Thursday, July 03, 2014

Philip Smith retires from the New York Philharmonic

I really enjoyed this article in the New Yorker about Philip Smith's career as principal trumpet with the New York Philharmonic. I was at one of last week's concerts for Glenn Dicterow's final appearances with the orchestra, and I realized that I was also hearing Smith for the last time. Smith has been a joy to hear over the years, from Beethoven concertos to Honegger suites to Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 5. It's going to be odd to see and hear someone else playing those parts in the future.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A rant about cell phones at the New York Philharmonic

I would love to write about how much we enjoyed the music at Friday night's performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 by the New York Philharmonic. We really did enjoy the music! It was sublime. But what almost marred the concert were the multiple cell phone alerts that went off during the symphony, especially in the last movement.

It had rained off and on all day. Starting at about 9:15 PM, in the middle of the symphony, we heard a faint emergency alarm noise, like the emergency broadcast system alert on TV. It was quiet so it was hard to distinguish it from the music. But when I heard another alarm a few minutes later, it was unmistakably a cell phone alert. These alerts were coming from all over the hall, but they were quiet enough that it didn't seem to reach the stage. We didn't know what was going on, but it was obvious that some people had not turned off or otherwise silenced their phones at the beginning of the concert.

In the middle of the utterly gorgeous final movement, one of these cell phone alerts went off in the row behind ours. It went quiet a few seconds later, but it was distracting. Then it went off again a few minutes later. This time, it almost caused a fight. I turned to look and the phone's owner was cursing under his breath and trying to shut off his phone. The man next to him said, above a whisper, "You have to leave! Get out! You have to leave!" To his credit, the man with the noisy phone left the hall. But it had already ruined the moment for me. I was distracted the rest of the piece, wondering if the next alert would sound close to the stage and force Mr. Haitink to stop the orchestra. Why is it always Mahler whose music is interrupted with cell phone noises? Thankfully, there were no more alarms and the symphony reached its glorious conclusion without interruption.

The alert turned out to be a flash flood warning for the metro New York area. With that many alarms going off during one of my favorite pieces, I hoped that it was actually the end of the world. Flooding was a disappointment.

It's clear that people either do not know how to silence their phones, or they don't care enough about common courtesy to bother to do so. It's infuriating and insulting to the rest of us who want to enjoy the music or movie or whatever we're doing without hearing phone noises. If you don't know how to silence your phone, you should turn it off. If you don't know how to turn off your phone, you shouldn't own one. I have to make an announcement about turning off phones before Saturday evening's New York Repertory Orchestra concert, and I have to restrain myself from turning it into a rant. Maybe if I post the rant here, I'll make a short and sweet announcement on Saturday.

I don't know what the solution is. Cell phone jammers are illegal. You can't force people to turn them off. All you can do is make these announcements and hope that people get better about following them. But this epidemic of ignorant, self-involved cell phone users at concerts makes me want to reconsider going to New York Philharmonic concerts. I can avoid people talking on their phones during movies by going to sparsely attended showings at out-of-the-way theaters. But I can't avoid idiots at Avery Fisher Hall. Not going to concerts might be my only option. And that's a shame.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A review of this weekend's NY Opera Exchange production of The Magic Flute

It was a lifelong dream of mine to play in the orchestra for Mozart's The Magic Flute, and after this weekend I can check that accomplishment off my list. I had a wonderful time playing one of my favorite operas with a talented cast of singers and musicians.

Here's a review of the production from Voce di meche, an opera blog about chamber opera companies  in New York. I only got to see a few hints of the full production from my seat in the pit, but I think they've captured the spirit of the show. It was such an honor to be involved in the production and I look forward to many more!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Super Bowl party recipe roundup

Because a few of you asked me (or my wife) for recipes from photos I posted:

Smoked salmon dip
This dip was a big hit. We went through almost all of what we made. We served it with pita chips but it would also work well with a sliced and toasted baguette.

