Monday, February 27, 2006

New York Philharmonic Trailblazes With Czeslaw Milosz/John Harbison World Premiere While Jerusalem and Baltimore Orchestras Reprise 20th Century

The classical music world's attention turned to Avery Fisher Hall in New York City this past week, when American conductor Robert Spano led American soprano soloist Dawn Upshaw and the New York Philharmonic in the world premiere of distinguished American composer John Harbison's settings of poems by Polish American Nobel-laureate poet and writer, Czesław Miłosz. Here is one of the poems (#7) sung (the poems are sung in English translations):

So Little
I said so little.
Days were short.

Short days.
Short nights.
Short years.

I said so little.
I couldn’t keep up.

My heart grew weary
From joy,

The jaws of Leviathan
Were closing upon me.

Naked, I lay on the shores
Of desert islands.

The white whale of the world
Hauled me down to its pit.

And now I don’t know
What in all that was real."

[Berkeley, 1969]

English translation by Czesław Miłosz and Lillian Vallee courtesy of Harper Collins Books.

And here is the Polish original, for budding Renaissance scholars:

(c) Czesław Miłosz via

A video of conductor Robert Spano discussing this world premiere is available here:

James M. Keller's Program Notes to this world premiere [with incorrect date of Czesław Miłosz's death] is available at:


And closer to my Washington, D.C. wintry sentry outpost, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, under Leon Botstein, will be performing tonight, at Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda, Maryland, Martinů's Památník Lidicím (Memorial to Lidice), Copland's Appalachian Spring, and Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. Due to the serious content of this program, remaining tickets are reported to be limited. [I last heard Martinů's Památník Lidicím with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.]

And this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday [Thursday at Strathmore Hall, Bethesda], the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under Andrew Constantine and featuring Russian violinist Sergey Khatchatryan, adopting only a slightly less serious look at the last century as well as a serious look at the role of African-Americans in classical music in 21st century America, will perform Hailstork's Intrada, Sibelius's Violin Concerto, and Prokofiev's The Ugly Duckling and suite from the ballet Cinderella.

An MP3 to an extract from the Sibelius Violin Concerto is available here:

St. Mary's Church on the Market Square (Rynek) in Krakow, Poland. Polish American Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz died in Krakow in August 2004 [not January 2004].

Inside this church is one of the German Renaissance Sculptor Veit Stoss's greatest masterpieces, the High Altar of Saint Mary 1477-1489.

Please see Emil Kren and Daniel Marx's Hungary based Euro-Web Gallery:

"The largest altar made at the end of the Gothic period (the principal figures measure 2,7 m, the whole structure 11,9 m high) is the masterpiece of Veit Stoss. Combining a primitive violence of emotion with technical mastery over the handling of forms, Stoss created an individual style that found imitations in Bohemia, Hungary, Poland and Transylvania.

The central section dominates the altarpiece. Its figures, far larger than life-size and arranged as if on stage, witness the death of the Virgin and her Assumption into heaven. Never before in a Late Gothic carved altarpiece had this subject been treated in so monumental a manner. Moreover, the treatment of the subject is unusual. Instead of being assembled at the deathbed, the Apostles stand, deeply moved, around the youthful Virgin as she kneels in prayer. Above them the gate of Heaven stands open with light pouring forth and the Virgin is led through by Christ. Above is the Coronation of the Virgin, where she is attended by two angels and the Polish national saints, Adalbert and Stanislaus. On the predella is a depiction of the Tree of Jesse. The outer wings, which are not movable, are decorated only on the inner sides. When the inner wings are closed a series of 12 reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin and life of Christ are visible. When the wings are open, the left-hand one shows the Annunciation with, below it, the Birth of Christ and the Adoration of the magi while on the right, the reliefs show the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost." ...

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Kren and Daniel Marx.

Photo credit: crees/
outreach/Krakow.htm With thanks.


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