I could blame my day-long silence on Spurs' dreadful showing against Wigan -- Jeez, Harry, what's wrong with you guys? -- or the abrupt departure of the Giants from the playoff scene (although I expected that one), but in truth it's a combination of deadlines and indolence. I just look out the window and see all that snow, ice and what-have-you and think, "why should I lift a finger, it's miserable out there."
In fact, I did pry my sorry self out of the house Sunday for a pleasant lunch with my friend and colleague Bob Lamm, a prelude to an invigorating chamber music concert by the Motyl Chamber Ensemble at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall. What makes that apposite for inclusion here is that the group's stated goal is to "present music written by composers who were victims of the Nazi regime." Of course, the overwhelming majority of those musicians were Jewish, including all four of the composers whose work was on display yesterday afternoon. Motyl is an all-women group, although their numbers were augmented at Weill by tenor Erik Nelson Werner, who brought a strong voice and stage presence to bear on song cycles by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (a U.S. premiere of a handful yiddish versdes by Shmuel Halkin, which Weinberg set during the war) and Robert Kahn. In some ways it is a somber program, not so much for the circumstances in which the composers found themselves, but more for the dark rumblings of early modernism in works like the Weinberg songs and Karl Weigl's forceful String Quartet No. 3 in A Major, Op. 4, which received a particularly stirring reading from Julie Artzt Becker and Aleeza Wadler (violins), Anoush Simonian (viola) and Ellen Rose Silver (cello). Vivan Chang Freiheit provided admirable piano accompaniment for Werner (although in their very first foray, a serenade from Don Giovanni that provided the basis for improvisation and variations by Hans Gal, which followed, she threatened to overwhelm him; I hesitate to mention it, because the problem could be acoustical rather than musical, and their subsequent collaborations betrayed no such problems).
On the whole, an afternoon well-spent (for me, if not for the Giants or Tottenham). Happily, this New York-based group is going to be performing several times this spring. For more information (and a few tantalizing sound clips) go to their website.
If time was scarce this weekend, it's only going to get worse over the next few days. Today is a deadline day, but I'll try to post a couple of record reviews before 24 hours have elapsed. Tuesday and Wednesday, however, are full up: Michael Dorf's annual Schmooze conference for Jewish arts presenters and artists, a fruitful venture for all concerned, and his Oyhoo Jewish Musical Heritage festival will be eating up all my time. I'm pretty sure tickets can still be had for the festival, which is utilizing some brand-new venues -- 92Y Tribeca and Dorf's own City Winery -- and the kind of star-power that Michael usually attracts. For more info check out the websites for City Winery, the Oyhoo Festival and 92Y Tribeca. I haven't decided where I'll be on those two nights -- I want to check out both halls and there's a lot of great music playing in both of them each night. We'll see. And if you find me there, you can buy me a beer. Or maybe a bisl seltzer.
Finally, you can also find me on Facebook where, for some mysterious reason, I am listed under my full -- very WASPy -- name, George Richard Robinson. (Don't ask me. I'll give you my mother's phone number and you can bother her.) I must say that, after only a few days of it, I find the Facebook experience fascinating and a bit overwhelming. I could never understand how someone could spend hours on line in chatrooms or messaging, but I'm beginning to see how it happens. I'm also beginning to sense how Facebook can be a brilliant marketing and community-building tool. Who knows? I may even use it that way sometime.
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