The Classical Music Network (English) Sat, 23 Feb 2019 07:35:20 +0100 <![CDATA[New York - Le Concert des Nations]]>
J. Savall in Zankel Hall (© Samuel A. Dog)

More than a monumental figure in music, more than an innovator, discoverer, and unending enthusiast, far far more than a mere “early music” icon, Jordi Savall is also a chameleon.

His frequent New York appearance have him leading a huge Louis XIV-style orchestra. He has come here with an ensemble for Medieval Jewish, Arabic, and Berber music. His concerts here can encompass the earliest religious motets to the (relatively) latest Elizabethan madrigals. I remember especially the eclectic and humanistic ...
Thu, 21 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Ensemble Connect]]>
J. Adams/J. Wolfe (© Samuel T. Dog)

Deductive and inductive. Platonic and Dionysian. East and West. Stasis and volition.

The two halves of the concert last night by Ensemble Connect were diametrically opposed in style, in feeling. Yes, they complemented each other thoroughly, and were executed faultlessly by these young artists. Even more important, one had, at the end, a new feeling toward 20th Century American-created music in general.

I had never heard of Ensemble Connect before, but (according to the program notes), it is a “two-year fellowship program for extraordinary youn]]>... Tue, 19 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100 <![CDATA[New York - Cutting Edge New Music Festival]]>
J. Swift, by Charles Jervais/V. Bond

"Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
Came her attendant Byzantines...
And then the simpering Byzantines
Fled with a noise like tambourines”

Wallace Stevens: Peter Quince at the Clavier

Methinks Wallace Stevens never heard Byzantium music. For when the Byzantines weren’t making war, acquiring and losing territories from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, when the Emperors weren’t massacring their populace in the great Hippodrome, when they weren’t history’s most monumental place of worship...then Byzantium, forsaking Rome’s Gregorian Chant, was crea]]>...
Mon, 18 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra]]>
P.-L. Aimard/D. Harding

“Richard Strauss was the first great realist in music.”
Ernest Newman

Newman didn’t like Strauss very much, so “realism” in music should be a vilification. And happily enough, that onetime 43-year-old wunderkind Daniel Harding didn’t take it too seriously last in night with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

This was the second performance here of Harding as guest conductor with the orchestra. (Due behavior Daniel Gatti was let go a few months ago, so they are waiting for a permanent conductor.) This is still a great orc]]>...
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The New York Philharmonic]]>
T. Dausgaard (© Ulla-Carin Eckblom)

“Eric Sams has shown that the ‘injury’ to Schumann’s finger which he incurred in the early 1830’s...could very well have been a side effect, in the form of muscular paresis, of treatment by mercury, which was the standard treatment for syphilis in that era.”
Dr. Eliot Slater, Schumann’s Illness
“More than 160 years after his death, the city of Düsseldorf is going to convert the former home of Robert Schumann into a permanent museum. Schumann ended his relationship with the city, where he had been music director for four years, with an attempted suicide in February 18]]>...
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Washington - The National Symphony Orchestra]]>
G. Noseda

For Valentine’s Day, Noseda (here concluding his winter residency in Washington) and the National Symphony Orchestra offered a program built around the theme of doomed lovers. This all but guaranteed a selection of colourful and lavishly scored Romantic repertoire, and between this and the lack of a guest soloist, the evening could be seen as something of a showcase for the NSO. From this perspective, the opening Wagner excerpts counted as a qualified success. The strings are neither lush nor dark enough to be ideal for Wagner, and in Tristan especially some sweetness helps to take the edge off of some of Wagner’s most decadent yet sea]]>...
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist N. Namoradze]]>
N. Namoradze (© Honens Archives)

In the vocabulary of piano aficionados, there’s no worse description you can hurl at a pianist, especially a young pianist, that “ah, he plays just like a competition winner”. That’s a type of playing that is usually characterized by fast tempi, loud dynamics, super-accuracy and virtuoso effects needed in competition-demanded repertory (fast octaves are de rigueur!) and generally not much insight, subtlety, poetry or sensitivity. That doesn’t mean that we are unable to encounter pianists who have won competitions and don’t play in the manner crudely described above.

Nicolas N]]>...
Sun, 10 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist D. Trifonov]]>
D. Trifonov

What a week this has been for star piano players. Beginning with an agonizing choice between Ursula Oppens and Behzod Abduraimov (I chose the latter), heading onto Yuja Wang and Marc-André Hamelin, and finishing last night with Daniil Trifonov. Stars from Australia, Uzbekistan, China, and Canada. A total of ten expert hands, 50 dazzling fingers, 440 vibrating keys, and–thanks to Mr. Trifonov’s expected leger]]>...
Sat, 09 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Juilliard String Quartet]]>
The Juilliard String Quartet (© Claudio Papapietro)

Something happens.”
György Kurtág, when asked to describe his music.

Think of the Juilliard String Quartet as the paradox of the human organism. Their gestation was almost three-quarters of a century ago, their first appearance at the 92nd Street Y was half a century ago. During that time, like our human cells, their personnel have changed, their repertory has changed, their interpretations have altered...

