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C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective Presents “Water Music”

June 22, 2018

One special feature of this concert was also a mark of C4’s maturity and clout as a musical organization with a well-deserved reputation for excellence: they sponsor the IGNITE commissioning competition. In the 2017-2018 season, C4 received over 300 submissions; from these, 20 finalists were chosen, and from these, three winners were chosen. C4 member Martha Sullivan wrote about the selection process in the typically informative program notes. “Tonight, after careful rehearsal, we share the winners … They showed us works they had already created, and we responded by asking each composer to create something new, something that would be born here and now, with C4 and you are privileged to witness this birth.” [more]

All I Want Is One Night

June 16, 2018

Part of 59E59’s Brits Off-Broadway 2018 festival, Jessica Walker’s "All I Want is One Night" takes place in an odd combination of cabaret and antique shop.  Theater B in the 59E59 Theaters complex has been done over as an intimate café with moody lighting by Kate Ashton and extraordinary period perfect costumes (uncredited).  It is 1980 in Haut de Cagnes and Suzy Solidor (Walker) in her dotage is about to be painted by Lindstrom (Alexandra Mathie who plays multiple characters in Solidor’s life quite convincingly) and is being cared for by a much younger lady, Giselle (Rachel Austin who also plays Daisy, later in the play). [more]

Tosca Opdam

June 15, 2018

Opdam’s de Raaff playing, in contrast, was marvelous. The composer took his inspiration from Willem de Kooning’s 1977 painting, "North Atlantic Light." De Raaff and Opdam both captured the drama and movement of both white spaces and high-energy brush strokes in de Kooning’s painting. The inclusion of a tossed-about boat in the center of the painting evokes a sense of floating in simultaneous, coexisting, sea-and-sky pairings; in the middle of de Raaff’s 14-minute piece, a gentle central section of quasi-contemplative calm summoned up the feel of the boat’s suspension. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Frank Loesser: Lyricist”

June 7, 2018

Artistic director, writer, arranger and host David Loud was at lectern off to the side onstage and passionately delivered his erudite and informative commentary at length. Mr. Loud grew up with musical theater aficionado parents and he was raised with devotion to the form and he fondly reminisced about them. His mother’s favorite show was "Where's Charley?" and his father’s was "Guys and Dolls." [more]

Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart

June 4, 2018

The letters alternate with the musical portions played by Ji on piano, Ari Evan on cello and Stephanie Zyzak on violin in various combinations which are beautiful but it is never clear in what way the selections relate to Madame von Meck except for the Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50, which Tchaikovsky reveals at the beginning of the second act that he is writing for her. It is not stated whether the two excerpts from The Nutcracker, for violin and piano, and for solo piano were created for her. [more]

Brokeback Mountain

June 3, 2018

While "Brokeback Mountain" impresses in its sincerity, it does not move which is a serious problem considering the romantic and tragic plot. Director Jacopo Spirei’s cast is in fine form as singers though the music and its libretto fail to fulfill this story’s potential. Daniel Okulitch and Glenn Seven Allen as the two doomed lovers make indelible impressions of men in a repressed society which does not allow them freedom of expression - even though they are not given the kind of music that can move the heart to tears. Brokeback Mountain which is fine as far as it goes offers the same disappointment of many new modern operas in that its writing falls short of its high-reaching intentions. [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective presents New Music with NY Composers Circle

May 31, 2018

The nine pieces on this program differed tremendously from each other in style, tone and effect. However, two important qualities unified all the performances. First, the composers all caused their music to emerge from their chosen texts: they did not impose sound arbitrarily unto the words. The organic coherence of word and musical sound resulted from both the composers’ innate gifts and their consummate skill. Competent choral composition is difficult; really successful choral compositions are very rare. Second, the music was superbly performed: not merely does C4 sing well, but because the C4 singers are all themselves composers, they inhabit each work’s intentions with particularly keen intelligence. [more]

Tanya Tagaq (World Music Institute)

May 29, 2018

Tagaq makes music with her whole body: it is an act as fundamental as consuming, excreting, orgasm and birthing. She can make any sound – whisper and howl, caress, growl and grunt – and use it to summon, condemn, invoke or bless. Tagaq’s fellow musicians stretch out their own instruments and created sounds to meet hers in developing a constantly changing, expanding music-world. [more]

