Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Nico Muhly and Owen Pallett at Barbican Hall

An odd event at the Barbican Centre last week seemed to point to the future of the classical music concert-going experience. Over 1,500 youthful hipsters attended the innovative double feature. The Britten Sinfonia orchestra performed world premieres of compositions by Nico Muhly and Owen Pallett in the first half of the concert.

The piece by Pallett- a violinist and arranger with credits on recordings by R.E.M., The National and Arcade Fire- was dreadfully scratchy and painfully dry. Muhly's effort was much more enjoyable. He's perhaps best known for his work with Bjork, Grizzly Bear and Antony and the Johnsons. A lush work by Missy Mazzoli rounded out the classical portion of the show.

Muhly led an arty set of chamber folk after intermission. A surprising meditation on Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and a creepy rendition of "The Twa Sisters" floored me. I was less impressed by several self-conscious displays of Muhly's technical prowess.

Even so, I loved the cross-genre concept. I can't pretend to know if British kids receive much exposure to symphonic productions, but a similar audience in the United States would include many people who'd never previously experienced the unique power of three dozen classically-trained musicians playing as one. I suspect that many will be inclined to return to the home of the London Symphony Orchestra.

I purchased nine hours of Johann Sebastian Bach recordings for 99 cents at Amazon. The old recordings were made "before a tendency to reduce the size of choruses and orchestras and play with a sharp eye toward period practice had set in, and they may sound dated to some ears," according to a story by Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times. That's a fair analysis, but I dig the overblown old-school approach. The deal ends Friday, March 23.

"All the people that you can't recall…" It's probably been five years since I last listened to Little Feat. That's too long.

I'd trade the entire Sharon Jones catalog for Lee Fields' new album on Truth & Soul. It's that good.

Luther Dickinson on 78? How cool is that!

Joyce DiDonato's master class at Helzberg Hall on Wednesday was delightful.

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image of the Barbican lobby by There Stands the Glass.)

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