March 26, 2016 |
Having great chamber music easily accessible a couple of times a week in town is greeted as the natural order of things. But it was hardly inevitable, and is largely thanks to one man: Anthony P. Checchia, founding artistic director of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. Checchia's modesty has obscured the scale of his feat; PCMS, now 30 years old, is presenting about 60 concerts per season. Checchia's fans finally caught up with him Thursday night. They filled the Perelman Theater to hear speeches, stand for an ovation in his honor, and cheer board chairman Jerry G. Rubenstein when he thanked Checchia for building "arguably the greatest chamber music series in the U.S. " No one is likely to argue.
November 8, 2015 |
Is it possible to accept in your mind's ear two radically different interpretations of the same work, but both absolutely ideal? To anyone taken with Wolfgang Sawallisch's fatherly warmth, authority, and carefully rationed passions in Schumann, Robin Ticciati's Schumann Symphony No. 4 Thursday night in Verizon Hall must have arrived like a blinding flash on the horizon. For me, even as a longtime Sawallisch adherent, Ticciati's light revealed important contours. Using period-instruments concepts, such as a leaner sound, the 32-year-old British conductor favored very fast tempos and lean textures . Rather, he used these ideas, where applicable, to underscore expressive details that might otherwise go unnoticed.
January 25, 2015 |
Like a half-remembered dream, the opening of Beethoven's Opus 101 Piano Sonata in A Major arrives in bits and pieces. It seemed all the more like something emerging from the mists in pianist Jonathan Biss' carefully constructed Thursday night Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel. As the last piece on the program, the Beethoven looked back on everything that came before it. The incredible economy of the first movement was as concise as Schoenberg's Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19 , played earlier.
March 14, 2014 |
There's something intoxicating about the Elias String Quartet. It was no mystery that the group was able to cast a spell Tuesday night in a newish Sally Beamish work, the String Quartet No. 3 , with those spiritual Gaelic atmospherics. But for its Philadelphia Chamber Music Society visit, the Elias brought Haydn, personalizing the F major, Op. 77, No. 2 quartet to the point of instantly rendering every other performance in the listener's memory as but a pale stab. The third movement "Andante" was a landmark statement, intensely absorbing, exquisitely considered - a piece in itself, really.
March 10, 2014 |
The online Beethoven course given by pianist and Curtis Institute professor Jonathan Biss last fall was remarkable for all the things it wasn't. In an age of impatience and distraction, it was a slow, deep immersion. Biss currently is recording all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, and, despite the course's golden opportunity for marketing synergy, he barely mentioned his own recordings, or his 18,000-word Kindle Single on the subject. And in a medium that measures value through the distorting lens of hits and traffic, Biss managed to attract quite a bit of attention for the project, with lengthy coverage in the New Yorker and Gramophone.
January 9, 2014 |
Well, of course he did! If you were Tommy Chong of the famously stoned comic duo Cheech and Chong , where would you go, like, right now?? Correct! Tommy showed up Tuesday . . . wait for it . . . at a pot-ecary in Colorado, to get blasted legally and enjoy his moment of nonparanoia. Many people lined up to meet this hero of the hemp. He hilariously tweeted: "Just finished my 7th J and boy is my mouth dry. This legalization is tough on n old stoner. " He was quoted as saying the United States had won the war on drugs, and called this "one small stagger for a stoner and one giant leap for stonerkind.
April 28, 2013 |
Whether they're expecting it or not, the fun-seeking denizens of Macau have some potentially great Brahms coming their way, to judge from Thursday's unofficial preview concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra's tour of China next month. Donald Runnicles is the guest conductor, and if you've heard that he has evolved from a solid musician to a profound one of late, his Brahms Symphony No. 2 at the Kimmel Center was evidence of that. So fluidly and organically written is Brahms' Second that one seldom hears a truly fresh performance of the piece, which evolves so effortlessly from its opening three-note motif that the piece seems to play itself.
April 16, 2013 |
Often lost amid all the exactitude issuing from conservatories today is the reason we make music in the first place. It's not about being able to play all the notes or play them in tune. Interpretation has to mean something if it is to be worth the trouble, especially since the trouble is considerable. How fortunate, then, must be the students of Miriam Fried, the violin pedagogue who teaches at the New England Conservatory. On Sunday night, for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, she came to the Perelman Theater with one of her progeny - in fact, her prime progeny, pianist Jonathan Biss, who happens to be her son. Whatever their offstage dynamics may be, in terms of musical substance it was a performance of equals - if very different ones.
March 8, 2013 |
A lot of pianists play Schumann while dreaming of other composers. What Jonathan Biss knows, however, and what he put into practice Wednesday night at the Perelman Theater, is the idea that Schumann is like no one else. To emphasize the topographical similarities to Schubert or Beethoven would be to round off Schumann's angular rhythms or not heed the slippery beauty of his harmonic oddities. Schumann is not Liszt with a little rose water sprinkled on top. The composer's Davidsbündlertänze were played earlier this season in another Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert, and yet Biss' way with it would not have worn out its welcome if he had played it twice more.
February 22, 2013 |
Catching the entrepreneurial social-media wave, the Curtis Institute of Music says it will offer two free online courses through Coursera - one on Beethoven piano sonatas, the other a broad survey of Western music - that will open the school beyond its narrow specialization to the general music-appreciation student. Curtis is one of 29 schools announced Thursday as new affiliates of Silicon Valley-based Coursera, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform that, despite having debuted less than a year ago, now claims about 1.45 million course enrollments per month.