An exciting new festival at Lincoln Center will make an already busy period — February 22 to March 18 — even busier. It bears the slightly odd (and slightly clumsy, I think) name, Tully Scope Festival. But no matter, the offerings, which cover a vast range of the best in early music, traditional classical music, contemporary, experimental, and crossover, are entirely compelling, and will make this a valuable addition to the already rich cultural life on the Upper West Side.
Jane Moss, Vice President for Programming at Lincoln Center, and Director of Tully Scope, explained the purpose and character of the festival in this way: “Tully Scope builds on the success of Alice Tully Hall’s Opening Nights Festival, the celebration of an architectural milestone for Lincoln Center that not only reinvigorated the campus, but also inspired extraordinary new collaborations with diverse artists. The dramatically transformed hall, complemented by the welcoming ambience of its public spaces, has become a versatile partner and key component in the expansion of Lincoln Center’s programming.” Tully Scope is not only brilliantly designed to take full advantage of the resources of the new Alice Tully Hall, it reaches out very appealingly to younger concert-goers with its low prices. The purchase of one full-price ticket (which ranges between $45 and $75 for most events; some are less expensive) enables one to buy tickets for any other events for $20.
The programming is especially nicely designed to attract younger, more experimentally-inclined listeners, as well as people who are totally at home in the classics, and best of all, all events have the potential to draw one group off his or her usual turf into something new. One reason for that is their quality: all the participants are either long-established leaders in their fields who still have all their vitality, or they are exciting newer groups who have made a splash somewhere in Europe or New York. And this leads me to another well-considered aspect of the festival, the balance between international and local (even in-house, meaning Juilliard) participants, showing the close links between Juilliard, the New York music scene in general, and the world at large.
The opening event, February 22 at 6 pm, is free and fun…although most likely fun with a purpose: the world premiere of Nathan Davis’ Bells. In this 30 minute work, members of the International Contemporary Ensemble will disperse themselves among the audience in the Grand Foyer of Alice Tully Hall. The audience will participate, by keeping their cell phones on. As the composer says, “Bells is concerned with communication, space (the physical space inside and outside the Alice Tully Hall Grand Foyer) and distance (between notes, sounds, ideas, and physical distances between performers, audience, walls, speakers, and so on).” According to the announcement, “During the performance, ICE musicians in the space will be playing the primary musical material, written for wind instruments, percussion, gongs, and small bells. Audience members will be given instructions to dial and connect to one of several conference numbers, set their phones on speaker, and become part of a decentralized PA. The live processing reaches all the phones, having first travelled along thousands of miles of wires and then beamed from cell towers. The speakers of these phones will all play similar material but each one crackles and distorts at different frequencies, creating a secondary textural level within the audience.”
This will be followed at 7.30 by Chance Encounters, a concert honoring Morton Feldman on what would have been his 85th birthday. The ICE with Steven Schick, conductor and percussion, will play a substantial program of music by Webern, Xenakis, Cage, and of course Feldman, inspired by a chance encounter between Feldman and John Cage in 1950 at Carnegie Hall at a performance of Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra. ICE, founded 2001, have built up an reputation for their daring repertory and outstanding musicianship. On Thursday, February 24, there will be more Feldman, this time performed in honor of György Kurtág’s 85th birthday, by Axiom, Juilliard’s own new music group, comprised of current students and recent graduates conducted by Jeff Milarsky. In the program two works by Kurtág, his Hommage à R. Sch. and Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova, will frame Feldman’s Rothko Chapel and Bass Clarinet and Percussion.
Feldman, Kurtág, Cage and the others bring us directly into musical and aesthetic issues which are of crucial interest to artists of all kinds today. While Kurtág is still with us, as a vital and authoritative creator in the present day, Cage and Feldman, because of his early death, belong to the past. 1950, after all, ia a significant date in the experience Tully Scape will offer. All artists whose work relates to some aspect Cage’s encyclopedic output are engrossed in the issues of form, expression, even politics that were central to Cage and the others in his circle. Feldman himself was deeply involved in the visual arts through the abstract expressionists with whom he associated and who are like Cage so much in the center of things right now, because of the magnificent exhibition at MoMA and other shows, like the Adolph Gottlieb retrospective recently reviewed in these pages.