Yet somehow, their soul, that ineffable lyric singing voice, whether in their iconic Bartók or their down-to-earth ]]>...
Fri, 08 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - A German Requiem]]>
J. Brahms, 1866

“Brahms’s fame…entered public awareness in the music world no later than 1868 when the< I>German Requiem was first performed in Bremen (the same year witnessed the triumphant premiere of Die Meistersinger in Munich).”
Carl Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music
“Es hat sich ganz gut gemacht” (It didn’t sound bad)
Complete comment of father Jakob Brahms after the premiere of the Requiem

The Requiem of Brahms was, for me, the first work that I studied extensively and which gave to me an internal foundation of what to do in music to make it cohesive and spectacular. To this da]]>...
Thu, 07 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Washington - The National Symphony Orchestra]]>
N. Angelich (© Stéphane de Bourgies)

Thursday night brought an ambitious program at the NSO, dominated by a warhorse of a Romantic piano concerto and a Lisztian curiosity of epic proportions. As a curtain-opener, Gianandrea Noseda led a characteristically well-shaped Brahms Tragic Overture. He set a somewhat slower basic tempo than one might have expected—more non troppo than allegro—and this lent the rendition an effective sense of weight and seriousness of purpose. Orchestral tuttis in the Overture’s outer sections were big-boned and sweeping. Woodwind solos seemed to me somewhat under-characterized, and ide]]>...
Thu, 07 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Washington - The Juilliard String Quartet]]>
The Juilliard String Quartet (© Claudio Papapietro)

The Juilliard String Quartet—as much a (cherished) institution as a chamber ensemble—has seen its chairs occupied by over a dozen different members throughout its storied 73-year history, and Wednesday evening was my first encounter with the current line-up as such: when last I heard the Juilliard in concert barely five years ago, the current first violinist and cellist had not yet joined. What has not changed with the replacement of two chairs is an ability to summon a technical command that is impressive whether or not one is entirely taken with the interpretation of the work a]]>...
Wed, 06 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Violinist L. Kavakos & Pianist J. Wang]]>
Y. Wang, L. Kavakos (© Ben Ealovega)

“Chemistry” is an ugly word to use in musical partnerships. It means that neither partner will stay the same, that their organic contract will transform their individual properties so that both of them will be morphed to a new substance.

So when you get two partners as accomplished, artistic, in a way even individually exotic as Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang, expectations are high –unhappily high–that they might outdo themselves. Like two opera divas or a pair of 1940’s movie stars, they might move the goalposts, go around each other.

Which ]]>...
Wed, 06 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - Revival of Così fan tutte]]>
J. Kammler, E. D’Angelo, K. MacKinnon, B. Bliss
(© Michael Cooper)

Atom Egoyan’s production of Così fan Tutte, first produced in 2014, returns with both its virtues and flaws on display.

The main flaw derives from Egoyan’s desire to do something original with the work. Its subtitle is “School for lovers”, so he stages it in a school (modern day sort of), with a group of students under Don Alfonso’s tutelage observing and noting the actions and reactions of the two couples. This clutters the stage with unnecessary business, plus the ]]>...
Tue, 05 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Y. Kim, S. Jackiw, J. Campbell, O. Weiss]]>
O. Weiss, S. Jackiw, J. Campbell, Y. Kim (© Andrew Ousley)

...Music of the stars”...
Karlheinz Stockhausen, on Olivier Messiaen
With enough ink, anybody can write these things.
Igor Stravinsky, on Olivier Messiaen

Three years ago, Jaap van Zweden conducted New York Phil musicians in a reconstructed Egyptian temple playing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Last night, that same work had an equally “spiritual” venue, in the crypt of the Church of the Annunciation.

Yet one inevitably concludes that this work could be ]]>...
Tue, 05 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Zukerman Trio]]>
A. Forsyth, A. Cheng, P. Zukerman (© Cheryl Mazak)

Pinchas Zukerman is a violinist whom I have heard almost from the very beginning of my Concert attending in NewYork City, which is now five decades. I heard him when he was still in his early twenties and when, along with his co-Israel born colleague Itzhak Perlman, he ruled the violin world that up till then was ruled by Russians. Over those decades, I heard him as a formidable soloist, as a chamber musician, and also in a trio with his friends Daniel Barenboim and the late lamented Jacqueline du Pré. I cherished his concerts as an incomparable violist, and I am among those who to]]>...
Sun, 03 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - Schubert’s Fierrabras in concert]]>
M. Dalen (Courtesy of Voicebox)

Schubert’s last opera,Fierrabras, contains some fine music but it a challenge to present. Voicebox: Opera in Cancert rose to the occasion.

There are frequently cuts made in some of Voicebox’s performances and I was wondering if perhaps the overture would be cut. It turns out the Aradia Ensemble didn’t play it but played the Scherzo from Schubert’s Octet, D. 803 instead. I suppose they should be docked points for this, but I rather liked it. Its galloping rhythm has a resonance in the chivalric plot to follow.

