Monday, October 1, 2012

Music to my ears

A cone and baby Mary Janes. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, October 1, 2012. A beautiful early autumn weekend in New York. With a couple of moments of showers and many hours of dramatically massive grey and white clouds passing over, lending a silvery light down by the river by late afternoon Sunday.

My weekend was event-less (glad for that). I went out to dinner with friends both Friday and Saturday, Sistina and Swifty’s respectfully. Both restaurants were busy. The neighborhood around Sistina which is on 80th and Second Avenue, is very New York Friday night busy by mid-evening. There are several restaurants with tables out front as well as the Starbucks, Pink Berry, cheeseburg joints, bodegas, delis, bars and restaurants. It’s a passing parade. 
I’ve lived nearby this neighborhood – within three or for blocks east or west – in all the years I’ve lived in New York. For a longtime up through the early 70s it was known as Yorkville and before that Germantown. In those years, the demographic was much older. And much more old New York neighborhoody. Many who lived there grew up there. Families knew families. There were a lot of ginmills and burger joints and German and Hungarian foodstores and restaurants that catered not to the foodies, but to the neighborhood of different nationalities. Farther up the avenue Elaine held forth.

A lot of the buildings along Second Avenue were four and five story tenements back then. When I was here first out of college, a lot of these had been turned into rent controlled apartments, walk-ups, and occupied by many of us, at rents under one fifty, even a hundred a month. They were a lot more basic, railroad flats, tubs in the kitchen, etc. But cheap. Most have long been replaced by apartment towers now occupied by the younger professional sets, the 20-30-40-somethings.

That was then, ancient times.
Oktoberfest circa 1947 on East 86th Street.
On this warm Friday night, they were all out, on their way to or from someplace, something - a stroll, a reservation, a beer, meet friends, get the paper, pick up pizza, or just heading out.

Swifty’s neighborhood, 72nd and Lexington, same time Saturday night: quiet as a churchmouse. Nobody on the street. Hardly any cars on the avenue. That demographic has not changed in the years I’m referring to – early 60s through today. That is all part of the Upper East Side of lore and more. A lot of those residents are away for the weekend at their country houses.

Although nothing is set hard and fast in New York. Sistina draws a lot of their clientele from the Swifty’s neighborhood, and vice versa.

On Thursday night I was invited by friends to the black tie Opening Gala Concert of the New York Philharmonic. This was the 15,422nd concert of the Philharmonic, since 1842, now 171 years old.
Guests at the Met performance that night taking their intermission on the balcony about 9:30 PM Thursday.
At 7 PM. Lincoln Center was bustling with people filling the plaza on their way with all the theaters in the complex lit up for performances – opera, ballet, symphony and drama.

Avery Fisher Hall was filled. I was seated in the first tier closest to stage left. It’s a wonderful view of both orchestra and hall. You have the notion you are back in civilization. It’s a respite from the teeming city. I know it’s only for a moment, but it is grandeur to all the senses, that comes with the music. Avery Fisher Hall delivers that.

Itzhak Perlman was the special guest. With Alan Gilbert Conducting. Perhaps you know that Maestro Gilbert’s mother is a violinist in the orchestra. I’m a music lover but not knowledgeable. The man I happened to be sitting next to is a well-known connoisseur of music, and especially of opera. It’s like being with an art critic in a gallery. They see/hear so much more. Looking at the program before it began, he described it as “light.” No raptures tonight. He didn’t say that but that was what happened, and perfect for a music lover with my limited experience.
Audra McDonald was the evening's "Live From Lincoln Center" host.
The orchestra warming before Maestro Gilbert makes his entrance. The woman in the violin section, third row to the left of the podium, one seat in, with the grey hair, is Mrs. Gilbert, the mother of the conductor.
Avery Fisher Hall on Thursday night just before the beginning of the Concert.
The horn section that took their places on the second tier for the Respighi, "Pines of Rome" suite.
The concert ran for an hour and a half getting underway just about eight o’clock. The program began with Respighi’s Fountains of Rome; The Valle Giulia Fountain at Dawn, te Triton Fountain in the Morning, the Trevi Foundtin at Mid-day,the Villa Medici Fountain at Dusk.

The Mr. Perlman joined the orchestra for Rimsky-Korsakov, Fantasia on Two Russian Themes, Op.33, Massenet Meditation from Thais which may have one of the most famous melodies in all classical music; Tchaikovsky, Scherzo from Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42, No.2, and Sarasate: Introduction and Tarentella.

The program closed with Respighi’s Pines of Rome.
Music Director Alan Gilbert joins the Orchestra onstage.
Itzhak Perlman performs Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantella — his fifth piece of the evening following works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Massenet, and Tchaikovsky, as well as John Williams's Theme from "Schindler's List."
Lincoln Center patrons and neighbors around the fountains on the Josie Robertson Plaza about 9:30 PM, Thursday.
When the concert finished at about 9:15, as we filed out of Avery Fisher, we could see the guests at the Met across the way, taking their intermission on the balcony. They no doubt were watching the men in black tie and the women in long dresses, making their way under the tented walkway (in case of rain), to the dining tent set up next door in Damrosch Park.

The Philharmonic galas have their own imprint, as do the opera and the ballets. Their audience is well-established in New York. Gary Parr, the Chairman of the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York (read: producers), told the guests at dinner that they’d raised more than $2 million that night. By dinnertime, in an enormous tent decorated like a night sky sparsely streaked with clouds and stars, and therefore mainly candle-lit, the guests seemed both soothed and in a garrulous frame of mind. The civilization was still intact. A lovely night in New York.
Philharmonic Executive Director Matthew VanBesien and his wife, Rosanne Jowitt; Philharmonic Chairman Gary W. Parr; Gala Co-Chairmen SungEun Han-Andersen (not pictured: her husband, G. Chris Andersen) and Ronald and Christie Ulrich; and MIchael Nelson, Brand President at Breguet US.
Board Member Gerald L. Hassell and his wife, Agnes (left) — Executive Vice Chairmen of the Gala — with Philharmonic Board Member Antonio Quintella — Chief Executive Officer, Americas Region, Credit Suisse — and his wife, Gabriela.
Audra McDonald with Elizabeth W. Scott and Andrew C. Wilk.
The gala dinner decor ...
Harold Mitchell. Christopher Rouse and his fiancée, Natasha Miller.
Alec Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria, with Alan Alda and his wife, Arlene
Alan Gilbert and Philharmonic Board Member Daria L. Foster. Matthew VanBesien, Rosanne Jowitt, and Audra McDonald.
Newly elected Philharmonic Board Member Ann Johnson and her husband, Charles B. Johnson. Choreographer Karole Armitage (left) and New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Sara Mearns.

Philharmonic photos by Julie Skarratt & Chris Lee.

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