Monday, March 10, 2008

We spent Sunday evening in Portsmouth at the Music Hall. There was a superb recital by violinist Joshua Bell, accompanied by pianist Jeremy Denk, played to an almost capacity crowd.

In line with the new style being adopted by many younger classical musicians, they dropped formalwear in favor of simple, casual black slacks and black silk shirts open at the neck. It’s an approach I’ve always thought made great sense, instead of having musicians engaged in a physically demanding activity trussed up in uncomfortable, hot garments in a style memorializing Queen Victoria’s perpetual mourning for her husband, Prince Albert.

The program consisted of four major works:
Giovanni Tartini’s Sonata for violin & continuo in G minor, “The Devil’s Trill”

Sergei Prokofiev’s violin Sonata #1

Antonin Dvorak’s Four Romantic Pieces for violin & piano, opus 75

Edvard Grieg’s Sonata #3 for violin & piano, opus 45

The two encores were

Fauré’s “Apres une reve”, arranged by Joshua Bell
Prokofiev’s March from “The Love for Three Oranges”, arranged by Jasha Heifitz

It was a demanding program technically but provided no obstacles for Bell, who had everything, from the elegance required by the Tartini to the raw power and stamina essential for the Prokofiev sonata.

Jeremy Denk (on the left) was an uncommonly interesting accompanist—in fact a rising soloist who came into the partnership more or less as an equal. He’s established strong partnerships with a large number of contemporary composers, spanning styles and generations from Ned Rorem and Elliot Carter to Jake Heggie, Tobias Picker, and Thomas Adès among others—many of them out gay composers who are redefining contemporary classical
music’s style and agendas.

Denk’s program bio devoted a great deal of space to his blog, “Think Denk”, quoting lavish praise for his knowledge and wit. The URL is


The boiler/evaporator’s going and the sap’s flowing pretty well. We’ve had a couple of thirty gallon days but today was a five gallon day—it all depends on the temperature split between nightly freezes and daily temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees.

We’re going to be pulling logs from one of our piles of trees cut down to clear the house site, cutting them into firewood to keep the evaporator going. It eats quite a bit of wood in the long, slow process of reducing 40 gallons of sap into one gallon of syrup. It’s been a cold, hard winter here and we’ve gone through three quarters of our firewood already, so it’s fortunate that we have a supply of seasoned wood ready to go.


A very busy week has begun up at the house. The company supplying our kitchen counters came this morning to assemble wood templates for each segment of counter. Because everything has to be in place exactly as it will be in the finished kitchen, that meant lifting the big soapstone sink from the rolling dolley onto its base between a bank of cabinets and the space reserved for the dishwasher. Its estimated weight is 400 pounds, but with four of us pressed into service (including our saleswoman from the tile and counter company, on the left), it proved surprisingly easy to do.

The "Frank Lloyd Wright" door that was my gift from MIT, now hung in the entrance door to the great room. On the right is the deep raspberry accent wall in the master bedrioom.

Later in the day, the glass guy came by for us to pick out our shower doors. Flooring starts to go down in the two big upstairs rooms tomorrow. Plumbing is ongoing. Gentle Giant Movers takes all my furniture from Boston, now stored in the barn, hauls it up the hill and stacks it in the great room on Thursday. The appliances from Sears are delivered on Friday. It’s all beginning to speed by faster and faster—it’s actually going to be finished and livable in the not too distant future!

>We’ve had a couple of thirty gallon days but today was a five gallon day

Which, if I'm remembering correctly, means that you have harvested enough for about a gallon and a half of maple syrup. Not bad!
ah...crawfish for maple syrup.

even trade???

I've only seen Joshua Bell play with a full orchestra, but he was terrific. Easy on the eyes, too.
I think our full take has been about 85 gallons. I just brought in seven and a half at mid-day. So, we'll have at least two gallons of syrup and more if gthe sap keeps flowing.

How would you send crayfish? I'm interested.

Both of them were easy on the eyes, but it was exciting to hear such passionate, fully committed playing. The standard complaint is that the younger generation of musicians is all about technical perfection with no feeling. Not these boys.

I know you'll understand because I'm sure you know a lot about technical perfection with feeling.
I love the raspberry wall. Joshua Bell is talented, beautiful, and he's gay. I saw he and Jeremy Denk perform in Edmonton. It was amazing even to my classically untrained ears.
As always, I'm impressed by your ability to balance so many different activities! It appears your home is shaping up nicely. The Frank Lloyd Wright design door looks beautiful, too. And, you're making your own maple syrup?! Amazing. Keep up the good works!
I love that door. What a piece of beauty! And leads into such a fantastic room. I can't believe you got to see J. Bell.... and you mentioned one of my favorite composers, Grieg. And who could forget the night I watched the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague at Dvorak hall.....
i don't think I care for the new casual look; i suppose it is based on the fear we are already too informal with dress and manners and how we greet each other.
I would be happy to return to full coat and tails and top hat....
I love Joshua Bell. He's amazing.

Nice kitchen, love the soapstone sink!
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