June 25, 2010 |
Though pianist Andre Watts is one of the most immediately identifiable figures in classical music, even his more devoted admirers could easily have failed a blindfold test at his Wednesday performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 at the Mann Center. Watts' consistent artistic manner in the past is a hallmark of the Van Cliburn generation, which in some quarters carried the belief that you hit a high mark with a great piece of music, then strive to maintain it in subsequent performances (rather than evolving and changing with age)
April 17, 2010 |
Unfailingly genial and totally lacking any sense of struggle, Emanuel Ax's playing is nothing if not equanimity in sound. The pianist is always pleasant. He's expressive, but conveys a sense that to be too expressive would be an imposition on the listener. He's well liked in the way Itzhak Perlman is, mostly for his musicianship and stage persona of quiet mirth, and for being generous to good causes. In these parts he has extra resonance as one-third of the trio (with Perelman and Yo-Yo Ma)
March 30, 2010 |
Same composer. Same medium. Same periods of composition. Yet the Miro Quartet's all-Beethoven program Sunday at the American Philosophical Society was like a reverse-negative experience of one given March 16 by the Artemis Quartet. Both presented early, middle, and late quartets, but conclusions from the earlier concert were repudiated by the later one. How could that be? Beethoven does that. The music is so multifaceted and can be juxtaposed in such endless configurations that one encounter is going to contradict the other.
March 20, 2010 |
All eyes were on conductor Vladimir Jurowski's return visit to the Philadelphia Orchestra on Thursday - or at least enough to fill most seats at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall (for a change). Since the orchestra began courting him as a possible music director, classical music circles have been buzzing about his breadth of repertoire. His Tchaikovsky can be thrilling, but what about heavyweight Beethoven (always a good barometer of musical depth)? Answer: The Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica")
March 16, 2010 |
Among the many possible compliments one could give a chamber music group, the Artemis Quartet alone can persuade you not to long for the supposed golden past. As one who has puzzled over the legendary Budapest Quartet recordings - how could anybody make such heavy weather of Mozart that it sounds like Brahms? - I was particularly pleased to hear how the Artemis Quartet's all-Beethoven program Sunday at the Kimmel Center sounded as if three different composers were at hand. In Beethoven's case, there were.
July 1, 2009 |
Having nearly lost a significant part of the Philadelphia Orchestra season due to funding shortfalls, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and its public on Monday evening seemed out to reaffirm their devotion to the ensemble with 5,830 listeners - a head count usually reserved for Yo-Yo Ma or 1812 Overture with fireworks. The attractions were the orchestra, its associate conductor Rossen Milanov, soloists drawn from the Curtis Institute of Music, and near-perfect weather that had a half moon peeking through clouds in the night sky. Automobile traffic was backed up around the entrance roads; Mann Center bicycle racks were well used.
May 14, 2009 |
Clarinetists such as the Philadelphia Orchestra's Ricardo Morales may never have enough repertoire to keep the public happy. But holding that thought is the only way to forgive Beethoven for his so-third-rate but so-better-than-nothing Clarinet Trio Op. 11. In what appears to be an ongoing relationship, Morales was the guest of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (call them K-L-R for short) at Tuesday's Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert. In a program opening with the Beethoven, it was hard to say who could be most thanked for projecting its slender charms - cellist Sharon Robinson with her febrile assertiveness, Joseph Kalichstein with ultra-crystalline piano sonority, or Morales with his creamy tone.
May 13, 2009 |
Astrologers tell us that Mercury is retrograde, and to judge from the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia's season-closing concert on Monday, even Beethoven isn't immune to those disruptive forces. Music director Ignat Solzhenitsyn doubled as conductor and pianist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor), which has been a big success for him in the past. For years, the Chamber Orchestra has been the place to go for fresh, bright-eyed Beethoven. But as much as the Emperor performance had well-considered ideas and dazzling pianism - the audience seemed to love it - the total package was as haphazard and maddeningly episodic as any encounter I've had with these musicians.
April 24, 2009 |
In the tunnel of a Los Angeles freeway underpass, a bruised man crouches before a grubby street musician who coaxes ecstatic chords from a cello. Beethoven reverberates up from ground level, soaring above the gridlock and grime. Two birds, stand-ins for the soloist and his audience of one, ride the sound waves up to the clouds, spirits spiring. If only every sequence in The Soloist were that transcendent. Joe Wright's adaptation of the book by columnist Steve Lopez, about the newsman's encounters with Nathaniel Ayers, Juilliard-trained virtuoso sawing his instrument near L.A.'s Skid Row, is as flawed and fascinating as the men themselves.
March 21, 2009 |
Though well established in most corners of the string quartet repertoire, the Takacs Quartet will always be the Bartok Oracle, even when younger quartets go on to claim a special authority with the Hungarian composer's 20th-century masterpieces. Any number of moments in Thursday's Takacs concert, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, suggested that the quartet isn't what it was in 1996 when its now-classic Bartok recordings came out. First violinist Edward Dusinberre has technical tics that compromise his sense of line.