A Musical Offering of Bachian Proportions
Saturday, January 20, 2018
My Rosemary and I attended last night’s New Music For Old
Instruments – After Bach at Christ Churh Cathedral featuring the Pacific Baroque Orchestra under the Musical
Direction of Alexander Weimann.
The concert was a collaboration involving the Pacific
Baroque Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver and the Vancouver New Music Festival
that ends this Monday.
The four contemporary composers of the program (all four
were present), Jocelyn Morlock, Douglas Finch, Rodney Sharman and Bramwell
Tovey) were asked to compose works with some connection to Bach and with the
exact instrumentation of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra that evening.
For me what made this concert special besides the awesome
performance of VSO Musical Director Bramwell Tovey on solo piano, Alexander Weimann on solo harpsichord and
then the two four-hands on the piano was a moment that I had not really noticed
before after many observed live playings of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5,
We all know
about that, unprecedented in Bach’s time, of the harpsichord solo in the first
Allegro movement. Vancouver Early Music Composer in Residence, Rodney Sharman
did praise (to the stratosphere) Alexander Weimann’s playing of that solo.
For me it was the trio of harpsichord (Weimann), flute (Soile
Stratkauskas) and violin (Chloe Meyers) in the beginning of the second Affetuoso movement. It was beyond
lovely. I don’t even know if the expression exquisite does any justice to that
flute and violin together from our vantage point on the first row facing them.
|Soile Stratkauskas, Chloe Meyers & Alexander Weimann|
The rest of
the concert, was Bach-inspired works by composers Jocelyn Morlock, Douglas
Finch, Rodney Sharman, Bramwell Tovey and Györgi Ligeti (diseased 2006). This last one was a Weimann harpsichord solo of which more below.
But I have
to begin with Rodney Sharman and his Tell & Show (not show and tell!)
method. Sharman made sure that every composer explained as thoroughly as they
could their work but Sharman went one further. For his piece Snared Harmony he
brought out his baroque flute (learning it since October) to explain how it
works and its capabilities. Demonstrating it (as best he could!) it made
understanding some of the odd notes we heard when his piece was performed. And,
of course Soile Stratkauskas was top notch with her flute for this work.
|Alexander Weimann & Rodney Sharman telling and showing|
the night including conducting Douglas Finch’s Chorale Threnody you could not
miss Sharman, the man with the green jacket.
Not all the
music was accessible to our non-musicians’ ears. In particular I must cite
Finch’s Chorale Threnody which was originally composed for piano (Corey Hamm)
and erhu (Nicole Li). I heard that piece performed last year but I could not
remember the resemblance. Since I love Charles Ives I was ready to accept that
Finch’s polytonality like Ives’s has to be heard more than once. I can attest
to the fact that in the last few years I have listened to repeated live
performances by the Microcosmos String Quartet (headed by Marc Destrubé) of
Bartok’s Quartets but I still cannot tell them apart! I hope I am able to
listen to Chorale Threnody again.
|Rodney Sharman & Jocelyn Morlock|
Morlock’s Revenant (came back to haunt me as I originally heard it played by
the Burney Ensemble) was the kind of music that Morlock excels at. She lures
you in with tonality and before you know it you are in uncharted territories
without knowing it. To my amateur ears, her work sounded as if Bach had hopped
on a time machine to LA and composed the work sometime in the 20th
century while drinking Gatorade. Rosemary smiled during the performance.
of the Brandenburg was extra special as the orchestra was reduced to a core
that consisted of Stratkauskas on flute, Chloe Myers, violin, Christi Myers,
violin, Mieka Michaux, viola, Nathan Whitaker, cello and Natalie Macke,
violone., What this meant is that Weimann’s harpsichord could be heard at all
Now for my
boo-boo. For the pictures I took here I used my brand new Fuji X-E3 which has
an electronic shutter that not even whispers. It is completely silent.
Ligeti Passacaglia Ungherese, a solo piece for harpsichord (an almost chaconne
which is my fave, fave) my camera slipped from my lap to the floor. The CBC
recorded this show (the EMV website will inform us when the concert airs on the
radio). Chloe Myers who was turning Weimann’s music stared right at me and I
wanted to disappear.
piece of the night was Bramwell Tovey’s Sinfonia Della Passione. It sounded a
tad like Bach but the best part of it (besides the fact that my Rosemary loved
it and she rarely likes anything) was the smile on Mieka Michaux’s face. This
composition put her viola left, right and centre.
photographed the Five Amigos in the Christ Church Cathedral gender-neutral
powder room I thought of the fact that Tovey has been a Vancouver institution
for years. Will this city understand its loss when he leaves shortly for other
In my daily
NY Times I have enjoyed through the years the articles about Tovey conducting
the Summer Pops in New York. In the photo he is always wearing a white tux
jacket. Invariably the writer mentions how Tovey can make attendees comfortable
with his explanations.
