Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri 3/21 & Tues 3/25

Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique is the looniest piece in the 19th century orchestral canon, but Updoc doesn’t think that most performances, like the go-to recording by Colin Davis and Concertgebouw, are loony enough, so this week’s show—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday—goes with John Eliot Gardiner and his brash Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, its smaller forces, original instruments (including a serpent), bold textures and unvibrato: what a wake-up call, march to the scaffold, Dies Irae, opium hallucinations and all. What a blast. Then we cool off with Scarlatti, who sounds as brilliant as Bach but somehow without the universal-intellect-thing, and as usual Updoc clocks in late for a holiday, with the traditional ballad Finnegan’s Wake and James Joyce himself lilting on about Anna Livia. For closers, okay, there’s this kid of 27, Igor Levit, who plays the late Beethoven piano sonatas as if he’s Artur Schnabel recorded in a modern studio; which raises the question, is it an interpretation or a Xerox? Well I’ll tellya, Sonata #31 Opus 110 is one of the greatest pieces of music there is, and the kid plays like a dream and the fi is hi, and that will do for now. I know, where’s the jazz? It’s in there somewhere, I’m sure of it. Maybe it’s the cat blowing serpent.

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