If past and present hang together in a nervous and vital balance in the first two concerts, the next pair, which are in fact separated by two weeks, lie in the heart of romanticism. On the 26th, Emanuel Ax will address late Schubert: the Four Impromptus, D. 935 and the great B Flat Sonata, his last. These will be separated by Schubert’s earlier A Major Sonata, a dreamy lyrical work, which is not without its dark and violent outbursts.
These works may be classics, but they have never been complacently accepted as part of the normal, respectable furnishings of the repertory. Long and difficult as they are, the B Flat and its companions, the late A Major and the C Minor never fit into the aesthetic and ambitions of virtuoso repertoire. They can only be appreciated as music, not as display pieces. Artur Schnabel first brought them to wider attention, and later his pupils Leon Fleisher and Leonard Shure (actually assistant) took them up, as well as Wilhelm Kempff, Rudolf Serkin, Murray Perahia, Russell Sherman, and above all Alfred Brendel. With his retirement, there has been something of a vacuum in the life of these works in concert. It will extremely interesting to hear what insight Emanuel Ax can bring to these monumental and profound works. In this context, this kind of classical programming is hardly business as usual.
On Sunday March 13 baritone Simon Keenlyside will join Mr. Ax for a program of Schubert Lieder, with the A Minor Piano Sonata set in the middle of them. Mr. Keenlyside is not only one of the most intelligent and personable interpreters of Lieder (not to mention opera), he doesn’t take the repertoire for granted, eagerly ferreting about the less well known of Schubert’s many songs, and always surprising us with some treasure we’ve never heard before, unless we’ve been particularly assiduous in working our way through the Hyperion complete recorded edition, Fischer-Dieskau’s, or some other.
After the first Schubert recital, festival-goers will have a week off, until Friday March 4, when Les Percussions de Strasbourg will set off a concentrated series of nine concerts, which catch all in one net most of what is most alive and creative in “serious’ music today. This group, highly reputed for their outstanding playing and commitment to new compositions since their foundation in 1962, will play two concerts under the leadership of their Artistic Director, Jean-Paul Bernard. The first evening will be the New York premiere of Gérard Grisey’s Le noir de l’étoile. As the announcement says, “Taking advantage of [Alice Tully] hall’s immersive feel and new staging capabilities, the work shatters all preconceived boundaries between performer and audience, offering a surround sound of reverberating melodies evoking the pulsars of massive stars and supernova explosions.” The second concert will consist of two major large-scale works by Xenakis, a composer with whom they have long collaborated. In fact both, Pléïades and Persephassa, were written expressly for them. All three works have a most ambitious scope, the universe itself.
On Monday March 7, Tully Scope will touch yet another aspect of contemporary music-making in its one event that could be described as fusion, but it is fusion — or classical/pop crossover — in a subtle, adventurous, and non-commercial way.
Tyondai Braxton has been working the classical/pop spectrum from both ends for over ten years now, both as guitarist and singer in the post-rock group Battles (He has since separated from them.) and through his own compositions, which owe something to John Adams and others. His 2009 album on Warp Records, Central Market, has been widely acclaimed for its fresh imagination through the subversion of the rock genre. A program like Tully Scope absolutely must include this kind of work, and in engaging Braxton, they have hit at the nerve center of the movement. He will be performing with the Brooklyn-based Wordless Music Orchestra conducted by Caleb Burhans. There will not only be the music of Braxton and Burhans, but also John Adams’ Road Movies and Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union.
In the next concert, Wednesday March 9, Kayhan Kalhor, the great virtuoso of the Persian kamancheh, who is perhaps best known through his participation in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project will join the young string quartet, Brooklyn Rider, in a program some traditional Iranian music, and improvisation of Mr. Kalhor’s, and contemporary western works, including the world premier of Phillip Glass’ Suite for String Quartet from Bent. They will also play the New York premiere of a new work for string quartet and kamancheh by Colin Jacobsen. Kalhor’s sophistication and tonal beauty are astonishing, as is the versatility of Brooklyn Rider. Their command of tone color is amazing, from imitative pricking and glassy sounds to the downright sumptuous, so the collaboration with Mr. Kalhor should prove at the very least a feast for the ear, but the musical imagination of the players and the composers should go far beyond that.
