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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
March 8, 2012 |
The great art song recitalist Elisabeth Schwarzkopf often said that she sang primarily for herself, allowing her to pursue the interpretation of her dreams. British tenor Ian Bostridge seemed to take a similar philosophy to a self-indulgent maximum at his Wednesday Brahms/Schumann program at the Kimmel Center, with an idiosyncratic, private manner that one might normally witness while watching someone through a keyhole in a practice room. Many in the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's sophisticated audience called him back for three encores.
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.