Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Historic Performance of Epic Orchestral and Organ Music Tomorrow in Midtown

For those who gravitate toward towering, majestic sonics, it’s hard to imagine anything more exciting than the Spectrum Symphony‘s upcoming concert tomorrow, Nov 4 at 7:30 PM at St. Peter’s Church at Lexington Ave. and 54th St, where they’ll be playing the first program devoted exclusively to music for organ and orchestra staged in this city this year. In fact, this might be the first concert of its kind staged in this city in this CENTURY. Admittedly, beyond the famous Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, symphonic repertoire that also incorporates organ is hard to find. Whatever the case, history will be made when conductor David Grunberg leads the enterprising ensemble through Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra along with the world premiere of Hungarian composer Balint Karosi‘s new Concerto with organ soloist János Pálúr. Suggested donation is $25/$15 stud/srs.

Since 2016 is the Ginastera centenary, it was no surprise that the orchestra would conclude their spring 2016 season on the Upper West Side with a concert highlighted by a meticulously dynamic, uneasily thrilling performance of Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes, with special guest harpist Melanie Genin. A sort of synthesis of the early neoromantic Ginastera and his chilling, Messiaenesque later works, it’s a surrealistically riveting mashup of eras and idioms, making it hard to shift gears between them. Grunberg and the orchestra pulled it off with an impressive seamlessness.

They opened quietly with uneasily terse, moonlit glimmer from the harp and strings. The suite grew to a somber, meticulously lowlit lustre that gave way to a sudden, striking trumpet cadenza and then a swirling ballet theme of sorts. There was both precision and irresistible fun as the spiraling woodwinds wound up the opening movement.

From there, austere strings rose with eerie close harmonies to a warmly lush nocturnal, neoromantic interlude. The orchestra followed a spare, brooding oboe solo over a richly misty backdrop More of those uneasy close harmonies shifted to the brass as the fourth movement built, followed by vividly acidic violin. Slowly looming horns in counterpoint with the winds and a hushed passage with strings and harp gave not the slightest hint of how triumpantly pulsing the piece’s triumphantly Stravinskyian coda would be, with its shivery strings and stilletto brass. If this performance is any indication, the energy will be through the roof (or the pavement – the space is below ground) tomorrow night.

November 3, 2016 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ECCO Resounds Intensely on the Upper West Side

Lately we’ve been scoping out little-known neighborhood enclaves for first-class live music. Music Mondays is not one of them. Despite temperatures in the teens last night, the church at 93rd St. and Broadway quickly filled to standing-room capacity, testament to the popularity and vitality of this ongoing monthly series. Sixteen-piece string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, a.k.a. ECCO rewarded the house full of brave souls with a genuinely transcendent, unflinchingly direct, rawly emotional performance.

The conductorless group opened with a warmly nocturnal take of Janacek’s Suite for String Orchestra. Within its comfortably glimmering cantabile and cirrus-cloud atmospherics, they focused on wistfulness and wariness, notably in the song without words that comprises its first adagio movement, and the searching overture that brought it up to end on a hopeful note. They followed with a performance of Shostakovich’s Sinfonia, Op. 110, based on his String Quartet No. 8, which literally stunned the crowd. Composed three years after his elegaic Eleventh Symphony, like so much of Shostakovich’s post-Stalin era work, it’s a requiem. From the quietly stumbling anguish of the opening solo violin figure, the ensemble left no doubt as to how harrowing this would get, as much a homage to those who managed to survive Stalin’s years of terror as to those who didn’t. Like the Eleventh Symphony, its opening funeral scene is interrupted by a series of salvos and a crushing stampede, contrasting mightily with the suspensefully macabre, carnivalesque dance that follows. This interpretation let the composer’s depiction of complete emotional depletion speak for itself, through the whispery, exhausted anguish of the concluding atmospherics, solo violin or cello rising just to the point of serving as witness to unspeakable evil. The audience – an impressively knowledgeable bunch, from all appearances – didn’t know what hit them.

The rest of the program was anticlimactic, but not by much. Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 10 in B Minor essentially pairs off two themes, a mostly breezy waltz versus darker martial shades, the group emphasizing the latter. They closed with another real stunner, Ginastera’s Concerto Por Corde, Op. 33. Like the Shostakovich that preceded it, this has long, stampeding passages, except that these don’t let up – and like Shostakovich, there’s considerable angst, here finally rising to a scream as the piece wound up after several false endings. To say that this was a workout for the musicians is quite an understatement: they played as if it was the triumphant marathon (albeit a bitter one) for which they’d been feverishly training. For a group that typically limits itself to a few performances per year since all the members have busy careers as soloists and with other ensembles, they displayed a remarkable singlemindedness.

The next concert in the Music Mondays series is February 21 at 7:30 PM featuring the Enso Quartet at the multipurpose, multicommunity church at 93rd and Broadway: early arrival is very strongly advised.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amy Gustafson Awes the Crowd at Trinity Church

Pianist Amy Gustafson is VP of the Spanish American Music Council, which makes sense, considering her affinity for Spanish and latin composers. Her solo performance yesterday at Trinity Church emphasized this, but it also underscored her originality and sensitivity as an interpreter of both Romantic and 20th century music. What a pleasure to discover a talented player who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold.

She opened with three sonatas by Antonio Soler, downplaying the courtly waltziness of a couple of bright, major key pieces bookended around a strikingly plaintive performance of the E Minor Sonata (R. 113), a wary, wounded work that foreshadows Chopin. That composer’s Nocturne in F Major, Op. 1, No. 1 was delivered with a matter-of-factness that again downplayed its thickets of grace notes, a more impressive achievement than it might seem: it’s fast and easy to overdramatize. By contrast, Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1, an obviously more mature work, vividly alternated sun-speckled and stormy textures.

Gustafson’s pacing had been finely nuanced all the way to this point, but her feel for the emotional push and pull of the material really came to the forefront in a richly varied series of eight preludes by Alexander Scriabin. Through rippling, distantly Asian notifs, poignantly flowing Chopinesque passages, a couple of roaring, chordally supercharged sprints that could have been Rachmaninoff, the occasional understated heroic theme and the warmly Schubert-tinged final Prelude No. 24 in D Minor with its fiery outro, she distinguished herself along with the music by pulling back whenever it threatened to get too “Romantic.” Scriabin bridged that era and the modern one, and one suspects he would have appreciated Gustafson’s renditions. Other pianists make this kind of stuff maudlin and campy; she made it plaintive and adrenalizing.

Yet during a particularly fast, percussive run up the scale in the El Puerto segment of Albeniz’ Iberia, Book 1, she made it look anything but easy, not only because it wasn’t, but because it made a perfect spot to emphasize apprehension and suspense in the midst of otherworldliness and flamenco-inflected grandeur. She closed with a romp through Ginastera’s Danzas Criollas, Op. 15, another study in contrasts, leaping from nocturnal wonder to a joyous bounce. Satisfied with a job well done, she pulled back from the piano after the strenuous chordal attack was finally over and almost fell over backwards. The audience agreed with her unanimously and demanded an encore, which turned out to be an unfamiliar but beautifully lyrical miniature titled The Secret. Gustafson has a southern tour coming up in November; watch this space for New York dates.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment