December 4, 2013 |
NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Since leaving her Upstate New York home for Switzerland seven years ago, pianist Hélène Grimaud has had new recordings, unexpected collaborators, repertoire nobody could have predicted - and a dashing German photographer often by her side. Yet the news coming back from Europe was also dire. Her long professional association with revered conductor Claudio Abbado came to a crashing halt in a disagreement over cadenzas, shelving their Mozart concerto recording. A series of Job-like health problems (chicken pox, pneumonia)
November 30, 2013 |
Philadelphia songbird Peggy King returns to the concert stage this weekend. The big-band vocalist made albums under the legendarily shortsighted Mitch Miller in the 1950s, when he was chief executive officer of Columbia. And she has a thing or two to say about Mitch. "Arthur Hamilton wrote 'Cry Me a River' for me, but Mitch said he'd never allow a song with the word plebeian , " says King, 83, with a laugh. The charming singer talks about her time with MGM, right at the end of the studio system.
November 19, 2013 |
WE'VE SEEN some odd court cases in Philadelphia - newspaper owners suing each other, for instance - but we've never heard of anything like the case going on in Girona, Spain. There, Sonia Bosom (imagine all the times she was called a "tithead" as a child) sued her upstairs neighbors and their daughter for noise pollution. The daughter, Laia Martin , isn't some kid banging a drum all day - she's a professional concert pianist. Crazier yet, prosecutor Emma Ruiz wants Martin to serve jail time.
November 10, 2013 |
Pianist Yuja Wang was pretty much canonized by her Kimmel Center audience Thursday, and perhaps not for typical reasons of hot fingers and charismatic glamour. In a promising collaboration with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Wang scaled the pianistic Everest that is Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with a sense of ease that took the music to a particular place that it can rarely go. Having heard Wang grow up before my very ears at the Curtis Institute, I'm convinced she is basically a chamber-music pianist - with a mastery of the keyboard that allows her to bring the same flowing conversational quality to the Rachmaninoff concerto that she had in Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 10. In Rachmaninoff, the conversation was a high-level one between her and any given phrase, duly transmitted to the audience without the slightest pretense or Scriabinesque neuroses.
October 20, 2013 |
Crowd-pleasing has its price, especially when one leaves the Philadelphia Orchestra two weeks in a row having experienced many visceral thrills but none that lasts much beyond the Kimmel Center's door. The symphonic world has its share of sound-effects pieces. Chief among them are the tone poems of Ottorino Respighi, a first-class opera composer whose musical portraits of Rome are his best-known pieces and magnificently orchestrated, with nothing very important to say. Nobody is going to make The Pines of Rome , whose suite of musical descriptions includes birdcalls, more buffed and sparkly than did veteran guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos on Thursday at Verizon Hall.
October 15, 2013 |
Let's hear it for the Elvis Costello/Diana Krall spousal household. Rather than indulging their previous shtick as clunky power-pop's snarkiest wordsmith and contempo-jazz's smoothest chanteuse/pianist, each has, respectively, found twitchy funk and fussy vaudeville to newly express dramatic takes on love and loss. While Elvis enters the building (the Merriam) in November, Krall took to the Academy of Music on Saturday with a set heavy on songs and creaky vibes from Glad Rag Doll, her newest album of jazz favorites from the 1920s and '30s.
October 15, 2013 |
For George Horner at age 19, music was an escape from the pain that surrounded him and his family in the Czechoslovakian concentration camp where they were imprisoned. Horner's passion for music endured through several near-misses with death, the loss of his family, and through the end of World War II. Later this month Horner, now 90, a retired physician and a resident of Newtown Square, will commemorate the lives lost in the Holocaust by performing on piano at Boston Symphony Hall alongside legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The Oct. 22 performance was arranged by Mark Ludwig, the head of the Terezin Music Foundation, a Boston nonprofit group that honors the legacy of composers who died in the Holocaust.
October 7, 2013 |
When Gary Graffman was director of the Curtis Institute of Music, he used to tell students that the recorded legacy was a distortion. The act of saving some recordings and discarding others - the natural selection of that business - means that all available evidence is not necessarily an accurate portrait of the artist. That might not apply in Graffman's own case. On his 85th birthday, he is getting a gift from Sony Classical: a 24-CD boxed set of recordings from the 1950s on. I can't say for sure, not having been alive during the late-mid-century shank of Graffman's career, but based on his performances during the last 25 years, it seems the pianist you hear in these testaments - Rachmaninoff from 1964, Schubert from 1956 - is unshakably true to form.
October 1, 2013 |
Showy novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "there are no second acts in American lives. " It's a shame, then, that Mr. Fitzgerald didn't have the opportunity to hear and see Philadelphia post-bop guitar master Pat Martino gigging at Chris' Jazz Cafe Saturday night. Martino's is a second act better than his first, and that initial one was pretty impressive. Emerging in the 1960s as jazz's most expressively rapid-fire six-string-slinger, Martino, 69, made his mark in his teens as the go-to guitarist for Philly/Jersey organ-grinding greats Richard "Groove" Holmes, Don Patterson, and Jimmy McGriff before leading his own awe-inspiring sessions.
August 19, 2013 |
After decades of hiding in plain sight at the Curtis Institute of Music, pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993) suddenly became celebrated, in his final years, as a voice from a distant time. And he continues to be, though that voice turns out to be rather more than it once seemed. Known primarily as an accompanist for the giants of his time (among them cellist Pablo Casals), the Polish-born Horszowski was also a noted soloist. But after emigrating to the United States in 1940, he was heard mostly in secondary venues, as documented in a just-released set, Chopin by Horszowski Through Text and Sound (Arbiter)