Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

High-Voltage Intensity and a Stunning Surprise from Cellist Kian Soltani and Pianist Julio Elizalde at Lincoln Center

“We’re going to do the slow movement from the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata in G minor,” pianist Julio Elizalde told the crowd at the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center last night. This was the encore. It wasn’t on the program, at least formally. A murmur went through the audience: had the general public know this was going to happen, his debut duo performance with cellist Kian Soltani at this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival probably would have sold out the moment tickets went onsale.

It was at this point where Soltani, who’d played with a stunningly straighttforward, emotionally piercing approach for the previous hour, decided to turn his vibrato loose. Yet the result turned out to be less full-blown angst than persistent, haunting resonance, punctuted by twin peaks where he dug in and went for the windswept poignancy and several bittersweetly elegant exchanges with Elizalde’s eerily floating, perfectly articulated pointillisms.

That all this wasn’t anticlimactic speaks to how compellingly the two had performed the material that was officially on the bill. There were two particular pièces de résistance. The first comprised a triptych from Reza Vali‘s Persian Folk Songs collection. The Austrian-born Soltani explained how this material dovetailed with his dual immersion in both western classical and traditional Iranian music, as a child of expatriates. The wary introduction approximated an opening improvisation, followed by a lost-love ballad, each awash in aching, Arabic-tinged chromatics. To balance thie plaintiveness, the two leapt into a final love-drunk tableau with jaunty, trickily rhythmic abandon.

Soltani’s own solo performance of his Persian Fire Dance, also drawing on folk themes from his heritage, was arguably even more compelling and required considerably more extended technique, from wispy harmonics to a prelude to the mighty coda where he tapped out a beat, essentially playing between the raindrops. In between, he built and then fanned the flames as the firestorm’s waves rose higher and higher.

The two opened with a comfortable, glitteringly faithful take of the Romanticisms of a trio of Schumann Fantasiestucke pieces. Elizalde negotiated the lickety-split cascades of Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, No. 3 with steely focus and a slithery legato, while Soltani attacked the obstacle course of David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody with similar aplomb and even more vigor, through innunerable, thorny thickets of staccato sixteenth notes. A sold-out audience had to catch their breath afterward.

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July 24, 2019 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hypnotic, Soothing Beehive of Avant Garde Activity at the Mostly Mozart Festival

Last night’s performance of Michael Pisaro’s A Wave and Waves at the Mostly Mozart Festival began with a single, momentary trill from one of the roughly hundred performers seated within the Lincoln Center audience. A woman with her back to one of them turned in her seat indignantly: hadn’t her neighbor heeded the reminder to turn off her phone?

As another, more muffled sound flitted from the other side of the atrium space, the look on the woman’s face was priceless. That little ripple wasn’t a phone – it was a percussion instrument: bells on a string.

There were other comedic moments during the roughly 75-minute diptych, but those were limited to pregnant pauses – the ready-to-pop kind – along with dropped instruments and scores. For the most part, the piece was calm, a minor-league take on John Luther Adams’ vast, enveloping Become Ocean. The effect was like a Soviet Realist poster come to life, a steady bustle of happy worker ants.

The composer introduced the work as a landscape where no perspective is identical. Obviously, no perspective at any concert is exactly the same, sonically speaking, irrespective of one’s proximity to a particular instrument.  Here, these really ran the gamut, from bowed bells and a couple of huge bass drums, to a repurposed coffee can, an upside-down kitchen drawer and what appeared to be a wok with a chain inside, whose player rattled and clinked as she raised and lowered metal against metal.

In general, the sold-out audience’s reaction was rapt attention. More than one person assumed a yoga position (one of them ended up falling asleep, or so it seemed). One of the very few people to leave during the performance did that at the break between pieces – but only after videoing the entire first half.

Where the first part was a calm beehive of rustling. swooshing activity juxtaposed with a series of high, keening textures from the bowed bells, the second half was more animated. Ostensibly a series of shorter waves, those shorter bursts of activity began suddenly and ended cold – and were considerably louder than the hypnotic ambience of the first half of the show. It was here that the musicians – percussionist Greg Stuart and members of International Contemporary Ensemble, along with a motley assortment of performers who ranged from gradeschool age to maybe six times that – were able to cut loose, at least to the extent that they could. Frenzies were hinted at, but never quite emerged, although the maze of stereo effects grew much more lively, with hints of call-and-response.

The remainder of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center is sold out. However, there is a free concluding event, a spatially arranged world premiere by four choirs singing John Luther Adams‘ ecological parable In the Name of the Earth at the Cathedral of St.  John the Divine on Aug 11. The concert is at 3 PM; doors open at 2. Get there early if you want to get in.

And the next performance at the Lincoln Center atrium space on Broadway north of 62nd St. – where almost all of the most ambitious programming on campus takes place – is on Aug 16 at 7:30 PM with the Jimi Hendrix of the cuatro, Jorge Glem. The show is free: get there early if you’re going.

August 10, 2018 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Mighty Kickoff to This Year’s Mostly Mozart Festival

How do you advertise art? Let the public experience it. If it’s good, it sells itself. No doubt a whole lot of tickets to this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival were sold after Friday night’s performance of the G major Violin Concerto and then the “Jupiter” Symphony at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra‘s musical director, Louis Langrée, reminded the audience that eighty degrees is the cutoff point for many European orchestras playing outdoor shows. The mercury here was closer to twenty degrees higher, but the ensemble soldiered on, after being a given a fervently appreciative shout from their maestro. Within the confines of the bandshell at the back of the park, they didn’t have the benefit of the wind gusting through the rest of the Lincoln Center complex.

As demanding as this music is to play under normal circumstances, with its endless volleys of eighth notes, the challenge takes on a whole new dimension under such trying circumstances. That the orchestra would play so robustly, and with such attention to detail, testifies to their collective spirit.Although the ensemble is only active in the summer for this annual festival, it’s more than just a pickup group – there are a lot of returning members, and their camaraderie was contagious. Nineteen-year-old prodigy Simone Porter joined them as the soloist for the concerto, bringing a strikingly searching intensity and a warily modulated tone, particularly in the second movement. That’s where the piece deviates from being comfortably bubbly wine-hour music for the Viennese one-percenters for whom it was written, and she seized on those moments with an apt tinge of angst. She’s an old soul.

At least in New York, the “Jupiter” Symphony surprisingly doesn’t get programmed as frequently as you might think. Although there’s no telling what a new conductor will do for the New York Philharmonic, year after year it’s Brahms who ends up at the top of the charts, at least as far as concert halls are concerned. So this was a chance to get up close and personal with an old standby: those among us (guess who) willing to date ourselves as having grown up with WQXR wafting gently from the family stereo speakers can vouch for that familiarity.

What stood out during this performance? Dynamics: for those who eschewed the long line to to get in to the rows of seats, at the rear of the park it was actually hard to hear the quietest moments, even with amplification, because the sound diminished to a literal whisper. Which set up a mighty contrast with the symphony’s titanic swells, to match the gusts of hot wind blowing on the crowd like vacuum cleaner exhaust.

That, and a playfully slithery bassoon cadenza that seemingly appeared out of nowhere during the third movement. Admittedly, the only other person who seized on that particular moment was probably the individual who played it, but Mozart provides hundreds if not thousands of those. Despite its heft, it’s not a particularly heavy piece of music, yet there’s no question how much fun the composer had writing it. Langrée and the orchestra reprise their performance of it on August 9 and 10 at 7:30 PM at Avery Fisher Hall; pianist Richard Goode performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A to open the night. $35 seats are still available as of today.

July 25, 2016 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment