It’s minimalist week in the Center of the Universe, highlighted on Friday night by the John Adams 60th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall. Adams will be conducting the American Composers Orchestra in performances of My Father Knew Charles Ives, The Wound-Dresser (with bass-baritone Eric Owens) and the Violin Concerto, with Leila Josefowicz doing the honors.
Meanwhile, also on Friday, in a nearby universe, Michael Riesman, Music Director of the Philip Glass Ensemble and concert pianist, will be performing the world premiere of his marvelous new transcription for solo piano of Glass’ score to the 1931 classic horror film, Dracula. The gothic walls of the Orensanz Foundation for the Arts provide a perfect backdrop to Reisman performance, which will done live to film. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door).
On a more somber note, there will be a public memorial service for composer and pianist Andrew Hill, who died last Friday, at Trinity Church (89 Broadway at Wall Street) this Friday, April 27, at 2:00 pm.
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For those of you who were insufficiently cheered by Florida’s decisive surge over the Ohio State football factory, here’s something that should help. Our friends at Naxos will release on January 31 a DVD of fellow Mountaineer Pare Lorentz’s landmark New Deal-era documentaries “The Plow that Broke the Plains” (1936) and “The River” (1938), featuring the first complete modern recordings of the seminal Virgil Thomson soundtracks by Washington, D.C.-based Post-Classical Ensemble under Angel Gil-Ordóñez, with narration by Floyd King.
“The Plow that Broke the Plains,” which examines the causes of the Dust Bowl drought and was made for $20,000, was the first film produced by the United States Government for commercial release. Despite being rejected by the film distribution system as New Deal propaganda, the documentary reached people in over 3,000 theaters. “The River,” which addressed flood control on the Mississippi River, won Best Documentary honors at the Venice Film Festival and received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for its script. It is probably unfair to call Lorentz Roosevelt’s Leni Riefenstahl but his films demonstrated the power of documentary to influence opinion.
Virgil Thomson’s soundtracks to both movies rank among the composer’s greatest work and also set the trend in the 1930s and 1940s for a new style of film music. A young Aaron Copland found the scores to be “fresher, more simple, and more personal” than most Hollywood soundtracks, “a lesson in how to treat Americana.”
Hey, somebody start some trouble over on the Composers Forum page.
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