Repast Baroque Ensemble: Bohemian Fantasy

May 16, 2018

The program opened and closed with pieces for all five musicians together. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704) and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1620/23-1680) both made the quartet of stringed instruments and the harpsichord into a coherent unit, even as the harpsichord is so much less loud. It is as though the harpsichord provides a ground on which the string instruments provide alternately close and extended stitched lines. [more]

Master-Pieces, A Chamber Opera

May 7, 2018

However, it’s not what we normally think of as an opera. And the performance, characterized by both moving strengths and disconcerting weaknesses, unfolded, awkwardly and interestingly … and then, at the end, quite powerfully … as a not-opera. Typically, operas’ drama lies in their plots; as audiences, when we’re moved, it’s because we’ve witnessed something dramatic. But in this performance of Kotik’s "Master-Pieces," the dynamic and moving intensity of the work’s conclusion lay in the fact that the work’s fundamental plotlessness – the libretto is essentially a series of poetic extractions from a 1936 lecture on aesthetics, ontology and existentialism – was transformed into a very personal drama in which the audience cannot avoid a shift from witness to participation. [more]

If Not Now …? Chamber Music of Timothy Brown

May 6, 2018

Brown called his concert, "If Not Now …?" implying, for himself and us, then, when? Removed by more than a decade from the kinds of composing in which he’s now typically engaged, the pieces presented in this concert were fondly remembered by some members of the audience – Brown’s friends and colleagues of long standing – and greeted with delight by other listeners who’d never heard them before. Whether or not Brown returns to composing either non-choral chamber music or more lengthy pieces such as those performed in this concert, the evening was a happy occasion to hear music that’s been unheard for many years. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Frederic Rzewski

April 30, 2018

As a composer, Rzewski is no doubt best known for his astonishing 1975 piano work, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated." It will take another century of listening and assessment to know for sure whether comparisons made between "The People United" on the one hand and Bach’s "Goldberg Variations" and Beethoven’s "Diabelli Variations" on the other will maintain their legitimacy. This Composer Portrait concert won’t solve the historical piano quandary: this evening excluded piano music, focusing instead on two string quartets, the first dating from the composer’s adolescence and the second from just this year. But this concert did provide an opportunity to consider important themes in Rzewski’s more than sixty years of music making. [more]

Da Capo Chamber Players: Celebrating Charles Wuorinen’s 80th Year

April 19, 2018

The Da Capo Chamber Players’ recent concert at Merkin Concert Hall, billed as a celebration for composer Charles Wuorinen’s eightieth year, was an intimate, unexpectedly informal event. The five-member Da Capo group was joined by one additional musician. The small audience consisted primarily of Da Capo players’ friends, Wuorinen’s friends, colleague musicians and composers, and friends of friends; the evening had a low-keyed New York City feel to it, a sense of purposeful and convivial gathering for the happy consideration and presentation of one remarkable composer’s music. [more]

Bob O’Hare: Unfinished Business …a love story

April 18, 2018

The white-haired O’Hare’s appealing tenor voice with its regional cadences is expressive. His instrument is in the realm of a tuneful storyteller who mines laughs and emotions with vocal flourishes and marvelous phrasing.  His lack of mobility becomes a facet of his mature everyman persona as he conveys the aura of a wounded though happy warrior ready for another round. [more]

The National Chorale: Angela Rice’s “Thy Will Be Done”

April 9, 2018

"Thy Will Be Done" retains many of the core features of an oratorio, especially in its use of alternating solo arias and choruses to develop the basic story and in its development of choral music to reflect plot, universal human response, prayer and praise. In addition, as a twenty-first century American piece, "Thy Will Be Done" benefits from some vocal strategies imported from operetta and musicals. Ultimately, however, no matter what musical genre the work derives its core ancestry from, its most important feature is its generous accessibility. [more]

Symphonie Fantastique

April 8, 2018

Twist’s “Creator’s Note” in the program alludes to Wassily Kandinsky’s musical metaphorical paintings and Twist’s youthful attraction to the possibility of using abstract puppetry in combination with music.  The five-part Symphonie, subtitled “Episode in the life of an Artist,” called to him for its color and storyline which vaguely guide his creation although only the changing moods, rhythms and colors of the score seem be the inspiration for the series of moving abstract images that were mostly treats for the eyes, if not the mind—seductive, clever, dreamy, sensually involving, but more a vacation for conscious thought than an intellectual challenge. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Devotion

