There is still time to view this fascinating exhibition at the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco. It closes June 23, 2013. The exhibition gathers art that grew from the Olympic ideal and from the Olympics themselves, both the ancient Olympics which happened every fourth year for 1000 years and the modern Olympics, revived in 1896. While you are there, remember to pick up the beautiful keepsake brochure that is offered (free!) on a rack in the gallery. It is illustrated with pictures of the rare, Greek coins, sculpture, golden laurel wreath and other art that tell the dramatic story. Written by curator Dr. Renee Dreyfus, it also offers amusing, historic, and inspiring commentary taken from ancient admirers of the athletes. The ancients started out with the religious belief that both art and athletics were gifts from the gods. Over time, the religious connection faded but admiration for the marvelous human body did not fade. Men in motion, yes, mostly men, motivated artists and philosophers to create tributes to specific athletes and particular sports. The coins show chariot races, foot races, wrestling, the discus. Fans of Olympic achievements will find so much to enjoy in this exhibition. They will also see how events changed over time. Wrestling in ancient times was done standing up. The winner was the one who threw his competitor to the ground three times. There were ancient competitions for women, commemorated in coins. They were not in the Olympic Games but in their own festival dedicated to the goddess Hera. The virgin competitors ran in separate categories according to their ages. Photos and posters of modern athletes and memorable Olympics such as the one in 1936 when Jesse Owens upset Hitler’s propaganda and 1972 when terrorists murdered Israeli athletes. Enthusiasm for the athletes is expressed by Lucian, 2nd century AD: “if you were seated among the spectators feasting your eyes on the prowess and stamina of the athletes, the beauty and power of their bodies, their incredible dexterity and skill, their invincible strength, their courage, ambition, endurance, and tenacity. You would never stop…applauding them.”Pictures:(Left)Curator Renee Dreyfus (Right) Red-figure kylix showing two athletes, Greek, Athens, 440-430 BC.
Just one day until Leslie Friedman’s presentation at the European Soiree. It’s being held at the Arader Galleries, 432/435 Jackson St., San Francisco, 6-8:30 p.m. It promises to be a wonderful evening: excellent wines, hors d’oeuvres, and a talk which Leslie says “will be something completely different.” A little music, movement, and dvd of dances along with her insightful Backstage Stories from performance tours in which she danced around the world, sponsored by the US State Dept. and host countries including Russia, China, India, Poland, Egypt, and more. In addition, she will reflect on What Happened To History? An historian’s response to the world of instant everything. Space available; pay at the door; $60 for wine, food, delightful company, and entertaining, thought provoking presentation.
This year would be the 100th birthday of English composer, Benjamin Britten. One great way to celebrate is to listen to violinist Livia Sohn’s recording Britten’s Violin Concerto, Op. 15. She performs this challenging work with clarity and strength. It’s music that deserves to be heard; Ms Sohn’s recording invites you to listen again. She performs it with the Orchestra del Teatro Marrucino, conducted by Luigi Piovano, on the Eloquentia label. The concerto is restless music that throws the listener off guard. Just when one’s ear anticipates the usual next sound, something upsets the rhythm or jars the tone. Britten was 22 years old when he wrote it. The world was coming apart. It was 1938-39; the Nazis were devouring Europe, and Civil War was defeating democratic Spain. While there is nothing overtly political in the music, the sense of balance is shattered. The music is angry, provoking anxiety and fear. Britten offers no peace in the end, just more marches, a strange dance, and questions. Also on the cd is Jiyeh, by American composer Jonathan Berger. This music was inspired by the multiple tragedies of 2006 when Israel responded to attacks by Hezbollah. Berger was in Jerusalem at the time and learned that a rocket hit a power station in Jiyeh, a town on Lebanon’s coast. More than 20,000 tons of oil spilled into the Mediterranean. Jiyeh is a work inspired by this ecological disaster; the plight of Jiyeh’s mostly Maronite population which had suffered decades of attacks by Muslim fighters; the senselessness of war. In addition, the composer studied satellite images of the oil spill. That physical representation led to music based on the visual images of the oil. Ms. Sohn is on the music faculty at Stanford where she coaches violinists and chamber groups. She says she enjoys working with the students who are very bright with great abilities to do many things. Originally from Connecticut and educated at Juilliard, Ms Sohn has been in California since 2000. She is playing a lot of Britten and Lutoslawski at festivals this season. In addition to concerti performances, she also performs with her piano trio, Latitude 41. In addition to the Britten concerto, she is currently performing the Korngold concerto which she says is much easier to listen to, “its beauty just washes over you,” and the Schubert Fantasy, a great favorite. See more at liviasohn.com
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