Tag Archive: Brahms

Nicolai’s Merry Wives at the Boston Midsummer Opera and Tanglewood Tales: Jurowski and Koenigs Tell the Whole Story

Susan Davenny-Wyner, Conductor

It was James Levine’s many cancelations that most directly led to his (perhaps forced) resignation as the Boston Symphony Orchestra music director in the spring of 2011. But Levine has no monopoly on health problems and accidents. The glow of the two superlative concerts I attended at Tanglewood (July 19 and 20) was clouded over by the startling announcement that Levine’s young and healthy replacement, 34-year-old Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, was unable to conduct the July 27 Verdi Requiem, his first scheduled concert since his appointment, because he had suffered a “severe concussion” after being “struck in the head by a door that unexpectedly swung open at his residence in Bayreuth, Germany.”

Marek Janowski Conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Schumann’s Manfred Overture, Rhenish Symphony and the Brahms Double Concerto with Steinbacher and Gerhardt

Marek Janowski.

It has been about a hundred years now since classical composers automatically turned to literature for inspiration. Walt Whitman was perhaps the last universal philosopher of the written word to appeal widely to musicians. Expansive, idealistic compositions by Vaughan Williams (A Sea Symphony), Delius (Sea Drift), Hindemith (“When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”) and many others are still vividly with us to prove the point… But in the decades since, our culture has veered off in realistic, therapeutic and scientific directions. Self-actualization of the dramatic sort depicted in romantic verse now seems naive and self-indulgent to us. We do not model ourselves any more on sweeping literary notions of heroism, duty and suicide. They embarrass us slightly.  And this probably explains why one doesn’t very often come across Fountainhead Symphonies, featuring Howard Roark standing naked at the edge of a cliff, or tone poems devoted to Portnoy’s activities of self-discovery in the coat closet. Occasionally, somebody still thinks of himself with sufficient grandiosity to try pulling off a musical Hamlet or Macbeth, but these days we take it all with a grain of salt. Narcissism has migrated to opera, where it can become camp.

The Thinking Virtuoso Pianists play in New York, Part I: Hamelin and Hough

Marc-André Hamelin. Photo Fran Kaufman.

Marc-André Hamelin, piano 92nd Street Y January 30, 2013 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Organ Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 (arr. Theodor Szantó) Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) Sonatina seconda Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Images, Book I Reflets dans l’eau Hommage…
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Rudolf Buchbinder plays the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert; Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”

Rudolf Buchbinder

New York Philharmonic Avery Fisher Hall February 16, 2013 Alan Gilbert, conductor Rudolf Buchbinder, piano Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” Imagine a kinder, gentler nineteenth century, one not…
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Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra Open the Symphonic Masters Series at Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center’s acclaimed Great Performers series began its 2012/13 Symphonic Masters lineup with two outstanding performances by the London Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of its principal conductor, Valery Gergiev. Each of the all-Brahms programs featured a concerto and a…
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Minsoo Sohn in a Masterful Recital of Webern, Brahms, and Bach Variations at Carnegie Hall

Minsoo Sohn

This simple, but finely crafted program of variations for keyboard instrument by the brilliant young pianist Minsoo Sohn, whose work I have followed for several years, was an important concert. It was not Mr. Sohn’s New York debut, but it…
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The Kuss Quartet and Naoko Shimizu Play Quartets and Quintets by Mozart, Brahms, Kurtág and Gordon Kerry

Jenö Szervánszky. Moon over Dark Buildings. Oil on board. ca.19?? 20 x 15cm Private collection View over the rooftops from the artist's apartment in Danjanich utca, Budapest.

It is always fun when a new string quartet comes to town, especially when they bring strange and different music with them. György Kurtág is not very strange, but nonetheless somewhat rare around here, and more importantly excellent listening, so I’m grateful to the Kuss Quartet for bringing it, even if short, though holding its own among the more usual fair. And the encore of Mozart’s Cassation in C was entirely beyond the call of duty in such an enormous and dense program, especially considering the concentrated, caring manner of their playing.

The Famous Five Play Brahms: The Tinalley String Quartet Plays with Kristian Chong

The Tinalley String Quartet.

In this the last performance of this program, the Tinalley String Quartet with their usual polish and serious, concentrated approach dipped into distant points in, without any futile attempt to span, romantic chamber music. The all minor key pieces each stood out distinctly by virtue of the composers’ individual emotional and intellectual language, while comfortably yoked together under the Tinalley’s distinctive voice. The subtler sense of humor, perhaps broader range of experience held in Brahms’ music made a very satisfying conclusion to the evening fitting so well the group’s very human tone — warm, but well-rounded and very clear, though at the same time they have a certain relaxed attitude, coloring the group tone as fits the music and their idea of the whole, rather than scrabbling for fleeting spectacle, which makes the performance very memorable. Kristian Chong, the invited pianist, got along very well with the group. Managing to get a remarkably sultry tone out of his Steinway, he seemed to expand the existing coloring of the group for that grand Brahms’ quintet, contributing as much oscuro as chiaro. No multiple-source fluorescent globes here. In the more individualistic writing which brings out each five of the players at some point, each showed an unforced and personal expression yet were always aware of the quintet as an expressive instrument in which their individual thoughts would fly on, the larger group picking up and carrying on the curve of their solo line.

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