February 15, 2012 |
Chicago-based ensemble eighth blackbird will alight at the Curtis Institute of Music for a residency to last at least three years. Initially funded with a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the sextet's members - who picked up a new Grammy this past weekend - will bring expertise in 20th- and 21st-century instrumental techniques to Curtis students in coachings, side-by-side performances, and world premieres. The residency, which starts in October and lasts a total of four weeks each school year, grew out of shorter previous visits, including one in which Curtis students performed with the group in Steve Reich's Double Sextet , which eighth blackbird had commissioned and premiered.
February 27, 2012 |
If it was Alan Gilbert's aim to become music director of the New York Philharmonic and have minimal effect on the character of the ensemble, he is, in his third season, succeeding. The Philharmonic is a fine orchestra. But Friday night at the Kimmel Center, the New Yorkers were the same old collection of free-wheeling individualists they have been for years. In the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition , there was little sense that anyone would - or could? - make them blend.
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 13, 2012 |
Even when the piano on the Perelman Theater stage is a sturdy Steinway concert grand, an on-site tuner is needed when the recitalist is Vladimir Feltsman. On Wednesday, the need arose first at intermission, after a pair of Haydn sonatas. Then, midway through Chopin's four ballades, more was required, though Feltsman probably wouldn't have stopped otherwise for anything less than an earthquake. The 60-year-old Russian-born, U.S.-based pianist is not a pounder. But he plays a piano as though he is speaking through it. And he has a lot to say, which meant that the Haydn Piano Sonatas No. 34 and 49 - conversational even in the most conventional performances - have rarely seemed more eventful.
January 23, 2012 |
The John Cage Centennial has come roaring into 2012, as if the avant-garde theorist/composer's advocates couldn't wait to bedevil traditional music circles with his expansive, unmediated embrace of all sound and all possibilities. In Philadelphia, the year was inaugurated Friday by a smart, enterprising, inviting Cage concert at thefidget space (a homey warehouse in Kensington), the first in a series of three. The one work on the program was the 30-minute Four 6 , a late Cage work in which the composer provided perimeters and the musicians supply content.
October 1, 2012 |
Never wanting for artistic status, Rachmaninoff's Vespers (a.k.a. All Night Vigil ) showed the Russian composer-pianist fusing his taste for symphonic grandeur with lesser-known talents for opera and art song - while tapping into the Russian Orthodox liturgy, the deepest vein of his national identity. Yet the music's cultural specificity is exactly what made the Choral Arts Philadelphia's brave, often-accomplished Saturday performance a blue-moon event. Only after years of more open cultural exchange and a greater Russian presence in the United States has the piece been truly in reach of American choirs.
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!
February 7, 2012 |
Even if Symphony in C's Saturday performance of the Mozart Requiem wasn't everything one could dream of, it was a model in partnerships that makes fantasy possible. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and a quartet of vocal soloists from the Academy of Vocal Arts joined the orchestra under its music director, Rossen Milanov, assuring professionalism that won't bust the budget. So what wasn't there to love? The concert was titled "Unfinished Masterpieces," encompassing not just the Requiem (left incomplete at the composer's death)
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.