Thursday, November 30, 2017


Two magnificent singers have passed recently. Memories of their artistry will long be cherished by many.

Russian baritone Dmitry Hrvorostosky performed twice at Spivey Hall, first with the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir in November 1996.  His October 4, 2000 solo recital launched the celebration of Spivey Hall's Tenth Anniversary Season. These concerts were both before my time at Spivey, but patrons fortunate enough to hear them remain passionate about them. My first-hand experiences with this artist include a remarkably beautiful portrayal of Tchaivkovsky's Eugene Onegin at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and as what I considered to be luxury casting when he sang the elder Germont (the tenor's father) in a Metropolitan Opera production of La traviata. In both instances he gave us gorgeous, richly expressive singing, with abundant and colorful sound, shapely and intelligent phrasing, nuance, and warmth. He is gone too soon and shall be greatly missed

Just this afternoon, I learned of American soprano Carol Neblett's passing. She has not been in the news of late as has Hvorostovsky, and unfortunately, I never heard her perform in concert, recital, or a staged opera production. However, her recording of Erich Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt with conductor Erich Leinsdorf and tenor Rene Kollo is one I return to time and again, “Glück, das mir verblieb” (also known as Marietta’s Lied) had me utterly transfixed for months once I discovered it the late 1980s. I had to listen again just now. Hear it on YouTube.

Such joy they bring to our lives, incredible artists such as these. For this we are grateful. May divine peace be theirs.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Benjamin Grosvenor's encores

We had a phenomenal performance this afternoon from the brilliant British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor -- his second and eagerly-awaited Spivey Hall recital.

In addition to his program of music by Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Berg and Ravel, he regaled us with three encores, the details of which I post here in response to various patrons' requests:

MOSZOWSKI Etude in A-flat major, Op. 72 No. 11

BACH/CORTOT Largo ("Aria") from Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056

KAPUSTIN Concert Etude Op. 40 No. 3, "Toccatina"

Monday, October 09, 2017

A long, low, cosmic B-flat: "Black Holes Can Sing."

From an online article in The New York Times, "Space & Cosmos: An Earthling's Guide to Black Holes" 

Reading this, I find the pitch of B-flat takes on new meaning for me. It will accord even greater significance to some of my favorite works in B-flat major, foremost among them the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Johannes Brahms (especially the first movement).

However, this takes "low" to new depths and expands the notion of "long" as well -- to the extent my brain can grasp these things. A long, low B-flat of this mind-blowing nature also, in its way, alters the universe.

B-flat. Who knew?

Black holes can sing.
In 2003, an international team led by the X-ray astronomer Andrew Fabian discovered the longest, oldest, lowest note in the universe — a black hole’s song — using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Although it is too low and deep for humans to hear, the B flat note, 57 octaves below middle C, appeared as sound waves that moved out from explosive events at the edge of a supermassive black hole in the galaxy NGC 1275.
The notes stayed in the galaxy and never reached us, but we couldn’t have heard them anyway. The lowest note the human ear can detect has an oscillation period of one-twentieth of a second. This B flat’s period was 10 million years.
The “songs” of black holes may be behind a declining birth rate of stars in the universe. In clusters of galaxies such as Perseus, the home of NGC 1275, the energy these notes carry is thought to keep the gases too hot to condense and form stars.