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April 12, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Some of the more reckless philosophers I've known claim that music is not sound. What? The idea is that sound is just the vehicle of some greater experiential entity that we call music. Such notions were put a casual test by the 27-year-old European ensemble Quatuor Mosaiques in a sold-out Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert on Tuesday. Even in the good Perelman Theater acoustics, Mosaiques' period instrument sound was demure compared to such vigorous groups as the Emerson Quartet.
NEWS
May 7, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
When Wolfgang Sawallisch was winding up his Philadelphia Orchestra tenure, some of his concert programs became curiously modest. Remember Richard Strauss' 45-minute wind band piece, The Happy Workshop? In contrast, Charles Dutoit is veering toward the gargantuan in his last three subscription concerts as chief conductor. His Strauss choice is the opera Elektra later this week. And on Friday, he poured on waves of sound in Scriabin's unapologetically extravagant Poem of Ecstasy with the Verizon Hall organ powering the climaxes from within.
NEWS
February 10, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Somebody needed to program the orphans in Beethoven's output, and pianist Anton Kuerti was the one to do it at his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital Wednesday at the Kimmel Center. Never a glamour pianist, the 73-year-old Vienna-born, Canada-based Kuerti - his hair longer and wilder than ever - has been performing cycles of Beethoven sonatas for as far back as I can remember (40 years) and is a model of nonapologist performers. As majestic as Beethoven can be, his piano sonatas contain some of his most private music - cranky, quirky, and not always clear in what it has to say, especially pieces published not in a litter, but by themselves, without catchy subtitles or nicknames.
NEWS
March 19, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
For the umpteenth time, the Philadelphia Orchestra played Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 ("Scottish") - one of those perfect, tidy pieces by this Biedermeier-era icon, one that characterizes storms, landscapes, and local color of Scotland from a safe, symphonic distance. Usually. Every so often, the music is encouraged to burst beyond the frames that the composer so meticulously constructed - a feat accomplished by the excellent guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda on Friday at the Kimmel Center.
NEWS
January 30, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
At age 82, composer George Crumb can consider himself complimented when listeners walk out during a new piece. Though departures were few during Orchestra 2001's world premiere of Songs From the Heartland at the Trinity Center for Urban Life on Saturday, they still reminded you of how much Crumb's individuality can still seem extraterrestrial to those who don't expect to hear familiar and exotic instruments playing in unorthodox ways. Like its six predecessors, Heartland transforms folk songs, hymns, and chants not with typical re-harmonization, but by transplanting the tunes - sung, spoken, and whispered by Ann Crumb and Patrick Mason - into an alien sound environment.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 15, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Pierre-Laurent Aimard is one of the more fascinating pianists of international stature because he meets the conservative world of dead composers halfway, but with an iconoclastic streak that promises a wild card - or three. At his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital Tuesday at the Kimmel Center, Aimard began by reversing the order of his program (the second half came first), and programmed an early work by oboist Heinz Holliger ( Elis ) that was particularly obscure and an encore by Elliott Carter ( FraTribute )
NEWS
March 29, 2012 | David Patrick Stearns Inquirer Music Critic
Only minutes into the Elias Quartet's Philadelphia debut concert Tuesday at the Kimmel Center, the 14-year-old British-based group was radiating its own distinctive charisma - without the slightest hint of musical force. Few quartets at any stage of their evolution have this much personality - as manifested by an unusually warm blend, emotional individuality in the incidental solos (especially violist Martin Saving), and a manner of expression that comes so much from the inside out that there's no need for external signposts such as sharp attacks and surface histrionics.
