Tag Archive: Bartók

The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Donato Cabrera, conductor, with Chen Zhao, violin, and Katie Kadarauch, viola in Mason Bates, Mozart, and Bartók

San francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, 2014. Photo Kristen Loken.

Mason Bates will surely forgive us–if I suggest the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra out-deviled everyone at this concert!

For a Saturday afternoon in May, Davies Hall was well attended, with a more jovial parental buzz than usual. Lots of children were in the audience. Hope springs eternal they won’t fidget–utopian when dealing with three-year-olds inclined to crawl. One of the forward boxes resembled a puppy-pen throughout, with lots of motion, aleatoric burbling and various appendages attempting to escape the banister. But no matter.The music won.

MTT and Yuja Wang play their European Tour Program at Home: Bartók and Mahler

Yuja Wang

Naked came the pianist!

Or so it nearly seemed, as Yuja Wang made her way to the Davies stage last Saturday. This young performer always serves up classic delicacy spiked with erotic undulation. But nothing quite led us to expect the peek-a-lot raspberry dress, with its hip-high slit, diamond glam panels and full expanse of leg seen from the bench. This was nearly Bartók in a bikini. But nobody was complaining. Europe, take note. In America, all is not prudery!

Introducing Weiyin Chen, who will play Bartók, Marc Neikrug, and Schubert at SubCulture on June 13

Pianist Weiyin Chen

Last January I heard part of quite a thrilling chamber concert at SubCulture. The Mirò Quartet, which I have reviewed favorably in the past, excelled themselves in an all-Brahms concert with a young Taiwanese-American pianist I had not heard before, Weiyin Chen. Her playing showed maturity, a deep identification with  the music, in this case Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor and Piano Quintet, an extensive range of color and feeling, strength, and seriousness. The Mirò played with a electric intensity I’ve not heard from them before. This was in fact the second concert of a three-part debut series she has organized for SubCulture.

Susanna Mälkki conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Griffes, Bartók, and Brahms, with Jeremy Denk, Piano

Susanna Mälkki. Photo Roni Rekomaa.

I had several motives in attending this concert. Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki is a fast rising star in the classical world, recently appointed Music Director of the Helsinki Philharmonic. I was eager to hear the rarely performed Griffes tone poem, a brilliant programming move. (We need to experience more “A” pieces from obscure composers of the past, I frequently argue.) And I was curious to see how Jeremy Denk would interact with Mälkki, since both musicians are of the brisk, sparky sort. The concert did not disappoint.

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

Lloyd Schwartz, 1988, by Robert Giard

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.

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra visit New York with Bartók, Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Bruckner, with Leonidas Kavakos

Mariss Jansons

When the Concertgebouw play at Carnegie, it is hard to imagine that any other orchestra could be as good or better. Then we hear Vienna and Dresden (we we shall this season), and we realize that the great Central European orchestras flourish in spheres all their own, and that it is a fool’s errand to attempt to rank them. Still, when it comes to communicating what a composer wrote, rather than a particular tradition of playing, the Concertgebouw remain unsurpassed. And if one refers back to the magnificent legacy of recorded performances under conductors associated with other orchestras—Walter, Klemperer, Szell, Monteux, and others—one consistently finds that their performances with the Concertgebouw represent their very best work. This year’s visit went right to the mark.

San Francisco Symphony: Arabella Steinbacher plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; Charles Dutoit conducts Stravinsky and Bartók.

Her view of the Tchaikovsky was a fraction slower than the usual ones built around the big tuttis—but all the better for the subtlety this permitted. There were literally moments when the orchestra, playing as quietly as it knew how, could not match her for delicacy. One of the mesmerizing features of Arabella Steinbacher’s stage presence was the way she swayed to the orchestra—leaning slowly to one side for several bars, then slowly back the other way for an equal number of bars—a mesmerizing dance to the orchestra’s basic pulse. It kept all eyes on her. Indeed, the absence of any sudden movements was the captivating feature of her presence. Just to lower her head and look down could be measured in the bar lines and pulse of the music. This special elegance has already been noted elsewhere in her career and and compared to the special dignity of Grace Kelly. I must say I concur. There are worse characterizations than for a violinist to be known as “Her Serene Highness.”

Prom 15: Liszt’s Faust Symphony, Kodály and Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Loved to dearth. Without remembering any legal documents I signed that had Satan written in the small print, just when I forget how tawdry and thin Liszt’s Faust Symphony is, it comes around again and I give it another chance. Too late. I hear the old guy cackle and the doors of Albert Hall clanging shut. The only way to overcome the symphony’s clattering banality is for the conductor to bash the score within an inch of its life. The thing won’t die — no fear of that — and if there is truly inspired leadership, as from Leonard Bernstein and Jascha Horenstein in their classic recordings, the music will bring genuine pleasure, like the circus.

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