The performers sang in Germa]]>...
Sat, 02 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist B. Abduraimov]]>
B. Abduraimov (© Cristian Fatu)

What an agonizing choice! In midtown Manhattan, the great Ursula Oppens was having a 75th Birthday Celebration, and doubtless every composer in the world would be attending. Amongst other things, Ms. Oppens is the most fearless pianist in the world. Nothing fazes her. Not a single musical creator would wish anything but to write for her.

Uptown at the 92nd Street Y, the young Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov, one-third her age, was giving his own recital. I had never heard him before, but his fame is speeding up as quickly as his reputed fingers. Added to t]]>...
Sat, 02 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - The Toronto Symphony Orchestra]]>
L. Davidsen, Sir A. Davis, S. O’Neill (© Jag Gundu)

The two Wagner pieces on the program went exceedingly well. The concert opened with the “Ride of the Valkyries” which must rank as a warhorse (no pun intended), but it was terrific to both hear and watch the augmented orchestra present it with such richness and brio. The rumbling eruption at the end was an electrifying moment.

Sir Andrew gave an amusing little address re the Berg Three Pieces, although he didn’t say much that wasn’t already in the program notes. I can certainly hear in the piece that it is a leap beyond Wagner and contains references to ]]>...
Thu, 31 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Washington - The National Symphony Orchestra]]>
D. Trifonov (© Jessica Griffin)

This weekend’s NSO program offers a somewhat truncated version of the fairly standard overture-concerto-symphony concert format, with no overture, and Shostakovich’s relatively short Sixth Symphony getting the second half of the program to itself. Of course, the featured concerto is Beethoven’s mighty Emperor, which was given pride of place at the end of the concert when given here in 2015. Nonetheless, on that occasion it was preceded by not one but two whole symphonies, Mozart’s 38th and Martinů’s Sixth. With such precedent, the current program may seem to represen]]>...
Thu, 31 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The New Juilliard Ensemble]]>
Bingham’s Mill Boy/Eakins’ Concert Singer

“Radio is called a medium, because it’s rare when anything is well done.”
Fred Allen

“Suddenly,” said Joel Sachs, whose imagination is equal to his expertise, “I had a topic...saluting those broadcasters for giving the world so much new music and helping composers to earn a living.”

During 1950’s days of savant/comic Fred Allen and these days of yelling and screaming, one doesn’t think of radio as a provider of great music, but Mr. Sachs and his European colleagues discovered a world of commissioned music over three-quarters of a century.]]>...
Wed, 30 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Philadelphia - Shanghai & Philadelphia Orchestras]]>
P.-P. Gong, K. Watanabe (© Jessica Griffin)

Tension about tariffs may be at an all-time high between China and the US, but the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra (PO) and the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) have been engaged in a mutual cultural trade agreement for decades. Both orchestras were onstage in Verizon Hall January 29, for a one night only concert on the same day that the Philadelphians announced that they will embark on a two-week tour to China this May. Musical Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead the tour with performances in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Nanjin and a weeklong residency in Beijing. This ]]>...
Tue, 29 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Toronto - Revival of Elektra]]>
C. Goerke (© Michael Cooper)

During the rehearsals for the original production of Elektra in 1909 Richard Strauss is reported to have said “Louder! I can still hear the singers!” For this Toronto production the super-sized orchestra was properly loud (and VERY loud at times) – but we could still hear the singers, and what wonderful singers they are. We have cheered Christine Goerke for all three Brünnhilde roles, so our expectations for her Elektra were high – and she triumphed. (I hate being gushy but in this case I can’t help it.)

The three main roles are for the women in the drama, and we ]]>...
Sat, 26 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[New York - The Chelsea Symphony]]>
N. Flanders, Chelsea Symphony (© Samuel A. Dog)

I love the vast surface of silence, and my chief delight is breaking it.
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

After Alan Gilbert’s extraordinary Carl Nielsen “festival” with the New York Philharmonic four years ago, one could hardly believe that another work by the singular Danish composer would cut any musical ice. That, though, was not reckoning with one of New York’s great musical hidden joys, the Chelsea Symphony.

For over 13 years, the Chelsea ]]>...
Sat, 26 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Oviedo - Carmen]]>

It would seem director Carlos Wagner did not decide in which epoch to place this production of Carmen. Most certainly, it is not Bizet’s or Mérimée’s setting, for cameras and even cellphones are used by the characters. His setting is probably meant to be in Seville as there is the toreador Escamillo, and flamenco is danced. However, in this gloomy production there is no sun, which is hard to encounter in Seville even in deep winter. Don José’s regiment wear hard hats resembling the Kaiser’s army in WWI and behave dishonourably with young Micaëla, fondling her and sexually molesting her, breaking every rule in the Spanish honour code, be it in the nineteenth ]]>... Thu, 24 Jan 2019 00:00:00 +0100