November 21, 2014 |
In the lofty trilogy that is Beethoven's last three piano sonatas - Opus 109, 110, and 111 - each feels like a continuation of the last, into ever more uncharted musical realms. They'll never feel like home: Their strangeness is so specific to the inner world of a composer who had withdrawn into deafness and, in any case, was among history's most singular human beings. So it's understandable that at Wednesday's performance of all three sonatas in one program, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society audience was puzzling over pianist Beth Levin.
November 16, 2014 |
The fashion world has long popularized clothes that appear to be turned inside out. Why shouldn't the Philadelphia Orchestra do its own version of that every so often? How could that work? Dvorák's Symphony No. 8 was so significantly reimagined by guest conductor Jakub Hruša that you'd think the prevailing, mellifluous tradition of Wolfgang Sawallisch never existed. The music was a rougher ride but full of incident. Orchestral sonorities that are normally string-dominated shared the sound picture more equally with brass and winds.
September 18, 2014 |
Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral") is usually about as safe as concert programming can be. Yet when the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia decided to opened its 50th season with Beethoven's celebration of nature and weather Monday at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, it took one of the bigger chances of its recent history. Audiences here aren't used to hearing that music played by 35 or so players. But then, music director (and composer) Sir Dirk Brossé (newly knighted in his native Belgium)
July 31, 2014 |
On the surface, the Philadelphia Young Pianist Academy's concerts seem like a summertime variation on what's typically heard at the Curtis Institute, Astral Artists, and other local havens for young musicians. However, the first three PYPA concerts in the eight-day festival, now in its second year, featured mavericks of varying sorts, all artists through and through, but at times crossing the line into full-blown eccentricity. By design or by accident, PYPA is not more of the same.
July 1, 2014 |
With his Noel Coward-esque wit and solid command of the Philadelphia Orchestra, guest conductor Bramwell Tovey is always a delight to encounter in special, not-entirely-classical occasions that could easily fall apart under a lesser personality. But on Friday at the Mann Center, Tovey conducted music that didn't require (or receive) his usual witty introductions: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 . It can be as problematic as it is great, yet here was thoroughly accomplished, with excitement arising from a strong musical foundation, cultivated opinions on how the music should go, and a keen ability to make that happen.
May 7, 2014 |
Symphony in C ended its season Saturday with two works that demand explanation bracketing a work that requires none at all. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto glowed in the middle of this program like a jewel in a forest of vines and dark leaves. But those outer works insisted on the closest attention, for both Schumann's late Manfred Overture and Arnold Schoenberg's orchestration of Brahms' Piano Quartet in G minor lurk at the edge of the repertoire, posing stylistic questions and interpretive gestures.
March 26, 2014 |
Charting Beethoven's evolution from being the most genial guardian of the classical style to its executioner is an exercise done vividly and not infrequently through the string quartets and piano sonatas. But Peter Wiley and Anna Polonsky took audiences through the story from the vantage point of the cello sonata Sunday afternoon. Presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in two concerts at the American Philosophical Society, at 3 and 6 p.m., it was hardly a marathon (at least for the audience)
March 10, 2014 |
The online Beethoven course given by pianist and Curtis Institute professor Jonathan Biss last fall was remarkable for all the things it wasn't. In an age of impatience and distraction, it was a slow, deep immersion. Biss currently is recording all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, and, despite the course's golden opportunity for marketing synergy, he barely mentioned his own recordings, or his 18,000-word Kindle Single on the subject. And in a medium that measures value through the distorting lens of hits and traffic, Biss managed to attract quite a bit of attention for the project, with lengthy coverage in the New Yorker and Gramophone.
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.