On Thursday, March 10, the Canadian pianist, Louis Lortie, will play Liszt’s complete Années de Pélerinage, one of his most serious and poetic works. This is an ideal match for the two Schubert programs, inasmuch as Liszt developed much of his more substantial romantic vein from Schubert’s songs and the Wanderer-Fantaisie. Liszt developed piano solo works from the songs, just as he did from opera, and many of pieces in Les Années de Pélerinage recall Schubert’s piano Fantaisie. Alfred Brendel was particularly sensitive to the affinity between late Schubert and the Années, since both occupied major places in his repertory. Louis Lortie has been admiringly reviewed in these pages before. His sharp intellect, command of tone, and powerful technique should bring out the best in these exceptionally engagin works of Liszt.
William Christie’s work with Les Arts Florissants hardly needs an introduction. They have been among the leaders in bringing baroque opera, ballet, and musical pageant back to life for contemporary audiences, and they have been most generous in bringing their performances to New York. On Friday and Saturday, March 11th and 12th, they will perform a double-bill of two one-act opera-ballets by Rameau, Anacréon and Pigmalion (1748). Rameau actually wrote two works about the ancient Greek poet of love and wine: his second, the better-known of the two (1737) will be performed at Tully Scope. Rameau’s musical wit and color should be in the best possible hands on these two evenings.
On Monday March 14, following Keenlyside and Ax on March 13, Jordi Savall will lead Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and Hespèrion XXI in the New York premiere of The Route of the New World: From Spain to Mexico: The musical dialogue of Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque, and the living Husteca and Jarocho Traditions. Montserrat Figueras, soprano, will sing. Again, these groups and their leader need no introduction. With their characteristic combination of scholarship, showmanship, and a musical spontaneity they never seem to lose, no matter how many times they’ve played a particular program. This one is new in the U.S., but I happened to hear an hour-long version of it at the Edinburgh Festival and was thoroughly delighted and instructed. The program follows the exportation of Spanish ecclesiastical and secular music to the New World, where it flowed together with native American traditions. Spanish priests, above all the Jesuits, were pleased to find that the Indians they brought into their choirs and orchestras responded most positively to the Latin language and to the music of the Church. The Indian choirs were superb, apparently, and from the music in this program, they must have sung with great tone and feeling. Native tonalities entered church music, and native rhythms and instruments became a part of secular music. In this program you will hear music that sounds entirely of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, and you will hear music that sounds as familiar as a folk tune you may have heard in a Mexican bar. You will hear music that sounds like a passionate love song, and the song is in fact about love, but for the Baby Jesus. Both familiar and strange, Jordi Savall’s program is full of fun as well.
In the penultimate concert, on Wednesday March 16, Sir Roger Norrington will conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a program of symphonies by C. P. E. Bach, a composer who has really come into his own in recent years, with the appearance of the C. P. E. Bach Edition and more and more conductors and players building up a feeling for his idiosyncratic style. Sir Roger has become more flexible and probing in his later years, and he should have a truly compelling insight into this brilliant and still underestimated composer.
For the final evening, the OAE will return to join the London Sinfonietta in a contemporary program, works by the German composer and stage director, Heiner Goebbels, his Songs of Wars I Have Seen, based on Gertrude Stein’s 1945 Paris memoir, and Sampler Suite from Surrogate Cities. Estonian conductor Anu Tali will lead them. The announcement describes Songs in this way: “Songs of Wars I Have Seen is a theatrical portrait of domestic life during World War II with texts from Gertrude Stein’s 1945 Paris memoir, spoken by female string players in a living room setting with chairs and reading lamps. Set to extracts from baroque composer Matthew Locke’s 17th-century score for The Tempest, the evocative work musically mirrors the sense of war and violence as an eternal and repetitive component of history.” And of Surrogate Cities: “Surrogate Cities, a moving and atmospheric exploration of people’s surroundings, examines all the complexities and contradictions of the nameless, ubiquitous, ancient, and modern cities that it invokes. Inspired by a texts, drawings, structures, and sounds, the piece remixes baroque music with samples of Jewish cantors recorded in the 1920s and 1930s.”
In this elaborate mixture of musical and dramatic performance, many of the threads of the festival come together: early music, the contemporary, the compulsive look back at mid-twentieth century horrors, as those of our own time unfold. Tully Scope, with its consistently top quality and discerning view of the music-making of today, is a must for anyone seriously interested in music or in art of any kind. All that’s missing is a recital by Wu Han and David Finckel.
