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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]

The Tallis Scholars: Heinrich Isaac at 500

December 28, 2017

The Tallis Scholars’ most recent turn in the Columbia University Miller Theatre Early Music Series was billed as “Heinrich Isaac at 500.” This concert title wasn’t quite accurate: the evening was a more like a bouquet of music by Isaac (c.1450-1517) and three contemporaries, Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521), Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495-1560) and John Browne (1453-c. 1500). – What a fabulous bouquet it was! [more]

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

December 28, 2017

Fairchild speaks well and communicates much with his physique, but his choreography is repetitive and uninventive.  Here was a chance to breathe new life into a too familiar character.  All Fairchild could come up with is lurching movements and awkward falls to the floor.  He takes the obvious path to create his character with movement when he had a chance to illuminate the Monster’s inner emotions. [more]

Gerald Cohen: Voyagers, for Clarinet and String Quartet

December 27, 2017

Cohen then spoke; he presented the four-movement structure of the piece about to be performed. Although various passages in "Voyagers" evoked the diversity of music offerings on the Golden Record, highlighting “both the fragility and the power of human artistic expression,” the fairly traditionally structured piece was inspired by three main Golden Record offerings – what Cohen referred to as “source material” – a late Beethoven quartet, an Indian Raga and a Renaissance dance. "Voyagers"’ four movements are entitled Cavatina, Bhairavi, Galliard, and Beyond the Heliosphere. [more]

DakhaBrakha

December 19, 2017

Playing both traditional and modern instruments, usually amplified, all four musicians supplement and expand Ukrainian folk melodies and songs with rhythmic and stylistic adaptations as well as other-culture  borrowings from music from as far away as Australia, North Africa, North America and India as well as from other former Russian Empire provinces. The result, unexpectedly, is stunningly coherent. [more]

The New York Pops: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

December 18, 2017

Joni Mitchell’s “River” was given a powerful rendition by guest artist Megan Hilty.  The blonde and statuesque Ms. Hilty was a glorious vision wearing a luminous white wedding dress as she sang in her throaty, expressive and emotional voice.  In the first act Hilty wore a shimmering black gown.  The Broadway performer and star of the television series "Smash" excelled at traditional perennials as well as eclectic selections such as that bittersweet one by Ms. Mitchell. [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Love and Other Stories

December 1, 2017

Like most C4 concerts, this one had a theme: it was an evening of “songs about love – both for and against.” Songs’ ideas and purposes mirrored, echoed, anticipated and challenged each other. The organization of this program, however, was unusual. Small groups of songs from a single piece – internationally acclaimed Bernard Rands’ 1991 "Canti d’Amor," settings of James Joyce poems – framed both the concert as a whole and both of its two parts: Rands’ Joyce songs opened the concert, closed the first half, opened the second half and then closed the concert. [more]

Richard Holbrook: “The Many Moods of Christmas”

November 28, 2017

With his commanding and emotionally expressive baritone voice, the eternally boyish Holbrook wearing formal wear, vividly performs a program drawn from show tunes, Hollywood musicals, classical music, jazz and The Great American Songbook.  The numbers are connected with his concise and engaging patter. [more]

American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Cherubini, Beethoven and Mozart

November 24, 2017

The two soprano soloists were marvelous. Hélène Brunet combines supple lyricism with technical elegance. Clara Rottsolk’s voice is at once silvery and earthy, delicate and powerful. In their individual arias, both women committed to highly ornamented interpretations; both were able to make ornament feel like a spontaneous, unplanned and experimental development of ideas. In his conducting, Crawford gives his best singers – such as Brunet and Rottsolk – considerable room to make the music their own without ever losing coherence or the appropriate tempo. When singing together, as in “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,” these sopranos’ voices were beautifully matched. [more]

Home for the Holidays

November 22, 2017

"American Idol" winner Candice Glover, "The Voice"’s Josh Kaufman, "America’s Got Talent"’s Bianca Ryan and the attractive, married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, who are popular on YouTube, comprise the youthful cast. They all bulldoze their way through more then 20 classics.  The vocal grandstanding is matched with overly expressive gestures and grimaces that invariably crush the meanings of the songs. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Christen Lien: Elpis and The Dark Side of Hope Tour Launch

November 6, 2017

Christen Lien is an exciting artist, playing innovative music for viola, combining formal and informal, classical and electronic elements. She brings an eclectic intelligence, alternately divergent and focused, to her work; her confident musicianship, based on both technical facility and wide-ranging experimentation, enables her to develop a performance style that is simultaneously intense, serious and seductive. Lien talks to her audience; she tells stories, developing the intellectual contexts for her music. She amplifies her viola and uses loop pedals to create complex layers of sound; in her all-out, passionate performing, she describes the constant changes of human response to the complex project of being alive. [more]

Dolores Claiborne

October 26, 2017

King’s "Dolores Claiborne" would seem a strange choice for dramatization as the book is a monologue told entirely by its protagonist at a police interrogation over a murder on Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. Though J.D. McClatchy’s streamlined libretto is very faithful to the book (while eliminating some characters and complications), it never approximates the compelling and wry narrative voice in Dolores’ first-person tale which makes her sympathetic and gives a sense of urgency to her story. Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez creates a believably passive character as a maid/companion to a selfish, rich woman whom she is accused of killing and an abused wife saddled with an alcoholic and brutal husband who died 30 years earlier but she brings no sympathy to the role. She just seems a tired, traumatized woman, not very interesting for the leading character in an opera. [more]

Tym Moss: (A) Live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!

