I like to think of myself as open-minded, musically speaking. But I am quite enough of a musical snob to have never attended an orchestral “pops” concert. So imagine my mixed feelings when the offer to see Sting, one of the century’s musical superstars, in concert with the pops wing of the Royal Philharmonic came my way. Would it be pure unbridled kitsch or an inspiring and creative fusion of styles? Would it profoundly upset my musical sensibilities to see a miked, funked up symphony orchestra performing in a hockey arena? Or would it open my mind to a whole new world of possibilities for this incessantly “dying” ensemble?
Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing the Hagen Quartet play at the Konzerthaus (I am in Vienna and will be here for the next 2.5 months, so I am certainly looking forward to a lot of concerts!). This ensemble is one of the premier string quartets in the world and as usual they did not disappoint — except for the fact that they did not play an encore! The program was Beethoven op. 18/4, Bartók’s String Quartet no. 1, and Brahms’s op. 111 Quintet, also featuring Antoine Tamestit as the second viola. Needless to say, the performance was virtually flawless and highly appreciated by the crowd.
Kent Nagano and Guy Lafleur For those of you who think that classical music is dead, or that classical music cannot appeal to a mass audience, or even that the funding of classical music organizations is doomed to be perennially on the brink, you clearly did not attend the Montreal Symphony‘s presentation at the Bell [...]
When I wrote my enthusiastic review of Daniel Panner’s performance at the first Fromm Concert Series on February 21, I should have mentioned, that the other great violist of our time, Garth Knox, was performing in the very same hall just one week prior to the Fromm concert.
I just returned from a great concert at Paine Hall and my ears are still resounding with the fabulous music I heard a few hours ago.
The program was part of the Fromm Foundation Series that always forms the high point of the concert season at the Harvard Music Department for me. This year, Hans Tutschku, the curator of the series, invited the Manhattan Sinfonietta under Jeff Milarsky to perform two programs of contemporary music that couldn’t be more exciting.
The University of South Florida’s School of Music is in the midst of the fourth annual Robert Helps International Composition Competition and Festival. Each year, this event pays homage to Robert Helps (1928-2001), composer/pianist, who was a faculty member at USF and one of the key promoters of new music during the second half of the twentieth century. His music is best described as belonging to New Romanticism and he had a particular fondness for piano pieces. Each year there is a $10 000 prize awarded to the most promising composition by a young composer, as well as a performance of the winning work (this year’s winner was Lyudmila German, whose Piano Sonata No. 1 we heard played excellently by USF faculty member Svetozar Ivanov as the second half of tonight’s program).
The Ives Vocal Marathon at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (Jan. 29 – Feb. 1) was so named to advertise its ambition and athleticism: five musicians performed the complete solo vocal works of Charles Ives across six concerts in a four-day “Festival Presentation.” The Marathon aimed for completeness—two hundred and one performances of one hundred and eighty-five songs, plus variants. Participating athletes included Neely Bruce, the Marathon’s pianist and music director, and four charismatic vocalists: baritone David Barron, tenor Gary Harger, mezzo soprano Elizabeth Saunders, and soprano Johanna Arnold. These five had been performing the songs together over a three-year span, refining the final festival program through—in Bruce’s words—“a rather agonizing process” of determining which variants required inclusion. This was an Ives intensive for an eager audience, featuring sophisticated interpretations by five tireless and devoted musicians.
It felt vaguely ironic to be sitting before our computer in Germantown, New York, watching the first live internet broadcast from the Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting Dvorák’s G minor Slavonic Dance and Brahms’s First Symphony.
As I’m sure many of you know already, each year the Vienna Philharmonic presents a concert from the Musikverein showcasing primarily the music of Johann Strauss Jr. This tradition started in 1939, just after the Anschluss which made Austria a province of Germany — as you can probably imagine, there is a whole story to this, and I will elaborate on it further at another time and in another format. Since the 1950s, the concert has been broadcast around the world. There are several traditions associated with this event, including a minimum of two encores (Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube Waltz followed by Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March), and this year’s concert followed in the typical vein. Daniel Barenboim was the conductor.
In 1962, Duke Ellington and arranger Billy Strayhorn collaborated to do a jazz version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The original version was for big band and features nine movements. The titles have been slightly modified — for instance, the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ becomes ‘Sugar Rum Cherry’ — but the melodies remain relatively easy to identify (even if, at times, Tchaikovsky’s melodies don’t readily swing).
Yesterday night, the First Church of Cambridge was the home of the renaissance choir Blue Heron. Under the direction of Scott Metcalfe, the Blue Heron presented secular and sacred music from the Peterhouse partbooks (copied for the Canterbury Cathedral in the first half of the 16th century and named after their current home at Peterhouse College in Cambridge, England), from the Fayrfax Manuscript and from Henry VIII’s Manuscript.
Cologne Cathedral Betrachtet man die Situation nüchtern und als Aussenstehender, so sollte man als Musikbegeisterter die sommerlichen Orgelfeierstunden im Kölner Dom aus rein musikalischen Gründen meiden. Die Akustik in der riesigen Kathedrale des 13. Jahrhunderts ist einem differenzierten Musikgenuss ebenso abträglich, wie ein komplett verdunkeltes Museum dem Betrachten von Gemälden. Der exzessive Nachhall verwischt jeden [...]
Yesterday we heard Stockhausen’s Mantra at Harvard. Frank Gutschmidt and Benjamin Kobler captivated their audience in a late-night performance that was colorful, precise, groovy, and overwhelmingly lucid. What I liked most about their interpretation was the sense of unity that they created; at times one had the feeling that all the music came from one [...]
Barenboim and Mehta I am an American artist living part-time in Berlin. I have never written anything about a classical music concert, I do not have a sophisticated ear for music, and, in fact, I do not literally hear very well. But, I do know what I like and do not like, and what I [...]
Yesterday night, Seda played a short concert with Schubert’s Sonate in a-moll D. 784 and Brahm’s Sechs Klavierstücke op. 118 in the Lowell House library at Harvard University. I love this pensive program. It is full of deep emotions, thorough thinking, and rhythmic complexities.Seda played on the piano that once belonged to David Lewin, the [...]