NEWS
December 3, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
The Cage: Beyond Silence festival - under way at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other venues throughout the city since late October - has moved into its second phase of concerts, concentrating on John Cage's 1970, 90-piece Song Books collection. That collection has to do much less with the typical medium of song than with the many open-ended ways Cage released the music he felt was hidden everywhere. You could count on a committed Cage experience from Ne(x)tworks, the New York-based sextet headed by new-music doyenne (and vocalist)
NEWS
February 20, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
In Astral Artists' one-day Spiritual Voyages Festival on Saturday, flutist Julietta Curenton rightly occupied the "eye of the storm" slot - the middle - having been the conceptual epicenter of the three-concert event at Church of the Holy Trinity with a program that solidly bridged mainstream classical repertoire and the non-European cultures represented in the other two concerts. She and pianist Andrea Lam followed an African American program featuring composers George Walker and Alvin Singleton and preceded music of Asian and Latin American origin with composers such as Gabriela Lena Frank and musicians such as Swarthmore's Gamelan Semara Santi.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 14, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Curtis Chamber Orchestra is hitting the road with its customary vigor and intelligence, though its program - performed Monday at the Kimmel Center, subsequently in Washington and New York - was a this-and-that calling card perhaps aimed more at establishing the Curtis Institute identity than at making a cohesive artistic statement. The exterior conceit in this concert, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, was a musical meeting ground between two starry Curtis graduates from different generations, violinists Jennifer Koh (2002)
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ENTERTAINMENT
March 26, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
If you're going to write a concerto inspired by the majesty of the Mississippi River, one appropriate voice would have to be the deep, otherworldly tuba - so often heard in everyday orchestral life but rarely in solos. Or did the tuba idea come first and the river second? Whatever the motivation, Michael Daugherty's Reflections on the Mississippi was a charmer at its world premiere by Philadelphia Orchestra's Carol Jantsch and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, in the ensemble's annual Kimmel Center concert.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 14, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Curtis Chamber Orchestra is hitting the road with its customary vigor and intelligence, though its program - performed Monday at the Kimmel Center, subsequently in Washington and New York - was a this-and-that calling card perhaps aimed more at establishing the Curtis Institute identity than at making a cohesive artistic statement. The exterior conceit in this concert, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, was a musical meeting ground between two starry Curtis graduates from different generations, violinists Jennifer Koh (2002)
ENTERTAINMENT
March 2, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Whether a recitalist, concerto soloist, or member of the Johannes Quartet, violinist Soovin Kim has been one of Philadelphia's more consistent and welcome classical music guests for at least 15 years. But in his recital Wednesday with pianist Natalie Zhu, familiarity hardly meant you knew what he'd do next. The unforced gentility of his playing, prompting comparisons with Arthur Grumiaux in years past, was apparent in the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the American Philosophical Society - though not in Ravel's usually charming, suave Violin Sonata . That was reimagined as a semi-modernist companion to Webern.
NEWS
February 18, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Few musical genres are as self-contained as the African American spiritual. It needs only a single voice and steely roots in religious belief. No doubt that's one reason you don't often encounter classical concerts such as "Inspired by the Spiritual," Astral Artists' program of new works using spirituals as its basis: Adding to something that's already so complete risks artistic irrelevance. Much of what unfolded at Church of the Holy Trinity had a clear compass, each piece representing a different kind of creative springboard, all prefaced with recitations by poet/playwright Amanda Kemp accompanied by solo violinist Michael T. Jamanis.
NEWS
December 24, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Joy is the destination emotion this time of year. And the pressure to get there is enormous, which is where Christmas concerts come into our lives. Two weekend programs intelligently attacked the problem from opposite directions: Piffaro the Renaissance Band took the left-brain route Saturday at the Trinity Center in a Germanic program with fine program notes and lighting levels that allowed you follow translations from Latin and German when guest soprano Laura Heimes was singing. On Friday, the Crossing choir at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill was a right-brain concert full of mystery and candlelit atmosphere.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 4, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
The "Cage: Beyond Silence" festival - under way at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other venues throughout the city since late October - has moved into its second phase of concerts, concentrating on John Cage's 1970, 90-piece Song Books collection. That collection has to do much less with the typical medium of song than with the many open-ended ways Cage released the music he felt was hidden everywhere. You could count on a committed Cage experience from Ne(x)tworks, the New York sextet headed by new-music doyenne (and vocalist)
NEWS
December 3, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
The Cage: Beyond Silence festival - under way at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other venues throughout the city since late October - has moved into its second phase of concerts, concentrating on John Cage's 1970, 90-piece Song Books collection. That collection has to do much less with the typical medium of song than with the many open-ended ways Cage released the music he felt was hidden everywhere. You could count on a committed Cage experience from Ne(x)tworks, the New York-based sextet headed by new-music doyenne (and vocalist)
ENTERTAINMENT
November 15, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Pierre-Laurent Aimard is one of the more fascinating pianists of international stature because he meets the conservative world of dead composers halfway, but with an iconoclastic streak that promises a wild card - or three. At his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital Tuesday at the Kimmel Center, Aimard began by reversing the order of his program (the second half came first), and programmed an early work by oboist Heinz Holliger ( Elis ) that was particularly obscure and an encore by Elliott Carter ( FraTribute )
NEWS
October 1, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Never wanting for artistic status, Rachmaninoff's Vespers (a.k.a. All Night Vigil ) showed the Russian composer-pianist fusing his taste for symphonic grandeur with lesser-known talents for opera and art song - while tapping into the Russian Orthodox liturgy, the deepest vein of his national identity. Yet the music's cultural specificity is exactly what made the Choral Arts Philadelphia's brave, often-accomplished Saturday performance a blue-moon event. Only after years of more open cultural exchange and a greater Russian presence in the United States has the piece been truly in reach of American choirs.
NEWS
May 22, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Tempesta di Mare's 10th anniversary concert so easily could have sunk into the wrong kind of cuteness: Every piece on Saturday's program, titled "OPUS 10: Orchestra," had some connection with the number 10. And what obscure choices that might have led to! Instead, the concert at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House managed to mix mainstream baroque works by Vivaldi et al. with discoveries of momentary interest, such as John Stanley's Harpsichord Concerto (Op. 10, No. 10), and ones you want to revisit often, such as Jean-Marie Leclair's little-known Violin Concerto (Op. 10, No. 5)
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