Readers and listeners, here’s wishing you a very happy, and hopefully relaxing, Memorial Day weekend.
On Monday I went to the premiere screening of a restored version of Meredith Monk’s “Quarry” at Anthology Film Archives. (Seth Colter Walls did a fascinating interview with her a few days before, with excerpts from the restoration.)
There are dated aspects to the piece, but also passages of great beauty and performances of intense commitment. (Here, in very much not restored footage, is an amazing Ping Chong as the nameless Dictator.) It was a poignant moment when, during a question and answer period after the screening, the handful of original performers who were in the audience were asked to stand.
I hadn’t known that the aching solo that opens Ms. Monk’s breakthrough album “Dolmen Music” (as “Gotham Lullaby”) is at the core of “Quarry.” I can’t think of a better way to observe Memorial Day than Björk’s cover of the piece, performed in Germany on Sept. 11, 2001:
Next weekend brings, to Amsterdam, the staged presentation of a significant portion of scenes from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seven-opera cycle, “Licht.” (We will have reporters on the ground covering it; I reviewed a one-act preview — specifically, the second act from “Dienstag aus Licht” — during the Dutch National Opera’s Opera Forward Festival last year.)
As Ben Miller writes in this sharp preview, productions of these operas have been hard to come by — in part because of Stockhausen’s extraordinary staging requirements. Most famous of these, perhaps, is the “Helicopter String Quartet,” from “Mittwoch aus Licht,” in which each member of a string quartet boards a different helicopter, and plays the work after taking off into the air.
Paradoxically, this most difficult-to-stage portion of “Licht” has long been the easiest section of the cycle to hear at home. While recordings of most of “Licht” can only be purchased by mail order, from the Stockhausen Verlag, a studio recording of the “Helicopter String Quartet” has long been more widely available on a release by the Arditti String Quartet.
You won’t derive any sense of the overall “Licht” narrative from this string quartet, though the work does provide a look at Stockhausen’s vibrant imagination, as tremolo playing from the string instruments collides with the whirring of propeller blades. SETH COLTER WALLS
On Sunday, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Leon Botstein led The Orchestra Now in a program called “Abstraction in Music and Art,” tied to one of the Met’s current exhibitions. With just about 45 minutes of playing, this was more of a lecture than it was a traditional orchestral concert. But the stretches of commentary and the performances both had their moments.
Mr. Botstein delivered some learned, witty remarks (complete with slide show) on the aesthetic ties between Anton Webern, Morton Feldman and the visual art scenes of their respective eras. Webern’s “Six Pieces for Orchestra” was played sensitively, twice, both before and after the intermission.
Yet the real star of the show was the belated New York premiere of Feldman’s “Orchestra”: a nearly 20-minute work of drifting sublimity that predates the composer’s “Neither,” a one-act opera with a text by Samuel Beckett.
Mr. Botstein and the players did justice to the strangeness of “Orchestra.” A meditative mood prevailed through whisper-quiet passages and more formidable, massed ones. And the strings brought a sneaky sense of unease to the haunting melodic line that reappears throughout the work’s final minutes.
That same riff turns up, later, in “Neither” — as well as in “Elemental Procedures,” another piece that Feldman drafted before the opera. (Feldman fans can find recordings of both “Orchestra” and “Elemental Procedures” on a recent recording from the Wergo label.) SETH COLTER WALLS
The pianist Daniil Trifonov is clearly drawn to the turbulent, mercurial, sometimes downright strange elements of Schumann’s fantastical piano music, as he showed earlier this year in a recital at Carnegie Hall. That evening he performed the quirky collection of short pieces called “Bunter Blätter” (“Colored Leaves”), almost never played complete, and tore through another rarity, the “Presto Passionato.” (He will play that program again on July 26 at Caramoor in Katonah, N.Y.)
Last Saturday Mr. Trifonov played Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the Met Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall. (The orchestra returns with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on June 3 and June 14.) Not surprisingly, he brought out the rhapsodic Romanticism of the music. Yet I was even more impressed by the grace and clarity of his playing, especially in the dreamy slow movement and the buoyant, rippling finale.
Here he is in an excerpt from the finale, from a 2017 performance in Lisbon. The intricate arpeggio figures that go through a sequence of shifting keys sound almost Mozartian here. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
On Monday, the composer and pianist Kelly Moran completed a residency at Roulette in Brooklyn with a selection of prepared-piano works that have occupied three of her recent releases — “Bloodroot” (one of our “best classical recordings” picks, in 2017), as well as the subsequent full-length “Ultraviolet” and the EP “Origin,” both of which use electronics in a more prominent way.
I was, once again, delighted by the pieces from “Bloodroot.” But I also found myself enjoying later ones just as much. In works like “Helix,” the electronic, granular low end of Ms. Moran’s setup suggests the gravitas of a pipe organ — and also works as a foil for her graceful and percussive live pianism. SETH COLTER WALLS