Music
A Beacon of Civilization

A Beacon of Civilization

Anne Sofie von Otter in recital with Emanuel Ax   Anne Sofie von Otter, the Swedish mezzo-soprano, gave a recital in Carnegie Hall, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that she was accompanied by a famous concert pianist, Emanuel Ax. They did a program that was all-Brahms, almost. Von Otter included one song by...
Singing For Freedom

Singing For Freedom

Local Anti-Slavery concert rings out the news One of the most persistent delusions of human existence is the belief that one person has the right to enslave another.  Few people attempt to justify the practice publically, yet it thrives in its various forms virtually everywhere. According to Free the Slaves, a non-governmental organization/ lobby group...
Musical Forecasting 

Musical Forecasting 

Start 2014 with some concert-and-opera recommendations for the coming months   As the second half of the classical-music season begins—a “half” that is longer than the first one—let me forecast some highlights. Occasionally, the highlights turn out to be lowlights, but that is a risk one runs. “Great Performers” is a conceited name, but this Lincoln...
Ode To An Everly

Ode To An Everly

Remembering a radiant voice   Phil Everly is the man who introduced harmony to rock ‘n’ roll.  People habitually refer to him and brother Don as if their voices were interchangeable.  Dead wrong.  Funky Don is the lyrical acid-voiced one, while celestial Phil is the one with a honey-voice.  Don’s twisted soul kept Phil’s airiness...
Best Albums of 2013

Best Albums of 2013

Inside out, Outside in for year’s Pop music  IMO, the most significant moment in 2013 pop wasn’t a song, album, or music video. It was an unforgettable turn of events embedded in yet another best-forgotten controversy surrounding Miley Cyrus. When Miley responded to Sinead O’Connor’s open letter – which strongly suggested the music industry was...
Merry Gentlemen, Rejoice!

Merry Gentlemen, Rejoice!

Erasure turns seasonal songs into radical praise in Snow Globe At Christmas time we forget that seasonal songs can also be praise songs. This comes clear in Erasure’s new release Snow Globe, a Christmas album built around the tradition vs. modernity tension of the holiday season–and yet an evergreen subject. Praise songs suit singer-lyricist Andy...
Soul for Foodies

Soul for Foodies

The Cecil cooks up Harlem Jazz history    Former Time-Warner CEO Richard Parsons and his wife opened two new restaurants in Harlem, Minton’s and The Cecil as a neighborhood restoration to bring back the local legendary 1930′s/1940′s jazz club Minton’s Playhouse and its aura. The revived Playhouse also resides in the original location uptown but...
Up With Pleasantness

Up With Pleasantness

On the composer Christopher Theofanidis and the pianist Jonathan Biss     The music of Christopher Theofanidis has been heard a lot in New York lately. By that I mean, two of his pieces were performed in the space of a month. For a living classical composer, that is rather a lot. First, the American Composers Orchestra...
Orchestral Rock

Orchestral Rock

Digging the deep roots of rock and roll  Until musicians Vernon Reid and Greg Tate and producer Konda Mason established the Black Rock Coalition in New York in 1985 the African American origins of rock music and its roots in the music of Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters were...
Biting Britten

Biting Britten

On Nico Muhly’s Two Boys, plus the demise of City Opera The Metropolitan Opera has been staging a work it commissioned, Two Boys, by Nico Muhly. The composer is an American in his early 30s. The librettist, too, is an American, Craig Lucas, the playwright who wrote Prelude to a Kiss, among other well-known scripts....
Slippery Keyboard King

Slippery Keyboard King

Terry Waldo swings the blues for locals at JALC   Midway through the second session of keyboardist/writer/producer/author Terry Waldo’s four-part course on early 20th century ragtime pianist James P. Johnson (Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 at Jazz at Lincoln Center), he scans the room from his perch at the piano. “Is there anybody here who wants to play the...
Norma in Space

Norma in Space

Radvanovsky revives an opera classic  High priestess, secret mother, romantic consorter with the enemy: which soprano wouldn’t want to impersonate Bellini’s Norma? Aspiration and achievement, however, sometimes exhibit yawning disparity. The 1831 opera isn’t particularly long, but the role of Norma is almost unbearably lengthy, emotionally intense and pyrotechnic. At the Metropolitan Opera this month,...
Anniversary Songs

Anniversary Songs

 Revisiting a Costello classic 30 years on  1983…Elvis Costello’s Punch the Clock was born to be misunderstood and underestimated.  After all, following the incendiary explosions of his first four albums and his successful “experimentation” into Motown, club, and country western stylings, Costello had released Imperial Bedroom the prior year.  Towering in literary emotional exhaustion, that...
Klezmer in the Ghetto

Klezmer in the Ghetto

Krakauer expands the klezmer’s repertoire Growing up in New York City, clarinetist David Krakauer drew his inspiration from classical, jazz, and rock music. Twenty-five years ago, he got hooked on an “identity exploration thing” and began to study klezmer, the music of his Jewish Eastern European forebears. Today he’s known around the world not only...
Standards, Met and Unmet

Standards, Met and Unmet

A Tchaikovsky masterpiece at the Met and a classic movie   In a fall preview last month, I made a point about Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor: He is mercurial. Sometimes he’s up, sometimes he’s down. Sometimes he’s electric, sometimes he’s blah. On a recent Thursday night at the Metropolitan Opera, he was alternately electric and...
Serenading the Little Sparrow

Serenading the Little Sparrow

Tribute to Edith Piaf on the 50th anniversary of her death  Few singers have won so many the hearts as French songstress, Edith Piaf. Known as “The Little Sparrow” because of her diminutive stature and nervous energy, she became a universal symbol of love, loss and sorrow from the 1940s until her death in 1963...
Playing the Ponies

Playing the Ponies

 A few bets on the ‘first semester’ of the classical-music season     The classical-music season is divided into two semesters, in a sense—though the second semester is far longer than the first. At any rate, I will make some recommendations for the first semester. We will begin with the New York Philharmonic. In concerts starting on...
From Ghetto to Gallery

From Ghetto to Gallery

Jay-Z  and Romanek bifurcate performance art in Picasso Baby  Rappers were always welcomed by the art world–a fact of the downtown avant-garde as captured in Blondie’s 1981 Rapture music video–even before Kanye West and Jay-Z deliberately sought art world approval. Jay-Z’s new music video Picasso Baby not only crosses the Black Curtain of limited, ghettoized...
Likemind Creates Alike

Likemind Creates Alike

  A new collective debuts at Jazz Standard Jazz musicians couldn’t be more individualistic. It’s the nature of the art. If you’re not your own man or woman, who are you? Every gig is another chance to explore a new direction, find a different sound, mesh with another group. The downside is you are truly and...
Key Krazy

Key Krazy

Notes from a piano extravaganza  Jerome Rose presides over the annual piano extravaganza at Mannes College. More formally, this extravaganza is the International Keyboard Institute & Festival, or IKIF. Rose is its founder and director. IKIF takes place in the second half of July. And, every year, Rose gives the opening recital. This year, he...
Z for Excellence

Z for Excellence

Zzyzx brings the joy of sax to Symphony Space Like the superb little restaurant no one knows about because it hasn’t yet been reviewed by the New York Times, classical music for saxophone lies beneath most New Yorkers’ radar. The Zzyzx Quartet revealed the folly of that obscurity with their July 12 concert at Symphony...