Idees, Pensee, Muses sur la musique & theatre

Shall we tap dance?

There is a dialogue in the Tony-winning play ClybournePark that’s guaranteed to generate laugh in the theater. This occurs in the scene when a white couple who are thinking of renovating a house they’re moving in and are having a meeting with a black couple who are the long-term residents in the neighborhood. The white male, feeling impatient after the discussion keeps circling around the “style” of their renovation, finally bursts out, “What good does that do if we perpetually fall into the same predictable little euphemistic tap dance around the topic?” The black male then retorts, “You know how to tap dance?”

I cannot help but think about this part when I watched the Taiwanese tap dance group “Dance Works” perform inBrooklynlast week. Who knows Asian can tap dance too! And they’re pretty good at it. While adhering to tap’s spirit of creative rhythm, they have added the elements of traditional Chinese movements. The result is a more tender and soft tap dance.

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Congratulations to Anthony Cheung!

New York Philharmonic announced that San Francisco-born composers Anthony Cheung is one of the three composers who will share The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic at the request of inaugural recipient Henri Dutilleux. The Kravis Prize for New Music is bestowed every two years for extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music, and French composer Henri Dutilleux was named the first recipient in 2011. Dutilleux decided that he would share the $200,000 award with three composers, each of whom would write a work to be performed by the Orchestra in his honor.

Born in 1982 in San Francisco, Anthony Cheung is a composer and pianist. As a performer and advocate for new music, he is artistic director and pianist of the Talea Ensemble inNew York. His music has been performed by the Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Linea, Musiques Nouvelles, Chicago Symphonyʼs MusicNOW, Dal Niente, International Contemporary Ensemble, Minnesota Orchestra, French National Orchestras of Lille andLorraine, Orchestra of the League of Composers, and eighth blackbird. Current projects include a Tremplin commission for the Ensemble intercontemporain and a Koussevitzky Foundation commission for the Talea Ensemble, both to premiere in 2012.

Cheung received his bachelor’s degree in music and history from Harvard University and his doctorate from Columbia University, where he taught and served as assistant conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra. Most recently, he was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Cheung will spend the 2012–13 season inRomeas a recipient of the Rome Prize, and he will begin a teaching appointment at theUniversityofChicagoin 2013.

Wang Liang goes Hitchcock

From the same creative team that gave you “The Alan Gilbert and the Grand Macabre” show, New York Philharmonic presents you the CONCERT CAB featuring Principal Oboe Wang Liang and Assistant Timpani Kyle Zerna.

 Taking a cab inNew Yorkwill never be the same after this…

Lang Lang’s Jubilee sendoff

Lang Lang was invited to play at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, and Telegraph was not happy about it. James Rhodes asked in the paper: “Why was there no British pianist at the Jubilee concert? Lang Lang playing butchered Gershwin isn’t good enough.”

 Technically, Lang Lang wasn’t the only performer from a non-Common Wealth country in that concert. Renee Fleming and Stevie Wonder were the other two. (Fleming sang from the balcony of the Buckingham Palace nonetheless!) But I guess since they are from the America, which was a former British colony, we’ll let it pass.

I understand Mr. Rhodes’ frustration. Is the Jubilee Concert supposed to be a showcase of British talent? Arguably so. Are there good British pianists? Surely there are. But is there another pianist who is also a household name worldwide? Arguably not.

Rhodes suggested three other British pianists – Stephen Hough, Paul Lewis and Benjamin Grovesnor. He also suggested that the reason they were passed over was that Lang Lang has a big record company (Sony) with better connection and deep packet. I’m not too sure about that. I think the simple reason is that Lang Lang is more entertaining than anyone else: Just look at the way he dressed – faux military ceremonial suit – and the way he selectively played only the flashiest parts of two two pieces – Hungarian Rhapsody which sequed into Rhapsody in Blue.

It’s clear this is not the occasion to be subtle and understated but to make the biggest gesture on an outdoor stage where tens of thousands of people congregated to be entertained. To suggest this four-minutes performance could have been an advocacy for the classical music is hoping for too much – even for a queen.

Bright Sheng’s “Intimacy of Creativity” in Hong Kong

The composer Matt Van Brink posted a very interesting article on NewMusicBox about his participating in this year’s “The Intimacy of Creativity,” a chamber music workshop program in Hong Kong created by Bright Sheng 盛宗亮. Sheng lives in Flushing and has been very active in New York’s music scene. He has done a lot of programs with the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts. But I didn’t know of this one in Hong Kong.

The program adapts the workshop model common in theater and literary world to the creation of chamber music. Young composers present their works in front of experienced composers and student performers, who in turn give feedback. Van Brink write, “[f]or the composers, the open discussion and rehearsal of our music compelled us to see our own works more objectively, opening the door to revision. For the performers, it was an opportunity to engage and connect with the works, and to pass along that excitement to the audience.”

Diamonds are also Chinese girl’s best friend

Asia Society has invited the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe for two performances of “The Lanke Mountain”. This piece is not performed often. All the more reason to see it! The story follows the heroine, Cui, who divorces her husband and then attempts to reunite with him when he becomes financially successful. What a revolutionary-minded gal!

Kunqu was developed during the late Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), and is said to have evolved from theatrical forms that go back to the third century B.C. Kunqu’s emergence ushered in a golden age of Chinese drama in which it dominated Chinese theatre from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

Kunqu is known for its elegant performing style. In Kunqu, music, dance and acting are all integrated into a seamless and fluid performance. Most of the popular pieces in the Kungqu repertory are love stories. But The Lanke Mountain is a “moral tale featuring slapstick comedy,” which adds another incentive to see it.

Dr. Lang Lang

Lang Lang had a very busy weekend. (So, what’s new?) On Friday (May 11), he received a Degree of Doctor Musical Arts, honoris causa from the Manhattan School of Music. The next day, he played a sold-out recital (again, what’s new?) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Neither Puccini nor Verdi was on the program. Instead, Lang Lang played Bach, Chopin and Schubert. The same program will be repeated later this month at Carnegie Hall.