Bartók and Tchaikovsky–Strange Bedfellows at the Met

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, NY; February 3, 2015–What on earth, one might ask, do Tchaikovsky’s operatic swan song,  Iolanta, a sweet fairy tale with a joyous ending, and Bartók’s weird, cruel, and eerie Bluebeard’s Castle have in common? Iolanta is a princess, blind from birth, whose father, King René, has arranged a lovely garden […]

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Sarah Cahill’s Terry Riley Piano Party

Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY; January 29, 2014–Terry Riley turns 80 in June 2015, and already the tributes are starting to roll in. On January 29th Berkeley-based pianist Sarah Cahill offered a Piano Party for Terry Riley at 80, honoring the minimalist pioneer with a program of newly commissioned works to celebrate the occasion. […]

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Riccardo Frizza Leads Fresh, Moving Bohème

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, NY; January 19, 2015–Although there are few expressions in music criticism worse than “perennial favorite”, there really is no other way to describe both La bohème and the Metropolitan Opera’s now 34-year-old production by Franco Zeffirelli. The opera needs no apologies or explanations; Zeffirelli’s gigantic, realer-than-real production, on the other […]

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The New York Philharmonic’s Magnificent Messiah

Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY; December 16, 2014–For several years the period-performance aesthetic has dominated the New York Philharmonic’s annual Handel Messiah performances as conducted by such early music specialists as Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman, and currently Gary Thor Wedow, who opened the orchestra’s 2014 Messiah run Tuesday night. He presided over an orchestra […]

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Carlo Grante Makes Sense of Schumann

Alice Tully Hall, New York, NY; December 15, 2014–Robert Schumann’s three piano sonatas encompassed the second program in Carlo Grante’s three-part “Masters of High Romanticism” series at Alice Tully Hall. Although these works claim a solid foothold in the repertoire, they are less immediately accessible than, say, Carnaval or Kinderszenen. Schumann’s creativity ran rampant, and […]

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Six Christmas CDs That Always Make The List, Pt. 1

Over the past 20-plus years I have accumulated hundreds of Christmas CDs–featuring choirs, orchestras, brass ensembles, guitar, harp, string quartet, piano, organ, etc., etc.–and I appreciate most of them for various reasons; but no matter how many newcomers join the collection, there are a few “oldies” that have more than stood the test of time. […]

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Raunchy, Wrenching Mtsensk at the Met

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, NY; November 17, 2014–Shostakovich’s outrageous Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is back at the Met after a 14-year absence. The production by Graham Vick, with sets and costumes by Paul Brown, is as brilliant, vulgar, funny, and nihilistic as the opera itself. Our first glimpse, as the curtain rises, is of […]

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Jenna Sung’s Poetic Piano Debut

Wigmore Hall, London, UK, November 16, 2014–As part of her first prize award in the annual Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate piano competition, Jenna Sung gave her London recital debut at Wigmore Hall November 16 to  a full and appreciative house. I first heard Sung during the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and her artistry has […]

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