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 24, 2012 |
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.
February 7, 2012 |
For years, Tempesta di Mare has liberated its programs from the masterpiece mentality that often comes with higher-budget organizations. At Sunday's concert at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, hardly a brand-name composer (excepting Antonio Vivaldi) or a previously known piece was heard. Tempesta di Mare is an old-music group that acts like a new-music group, by pushing the cutting edge back rather than forward. And, as in new-music concerts, expectations must shift: You won't always appreciate everything.
March 27, 2012 |
Anniversary mania is so prevalent in classical music that any landmark year ending with a zero or a five will be celebrated and marketed - and, with luck, will help focus the attention of a public faced with a millennium's worth of music to choose from. With immense wit and perhaps tongue in cheek, Lyric Fest, the Philadelphia art song collective, unveiled the program titled "A Very Good Year: Happy Birthday to 1912" last weekend. Why not? Not only was 1912 a hundred years ago - two zeros!
April 13, 2012 |
In any symphonic performance, there's a point when those in charge need to stand back and let it happen, to allow a larger collective consciousness to take over and reveal something bigger than the considerable talent of the individuals. So it was not with guest conductor Gilbert Varga, who had clearly delineated priorities in his guest-conducting stint with the Philadelphia Orchestra Friday at the Kimmel Center, but kept his concert so anchored and controlled that some of the more imposing pieces in the repertoire felt surprisingly safe and unengaging.
March 19, 2012 |
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.
November 15, 2012 |
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 )
March 29, 2012 |
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.
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 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.