March 9, 2014 |
In the Beethoven Violin Concerto on Thursday night, you could pick out strands of soloist Nikolaj Znaider's musical DNA - the sweetness of Fritz Kreisler, the muscularity of Zino Francescatti, and his own exquisite wisdom for setting off the poetic against the prosaic. The Beethoven with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Stéphane Denève was a singular experience. But the Bach encore without them represented a kind of transfiguration, of the piece and the listener. The "Sarabande" from the D Minor Partita can come off as a lesson in harmony, especially in a hall as large as Verizon.
February 28, 2014 |
Leonidas Kavakos is a marvel of exactitude. There's a Leonardo da Vinci-like quality to his playing, as if you could plot mathematically how every micro move accounts for his elegance and efficiency. In this extraordinary violinist, artist and master technician coexist in polished communion. If a listener Tuesday night had to strain a bit to hear that which is human, it was understandable. In his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel Center of four Beethoven sonatas, Kavakos was sometimes a cool customer.
February 23, 2014 |
The cost of war was palpable in the Philadelphia Orchestra's Thursday program of Strauss, Shostakovich, and Beethoven, one of Yannick Nézet-Séguin's most conceptually formidable and musically resourceful concerts. At this point in history, few of the musicians onstage have firsthand experience of the tragedies portrayed in Shostakovich's 1959 Cello Concerto No. 1 - a significant deterrent to tapping the music's fierce subtext about post-Stalin Russia. Nonetheless, the performance was bursting with empathy, the most audible manifestation being the extended cadenza in which cellist Johannes Moser (replacing Truls Mørk)
January 25, 2014 |
You've never met anyone quite like Peter Serkin before. In his three-piece suit with white pocket square, he was a natty presence on the Perelman Theater stage Wednesday night. It was the playing that was rumpled. Not always. There were many moments of incredible polish, especially when it came to the pianist's approach to sound. He has that ability to conjure an instantly rounded tone without doing any violence to the start of the note. But all over - in Beethoven no less than in a contemporary score - Serkin, 66, occupied the space somewhere between an eccentric and outsider.
January 23, 2014 |
What a difference when chamber music is played with absolutely no extraneous sound. Violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov have considerable big-concert-hall careers. For Monday's Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert at the Kimmel Center, however, they left that part of their musical lives behind and met small-scale works from the Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert repertoires - so much on their own terms (even more than in their prestigious recordings for Harmonia Mundi)
January 20, 2014 |
After more than two centuries of continuous performances by the greatest artists of any era, how could Mozart's classic Marriage of Figaro reveal anything new? Not possible, some connoisseurs say. We can hope only that current performers live up to the gods of the past. Suddenly, Figaro arrives in a fresh guise. Nearly every minute in the new Sony Classical recording, due out in March, is a new discovery. Ornaments, cadenzas, phrase readings I never imagined are everywhere.
November 24, 2013 |
Violinist/conductor Itzhak Perlman enjoys a rare freedom in classical music: His relationship with audiences is such that he needs only to show up, and adoration is assured. What's frustrating is that Perlman doesn't do more with that status, especially since his string of subscription concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra this week features four performances, rather than the usual three. This program stands to reach more listeners than perhaps any other this season. From a repertoire standpoint, Perlman has never been terribly ambitious as a violinist.
November 10, 2013 |
Pianist Yuja Wang was pretty much canonized by her Kimmel Center audience Thursday, and perhaps not for typical reasons of hot fingers and charismatic glamour. In a promising collaboration with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Wang scaled the pianistic Everest that is Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with a sense of ease that took the music to a particular place that it can rarely go. Having heard Wang grow up before my very ears at the Curtis Institute, I'm convinced she is basically a chamber-music pianist - with a mastery of the keyboard that allows her to bring the same flowing conversational quality to the Rachmaninoff concerto that she had in Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 10. In Rachmaninoff, the conversation was a high-level one between her and any given phrase, duly transmitted to the audience without the slightest pretense or Scriabinesque neuroses.
September 29, 2013 |
Beethoven's practicality-defying Symphony No. 9 rarely sits comfortably on orchestral programs: Not long enough to be heard by itself, the piece is so idiosyncratically monumental that finding suitable pairings is tough. A bookend approach with Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 is the easy way out. On Thursday, Yannick Nézet-Séguin opened the first subscription concert of his second Philadelphia Orchestra season determined not to make the Westminster Choir come all the way from Princeton just for Beethoven's final movement.
August 2, 2013 |
The paradox of grand, glitzy piano competitions is that contestants' musical personalities don't fully emerge until after the prizes are won and the stress of achieving them is past. Who - really - is Vadym Kholodenko, the 26-year-old gold medal winner of the recent 14th Van Cliburn International Competition? Philadelphia Orchestra audiences will be the first to find out when he plays his first (noncompetition) U.S. concerto performance at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Mann Center. This is a pianist who walked in with a strong inner identity and very much kept it intact.