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Monday, February 8, 2010

Liveblogging REDISCOVERED PROKOFIEV

Phew what a liveblog that was! If you're wondering what the hell all that was about, there was, up in here, a live broadcast from Yale University of some extremely rare Prokofiev pieces, headed up by pianist Boris Berman, one of Prokofiev's very greatest champions.

8:21 Okay if you're just joining the concert, you missed an EXCELLENT duet between Robert Blocker and Boris Berman, playing waltzes for four hands. Boris Berman is delivering some fine commentary between pieces, which he hopes will not duplicate the information in the program, which, how often does THAT happen. Double-bravo, Berman. Okay the ballet music is starting.

8:24 The sound and picture are remarkably fine. I've got one computer streaming full screen this whilst I, thanks to the generosity of a certain someone, am blogging it on a borrowed laptop, and even in full screen there's very little distortion of the image. But the sound is what counts more than anything, and crankin' it on my stereo, I've got few complaints (although, after that raucous piano duet, my neighbors might have a few).

8:30 Berman's claims for Trapeze as a major work are pretty well born out by this performance.

8:32 Uh oh—buffering problems. I'ma pause this stream and see if that helps?

8:33 It didn't help much. The ADVANTAGE of watching this via live stream, of course, is that when the stream is less than smooth, I can have a drink of this beer instead of worrying too much about it.

8:36 Cripes those fiddles are ON FIRE. Fully committed.

8:39 1st violin is playing con sordino now—I can't believe how well orchestrated this piece is, given the funky instrumentation: 2 violins, clarinet, oboe, bass. By all rights, this should result in instruments picking up some really unidiomatic materials, or unsettling gaps in the texture, or SOMETHING, but no, the parts snap together like a jigsaw puzzle.

8:43 Wait I said two violins, that is clearly a VIOLA. Christ, I am going to VIOLA HELL for that.

8:45 Oh god, the switchboard is lighting up, the angry calls are coming in, LOOK, HE WAS PLAYING IN HIS UPPER REGISTERS, I'M WATCHING THIS ON A TINY SCREEN, ANYONE COULD HAVE MADE THAT MISTAKE.

8:49 Was totally enraptured by more excellent string writing—then alienated by more streaming problems. I think if I'm going to watch this in HD with my DSL connection I can't keep consulting the e-program. NO WASTING PRECIOUS BANDWIDTH.

8:51 The phone rang. I paused the stream to answer it. It was a pollster. Whoever paid for that poll is going to hell.

8:53 [applauding] Hey I'm gonna go get my laundry out of the dryer, brb.

9:00 Back. Hey, I can see pianist Ilya Poletaev in the fourth row! HI ILYA!

9:07 More excellent remarks from Berman—they're going to bring on LIVE DANCERS for this piece, y'all.

9:08 Hahaha those outfits are AMAZING.

9:11 I'm fully going to allow this. There is something super-Soviet about those dudes' tops.

9:13 BERMAN IS CLAPPING RHYTHMICALLY.

9:15 The stream just cut out totally. "Off Air" it says at the bottom of the screen. Attempting to refresh.

9:16 Annnnnnnnd we're back. At least it wasn't my fault this time—the number of viewers online is listed at the bottom of the screen, and it dropped from 80 to nobody and is still rising.

9:17 Connection still jittery.

9:24 I think it would be much harder to make a case for this piece as a major work—Berman remarked that the intended context of the original performance, an outdoor athletic exhibition, didn't offer much room for subtlety in the score, but even with a grain of salt, it's hard for me to get terrifically excited about this on the concert stage. It's easy to see why Berman, as he put it, didn't want to deprive the work of its physical component—it doesn't really transcend its incidental role.

9:29 Opera excerpts coming up. I am rather stoked, actually. I need a lot more Russian opera in my life.

9:31 Berman is giving a detailed synopsis of the scene; the opera is apparently a farce about students, love, and arctic exploration. I am very, very sad that it was never completed beyond the first fifteen minutes.

9:35 Actually, from that description I expected something of a throwaway work, but this is really, really lovely. These harmonies are actually, like, intoxicating—and Berman's playing is making a complex introduction sing out.

9:37 How much longer until these webcasts come with subtitles? THEN we will TRULY be living in the future.

9:47 I am now eating a delicious dinner whilst enjoying the opera scene. I have to say, the singers seem very well-suited to this repertoire, just in terms of their instruments.

9:55 Streaming jitters keep coming back, past few minutes, grr. There's also the technical matter of miking singers who won't stand still, but that's rather to be expected, ain't it.

9:59 [applauding s'more]

10:00 The End.

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