The Classical Music Network (English) Sun, 21 Oct 2018 11:58:03 +0200 <![CDATA[New York - The Orchestre Révolutionnaire]]>
J.-E. Gardiner leading his orchestra

“To render my works properly requires a combination of extreme precision and irresistible verve, a regulated vehemence, a dreamy tenderness, and an almost morbid melancholy.”
Hector Berlioz

During twenty seconds in Hector Berlioz’ Lélio last night, the heavens of the Hereafter seemed to descend upon Carnegie Hall. The spotlight was on narrator Simon Callow, the rest of the stage dark. The light broadened, the upstage piano played soft chords, continuing with the strings, tenor Michael Spryes was singing, and the entire National Youth Choir of Scotland softly b]]>...
Mon, 15 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The AXIOM Ensemble]]>
L. Andriessen/Plato

And don’t throw the past away/You might need it some other rainy day/Dreams can come true again/When everything old is new again”
Peter Allan

For an ensemble and conductor priding themselves on playing contemporary music seamlessly, without an iota of problems...well, AXIOM and Jeffrey Milarsky have a serious question: namely, why did they make everything old new again this Sunday afternoon?

First it was Oliver Knussen, composing cantus firmi back to the 14th Century. Not much better than that was Igor Stravinsky, who gave us his version of a Bac]]>...
Sun, 14 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - R. Wainwright’s Hadrian]]>
T. Hampson, I. Bell (© Michael Cooper)

The Canadian Opera Company’s world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian has created quite a lot of buzz (as any new opera really ought to).

Rufus Wainwright was inspired by Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, a rambling account of the Roman emperor’s wide-ranging activities in which his relationship with the youth Antinous is laconically recounted. Librettist Daniel MacIvor used other sources to devise his plot which, like virtually all operas treating historical events, rearranges time-lines and invents many details both major and minor.

Sat, 13 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Momenta Quartet]]>
E.-A. Gendron, A. Shiozaki, S. Griffin, M. Haas (© Samuel A. Dog)

For New York music-lovers, the holiday season is signified not by turkeys or costumes or Kris Kringles, but by the Momenta Festival.

The young and immensely talented Momenta Quartet arrange four programs each year about this time, each curated by a member of the group. That is, they arrange the music, get a few guest artists and give short informal talks before each work. That is kind of normal. The originality of the Momenta Festival is in the selections. As you can see in the coda to this story, the works are mainly contemporar]]>...
Sat, 13 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - Six Pianos]]>
(© Claire Harvie)

Soundstreams opened its 36th season with a typically unique program featuring six pianos played in various configuration by seven pianists.

In keeping with the magical number six, there were six works on the program, starting off with John Cage’s The Beatles 1962-70, commissioned in 1989. Since it is a Cage work, it comes a no surprise that it can be performed by various ensembles (so why not six pianos), and that it is definitely NOT a pastiche of Beatle tunes. The nine-minute piece contains fragments of tunes which can be used freely by whoever is playing. The disjointed bits zoom or f]]>...
Fri, 12 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic]]>
D. Robertson (© Michael Tammaro)

“Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini sometimes sounds like a plague of insects in the Amazon valley, sometimes like a miniature of the Day of Judgment...and for a change goes lachrymose.”
Pitts Sanborn, New York World-Telegram, January 14, 1936

Pitts Sanborn is, by and large, my favorite music critic, forward-thinking enough to extol the praises of Mahler during a time of relative obscurity, but he could not be more off-base than in his reception of the Rachmaninoff opus in question. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this marv]]>...
Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Two Operas by G. Kallor]]>
G. Kallor (© Courtesy of the Artist)

“There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand...I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel...”
Mary Shelley, from Frankenstein

Composer Gregg Kallor had it exactly describing Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel as “staggeringly beautiful” when off the stage. The question last night was whether this “staggeringly” accomplished pianist, in the catacombs of the “staggeringly” immense Green-Wood Cemetery, could create the music that could justify his feelings.

Impresario Andrew Oursely had used Green]]>...
Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[London - The Gewandhaus Orchestra]]>
A. Nelsons (© Southbank Centre/Mark Allan)

As the UK Government hurtles blindly towards a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, London’s Southbank Centre has had the foresight to reach out to Europe, forging a five-year association with Europe’s oldest orchestra, and one of its most venerable – the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. The first of their scheduled visits, under their recently appointed Kapellmeister Andris Nelsons, took place last week, and offered two revelatory concerts, which included a Mahler symphony in each: on Monday night, the daunting Fifth and on Tuesday, the iconoclastic First. The inclusion of these great works in Ne]]>...
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - The Orchestre Métropolitain]]>
N. Angelich (© Jean-François Leclercq)

Capping the opening week of Koerner Hall’s 10th anniversary season was this flying visit by Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, its music director since 2000 (when he was 25). Their last visit here (and quite the sensation) was in 2015.

