January 3, 2012 |
Legend has it that a favorite drinking game of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was to spend the evening prodigiously imbibing with friends, after which one of them would be abruptly shut into a closet for 15 minutes or so. Then, from the other side of the door, the closeted partyer was ordered to give the full names of the people with whom he had spent the evening. Just to see if he was too hammered to do so. Or had passed out. No wonder Sibelius never finished his Symphony No. 8 . But now, perhaps, others can. Sketches - some of them orchestrated - have been identified as probably being from the symphony that occupied him from 1927 until his death in 1957.
October 5, 2009 |
Shostakovich's 1943 Symphony No. 8 is one in a handful of works that fathom the trauma of the 20th century with a boldness and originality so fearless that it's not often performed around here. However compelling Symphony in C's performance was on Saturday in Rutgers University-Camden's Gordon Theater, it went far to explain why: Once the steep musical challenges are met, you're entering a World War II-era abyss that not everyone (players or audience) can or will inhabit. Full of gargantuan war-inspired orchestral effects that prompt a visceral response from any alert musician, the symphony also requires a kind of life experience that the conservatory-age Symphony in C musicians can't be expected to have.
May 8, 2012 |
Though only nine minutes away from Philadelphia by train, Symphony in C's Rutgers-Camden home is truly in another state, which is why the prospect of hearing Gyorgy Ligeti's Violin Concerto on Saturday at the Gordon Theater felt vaguely perilous. This post-conservatory orchestra and its soloist Augustin Hadelich could be counted on to meet the music's considerable demands. But what about the suburban audience? The outset was not promising: After a new orchestra piece by Roger Zare titled Green Flash (winner of the orchestra's annual Young Composers Competition)
October 5, 2002 |
The Bruckner symphonies, taken as a whole, always sound to me like a man asking the same question over and over again his entire life, only slightly reshuffling the wording each time. A very long-winded man. But somehow, his Symphony No. 3 - all 55 minutes of it - flew by Thursday night under the spell of Wolfgang Sawallisch. Great Bruckner is a gift, one that few living conductors possess. Right now, there might be no better place on earth to hear the symphonist's work than at Broad and Spruce.
October 2, 2010 |
Even by the motley standards of Shostakovich's 15 symphonies, the long-suppressed Symphony No. 4 is a work of such originality that its performance remains a special, fasten-your-seatbelt occasion - more so than usual Thursday at the Kimmel Center, in one of the Philadelphia Orchestra's best outings ever with chief conductor Charles Dutoit. The staggeringly dense, hour-long piece challenges the orchestra on virtually every front, but Dutoit's cool, Gallic strategy made the wild orchestration all the more powerful for never slipping into sensory overload.
December 11, 1988 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra's biggest recording project has just been completed. The release, on EMI, encompasses Beethoven's nine symphonies, plus three of his overtures on six discs in a box. They represent performances and recordings between October 1985 and February 1988 and much more besides. They stand to Riccardo Muti as a summary of the transformation he has effected with this orchestra since he became music director in 1980. A Beethoven set may seem an unlikely choice for a conductor so deeply involved with Italian opera, but Muti has consistently presented himself as a man with wide enthusiasm and knowledge.
February 15, 2004 |
When in the grip of an obsession with Gustav Mahler's symphonies, there comes a time when you need to visit the composer's grave. Communing with J.S. Bach would logically take place in a church in Leipzig. For Erik Satie, it's a cabaret in Montmartre. But Mahler was the first to admit that he never really belonged in Vienna or New York, whose musical lives he transformed. Given the preoccupation with death that haunts his 10 symphonies and dozens of songs - as a child, he wanted to grow up to be a martyr, and as an adult, he wrote the irregular rhythm of his diseased heart into his last completed symphony - all roads to his spirit lead to the cemetery.
September 22, 1986 |
Given the admiring friendship of Mozart and Haydn, it seemed reasonable for the Mozart Society to open its season last night with a concert of Haydn's music at the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany. The chamber orchestra, conducted by Davis Jerome, played the alpha and (almost) omega of Haydn's orchestral works, the Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 102. By playing works composed 35 years apart, Jerome underlined the steady growth in means that marked Haydn's long career. That first symphony was rather square and formal, but it contained, in its older style, the seeds of the mature work.
July 23, 1990 |
Vincent d'Indy's reputation within French music circles is sometimes likened to Brahms' within the German. Why, then, are the prolific Frenchman's pleasurable scores so rarely played? Maybe we don't bother with him because American listeners, as Francophile composer Ned Rorem maintains, have been suckled on the thicker syrups of romance. Effervescence, as in the burbling Symphony on a French Mountain Air, doesn't stick to the bone. Whatever the reason, I have not lately heard (have you?
July 11, 2002 |
PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA at Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue. 8 tonight. Tickets: $10-$68. Info: 215-893-1999. Conductor Carlos Kalmar finishes up his Mann week with two revered works from the center of the repertory. He's chosen the Symphony No. 2 by Jan Sibelius, the most familiar of seven by a composer with close ties to this orchestra. Its Finnish heart, full of long-spun melodies that erupt like flowers through wintry ice, and a triumphant finale, has made this symphony an audience favorite for a century.