Saturday, March 16, 2013

New York Music

New York seems to be full of music tonight.  I assume the St. Patrick's day serenaders are in voice somewhere as the Irish release their pet snakes on the new world as vengeance for the potato.  But we were otherwise occupied; we took the subway from Murray Hill to Lincoln  Center, passing within earshot of  at least three buskers.   At Grand Central, there was a sort of Neo-Dixieland band with a strong beat, old guys who looked like they had been working together for years.  On the shuttle was a young guy unsubtle in his solicitation for money.  He said it was his first time; the guy next to me muttered "you're lying," and I think the guy next to me was right: the kid had pretty good R&B chops.  The woman across from me began to hum along and for a moment I thought I was watching the beginning of a flash mob, but no such luck.

At Times Square there was a steel drummer, loud enough to fill the  the tube up to 50th Street except he seemed to be suffering from some kind of mechanical function that was crimping his style.

All this was prep for the destination stop: Lincoln Center, to take in Alan Gilbert's presentation of the Bach's B Minor Mass.  This is one of those pieces of music that took the top of my head off when I first heard it in college--Hermann Scherchen, though I can't remember which orchestra (here is an old Scherchen although I don't think it is the one I remember--date is to late).  Anyway, imagine my surprise when I learned a couple of years later that it was a like, you know,  mass (I had grown up among Catholics but I never got the memo)

By his own account, Gilbert is trying to do something a little different with Bach these days--trying to move away from the austere, somewhat fussy "early music" purity that I grew up on (and loved, or love).  Gilbert has ideal equipment to work with: a fine orchestra and a first-class chorus, and for the Mass four topnotch soloists.  At the end, I'd have to say it didn't quite work: energetic and accessible but somewhat deficient in majesty and awe.  Call me a fogey but I like my Bach with majesty and awe.  Energy and accessibility we can leave to the buskers.

Of whom speaking, we saw four or five more on the trip  home, including a woman trying mightily to mount a disco act with two pre-schoolers.  At 10:30 at night.  Hope the kids had had naps.  Mama too.

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