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The Rose Armonica

Sunday, May 3, 2009

One of Ben Franklin’s most beautiful failures was his “Rose Armonica” a delicate construction that replaced the keys of an organ with roses. Each petal of the Armonica had a thread pulling a stopper to a whistle. Each rose determined a different note, though the various petals determined various hues of sharpness, flatness or “textures” a facet the meaning of which is lost to history. The sharps and flats took the musicality of this instrument well outside the usual octave of Western music, a point that was not initially grasped by Franklin.

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Sascha Reckert & Donizetti

Friday, 1 May 2009

Donizetti – Lucia di Lammermoor

La Monnaie (Cirque Royal), Sunday April 26 2009

Conductor: Julian Reynolds. Production: Guy Joosten. Lucia: Elena Mosuc. Edgardo di Ravenswood: John Osborn. Lord Enrico Ashton: Angelo Veccia. Lord Arturo Bucklaw: Jean-François Borras. Raimondo Bidebent: Giorgio Giuseppini. Alisa: Catherine Keen. Normanno: Carlo Bosi. La Monnaie orchestra and chorus. Glass harmonica: Sascha Reckert.

One of the striking things about Brussels is that, unlike in Paris, say, or New York, you see old people everywhere. The Taverne du Passage opened over 80 years ago, since when nothing has changed (“immuable” is the word used on the website), and that seems to include the customers: the regulars look like they’ve been eating a weekly Waterzoï in that art-deco setting since the 1920s. The couple next to us on Sunday were so ancient that all they could manage for lunch was a glass of beer; soup and bread; a heaped chafing-dish of lamb chops, with potato croquettes, asparagus and a jug of red wine on the side; and rum babas to finish. They didn’t even take coffee. Many of these regulars go on, after lunch, to La Monnaie: I have often called our Sunday Matinee subscription the “pensioners’ special.” And if, as I’ve mentioned in my reports, applause at La Monnaie is usually discreet, however good the performance, it’s probably because half the audience are doddery and the other half asleep.

It was quite a surprise, therefore, to see the burghers rising to give last Sunday’s Lucia a standing ovation – the first I’ve seen in Brussels in the last 20 years. This was a remarkable achievement for a house that, on the whole, can’t afford to pay stars (at least once they’re out; it was in Brussels that I first heard Villazon, in La Bohème, about a week before he became world famous – a shooting star in his case) but a triumph for the alternative approach taken over the years by La Monnaie: a young but strong, consistent cast, singing and acting with commitment and courage in a good production – and in this case of a popular favourite. Above all, it had that essential feature (without which it isn’t worth turning up at all), a sock-popping Lucia.

Even as the first act went on I slapped myself for nit-picking, as Elena Mosuc’s style is less straightforward, more mannered than I like. But she makes an unusually dark, juicy, fruity Lucia, the notes are certainly there and often very beautiful, and the top ones maintain their body, indeed sound easy. And she had a surprise in store for us at the end of act 1. It was impossible from the programme notes on editions and key changes to tell which one was being used here (though the glass harmonica was naturally unmissable – and it makes the mad scene so much more convincing) but assuming Lucia and Edgardo were ending their duet in Bb, then not only did he pop in, a few bars before the end, an unexpected D, but she, instead of simply rising through the “Addi-i-o” to the final Bb, shot in a top F. I’m not sure I ever heard anything like it before.

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47 (!) New Franklin Letters Found

[Written in 1755, they'd be too early to mention the glass armonica, which Franklin invented in 1761. Nevertheless...]

British Copies Found of Ben Franklin Letters

New York Times

Compiled by DAVE ITZKOFF
Published: April 23, 2009

A professor from the University of California, San Diego, who was researching Benjamin Franklin at the British Library made a discovery on the last day of his trip in 2007: copies of 47 letters by, to and about Franklin that were written in the spring and summer of 1755 and not seen since. The university said that the letters, which were found by Alan Houston, a professor of political science, had been copied by Thomas Birch, a Franklin contemporary who was a prodigious transcriber and compiler of historical documents and later became secretary of the Royal Society. They were written to and from Franklin’s son William and his wife, Deborah, as well as the British general Edward Braddock, and cover a period during the French and Indian War when Franklin helped organize a Pennsylvania militia against the forces that threatened the colonies. The letters are being published in the April issue of The William and Mary Quarterly.