April 7, 2018

The evening’s works were loosely organized around the theme of devotion, a big conceptual basket into which works about reverence, affection, awe and loves of all sorts could deftly and effectively be fit. Although the concert’s texts ranged from ancient to contemporary, from sacred to profane, from unknown to known authorship, the considered objects of affection included peace, nature, mystery, creativity, divinity – all love’s siblings – and love itself. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Irving Berlin: American”

March 30, 2018

This biographical survey concert fused together several strands. There were the zesty performances by Danny Gardner, Emily Hsu, Holly Butler, Richard Riaz Yoder, Jada Temple and Bryonha Marie. There was also the narrative device of having Irving Berlin appear as a commentator. This was achieved by the marvelous performance of Stephen DeRosa who channeled Berlin’s presence with his rat-a-tat show business cadences and comic timing. Mr. DeRosa also conveyed Berlin’s melancholy and sang and danced through the presentation with joyous flair. His “This is A Great Country” was quite stirring and his “Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars” was priceless. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Tracing the Path of Zurbarán’s “Jacob and His Twelve Sons”

March 29, 2018

Before the concert, audience members were invited to a special showing of the Zurbarán exhibit at the Frick; the museum and the site of the concert – Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church – are just four blocks apart. The music of the concert was organized around the successful and felicitous conceit of a journey: the concert, according to Keene’s program notes, “follows the progress of the Zurbarán paintings themselves from their creation into the hands of the Bishop of Durham.” According to the ‘geography’ of the program, “the trail starts in Seville, home not only to the artist but to three of the finest composers of Spain’s Golden Age,” then moves to Lima, Peru with the music of Roque Ceruti  – because of guesses that Zurbaran’s paintings were “intended for the New World” – and then concludes with the arrival of the paintings in England. Excerpts from George Frederick Handel’s oratorio, "Joseph and His Brethren," whose manuscript is maintained in the Durham Cathedral archives, completed the journey: Jacob and his painted sons had arrived in their permanent – and, with Handel, musical – home. [more]

Rocktopia

March 28, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt gets the biggest round of applause during the projected cultural icons slideshow as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is histrionically performed in "Rocktopia." It’s a hokey musical extravaganza that mashes together classical, rock and opera. Singalongs, coerced clapping, dancing in the seats and standing ovations abound. The cheerfully innocuous entertainment level is comparable to that of a bland PBS pledge break concert. [more]

Yarn/Wire: Catherine Lamb, “curvo totalitas”

March 26, 2018

After the four musicians connected by eye contact to exactly synchronize their ‘phones, the piece began; sound emanated entirely slowly – it seemed like almost a minute before a steady something audible materialized from the steel sheet. The extent to which it might be considered ‘music’ remained unclear until the sound was joined, initially almost equally imperceptibly, by definitively musical synthesizer notes. Within the context of steady sound, passages of shifting intensity -- ranging from pianissimo to mezzo forte, never louder – rose and fell in discrete, discernible rhythms. Over the course of the piece, the musicians at each corner took turns playing music; only occasionally did two musicians play at once, producing instrument overlaps of embrace, enhancement, mutual revelation and then separation. Mostly, however, the musicians floated their musical energies in each other’s directions like invisible shimmers through the audience’s fairly settled quiet. [more]

Jerry Springer – The Opera

March 9, 2018

"Jerry Springer - The Opera" is not for opera purists nor is for people who are easily offended by four letter words and other bad language of which there is a multitude. However, its irreverence skewers social, religious and political hypocrisy. The New Group’s production directed by John Rando is one of the most exciting musical theater experiences to be currently obtained in New York. It actually seems more relevant in Trump America where this sort of thing is cable-fodder every night of the week. If you are a dedicated theatergoer, miss this show if you dare. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610”

March 5, 2018

Of the twelve soloists, several were outstanding. Tenor Scott Mello’s "Nigra Sum" was a virtuosic, romantically charged reveling in sensuality. The soprano duet, "Pulchra Es," with Molly Quinn and Melanie Russell, though it began a little shakily, finished well: as the two women’s voices came together in extremely difficult passages, the modernity of Monteverdi’s “secunda prattica,” or “newer style,” shone. [more]