FREE Opening Event Tuesday, February 22 at 6 pm in the Alice Tully Hall outer lobby International Contemporary Ensemble Nathan Davis: Bells (world premiere)
For Morton Feldman Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm Chance Encounters
International Contemporary Ensemble
Steven Schick, conductor and percussion
Feldman: The King of Denmark, for solo percussion
Webern: Concerto for nine instruments
Xenakis: Jalons, for 15 instruments
Cage: Imaginary Landscape No. 4, for 12 radios
Feldman: For Samuel Beckett
For Morton Feldman Thursday, February 24 at 7:30 pm
Axiom Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor
The Clarion Choir Steven Fox, artistic director
Kurtág: Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d
Feldman: Rothko Chapel
Feldman: Bass Clarinet and Percussion
Kurtág: Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova, Op. 17
Emanuel Ax performs Schubert
Saturday, February 26 at 7:30 pm
Four Impromptus, D.935
Sonata in A major, D.664
Sonata in B-flat major, D.960
Sunday, March 13 at 5 pm
Pre-concert lecture by Christopher H. Gibbs at 3:45 pm in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Emanuel Ax, piano All-Schubert program
Lied des Orpheus, D.474; Der Tod und das Mädchen, D.531; Auf der Donau, D.553; Dass sie hier gewesen, D.775; An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht, D.614; Piano Sonata in A minor, D.845 — Der Wanderer, D.489; Der Einsame, D.800; Vom Mitleiden Mariä; Pensa, che questo istante, D.76; Prometheus, D.674; Ganymed, D.544; Gondelfahrer, D.808; An mein Klavier, D.342; Im Walde, D.708
Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Friday, March 4 at 7:30 pm
Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Jean-Paul Bernard, artistic director
Grisey: Le noir de l’étoile (New York premiere)
Post-performance discussion with Jean-Paul Bernard and Olaf Tzschoppe
Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 pm
Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Jean-Paul Bernard, artistic director
Tyondai Braxton with the Wordless Music Orchestra
Monday, March 7 at 7:30 pm Tyondai Braxton with the Wordless Music Orchestra Caleb Burhans, conductor
John Adams: Road Movies
Caleb Burhans: In a Distant Place
Louis Andriessen: Workers Union
Tyondai Braxton: Selections from Central Market and new compositions
Co-presented by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Wordless Music
Post-performance discussion with Tyondai Braxton and Ronen Givony
Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider
Wednesday, March 9 at 7:30 pm
Kayhan Kalhor, kamancheh
Sollima: Federico II, from Viaggio in Italia
Phillip Glass: Suite for String Quartet from Bent (world premiere)
Colin Jacobsen: Beloved, do not let me be discouraged
Kayhan Kalhor: Solo improvisation
Colin Jacobsen: New Work for string quartet and kamancheh (New York premiere)
Traditional (arr. Jacobsen/Aghaei): Ascending Bird
Louis Lortie in Liszt’s complete Années de pèlerinage
Thursday, March 10 at 7 pm Louis Lortie, piano
Liszt’s complete Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage)
Post-concert discussion with Louis Lortie and Alan Walker
Les Arts Florissants in Rameau’s Ballet Suites
Friday, March 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Pre-concert discussion on Saturday, March 12 with William Christie and Ara Guzelimian at 6:15 pm
Les Arts Florissants William Christie, conductor
Emmanuelle de Negri, soprano Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, soprano Ed Lyon, tenor Alain Buet, bass
Jordi Savall: From Spain to Mexico
Monday, March 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm The Route of the New World: From Spain to Mexico (New York premiere) The musical dialogue of Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque, and the living Husteca and Jarocho Traditions
Jordi Savall, vielle and music director
Tembembe Ensamble Continuo
Montserrat Figueras, soprano
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Post-performance discussion with Jordi Savall
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Pre-concert discussion with Sir Roger Norrington at 6:15 pm in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Sir Roger Norrington, conductor
Steven Devine, harpsichord
Richard Lester, cello
All-C.P.E. Bach program
Symphony in G major, Wq 182/1; Harpsichord Concerto in C major, Wq 20; Symphony in G major, Wq 173 — Symphony in E major, Wq 182/6; Cello Concerto in A major, Wq 172; Symphony in E-flat major, Wq 179
Heiner Goebbels: Songs of Wars I Have Seen
Friday, March 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Pre-concert discussion with Heiner Goebbels at 6:15 pm in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
London Sinfonietta Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Anu Tali, conductor
Sound Intermedia, sound projection
Heiner Goebbels, conception, music, and director
All-Heiner Goebbels program
Sampler Suite, from Surrogate Cities
Songs of Wars I Have Seen (New York premiere)