Tchaikovsky

Berkshire Review

The Year that Was: Boston Classical Music in 2015

The major news from Boston was the ascendancy of Andris Nelsons, firming up his place as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which included a quickly agreed upon three-year extension of his contract into the 2020-2021 season. This announcement was soon followed by the less happy surprise for Bostonians of Nelsons also accepting an offer from the eminent Leipzig Gewandhaus, the orchestra whose music director was once no less than Felix Mendelssohn, to take on that very position, beginning in the 2017-2018 season, thus dividing the loyalties of the young maestro (who just turned 37), though evidently with the possibility of collaborations between the two orchestras. (Remember when some people were complaining about James Levine dividing his time between the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera?)
Dance

The Nutcracker, from Company XIV: Red, Hot and (Pretty) Blue

Take The Nutcracker standard and blend with a dash of Sally Bowles, a soupçon of Marie Antoinette, a pinch of dominatrix and a lot of spangles and you have the basis of the 2015 iteration of Company XIV's Nutcracker Rouge. Everyone wears heels; in many instances, no one wears a lot else if you discount the G-strings, glittering codpieces and pasties. It's a lot of fun watching the company prance through bits of this naughty-with-a-wink version of the classic Nutcracker with other fairy tales thrown in. There is some actual dancing including the opening, a vaguely Coppelia-ish number with one dancer in pointe shoes clad, as is her partner in Harlequin-like costumes.
Dance

The American Ballet Theater’s 75th Anniversary Performances

The centerpiece of the evening was Monotones I and II, set to music by Eric Satie with choreography by Frederick Ashton. Each Monotone is a pas de trois; one for two women and a man; the other for two men and a woman with II made first. Both pieces look very simple but they aren't, as each contains a lot of arabesques and attitudes as well as other moves requiring hard-to-sustain balances. The dancers stand out from the background lit by Michael Korsch—the first group in yellowish-green from neck to toes; the second in white, both with what look like squashed bathing caps adorned with jewels on their heads. (Originally, the head coverings were different and, apparently, more stylish.) The piece is classic and remote; at times the dancers made me feel they were under the sea, moving their arms and legs against the weight of water.
Berkshire Review

Andris Nelsons in Boston…with Two Superb Concerts under the BSO’s New Assistant Conductor, Ken-David Masur, and an Appreciation of James Levine

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.
Dance

The Nutcracker, A Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory Performance Project

This version of the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker, is less a focus on technical brilliance and more a charming family event with a host of young (and very young dancers). I went with two teenage girls, both veterans of other performances including the iconic New York City Ballet version. We agreed that the dancers worked hard and danced their little hearts out and that a huge amount of time and effort, to say nothing of a lot of rehearsals, went into the performance.
Music

Benjamin Grosvenor Plays Ravel with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony. Romeo and Juliet from Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev and a Dash of Stravinsky

Indian summer is a favorite time of year in San Francisco. The city's deceptively cutting winds give way to something approaching balminess. And one gears up, if not for romance, then surely for a new Symphony season to warm the heart, excite the pulse and remind one that art is the password to beauty's permanence. I've often commented about the happy spirit of our symphony...and do so again. There exist surly orchestras, whose players sit looking for all the world as though they'd gladly wring the conductor's neck as play for him. (These tend to be Russian!) But before I'm accused of national prejudices, I should point out, as an old New Yorker, that the New York Philharmonic is quite capable of gathering onstage looking as though they'd like to kill each other! Perhaps it is Panglossian naïveté to think comity reigns here, but it certainly seemed so on Saturday.
Music

James Conlon leads the San Francisco Symphony in a little “Entartete Musik”

If nothing else had been performed this week at the San Francisco Symphony, the Scherzo from Erwin Schulhoff's Fifth Symphony would have been worth the ticket. James Conlon has become an authority in recent years on the subject of "Entartete Musik,” which is to say, music forbidden performance by the Nazis. And he had the daring to program just what he thought the audience would enjoy. I made a point after the concert of listening to several complete symphonies by Schulhoff and concluded Conlon was right to include just the Scherzo from the Fifth Symphony in his program, at least this time around. The music was both remarkably exciting (about which more in a moment), not too long and utterly hilarious, due to the brilliant and edgy talk Conlon gave from the podium before performing it.
Music

The Great Composers?

I became a music teacher more or less by accident. After graduating from Cambridge University in 1956, I went to work as an engineer in the Guided Weapons Department at Bristol Aircraft—my sons still like to refer to me as a rocket scientist. Finding that the life of a rocket scientist is extremely dull, I went back to Cambridge, did my post-graduate work in education and took a job at the Crypt School, Gloucester, preparing students for university entrance and scholarship exams. I enjoyed my work at the Crypt, but after six years I was ready for something else, and I moved to the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, supposedly as a teacher of mathematics and physics.
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