Music

Music

The Sydney Symphony with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Alexei Volodin in Medtner and Holst

Who would ever suppose an obscure one-movement piano concerto could produce this sort of triumph? Alexei Volodin simply and unexpectedly swept away his Sydney listeners at this concert to frenzied screams with his performance of the Medtner Piano Concerto No.1. Our audience came to hear The Planets no doubt, but many just as surely emerged, like me, a dazed convert to Medtner, as if taken over by pods in my sleep from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was a stunning experience.
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. 
Music

The Great French Organ Tradition: Three Concerts on Three Organs by Paul Jacobs

Organist Paul Jacobs, chair of Juilliard’s organ department, will perform a three-recital series in September 2019 featuring a program of works drawn from throughout the great French organ tradition. Mr. Jacobs stands out as among the organists of today for his interpretative intellect, virtuosity, and musicological learning. He opens the series performing on the Holtkamp organ in Juilliard’s Paul Hall on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 7:30pm. The series continues on the 1933 Aeolian-Skinner “Opus 891” at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, at 7:30pm, and concludes on St. Ignatius Loyola’s 1993 Mander Organ on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at 7:30pm.
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.
Music

Longtime Artistic and Executive Directors of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem announce their retirement, following the 112th Bach Festival.

When I was first invited to attend the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Christmas Concert in Advent 2014, I had no idea that that and the Bach Festival in May would become annual traditions. I believe that I have missed only one year since then, and now my wife has become as attached to these events as I am. From the gusto with which the people of Bethlehem celebrate the Christmas season, the liturgy celebrated in the local Moravian Church—which includes a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II—and the spirit of the Bach Festival, now in its 112th year, one can readily grasp the vitality of tradition in this originally German city—and it’s infectious, I can attest.

Music

Guitarist Christoph Denoth plays South American Repertoire at SubCulture, June 10, 2019

To have attended Christoph Denoth’s classical guitar recital at SubCulture on Bleecker Street three nights ago is to have undergone a New York moment very particular to NoHo, the neighborhood where it was performed. Having moved to this swatch of the city three years ago, I’ve come to marvel at its odd but easy mix of strikingly disparate elements—gritty architecture, wildly colorful paintings on the sides or fronts of various buildings mixed into a motley crew of chic clubs, bars, galleries and a cheeky Underground Boxing gym on Bleecker’s easternmost end. SubCulture is a venue for any number of kinds of events and performances, cunningly aligned with the complex gestalt of NoHo for which it could be a symbol. Christoph Denoth’s recital, which is timed to attend the release of his most recent CD “Tanguero”, seemed to me to fit right into Noho and SubCulture’s complex heterogeneity.

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. 

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