Music

Susan Graham Sings French Songs at Cadogan Hall

Matinee musicale. On a sunny day off Sloane Square, it was a perfect idea to skip lunch and listen instead to an hour of French songs. The singer was Susan Graham, the acclaimed Texas-born mezzo who has made a speciality of this repertoire, like Frederica von Stade before her. Ever since the Twenties, when young expatriates travelled to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, there’s been a preference in New York and Boston, now rather slim, for chansons over lieder. Graham has made a recording of songs by Ned Rorem, who duplicates the ephemeral delicacy and finely etched sophistication found in Ravel, Poulenc, and Debussy. The virtues of the French art song are either delectable or debatable, depending on your orientation. Paris or Vienna? I lean so far to the latter that I hesitated about going to hear Graham’s recital, but I knew her singing would be very accomplished, so I took my seat in the front row at Cadogan Hall.

Gergiev with the LSO in Prokofiev Symphonies and Concertos at Avery Fisher Hall

Lincoln Center Great Performers Presents Russian Dreams: The Music of Sergei Prokofiev Monday, March 23, 2009 at 8:00 Avery Fisher Hall (Broadway at 65th Street) London Symphony Orchestra Valery Gergiev, conductor Vladimir Feltsman, piano All-Prokofiev program Symphony No. 1 in…
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Paul Griffiths, The Substance of Things Heard – Writings about Music

Paul Griffiths

For most of its history music criticism has been almost as fleeting as music itself. If a person, for whatever odd reason, wanted to read a review of some past concert, it would have been necessary to consult a newspaper archive in a library, hardly a Herculean task, but an effort in comparison to the instantly-available databases we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. And, now that print journalism seems to be dying out, and publications like our own Berkshire Review for the Arts maintain permanent access to all published articles (and there is a readership for some of them long after the event they record) it is easier than ever.

Music of the Other Germany: American Symphony Orchestra

Leon Botstein attracted an impressive crowd to Avery Fisher Hall on the afternoon of Sunday, January 25, to hear him conduct the ASO in a program of extremely obscure music: orchestral works from “the other Germany,” that is the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), or East Germany. It is most unjust that this music is as neglected as it is today, since every work on the program was soundly constructed and interesting, even astonishing at times. All were worth a second or a third hearing, or even more. Fortunately most of the works on the program are available on CD.

Vivica Genaux, Mezzo-Soprano, and Members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, 1/14/2009

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:30 PM Vivica Genaux, Mezzo-Soprano Members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra Luca Mares,violin; Giuseppe Cabrio, violin; Alessandra di Vincenzo, viola; Francesco Galligioni, cello; Alessandro Sbrogiò, double bass; Ivano Zanenghi, lute…
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Remembering Ormandy – In Case You Were There, Too

Even before this 10-CD commemorative set was issued, I noticed a wash of nostalgia for Eugene Ormandy among baby boomers. He was inescapable for that generation, the progenitor of hundreds of LPs, only a sampling of which are contained here. Ormandy became Leopold Stokowski’s associate conductor at the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1936 and succeeded him two years later, beginning an unparalleled run of 44 years as music director before retiring in 1980, a reign no one will ever duplicate, or would want to. During that time Ormandy led the orchestra between 100 and 180 times a year. That, too, is a staggering statistic given that modern music directors, in their eagerness to spread themselves globally, are essentially long-term guests who drop in to visit their home orchestras for as little as a quarter of the regular season.

Prokofiev’s Music for Eisenstein with Valery Gergiev and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater at Fisher Hall, 11/17/2008

Valery Gergiev Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Avery Fisher Hall Monday, November 17, 2008 at 8:00 Sergey Prokofiev, Film Music Sergey Prokofiev Ivan the Terrible Alexander Nevsky The film score, Ivan the Terrible, is where I…
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Gustavo Dudamel leads the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra at the Proms

Wunderkindfest. Unless you are a stubborn opinionator, performances can confuse you at times. I was flummoxed last night at the Proms by Gustavo Dudamel and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, in a concert I was expecting to enjoy, though not to the utmost. The Berlioz Symphonie fantastique wore out its welcome many years ago, and only a brilliant performance can redeem it for me. That Dudamel did not deliver. Sparkling as he is in the bright media limelight, the skyrocketing young Venezuelan has to have the goods, too. In this case, his reading was flat, disjointed, and plodding, with a drawn-out Scene aux champs that lasted long enough for Madame Defarge to knit a quilt. The guillotine movement that followed was coarse and blatty, which is how the whole reading went, either in slow mo with exaggerated emphases or sped up recklessly. Dudamel’s inability to sustain tension in soft passages, one of the most blatant failings in a bad conductor, shocked me.

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