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Concerts

Bach + Glass, with Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry

October 8, 2017

Because the first three pieces of the program had established an intellectual across-time dialogue between Bach and Glass and an examination of Glass’ Bach ‘ancestry,’ the unabashedly Romantic quality of Glass’ new piece came as a surprise: in spite of the presence of familiar Glass rhythmic and harmonic motifs, the concerto contained new cadences and directions. In both piano-strings simultaneities and in the four piano cadenzas, explorations of uncertainty and of distances from longed-for resolutions felt like new territory for Glass. The piece as a whole moved from monumentality through moments of increasing quiet to Dinnerstein’s final poignant movement into silence. [more]

Van Gogh’s Ear

August 21, 2017

Projected titles indicate place and year—beginning with Arles, 1888 and progressing until van Gogh’s suicide—which we hear as an offstage gunshot—in July of 1890. The audience is treated to Vincent’s thoughts on his painting technique, his poverty, his mental health, his fellow artists, stars, sunflowers, all interrupted by chamber music by Debussy, Fauré, Chausson and Franck played—in various combinations—by Henry Wang (violin), Yuval Herz (violin), Chich-Fan Yiu (viola), Timotheos Petrin (cello), Max Barros (piano) and Renana Gutman (piano). [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Political Protest and Social Justice

August 10, 2017

Interestingly, some of the most raucously explicit material of protest came not from the Peace and Social Justice Concert 24 but from the Wil(helms/liams)burg Concert 26, a collaboration of musicians and performing artists from Brooklyn and Hamburg, Germany. In the opening work, "Trumpen," for clarinet, piano, cello and laptop performers, Georg Hajdu created a piece based on the destructive and fracturing words of Donald J. Trump. This piece introduced the Unheard-of//Ensemble – Ford Fourqurean/clarinet, Daniel Anastasio/piano and Thea Mesirow/cello – who played throughout the concert, demonstrating remarkable technical control and versatility; this group “is a contemporary chamber ensemble dedicated to the development and performance of new music by living composers.” In "Trumpen," Trump’s words are altered and devolved into an ever-increasing intensity of chaos; the audience is witness to the mess – and is part of it as well – as this replicates political protest at its best, at once ancient and contemporary. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Composer as Creator

August 10, 2017

n light-hearted Rationalize (concert 27), composer Cody Brookshire combined found and manipulated sounds created by the audience with live music on bass clarinet and marimba. Brookshire created SynkroTakt, an audio streaming technology. Before the piece began, the composer instructed the audience on the seven-step procedure required to enable their devices to create sounds streamed into synchronous audio tracks; the audience, in this way, became the collective ‘artist/musician’ and provided one half of the ‘duet’ of electronic sounds and live instruments. The result was an unexpectedly sweet and pretty piece, a bauble in which sounds produced by an unusually concocted combination of chance and intention became a contemporaneous agent of creativity. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Outstanding Performers

August 9, 2017

In spite of the Festival’s lengthy booklet and daily concert updates, the rich creative vitality of the electroacoustic musical community remains only tangentially documented: composers and performers clearly work in close collaboration. Internationally recognized cellist Madeleine Shapiro, for instance, director of the important NewMusicMannes ensemble at the New School’s Mannes College of Music, is on the NYCEMF 2017 Steering Committee, and performed in several of the 2017 Festival’s concerts. She is clearly the sort of artist who can turn her instrument into both the composers’ muse and their servant. Shaprio’s ability to incorporate the cello’s entire history into its creative use in contemporary classical and experimental music suggests expanded incorporations of cello sounds in new music to contemporary composers. [more]

2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Overview

August 7, 2017

In the seven concerts of the second half of the 2017 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival held this month at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York, the full diversity and eclectic versatility of electroacoustic music was on vibrant, energetic display; the densely packed weekend of music was exciting, sometimes disconcerting and sometimes thrilling, and always fascinating. Sixty-six works by sixty-six composers were performed … a dizzying array of instruments, equipment, performers, sensibilities and effects! [more]

