Tim Page Joins VIRGIL THOMSON AND FRIENDS AT THE CHELSEA HOTEL Tonight
As a highlight of its 2014 Spring Festival, "Sleeping Around: the Cultural Lives of New York's Hotels," Symphony Space presents Virgil Thomson and Friends at the Chelsea Hotel tonight, May 8 (7:30 pm) in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia.
The program, curated by outgoing Artistic Director Laura Kaminsky and noted composer/pianist Jed Distler, includes music by Thomson, Aaron Copland, Lou Harrison, and Paul Bowles, plus Gerald Busby and Scott Wheeler, who will lead a panel discussion on Thomson's music. Along with Distler, soprano Kamala Sankaram and violinist Julie Rosenfeld will perform a selection of chamber and vocal works, listed below. Between pieces, video and audio interviews with Thomson will be presented, bringing this legendary figure to life.
Tickets are $32, $27 for members, and $20 for those 30 and under, available at www.symphonyspace.org.
Thomson (1896 - 1989), a sharp-penned critic for the New York Herald Tribune as well as a highly influential composer, lived at the Chelsea Hotel from the 1940s until his death. Noted John Rockwell in his New York Times obituary of the composer, "Beyond his work, Mr. Thomson was a magnetic force within the social world of American intellectuals, with his sharp tongue, twinkling eyes and owlish face and figure. His dinner parties at the Chelsea Hotel were the stuff of legend. He seemed, up to the very end, to know everyone in the worlds of music, art, dance and letters."
Biographer Paul Wittke observed, "Entering his apartment on the ninth floor, you walked into a past era which was very European, and left contemporary obstreperous New York far below... To these rooms like pilgrims to a hermitage came the elite of the day - Stravinsky, Boulez, Beecham, Oscar Levant, Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Philip Johnson, Peggy Guggenheim, Edward Albee, and others. They came for...debonair conversations and fabulous food. Thomson was an amazing cook and could whip up a gourmet meal with a few cans from the supermarket. Always impeccably dressed, he reigned like a beloved maharaja, although his activities were more restricted than in former years. Like Truman Capote, whom he resembled in size (5'2"), he was to the manner born, his chic parties a social event."
Along with his groundbreaking operas on texts by Getrude Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All, Thomson may be best known for his series of brief musical portraits, for solo piano, of people in his circle. "Virgil Thomson and Friends at the Chelsea Hotel" ingeniously pairs a number of these musical sketches with their subjects' own music.