October 10, 2017

Possessed of a soaring tenor baritone voice that forcefully hits every note, an immensely likeable persona and boundless energy as he dances with brio, Moss commands the stage for 70 minutes. Periodically overcome with emotion, he gracefully collects himself and moves on. It’s a moving display of therapeutic showmanship. [more]

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]

The Sorcerer (New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players)

September 17, 2017

This 1877 operetta, now celebrating its 140th anniversary, has been reduced to the nine major roles and the chorus has been eliminated. The result is a streamlined version that moves along at a steady pace under Albert Bergeret’s music and stage direction. The problem with the production is that although this is listed as a comedy, the new NYGASP revival wasn’t very funny except for several contemporary references such as “Amazon Prime” and the “changes at the White House.” [more]

La Fanciulla del West (New York City Opera)

September 10, 2017

The newly reconstituted New York City Opera opened its second full season with a shared production of Puccini’s rarely performed "La Fanciulla del West" created in collaboration with the Teatro di Giglio di Lucca, Italy; Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Sardinia; and Opera Carolina of Charlotte, North Carolina. Ivan Stefanutti’s production is solid but old-fashioned and traditional except for huge projections that fill the back wall of the three sets, some which work and some which don’t. Conducted by James Meena, Opera Carolina’s general director and principal conductor, with a cast led by soprano Kristin Sampson in the title role, both the orchestra and cast gave sturdy though only intermittently exciting performances in this unusual Italian opera. [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]

C4, The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Electric – Choral Works with electrified ensemble

June 25, 2017

C4’s last concert of the season was a typical C4 concert. The concert had one intermission; in both halves of the concert, there were one or two pieces that were new to C4 and one or two that they’d performed before. In this concert, there were also three premieres. Some pieces were a cappella; some were accompanied by a somewhat unexpected set of instruments, in this case, electronic … hence this concert’s name, “Electric: Choral works with electrified ensemble.” Almost all of the composers featured were either current or former C4 members; singers conducted each others’ works. Individual singers moved easily between solo parts and “just” being a section member. The extensive program notes were, as always, extremely useful. [more]

Angels in America (New York City Opera)

June 23, 2017

By eliminating most of the extended fantasy elements of the play, they reduced the storyline to the domestic turbulence of two couples and a deservedly ugly portrait of Roy Cohn. Add in a visit by the iconic Bethesda Fountain Angel (here totally generic) and some very dramatic, brass-heavy music and you have this intriguing production by New York City Opera that succeeds as an opera as long as one is not familiar with the source material. What seemed heavy going and existential in the original comes across on a much more human level in the opera. [more]

Heartbeat Opera: Butterfly

June 9, 2017

The artistic team responsible for this "Butterfly" made radical decisions and changes. Puccini’s original three acts of linear story – love and “wedding,” waiting, betrayal and death – are reorganized and abbreviated into three scenes of waiting, remembered love, and then betrayal. Some minor characters in the original opera are eliminated to create a caste of just five singing characters. The entire orchestra is reduced to a chamber orchestra of just six musicians, the Cantata Profana. The adaptation of Puccini’s orchestral score for this small chamber group by Daniel Schlosberg is remarkable: unexpectedly, its absolute faithfulness to Puccini’s musical intent at almost every turn made up for the diminished number of musicians. [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]

The New York Virtuoso Singers: Morton Gould/ASCAP Young Composer Award Recipients

May 28, 2017

From the beginning, one core component of Rosenbaum’s mission has been the cultivation of a contemporary American repertoire and the regular commission of new works. Rosenbaum is, in fact, an enthusiastic champion of young composers. This May concert, consisting of ten new works, reflected this focus … and was a wonderful celebration of young talent and achievement. [more]

St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys: Glory Be to Thee O Lord: Songs of Faith, Hope and Love

May 20, 2017

But the concert didn’t have the satisfaction of a big blockbuster – such as Haydn’s Creation, with which the season began – or of two or three masterworks. Music of the Anglican tradition is the bone and blood of St. Thomas’ work: it’s the music in which the choir excels. The formal musical curriculum in which St. Thomas students are immersed serves them well in any musical endeavor or style, but the Anglican vocabulary is the one these young musicians are most comfortable with. In this particular concert, the music of non-Anglican-tradition composers was well presented, demonstrating the skills of the singers, both young and old, but wasn’t thrilling. [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]
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