Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Wine Bar and a Cathedral

Before heading over to Lincoln Center, WCT and I had dinner at Barcibo Enoteca, an Italian tapas and wine bar. WCT did an interesting thing: she picked buffalo mozzarella and Quadrella di Bufula, a semi soft-washed buffalo milk cheese from Lombardy, for the comparison, she said. The salame she chose was a tasty dry aged cured meat, Bresaoloa. I started on a refreshing glass of Lugana while waiting for WCT, and drank Monica, a red wine from Sardinia, during the meal. My pulpo, calamari and shrimp salad was fresh and tasty, though I could not deal with so much octopus tentacle. Putting together a restaurant is a kind of art, Barcibo suggested.

The Cleveland Orchestra played as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. For their concerts here, Music Director and conductor Franz Welser-Möst has paired three Bruckner symphonies with works by John Adams. He was quoted in the program as saying: "I sometimes say that Bruckner is in many ways the grandfather of minimalism and I truly believe that the music of John Adams would be unthinkable without what Bruckner wrote." The program note continued, "Welser-Möst's discussion of the connection brings much to the table, from Bruckner's rhythmic intensity and repetition to his protean bits," or in Welser-Möst's words, the "small little elements he uses to build something much larger and extremely powerful."John Adams touched on this structural grandeur when he explained that he is a fan of "large-scale, formal architecture."

I was also struck by Adams' claim that he has never abandoned tonality in his compositions. "I use tonal centers, " he said, "to create very large landscapes." This reminds me of Matisse's allegiance to the human figure throughout his career, and Eliot's connection to meter, which he renovated but never abandoned. After the concert, WCT and I talked about artists who find themselves in the transitional period between two great aesthetic movements--in the case of Bruckner, between Romanticism and Modernism--and having to decide what to keep of the old and what to invent of the new. Matisse in his Cubist phase is another example of such a struggle. I believe we are now in another such transition. Post-modernism is running out of steam, but what is next?

I felt I was able to "follow" John Adams' Guide to Strange Places (2001) because of its architecture. The program described the intensities as dark, but I felt it as restful though surging. The music was not lost; it knew where it was going. Weird coincidence. I came across a reference to Nixon in China yesterday while reading Carl Phillips' Paris Review interview of Geoffrey Hill. Hill's wife, Alice Goodman, wrote the libretto for the Adams opera.

The Cleveland Orchestra played Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major (1876) with passionate conviction. The minimalist elements were more obvious to me in the first two movements, both Adagios, than in the last two movements. The finale seemed to look back to Beethoven more than it looked forward. I joked to WCT that I will remember No. 5 as the two-note symphony, since out of that bit of stone the composer built a cathedral. The orchestra was given a standing ovation. Fewer people left hurriedly than at a typical New York Philharmonic performance.

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