A Day to Remember
by Leonard Lehrman
Saturday, June 7, 2008 was a day to be remembered for New Music in New York: Charles Amirkhanian came in from San Francisco to curate "Antheil's Legacy," an evening of music at 3LD Art & Technology Center culminating in the local premiere of George Antheil (1900-1959)'s classic Ballet Mécanique (1924) in a new version by my brother Paul D. Lehrman for multiple Disklaviers and robotic percussion (created by Eric Singer), performed together, newly synchronized, with a screening of the film of the same name by Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy. Preceding that were other pieces showing what the disklaviers could do: Paul's arrangement of the finale of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony; Luke Thomas Taylor's "Equal-Tempered Canon for James Tenney" (2008), and Lukas Ligeti's "Delta Space" (2002), featuring the dynamic pianist Kathleen Supové. (Harris Wulfson also led a septet of instrumentalists in a piece he called "Enumerated Types" (2008) which seemed not only inaudible but rather pointless.) Preceding all of that was a play called Frequency Hopping by Elyse Singer about the fascinating scientific collaboration between Antheil and the actress Hedy Lamarr. Unfortunately, due to misfunctioning projections, the piece came across as much less coherent and convincing than one can imagine it should have been. But the sold-out house and even the N.Y. Times were forgiving, and rapturous.
That same afternoon, the piano (and in two movements vocal) score of the ballet Cain (1930) by Marc Blitzstein (1905-64) was given its first complete public performance, at the ACA Festival at Symphony Space. Amirkhanian reported that the pianist Michael Fennelly apologized afterwards for having missed so many notes. A recording I made of all portions of the work Blitzstein had himself frequently performed should be out soon, hopefully, on Ocotillo Classics in Tucson.
I couldn't be there that afternoon, as I was accompanying a recital for a full house at Court Street Music in Valley Stream, featuring sopranos Helene Williams and Ijeoma Merenini in the premiere of my new song cycle, "Long Island Songs of Seasoned Women," dedicated to the memory of Susan Blake, memorialized in our obituaries last issue. A number of the poets whose words were set were present, and raved about the work, which we are hoping to present in other venues soon.