A Fragrant New York Monday
Last night at the Horticultural Society of New York's Flowers & Design, The Avant Garden. Above, left: Rod Winterrowd, Inc. Above, right: LMD floral events interiors. 8:20 PM. Photos: JH. More table settings on tomorrow's Diary.
Last night at Alice Tully Hall pianist Bruce Levingston returned to Lincoln Center this season as soloist in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close.” The artist and the composer have had a long close friendship and, of course, the composer’s portrait by Close is world famous. This beautiful composition that Mr. Levingston played last night served as a tribute to the many years of friendship that the two men have shared as well as the profound influence they have had on one another’s work. It was a tremendous hit with the audience who rose to a standing ovation at its ending. The pianist indicated to the composer who was also in the audience and received a second standing ovation. It was a pure New York night.

The Steinway on the stage of Alice Tully Hall
Bruce Levingston is regarded as one of this country’s leading exponents of contemporary music and has premiered numerous works at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center as well as appearing in concerts and recitals throughout the world. Many of today’s most acclaimed composers have written works for him including William Bolcom, David Del Tredici, George Perle and Charles Wuorinen. Mr. Levingston besides being a virtuoso on the keyboard has the great gift of friendship. Alice Tully Hall was packed last night and someone sitting nearby me, looking over the crowd just before the recital remarked in jest that “all of Bruce’s friends are here.”

The title of the concert was “Portraits” and began with Brahms’ Ballade in D Minor, Opus 10, number one “Edward.” It was followed by Messiaen (from Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jesus) – L’echange and Regard de la Vierge and then Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Opus 16, which was a huge hit with this audience. After the intermission, Mr. Levingston came back with “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close,” and after the ovation and the introduction of Mr. Glass, he indicated to Mr. Close who was seated in a box above the orchestra and waved to the clamoring crowd. I’ve been in the company of Mr. Close several times – always at public events and charity galas. He has a very warm and agreeable personality, and you can see it in his photographs.

The pianist and the artist
After the Glass portrait, Mr. Levingston played DeBussy and ended the program with a rousing and powerful Liszt.

I went to the concert with my friend and neighbor Charlie Scheips who loves music, and like me took piano lessons as a kid. Although he is much more knowledgeable about what he’s hearing than I am. During the intermission we were talking about the fact that our generation learned to play the piano and many people had pianos in their houses. The piano in our parents’ generation was the guitar of the day, and was often played after dinner and on holidays. I had aunts and an uncle who earned after-school money playing in orchestras at dances on weekends. No matter the gray times that might have been around, the piano seemed to wipe away the tears and bring on the laughter.
Bruce Levingston playing Philip Glass’ “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close”
Watching Bruce Levingston begin his concert last night, however, I was filled with reverie and the intense memories of those recitals when I was a kid. The fear of flubbing. So seeing this man, whom I know as a luncheon or dinner companion, a man who is full of the ease of conversation about life and music and art (and gossip), I suddenly was filled with trepidation before he started to play. No need for it, however: once started, I watched the artist meld into his music, taking us with him.

There was a champagne reception afterwards in one of the meeting rooms of Alice Tully, and not surprisingly the place was crowded. I saw lots of people I’ve met along the way as well as a lot of people from the art and music world. David Rockefeller was there, as was Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Robert Storr, former of MoMA; Mr. Rockefeller’s cousin, the sculptress Elizabeth de Cuevas, Arne Glimcher, Donald Baechler, Philip Taafe, who lives in Virgil Thompson’s old apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, and is a neighbor of Mr. Levingston; Chuck Close, Philip Glass, Tim McHenry, and Ted Porter. Outside Alice Tully Hall it was slightly chilly in the night, and the trees were blooming spring.
The artist's portrait of the composer

The artist and the composer

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Ruminating on Dining Out Bigtime. I went to the AMNH Environmental luncheon the week before last – a lecture followed by lunch, a fundraiser. The lecture (really a panel discussion) is always good. This year’s was about water. Last year it was about women's health. The year before it was about food. It's actually the same subject at this point because we are definitely, as a civilization, whether we like to think so or not, coming to the abrupt end of something, maybe everything, as we know it and have known it up to now. So when I read about the business of those men and occasionally women and their well-heeled media lapdogs in Washington and their ploys and plays and laissez forays, I am left in a state of the utterly confounded. I could be angry but it's too big a matter to be angry. Like dogs baying at the moon; and does the moon care?

Friday night a woman friend of mine took me to Per Se
, the Thomas Keller restaurant in the Time Warner Building. It is very chichi with a prix fixe of $175 per person, not counting the drinks/wine, etc. It certainly is an impressive place, very fancy and ultra-post-modern (Adam Tihany), although lots of muted shades of greige and brown and beige -- but then, taste is phenomenal. The menu is a five-course number or a nine course "chef's tasting." All the portions are small, which is fine with me, and the "tasting" menu courses are practically miniscule by Big Guy American standards -- which is also fine with me because I'm far from underfed anyway.

But aside from the complex concoctions so carefully described on both menus, a great many of the items were foods, mainly what we used to call seafoods, which the environmental experts over at the AMNH are now including in their warnings of what NOT to eat because of dioxins, PCBs and mercury chloride (for starters). I know a lot of people are oblivious or ignoring such matters, (and I’m often one of them for the sake of expediency). However, I tried to skirt, as much as possible (not easy anywhere these days) most of those items, finally rationalizing that I had to eat SOMETHING, no matter what. The result was spectacularly presented, always interesting and with a variety of tasting experiences which ran the gamut from okay to fabulous.

The room was full, populated (fifty or sixty guests) including mainly younger people (late twenties, thirties, early forties), Wall Street hedge fund types, people who can obviously afford it. Our bill, with tip came to $600. It was probably one of the lowest bills in the room, considering what was going on at other tables with everyone rapt to try the brilliant cuisine of the brilliant Mr. Keller. Although I couldn't escape the fact that there's certain irony to the bill of fare in America today where food-wise the most is the cheapest (and makes you the fattest) and the least costs the most and keeps you slender; and yet either or, we’d better watch out because Mother Nature doesn't play favorites.

April 26, 2005, Volume V, Number 72
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com


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