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Adept at mining the drama from history, Gunderson (“Silent Sky,” “I and You,” “By and By”) laces the text with necessary expository bits with great skill. Even someone with no understanding of Bauer and his place in the pantheon of nonobjective art instantly feels the tug of that world here. While the first few scenes feel a little slow, and the ending may be overproduced in terms of special effects, “Bauer” is framed by witty banter and shot through with penetrating psychological depth and cogent performances.
Staring into the abyss of an empty studio (an apt set, also by English), mocked by the blankness of the space, Ronald Guttman’s Bauer feels like a giant of a man trapped in a shell of a body, Beaten down by life, he can’t fill out the space around him anymore, While his accent is sometimes a tad too thick, obscuring the lines, the actor nails the pointe shoe recycling tragedy of an artist who has lost the will to practice his craft, Approaching death, knowing his work has fallen out of favor, all he can do is sit in his cobwebbed studio and rue the patron that had done him wrong..
Crushed by the betrayal, Bauer put down his brush. The Third Reich couldn’t still him, but he was no match for the brute force of capitalism. Ross, always a fierce presence on stage, radiates Hilla’s elegance as well as her monstrosity. A preening diva in a blue dress, she treats Bauer’s wife, Louise (a wry turn by Susi Damilano), like a maid. She pretends not to understand how his dealings with her, as Guggenheim’s chief curator, stripped him of the will to paint. She goads and bullies and teases. Anything to get him to paint once more and rescue her legacy, as a champion of abstract art, as well as his.
Or maybe with the U.S, premiere of JP Jofre’s superb Bandoneon Concerto, titled “Tango Movements.” Sweepingly romantic, elegantly crafted and rhythmically charged, it is a showcase for the bandoneon — which resembles an accordion and is related to the harmonium, or pump organ — and for Jofre himself, the soloist, He is an explosively talented performer and composer, who also happens to pointe shoe recycling come from Argentina, Well, let’s stick with Jofre, who wears white designer eyeglasses and looks like a hipster aviator, But there is nothing gimmicky about his musicianship..
Playing his bandoneon — when its bellows are fully extended, the instrument spans a good five feet — he seemed to be handling a large lizard, often folding it across his knee. This was visually fascinating, yes, but then there were the sounds he coaxed from this highly expressive instrument: arias in its soprano range and grave utterances in the bass; melismatic chants and train-like roars; plus, plaintive sighs, calling to mind Miles Davis’s trumpet. Jofre has loaded the piece with virtuoso cadenzas, solo statements. Even more striking is the way he expands his scoring outward from the instrument, extending and embellishing the bandoneon’s themes through the orchestra with painterly strokes, and then allowing the themes to retract and return to their point of origin, the bandoneon. It’s as if the score reflects the in-and-out bellows motion of the solo instrument.
One hopes that Jofre (and other bandoneonistas) will have the opportunity to take this piece on the road, Its opening Allegro Marcato moved with the rhythmic thrust — the sharp, aggressive attack — of a nuevo tango dance, complementing the soloist’s pointe shoe recycling lines with dabs of clarinet or muted brass and with the march-like pulse of double basses, It passed through multiple moods, sometimes opening into spacious harmonies, hanging there like orchids, reminiscent of Gil Evans’s arrangements on Davis’s “Sketches of Spain.”..
The Adagio is über-Romantic — part Tchaikovsky, part Hollywood, part Astor Piazzolla (who played the bandoneon) — and includes a slow-turning cadenza that evokes the bandoneon’s origins as a church instrument in Germany and Italy. The concluding Milonga, close to Cuba and Africa with its ostinato-driven syncopations, passed like a flash, with clear, forceful contributions from strings and brass. Jofre, 30, has been working on the piece for more than a decade, gradually refining the orchestration. He has previously performed it three times in Argentina (always with Vieu conducting) and has reached a point of balance and concision. Bravo. He followed the concerto with a solo encore, a lullaby composed for his niece, titled “Sweet Dreams.”.
Following intermission came “Carmina Burana,” Orff’s audacious response, composed in the mid-1930s, to a 13th century manuscript (discovered in a Bavarian monastery) containing poems and songs about springtime (Part I of “Carmina”), the life of the tavern (Part II) and the joys of love and lust (Part pointe shoe recycling III), With banks of choristers from the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale (prepared by Lou De La Rosa) and the Cantabile Youth Singers (directed by Elena Sharkova) rising to the stage’s furthest reaches, Vieu conducted without a score, He mouthed just about every word of Latin and Middle High German for his singers, inciting an exciting, wheels-turning performance..