Last weekend I saw another stellar violinist at the Folly Theater: Nicola Benedetti on the Harriman-Jewell Series. This was her second appearance on the series, first in her 2007 Kansas City debut on the Harriman-Jewell’s Discovery Series. I didn’t see that concert, but after listening to her recordings for a while now I was excited to not miss the chance to hear her live this month.
Benedetti picked very emotional, expressive Romantic repertoire, arguably just about perfect for the day after Valentine’s Day. I loved the Prokofiev sonata the best, though, b’duh! The only selection from the twentieth century, this one was the most compelling to me and I felt like each movement contributed to telling a larger story, and all together it had a depth that goes beyond your average sonata, I thought. Anyway if Benedetti’s in your town soon on this current tour, check her out! She’s a dynamic player. I’d love to see her do a concerto with full orchestra sometime.
Last Wednesday I braved the snowstorm to go downtown for violinist Gil Shaham‘s solo recital at the Folly Theater, courtesy of the Harriman-Jewell Series. Shaham performed two Bach partitas and one sonata, and Bolcom’s Second Suite for solo violin, which was composed specifically for him.
Shaham is a fun, dynamic musician to watch. He smiles, turns so every audience member will see him from different angles, and he even swayed along to one movement in the Bolcom. I found myself forgetting about the cold weather outside and losing myself listening to his treatment of Bach’s perpetual-motion lines and multi-layered phrases. The Bolcom was lyrical and playful, and there was some hushed chortling from the audience in spots… now, I will conceded that Shaham hammed up some of his harmonics and pizzicatos for humorous effect, but I wish that people didn’t default to giggling when they hear a newer piece on an otherwise “classical” concert. Just a little pet peeve of mine, sigh. Not that all music has to be serious or anything, of course! I don’t know, for me I just didn’t get a really “funny” vibe from the Bolcom, worthy of laughter. Still, I enjoyed Shaham’s recital overall. It’s always a thrill to see one of the masters in an intimate setting.
Not counting memoirs (that’s day 21), these four books encompass some of my favorite non fiction sub-genres. The First Family by Mike Dash is a meticulously detailed yet very readable history of the Italian-American Mafia in the United States starting with its beginnings in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is an eye-opening exposé of all the different foods that end up on our plate and the choices we face as consumers. The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross is a brief history of music in the twentieth century with particular focus on composers’ lives and cultural struggles. And of course, Truman Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood is a true crime novel about the brutal, senseless murder of a family in rural Kansas.