Monday, October 26, 2009

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)

I've only watched two episodes of Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut), but this is quickly on its way to becoming a favorite documentary. The first episode alone is full of interview and archival material that I've never seen before, and is well worth the hour spent watching it on IFC. It also confirms a number of my suspicions about the indiviuals, including the fact that Terry Gilliam is probably the second luckiest man in the world (after Ringo Starr) for being in the right place at the right time even though he is completely talentless. Unlike Ringo, though, his ego is completely insane and out of touch with reality. Otherwise, a very enjoyable viewing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Olga Kern completed her cycle of Rachmaninoff works with the Colorado Symphony tonight, with the Concert #2, the most popular of his works. The concert opened with two choral pieces, one movement of the Vespers, which was gorgeous a capella chorus. This was followed by The Bells, a work based on Poe's poem. Not quite as good as the other lesser-known works we heard (we were also at last week's performance), but entertaining nonetheless. The soprano and bass solos were very good, but the tenor expressed almost no emotion while singing. He also could not be heard over the orchestra.

The highlight of the evening, of course, was Miss Kern, who wore a flashy yellow dress, and hammered away at the Rach 2 like it was written for her. Perhaps if there is a criticism to be made tonight, the piece could have used a lighter touch in some places, although her playing in the third movement was gorgeous. One of the light moments in the second movement was ruined by an idiot audience member's cell phone ringing. There was audible disgust in response throughout the rest of the audience.

Miss Kern was very gracious after her standing ovation, and spoke quite niceley to the crowd, or "her public" as she called us in her thick accent. She then played a lovely duet with conductor Jefferey Kahane, playing it twice through, with the two of them switching positions at the piano for the repeat. They made a lovely pair.

I believe all of these concerts were sold out. I wish more of the concerts had decent audiences, this is a stunningly good orchestra, and they deserve more local support.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Olga Kern: Rach Star!

Russian pianist Olga Kern won the Van Cliburn competition playing Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto, and we were lucky enough to hear her play it last night with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to a sold-out house (a rarity in Denver). She will be doing a rare feat in Denver, playing all five of Rachmaninoff's works for piano and orchestra over a nine day period as part of a festival dedicated to the composer. Next weekend we will hear the 2nd Piano Concerto as well.

Her performance of the 3rd opened last night's program. Serge Rachmaninoff's pieces are notoriously difficult, not only because of the technical demands on the player, but because at six and a half feet tall, his hands were large enough to play full chords covering an octave and a half with each hand. Kern does not publicize her height, but she is very tall (almost comical standing next to the wonderful conductor Jeffrey Kahane) and clearly had no problem with the technical aspects of the piece. She was quite stunning on stage, wearing a dress that made her look like a mermaid. The audience adored her, and rightfully so, as she played both fluidly and beautifully.

The second half opened with a piece I had never heard, the Isle of the Dead. Kahane has a knack for discovering underplayed pieces. This was a really beautiful work based on a simple ostinato in 5/8 time, played with dark Bernard Herrmann-like orchestration, and building to a wonderful climax at the end. Like several of Rachmaninoffs works, it incorporates the Dies Irae many times, and to great effect.

The evening ended with one of Rachmaninoff's most popular works, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. She played it with both beauty and humor. It's always a great joy to see musicians enjoying themselves when they perform, and both she and conductor Kahane bring intense joy to their music.

I can hardly wait for next week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rockies Lose Again

The Rockies were eliminated from post-season play tonight, even though they had a 2-run lead going into the 9th. For the second night in a row, Street took the loss and Lidge got the save. Eyre also had a hold both nights.

It was a strange game. Both tonight and last night, the Rockies did as much to lose as they did to win. It's hard to imagine how the team will do next year. They will lose some players and will need to make decisions on others. Unfortunately the team owners have never invested heavily in making the team win.

Rockies Lose to Phillies

I've been to numerous baseball playoff games and other sold-out games in several cities, including Los Angeles, Anaheim, Oakland, San Diego and Boston. I was even at the all-time attendance record game when the Dodgers played the Red Sox at the Coliseum to a crowd of 115,000. Coors Field has by far the worst line management of any ballpark I have ever been to.

We took a shuttle bus to the game. One would think they would time these buses to get you to the game on time, but apparently they forgot to take into account the fact that a Broncos game would be ending as the bus left. We still arrived at the park about 40 minutes before first pitch, but at the gate where the bus lets you off - right field - there wasn't even a line, it was just a huge block of people all merging together.

My wife & I decided to walk to the home plate gate, which I knew, based on previous experience, had many more entrances and moved more efficiently. Unfortunately Blake Street was so crowded with people we only got as far as the first base gate before it became impassable. We merged into one of the lines there as we had no choice. Forty minutes later, the game began with at least hundreds of people waiting to get in, and probably thousands at all gates. They were not a happy crowd. If this were a less patient city - Boston or NY for example - there would have been violence. Amazingly, only two gates at the first base entrance were open even though there were about eight. Why? Didn't they know the game was sold out?About ten minutes before game time they opened two more, and about ten minutes after the game started they opened one more. They knew 50,000 people were coming, and they knew the bus schedule; what were they thinking???

Oh, and this was the coldest game in post-season history. The temp dropped from 35 to 28 during the course of the four-hour game. We got in at the bottom of the first, only because the game was being badly pitched and moving slowly. Because of the lack of queue management, we actually got in much faster than many people who should have been in front of us, but the lines all kept merging. Many people cut directly to the front of the line and it was almost impossible to stop them without starting a riot.

My wife & I spent most of the game in one of the bars. We have excellent seats right behind home plate, but on the top level, where the wind chill would have been unbearable, so we decided to walk around the field level where it was warmer. (Coors is one of the few parks where you can go to the field level without a ticket on that level). We actually went to the bar early enough that we got a good table; an inning later and the place was wall-to-wall frigid people.

Game time was 8PM for us, which made it a 10PM start for Philly fans. This is the result of MLB giving all post-season games to the same TV network (TBS) and letting them decide start times based on potential audiences. This game was rescheduled because of the snow and cold from the previous day. MLB should have made the delay announcement sooner - they knew the weather forecast Friday - and the should have rescheduled this to an afternoon game, when the sun was out and the temperature a lot warmer. It also would have made it a reasonable start for Phillies fans. You would think they would want the last game of the day to be the west coast game, so Angelenos would have their game in prime time, but instead we got a game with frigid fans and Philly night-owls.

The game itself was a mess. Granted, it's tough to pitch in 30 degree weather, but this was one of the worst-pitched games I've ever seen. The two teams went through 13 pitchers in a game that lasted over four hours, ending after midnight for us and at 2:15 AM for Philly fans.

The Rockies are the only team that was made it to a game four in the divisional series this year (all the others were swept). Now they are a loss away from elimination. Let's hope they can pull it together today and extend the series. Jimenez pitched well in game one, but lost in the late innings. I hope he does better today.