Sunday, March 19, 2006

Wall to Wall Stravinsky

I headed down to the Upper West Side yesterday half expecting to merely snap a few photos of the horrendous line of people waiting to get in to Symphony Space to see a portion of "Wall to Wall Stravinsky," which was free (with suggested donation) and ran from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. But as it turned out, there was no line outside, and actually not so few empty seats inside. Guess Stravinsky doesn't have the same kind of popular appeal anymore that Sondheim did. The living composer's music was the focus of last year's "Wall to Wall" event, an annual affair, which I'd kicked myself for missing.

I caught about a fifth of the 12-hour marathon, and heard some lesser-known pieces, mostly chamber music and vocal works, that confirmed my interest and appreciation of his music, without making me run out and want to buy much of it. Probably the highlight of the portion I saw was hearing one Rachel Schutz sing "Anne Truelove's Aria" from Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress. I also liked hearing Ballad from The Fairy's Kiss (Divertimento), scored for violin and piano. Too bad the aria was marred by an overeager audience, who attempted to applaud Schutz twice before the aria was finished, a turn of events that surprised me considering the group's restraint during previous multi-movement works.

Since people were able to come and go as they please throughout the program, there was the occasional rustling of bags and jackets to contend with, and of course the obligatory cell phone or two, but the groundlings (myself included) mostly kept it down to a dull roar, and we were able to appreciate the cheap to free music. (And even nod off, if we chose, as one snoring music fan did so audibly.)

During an intermission, I happened upon artistic director Isaiah Sheffer, who can often be found milling about the audience at "Selected Shorts" shows and asked to shake his hand for being a part of that great childhood memory of listening to the radio broadcast of him and the stories on public radio growing up. I said he's almost like a celebrity to me, to which he replied that if that was so, he was the best known of the unknowns.

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