March 8, 2016 |
Many alleluias - at turns complex, simple, strange, sad and always intriguing - were heard from Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia in celebratory commissions, both titled "Alleluia," from two of the city's best-known composers, Jennifer Higdon and Andrea Clearfield. Titled "Eastern Voices," the program smartly contextualized them amid unlikely but revelatory bedfellows: Eastern European composers whose names you can't hope to pronounce. The common denominator devised by artistic director Paul Rardin on Saturday at the Temple University Performing Arts Center was religious works that weren't afraid to unhinge themselves from the formality of hymns, often abruptly and in ways you could never predict.
January 27, 2016 |
Women composers aren't classical-music underdogs in this stretch of the 21st century, at least in Philadelphia. But their road to prominence took on a more personal narrative in Dolce Suono Ensemble's highly curated Women Pioneers of American Music concert on Sunday at the Curtis Institute. The flute-based chamber music repertoire showed the composers not so much out to conquer the world as processing their worlds in a more intimate medium - including newer works by Andrea Clearfield and Jennifer Higdon.
November 25, 2015 |
Writing for string quartet and voice is a tricky thing, and at the basic level of craft, Jennifer Higdon skillfully avoids the pitfalls in In the Shadow of Sirius . The piece was played Saturday night at the Curtis Institute of Music in the first of this season's three residency recitals by the Aizuri Quartet at the school. Higdon, a Curtis composition professor, has a towering model for the form in "Dover Beach," Samuel Barber's moving 1931 work for the same combination. In fact, Barber's language hovers near.
September 23, 2015 |
Nobody ever said Orchestra 2001 couldn't rock - a modern ensemble has to be able to do anything - but perhaps no previous program has challenged this group (a 10-player version) to prove it so vehemently as the one Sunday under guest conductor Jayce Ogren at the Arts Bank. Four composers were heard at their most raucous, in performances that displayed a controlled abandon seldom heard in new-music concerts. The idea was to show how rock-and-roll has been morphed by minimalists such as Julia Wolfe and Louis Andriessen, as well as more mainstream figures such as Jennifer Higdon.
August 2, 2015 |
It would be understandable if anyone left the Philadelphia Orchestra's second and last free "neighborhood concert" of the season feeling bemused. The point of these concerts, started a decade and half ago, is to bring the orchestra to audiences who don't ordinarily go to it. Holding Thursday night's neighborhood concert in Verizon Hall, the orchestra's home, represented a certain up-is-down logic that perhaps only the orchestra and its sponsors could appreciate. The concert wasn't exactly free, either.
April 17, 2015 |
In the current generation of so-called rock-star symphony orchestra conductors, Stéphane Denève definitely has the hair. Though not as wild as Gustavo Dudamel's or as glossy as Riccado Muti's, it corkscrews with such a mind of its own you're sure he didn't plan the look. He may be so preoccupied with musical matters he doesn't even notice it. Clearly, it's an accident. "This is the exact story," says the ebullient French-born principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
March 10, 2015 |
WASHINGTON - Derogatory jokes about the viola are probably waiting to be made over the fact that Jennifer Higdon's concerto for that instrument sat for five years on a waiting list before arriving at its premiere Saturday at the Library of Congress. In truth, the Philadelphia composer was keen to give the ordinarily brooding instrument a levity other viola concertos lack, but first she had to finish her opera Cold Mountain . The concerto, written for violist and Curtis Institute president Roberto Diaz and the Curtis Chamber Orchestra, is ultimately concerned with getting down to essentials, yielding distinctive, under-the-surface strength.
February 28, 2015 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra has a rather plastic idea of the concert format these days. On Wednesday night, that meant a hybrid of the talk-and-play concerts it has done under various names over the last two decades, plus offering the LiveNote app that allows the audience to follow real-time program notes on mobile devices. The start time was earlier than usual (6:30 p.m.), and tickets a flat $45 for an intermission-less concert of about 75 minutes. It would be hard to say the format struck a chord with ticket buyers, given the audience in the low hundreds that turned out in Verizon Hall.
January 21, 2014 |
Celebrating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the concert hall has never been easy. Where do you start? His activism? Culture? The poetry behind his ideals? In a rare appearance at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, Orchestra 2001 under James Freeman celebrated King on Saturday in any way it could: major new works by Richard Danielpour and Jay Fluellen plus the youthful Play On, Philly! Orchestra and a gospel choir, all of which will be repeated at 3 p.m. Sunday at Swarthmore College's Lang Concert Hall.
April 25, 2013 |
NEW YORK - Five years in the making, star baritone Nathan Gunn's high-concept, high-style recital Wednesday at Carnegie Hall's Zankel auditorium could be heard as a precursor of his leading role in Jennifer Higdon's forthcoming Civil War-era opera Cold Mountain , co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and the Santa Fe Opera. The Anglo-American program concluded with Dooryard Bloom , a 25-minute Higdon work for baritone and orchestra that's among her best, heard here in the premiere of a new version replacing full orchestra with the Pacifica Quartet and pianist Julie Gunn, the singer's wife.