Chorizo queso
This dip didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped. The cheese coagulated quickly and turned stringy and watery. It might have worked better if I'd had a smaller cast iron skillet, and if I'd thought to pre-heat the skillet in the broiler or oven. It was still delicious but it was difficult to get it onto a chip.

Braised brisket sandwiches
These turned out to be one of the best sandwiches I've ever made. I used beef stock instead of beer and brisket instead of short ribs. I browned the meat in a Dutch oven, then browned the vegetables and deglazed the oven with the stock and poured it all into my slow cooker. 8 hours later, I strained the vegetables, added the horseradish sauce and reduced the broth, and sliced the meat against the grain. I put everything back (except the vegetables) into the slow cooker and let it warm until halftime. I didn't make the pickled vegetables, so I just served the sandwiches with a slice of cheddar cheese on a toasted baguette.

Orzo pasta salad
I wanted a starchy side dish for the sandwich but I didn't want to make anything with potatoes. I also wanted to make something from my friend Sarah's massive football recipe collection. I will definitely make this pasta salad again when I need something to bring to a cookout or a party.

Fat Witch Brownies and Oreo cheesecake cookies
We always challenge ourselves to make dishes for the Super Bowl that are in some way associated with the teams playing in the game or the city hosting the game. To celebrate the Super Bowl in New York and New Jersey, my wife made these brownies from New York's Chelsea Market and these Oreo cheesecake cookies. Both of them were amazing.

The game was a blowout but it gave all of us at the party a chance to catch up and talk about things other than Manningface. Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and their fans! Maybe now they'll stop complaining about Super Bowl XL.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

The DJ's view of our wedding

Gary was the DJ for our wedding last Saturday and he did a fantastic job. If you're getting married in the Cleveland area or just need a DJ for a party, Gary is your man.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Petrushka" at the New York Philharmonic: Everyone's a dancer!

Last night's performance of Igor Stravinsky's "Petrushka," a collaboration between the New York Philharmonic and Giants Are Small Productions, was 35 minutes of sheer joy and exuberance. I haven't been that entertained by the Philharmonic and its musicians in weeks (or at least since our previous concert at the beginning of June). The musicians were fully integrated into the ballet, wearing Russian hats and scarves, stomping their feet, drinking tea from a full Russian tea service, miming shots of vodka, dancing and changing seats during the scene changes. At several points the musicians stood up and moved around as they played the music of the Shrovetide Fair. Violist Rebecca Young showed some heretofore unheralded talents, juggling scarves and dancing in the middle of the stage. Maestro Alan Gilbert led the musicians from the podium, but he also played the role of the Magician, who brings to life the puppet characters of Petrushka, Columbine the ballerina, and The Moor. These characters appeared as puppets on screen and on stage, and as live-action characters played by opera singers Anthony Ross Costanzo and Eric Owens, with Sara Mearns as Columbine. In addition, the master puppeteers and scenic designers of Giants Are Small filled the stage with miniature Ferris wheels, snow sled runs, chuck-a-luck wheels, merry-go-rounds, and other rides found at fairs, all filmed and projected live on the screen overhead. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time. It was one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen at Avery Fisher Hall.

The first half of the program, Stravinsky's "The Fairy's Kiss," featured lovely music strongly reminiscent of Tchaikovsky. I had to keep reminding myself that this was not music of that Russian master had he lived another 20 years, but Stravinsky's musical tribute to his forebear. The ballet that accompanied it did not follow the original story of the program, so it was more difficult to follow the action. But it looked lovely, and Giants Are Small provided more miniatures and camera work to add to the story's illustration. The two works had as a connection a brief post-intermission piano interlude by Louis Durey called "Neige" that showed Mearns' transformation from the ballerina of the first half into Columbine for "Petrushka." I'm not sure it was completely necessary, but the music was a refreshing palate cleanser leading into the magnificence that was "Petrushka."