Thomas Nickell, Piano, and The Orchestra of the Swan, David Curtis, Conductor, in an Original Program of Mozart, Messiaen, Nickell, Cowell, Britten, David Matthews, and Wagner/Liszt
At 18, Thomas Nickell, even in a world populated by numerous prodigies who began to play in public at very young ages, still deserves to be considered a young, emerging artist, and this concert showed him to be a notably mature and tasteful one. He is currently a student at the New School, Mannes College of Music, studying piano and composition, both with equal seriousness. He has already played programs in concert and with orchestra in the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and Chicago, and has been honored as a Steinway artist and is represented by Alexander & Buono International. The concert, a repeat of his London debut, gave the full house something else to be grateful for: a visit from an outstanding British chamber orchestra—in this instance all strings—The Orchestra of the Swan, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, under the direction of its founder and music director, David Curtis, who is as enterprising and personable as he is musical.
Pianist Christina Kobb plays Schubert, Robert and Clara Schumann, Grieg, and Liszt in her Carnegie Hall Debut
I recently heard three piano programs, almost back-to-back, in Weill Hall. Each pianist produced a strikingly different sound from the same instrument, Weill’s beautiful house Steinway. The pianists and their programs were so very different that it is not so very difficult to resist the temptation to discuss them in a single review, although there are some common threads, for example Romanticism and Schubert. In fact, you’ll find I’m writing rather a lot about those subjects at the moment.
True story: Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who lived most of his life in France, met and befriended the son of a neighbor, a very large young man known as Andre the Giant. Beckett drove Andre, called Dede, to school in his truck because Dede’s huge size made riding the regular school bus impossible. During the drives together, Beckett and Andre spent a lot of their time talking about cricket.
must have been in a Fantasia mood for this program—funnybone at the ready. There was something cartoon-friendly about the array on stage Sunday afternoon—an orchestra half the usual size—an enormously tall conductor in black maitre d’ tails with a huge bald head, black goatee and a tiny baton—a remarkably small cellist by his side. Were we about to hear a concert in caricature by the Katzenjammer Kids? It would seem so. My bad!
Off-season musical life is not as thin in the Hudson Valley as it is in the Berkshires, but, whatever the general situation, the Concerts at Camphill Ghent, founded and directed by pianist Gili Melamed-Lev, stand out for their exceptional quality, one month after another. As I have mentioned elsewhere, these concerts, which usually sell out weeks before the concert date, take place in the intimate performing arts hall of Camphill Ghent, a residential community for elders in Chatham, New York. This particular article will offer a preview of the upcoming March concert, which is actually based on an abbreviated version of the program the Lev-Evans Duo played at a house concert in Stockbridge last month, and reviews of two previous concerts at Camphill Ghent.
One of the pleasures of this presentation was its immediacy as the small setting brought the dancers very close to the audience. To the performers’ credit, the strain and difficulty of executing many challenging positions and lifts rarely showed.
Martin McDonagh at his Beginnings and Today: The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Druid at BAM and Hangmen Projected.
I only managed to get to The Beauty Queen of Leenane on its very last day at BAM, a Sunday matinee—in fact Super Bowl Sunday. This momentous annual event seemed to have little effect on McDonagh fans, and BAM’s Harvey Theater was nearly full. The audience was of more than the usual interest, because, as the play took its course, many members of the audience seemed to know what was going to happen in advance. Only the special decorum of legitimate theater seemed to prevent some of them from calling out the lines ahead of the actors, as was the practice of denizens of the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square at the Study Period screenings of Casablanca. These people had seen the show at the BAM run at least once before, and in many cases, I’m sure, back in the late 1990s, when it catapulted its author Martin McDonagh to fame and fortune. On the other hand, the audience was alive to the affecting events in the story, gasping or ahhing at unpleasant turns of events, as they unfolded.
Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin in the First Complete Cycle of Bruckner’s Symphonies in the U.S., with Mozart Concertos for Piano, Winds, and Strings
We New Yorkers are fortunate in enjoying annual visits from the greatest European and American orchestras, and even more fortunate when these visitors offer a residency or at least what some people like to call a “curated” series of concerts. In most instances these take place in Carnegie Hall. Beyond the privilege of hearing different groups under different conductors in the same familiar acoustic—fortunately one of the highest order—a more extended and coherent journey through the classical repertoire justifies the effort and expense of the tour. The brilliant 2010 series built around Beethoven and the Second Viennese School, played by the Vienna Philharmonic, with the podium shared by Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim, stands out as a telling example.