Spring Arts - Classical Music: It’s still all about artists, repertoire

Terell Stafford performs with John Harbison April 4 at Temple.
Terell Stafford performs with John Harbison April 4 at Temple. (JIMMY RYAN)
Posted: January 27, 2014

Even amid continuing consolidation in the classical realm, the classical devotee is a busy listener. The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society has taken the lead as the city's constant reminder that it's all about artists and repertoire. In fact, without a single concession, the scale and quality of the series is unlike anything else in the country: 65 concerts, hosting musicians from across the globe in piano and song recitals, string quartet mixes and matches, and other ensemble projects of incredibly high artistic value.

And still, we pine for a visiting orchestra series like the one dropped by the Kimmel Center. And wouldn't we stand proud if the Philadelphia Orchestra restored its composer-in-residence program? In programming, the marketers are calling the shots, and what the city lacks at the moment is a reliable artistic counterweight, a conscience prodding us on the value of risk. Opera Philadelphia has become the most skillful calibrator of populist appetites and the need of the art form to progress.

Expect more interesting projects from Opera Philadelphia. As innovation rolls out of that shop, arts groups all over the city might find themselves looking to a 400-year-old genre for lessons on how to negotiate an uncertain future, fearlessly and with an eye refixed on evolution.

- Peter Dobrin, Inquirer music critic

Jeremy Denk (Jan. 26 at the American Philosophical Society). Always opinionated, pianist Denk, a 2013 MacArthur Foundation fellow, performs Mozart, Ligeti, and Schumann's Carnaval on Sunday with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. (Information: 215-569-8080, www. pcmsconcerts.org.) - Peter Dobrin

Stefan Jackiw/Anna Polonsky(Feb. 2 at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Wayne). Jackiw may be young, but his tone is deep and his interpretive sensibilities are well developed. He appears with pianist Polonsky in the Tri-County Concerts Emerging Artists Series, playing works of Stravinsky, Chopin, Brahms, and Strauss. (Information: 610-649-2517, www.tricountyconcerts.org.) - P.D.

Osvaldo Golijov, "Ainadamar" (in February at the Academy of Music). Osvaldo Golijov's hit opera about the death of García Lorca is graduating from the smallish Perelman Theater (where it played several seasons back) to the Academy of Music, in a production imported from Spain by Opera Philadelphia that greatly expands the work's visual scope through computerized imagery. It's also as much danced as sung - including the chilling duet between flamenco footfalls and rifles in a firing squad. Feb. 7, 9, 12, 14, 16. (Information: 215-893-1018, www.operaphila.org.) - David Patrick Stearns

Michel Legrand, "Harp Concerto"(Feb. 9-11 at the Perelman Theater). Has any one person ever won multiple Oscars and written a Harp Concerto? That's one of the few distinctions left to 81-year-old composer Legrand, who has written zillions of film scores ( Yentl), hit songs ("The Windmills of Your Mind"), and concert works, all models of French urbanity. These premiere performances by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Perelman will be recorded for one of several boxed sets devoted to him. (Information: 215-893-1709, www.chamberorchestra.org.) - D.P.S.

George Crumb and Bernard Rands(Feb. 9 at Haverford College). These two extremely different lions of the new music world will be showcased together by Network for New Music, Crumb with Vox Balaenae ( Voice of the Whale) and Rands with Walcott Songs (with words by Derek Walcott, written for the distinctive combination of mezzo-soprano and cello), sung by Maren Montalbano. (Information: 215-848-7647, www.networkfornewmusic.org.) - D.P.S.

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet(Feb. 13 at the Perelman Theater). This slim, reedy slice of the famed ensemble is hosted by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in, among more standard works, a rarity: a transcription of Mozart's noble, poignant, warmly tuneful, fugal, and, finally, magisterial Fantasy for Mechanical Organ (K. 608). (Information: 215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org.) - P.D.

 

Peter Nero/Michael Barnett (Feb. 14 at the State Theatre, New Brunswick, N.J.). Nero is on a cross-country tour reintroducing himself in the role we love best: pianist. He and superb bassist Barnett will play the kind of musical mash-ups that only an artist of Nero's unerring taste can pull off. Witness a Cole Porter/Beethoven tune called Night and Day/Moonlight Sonata. (Information: 732-246-7469, www.statetheatrenj.org.) - P.D.

Susan Graham(April 2 at the Perelman Theater). With a lush, warm mezzo-soprano like hers, does it matter what Graham is singing? For the record, the program encompasses Poulenc and Cole Porter. More important, she's even more fun than she looks: She acquired her dangerous roller-blading habit while visiting in Rittenhouse Square. (Information: 215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org.) - D.P.S.

John Harbison/Terell Stafford (April 4 at Rock Hall, Temple University). Venerable classical composer Harbison is also a serious jazz pianist and, in that role, headlines this Network for New Music concert with trumpeter Stafford (a Temple University faculty member) and members of the Network for New Music Ensemble. First comes a program of works by Stafford, Uri Caine, James Primosch, Anna Weesner, and Bobby Zankel, layering "jazz and classical traditions to create works that tell America's story with today's voices." (Information: 215-8487647, www.networkfornewmusic.org.) - P.D.

Julia Wolfe(April 26-27 at the Rotunda at Penn). The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia has long maintained a new-music presence in its season, but on these dates, it merges with the downtown Manhattan cutting-edge Bang on a Can collective for the premiere of Julian Wolfe's Anthracite Fields, about the Pennsylvania coal-mining industry. Wolfe is familiar with Americana: Her Steel Hammer, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, was about the mythical John Henry. But rest assured: It won't sound like Aaron Copland. (Information: 215-735- 9922, www.mcchorus.org.) - D.P.S.

Manon(in April and May at various venues). Jules Massenet's masterpiece is the Academy of Vocal Arts' spring production - in yet another collaboration by two artists so strong-minded that some worried they wouldn't be able to be in the same room. But here they are again, conductor Christofer Macatsoris and Tito Capobianco. Whatever comes out, it'll be interesting. April 26 and 29, and May 1 and 3 at the Helen Corning Warden Theater; May 7 at the Haverford School; May 10 at Central Bucks South High School, Warrington. (Information: 215-735-1685, www.avaopera.org.) - D.P.S.

 Sarah Shafer/Richard Goode (May 6 at the American Philosophical Society). Emerging soprano Shafer and veteran pianist Goode made unlikely magic in their last joint appearance here and promise to do so again in this concert, alternating between solo and collaborative works. Beethoven, Schumann, Debussy, and Wolf are on the program. (Information: 215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org.) - P.D.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts "Salome"(May 8 and 10 at the Kimmel Center). The darling of the Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra's music director brings his opera-conducting skills home with Richard Strauss' Salome, starring Camilla Nylund in the title role. (Information: 215893-1999, www.philorch.org.) - D.P.S.

Frederica von Stade, "A Coffin in Egypt" (in June at the Kimmel Center). Luckily, Von Stade hasn't stuck to her retirement-from-opera announcement of several years ago. Ricky Ian Gordon and Leonard Foglia wrote A Coffin in Egypt for her, about a 90-year-old matron in Egypt, Texas, with some sordid tales to tell. Opera Philadelphia presents at the Kimmel on June 6, 8, 11, 13, and 15. (Information: 215-893- 1018, www.operaphila. org.)   - D.P.S.

 


 >Inquirer.com

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