Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
My leading thought goes against much of what the Bard Music Festival and my own values, for that matter, stand for. And just read Keith Francis’ provocative series, The Great Composers?, the latest installment of which has just been published. I’ve missed only one Bard Festival since 2006, and I’ve heard great music by Elgar, Prokofiev, and Sibelius. And, well, Saint-Saëns was too gifted to be great, and that really didn’t interest him in any case. Of the composers included in the festival, only Wagner and Stravinsky turn up on common lists of the greatest—not that those stupid lists do anything but harm. Still, during the two weekends devoted to Franz Schubert I felt I was living with the gods, and the lingering impression of those weekends swelled accordingly.
The periodic visits of the Berlin Philharmonic are events most New York music lovers look forward to with keen anticipation, not least myself. I’d even have gone to the Carnegie Hall Opening Night Gala, if that were their only concert in the City this season, to hear the Bruch Violin Concerto and Anne-Sophie Mutter once more, but fortunately that was not necessary. The following evening they played the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, one of his works I particularly admire and enjoy, and the complete Firebird, only excerpted in the gala program, and that second program offered more. In fact they played four concerts at Carnegie and one at the Park Avenue Armory, a very earnest one, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, complete with costumes and staging by Peter Sellars.
A Gala concert at Symphony Hall marked the first time Andris Nelsons led the Boston Symphony as its 15th Music Director (at Tanglewood this past summer, he was still Music Director Designate). He of course received a warm welcome from the audience—a standing ovation—as warm as the ovations that greeted Seiji Ozawa and James Levine. Since Levine resigned in 2011 for health reasons, BSO subscribers and attendees have been longing for someone to be in charge.
It would be hard to peg with certainty the guiding concept in Michael Tilson Thomas’ recent choral program for the San Francisco Symphony. As so often with MTT, the selections appear a sophisticated grab bag. But intuition suggests the topic of nature and the metaphysics which spring from appreciating it. Thomas’ introductory remarks for each piece certainly leaned in this direction. Mounting the podium, he reached for his mike and held it like a weapon overhead. This can often result in a verbal concert and the disapproval of old ladies in the audience. But the nature of the music was such that his remarks were appreciated and not too long.
It has been observed that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. Duke Ellington said that if it sounds good it probably is good. Peter Schickele, the well-known avatar of P. D. Q. Bach (1807-1742), dedicated his weekly radio programme, Schickele Mix, to the principle that all musics are created equal, so you might think that he doesn’t believe in the good and the bad. Each episode is a light-hearted, although somewhat heavy-humored, presentation of diverse musical excerpts loosely connected by a musical, historical or literary thread.
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.