December 16, 1999 |
Can you continue to call yourself Anonymous after fashion photog Max Vadukul has glamorized and flapperized you in the New Yorker with hair done in marcel waves, thick black lines of charcoal and Vaseline smeared under the eyes, and gowns by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto? The idea of obscurity started to wear thin several years ago for the Anonymous 4, but today it seems downright ludicrous. Actually, the Anonymous 4's name was never meant to be self-referential. The mostly a cappella group with mainstream popular appeal formed in 1986, and plucked its moniker from a piece of scholarship - a treatise gathered in the 19th century of musical works from 1280.
December 21, 1999 |
While Center City was abustle Friday night with booty-laden shoppers, Anonymous 4 raised serenity to a level of quiet euphoria. What is it about the New York a cappella group that generates joyful contemplation? The material - medieval chant and polyphony - certainly has much to do with it. To paraphrase Susan Hellauer, one founding member of the group, the repertoire allows listeners to feel spiritual without having to confront the dogma of religion. But there's more. Men singing the same material would not have the same effect.
October 19, 2009 |
No matter how arcane Piffaro the Renaissance band becomes in its programs, the result is blessedly consistent: a lot of thoroughly winning music that you've never heard and may never hear again. However true to form the group was at its season-opening concert, "Iberia Old and New," the performance standard on Friday at St. Mark's Church was probably closer to an average day at a 16th-century Madrid cathedral than we would like: Two regular members were absent, and though their fill-ins were mostly just fine, the group sometimes lacked its effortless cohesion in this all-instrumental program.
March 16, 1996 |
Witty, eccentric, lyrical and savage - Headlong Dance Theater was all these things during opening night Thursday at the Painted Bride. In a program of five works, three of them premieres, the Philadelphia-based group demonstrated both the versatility of its individual performers and their ability to choreograph collaboratively. The evening got off to a slow start with a new work, 17th Place, danced and choreographed by Headlong's three current members: David Brick, Andrew Simonet and Amy Smith.
February 13, 1988 |
Throughout Johannes Brahms' life, vocal music remained a constant - the considerable hub of his creative wheel. He has come down to us in a more stolid guise than that of life-affirming songwriter, however. Our generation more frequently hears him as the middle- age, middle-class maker of profoundly solid symphonies. Yet the true strains of his art lie not in carrying forward Beethoven's monumental developments in symphonies but in a particular fusion of the lyrical elements of folk song and the contrapuntal weavings of melody perfected by J.S. Bach.
January 1, 1988 |
There are two ways to view this weekend's minimal concert schedule, and each could be cause for celebration. Consider three days of reflective, soothing silence. It is, after all, impossible to listen intelligently, with concentration and perspective, if we continually surround ourselves with even the best of music. (If silence palls, you can always sneak off to the record store and load up on new CDs.) Or count yourself blessed that the week's sole major classical offering - the Philadelphia Orchestra - is such a national treasure that many listeners across the country would likely envy the easy choice.
November 16, 2009 |
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, has long been the go-to ensemble for the exploration of lost musical continents, this weekend's concerts revealing a pocket of repertoire whose existence is now so marginal you'd never think to look for it. In collaboration with Choral Arts Society, Piffaro assembled a program titled "A Portuguese Advent Vespers" (heard Saturday at St. Mark's Church) that was a complete construction of a religious service, right down to the public singing that might have been heard outside the Lisbon cathedral beforehand.
November 3, 2009 |
New-music concerts have been arriving in clumps with conflicting time slots, and maybe no feat of schedule coordination will remedy that. Time was when Network for New Music was one of the few such destinations. But no longer: Choral Arts Society is one of several vocal groups giving high-concept contemporary programs. So on Sunday, one had to choose between the full effect of composer Bernard Rands' Indian summer at Network and current Scottish composer James MacMillan processing modern spiritual dilemmas at Choral Arts Society with soprano-voice writing that repeatedly reaches for the skies - in vain.
November 24, 1989 |
Among the local premieres planned by the Philadelphia Orchestra this season is Memory by Israeli composer Mark Kopytman, which Gary Bertini will conduct this afternoon and Saturday and Monday evenings at the Academy of Music. How was it chosen? According to Bernard Jacobson, Philadelphia Orchestra annotator, former orchestra composer-in-residence Richard Wernick brought it to Riccardo Muti's attention a couple of seasons ago. "Muti read it and was very much taken with the piece, and so it immediately went on the yes pile," he said.
December 2, 2010 |
Some music is born on the cutting edge - and stays there, no matter how many centuries pass. That's one reason the seemingly unwieldy but ever-fascinating Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 by Claudio Monteverdi is having performances in heady succession all over the world (including Sunday in Philadelphia) but also why it needed this 400th anniversary of its publication to make them happen. The music's eternal singularity has often attracted champions well outside early-music circles, from composer Osvaldo Golijov to conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, encouraging performers to work through the challenges with a frequency of performances that increased the piece's visibility in ways that could barely be imagined 30 years ago. Nonetheless, there's still so little agreement over what the piece is and what it needs that the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia's collaboration with the Renaissance band Piffaro at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church will sound quite different from a similar effort five years ago. The chorus of 90 in 2005 is down to 40 in 2010, allowing the kind of hairpin flexibility that makes this quickly shifting music more immediate to modern audiences.