Thoughts and notes as the season winds down
1. Frank Almond sent me a note about the 2010-11 Frankly Music season. Frankly was fabulous 09-10 and looks to be again next year. Almond, the MSO’s concertmaster, draws in A-list musical friends from far and near for his chamber music series, which has added so much to musical life in Milwaukee. Click here for an overview of the season, which includes a tango program featuring Stas Venglevski, the city’s go-to accordionist. (Almond’s 2009-2010 season, by the way, is spilling into the middle of summer. Don’t overlook the evening of piano trios, with cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park, set for 7 p.m. July 1 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.)
3. Edo de Waart and Antwerp. When I interviewed Edo de Waart, the Milwaukee Symphony’s music director, about Mahler’s Third Wednesday, we also talked about his new appointment as music director of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, in Antwerp. That contract starts in the fall of 2012 and runs through 2016-17.
De Waart, a smashing artistic and box-office success in his first year with the MSO, will move his wife and two young children from Middleton, WI, to Antwerp this summer. At first glance, you might think that means he will devote less attention to the MSO. That will not be the case.
First, de Waart will give up the reins of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, which he has led for several years, after next season. As of the fall of 2012, his 17-hour flight from one orchestra to another will shrink to seven hours. De Waart, 69, also said that the drive between Middleton, his wife’s home town, and Milwaukee was more taxing than he expected.
He admitted to being travel-weary.
“It’s the end of the season, and I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it in my bones.”
Weariness, though, is not the main reason for taking the Antwerp post. De Waart, a native of the Netherlands, has been working mainly in the U.S. for decades. He’s grown nostalgic for European life.
“When I see those buildings from 1500, from 1600, I have a feeling of being attached to what came before me,” he said. “I like that feeling. It means a lot to me.
“You get more sentimental when you get older. My daughter sees it. We’ll be watching TV and some scene of Europe, a place I know, will come on, and she’ll say, ‘Oh, dad’s going to cry again.’ And she’s right, there will be a little tear.”
His contract with the MSO was recently extended through 2016-2017. As of the 2012-13 season, de Waart expects to conduct 12 weeks each in Milwaukee and Antwerp and three with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where his title is “artistic partner.”
4. Speaking of the MSO, the orchestra will return to New York and Carnegie Hall, for the first time since the Zdenek Macal era, on May 11, 2012.
That’s nice, but let’s not get too excited. The orchestra will play on the Spring for Music Festival, as one of six hinterland orchestras on six consecutive days, with very low ticket prices. Milwaukee is probably tied for second, in terms of status, with the New Jersey Symphony, after the Houston Symphony. After that come Nashville, Alabama and Edmonton. Spring for Music selected them to meet a complicated agenda, which I won’t get into here. (Click on the link above to find out more about that.)
I hope the MSO’s board and friends won’t go to New York looking for approval and validation. I remember how gloomy everyone was after the New York Times hammered the MSO in 1989. Likewise, don’t be popping your buttons excessively if New York raves the MSO. The measure of an orchestra is not how it is perceived in one night in one hall, but how it plays night after night at home.
5. My oh my you should see those UWM dance kids in Garth Fagan‘s From Before. They killed in a killer dance Thursday. Do go; repeat performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (June 4 and 5). Details and video here.
Fagan aside, this wildly uneven Summerdances program is outrageous to a degree I haven’t seen at UWM. Elizabeth Johnson’s shocker, What You’re Thinking, lives on the tantalizing and uncomfortable edge of perversity and satire. It is the most decadently sexy thing I’ve seen on stage in a long time and definitely not for the kids. I admire how the UWM student dancers wallowed in it with exhibitionist glee, a quality that is essential to such a dance. Performing it took courage and a great sense of humor.
Looking for arts events this weekend? Find them in Barbara Castonguay’s OnStage column.