And who would have known that like Weimann he can play a
mean jazz piano, compose and just one more thing…
Musical Offering occurred at the court of Frederick The Great where the emperor
(not a bad flute player) challenged Bach to play something on the spot with the
listening of a theme right then.
and Weimann repeated (somewhat) that lofty feat after only listening to a short
Bach theme played by Sharman (not at his Emperor’s best) to each one of them.
Weimann ended his version with a surprisingly fast ending that I was too stupid
record on my silent camera.
I was privy
(I have a good ear) to the fact and I can predict here, now, that sometime this
year there will be a new composition by Jocelyn Morlock for Early Music
Vancouver’s great-idea-in-progress, new music for old instruments.
we can all record the CBC broadcast of Morlock’s Revenant and see how it plays
Friday, January 19, 2018
|Rosemary watching Downton Abbey with Plata when she was very sick |
A distinct pleasure of our present life in our intimate
Kitsilano duplex is that Rosemary and I share our cat Casi-Casi.
My relationship with cats was not always a pleasant one. As
a little boy I loved cats and when I would find a stray one I would bring it to
our Buenos Aires Coghlan home. Mysteriously (I was too young to figure it out)
the cat would disappear after a couple of days.
I caught on in 2006 when
Rosemary, our granddaughter Rebecca and I travelled to Buenos Aires and we
visited the Jardín Botánico Buenos Aires. It is a lovely garden full of
beautiful statues. It is populated by hundreds of cats. There are stray cats
and cats with obvious pedigree. Why are they there? It seems, as I was to find
out that the cats are all abandoned there by people who do not want them. I
heard troubling rumours that every couple of years the cats are rounded up and
put into bags and then drowned in the River Plate.
|Rebecca at the Jardín Botánico|
The cats of the Jardín Botánico (there are almost as many in
the Recoleta Cemetery) are fed by “cat ladies”. Most of them are quite
It wasn’t until 1977 in our Burnaby home that my daughters
saw some kittens in our compound. We adopted one of them and called him
I did not know how to handle a male cat who sprayed. I did
not know at the time of the difference between peeing and spraying. I remember
giving him quite a few slaps after rubbing his nose on the carpet and then
vanquishing him to the outside.
|A very healthy Gaticuchi made the cover of Vancouver Magazine|
But I did learn to handle cats after that and Gaticuchi
lived long enough to move with us to our Kerrisdale home in 1988. When he finally
died (he was one of many cats I buried in our garden and happened to break a
spade doing it) one afternoon we found a tiny black kitten in our side gate. We
brought him in. That evening he died in Rosemary’s arms.
When we saw an ad in the Courier offering some black cats we
called immediately. Our little, very long black cat, Mosca (fly in Spanish)
came hidden in the seat of a Ford Mustang.
|Mosca and Polilla|
Mosca was soon accompanied by a lovely female tabby we
called Cigarra (cicada in Spanish). I remember that she liked to flirt and moved
her rear end lots. Cigarra disappeared one day and we suspected a coyote.
I told Rosemary that
the instant cure for a dead or disappeared cat was a new one. We got a female
white cat we called Polilla (moth in Spanish). This cat took a long to adapt to
us. One day I found her eviscerated (probably by a racoon). I am glad Rosemary
never saw her as I did.
One day when Rosemary was getting over foot surgery (the
only time I accepted her demand for a TV in our bedroom) I left her (she was
watching Hitchcock’s Vertigo) with Mosca at her feet. When I returned I hear
Rosemary yell, “Mosca has not moved since you left. I think he is dead.” He
Mosca was replaced by a short-lived male cat, Niño, who died
of cancer. Toby was a very affectionate male replacement who went the way of
our other cats and I buried in our garden in a shoe box.
|Plata and Toby|
I found a lovely female tabby, Plata (she was called Cash at
the SPCA). She was the loveliest cat we ever had. A few days before we moved
from Kerrisdale to Kitsilano she died. I buried her in our new home.
Our pleasant love of our life is Casi-Casi. He is placid and
helps us both relax. If Rosemary talked to me the way she baby talks Casi I
would be in heaven.
|Casi-Casi and Lauren|
It is here that I want to point out a suspicion that I have
about cats. When I think of some of my dead friend or relatives, I can see
their faces and hear their voices. Each one of them is surrounded in my memory
by an aura of personality that makes each one of them unique and separate.
