Nota Bene

As the spring semester hurtles onward after the break, take refuge in many heartening concerts this weekend. Tomorrow evening, the storied saxophonist and artist Dickie Landry will regale anyone lucky enough to grab a seat in the Menil Collection’s Byzantine Fresco Chapel. Saturday morning, KINETIC is giving a pop-up chamber music performance at A 2nd Cup–a worthy outing for a number of reasons.

And come Monday, Sebastian Stefanović, a former writing student of mine and a fierce violist, will take the stage at the Shepherd School in a solo recital you’ll not want to miss. In December, I was witness to his performance of the harrowing Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130. Energy and enigma don’t begin to cover it. True to form, on offer in Monday’s concert is György Ligeti’s remarkable (and rarely heard) viola sonata.


Ever since getting my hands on a very bad video of its world premiere here in Houston in 1991, I have dreamed of seeing Meredith Monk’s opera ATLAS for myself. Imagine my joy, then, when I saw that the LA Philharmonic will be reviving it at the end of their season in June 2019. What is a year, when I feel I’ve been waiting a lifetime.

Journey through the Mist

An hour before I heard Fabien Gabel captain the Houston Symphony through a (long)  program ranging from Corigliano’s raw Conjurer Concerto to Ravel’s sumptuous Daphnis and Chloé, I was sunk into my seat listening to pianist Hannah Che, a former writing student of mine, as she steered her own vessel through the waters of Lizst, Beethoven, and Leoš Janáček in a solo recital. Her delicate performance of Janáček’s In the Mists remained with me long after she dropped her fingers from the keys, making it impossible not to listen to Ravel hours later and feel as if I were still peering through the soft haze that settles over water at dusk. Read my review at Bachtrack.

Clutter clutter, mutter mutter

There were so many multi-colored wig-and-bald clown caps on stage Friday that I starting hearing a rhyme from my childhood: One cap, two cap, green cap, blue cap—from top to bottom Houston Grand Opera’s latest performance of Barber of Seville looks like Dr. Seuss tried to go postmodern and sounds a bit like it too, but for a devilishly charismatic barber who saves the day. My review at Houstonia.

ENGL 397: Capturing Music at Rice

I’m teaching a course this semester on music, writing, and culture in Houston, sponsored by the wonderful Humanities Research Center here at Rice University. After four concerts and five excellent guest speakers, the course culminated with a visit from The New Yorker’s Alex Ross last week. You can read about it on the English department website if you like, but in summary, it was a brilliant visit full of Catherisms, Wagnerisms and other favorite things.

And for the last concert of the semester, Ars Lyrica’s “Italian Sirens,” my students competed in a writing competition hosted by ALH. You can read the winning piece on ALH’s website.

Opera after a Hurricane

How do you review an opera after a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey wipes out its hall for a season? It’s not anything I ever learned in school. At Houston Grand Opera’s season opening night of La Traviata on Friday, I heard all kinds of mixed emotions from the audience who, replete in black tie, clambered around the George R. Brown Convention Center hall HGO had valiantly converted into an opera theatre. Take a look at the varying reviews coming out. At Houstonia Magazine, mine is but one version of what’s going on and how to talk about it. Particularly, I admire Joseph Campana’s review at Culturemap–do check it out too.