Original article…

Thomas Bloch in Boston

Glass Harmonica Performance at the PEM

April 24, 8:00pm-Boston Artists Ensemble performs with Thomas Bloch, the most prominent glass harmonica player in the world! Hear the U.S. Premiere of Sonatina By C.P.E. Bach for Glass Harmonica and Strings at the Peabody Essex Museum.

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Veteran Glass Armonica Player K. Piotrowski in Piano Trio Concert

Brinkler Trio presents ‘From Parlor Room to Concert Hall’
Thursday, April 9, 2009
ROCHESTER — Step back in time as The Brinkler Trio in “From Parlor Room to Concert Hall” presents rare and enchanting classical piano trios, written between the 1830s to the 1890s, at the Rochester Opera House on Saturday, April 18, 8 P.M.

This music by composers such as Gaetano Donizetti, Louis Coerne and Emile Bourgois was originally written for small instrumental ensembles, which played in reception halls, courts, palace chambers and, later, in the intimate setting of the parlor room. These pieces were introduced to larger audiences with the rise of the concert hall in the 19th century.

The Brinkler Trio, named in honor of Alfred Brinkler, is comprised of pianist Kenneth Piotrowski, cellist Gary Hodges and violinist Sarah Barker. The Trio will present a premiere performance of Brinkler’s 1905 compositions “Grave” and “Allegro Moderato.”

Pianist Piotrowski studied piano, theory, counterpoint, composition and glass harmonica. He has performed in North and South America, Europe and Asia, has made nationwide radio and television appearances and is the author of numerous articles for American and European musicological journals.

Lucia di Lammermoor, Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna, 14. Mar 2009

Huge success of Anna Netrebko in an outstanding performance of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor on her very much awaited return to the stage at the Wiener Staatsoper on 14. March 2009, the first of a series of 4 completely sold-out performances, with tickets on the black market sold for more than 600 Eur. Standing ovations lasting for many minutes make the singers playing the leading roles, leaded by Anna Netrebko and Giuseppe Filianoti, and the conductor Marco Armiliato, to appear once and again to the curtain call.

Anna Netrebko did make an outstanding performance singing the title role. As she has recognized in recent interviews, the second act is the one she prefers. I would agree on this point and she was really great there. As everyone knows, one of the most awaited moments of the opera is the mad scene. And Anna was also superb here. Both from the points of view of the singing and the acting. She just captivated the audience. This performance has been also a special one because the glass harmonica, instead of the flute, has been used for the first time at the Wiener Staatsoper. The results were very beautiful and they were later on stressed out at the curtain call, when Anna Netrebko delivered special ovations addressed to the glass harmonica player. She addressed also ovations to the prompter.

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Benefit Concert by Thomas Bloch

Thomas Bloch begins the ritual of the glass concert with an ablution. “The surgeons will understand me,” having fun with it. Carefully, he submerges his hands in the bowl so that they are entirely covered with water.  It is found in front of the instrument and moistens the bowls of crystal, rimmed with gold…

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Vera Meyer Named ‘Bostonian of the Week’

Do you know Vera Meyer? You may not be aware of it, but you probably do. She’s the woman who plays the glass (h)armonica in Harvard Square most weekends. She is also the co-founder of Glass Music International, a YouTube sensation, and a real hoot to boot. “It was thought to cause insanity, but I feel fine,” Meyer says of the glass harmonica in her YouTube video, and she certainly plays fine as well. Meyer’s MySpace is a wealth of information about her instrument, which was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, based on the idea of simply rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass. …

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