Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Intimate Electricity From Joshua Bell

Isn’t it funny how some of the world’s most exciting sounds get lumped into a category with the most boring name? And who would have thought there would be such a mighty upsurge in chamber music in 2020? With established concert venues padlocked and imperiled – outside of places like Sweden, Moscow and Nicagagua anyway – intimate performances largely by and for family and friends have become the new paradigm in classical music, at least until the lockdown is over.

And in keeping with the zeitgeist, some of the biggest names in the field are making intimate recordings. None other than Joshua Bell has made a diverse and often electrifying new live album, At Home with Music, streaming at Spotify. Although virtually all of it is arrangements of standard repertoire, the violinist seems especially amped to play it.

He opens with the famous first movement from Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, jauntily trading riffs with pianist Jeremy Denk. The two play it fast: in their most animated moments, the lack of digital separation between the instruments enhances the carefree energy.

Peter Dugan takes over the piano, joining Bell for a much more rubato, Romantic take of Dvořák’s Slavonic Fantasy in B minor. Bell’s rise from silken vibrato to raw, Romany intensity is unselfconsciously electrifying, a real crowd-pleaser.

Next, he teams up with soprano Larisa Martínez and pianist Kamal Khan for a somewhat understatedly lyrical take of Mendelssohn’s “Ah, ritorna, età dell’oro” from the opera Infelice. They return to tackle a Puccini aria later on.

The rare treat here is Wieniawski’s Polonaise de Concert in D Major, Op. 4, with Dugan back on piano, both musicians digging in hard for its anthemic leaps, slashes and devious dips. Their remarkably steady, unvarnished take of Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 makes a good segue, quiet as it generally is. And hearing Bell revel in the virtuoso ornamentation of the Jascha Heifetz arrangement of Gershwin’s Summertime is an expected thrill.

Martínez and Khan return for the closer, an alternately bracing and warmly familiar medley from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. with a triumphant coda.

November 12, 2020 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, opera, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Young Concert Artists Take Over Symphony Space

Where the hell was everyone? Symphony Space’s annual “wall to wall” concert marathons vary widely from the transcendent to the absurd, but the last couple of years have been solidly in the former camp, and a view of the afternoon portion of Saturday’s reaffirmed its potential for transcendence. This year’s theme tied into the Young Concert Artists mentoring system, with both graduates of the program, up-and-coming performers and mentors delivering some sensational performances. We missed the hour of Bach that began at the cruel hour of eleven in the morning: due to the demands of his day job, Bach may have become a morning person, but this generation of musicians are not. By half past noon, the shlep up to 96th St. looked like a good choice. And where were the locals? Usually, by noon, these marathons are impossible to get into. Was it the swirling winds, foreshadowing a future tornado along Broadway? It certainly wasn’t a lack of starpower. Among the performers hastily gathered for this marathon: pianists Emanuel Ax and Jeremy Denk, the Borromeo and Jasper String Quartets.

At half past noon, violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Efe Baltacigil were wrapping up a closely attentive, intense version of Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello. Denk was supposed to play Bach but reverted to a piece he said he knew well, enjoyed and played recently, a Gyorgy Ligeti suite, which proved irresistibly powerful, from its uninhibited crashing and banging in the first movement, to hypnotic, circular 20th century ambience to a reversion to fiery atonal staccato. It’s a rigorously intense, richly arrranged and practically impossible work to do as fast as he did it, but Denk made it seem if he’d grown up with it.

A Schubert hour saw Emmanuel Ax deliver a confidently rippling Impromptu followed by the Trout Quintet played with inspired intensity by a succession of pianists along with violinist Benny Kim, violist Barry Shiffman, cellist Robert Martin and bassist DaXun Zhang. Then it was time for a break for the world’s best garlic knots (La Famiglia Pizza, 96th and Amsterdam, serves them with barely cooked, crushed garlic, a healing ritual for anyone who dares ingest them). And after that, was the space sold out? No. Easy come, easy go. Was it the tornado-like gusts outside? The lack of global warming temperatures? What is up with you guys? Oh, did we mention, the show was free?

The 2 PM hour concluded with Tschaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, by a talented pickup band, and then a hypnotic, lush, otherworldly hour of Chopin played by a succession of Young Concert Artists players: Wendy Chen, Sergei Edelman and others (the program didn’t gibe with the parade of musicians onstage).

February 21, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments