Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
The new season began for me with a recital which was exemplary in every way. The music-making was on the highest level, and the program was was astutely chosen for a clearly defined purpose with which no music-lover could take exception. Paul Jacobs made in absolutely clear in his rather extensive, but never tedious addresses to the audience that he had two missions in mind: 1. to bring the organ recital back into mainstream concert-going 2. to promote the music of a great composer who is neglected by performing musicians and audiences alike. The organist’s jocularity only made his passionate belief in these causes all the more poignant.
Mostly Mozart, Hold the Mozart: the International Contemporary Ensemble and Ellie Dehn perform Fujikura, Zorn, Lucier, and Messiaen at the Park Avenue Armory
ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) has become a fixture at what might once have been considered and unlikely event, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. In recent years it has devloped into a more eclectic sort of festival, grounded in the music of Mozart as always, but including baroque and classical music played on period instruments as well as contemporary music. Within a few weeks Mostly Mozart provides a condensation of our musical interests today. It is especially welcome to get some taste of the rich contemporary music life in the City, when it inevitably thins out for the summer, as composers, many of whom teach for a living, go off to the country or an arts center to compose, perhaps with a visit to the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood or some other opportunity to congregate with colleagues and hear each other’s work.
Benjamin Grosvenor Plays Ravel with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony. Romeo and Juliet from Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev and a Dash of Stravinsky
Indian summer is a favorite time of year in San Francisco. The city’s deceptively cutting winds give way to something approaching balminess. And one gears up, if not for romance, then surely for a new Symphony season to warm the heart, excite the pulse and remind one that art is the password to beauty’s permanence. I’ve often commented about the happy spirit of our symphony…and do so again. There exist surly orchestras, whose players sit looking for all the world as though they’d gladly wring the conductor’s neck as play for him. (These tend to be Russian!) But before I’m accused of national prejudices, I should point out, as an old New Yorker, that the New York Philharmonic is quite capable of gathering onstage looking as though they’d like to kill each other! Perhaps it is Panglossian naïveté to think comity reigns here, but it certainly seemed so on Saturday.
I wish I had thought of it first: “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” That was how the papers received Lorin Maazel’s death. And it’s a telling remark for anyone who reminisces about the conductor. Maazel was a genius who solved differential calculus problems for fun. He bored easily, was prone to arrogance, and it became his tendency to pull music around until it interested him again. This did not always work with audiences. At times the music could sound like an equation, itself.
Charles Dutoit triumphs in Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony with the San Francisco Symphony, with Kirill Gerstein in Beethoven
There’s no question that the San Francisco Symphony is one of our great American orchestras. I go to as many of their Carnegie Hall concerts as I can, and if these are not a consistent joy, it has nothing to do with the musicians’ capabilities, rather with the vagaries of Michael Tilson Thomas’s talents and tastes—of which more later. The concert I am reporting on had little to do with MTT beyond his successful maintenance of Herbert Blomstedt’s discipline.
For its annual opera, Bard Summerscape has chosen Carl Maria von Weber’s seldom performed masterpiece, Euryanthe. Der Freischütz had been a great success at the Kärtnerthortheater in Vienna at its premiere in 1821, and the impresario Domenico Barbala lost no time in asking Weber for another opera of the sort. Weber, however, wanted to compose something different. He wanted to grow beyond the popular Singspiel alternation of spoke dialogue and sung numbers in favor of a freer flow of recitative, sung dialogue, and arias. Weber had considerable difficulty in deciding on a libretto, and he eventually persuaded Helmine von Chezy to take on the job—against her protests. She wrote the libretto for Schubert’s even more unsuccessful Rosamunde at the same time. Both premiered in 1823.) Euryanthe‘s failure in spite of Weber’s splendid music is generally blamed on the poor quality of Chezy’s verse and the involved, hard-to-follow plotline. Over the years, Euryanthe receives only occasional performances, but it has also aquired a passionate cult following, mainly on the basis of the excellent 1975 recording with the Dresdner Staatskapelle playing under Marek Janowski, and Jessye Norman and Nicolai Gedda, among the cast. Director Kevin Newbury and his team have worked hard to overcome Euryanthe‘s challenges, as Mr. Newbury likes to call them, and his discussion of them in this interview gives us every reason to be optimistic.
The Montreal Chamber Music Festival offers an irresistable combination of weekend jazz with weekday classical concerts. Within this the Festival organizers, principally the founder and director, Denis Brott, a professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, construct the programs around a few themes, including lunchtime Bach concerts, great Canadian pianists, and the Israel Connection, which brings young Israeli musicians to Montreal. For logistical reasons, I had to concentrate on the classics and the latter two categories. For me it was time for Beethoven and Schubert, and I was also attracted by the participation of a brilliant young violinist, Giora Schmidt,
The most recent piece of bad news in the opera world is that the Metropolitan Opera has succumbed to pressure from several Jewish organizations and cancelled the international Live in HD telecast and radio broadcast of its new production of John Adams’s complex and controversial 1991 opera/oratorio The Death of Klinghoffer—which is about the Palestinian terrorist attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. And because Adams, librettist Alice Goodman, and stage director Peter Sellars had the chutzpah to dramatize the points of view of the terrorists as well as the victims, some people, including Leon Klinghoffer’s two daughters, felt the opera was anti-Semitic.