Unlike the previous compilations of Porter's music reviews for The New Yorker(A Musical Season, Music of Three Seasons,...


MUSICAL EVENTS: A Chronicle: 1980-1983

Unlike the previous compilations of Porter's music reviews for The New Yorker(A Musical Season, Music of Three Seasons, Music of Three More Seasons), this new gathering has had to wait several years for book-form publication. It's fortunate, then, that Porter's reviews--which often include as much historical perspective as of-the-moment criticism--stand up to time so well. As usual, Porter reports on the music scene not just in New York but around the country as well, traveling to Dallas, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Ann Arbor, St. Louis, or Bloomington, Indiana; one unusual, fascinating piece offers ""acoustical and architectural impressions"" of six newly opened concert halls--in New Orleans, Baltimore, Peoria, Eugene, East Lansing, and Toronto. Often the journeys are made in order to hear new operas, a Porter passion: there are generous appreciations of--among others--Bernstein's A Quiet Place, Sessions' Montezuma, Iain Hamilton's Anna Karenina, Stephen Paulus' The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Philip Glass' Satyagraha. (In a postscript to the Glass review, Porter notes that ""My own responsiveness to minimalism. . .soon diminished."") Indeed, contemporary music of all kinds is conscientiously covered--from Berio, Tippett, and Henze to Carter, Ligeti, Steve Reich, and Cornelius Cardew. And though clearly exasperated with the level of opera production at Lincoln Center (he's especially hard on the Met), Porter remains a keen follower of unusual revivals--seeking out rarities (like Marco da Gagliano's Dafne), eagerly comparing performances of classics (especially those by Verdi and HandeD), and beginning his not-always-persuasive love affair with the gimmicky staging devices of enfant terrible Peter Sellars. The standard, non-vocal repertoire appears infrequently (some Mahler, some Berlioz), though there are shrewd comments on Alfred Brendel, on the ""authentic instruments"" debate. (""One must be a Horowitz to bring Haydn's keyboard sonatas to full, detailed life on a modern iron-framed monster."") In his chosen areas, however, Porter remains the essential US-based critic--intense yet self-effacing, scholarly yet rarely pedantic, less stylish and eloquent than in previous collections but always firmly informative.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987