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.
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)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.