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.
Over the past year or so (2017), an unusually large number of fascinating and rarely performed operas were made available, mostly for the first time ever, on CD. NewYorkArts/Berkshire Review for the Arts has asked me to share some of my delighted discoveries from this flood of new arrivals, as well as—in separate articles—my (rather lengthy and detailed!) reviews of two contrasting operas that seem to me particularly worthy of discovery:
Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).
Every so often a release comes along which serves to remind listeners that a particular national repertory is not always so well known to us as we think. Not all beloved works cross the pond. This has a lot to do with immediacy and easily recognizable, iconic tunes.
Yan Pascal Tortelier was levitating with exuberance last Friday. Every good conductor shows passion, of course, even those untempted by choreography. But audiences love the ones who take to the air and defy gravity—most famously Leonard Bernstein, who did so wildly and erotically—but also the occasional anomaly. I once witnessed long-gone Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling, famously reserved, conduct Respighi's Roman Festivals in his seventies, leaping about the Carnegie Hall stage like a red devil from Hades. Only the trident was missing.
Andris Nelsons has garnered a lot of attention during his first season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—much coverage in the local and even national press; receptions for the public and an exhibition with a talking hologram at Symphony Hall; placards on buses around Boston and in the subway. He threw out a ball for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The BSO organization wants him talked about by the man and woman on the street—especially the younger set. It remains to be seen whether a new younger audience will be drawn to the BSO. Eventually, it’s the music that will matter, not publicity.
The Bard Music Festival, “Saint-Saëns and his World,” August 10-12 and 17-19, 2012
At first, Saint-Saëns was ahead of his time. Then, following his decade at the apex of French music, he was old-fashioned. We remember him today as if …
One of the valuable things the Bard Music Festival teaches its audiences is just how arbitrary the classical canon is. While that can't be said of Wagner or Elgar, we learned that Prokofiev and Sibelius are most visible in concert programs and recordings through works which are not necessarily their most personal or interesting, or perhaps even their best. As managers, virtuosi, and critics grind the classical sausage from a noble saucisson de Lyon into a hot dog, the nature of the classical loses its individuality and becomes uniform and bland. The fame of Camille Saint-Saëns, on the other hand, is linked to virtually no work at all — perhaps the Carnival of the Animals or the "Organ" Symphony, which is not really performed all that often today. This immaculate work acquired a bad reputation among critics, largely because it is extraordinarily loud in places — just the right places to produce wild applause from an audience — far too effectively for the tastes of the snobbish American critics of the late 1950s and 1960s, when it had two especially potent advocates, Charles Munch and Paul Paray. Curiously, Saint-Saëns has a bad reputation as an opera composer, although another one of his few works in the standard repertory, his Samson et Dalila, is an opera.