Cats don’t talk and yet when I think of our dead cats, each
one of them has that almost human aura of distinct personality.
My guess is that cats teach us how to deal and interact with
our human companions. And they do this only gently demanding (quietly demanding)
only what is due to them. In comparison to what they give us that is awfully
Béatrice Larrivée - Encore
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Ever since I had Tío Pepe Martinis with Evelyn Hart
then Metropolitan Hotel I feel in love with dance and like a legion of others
I have seen lots of dance since. I have discussed dance with
many Vancouver dance critics of yore (not too many left now) and Max Wyman is
my friend. Wyman wrote a book on Hart which I have read many times.
In short I have
developed through the years an eye for dance, good choreographer and good
dancers. While I am a straight and heterosexual old man this does not prevent
me from admiring (tremendously) the many men who dance in Vancouver. Anybody
out there with a memory for what I have written might remember I feel hard for
Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s Albert Galindo. The powers that be in our city
did not seem to understand that a good dancer can be a good dancer but without
presence excellence will not proceed. A dance company in Israel saw this and
promptly hired the young man.
When I watched him dance he reminded me of the grace and
beauty of the films I have seen of the great bullfighter Manolete.
In this reduced pantheon of very good dancers with presence
there is Béatrice Larrivée who graduated from Arts Umbrella a couple of years
I was completely enthralled by this not too tiny but compact
ballerina who had that presence I am writing about. Backstage one day I watched
her cry as she had injured her ankle. She sat for a while. And when it was her
turn she got up and danced. This is the kind of pathos and emotion that our
cyan-blue and very cold city sorely needs.
Unfortuanately Larrivée is doing just fine in her hometown
It is my hope that she will return to our city one day and
give us some more of that pathos, emotion, grace and style.
|With Kyle Clark - Choreographer Lesley Telford - the work is Only|
|With Justin Calvadores for Crystal Pite's Emergence|
Mario Conde's Dream - Ava Gardener's Knickers
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
delight when we arrived at the Mexico City Benito Juarez airport I found a
brand new novel by my favourite contemporary Cuban novelist, cigar chomping
Leonardo Padura who for reasons I ignore dropped his maternal surname of
Fuentes a few years ago.
written about him here and here. But for those too lazy to click on links I
want to place here one of the most erotic passages I have ever read from Padura’s
novel Adiós Hemingway:
Hemingway by Leonardo Padura is an ingenious murder mystery that has Hemingway
as a protagonist and the novel shifts back and forth when a body is found
buried in Hemingway's La Finca Vigía which is now a lovingly restored museum in
Havana. The investigator of the murder (the body is from Hemingway's period and
an FBI badge is found nearby) is retired policeman Mario Conde who is
attempting to be a writer and finds Hemingway as inspiration having seen him at
a dock by his yacht as a boy. The book is lovely even translated into English
and the famous swimming pool of Taibo's novels here plays an important part,
too. Our investigator falls asleep on Hemingway's bed and has a stupendous wet
dream! The dream has all to do with a pair of black lace nickers that are
introduced here where the caretaker/curator of Hemingway's villa asks Conde,
the investigator if he had been at the finca before.
But you didn't see the weapons.'
'No. They're in the tower, aren't they?'
'Yes. And I bet you didn't see Ava Gardener's
Conde felt a pang.
"You sure about them?'
'Couldn't be surer.'
'No I didn't see them. But I've got to see
them. The nearest thing to seeing a woman naked is seeing her underwear. I must
see them. What color are they?'
'Black, with lace. Hemingway used them to wrap
around his .22 revolver.
dream begins like this:
He saw her when she was already on the edge of
the swimming-pool. She was wearing a fresh flowery bath-robe and her hair was
loose, falling around her shoulders. He thought her hair seemed lighter than he
remembered and he once more enjoyed the perfect beauty of her face. She said
something he couldn't hear or didn't understand, perhaps on account of the
noise that his own arms were making in the water. He moved them so as not to
sink, and they felt heavy and almost not part of him. Then she took off her
bathrobe. She wasn't wearing a swimsuit underneath, just a bra and pair of
knickers, black ones, made of revealing lace. The cups of the bra were
provocative and he could see, through the lace, the pink aureole of her
above passage proceeds in the kind of stuff that I used to read by sneaking
into my mother's Frank G Slaughter novels which had passages that taught me
what sex was all about in that distant pre-internet era of my youth.