Classical 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...
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...
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...
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....
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...
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...
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...
Finales with the Philharmonic 

Finales with the Philharmonic 

Two concerts in the home stretch   The New York Philharmonic is now into its summer season: pops concerts, park concerts and so on. But we’ll look back at a couple of concerts in the home stretch of its regular season. One Tuesday night saw a guest conductor, Lionel Bringuier, the whiz kid from France. I...
Meet Conrad Tao

Meet Conrad Tao

Presenting a young musician to remember  Conrad Tao is a pianist and composer, 18 years old. His bio tells us that he is “Chinese-American.” It also tells us he was born in Illinois, and I can tell you that he seems as American as apple pie. But we live in an age of relentless hyphenation. He...
Springing for Music the Detroit Way 

Springing for Music the Detroit Way 

A revived orchestra comes to Carnegie Hall with its maestro, Leonard Slatkin   From May 6 to May 11, Carnegie Hall will present a festival called “Spring for Music.” It offers five orchestras in six concerts. The orchestras come from around the country, and one of them was to have been the Oregon Symphony. The Oregonians...
Classical Rock Stars

Classical Rock Stars

Nights with Gustavo Dudamel and Dmitri Hvorostovsky When Gustavo Dudamel took the stage at Avery Fisher Hall, the crowd screamed and screamed. He is a “rock star,” as everyone says—a rock star of the classical scene. On this night, the Venezuelan conductor led his Los Angeles Philharmonic. They opened with a piece by Claude Vivier,...
Who Is Sylvia?

Who Is Sylvia?

Julia Adolphe’s psychological opera floats Bargemusic For fifty-two weeks a year, four days a week, New Yorkers can find chamber music in all its forms—early, canonical, and contemporary—right under the Brooklyn Bridge. There, Bargemusic offers 220 concerts annually, even tendering weekly free tickets to groups and one free concert monthly in order to reach as...
Rolling Their Own

Rolling Their Own

Maazel, two composers and others acquit themselves In an early-January column, I made some recommendations for the rest of the classical-music season. I said that Lorin Maazel would be conducting Don Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera. Some performances were bound to be “great,” others could be “humdrum.” You had to “pick your night carefully.” As...
Van! Van! Van!

Van! Van! Van!

Van Cliburn, the people’s pianist remembered When Van Cliburn won Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, at the height of the Cold War, the U.S. celebrated the event as a political rather than a musical event. Those with little interest in classical music and without considered criteria to judge his playing rejoiced that an American had...
Three New Ones

Three New Ones

A sampling of modern composition A concert by the American Composers Orchestra in Zankel Hall included the premiere of a piece by Kate Soper. She is a doctoral student at Columbia. We heard the first movement of a three-movement work, now is forever. (Today’s composers are big on small letters.) The first movement is a...
Deep Listening

Deep Listening

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra brings multicultural power to Beethoven Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian scholar Edward Said joined forces in 1999 to conduct a workshop for young musicians from across the Middle East—Egypt, Syria, Israel, Palestine. The aim of the workshop, held in Weimar, Germany, was to promote intercultural dialogue between people whose countries...
Mother Horne & Friends

Mother Horne & Friends

Notes on three master classes Weill Recital Hall was packed to the gills, with people outside waiting to get in. Marilyn Horne took note of this, as she welcomed the crowd. “So, you think I know something, huh? We’ll see.” The great mezzo-soprano was giving a master class January 16, which is to say, a...
Second Semester of Sound

Second Semester of Sound

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...
Music to Learn By

Music to Learn By

Lessons with the Ravel Study Group Poisson Rouge, whose manifesto reads “Serving art and alcohol,” is the perfect venue for the Ravel Study Group, whose manifesto reads “Score study for drinkers with a music problem.” “Score study,” of course, involves scrutinizing the written form of a composer’s music. At the Ravel Study Group’s monthly three-hour...
Some Things to Rave About

Some Things to Rave About

A SINGER, A VIOLINIST AND A PIANIST There is so much to crab about, it’s nice to rave, once in a while. I know at least three musicians, who have recently performed in New York, who make raving possible. They are a singer, a violinist and a pianist. Singers aren’t ranked like tennis players, but...