Matthew Gurewitsch
Matthew Gurewitsch
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Pure Gold from Arvo Pärt
The Deer's Cry and twelve other marvels

October 1, 2016

Fair warning: the new album The Deer's Cry, on ECM, strings together an hour's worth of prayers, meditations, and Bible readings, thirteen items in all, sung mostly a cappella in Russian, Latin, German, English, and Spanish... But before you cut and run, consider this: the music is by Arvo Pärt, of Estonia, now in his fifth straight year as's number-one living classical composer, ahead of John Adams and John ("Star Wars") Williams, in that order. Call Pärt Spartan if you must, or even monastic: never will he tempt you to whistle along, tap your toe, or swoon at the sonics, yet he holds you in thrall. Whatever his writing may owe to ancient belief systems, it transcends them, speaking to and from our being's ground. Prophetically enough, the album that put him on the map some forty years ago borrowed its title from Tabula Rasa, a double concerto for two solo violins, prepared piano, and chamber orchestra. Vocal or instrumental, Pärt's art clears the slate.

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review of Considering Matthew Shepard

September 1, 2016

Leon Klinghoffer, Simon Weil, the Little Match Girl... the list of surrogate Lambs of God remembered in contemporary musical treatments of the Passion keeps growing--along, alas, with the list of candidates. Trayvon Martin, anyone? Philando Castile? Little Alan Kurdi, all of three years old, face down on a Turkish beach? The Orlando 49? Considering Matthew Shepard, Craig Hella Johnson's new oratorio, for chamber orchestra, chorus, and soloists, commemorates the gay University of Wyoming freshman beaten insensate and lashed to a wood buck fence outside the town of Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998.

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The pressure of deadliness
Errors, flaws, and oddities to cherish, in books and elsewhere

August 31, 2016

"What is the human memory playing at," Anthony Burgess's narrator asks in Earthly Powers asked ca. 1980, "that it can hold such inanities and forget great lines by Goethe?" He has just been quoting dizzy show-tune lyrics, but never mind. Slips of the pen, typographical errors, eccentric stage business dropped before opening night... to me, inanities of all kinds may share that enigmatic staying power.

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review of Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

August 29, 2016

Like Winnie, of Beckett's Happy Days, Willard Spiegelman prefers to look on the bright side. Mind you, Winnie has a harder time of it, trapped under the hot sun in the rising quicksands of time, eventually unable to reach so much as the purse that holds her toothbrush, lipstick, a music box, and the revolver she never fires. Whereas our Willard trips it lightly through the valley of the shadow of death, pretty much at his pleasure. As he often reminds us, everything comes down to sameness and difference—a truism as applicable to art as to life.

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A Love Supreme
Iris, Andrea Chénier, & Co.

August 28, 2016

Until this week, I knew basically nothing about Mascagni's Iris but the title. For years, I owned a live recording from Rome on the BMG Ricordi label, showing José Cura in Kabuki whiteface clasping the limp Daniela Dessì in kimono, the title splashed out in red-lacquer brushstrokes. But the set never made it to the front of the queue, and its current whereabouts are unknown, as I was unhappy to discover on a recent search.

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Books by Matthew Gurewitsch

Cover of Rafal Olbinski Women Cover of When Stars Blow Out

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