June 6, 2014 |
The piano had no use. Someone hauled the beat-up piano into a big trash bin parked at a nursing home in Germantown, then took off. The woman had no memory. Sometimes, her son had to remind her to change her clothes or turn off the gas stove after cooking. But when the piano came into the life of the 79-year-old mother, magic happened, not only for her, but for all the seniors at the NewCourtland LIFE Center in North Philadelphia. The story begins two years ago with R. Max Kent.
May 22, 2014 |
It was an Atlantic City plot as familiar as a rerun on Turner Classic Movies: Homeowner vows to save house against the forces of eminent domain, played out in the shadow of a casino. It has been playing for the better part of two decades in this troubled seaside resort, since Vera Coking famously stood up to Donald Trump. But this latest version has impeccable and elegant casting. On Tuesday morning, homeowner and onetime piano prodigy turned piano tuner Charlie Birnbaum, 67, the son of Holocaust survivors, found so many ways to show just how much his three-story brick walkup building at 311 Oriental Ave., on the back side of Revel Casino Resort, means to him. He held a news conference with anti-eminent domain lawyers from the Virginia-based Institute for Justice.
May 9, 2014 |
CENTER CITY Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein came and went, but she never left. Rudolf Serkin, Rose Bampton, and Fritz Reiner - they were just passing through. In fact, at the Curtis Institute of Music, everyone else ranks as a mere carpetbagger next to Eleanor Sokoloff. The school's prima donna piano professor, given to sharp outfits and sharper opinions, came to the school as a student in 1931, started teaching in 1936, and never left. There she was, still, at Curtis' traditional Wednesday tea - but this one poured in her honor from the school's lustrous samovar.
May 6, 2014 |
The real Midway Avenue, the street where performer Nichole Canuso lived as a child, is in the 'burbs, Lansdowne to be exact. Last weekend, she replicated it as Midway , a physical theater piece, at FringeArts. On either side of the stage floor, she chalked 24 "memories" ranging from tape (masking and recorder) to piano to speech, spin, jump. Corresponding to them, sometimes uncannily, were Chopin's 24 Preludes , which were composed as memories. Troy Herion provided some original music and created superb sound design that followed the Preludes . As Canuso revealed that her mother often played the Chopin, she created a piano outline on the floor with tape, then sketched in house, table, couch, TV. It was at the table that her mother "came out to me" when Canuso was 9, first explaining what "gay" was. Everyday objects were placed near the chalked memories: broom, colander, box grater, music stand.
May 1, 2014 |
DONALD KAWASH lost his job as a teaching assistant at Temple University in 1972 after 1960s-inspired student protests disrupted his American history course. What to do? Out of work and needing an income, Don turned to playing piano in local bars and parties. His specialty was ragtime, particularly the songs of Scott Joplin, the African-American composer and piano player of the early 20th century. Although he was far from giving up teaching, Don was launched on a parallel career as one of the nation's top ragtime virtuosos, whose playing progressed from local night spots to the Smithsonian, the Kimmel Center, Scotland and more than 200 classic American music shows up and down the East Coast.
April 30, 2014 |
'It seems like everything is a musical these days," said Jennifer Childs, taking a break from rehearsal in the sunny South Philadelphia studio of 1812 Productions, Philly's only professional comedy theater company. " Rocky is a musical. Spider-Man is a musical. The Bridges of Madison County is a musical. So we thought, 'What if there was Budget Crisis: The Musical! Or Congressional Infighting: The Musical! '?" Take that line of thought to its illogical conclusion and you get the latest rendition of 1812's annual news-driven, politics-focused holiday production This Is the Week That Is - rebooted as a news-driven, politics-focused spring musical.
April 9, 2014 |
If John Harbison ever entertained the thought of joining the current march away from dissonance, he's showing no signs of it. Happily, Harbison is firm in a musical language that perches, entrancingly, at a point just dissonant enough - at least according to the two premieres Sunday night by Network for New Music. Prefacing each new work with a much earlier one filled out important context. The MIT professor, at 75, has a musical style as concentrated as ever. The concert at the Curtis Institute's Gould Rehearsal Hall came at the end of a Harbison residency that included a Friday concert dabbling in jazz.
March 23, 2014 |
The timing could not have been predicted or contrived. Just as Russian/American relations veer toward breakdown over the annexation of Crimea, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presented a concert of Sergei Prokofiev's three so-called War Sonatas - Nos. 6-8, Opp 82-84 - a surprisingly overt reaction to Stalin's purges of the 1940s, played by a pianist with a certain family history of Russian persecution, Ignat Solzhenitsyn. Whatever the influence of current events on Solzhenitsyn's performance Thursday at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, the impact on the audience was immeasurable.
March 9, 2014 |
SHOPPING FOR a piano can be incredibly overwhelming because the range of prices for a new one can be anywhere from $2,500 all the way up to $2 million. Add in used pianos, and the price range expands. There are also thousands of brands, and if you don't know what to listen for, you may think every piano (regardless of price and brand) sounds the same. "It's kind of like shopping for anything," said Pierre Julia, owner of Pierre's Fine Pianos, based in Los Angeles. "The range of quality goes from made-in-China to hand-built in Europe.
February 28, 2014 |
Leonidas Kavakos is a marvel of exactitude. There's a Leonardo da Vinci-like quality to his playing, as if you could plot mathematically how every micro move accounts for his elegance and efficiency. In this extraordinary violinist, artist and master technician coexist in polished communion. If a listener Tuesday night had to strain a bit to hear that which is human, it was understandable. In his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel Center of four Beethoven sonatas, Kavakos was sometimes a cool customer.