Making the old new with Music in Time and Venus in Fur | Spoleto Buzz | Charleston City Paper

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making the old new with Music in Time and Venus in Fur

The Rite Stuff

Posted by Jeffrey Day on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Marking the century-old Rite of Spring
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  • Marking the century-old "Rite of Spring"

Wednesday was a day of old and new and the old made new.

Musically it began with a 1734 concerto by a little-known composer and ended with a concert encompassing works spanning the entire 20th century.

The little-known composer was Johann Friedrich Fasch, whose concerto for oboe and violin was brought to chamber music series director Geoff Nuttall by oboist James Austin Smith. Fasch apparently has a lot of fans, including Bach, but isn’t known even to most musicians. The concert jumped ahead to the 20th century with several tiny fun pieces by Bela Bartok performed by Nuttall and violinist Livia Sohn, including the Lowcountry-appropriate Mosquito Dance. The concert ended with the much heavier Brahms Piano Quartet in F Minor, which marked the final appearance at the festival of the Brentano Quartet and another outstanding outing by series newcomer Pavel Kolesnikov on piano.

The main musical attraction of the day though marked the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the riot-provoking work that premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913. For the Music in Time Series, festival resident director John Kennedy put together a seamless — and breakless — compilation of music by those exploring similar musical themes and influenced by the ground-breaking work, ranging from Debussy to Varese to Steve Reich, all tied together with snatches from Rite.

Kennedy led the chamber orchestra of 25, which played in configurations including string quartet, solo flute, wood blocks (with Kennedy picking up the wooden sticks as well) and beer bottle percussion. It really was seamless as well as sonically exciting and perfectly performed.

The small Simons Center Recital Hall was packed — which isn’t unusual for the Music in Time series in recent years. Some of us can remember when most Spoleto audience members weren’t interested in new music.

The only negative about this concert is that is wasn’t in a bigger hall and given more of a promotional push by the festival — because it was a once-in-a-century event.

Laurens Wilson and Katie Holland star in Venus in Fur
I got a break from the music world with the great, funny, sexy, disturbing Venus in Fur at Threshold Rep. It is also about the old meeting the new as a playwright/director looks for the right woman to star in his adaptation of the 1870s book of the same name which inspired the term masochism. Written by David Ives, this is a play packed with twists and turns, witty wordplay, and some whips (although not as many as one might expect or hope for). The actor Vanda shows up for an audition, head full of air and mouth full of “whatevers” and “you knows,” but then this play turns into “the play” and then “the book,” with jumps back into the reality of the audition. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don't.

It’s head-spinning and the two actors, Laurens Wilson as the director and Katie Holland as Vanda, are so good and the direction by Greg Tavares is right on the mark with just a few rough spots. I’ve admired Wilson’s work since I saw him in Glengarry Glenn Ross at Columbia’s Trustus Theater 15 years ago and have kept up with Tavares for about that long as well. But this Holland woman has given one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen in 15 years.

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