS Violin Concerto; other works. Adele Anthony, violinist; Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Takuo Yuasa (Naxos 8.554568; CD).

REICH Music for 18 Musicians. Steve Reich and Musicians (Nonesuch 79448; CD).

REICH ''City Life,'' ''New York Counterpoint,'' ''Eight Lines,'' ''Violin Phase.'' Ensemble Modern (BMG/RCA Victor 74321 66459 2; CD).

The diverse moods of John Adams are alluringly conveyed by Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on a Naxos disc that opens with a sparkling performance of the wildly exuberant ''Short Ride in a Fast Machine.'' In ''Shaking and Trembling,'' the first movement of ''Shaker Loops,'' the Bournemouth strings play as if possessed, hurling colorful arrows of sound into the kaleidoscopic dartboard of orchestral textures. The frenzied rapture builds to a dizzying fervor before melting into the eerie glissandos of the next movement. Also included is a performance of Mr. Adams's gloomy ''Wound-Dresser,'' sung by the fine baritone Nathan Gunn.

Philip Glass's Violin Concerto is his first major orchestral work. It adheres to a traditional three-movement, fast-slow-fast structure for conventionally scored orchestra, but with its insistent opening chords, chromatically undulating harmonies and the soloist's mournful arpeggios, this theatrical work is signature Glass. On the fine Naxos disc Takuo Yuasa leads the Ulster Orchestra and the violinist Adele Anthony in a vibrant, throbbing performance. Ms. Anthony's sweet-toned, romantic playing soars over the waves of pulsating orchestral rhythms, played here with enough tension to create a taut web of sound. The disc also includes enjoyable renditions of ''Company'' and excerpts from ''Akhnaten.''

Like all masterpieces, when played with integrity and passion Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians -- the seminal 1976 chamber work in which he used his broadest palette of harmonic language to date -- never loses its fascination. In this 1996 recording Mr. Reich and his band of musicians build on the layers of blinding colors and hypnotic rhythms in a performance with moods veering from rhythmically energetic and vital to seductively (and deceptively) languid. This performance highlights the work's beautiful surface veneer, underlying levels of complexity and intoxicatingly therapeutic power.

Other notable works from various periods of Mr. Reich's life receive vigorous, intelligent performances by the Ensemble Modern on an RCA recording, which includes ''City Life.'' This aural snapshot of New York streets transforms normally irritating sounds, like sirens and honking horns, into a compelling musical fabric. The turmoil of city life is also aptly conveyed in a taut, jaunty rendition of ''New York Counterpoint,'' performed by Roland Diry, a stellar clarinetist. The disc also includes bristling performances of ''Eight Lines'' and, with Jagdish Mistry as the excellent soloist, ''Violin Phase.''

The recordings mentioned range in price from $9 to $20 for one CD, $24 to $34 for two CDs and $34 to $44 for a three-CD set; the eight-CD set is $136; the DVD is $22.44.





(Musica Nova)

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Vilem Reichmann - Caught in the Snare

Vilem Reichmann: Venus - Caught in the Snare, Brno, 1941Venus, Caught in the Snare.

I was visiting the exhibition of Central European Modernism, hosted by the Washington National Gallery. A good friend of mine was for a day in DC and we were together at the exhibition. Vladi (Vladimir Brunstein) - we learned at the same high school in Bucharest. Vladi lives near New York and travels often to DC for his business.

So, we were now visiting the exhibition of Central-European Modernism. He was looking for an artist that he knew. While in Bucharest, long time ago, a friend of Vladi had told him about one of the masters of the Brno school of photography, Vilem Reichmann.

The best-known work of Vilem Reichmann was this Venus, Caught in the Snare, and Vladi was remembering the enthusiasm of his friend while telling him about Venus, the photo shot by Reichmann. And also about another work of the Czech artist, Memento.

Well, after a couple of years Vladi had the opportunity to meet Reichmann who was for one day in Bucharest on his way to the Black Sea.

Both Venus and Memento had been purchased by a Viennese photo gallery, Johannes Faber, and after many years, while vacationing in Vienna, Vladi would find the gallery, and the photos.

The gallery is located on the Brahmsplatz, not far from another musical reminder, the Mozartplatz. Some day I will be there maybe. Who knows?

But we were now far from Vienna, and looking for Venus, or for any other photo shot by Reichmann, only there was none at the exhibition. Actually Reichman had belonged to the generation immediately following the Avant-Garde of the 20s and 30s, and the exhibition was about the Avant-Garde.

Reichmann lived in Brno between 1908 and 1991, and that photo, Caught in the Snare, is dated 1941. It is an ambiguity in this work, that gives it a special force. It is celebrating the beauty, while telling us something about the boundaries that the nature is setting for us.

Vilem Reichmann: Memento, Brno, 1950As for Memento, it was made in 1950. The war was still a living memory, and the new life was haunting.

The young hero would like to believe in his future, only he has to struggle with his demons; demons of a recent past? demons of a terrible present? demons waiting for him in years to come?

Like Venus, the young here is caught in the snare, too. Is he a worker? A student? His force, his vitality, his determination, and the boundaries set for him by horrible demons.

Vielm Reichmann: Between Vegetal and Mineral






The universe explored in most of the works of Vilem Reichmann is at the limit between mineral, vegetal and animal. By strange connections in time, it is the world of Pan's Labyrinth, the movie of Guillermo del Torro. With old trees becoming suddenly wise wizards, to transform then in animals that speak the tongue of humans, with flowers that change their petals in spiky edges, submarine flowers becoming icy carvings, then traveling leaves, everything is floating, everything is changing, everything is a bit scary while fascinating by a weird beauty.

Vilem Reichmann: Pan's Labyrinth



(Modernism in Central Europe)