Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
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.
Stephen Porter played late works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy at the House of the Redeemer in Manhattan, Thursday May 1, at 7.30 pm—a presentation of New York Arts
We were extremely proud to present, as our single concert of this season, a piano recital by Stephen Porter, a musician of supreme intelligence, sensitivity, and learning. His pianism is equally developed on the fortepiano as on the modern fortepiano, and we are fortunate that his curious ear for historical instruments has drawn him to the unique qualities of the House of the Redeemer’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand in the intimate acoustics of its Library.
If you’re convinced you’ve visited every major live-performance venue for the best in classical music in New York City, well, music-lovers, have I got good news. I’m happy to announce another cardinal direction to add to your compass rose (besides Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the 92nd Street Y), start heading South. Yes, South! Serious chamber lovers, violin aficionados, and Maverick Festival-ers can now put Workshop for Music Performance (W.M.P.) Concert Hall on your radar for exquisite classical music. It’s a hidden gem on a short not-so-hidden block on East 28th (between Madison and Park) across from the CBS News building. If you’re in the neighborhood at 12:30 on a Monday, drop in to a wonderful concert series called “Strad for Lunch.”
Pianissimo: Memorable keyboard art by Russell Sherman and Marc-André Hamelin and chamber music by the Takács and Borromeo String Quartets trigger some personal reminiscences
This season marked the 75th Anniversary of the Celebrity Series of Boston, founded by Aaron Richmond, whose widow, Nancy Richmond Winsten, sponsors the piano events and is still a familiar attendee. I have a deep sense of nostalgia about the Celebrity Series. The very first concert I ever attended in Boston was with the Budapest String Quartet (my favorite quartet) in 1962. It was my first year of graduate school (I was a very young grad student) and I was living on a $1500 a year scholarship. I had neither time nor money for anything as frivolous as a chamber music concert. But I had to go. The Jordan Hall box office told me the performance was sold out… unless I was willing to take a cheap stage seat. So there I was, sitting a few feet away from the Budapest Quartet playing Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert. It remains one of the greatest concerts I ever heard in my life.
Since one of my aims is to try to find out why, for some people, “classical” music is so much more potent than other kinds of music, and as a connected question, why these people form only a small proportion of the population, I’ll give some examples of the pitfalls that await the unwary “classical” missionary who speaks to high school students or innocent adults. Most of what follows is drawn from real life. The speaker, Juan Torescramiento, is introducing a performance of one of Beethoven’s Rasumovsky Quartets by the Pro Classico String Quartet. Mr. Torescramiento is not Spanish, but the fake-Spanish name I have given him is more appropriate to the character of his discourse than anything printable in English. He is actually a conflation of several musical missionaries (all of white European extraction) whose effusions I was unlucky enough to have to sit through during the thirty-two years of my tenure as a high school teacher in New York City. Some were faculty members. After giving a few details of Beethoven’s birth and early life he gets to the real stuff. First we get some of the old horse-feathers… Oops! I meant to say “conventional wisdom.”
B-List Works Shine Forth at Symphony Hall. Andrew Davis leads the BSO in Vaughan-Williams, Prokofiev (with Yuja Wang), and Rimsky-Korsakoff
The oeuvre of the each of the greatest, most familiar composers can be imagined as a personal cosmos, a collection of works of great power and quality, spanning a wide range of style and expression. Mention of their names is almost enough to arouse expectations of music belonging on the A-List. Other significant but less ubiquitous composers can be known to concert audiences through small numbers of repeatedly performed works that possess an identifiable sound, style, and mood. Less familiar but important works by two such composers, Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Serge Prokofiev, received fine performances by the Boston Symphony in late March, along with an A-List favorite by Rimsky-Korsakoff. These works gave audiences a chance to savor some less familiar, even surprising sides of their composers’ artistic personalities, and to provoke curiosity about what other works by these composers might be lurking in the shadows of the B-List.