May 7, 2012 |
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.
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.
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.
March 26, 2013 |
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.
April 12, 2012 |
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.
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)
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)
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.