Jen Shyu: Nine Doors

July 8, 2017

After fifteen years of formal study, Shyu incorporates five distinct music traditions in her newest work: “epic storytelling (Pansori), East Coast shaman music (DongHaeAhnByeolShinGut), and Binari, usually performed as a blessing for an audience, all from Korea; music from sub-districts Aileu and Atauro ferom East Timor; Hengchung Folk Song with moon lute from Taiwan; Ledhekan, which combines Javanese dance with improvisational singing (Sindehenan) from Indonesia; and the ‘speaking-the-song’ or ‘katari’ with Japanese bias, the rare 4-stringed instrument originally used by monks and priests.” [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “From Camelot to California: The Worlds of Lerner and Loewe”

June 7, 2017

The show’s writer and host, Rob Berman, introduced many of the songs and, essentially, gave us the story of Lerner and Loewe’s difficult, on-again, off-again partnership. Referring to them, at one point, as an “odd couple,” Berman explained that the composer Frederick (or “Fritz”) Loewe was an “old world” European, and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner a “New York sophisticate,” who was educated in England. Berman also claimed that the common denominator for all of their musicals was a kind of “idealism,” making the pair “dreamers.” [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Klas Torstensson

May 6, 2017

"Elliott loves bebop" is a much more satisfying piece than either "Sonerna" or "No slash" on their own. It would be no matter what. But the experience of having listened to the two quartets one after the other immediately before the octet immeasurably enriched the experience of hearing the octet: the octet’s complexities were more intelligible and the patterns of their interconnections were more clear. Without compromising or simplifying the work’s density, its meanings were more accessible. [more]

The New York Pops 34th Birthday Gala: “Something Wonderful”

May 3, 2017

The sensational highlight of the concert was a medley from "South Pacific." “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair” had the luminous Ashley Park euphorically performing that showstopper. Ms. Park was filling in for the previously announced and indisposed Laura Osnes. Female members of The Camp Broadway Kids Ensemble, who were dressed in colorful outfits and sailor caps, wonderfully joined Park. This thrilling production number was representative of Cynthia Thole’s vigorous direction and choreography. [more]

Babes in Toyland (MasterVoices)

May 1, 2017

Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta "Babes in Toyland" was presented by MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale), in a splendid concert production, to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Music director and artistic director, Ted Sperling superbly conducted the dynamic Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the terrific MasterVoices choral group, that appeared onstage with them. [more]

Alam Khan: Maestro Ali Akbar Khan Birthday Celebration

April 17, 2017

Thanking his packed audience at Le Poisson Rouge for coming to hear him play, Alam Khan described his music on this evening as a tribute to his father, Ali Akbar Khan, whose ninety-fifth birthday it would have been. But it was more than an ancestral honoring: it was a tribute to a rich centuries-old tradition of Hindustani classical music. [more]

World Music Institute: Salif Keita

April 9, 2017

Over the course of Salif Keita’s recent appearance at The Town Hall there was a story whose shape reflected both Keita’s identity and his music. At 7:00 p.m., there was a question-and-answer session with Keita, musician and writer Banning Eyre of www.afropop.org, and translator Isabelle Dupuis. By the end of the evening, audience and performers were inseparably merged; singing and dancing had become one, and Keita had made us all his own. Far from needing any explanation or translation, the music of Salif Keita is entirely universal. [more]

Glass @ 80: Philip Glass & Foday Musa Suso

March 24, 2017

Beginning in the 1980s, Glass and Suso collaborated on several projects. Genet’s difficult, demanding, essentially un-actable and relentlessly fracturing play, "The Screens," elicited from Glass and Suso unexpectedly warm and affirming music. The setting for Genet’s play – the wretchedness of the French Algerian War – calls for music that is both European and African, but to imagine Glass’ contribution as “the European one” and Suso’s as its African opposite is to misunderstand the creative relationship. [more]

The New York Pops: “Life is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb”

March 14, 2017

“It looks like when you got your Kennedy Center Honor!” exclaimed Mr. Reineke, as a spotlight shone on John Kander, who was attending the concert from a first tier box at Carnegie Hall. He grinned to a thunderous reaction. Sitting with him, was Susan Stroman, who has directed several Kander and Ebb productions. Near the end of the show, at Reineke’s instigation, the house lights went up, and the orchestra and the audience joined in for “Happy Birthday” to Kander. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Misato Mochizuki

