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NEWS
February 27, 2012 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 7, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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)
ENTERTAINMENT
March 10, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
NEWS
January 13, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
NEWS
May 22, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Tempesta di Mare's 10th anniversary concert so easily could have sunk into the wrong kind of cuteness: Every piece on Saturday's program, titled "OPUS 10: Orchestra," had some connection with the number 10. And what obscure choices that might have led to! Instead, the concert at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House managed to mix mainstream baroque works by Vivaldi et al. with discoveries of momentary interest, such as John Stanley's Harpsichord Concerto (Op. 10, No. 10), and ones you want to revisit often, such as Jean-Marie Leclair's little-known Violin Concerto (Op. 10, No. 5)
NEWS
January 23, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
NEWS
October 1, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 27, 2012 | David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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!
ENTERTAINMENT
February 28, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
NEWS
April 13, 2012 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
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