Monsters in Berkeley

Since the Murray Perahia was much less interesting than Monsters of Grace, herewith is my submission on said topic:

Monsters in Berkeley
April 14, 1999

After a very stressful work week, it was really delightful to go to Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall and hear Murray Perahia's piano recital this past Sunday.

The program played was:

Bach: English Suite #5 in E minor
Beethoven: Sonata #6 in F Major
Beethoven: Sonata #14 in C-sharp minor
Schubert: Sonata in C Minor

Schubert (Liszt transcription):  Erlkonig
Schubert:  Standchen

I found the recital delightful.  Perahia's playing was filled with understated passion.  I was way up in the balcony and couldn't see his playing very well, so I just closed my eyes and listened.  Perahia's playing was a little heavy on the forte, but I still found his playing hypnotic, especially in the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata.  I'm a Schubert nut and my favorite piece of the entire performance was Perahia's closing piece, a delicate interpretation of Standchen.

Knock knock!  Knock knock!  Knock knock!
Who's there?  Who's there?  Who's there?

Philip Glass

The bigger news in Zellerbach Hall was last night's opening performance of the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson production Monsters of Grace.  After seeing Wilson's controversial production of Lohengrin at the Met last year, I was curious to see his collaboration with Glass, the modernist.

There was a very sparse turnout and the crowd wasn't the typical classical music crowd.  In fact, I think a few people thought it was a rock concert.  I don't like ushers permitting late seating, people climbing over me to get out of their seats to use the restroom then crawling over me again to return to their seats.  These dolts didn't even have the decency to wait until a pause in the program to do so. I almost expected them to whip out their Zippo lighters at the end for the flaming standing "O".

I need a map and compass to figure out Wilson, I would have liked a few words from him in the program.  What I got as far as a message was that in this over stimulated society people are groping endlessly and fruitlessly for meaning to their existence.  Life is not what it seems, viewed from any angle.  O.K. so what about the music?  Well it was the same warmed over Philip Glass from the early 1970's, driving rhythms pounded into your head over and over, interspersed with electric mandolin/lute/koto and wind instruments.  I felt the sound mixing left a great deal to be desired because the vocalists were amplified, but their words were largely unintelligible.  That was a pity, because what I could hear was interesting and no libretto was provided in the program.  Some of the 3-D images were slightly out of focus, most likely deliberately, so by the time I figured it out I could turn my attention to the libretto and the piece was near its end.  I found this very frustrating.  Some of Wilson's images were intriguing:  a gigantic foot descending from the ceiling a la Monty Python, a disembodied hand being probed by a needle then lascerated by a scalpel, and a family floating through an acquatic landscape perched on the roof of their house, only to be swallowed by a sea monster.  Then there were those damned light bars, straight from the Lohengrin production, and a floating chair.  Wilson has a "thing" about oddly placed chairs.

I'm glad I went but I'm not certain that I liked it.

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    MONSTER COOKIES  (My family never goes camping without these)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp Karo syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 4 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 8 oz chocolate chips or 1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Blend ingredients together in the order listed.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 12 minutes.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet & store in an air tight container.  Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

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