March 11, 2017

Neither a “Western composer” nor a “Japanese composer,” Mochizuki hasn’t sought to manufacture some sort of mix-and-match blend. She doesn’t borrow or build add-ons. Instead, seeking inspiration in nature on the one hand and in human projects as diverse as photography, genetics and cooking on the other, she produces music that is about both being and story. Embedded within every piece one beginning after another, her stories unfold from each; then she builds them into each other. Though she incorporates elements of theater in the use of lighting and musicians’ movements around the stage, her music is fundamentally unpretentious and unfussy; her writing is equally straight-forward and optimistically fresh. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Beat Furrer featuring Either/Or

February 16, 2017

This is serious work. Without defiance of traditional or conservative contemporary classical music simply for mere defiance’s haughty sake, Furrer is developing his own particular vocabulary. And successful performance of Furrer’s music requires serious musicians. The musicians of Either/Or are a good match for this composer. Their technical skills are superb, marked by both muscular stamina and virtuosic creativity; equally important, their willingness to take performance risks is grounded in intellectual and artistic integrity. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Get Happy: Harold Arlen’s Early Years”

February 4, 2017

The show began with Arlen’s first hit, “Get Happy,” 1930, and ended with his 1939 score for the MGM film, "The Wizard of Oz." The first half of the evening was devoted to Arlen’s stand-alone popular tunes, his songs written for the Cotton Club Revues (1932-1934), and musical numbers for early sound movies. Blackhurst recounted how Arlen (born Hyman Arluck of Buffalo, New York), was a child prodigy singing in his father’s choir when he was seven, forming his own bands in his late teens, and occasionally appearing as a vocalist with them on records in his twenties. [more]

The New York Pops: “Make the Season Bright”

December 19, 2016

The beautiful wreath and garlands hanging above the stage were festively lit up for the wonderful finale, the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along.” All of the performers appeared and encouraged the audience to join in for convivial group singing of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Jingle Bells.” [more]

Boubacar Traore

December 16, 2016

For those who could not understand the lyrics of Traore's songs – he sang in Mali's French – each song was an experience of four interconnected musical sounds: the calabash thump and click rhythms, the harmonica, the amplified acoustic guitar, and Traore's voice. The songs' lyrics – love songs, folk tales, celebrations, imprecations – added particular locations and stories to what, all together, was a full, rich exploration of human experience through the lens of the blues, of hard-won wisdom and infinite empathy for joy and anguish, for hope and despair. [more]

Da Capo Chamber Players: Milton Babbitt Centennial Da Capo

December 3, 2016

Joined by percussionist John Ferrari and conductor Jeffrey Means, the five members of the Da Capo Chamber Players – Curtis Macomber/violin, Chris Gross/cello, Patricia Spencer/flute, Meighan Stoops/clarinet and Steven Beck/piano – recently presented a concert inspired by the vibrant, important music of Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) on the occasion of the centennial of his birth. One piece was written by Babbitt himself, but all the other pieces, ranging in date from 1981 to 2013, were written by contemporary composers who at one point or another had studied with Babbitt at either Princeton or Juilliard. [more]

The New York Pops: “Concert for Courage”

November 15, 2016

Music director Steven Reineke led a perfectly respectable concert with the help of The Soldiers’ Chorus of The U.S. Army Field Band (First Lieutenant Alexandra Borza, Associate Bandmaster), a robust ensemble that proved itself song after song, including several songs in which soloists emerged to sing as in Barry Manilow’s “Let Freedom Ring” and the Toby Keith/Chuck Cannon “American Soldier.” [more]

John Zorn: Composer Portraits

November 3, 2016

In the first concert of the 2016-2017 Composer Portraits season at Columbia University School of the Arts' Miller Theatre, current music of American composer John Zorn (b. 1953), including five premieres, was presented and enthusiastically received. More accurately: Zorn's music-making – his understanding of individual composing and collegial collaborating as interconnected projects – was exuberantly celebrated. [more]

The New York Pops: The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe

October 18, 2016

Music Director/Conductor Steven Reineke chose three fine singers, Colin Donnell, Laura Osnes and Nathan Gunn, to animate the Lerner and Loewe songbook, along with the terrific choir, Essential Voices USA (Judith Clurman, Music Director). They, plus the lusty sounding New York Pops, brought songs from "Camelot," "Paint Your Wagon," "Gigi," "Brigadoon" and, the biggest hit, "My Fair Lady" to life. [more]

