Some projected highlights of the rest of the music season
The first “semester” of the classical-music season is over, and the second, and longer, “semester” has just begun. Let me give what I suspect will be the highlights of this second semester.
After a two-year hiatus, James Levine is scheduled to return to conducting. He has a date with his Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 19. For these two years, he has been sidelined with ailments. Some people doubt that he will, in fact, show up on May 19. They regard this date as a tease. It will be something if it’s not. Levine is not just a great musician of today, but a historically great one.
Sticking with Carnegie Hall, the German soprano Dorothea Röschmann is scheduled to give a recital on Jan. 23. She is one of the most intelligent and musical singers we have (both in the recital hall and on the opera stage). Accompanying her will be Malcolm Martineau.
This happens to be an excellent semester for voice recitals at Carnegie Hall. Following Röschmann will be Magdalena Kozena, accompanied by Yefim Bronfman, no less (Feb. 23); Stephanie Blythe, accompanied by Warren Jones (March 11); Elina Garanca, accompanied by Kevin Murphy (April 6); and Isabel Leonard, the young American, accompanied by Vlad Iftinca (April 9). Her program will be in what I believe are her two native languages: English and Spanish.
There are also some promising piano recitals at Carnegie Hall—including one by Daniil Trifonov, on Feb. 5. A 21-year-old Russian sensation, he won the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition two years ago. Other piano recitals will be given by Stephen Hough (March 4), Evgeny Kissin (May 3) and Yuja Wang (May 16). (At 25 years old, Wang seems like a senior statesman next to Trifonov.)
Also of interest is Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who will play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Feb. 22. Since this concerto was written 80 years ago, few pianists have played it as well as this one.
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam will come to Carnegie Hall for two concerts in mid-February (the 13th and 14th). The orchestra is led by Mariss Jansons, the brilliant and great-hearted Latvian. On his programs are mighty symphonies by Bruckner and Mahler (the only kind of symphony those men wrote, really). Christian Thielemann will come with the Staatskapelle Dresden on April 17 and 19. He too is bringing Bruckner, along with Lisa Batiashvili, the sublime Georgian, who will play Brahms’ Violin Concerto (which may be a tad too big for her).
I sometimes think of the King’s Singers as a guilty pleasure. But, you know, what’s guilty about a top-rate music ensemble? They will appear at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 18.
Almost as we speak, Jan. 16 through Jan. 19, Lorin Maazel is guest-conducting his old orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. Bronfman is the soloist, playing Brahms’ Piano Concerto in D minor. The results could be titanic. From June 6 through June 11, Batiashvili will appear with the Philharmonic, playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Those results should be idiomatic and delicious.
The cycle of Shostakovich string quartets, all 15, will be presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, starting on March 17. This cycle can be an enthralling or arresting experience. Even mediocre performances can move. The Jerusalem Quartet is doing the honors here, and chances are this ensemble will be far better than mediocre.
Finally, the Metropolitan Opera—where Maazel will be conducting Verdi’s Don Carlo starting on Feb. 22. The opera has a commendable cast, but all will hinge on the conductor. Some Maazel performances will be great—unforgettable—rest assured. Others may be humdrum. Pick your night carefully.
Quite consistent should be Louis Langrée, who will lead performances of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, starting on May 4. He has a wonderful cast, including the aforementioned Isabel Leonard plus Patricia Racette and Dame Felicity Palmer. The last of these will portray the First Prioress. Honestly, there may not be a better operatic portrayal extant.