April 15, 1996 |
Does William Bolcom's new piano concerto Gaea have anything to offer besides its unusual premise? Bolcom's creation, premiered here by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and music director David Zinman, is not one work, but three. It asks one orchestra and one pianist to play in one version, another orchestra and another pianist to play related music in a second incarnation, and both orchestras and both pianists to fit their parts together for yet a third. Adding to that considerable compositional challenge, both piano parts are for left hand alone.
May 11, 2002 |
The reputation of contemporary composers as who-cares-if-you-listen practitioners of a restrictive art form has always far outstripped the reality. Even when composers were committing their most serious (alleged) serial crimes, there was Krzysztof Penderecki. The Polish composer, whose new Piano Concerto, "Resurrection," was premiered Thursday night at Carnegie Hall by the Philadelphia Orchestra and pianist Emanuel Ax, was using pure, proud major and minor melodies in the 1970s.
April 28, 2006 |
Mozart's final few works reach the summit of expressive genius, an outpouring of the human spirit cruelly silenced at the age of 35. Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia's music director, has scheduled these masterpieces in three weekend pairs called "Ultimate Mozart," wrapping the ensemble's season. The programs feature the final three symphonies and three piano concertos, plus the overtures to the last three operas as openers. To function as conductor and piano soloist in this repertory, Solzhenitsyn achieves a career milestone.
March 19, 2011 |
Word association: Tchaikovsky and piano concerto. No, not that concerto. Another one. Yes, there are others. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major is an enormously intriguing work, yet it is his ivory-billed woodpecker. The last time it alighted in a Philadelphia Orchestra subscription concert was in 1968, when Gary Graffman played it under Eugene Ormandy, and its return Thursday night, if an artistic vindication, revealed reasons for the rarity. Specifically, three of them: It requires a pianist of preternatural technique, and a solo violinist and cellist who can conjure a Tchaikovsky pas de deux in mid-piano concerto.
December 1, 2012 |
Life without music, said Nietzsche, would be a mistake. But Wagner without singers is a very good idea indeed. You don't have to worry about an ailing Brünnhilde or malfunctioning stagecraft. A half-concert of orchestral excerpts from Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung Thursday night in Verizon Hall (prefaced by a Beethoven piano concerto) took kind exception to the composer's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk - a single work synthesizing all the arts (to which we'd add technology, especially at the Met)
September 1, 2011
"Whatever financial woes the cash-strapped Philadelphia Orchestra might be having at home, they gave a super performance . . . that glittered and sparkled from beginning to end. . . . This phenomenal orchestra produces a well-balanced sound, seemingly effortlessly. " - Susan Nickalls, Edinburgh Daily News, Aug. 31 " . . . in Lucerne, one could hear precisely which areas Dutoit had worked on with the orchestra and which he had not. . . . Piano Concerto No. 2]
January 21, 2002 |
A wind player in the Philadelphia Orchestra told me the other day that from where he sits in Verizon Hall, the sound of the solo pianist's left-hand work arrives at a slightly different time from the sound of the right. Bizarre. It's the kind of acoustical quirk that the orchestra will spend the next several months finding solutions to. The musicians are very much a part of this process, sending feedback to acoustician Russell Johnson. After a period of observation, changes in the hall's highly adjustable acoustical gadgetry will be made.
December 8, 2013 |
Who was that traditionalist on the podium Thursday night? No piece of music plays itself. But Michael Tilson Thomas, guest-conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall, was content to let the Berlioz Symphonie fantastique unfold within the narrow bounds of standard interpretation. At 68, Tilson Thomas executed some wonderfully balletic moves, though their musical benefit was, at best, hazy. As an artistic statement, this could have come from any number of competent conductors.
March 8, 1997 |
Playing dual roles as conductor and soloist, Ignat Solzhenitsyn used the Concerto Soloists Chamber orchestra program Thursday to span almost all of Mozart's creative life. He led the Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 40, and was soloist in Piano Concerto No. 27, the composer's last, in the single-performance program at the Convention Center. In Mozart's case, the panorama is less a path from beginner to master than it is from breathtaking youngster to daunting youngster, for there didn't seem to be a beginner level or a sense of summary at the end. At any rate, Solzhenitsyn did more than offer a short course in Mozart: He also brought the ensemble to life.
February 22, 1997 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra's Brahms celebration has taken different turns, jostled by the strike early in the season and now by an unforeseen change in soloists. Pianist Andre Watts is currently stepping in to replace ailing violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and to play the Piano Concerto No. 2. For Watts, it's a return to the stage where he played 40 years ago as a winner of the orchestra's children's competition, and also an appearance in a work that has not been closely associated with his career.