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.
January 16, 2013 |
The supremacy of the violin and piano repertoire is such that we're taught not to expect much good solo stuff for instruments such as clarinet. Yet a musician of Ricardo Morales' caliber can't just live on the works written when Mozart, Brahms, and Debussy paid momentary attention to the instrument. So almost all of the music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra principal clarinetist and pianist Natalie Zhu Monday at the American Philosophical Society was new to seasoned ears - even to Jennifer Higdon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who heard her 201 2 Clarinet Sonata for the first time.
January 13, 2013
Sunday Cage quartet A highlight of January's John Cage festival is a first-ever gathering of four eminent performers of the composer's works - Pauline Oliveros , Christian Wolff , Michael Pisaro , and Keith Rowe - playing 1990's Four6 . The work, scored for a quartet with "any way of producing sounds," invites the players to each choose and number 12 sounds that they are willing to make, and to begin and end them sometime during a set of fixed durations....
April 24, 2012 |
If the Curtis Institute is about achieving greatness in various forms, an essential part of that would have to be experiencing the pitfalls that are everywhere in the symphonic repertoire. Nothing dire happened when the Curtis Symphony Orchestra played Jennifer Higdon, Brahms, and Bartok under Robert Spano Monday at the Kimmel Center; the showcase element of the concert was delivered with swaggering confidence. But that doesn't mean any given masterpiece's DNA was located. The Bartok Concerto for Orchestra was most distinctive: Rather than running the movements together as so many conductors do, Spano treated them as discrete entities in ways that reminded you of the music's strangeness, how movements start in mid-thought and end in ways suggesting that there's plenty left to say. Spano pursued a great variety of string sounds.
January 24, 2012 |
After a full decade of near-annual George Crumb premieres - and with them, landscapes of sounds undreamed of - Orchestra 2001 has completely earned its latest running joke: When the players are ambushed by odd noises on the street, they say, "Don't let George hear that one!" - meaning, he might put it in his next piece. "Oh, I know," said the soft-spoken Pulitzer-winning composer, who is 82. "They kid me, too. They do. " As it is, Voices From the Heartland , the seventh set in his "American Songbook" series, will be premiered Saturday and Sunday by Orchestra 2001 with a Balinese anklung, an Afro-Brazilian berimbau, and 98 other percussion instruments that are as hard to imagine as they are to pronounce.