Let's take a look at a short film I made with Musicians of Ma'alwyck
to honor the big Beethoven birthday just passed.
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Friday, February 26, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021
NOVELIST WILLIAM BOYD has long been fascinated by the movies. His 1987 novel The New Confessions combined a nod to Rousseau with an effective evocation of filmmaking in the 1920s; he has also adapted two of his novels for film and two for television. As if that weren’t enough, he wrote and directed the British war drama “The Trench” in 1999.
Boyd’s latest novel, Trio, takes us to world of motion pictures again, where he settles in very comfortably to give us a portrait of three movie-world participants and the variety of characters they have to deal with along the way. We’re in Brighton in 1968, where a company is filming “Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon,” which seems very typical for a time that brought us such fare as “Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?,” “The Magic Christian,” and “The Bed Sitting Room.”
Threeness abounds in this book. We follow the protagonists through three different book-sections: “Duplicity,” “Surrender,” and “Escape.” Each has some manner of significant other, but another other soon comes on the scene. And the action cuts from one story to another with the deft rhythms of a good suspense saga.
Friday, February 19, 2021
From the Food Vault Dept.: Schenectady’s restaurant profile has never matched its demographics, but every now and then a dining establishment pops up that strays from the white-bread norm. How nice to see a New Orleans-inspired eatery appear a decade ago on a stretch of Union Street that was threatening to become a vital restaurant row; how tragic to see the place shuttered a few years later because of unpaid taxes. At the space now is a restaurant called Malcolm’s, diligently struggling through the pandemic.
RECOGNIZED – AT LAST! I maintain an impressive anonymity at this job, despite frequent in-print descriptions of my size and usual dining companions, not to mention a scattering of likenesses in the webosphere. But, compared to many other markets, Capital Region restaurateurs don’t worry as much about reviews. They don’t post photos in kitchens; they require no need for pseudononymous credit cards.
|Photo by B. A. Nilsson|
Perched, or I should say newly landed on the service counter, across which all of the restaurant’s finished dishes are passed, was a strange amalgam of flying saucer and hero sandwich. It was large – about 12 inches in diameter, and half of that high if you measure to the top of the toothpick securing each of the sandwich’s quarters.
This is the muffuletta, a sandwich that may exemplify New Orleans better than any other single item. It’s a true melting-pot item, for starters, one that literally came together at the French Quarter’s Central Grocery early in the 1900s, named for the style of Sicilian loaf used for the sandwich or for one of its original customers.
Monday, February 15, 2021
From the Classical Vault Dept.: Capitol Chamber Artists presented 50 seasons of intimate works throughout the Albany, NY, area. Not surprisingly, their activities were put on pandemic hold. Here’s a look back at one of their charmingly themed events, this one from 1985.
Capitol Chamber Artists continues to prove that you don’t need to import a glamour group from Europe for a fine chamber-music performance. In fact, the community-based ensemble provides a sense of neighborly informality that contributes a lot to the fun to the group’s concerts.
Introduced by violinist Mary Lou Saetta and flutist Irvin Gilman, the opening work was Louis Haber’s “Six Miniatures for Flute and Violin.” Haber, himself a practicing violinist, wrote the piece while working on the Broadway show “Subways Are for Sleeping,” Gilman explained.
The six movements, which range from a march to a pastorale to a delightful South American dance, combine the instruments quite skilfully, and offer each a chance to display its voice. The performance, all the way through the fast perpetuum-mobile finale, was first-rate.
Friday, February 12, 2021
From the Classical Vault Dept.: Another sweep of the classical-music offerings in the Albany, NY, area in early 1985. And you can see my review of the Munich Chamber Orchestra concert here.
WE’RE BEING GIVEN a valentine all this year thanks to a year that was “portentious to the annals of music,” as an old source book (from which I once copied a school-assigned report) began. In 1685. Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti were born, and this year the classical-music boys are going berserk with celebrations.
|George Frideric Handel|
There’s a Handel Spectacular slated for this weekend, a tribute to the big German-English composer by the Capitol Chamber Artists. (They say that Handel was in a restaurant in England once where he ordered a huge meal, then waited and waited for it to be served. He asked the waiter about the delay. “I thought I should wait for the rest of the company,” the waiter explained. “De gompany!” Handel bellowed. “I am de gompany!” (This story comes from the same source book from which I stole that phrase in the opening sentence.)
Monday, February 08, 2021
Guest Blogger Dept.: We welcome, at his debut in this blog, the very prolific Barry Pain (1864-1928), whose series of Eliza books are among the funniest books in the English language, certainly influential precursors to P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome. Here’s the opening chapter of the first book.
“SUPPOSE,” I SAID to one of the junior clerks at our office the other day, “you were asked to describe yourself in a few words, could you do it?”
I believe there are but few people who could give you an accurate description of themselves. Often in the train to and from the city, or while walking in the street, I think over myself—what I have been, what I am, what I might be if, financially speaking, it would run to it. I imagine how I should act under different circumstances—on the receipt of a large legacy, or if for some specially clever action I were taken into partnership, or if a mad bull came down the street. I may say that I make a regular study of myself. I have from time to time recorded on paper some of the more important incidents of our married life, affecting Eliza and myself, and I present them to you, gentle reader, in this little volume. I think they show how with a very limited income—and but for occasional assistance from Eliza’s mother I do not know how we should have got along—a man may to a great extent preserve respectability, show taste and judgment, and manage his wife and home.
Friday, February 05, 2021
From the Food Vault Dept.: Albany’s Dumpling House was a revered institution during its two decades of operation, an old-school sit-down restaurant a little off the beaten path, but near enough to a Interstate exit to make it a convenient destination. Here’s a snapshot from two decades ago. The “Ron” who’s named as dining companion in the piece was actually Metroland’s founder and then-publisher, Peter Iselin.
THE STORY OF CHINESE FOOD in America, like that of most other cultures whose cuisine is here embraced, is one of evolution. To put it another way, it becomes less about Asia and more about what this country likes to eat.
Take the case of General Tso’s chicken. An immensely popular Chinese dish, it was born in the U.S., although it still (as far as I could determine) has a murky history. According to one source, General Tso is a historic figure who has taken on the aspect of a bogeyman – “Behave yourself, or General Tso will get you.” Another source suggests that the recipe originated in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
I once worked with a chef who studied Asian cookery and decided that you could make a reasonably authentic-seeming Chinese dish by sauteeing garlic and ginger with a dash of sherry in a wok, add meat and vegetables, season it and finish with a little cornstarch. I suspect that this philosophy was behind the creation of the Chicken of General Tso.
Monday, February 01, 2021
From the Classical Vault Dept.: Here’s a little snapshot of the Albany, NY-area concert scene at the beginning of 1985, when the Albany Symphony was weaving more recent works in with the classics (as it still, admirably, does), and when top-flight artist would land in the area for a performance or two.
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL doesn’t share the reputation as troublemaker which both Beethoven and George Antheil had; still, his “Royal Fireworks Music” shares a place in the popular repertory with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a place that Antheil’s Sympbony No. 4 doesn’t enjoy. So you don’t have to be a troublemaker to insure lasting attention to your music, although it might help.
But Antheil outdid them for sheer noisiness. He spent many years in Europe, particularly with the Berlin State Opera. When he returned to the U.S. in 1933 he worked for a while as a journalist before traveling to “Mecca” (read “Hollywood”) to compose for movies, although his most often-heard score was for a British film, Ealing Studio’s “The Lavender Hill Mob,” which starred Alec Guinness and featured scenes in a fiery casting foundry.