The program opened with a rather puzzling 14-minute piece, Nicolas Gilbert’s symphonic poem, Avril, which had its premiere the evening before in Montreal. The April he conjures up is tangy and eventful (early spring isn’t always smooth goin]]>...
Fri, 05 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - The Toronto Symphony Orchestra]]>
H.-N. Chang (© Nick Wons)

There isn’t much to say about this concert except that everything fell into place to an extraordinary degree. Both conductor and pianist were performing with the TSO for the first time. The whip-crack that begins the Ravel concerto could have had a more aggressive sound, but what ensued showed both conductor and pianist working as one, with the contrasts of light and shade emerging well. Mr. Perianes’ approach was a bit on the introverted side, a risky approach in such a large hall, but the audience responded enthusiastically. There was even an encore, a feather-light performance of a Chopin mazurka.
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Orchestra]]>
M. Harth-Bedoya (© Bell Soto)

Peruvian Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, musical director of the Fort Worth Symphony and celebrated alum of the Curtis Institute of Music, was back on the Philadelphia Orchestra podium this month to conduct a vibrant concert series of rare repertory works by Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla, as well as an electrifying 2012 orchestral by Peruvian Composer Jimmy López.

But the concert opener was the symphonic stylings of George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, a perennial favorite with that never loses its luster even when orchestras vamp it as a flashy showpiece. Harth-Bedoy]]>...
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic Orchestra]]>
L. Josefowicz (© Chris Lee)

New York is going through an accidental ex-Strav-agansa these weeks. No, Igor Stravinsky doesn’t have any particular anniversaries coming up, but a pair of orchestras is still celebrating his achievements.

Two weeks ago, the new NY Phil Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, started his reign with Le Sacre du printemps. Two days ago, Michael Tilson Thomas led his own San Francisco Orchestra with the same work. Thre]]>...
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The San Francisco Symphony]]>
I. Stravinsky: Portrait by Christopher Wright

“I live neither in the past nor in the future. I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity.”
Igor Stravinsky, Autobiography

In the first of his “Perspective” offerings here with his beloved San Francisco Orchestra, Mr. Thomas gave us three works by Igor Stravinsky. And–no insult intended–Mr. Thomas has an unfair advantage. Other conductors study scores, rehearse, interpret and studiously catalogue the Stravinsky]]>...
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - D. Lang’s The Mile-Long Opera]]>
(© Liz Ligon)

“Eastward the sea and the sky, and a lengthening evening;/The massive looks of the hills and the serpentine river–/Lamplights in ten thousand homes all around the city/Won’t you come to my river pavilion to escape the heat?...”
Po Chü-yi (772-846)

A devotee of words, an artisan whose musical creations seem to sing themselves, David Lang is no spaced-out composer. This week, though, he changed his tune, so to speak, and tried to conquer space.

With librettists Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine, Mr. Lang has taken over more than a mile of space]]>...
Wed, 03 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The New Juilliard Ensemble]]>
J. Sachs

“Silence is so accurate.”
Mark Rothko

That phrase “New Juilliard Ensemble” is inaccurate. Joel Sachs, the founding director and conductor, last night conducted four “new Juilliard Ensembles” with four totally different ensembles of musicians. But since these musicians were advanced Juilliard students, and since the music had virtually no prior hearings in America, and since Mr. Sachs never fails to convince...well, one must assume that each work had an unbeatable performance.

This was typical Sachs programming. The compositions came from four countries, in Asia and East E]]>...
Tue, 02 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - Revival of Eugene Onegin ]]>
G. Bintner, J. El-Khoury (© Michael Cooper)

In 2010, the COC presented Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in Robert Carsen and Michael Levine’s eloquent semi-abstract production. Their distinguished production of Eugene Onegin, first presented at the Metropolitan Opera in 1997, works similar magic.

Instead of scenery the stage rear and side walls are flooded with coloured light which heightens the atmosphere of each scene, such as the autumnal orange in the opening scene. Most effective is the duel scene in which the characters are simply]]>...
Sun, 30 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Orchestra Now (TŌN)]]>
L. Botstein, M. A. McGee (© Courtesy of the Artists)

Mahler was not a visual artist. He was an artist who transformed emotions.
Leon Botstein, in remarks at the Metropolitan Museum concert

Not Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Sartre or Heraclitus could solve this puzzle. On a crisp sunny autumn Sunday in New York, filled with pettable dogs and scampering squirrels, perambulators, babies, lovers and friends, why the hell would anybody want to slump into a museum seat in other to hear songs about dead children?

