January 20, 2016 |
'Sutter fell in the well," a character says early in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson . Wilson, who died soon after completing his Century Cycle (10 plays about African American life in each decade of the 20th century), wrote that line, and then wondered, "Who's Sutter?" Such are the mysterious workings of the creative process. Sutter, it turns out, is a ghost who haunts a family. It is 1936. The place, as it almost always is in Wilson's plays, is his own neighborhood, Pittsburgh's Hill District.
January 20, 2016 |
If you want to hear the piano talent of tomorrow, you might press your ear to the wall of Eleanor Sokoloff's studio. In pedagogical tones that manage to be both sharp and warmly supportive, Sokoloff flourishes as one of the Curtis Institute of Music's busier piano professors. She's 101 years old. No eavesdropping was necessary Sunday afternoon. Eight current and former Sokoloff students stepped onto the stage of the Barnes Foundation's small auditorium to pay tribute. What is it like to study with Sokoloff?
December 21, 2015
More than a box set, Vladimir Horowitz: The Unreleased Live Recordings 1966-1983 is closer to being its own musical planet, full of familiar yet strange creatures who adhere to no laws but their own. Of course, there's really only one creature, pianist Horowitz, a musician who truly lived up to the word legendary , though not necessarily because he was infallibly great. The 50-CD set ($149.52 on Amazon), originally recorded by Columbia (now Sony) and RCA, comes from a time when recording machines were ever-present at the live concerts he gave, recordings that were distilled down to an LP or two a year, with the rest left unheard by the public.
December 10, 2015 |
Janice May Swan, 87, of Lafayette Hill, a mother of six who made music her lifelong passion, died Sunday, Dec. 6, of aspiration pneumonia at the Hill at Whitemarsh. Mrs. Swan embraced singing and playing the piano as a child growing up in Conshohocken. She graduated from Norristown High School in 1944 and later began a 30-year career as an operator with Bell Telephone in Norristown and Philadelphia. Along with her husband, James S., Mrs. Swan was involved in theater groups such as the Whitemarsh Curtain Callers and the Dramateurs.
November 21, 2015 |
Adele's new album, titled 25 is . . . wait for it . . . drum roll . . . everyone listening? . . . very good, a deserving follow-up to 21, one of the greatest-selling albums of all time. There must have been overwhelming pressure on Adele, already 27, to give an adoring world something to keep up the adoration. She responds confidently and in full voice, with a coherent concept, sustained bouts of excellent songwriting, and brave singing against some of the best production your ears can find.
November 18, 2015 |
By now, audiences know how Elton John pulled the legendary Leon Russell out of the near-obscurity of tinny homemade albums and tiny club gigs; how the Okie-born, boogie piano player, righteously ragged vocalist, and '60s session giant recorded a plush duet album with Elton (2010's The Union ) and got his groove back. In reality, Russell's own bootstrap-pulling since then has aided his comeback most. The fleshy Memphis vibes of 2014's Life Journey , the recent release of Les Blank's long-hidden documentary, A Poem is a Naked Person , and 2015 shows with the Tedeschi Trucks Band where Russell relived Mad Dogs & Englishmen , the pianist's raucous 1970 tour film with fellow white soul-shouter Joe Cocker, show that the wonky rock-and-roller is in (literal)
November 8, 2015 |
David Ferree Jenkins Jr., 39, of Scranton and Philadelphia, a classically trained conductor and pianist and the musical director for theater at the University of the Arts, died in his sleep Thursday, Nov. 5, at home. The cause of his death was not immediately known. Mr. Jenkins performed in 49 states and several foreign countries. From Broadway to national tours, he was involved in more than 150 productions, his family said. But in Philadelphia, he was best known as music director at the Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts, where he was an assistant professor with a heavy course load.
October 31, 2015 |
You could argue that Victoria, the title character of Sebastian Schipper's bold one-night-in-Berlin drama, displays poor judgment when it comes to the company she keeps, the cars she agrees to climb into. It could also be argued that four-star hotels are more discerning about guests looking for a room without a reservation and that there are probably surveillance cameras in those elevators, too. And wouldn't the Berlin police show a little more skill in cordoning off an apartment building where a couple of fugitives are hiding out?
October 28, 2015 |
Chopin Without Piano? Who would dare separate the 19th-century Polish composer from the instrument most associated with him, and why write a one-woman play that does just that? Though Frédéric Chopin left Poland at 20 never to return, Poles revere him; playing with his image is, for them, musical and cultural heresy. But that is the intent of Polish director Michal Zadara and his wife, actor and codirector Barbara Wysocka, who are the Warsaw theater company Centrala. In Chopin Without Piano , which had its North American premiere at Swarthmore College's Lang Concert Hall on Saturday night, they inserted Wysocka as a surrogate for the piano.
October 27, 2015 |
Not a single word escaped the lips of Abdullah Ibrahim during his 90-minute performance at Montgomery County Community College on Saturday night. Perhaps that was intended to maintain the spell that the South African pianist/composer cast over the audience, which was mesmerizing; or it could just be his wont, given the fact that his six-piece band, Ekaya, was cued not verbally but through hints in the piano solos that bridged each piece to the next....