Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri 3/18 & Tues 3/22


Spring is here? Really? Something seems to have trumped it, and the weather keeps flipping its coin. What next? Bill Evans for starters, and we can’t usher the season in without goldbright notes from Clifford Brown and Django Reinhardt. So it goes at the start of this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Hudson River Valley time—before running into Chinese music, Charlie Haden and Keith Jarrett, Albert Roussel’s neat-o springtime piece, Sheila Jordan and Eartha Kitt, respectively, when their worlds were young, and I forget the rest. Oh, more Clifford Brown, this time with Max and Sonny, but the wrap-up’s same as last week, only different: Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, this time preceded by the master’s old-age piece The Requiem Canticles—as spare and sere a music as you will ever hear, right up against the end of life, telling what it sees, no code, in clear—and this week’s Sacre a 1963 Boulez performance with the ORTF that shows how far as you can travel from last week’s blazing Bernstein and still be playing the same music. At the turn of the ‘60s Lenny may have helped turn the epoch-making clamor of the Rite into a super-exciting orchestral showpiece, and this has framed most interpretations since, whether as commentary or in opposition. I’ve noticed that American conductors, including Michael Tilson-Thomas, an acknowledged master of the score, generally turn out bracing, celebratory music, stronger on birth and rebirth than on the human sacrifice, remember, that ends it. No such thing from Boulez, where dread’s in there from the downbeat: his interpretation hardly lacks excitement, but its inexorable, juggernaut tread is as intent on the bad news as the good, aware of the piece not only as breakthrough of all apparent limits but as prophecy of the devastation to come. As compensation, you hear notes and details that other performances obscure: Boulez is intent on presenting the entire picture, fact and vision both. I think it’s his best recording of the Sacre, and if you listen well, O Wolves, you’ll know you’ve been through something when it’s over. Next week Yevgeny Svetlanov keeps it Russian, and for this week’s ending Piaf sings Y a pas printemps and me I say you wanna bet?

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