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October 12, 2014

Recorder Visitation from Three Part Fugue

RecorderTrio.jpgThe promise from Capital Early Music and Three Part Fugue's members-- Héloïse Degrugillier, Emily O'Brien, and Roy Sansom--was to show a full spectrum of what a recorder concert could deliver. Indeed the October 10, 2014, "Recorder Kaleidoscope," a program of renaissance, baroque, and contemporary compositions played on recorders varying in size and range from the six-foot contrabass to the ten-inch sopranino exceeded the Dresser's satisfaction quotient. The concert was performed in the acoustically satisfying sanctuary of St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia.

Among the compositions played that was particularly unique for a recorder concert was the jazzy "Kadanza" by the contemporary Dutch composer Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk. This energetic piece that features a percolating beat expresses what is new and old in recorder music, making it a perfect choice for the work that followed.

"Trio sonata in F (after organ trio in C)" by J. S. Bach, the second concert selection, showcased O'Brien playing the contrabass, an instrument that adds depth in the way an organ might. Because this instrument is so large, there is a delay between delivery of the musician's breath and sound production. So part of the pleasure in hearing this lyrically soothing three-movement work was watching O'Brien make the contrabass speak.

Three short Renaissance pieces--the pastoral "In mijnen zin" by Alexander Agricola, the breathy song-like "Helas mon bien" by Jacob Obrecht, and the stately air "Tander naken" by Henry VIII--followed and lead beautifully into the dance composition "Canarios" by Gaspar Sanz. Sanz wrote "Canarios" for classical guitar and Roy Sansom and Héloïse Degrugillier coordinated the composition for recorders, including additions of original divisions (rapid scale-like passages that connect notes of the melody) written by Degrugillier.

After an intermission, the selection turned to two playful compositions from the Middle Ages: "Una pantera" by Johanes Ciconia and "Par maintes foy" by Jehan Vaillant. The latter piece, which featured sopraninos to capture the birds depicted in this spritely work, was introduced by O'Brien with a engaging dramatic reading of an accompanying text.

Two ambitious and serious works--"Abendkonzert" by Modernist Paul Hindemith and "Trio" by baroque composer C. P. E. Bach--bookended four fantasias by Renaissance composers Edward Blankes ("Fantasie VI"), William Byrd ("Fantasia a 3"), Olando Gibbons ("Fantasia I and II"), and John Bull ("Fantasia") to complete a thorough exploration of musical periods.

Three Part Fugue based in Boston is an ensemble with multi-talented members who demonstrated through their program selections and performance the intelligent care and passion they each bring to the recorder as an instrument that can stand on its own for entire concert. Capital Early Music is to be commended for bringing them to the Washington, DC area and attracting a large appreciative audience.

In Ellen Steinbaum's poem "Visitation," the reader experiences an ensemble of voices, where the form using indented lines encourages two different ways of reading the poem until the last two stanzas that counter demand to unite into one voice in a call to join two people romantically. This is much like what one experiences in hearing the different players on instruments with varying tonal range in a chamber group like Three Part Fugue.


I saw the wings first.
.............We were in his kitchen cooking
.............onion soup, a recipe we had each
.............made before, alone. He was slicing
.............onions. I stirred stock, tried to remember
.............where he keeps the skimmer, and
I saw it, an enormous
folding in of wings, dark grey and brown and
startling white against the
falling snow.
.............Carmen had just sung
.............l'amour est un oiseau rebelle.
.............I called him to the window and
.............we stood together long unmoving minutes,
.............willing it to stay.
It was a red-tailed hawk, we later learned by
matching pictures--shape of head and
dangerous beak, size and color, spread of wings.
Later, too, we heard online
the call it might have made
.............though it made none, only stared
.............into us with animal knowing while
.............we held our breath. The hawk, less
impressed, had seen our kind before, watched
for moving food then tired of us,
flew away.

by Ellen Steinbaum
from Brightness Falls

Copyright © 2013 Ellen Steinbaum

Photo byJulie O'Brien shows from left to right Emily O'Brien with contrabass recorder, Roy Sansom with tenor recorder, Héloïse Degrugillier with a base recorder

October 24, 2014

Going toe to toe with Cubism at the Met

On October 20, 2014, Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection opened to the public in seven galleries of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Dresser tiptoed in that day with a swarm of others eager to see this donated collection of 81 Cubist works mostly spanning 1907 to 1918. WomanInArmChairSM.jpgMore importantly, this exhibition includes 34 pieces by Pablo Picasso, 17 by Georges Braque who initiated this style of artwork, and 15 works each by Juan Gris and Fernand Léger.

The show, curated by Met curator Rebecca Rabinow and art historian Emily Braun who helped Leonard Lauder assemble this collection, organizes the evolution of Cubism, showing how Braque, the Cubism innovator, was surpassed by Picasso in 1913. However, they worked together from about 1908 to the beginning of World War I in 1914, when Braque enlisted with the French army.

Paul Cézanne influenced both Braque and Picasso but Braques painted still lifes while Picasso tended toward figures in motion. Opening the show are three paintings by Braque bridging between Fauvism and Cubism, including "Trees at L'Estaque." trees-at-lestaque-1908-braquesSM.jpgThe Met Cubism show includes two studies for Picasso's proto-cubist masterpiece "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."

Represented in the show are works of Analytic Cubism (emphasizing multiple perspectives within an amorphous framework of geometric shapes--this was developed by Braque and Picasso 1909-10 and reached its high point in 1911), Cubism collage (invented by Braque), and Synthetic Cubism (also invented by Picasso and Braque, it features overlapping planes and more subject definition and color). Another development that bridged from Analytic to Synthetic Cubism was the introduction of deconstructed words. Two favorites in this category shown in the exhibition are Picasso's 1914 "Bottle of Bass and Glass" and Braques 1911 "Still Life with Dice."StillLifeWithDiceSM.jpg

The Dresser expects she will see this show again and hopefully under less crowded conditions. While she enjoyed the more colorful and manicured works of Gris and Léger, for this review she spent most of her time on pointe with the Picassos and Braques.

With Tender Buttons, a long love poem published in 1914, Gertrude Stein took inspiration from the Cubism of her friends George Braque and Pablo Picasso. The second stanza of "Shoes.", a subpoem of section 1 "Objects" of Tender Buttons seems to point at Braque's "Still Life with Dice"--broken word rose or is that eros, which means erotic love? (Need the Dresser bring further attention to Stein's shallow hole rose on red?) And was Picasso influenced by Stein's diminishment of ale such that Picasso's ale of choice, Bass Ale, has lost an S and what with B highlighted in bright light, the AS standing on its own seemingly suggesting the French word as or ace (the card) in English. Voilà, the ace to the right side of the canvass. And look to the left of the B, there are black and white dice! Ha, baby needs new shoes!bass-GlassSM.jpg


To be a wall with a damper a stream of pounding way and nearly enough choice makes a steady midnight. It is pus.

A shallow hole rose on red, a shallow hole in and in this makes ale less. It shows shine.

by Gertrude Stein
from Tender Buttons, section 1 "Objects"

"Woman In Arm Chair" by Pablo Picasso
"Trees at L'Estaque" by George Braque
"Still Life with Dice" by George Braque
"Bottle of Bass and Glass" by Pablo Picasso

About October 2014

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