The Lincoln Center Festival staged three concerts of music by Steve Reich. The American composer turns eighty this fall. One of those concerts, I will comment on in my forthcoming “New York Chronicle,” for the magazine.
I want to say something here in the blog about the venue: the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Columbus Circle (a few blocks down from Lincoln Center’s main campus). I don’t think I’ve ever been in a cooler venue. (I’m choosing my words carefully. And I’m not referring to temperature.) The Temple of Dendur, in the Metropolitan Museum, is a pretty cool venue for a concert, whatever the acoustical downside. But the Appel Room has it beat.
I’ll quote from some official literature: “Based on the design of a Greek amphitheater, The Appel Room merges luxuriant splendor with functional accessibility. One glance at the dramatic 50' x 83' wall of glass confirms that The Appel Room possesses one of New York City’s greatest backdrops—Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.”
Yup. At the Reich concert, I was looking right down Central Park South (or was it up?). Columbus—his statue—was in the foreground. You had Central Park on the left. Specifically, the southwestern corner of the park, with that golden, splendid USS Maine monument.
The glass wall is gigantic, and amazing.
Does a venue make a difference in how you experience a concert? I think it must (positive or negative). And some venues are distracting, as the Appel Room is. (Sometimes, the distraction is welcome.)
Let me tell you a story—two of them, actually. Years ago, I was in Salzburg’s Schloss Mirabell, where the mayor has his office. A friend of mine was receiving the key to the city. Out the mayor’s window is a picture-perfect view. It’s a postcard Salzburg, a Disney Salzburg, a fairyland Salzburg.
The mayor told us, “I position my desk so as to work with my back to the window. Otherwise, I could never get anything done.”
When I told this story in a column, my colleague Rick Brookhiser responded,
I think I have the mayor of Salzburg beat. We had a friend in Athens, a Greek foodwriter, who has an apartment on the Acropolis with a picture-window view of the Parthenon. I oohed and aahed, and then said, “If you’re working, don’t you ever feel like saying—‘Oh, shut up!’?” To which our friend replied that she never works in her apartment, but in her office—a second, smaller apartment around the corner, with no view.
Back to the Appel Room. When I was there, the sun was setting, on a beautiful summer day.
And note that it’s the Appel Room, not the Apple Room. The name refers, not to the computer giant, but to a pair of philanthropists, Helen and Robert Appel. (The modern style dictates that the wife’s name come first.) But since the Appel Room is so glassy—glassily, gleamingly, attractively modern—it might as well be an Apple place.