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.
February 28, 2012 |
You'd think this town would finally be ready for Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. That infamous Philadelphia Orchestra concert version of the opera - it started with a well-populated Academy of Music and ended nearly empty - was long ago in 1986. But with far fewer tickets to sell, the Academy of Vocal Arts opened a five-performance run on Saturday with something seldom seen in its tiny Helen Corning Warden Theater - empty seats. Not a lot, but some. And this production is close to the real thing, not the shortened Impressions of Pelleas seen occasionally at the Curtis Institute.
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.
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.
December 4, 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 sextet headed by new-music doyenne (and vocalist)
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 20, 2012 |
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.
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 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.
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)