February 18, 2013 |
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.
February 6, 2012 |
Mood-stabilizing medication is a great thing for everyday life. But in art? Pierrot Lunaire - Arnold Schoenberg's revolutionary piece exploring new vistas of madness in music - seems to have had an all-too-tempering prescription when played by the enterprising Dolce Suono Ensemble in its "Mahler 100/Schoenberg 60" concert Friday at Haverford College. About 90 years after its premiere, Schoenberg's dramatization of 21 Albert Giraud poems - portraying the normally benign commedia dell'arte character of Pierrot having gone crazy from staring at the moon - should still feel wildly mercurial and formidably atonal, with traditional vocal writing replaced by a speech-song that showcases words with an otherworldly eeriness.
December 3, 2012 |
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)
March 2, 2013 |
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.
March 14, 2013 |
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)
March 8, 2012 |
The great art song recitalist Elisabeth Schwarzkopf often said that she sang primarily for herself, allowing her to pursue the interpretation of her dreams. British tenor Ian Bostridge seemed to take a similar philosophy to a self-indulgent maximum at his Wednesday Brahms/Schumann program at the Kimmel Center, with an idiosyncratic, private manner that one might normally witness while watching someone through a keyhole in a practice room. Many in the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's sophisticated audience called him back for three encores.
March 10, 2012 |
Since the age of Arthur Fiedler, light classics have easily slipped through the cracks. Pops concerts are oriented around living personalities. Symphonic programs are often steeped in Mahlerian seriousness. So Friday's program of semiclassical pieces (Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue) and music meant to serve a larger visual element (Bernstein's On the Waterfront film score and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet) was a welcome break indeed, especially when thoughtfully programmed and performed by guest conductor James Gaffigan with pianist Stewart Goodyear.
January 30, 2012 |
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.
February 10, 2012 |
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.
March 12, 2012 |
Now in its third season, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra is finding itself a niche doing typically classical things with less-than-typical participants. Oriented toward African American musicians, founder/music director Jeri Lynne Johnson is creating audiences that seem new to Haydn and Mozart - and doing so with concerts that are first-class on every level. Though some listeners Saturday at the packed Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral could be heard quietly humming along with Mozart's beloved Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra, others applauded between movements - showing not just appreciation, but that lots of listeners were new to classical concerts.