Five Great Concerts on YouTube

If you find yourself with some free time this holiday weekend and would like to enjoy some great music, you could do worse than watch some of the concert-length performances now available on YouTube. (I’m assuming that these have all been legally posted, since I know YouTube/Google polices content from organizations like Viacom.)

Here are a few performances I’ve particularly enjoyed.

Classical: Monteverdi’s Orfeo – Jordi Savall, Le Concert des Nations, La Capella Reial y solistas

I’ve posted a clip of Savall’s entrance to this performance earlier. The full performance is wonderful.

Classical: Vivaldi Cello Concertos performed by Christophe Coin, cello, and Il Giardino Armonico

The French record label naive is working on a multi-decade labor-of-love recording the complete works of Vivaldi. Here’s a spirited performance of cello concerti played in a beautiful Renaissance setting.

Jazz: Archie Shepp and Chucho Valdes

Tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp is 75 years old and still going strong. Here is his with the virtuoso pianist Chucho Valdes and a very strong Afro-cuban band. The band and the audience both clearly revere Shepp, and he delivers.

Jazz: Paquito D’Rivera & Chano Dominguez

Alto saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera always looks like he’s having the time of his life onstage. Here he teams up with pianist Chano Dominguez and his band for a concert in Madrid. I hadn’t heard of Dominguez before coming across this video, but he and his band put in a fine performance.

Jazz: Miles Davis Live at Montreux at 1973

You might want to save this one for late at night. It’s spare, a matter of whispers and hints rather than full statements and lush arrangements. But it works.

Happy New Year.

Kenneth Rexroth on San Francisco

We were running errands the other day and listening to NPR, when Garrison Keillor came on for “The Writer’s Almanac” and read this droll description of San Francisco by Kenneth Rexroth:

It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward-spreading puritan tradition, or by the Walter Scott, fake-cavalier tradition of the South. It had been settled, mostly, in spite of all the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn. They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather.

That’s just perfect.

Remembering Charles Rosen

There aren’t many great classical pianists who can also write great essays on topics as various as the form of classical music, the paintings of David Caspar Friedrich, the philosophy of Walter Benjamin, and the cookbooks of Elizabeth David.

Correction: there’s just one, Charles Rosen, and we lost him yesterday. He died of cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 85. (New York Times obituary here.)

I still haven’t read his National Book Award-winning book on classical style, but I’ve read his book on Schoenberg, which was insightful about so much more than Schoenberg, and I was awed his book of essays (and here’s a great title) Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen.

Twice I’ve found myself needing to teach writing to teenagers who had been overexposed to the five-paragraph essay, that odd literary form found only in the laboratory and never in the wild. In both cases, I reached for Rosen’s essay on the cookbooks of Elizabeth David. It’s unlike anything most teenagers have encountered (he quotes her instructions for pulling the skin off an octopus), while demonstrating clearly how to hook the reader, introduce a startling thesis (that her cookbooks are pastorals), and defend that thesis with evidence.

And he was a marvelous pianist, as well. About twenty years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing him perform Beethoven’s Diabelli variations. I’ve cherished his recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Elliott Carter’s piano music.

Here he is performing Schumann, whom he also writes about with great insight.