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Dispatches from Around Town (Part 1 of 2)

It’s starting to look like the end of the season, and there are even more concerts than usual here in the Center to Universe to feel bad about missing. My own concert-going tends to come in unpredictable binges, the most recent of which began last weekend, resumed last Wednesday, and ended this afternoon (and continues this coming weekend). It’s not all new music, but I thought I’d chime in anyhow to share some highlights.

Saturday, April 28th: Doug Wright, Scot Frankel, Michael Korie, Grey Gardens. So The Mom was in town, we couldn’t get tickets to the Met, and we settled for a musical. I figured Grey Gardens, based partly on the 1975 documentary, would be the easiest thing to stomach. And, indeed, it is a fine show. Of course, this being a musical, there are too many moments whose raison d’etre is purely to press this or that emotional button, but this rendition of the dilapidated lives of some cousins of Jackie O’s is dramatically sound, has some very deft lyrics, and ingratiating music. Chirstine Ebersole in a duel role – she’s the mother in the first half, the daughter in the second half – should be the favorite for the Best Actress Tony.

Saturday, April 28th (evening): Stravinsky: Apollo, Agon; Bizet, Symphony in C. NYC Ballet. Anyone else out there utterly lost by ballet? I’ve resolved to stretch my artistic horizons and get with the program. This season, the NYC Ballet is celebrating the 100th birthday of its co-founder, Lincoln Kirstein. This trio of Ballanchine ballets was enjoyable, though Apollo, with its breathtaking evocations of chariots and flight, left the greatest impact on me. The whole house released a loving sigh when the curtain rose on the Bizet to reveal a stage of white-tutued ballerinas – evidently the ballet version of instant gratification.

Wednesday, May 2nd: Jeff Nichols, Le trombe d’oro della solaritá (trumpet, horn, trombone, percussion, and double bass). Nichols is a professor of music at Queens College, and his fluid, chromatically saturated music deserves to be better known. At the end of the Eugenio Montale poem on which the piece is loosely based, rays of sunlight strike the speaker’s eyes. Over the course of the twenty-minute piece, Nichols musically prepares this image by slowly transforming harmonies comprised of stacked semitones into harmonies of stacked perfect fifths. The process is neither pedantically foregrounded nor academically obscured, and careful listeners will not find the dense musical language disorienting. A marimba cadenza at the end leaves the ears refreshed after much brass-heavy music.