Those scribbles? Thatâs Glenn Gould, scratching on his sheet music as he recorded Bachâs âGoldbergâ Variations in 1981. We reported this week on the newly rediscovered score, which offers some insights â barely legible ones â into Gouldâs process and will be put up for auction next month. (Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000.)
Why not take the opportunity to listen to that classic Bach recording, (slightly) mellower than Gouldâs 1955 debut album?
Two reading assignments for the weekend:
Anthony Tommasini on the case for greatness in classical music, an excerpt from his new book âThe Indispensable Composersâ: âYour first time hearing some exhilarating or mystifying work by a composer of the past â Mozartâs âJupiterâ Symphony, Beethovenâs searching Fourth Piano Concerto, Wagnerâs trance-inducing âTristan und Isolde,â Stravinskyâs shattering âRite of Spring,â take your pick â can be as formative a moment as anything in your life.â
Morton Feldmanâs âTriadic Memoriesâ unfold in a realm of shadows. The droplets of notes and meticulously spaced-out clusters that make up this hourlong work for solo piano range from the very quiet to the barely audible. But itâs their afterlife that the ear is drawn to, the aura of resonance that hovers below the grand pianoâs wing long after a key is struck.
On Thursday at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the pianist Pedja Muzijevic offered a mesmerizing reading of the piece that deepened Feldmanâs music through lighting and dance. In âFraming Time,â part of Lincoln Centerâs White Light Festival, the precise and enigmatic movements of Cesc Gelabert (in his own choreography) brought out the workâs ambivalent mood, somewhere between playful curiosity and aching melancholy. Paper-lantern-glow sets and lighting by Burke Brown deepened the mystery.
Feldman wanted individual notes to feel âsourceless,â so that the sound would reveal itself not in the attack but in the decay, as a âdeparting landscape.â Mr. Brown captured that effect visually in one passage when Mr. Gelabert performed from behind a wall of milky screens, lit so that his expressive arms and hands seemed to stretch to uncanny proportions, amorphous and monstrous at once. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM
Philip Glass and his largely gray-haired ensemble gathered to play âMusic in 12 Partsâ on Saturday at Town Hall, where the marathon work was first played in its entirety more than 40 years ago. Mr. Glass is a household name, if not the most famous living composer. That much was clear last weekend: The crowd hardly looked like the downtown audience that heard this piece in SoHo lofts as it was written between 1971 and 1974. How I wish I could have taken in âMusic in 12 Partsâ â a sweeping exploration of musical possibilities that, with breaks, can push six hours â back then. Mr. Glass hadnât yet written âEinstein on the Beachâ â he hadnât even stopped working as a cabdriver to pay the bills â and his pieces had a devil-may-care daring to them.
Some of that magic and youthful Ã©lan were missing at Town Hall. And Mr. Glass, now 81, and his colleagues gave an imperfect performance that struggled to settle in for the first 15 minutes or so. But once they did, the piece began to truly shine: In 2018, it still manages to surprise and impress how much Mr. Glass makes out of the most basic building blocks of music. There will always be genuine suspense in watching how performers manage to maneuver the scoreâs continuous changes in patterns that, if you listen closely, will keep you at the edge of your seat for hours on end. JOSHUA BARONE
It was difficult not to think of politics when the Hungarian State Opera opened its ambitious two-week New York tour on Tuesday. Katalin Bogyay, Hungaryâs ambassador to the United Nations, spoke from the stage, and the president of Hungary, Janos Ader, was in the audience. Just days earlier, a university backed by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has been vilified in Hungary, often with anti-Semitic tropes, announced that it was being forced to close its Budapest campus, saying it was a victim of Prime Minister Viktor Orbanâs efforts to stifle dissent and academic freedom. And the tour opened with Ferenc Erkelâs âBank Ban,â a rousing, patriotic work considered the national opera of Hungary.
So questions of where cultural diplomacy ends and nationalism begins were very much in the air. Still, I was grateful for the chance to hear âBank Ban,â an 1861 work rarely staged outside Budapest. Think middle-period Verdi, spiced with paprika. Iâve long enjoyed allegedly âHungarianâ music â the âCzardasâ in Straussâs âDie Fledermausâ or the Hungarian Dances of Brahms â so it was intriguing to hear an opera full of Hungarian melodies as conceived by an actual Hungarian. And a mad scene with a cimbalom? I wonât soon forget it. MICHAEL COOPER
The English National Opera upholds an honorable tradition that was once was commonplace in opera: performing works translated into the language of the audience. On a recent visit to London I took in the companyâs revival of a darkly powerful David Alden production of âLucia di Lammermoor,â presented in an English translation by Amanda Holden. On this night, when Enrico started bullying his sister, Lucia, into accepting a marriage proposal, it was chilling to hear these guilt-trip phrases sung in English: âMy future will be grim if I donât make a new allianceâ; âYou have to save me!â
I was fortunate to have a close-up seat, and in the upper rings of the London Coliseum the words of the singers are often harder to discern. The company years ago started using projected supertitles. Still, hearing this staple in English gave fresh directness to the drama, especially in this turning-point moment, sung by the baritone Lester Lynch as Enrico. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
The British soprano Sarah Tynan, the star of the English National Operaâs âLucia,â was very impressive on opening night. Singing with agile technique and an intriguing mixture of tart and melting sounds, she conveyed the yearning, fragility and final breakdown of this oppressed heroine. Searching for recordings by her, I came upon this engrossing video of a wildly staged performance of Brittenâs song cycle âLes Illuminationsâ at the 2016 Aldeburgh Festival. The director Struan Leslieâs concept was to depict through dance and movement the weird nocturnal visions of the Rimbaud poems that Britten fleshes out in his musical settings. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
The entire cast of the English National Operaâs âPorgy and Bessâ was excellent, especially Nicole Cabell as Bess, Eric Greene as Porgy, and Nmon Ford as Crown. The soprano Latonia Moore, as Serena, especially moved me. I keep thinking about her searing yet noble account of âMy Manâs Gone Now.â Ms. Moore has been following in the path of Leontyne Price, as this video of her Aida vividly demonstrates. Ms. Price, a legendary Aida, first came to attention as Bess in celebrated an international tour of âPorgy and Bess.â But when she made a now-classic recording of excerpts in 1963, she sang âMy Manâs Gone Now,â as well. Did she ever! ANTHONY TOMMASINI