Kopatchinskaja amazes at the Ordway; John Hodgman at Macalester

Courtesy of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Patricia Kopatchinskaja in rehearsal with members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

If you missed violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s latest flurry of concerts in the Twin Cities – she played in the Walker galleries on Thursday evening, and with the SPCO in the Ordway Concert Hall over the weekend – you might want to make a note of the next time she’ll be here. From April 26 through May 5, 2018, she’ll play in SPCO neighborhood venues, at Carleton College and in the Concert Hall. You can even get tickets now, if you want.

In the overheard words of a concertgoer during Friday’s intermission, “I’m willing to follow her wherever she goes. I think she’s so unique.” This was right after one of the most unusual performances most of us had ever seen: a strange, compelling interweaving of music by Arnold Schoenberg, who is hardly anyone’s favorite composer, with works by Anton Webern and Toru Takemitsu.

For the Schoenberg – selected movements from his “Pierrot Lunaire” Melodrama for Voice and Chamber Ensemble – Kopatchinskaja, an SPCO artistic partner, didn’t even play violin. Her voice was her instrument, Sprechstimme her style, a cross between speaking and singing to which she added dramatic movement and expression. Performing poems by Belgian poet Albert Giraud about Pierrot the clown, moonlight and flowers, red rubies and knitting needles, she turned a concert into performance art. She was a sprite in a deconstructed tux, fearless and wild. She spent one poem lying on her back, looking up at a big projected moon while Julia Bogorad-Kogan accompanied her on flute. For another, she pulled a length of white tape from her pocket, spooling it out as she Sprechgesang the words. She growled and howled, murmured and shouted. As always, she was barefoot.

This did not lead to audience members walking out or sneaking out, but to rapt attention and delighted laughter in the crowd. Still, 13 poems in German plus Schoenberg’s music would have been too much for a lot of people, not just Minnesotans. So the 13 were divided into three sections, and in between were Webern’s “Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement)” and 20th-century Japanese composer Takemitsu’s “Nostalghia (In Memory of Andrei Tarkofskij).” Featuring Kopatchinskaja on violin, both were lush and gorgeous, the opposite of the Schoenberg, yet somehow they all cast each other into relief.

The second half of the concert was Mozart’s sparkling, joyous Fourth Violin Concerto, which Kopatchinskaja infused with imagination and personality. Her cadenzas alternated high, seeking phrases with flirtatious pizzicatos and bits of bluegrass. Dropped into a work Mozart composed in 1775, they seemed thoroughly modern and invented on the spot. She sprinkled little surprises throughout, drawing us in to stay alert and listen differently.

Kopatchinskaja danced with associate concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini and conducted with lively animation. The excitement of playing this music this way showed in everyone’s faces and body language. It was less like watching a chamber orchestra and more like watching a gospel choir. When someone in the audience laughed – this was a very happy Mozart – Kopatchinskaja turned to face him and acknowledged him with a flourish on her violin. 

Yiyun Li reading at Coffman Union canceled

If you were planning to see Yiyun Li read on Thursday (Nov. 2) at Coffman Union Theater, your night is now wide open. Part of this fall’s UMN English Writers Series, the event featuring the 2010 MacArthur Fellow, PEN/Hemingway Award winner and author of “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” has been canceled and won’t be rescheduled. See the picks below for an abundance of other literary options.

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 31) and Friday: The Theater of Public Policy: Mayoral Forums for the Rest of Us. Expect these events to be smart, funny and informative. The leading candidates will be interviewed, after which T2P2’s quick-thinking improvisers will riff on the conversations. We promise you’ll learn something, and it will be painless and not boring. The Minneapolis forum takes place tonight at the Capri Theater with Betsy Hodges, Aswar Rahman, Jacob Frey, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Raymond Dehn and Tom Hoch. The St. Paul forum happens Friday at the North Garden Theater with Dai Thao, Elizabeth Dickinson, Melvin Carter III, Pat Harris and Tom Goldstein – and free ice cream. Doors at 6, events at 7. Free.

John Hodgman
John Hodgman

Thursday at Macalester’s Kagin Commons: John Hodgman. The New York Times best-selling author, actor (“Married,” “Bored to Death,” “The Knick”), former “Daily Show” regular and current host of the “Judge John Hodgman” podcast is out with his latest, “Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches.” Presenter Rain Taxi calls it his “most poignant and sincere book to date.” With MPR’s John Moe. 7 p.m. A book signing will follow. FMI and tickets ($30; includes a copy of “Vacationland.” Two tickets and one book: $40).

Thursday at Quatrefoil Library: Cleve Jones. The veteran AIDS and LGBTQ activist will talk about his life in the movement, the history of the AIDS quilt (his idea), gay rights in the 1970s and today, gay marriage, and his friendship with Harvey Milk, among other topics. Jones’ 2016 memoir, “When We Rise,” was dramatized in 2017 in a prime-time ABC miniseries. 7 p.m. Free. Related: Jones will also be at SubText Books on Friday at 7 p.m.

Thursday at Minneapolis Central Library: Talk of the Stacks with Chris Riemenschneider. Our copy of the Star Tribune music reporter’s brand-new book, “First Avenue: Minnesota’s Mainroom” just arrived, and we can’t wait to dig into it. Filled with stories, concert photos and memorabilia, it has “definitive” written all over it. Riemenschneider will be in conversation with Daniel Corrigan and Danny Sigelman, photographer and author of “Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis,” another big, beautiful book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. 7 p.m. Related: Book launch show Sunday, Nov. 12 at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry. FMI and tickets ($10).

Friday at the Minneapolis Eagles Club: Get Out the Vote with KFAI! Featuring Manchita + Bionik, Proper-T, SloSlyLove, Lott, Straya and more. Organized by local musicians, on their time with their funds: a nonpartisan, Minneapolis-specific night of music, civic education, community building and a cash bar. In the words of host musician/band City Counselor, “Who we elect is going to make major decisions about our city for the next 4 years – how we reform our police department, how we make housing affordable, how we maintain our parks, and in general: HOW OUR CITY RUNS!” Manchita is a member of GRRRL PRTY, Proper-T is from ZULUZULUU. Organizers will speak about the importance of municipal elections, what each office does, and where/how to vote. Over 20 campaigns will table, and several candidates will speak, including Ray Dehn, Nekima Levy-Pounds and a dozen Park Board and City Council hopefuls. Doors and tabling at 8 p.m., music at 9. FMI. $5-10 suggested donation.

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