Black Light

March 2, 2018

Thus begins the unique show, "Black Light," which is a concert cum confessional. In her sequenced gowns--and there are five costume changes during the 90-minute performance--and with her red lipstick and frizzy, frazzled, dark hair, Jones sometimes provides a strong, alto voice for her intermittent songs, ranging from ballads (“Crossroads”) to hard rock (“Life is motion”). [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Lenny’s Lyricists”

March 2, 2018

"Candide"’s giddy overture was of course the euphoric opening number of the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: "Lenny’s Lyricists." This was a splendid concert celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s centennial by spotlighting his collaborators.  The novelty here was that we watched footage of a close up of the hands of pianist Ray Wong as he superbly played via video projected onto a large screen as artistic director Rob Fisher turned the score’s pages. [more]

Lorelei Ensemble: Five Boroughs Music Festival 2017-2018 Season

February 19, 2018

Equally exciting is Lorelei’s celebration of each of the ensemble’s individual voices. Peter Gilbert’s "Tsukimi (Moon Viewing)," commissioned by Lorelei and premiered in 2013, offers each of the nine singers a solo moment within the context of a complex choral work: a subtle Heian dynasty text celebrating anthropological and mythological reverence for the moon provides a splendid vehicle for the examination of each woman’s unique voice and gifts. [more]

The New York Pops: Heart and Soul

February 4, 2018

“September” by Earth, Wind and Fire was gorgeously mashed up with Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” and was the soaring opening number of The New York Pops’ exhilarating rhythm and blues concert, "Heart and Soul." The event celebrated African American History Month and Valentine’s Day. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Poulenc’s “Gloria” & Honegger’s “King David”

February 4, 2018

Presiding over the entire piece and working in close artistic collaboration with Keene was actor F. Murray Abraham; he read the King James Bible based narrative from Ascension’s commandingly high pulpit. He was magisterially marvelous: whether speaking the omniscient ancient story-tellers’ words or God’s own, Abraham contributed as much as Keene did to the movement, shape and coherence of the "King David" presentation. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “The Bobby Darin Story”

January 24, 2018

Whether bantering with the audience, displaying energetic dance moves, reciting factual details or performing Bobby Darin’s signature songs, the boyish Groff was sensational. “Splish Splash,” “Mack The Knife” and “If I Were a Carpenter” were all given galvanizing renditions. There was his soaring treatment of the emotional “Once in a Lifetime” near the end of the show. [more]

H.M.S. Pinafore (NYGASP)

December 30, 2017

Along with some contemporary updating which always gets a laugh, Albert Bergeret’s direction is sharp and shrewd and his conducting of Sullivan’s sprightly and animated score is equally assured as well. The diction is crystal clear, a must for Gilbert’s intricate and clever lyrics. With an attractive and realistic setting by Albère and pleasingly color-coordinated costumes in blue, white and red (the colors of the Union Jack) by Gail J. Wofford, this is a delectable and entertaining revival for both those familiar with it and others discovering its pleasures for the first time. [more]

The Nubian Word for Flowers/Rainbird

December 29, 2017

The set for the opera was itself a living, organic phenomenon; it functioned as an additional character in the opera. IONE sat near the moveable stage-flats; her back was to the audience, yet she was one of us. Hovering above the stage set were great canvas triangles – mildly billowed faluka sails – on which IONE projected Victorian and Edwardian era images of the British Empire in all its beauty and its ugliness. Priestess and manager, oracle and medium, IONE was at once a participant in the visual commentaries on Kitchener’s internal dramas and their director. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Chen Yi

December 29, 2017

Chen Yi’s music is, in the best possible sense, powerful: it affirms. Musicians and audience alike, at the end of each piece, are strengthened in the continuing determination to do one’s best. The evening’s concluding work, "Sparkle" (1992), a rugged, intricately disciplined wildness of both melody and rhythm, felt like an exposition of new ways of putting sounds together to create music, an immersion in how layering and linearity can coexist. The work’s sudden end – too soon and, simultaneously, at the only possible right moment – was gorgeously big and exciting [more]
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