Well, I’d made the decision, and Leon Botstein’s words a]]>...
Sun, 30 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[London - New Production of Salome]]>
A. Cook (© Catherine Ashmore)

Graciously housed for the past fifty years in the Coliseum Theater, just a short walk from London’s grand Royal Opera House, the innovative English National Opera (ENO) is something of a foil to that institution, playing a role similar to the one that the New York City Opera used to play to the more stolid Met. Its singers are younger, its repertoire more daring, its productions more avant-garde, its ticket prices lower, its audiences more casual, its policy on drinks and photography more permissive, its outreach more diverse, and its language for all performances English. In what might be a unique in]]>...
Fri, 28 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic]]>
J. van Zweden (© Hans van der Woerd)

“...the background of all his music-making is piety and a mystic sense of union with God such as can otherwise be found, in the whole range of European music, only in Bach.”
Eugen Jochum
“Our time will come!”
Gustav Mahler, referring to himself as well as to his teacher Anton Bruckner

Only an organist could have written the Eighth Symphony of Anton Bruckner. The genius at the multiple keyboard is heard in every bar of the third and fourth movements, a sublime combination of mastery and piety. Those who were fortunate enough to attend the compos]]>...
Thu, 27 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - M. Mazzoli’s Proving Up]]>
R. Vavrek, M. Mazzoli (© Bob Davidson for Miller Theater)

Missy Mazzoli, before the age of 40, has proven herself one of America’s finest composers. Yet her operatic inspiration is of no school: she fits her music to her subject so fittingly that one hears her opera, and hears the passion behind it.

In Proving Up, she has taken the same atmosphere as Copland’s The Tender Land, but she has transformed it into a tragedy which is so searing, so (yes) mysterious, as passionate as it is (towards the end) enigmatic, that the New York premiere last night may well be a listed a masterpiece. Ad]]>...
Wed, 26 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The JACK Quartet]]>
JACK Quartet in Green-Wood Crypt (© Kevin Condon)

Con mortuis in lingua mortua” (“With the dead in a dead language”)
Modest Mussorgsky, pencilled note for his “Roman Catacombs” section from Pictures at an Exhibition

Grave is more than the direction for Beethoven’s Pathétique or Mussorgsky’s “Catacombs.” Graves, mausoleums and crypts are familiar to music- goers from Weber’s Freischütz to the last act of Aida to Verdi’s Falstaff and of course Mendelssohn’s Walpurgisnacht and Ives’ Halloween.

New York musical impresar]]>...
Mon, 24 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Los Angeles - Revival of Don Carlo]]>
P. Domingo (© Cory Weaver)

The grand opéra, Don Carlo (sans mandated ballet), comes to The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion once again which slimly “re-adjusts”, giving pause and reflection on the original production’s strengths while infusing elements that deepen the concentration and severity of the plot. Thus, Don Carlo now stands as a bridge to the past and pathway to the future…the meaning of Verdi’s twenty-fifth opera is justifiably convincing while gnawing at captivation.

History has a way of repeating itself, and in this case, Los Angeles Opera plays it safe by revisiting Ian ]]>...
Sat, 22 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Philadelphia - “Glass Handel”]]>
A.R. Costanzo (© Dominic M. Mercier)

A multi-media extravaganza in the museum’s grand court with a trio of principal dancers – David Hallberg (of American Ballet Theater & Bolshoi Ballet), Patricia Delgado (of Miami City Ballet) and Ricky Ubeda (Broadway © dancer, So You Think You Can Dance winner) – dancing to choreography by Justin Peck (of New York City Ballet); a 34-piece orchestra (20 of which spun the Glass, and 12 musicians handled the Handel); George Condo making a cubist portraiture on an illuminated canvas in real time. Two screens with video feeds of Glass/Handel music videos made by famed filmmakers..]]>...
Sat, 22 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Cardiff - Revival of La Traviata]]>
K. Wang, L. Richardson (© Betina Skovbro)

Sir David McVicar’s production of La Traviata, originally created for Scottish Opera and last presented by Welsh National Opera in 2012, presents a remarkably handsome stage picture with fine attention to pertinent dramatic detail.

The opening act takes us right into a period picture that the young Renoir might have painted. The one drawback of the dark coloration of the unit set means there is no atmospheric contrast for the country house setting of Act II, but the third and fourth acts return to fully appropriate settings. There is some fine chiaroscuro lightin]]>...
Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic Orchestra]]>
J. van Zweden

The words “Grand Opening” hardly described the assemblage of talents at last night’s first concert of the season. So much of an assemblage that one often couldn’t grasp it all.

Of course it was the initial “official” showing of the new Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, he whose face glowers out on posters throughout the city. (That is no indication of his personality or acumen, but friends in the East Village, ignorant of the Phil, are puzzled by the look.) It was a startlingly new sound for that most familiar personality here, Daniil Trifonov. And it was the world premiere of a composer whose musical participants we]]>...
Thu, 20 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0200