Articles by Steven Kruger

Music

The Sydney Symphony under Vladimir Ashkenazy play Vaughan Williams and Elgar, with Andreas Brantelid, cello, at the Sydney Opera House

Vladimir Ashkenazy is a beloved figure in Sydney, one immediately realizes, as he dashes onstage in a signature white turtleneck to lead the Sydney Symphony at the Opera House concert hall. You'd never guess this compact Conductor Laureate, with his full shock of white hair and healthy build is 82 years old. Subtract twenty and you might be closer to the truth. A phalanx of teenage girls in striped school uniforms immediately starts screaming and doesn't let up. As the evening progresses, not entirely aware of when to burst into applause, they will several times bring the proceedings to a momentary halt born of green but great enthusiasm and delight. No musician, of course, genuinely minds that sort of excitement. 
Recordings

A Crop of Recordings XXVIII: Elgar, Holst, Tchaikovsky, Debussy…and Karl Weigl

The feature I applaud most in this fine new release from BIS is its pairing of Great Britain’s two most internationally popular orchestral showpieces under one baton. You would think it natural to record them together, but a quick look at Amazon reveals only Sir Adrian Boult’s recordings available that way, and these were originally sold separately, supplemented with other music. You can also find Herbert von Karajan’s The Planets accompanied by Pierre Monteux’s Enigma Variations, both performances many decades old. Even these new Andrew Litton versions were actually laid down in studio four years apart (the Elgar in 2013, Holst in 2017) but were clearly intended for this release by BIS, and both were miked in Bergen’s Grieg Hall.
HHA

A Crop of Recordings XXVII: Vaughan Williams, Holbrooke, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc, Alfvén, Joseph Marx

Both works here are gorgeously conceived and transparently recorded from top to bottom (and the Seventh Symphony features a convincing velvet-deep organ presence to boot). They make for a wonderful release together and a fitting conclusion to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s well-received Vaughan Williams cycle on Onyx. Spectacular as the Antartica is in Manze’s hands (and it is) it’s his performance of the Ninth Symphony which stands out for me as an even more remarkable accomplishment beyond normal praise. 

Recordings

A Crop of Recordings XXVI: Shostakovich, Weingartner, Ibert, and Elgar

Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony are in fine form here, satisfying guides, as always, in their approach to the ironies and tragedies of the Shostakovich symphonies. Indeed, now that we know him well in Boston, it has become clear Nelsons is consistent there in the way he approaches music of this kind. But he illustrates, you might say, along with special romantic insights, the sins of his virtues. Nelsons is what Sir Thomas Beecham would have called a “ritardando” conductor. One notices this not so much in tempo variance as in the tendency to prepare for and draw out a cadence. Nelsons is not slow. But one is nearly always aware of a certain smoothness in transitions from phrase to phrase and a roundedness in the brass sonority he encourages from the BSO.

Music

The San Francisco Symphony under James Gaffigan with Hélène Grimaud in Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart and Barber

What a wonderful work is Barber's First Symphony! I will argue in a moment that it is America's greatest. If I review our program a bit backwards this time, it's because we don't hear this piece often enough—or nearly at all in San Francisco. (The last outing here was in 1963 under Howard Mitchell). But it was worth the wait, not the least because of James Gaffigan's white-hot performance. Indeed, Barber's concluding timpanic growl brought the audience to its feet screaming, a fitting wind-up for a concert of bravos, and reaffirmed our sense that James Gaffigan has become a major conductor.

Music

The Pittsburgh Symphony under Juraj Valčuha with pianist Lukáš Vondráček play Rachmaninoff and Respighi

There's something timeless, solid and reassuring about attending a concert in Pittsburgh. The place seems contented. "The burghers are industrious" is an old fashioned way you might put it. Citizens seem to take themselves seriously. Businessmen still wear ties. Nobody pushes and shoves, the way New Yorkers do in that elbow war of a city. People make time to talk to each other in line.

Music

Sir András Schiff leads the San Francisco Orchestra in Bach and Mendelssohn

Let it never be said that an evening of Lutheran virtue makes for date night in San Francisco. Absent last Friday from our grey-haired audience huddling into its winter coats were the backless dresses and sculpture-worthy flashes of leg which usually cheer the frisky. Two gay men I passed in the crowd were no happier about it: "Bach only brings out the old men," sighed one ruefully. But there was a fascination for me in what turned out to be a solid, indeed old-fashioned evening of Victorian-style uplift. In particular, I was eager to encounter live Mendelssohn's Lobgesang Symphony-Cantata ("The Song of Praise"), sometimes called his Second Symphony. It was composed in 1840 to celebrate Gutenberg's invention of moveable type (ed.), but receives here its first San Francisco performance.

HHA

A Crop of Recordings XXV: Gliere, Respighi, Lortzing, Antheil, and Wagner

Reinhold Glière was fortunate to thrive under Soviet Communism. A long-limbed bardic style, featuring haunting melodies evoking the Russian ecclesiastical past, ruffled no political feathers. Nor did velvety explorations of Scriabin-influenced chromaticism. He was never purged. But Glière paid a price for fame in the world of democracy and commerce, it would seem. His greatest work, the 1912 Mahler-length Symphony No. 3, “Il’ya Muromets”, was deemed “too long” for the concert hall in America. To ensure its presentation, Leopold Stokowski persuaded the composer to pare it down drastically, and it was in this incomplete condition that the work took root in Philadelphia and in American ears.
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com