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble: Verdi’s La Traviata & Chansons de Baudelaire

September 19, 2016

The performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" featuring Bonnie Frauenthal as Violetta and Jose Heredia as Alfredo Germont was wonderful in many ways. Frauenthal sang and acted her complex role compellingly: she is a confident singer, capable of both womanly sturdiness and subtle virtuosity, and she inhabited the dense narrative of Violetta's story credibly and compellingly. Heredia's youthful and earnest Alfredo was also convincing; his deep love of Violetta and grief at her death were poignantly believable. Interestingly, as an actor, Heredia stuck so literally to the movement of Alfredo's character in Piave's libretto that Alfredo's subservience to his father was maddening: the son's filial weakness undercut the manliness of his love for Violetta. Both Frauenthal and Heredia sang with integrity; they held nothing back from full commitment to either their roles or their audience. [more]

PRISM Quartet Color Theory: Sō Percussion and PARTCH

July 7, 2016

Over the last several years, PRISM and two colleague chamber groups, Sō Percussion on the one hand and PARTCH on the other, have been engaged in the “Color Theory” project, and presented two separate concerts. Taking as their model early modern visual artists' examination of pigment mixes through the insights of Isaac Newton's discovery of color theory and prisms, the four saxophonists and composers with whom they collaborate have been using “color theory as a framework to explore the spectra that make up instrumental sound.” The results were exhilarating. [more]

SONOS Chamber Orchestra (May 24, 2016)

June 6, 2016

In the program notes and in informal remarks to the audience, Ochsner encouraged the audience to listen to all the works as music inspired by nature; this theme proved to be a useful organizing device for the concert. It was both literal – stars, storms, forest transformations and water events – and allusive: the vocabulary of nature works as well for human psychology as for meteorology. The size and composition of the 36-member chamber orchestra made both intimacy and grandeur possible. [more]

92nd Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: I Have Confidence: Rodgers After Hammerstein

May 26, 2016

Above the stage on a screen throughout the presentation were projected photographs illustrating Rodgers’ career and appropriate backdrops for the locales of the shows. Brief insightful video interviews with Rodgers’ daughter Linda, lyricists Sheldon Harnick and Martin Charnin, playwright Sherman Yellen, historian Ken Bloom, Rodgers grandson Peter Melnick, record producer Thomas Z. Shepard, and the actor John Cullum were shown. A 1974 Public Television interview conducted by James Day showed the aged Rodgers ravaged by strokes and throat cancer but still vital and articulate. [more]

Either/Or: Music of Gyorgi Ligeti

May 8, 2016

In the hands of less virtuosic musicians, Ligeti's material can spin out of control. Kigawa, Choi and Drehmann, however, from the very opening, invited the audience into an experience of listening based on complete trust. The work's elegant, almost wistful conclusion – a distillation of harmonic lines into quiet, unresolved ambiguities – was compelling. [more]

The New York Pops: Do You Hear the People Sing

May 4, 2016

Inspired by the musical Olivier! was "La Révolution Française" that was Mr. Boublil Mr. Schönberg’s first collaboration. Created in 1973, this was the first French rock opera and dealt with The French Revolution. The rousing “Parisians, Awake and Rise/ Français, Français” was performed by Ms. Glover, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Scatliffe and Essential Voices USA. The original French Cossette from "Les Misérables," Marie Zamora, was a marvelous Marie Antoinette for the wistful song “Au petit matin/In the early morning.” [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: Everything’s Coming Up Ethel: The Ethel Merman Songbook

April 20, 2016

“Our goal is not to impersonate her but to channel her,” said Mr. Sperling, the artistic director, writer and director of this entertaining event. In addition to these tasks, he also sang, played piano and as the genial host effortlessly delivered his authoritative biographical statements. A fan of Merman’s since childhood, Sperling’s conception and execution of this show was a very well done labor of love. His patter skillfully documented her renowned charisma, saltiness and, most importantly, her unique vocal abilities. [more]
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