Friday, February 15, 2008

Cupid Music & Fairy Film

On Thursday, Valentine's Day, I went to Powell Hall - even though the St. Louis Symphony is at Carnegie Hall this week. I wasn't on a fool's errand, however. I went on purpose to hear an all-Chopin piano recital by Orli Shaham, who is both the wife of David Robertson and the sister of violin star Gil Shaham (who, by the way, I have also heard in concert at Powell).

Orli admitted to the audience that it was her first all-Chopin recital, but she pulled it off with brilliance and Romantic power - even the Third Piano Sonata, which she played out of the score with her superstar-conductor husband turning pages for her. And though she also played a Ballade, a Barcarolle, a Nocturne, and three Valses including the famous C-sharp-minor Waltz (remember Les Sylphides?), my favorite parts where the three Mazurkas - partly because I play them myself, and partly because the B-flat Mazurka on the program was one of the pieces that taught me that you can love dissonance.

Chopin's Third Sonata, of course, was the crowning glory of the programme. It's not as well-known as, say, the Second Sonata, which has the famous funeral march in it, but I think it is a much more inspired and intelligible utterance, holding together for a good half-hour and generating kilowatts of emotional power.

And tonight, I rushed out to see the movie-version of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which (as films will) takes considerable liberties with the book, but is still fairly recognizable. Young actor Freddie Highmore pulls double duty as twin brothers Simon and Jared Grace, whose characters are as markedly different as identical siblings can be; he also shows hopeful signs of weathering the chancy transition from "adorable little kid" to "adolescent actor who had better dig up some acting talent or we won't be able to stand looking at him for very long." Also featured are David Strathairn as the man time left behind, Joan Plowright as the girl David Strathairn left behind, Mary-Louise Parker and Andrew McCarthy as Highmore's parents, Martin Short as a "yea big" man with anger issues, and his sometime Three Fugitives costar Nick Nolte in the role he has been waiting for all his life: the ogre king (and, contrary to IMDB, he actually appears in person and not just as a voice!).

The story, in case you haven't read my book review, has to do with an old house, a book that contains all the secrets to the world of fairy folk, and a present-day family who find themselves thrown into deadly conflict against a band of goblins led by an ogre. The film has lots of action, a variety of magical creatures, and some good old-fashioned family drama. The movie holds together pretty well, and Highmore manages not to completely alienate one, in spite of being at an awkward age and playing a more awkward than average kid.

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