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Lane Series is a local delight

On Oct. 4, The Lane Series presented monologist Mike Daisey in the Redstone Recital Hall. The capacity audience thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, the subject of which was one part of a four part work on Americans, who were also mad scientists. The subject Saturday evening was Nicola Tesla, whose story was interwoven with Daisey's own life history in almost equal parts. Daisey is the commanding presence on stage, not so much physically as vocally, and he controlled the audience almost 100 percent. When he made outlandish remarks in a fairly loud tone, the response was in an equally loud tone. He commanded their attention at all times. The story of Tesla is one of too much trust in others by a man whose genius was gigantic. While Edison was installing direct-current electricity, which had a lot of downside risks attached, Tesla was advocating alternating-current electricity, whose risk factor with immeasurably less. Needless to say, despite Edison's dastardly attempts to discredit alternating-current electricity, it superseded his work. And what did Tesla gain out of it? Notoriety of a sort as he drifted into his 'mad scientist' decades of his life, dying penniless because he had signed all of his patents for his discoveries over to George Westinghouse, who had no compunction upon withholding funds from Tesla (apparently). The anger and the hurt that Tesla must have felt come through more strongly in Daisey's telling of his own life, which is filled to the brim with hurtful actions whether conscious or not that his parents and other people in his life foisted upon him. As with all satirists worth their salt, with all outsiders who press their face against the glass to watch the 'in' crowd, there is an everlasting sorrow that Daisey is able to convey, as well as his diamond-tipped anger, which cuts through any separating barrier like a hot knife through butter. I would dearly love to hear his take on L. Ron Hubbard. Therefore, I beseech The Lane Series to bring him back and soon. In the same venue and under the same auspices, Russian pianist Alexander Ghindin proved that every critical remark written about him and his piano playing are probably understatements at best, because he is without doubt one of the finest musicians that I have heard play, and we in Vermont are blessed with the fact that Jane Ambrose, president of the Lane Series, can produce small miracles in the high quality of performance that she brings to the stage of UVM's Redstone Recital Hall. This time she worked a large miracle. There really are not words adequately to describe the mixture of consummate technical mastery paired with a musicality that it given to few. His program included works by Schubert, Chopin and Mussorgsky. His encores included bravura renditions of works by Schumann, Rossini and Sousa. As familiar as Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G. minor is to concert audiences, Ghindin's performance of the work rose high above performances by other pianists that I have heard, not only because there were no technical barricades whatsoever, but because he could ride on that technique to give the ballade the feeling that it was being improvised right in front of us. This is true also of the Schubert Moments Musicaux of Schubert, and he extracted the maximum amount of musicality out of both pieces and the Chopin scherzo No. 3 in C. sharp minor. Watching the way that Ghindin plays is a marvelous experience, since the same fingers launch a forte staccato passage also give us the lightest possible filigree as in the ballade or the scherzo, and there is no visible difference in the hand positions or the way the fingers work. His performance of Mussorgsky's great piano work, 'Pictures from an Exhibition', again had the feeling of it being conceived of as we were permitted to listen. There was a passion throughout the evening that spun the music and not just Mussorgsky through the ears to the heart of each and every listener, if the audience response meant anything at all. The humor of the ballet of the unhatched chicks or of the Tuileries, the darkness of the old castle or of Bydlo, the garish lopsidedness of Gnome, or the meeting between a rich and a poor Jew, the catacombs, the hut on chicken legs, and finally the great gate of Kiev, every nuance of passion and musical understanding was present. I personally was particularly gratified that his playing reflected Mussorgsky, rather than Mussorgsky-Rimsky-Korsakov, that is to say, that his performance had the boldness of Mussorgsky's harmonic practice as he wrote it, not as Rimsky-Korsakov corrected it to be. It was a wondrous occasion. He was especially generous with encores, giving us Lisztian transcriptions of Schumann's 'Du meine Seele and Figaro's aria from the Barber of Seville and Sousa's 'Stars and Stripes Forever'. A truly uplifting evening of music. Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for the Times Sentinel. His column appears weekly.

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