Entertainment, Music, Night Life, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Music: Musical Moments– Kurtágs Play Kurtág at the Library of Congress

Photo courtesy of
‘2007.10.19-111c.am’ courtesy of ‘RShinozaki’

Saturday, February 7, 2009
Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium
György and Márta Kurtág & the Keller Quartet

After the Library of Congress’ recent parade of the rather bland contemporary American music, the premiere of a new work by Kurtág performed by the composer and his wife and long-time duet partner Márta was like a breath of fresh air.  Exquisite comes to mind, as does vital.  It was an honor to share in this celebration of a national treasure of another nation.

The programs describes György Kurtág as one of the world’s foremost composers, which is certainly true in certain circles.  He has served as Professor of Piano and Chamber Music at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest,  as composer-in-residence at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Konzerthausgesellschaft, and has a list of awards, honors and recordings too lengthy to even describe here.  In America, Kurtág’s name is better known than his music still, I think, and the music is better known through recordings than through live performances.  The experience of performances of works almost always exceeds the experience of hearing recordings of those works, but in Kurtág’s case, the contrast is particularly striking.

Much work has been done in the press and printed program to connect this concert to a Library of Congress concert of Kurtág’s countryman Béla Bartók.  Bartók’s storied performance with violinist Joseph Szigeti, performed the at the Library of Congress in 1940 marked the premiere of Bartók Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano.  (In a spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that the recording of that recital was a staple of my undergraduate listening regime.)  Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Ethnic Dining Guide

Hotdogs and Rice with Broccoli.

Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide for the DC area has been updated for 2009. He starts off with a plug for his book, Discover Your Inner Economist, offers some rules of thumb for choosing ethnic food restaurants in general, lists some “must-eat” places, then launches into a grand, culturally-alphabetized list of restaurants of every regional and stylistic variety, with addresses and capsule reviews. The guide is huge and tirelessly comprehensive, definitely worth a scan if you’re hankering for an exotic dine-out this weekend.

(Link via Kottke. Pictured above: a traditional Filipino meal.)


Leung and Takao vs. Millennium Stage

Millennium Stage Detail

Millennium Stage Detail uploaded by mjlaflaca

Cellist Amy Leung and pianist Naoko Takao gave a recital this 18 August, but they also gave us an object lesson in the challenges of presenting music in the wrong setting, here a venue which robs the music of precisely the features that make it worthy of performance– once again, the Millennium Stage distracts from and undermines the artistry it seeks to present. The repertoire demonstrated what is best about chamber music: the intimacy of collaboration between performers, the proximity (literal and emotional) to the audience. Ms. Leung and Ms. Takao strove hard to achieve these goals and sometime succeeded, despite a venue with all the intimacy and elegance of an aircraft hangar.

Ms. Leung, currently hailing from Utah is a former DCer, having been a Guarneri Fellow at the University of Maryland, and in residence at GWU with the (sadly) now dissolved Coolidge Quartet. Takao is similarly a UMD-CP alum, and teaches at the Levine School, in addition to her geographically diverse career as a soloist and collaborative artist. They have several performances in town this week (here and here), and one hopes to see and hear more of them locally and soon. Monday’s program featured Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and ‘cello, Op. 102, No. 1, Elegy for cello and piano of Maryland composer Masatoshi Mitsumoto, and Mendelssohn’s Sonata for Cello and Piano #2, Op. 58.
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