Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Saluting One of New York’s Great Music Advocacy Organizations at Lincoln Center Last Night

Every generation tends to view successive ones as being more and more effete. That preconception becomes all the harder to argue with in an age where daily life for so much of the population is becoming more and more virtual and less and less real. Why drag yourself to Manhattan at rush hour to immerse yourself in a sublime and intimate performance when you could get a virtual equivalent on Facebook Live? 

So to see a packed house for the annual Young Concert Artists gala at  Alice Tully Hall last night was a shot of serious optimism. Does the continued success of an organization whose raison d’etre is to champion and springboard the careers of young classical musicians portend a sea change, maybe? A slow tidal shift? Or does that simply reaffirm the eternal appeal of great art? All of the above, maybe?

The concert itself was great fun, a display of ferocious chops, and intuition, and joie de vivre, played to an audience reflecting the relative youth of most of the performers. The prospect of being able to see pianists Lise de la Salle amd Anne-Marie McDermott. violinists Ani Kafavian and Juliette Kang, bassist Xavier Foley. harpist Emmanuel Ceysson and the Zora String Quartet alongside veteran flutist Paula Robison and cello icon Fred Sherry – just to name a handful of the 23 former and current YCA roster members – together onstage is less likely than it might seem. Each has a busy solo, orchestral and chamber music career.

If pageantry could be genunely profound, it would be the version of Tschaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings played by YCA’s conductorless fifteen-piece all-star ensemble. With unbridled, fluttery joy balanced by more direct intonation and clear, uncluttered dynamic shifts, the group reveled in its balletesque riffs, drawing a straight line back to Mozart.

Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, backed by McDermott and the Zora String Quartet, followed a similarly straightforward trajectory from plaintiveness to a blaze of five-alarm drama in Ernest Chausson’s Chanson Perpetuelle. That vigorous sensibility took a turn in a more upbeat, triumphantly lilting direction with Ravel’s Introduction and  Allegro, played by a septet including Sherry, Kang, Robinson and  Ceysson along with violinist Paul Huang, violist Toby Appel and clarinetist Narek Arutyunian.

The program closed with a mashup of Scott Joplin, Liszt and John Philip Sousa arranged for piano eight hands, performed by de la Salle and McDermott with Gleb Ivanov and Yun-Chin Zhou. As completely over-the-top as the concept was, careening from one idiom to another with zero regard for segues, there’s no denying how much fun the four musicians were having while simply trying to maintain a semblance of tightness. Which testifies to the kind of outside-the-box thinking that might or might not be putting more and more young people in the seats. That question continues to bedevil everyone in the concert business these days – and it’s inspiring to see YCA coming up with some answers that are obviously working.

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May 2, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Anne-Marie McDermott Plays Haydn, Wuorinen and Assad at Town Hall, NYC 5/31/09

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott gets plenty of accolades for chops and versatility and this study in extreme contrasts validated pretty much anything good that’s been said about her. After the intermission at her recital Sunday evening at Town Hall, she told the audience that despite the different of two centuries and several generations of musical evolution, she found a great deal of similarity between Haydn and Wuorinen because their compositions are literally all over the place, an insight that is less obvious than it seems. She opened with Haydn’s Piano Sonata in G Major, Hob XVI: 40, warm and predictably playful and then taking off with a presto section that McDermott milked for all the laughs she could get: it’s quite silly, and the crowd was warmly appreciative. Another sonata, the C Minor, Hob XVI: 20 was even more of an exercise in judicious dynamics and phrasing, McDermott turning what could have been mere wistfulness into real poignancy throughout its andante section.

Then she switched gears (or teleported to another dimension, you could easily say) with the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s Fourth Piano Sonata – if anyone in the house recorded it, please let us know! With what seemed a total absence of time signature and a call for complete reckless abandon (and even percussion on the body of the piano itself), it revealed itself as an angry, almost relentlessly railing piece that when it finally calmed down went straight to despair and then back to rage again. The herky-jerky first movement was deliberately dissonant and ugly, a feel only slightly obscured with vaguely Asian tinges on the second movement, going absolutely morose and nocturnal with the third, andante passage before reverting to insistent crashing and banging with Sabre Dance echoes that despite all McDernmott’s energy was anticlimactic compared to the powerful evocation of clinical depression of what had just preceded it.

After another dynamically superb take on another Haydn sonata (E flat Minor, HoB XVI: 52), she closed with the New York premiere of Clarice Assad’s When Art Showed Up. Art, whoever he may be, is a lot of fun but also a sort of crazymaker. The opening theme was warmly romantic without a single hint of the festivities to come, all kinds of vivid appositions across the registers and a coda straight out of Cuba, 1935. The crowd wouldn’t let McDermott go without an encore, so she indulged them with a showy, Flight of the Bumblebee-esque segment of another Haydn sonata.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment