ZEALnyc FALL PREVIEW: Classical Music
ZEALnyc, September 6, 2018
With performing arts organizations across the globe having finished an almost two-year celebration of the life and music of multi-faceted artist Leonard Bernstein, we’re now ready to move into a brand new season of concerts, recitals, and performances which will be showcasing exciting programming all around the city in venues both large and small. With two of our major arts organizations now under the guidance of new artistic leadership, we’re waiting in anticipation as to how it all will play out in actual performances in the coming months. We at ZEALnyc are ready to share a select list of performances for which we are definitely looking forward to experiencing, so read on.
Brian Taylor, Contributing Writer
The coming season of classical music in New York will be one for the books. The New York Philharmonic welcomes Jaap van Zweden as its new Music Director, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin assumes the helm at the Metropolitan Opera, so both of those institutions will be important to follow this year.
At the Met, Nézet-Séguin will conduct revivals of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and a new production of Verdi’s La Traviata. But the season begins with rarely performed Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila (September 24 – October 9). I’m a proponent of Puccini’s neglected La Fanciulla del West (October 4-20), and another rarity, Boito’s Mefistofele (November 8 – December 1) is being revived. Nico Muhly’s second commission is receiving its premiere, an adaption of Marnie (October 19 – November 3). Looking beyond the new year, they are of course reviving Wagner’s Ring Cycle, yes, with “the machine,” but I am particularly looking forward to Jennifer Rowley‘s turn as Adriana Lecouvreur (January 23, 26), taking over from superstar Anna Netrebko.
Across Lincoln Center Plaza, the New York Philharmonic has a few interesting live film score concerts. Johnny Greenwood’s ravishing music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood on September 12-13, and Corigliano’s romantic The Red Violin with original soloist Joshua Bell, October 16-20. John Williams’s vivid score for Home Alone is being done in December. But the season opens properly on September 20 with a gala called “New York, Meet Jaap,” in which a new commission by Ashley Fure precedes Danil Trifonov playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, two of the greatest pieces of music of the twentieth century. Jaap van Zweden will conduct Bruckner’s mammoth-sized 8th Symphony (September 27-28). Also tempting is an evening of Korngold, Barber (his exquisite Violin Concerto) and Rachmaninoff (October 31 – November 3), and Britten’s Violin Concerto with Shostakvovich’s 7th Symphony (November 29 – December 4).
Carnegie Hall‘s Perspectives artist, around whom so much of the year’s programming revolves, is Michael Tilson Thomas. He brings his San Francisco Symphony, in his 24th year as its leader, for an All-Stravinsky concert on October 4 (it will be fun to compare and contrast MTT’s interpretation of The Rite with Jaap’s). Another great American orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra continues its tradition of presenting quirky, intriguing programs under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin (November 13). The Czech Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, and NYC’s own St. Luke’s and American Composers Orchestra all make appearances, as well as Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, all mostly in meat-and-potatoes-heavy repertoire.
Also at Carnegie, Chris Thile, mandolin virtuoso and composer, who begins his third season as host of Live from Here (the public radio show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion), occupies the 2018 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair. Not to be missed, he plays Bach and a new work of his own on November 28. Pianist Ralph van Raat plays a recital featuring a Louis Andriessen world premiere, and notably, a Pierre Boulez US premiere on October 24. Finally, Anna Netrebko will draw crowds December 9.
At the 92nd Street Y, marvelous pianist Richard Goode plays Beethoven’s “Les Adieux” Sonata, Janacek’s In the Mists, and miscellany of Mozart on November 14. Peter Serkin plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations and more miscellany of Mozart on December 1. (I really love Mozart’s miscellany, by the way.)
I keep meaning to make it to National Sawdust, which seems to be where new music is really happening. Groundbreaking minimalist Terry Riley appears on September 15 with NOVUS NY ensemble of Trinity Wall Street, and Joan Tower is celebrated in Joan Tower and Friends (November 11). And BAM always has interesting things, first more minimalism, with a production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (October 31 – November 4), and then a follow-up of sorts to the head-turning Anna Nicole of a few years back, with Greek, a NY Premiere of a work by the same composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage. It’s an operatic retelling of the Oedipus tale transporting Sophocles to an apocalyptic 1980s London (December 5 – 9).
Joshua Rosenblum, Contributing Writer
The vast range of musical offerings promised by the fall season is almost too overwhelming to single out only a handful, but here are some that caught my eye immediately:
One highlight of incoming Music Director Jaap van Zweden’s debut season with the New York Philharmonic is sure to be the October 4-6 program, which will feature the world premiere of the exciting, pan-stylistic Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s new orchestral work Agamemnon, inspired by The Iliad and described by the composer as “full of fast music and nervous terror.” Andriessen is a master at creating uncompromisingly modernist music that is also thrillingly dramatic. The volcanic violinist Leila Josefowicz will follow with Stravinsky’s exuberant Violin Concerto. The evening will also include the Russian giant’s intriguing, iconoclastic Symphonies of Wind Instruments, which he dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, and then some actual Debussy—the shimmering, prismatic masterpiece La Mer.
Yuja Wang, who manages to stand out as one of today’s most exciting pianists, even in a very crowded field, will be hosting one of the prestigious Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall. The October 26 opening program of the six-concert series will feature Wang plus four percussionists, including the accomplished Martin Grubinger as well as his father, Martin Grubinger Sr., who has created arrangements for these five players of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Stravinsky’s still-shattering Rite of Spring (yes, more Stravinsky—my biases are showing). These reinvented twentieth-century classics are sure to receive combustible performances by Wang, Grubinger pere + fils, et al.
The impeccable and inspirational Latvian Radio Choir will present an unusual program called “The Distant Light” on November 13, as part of Lincoln Center’s inwardly focused yet vital White Light Festival. The concert will feature choral transcriptions of some standout Mahler songs (OK, all of Mahler’s songs are standouts), presented alongside pieces by compelling contemporary Latvian composers such as Ēriks Ešenvalds and Valentin Silvestrov. The program notes promise that the music, which will feature will texts in Latvian, Old Slavonic, Tibetan, German, and English, will “illuminate a universal yearning for inner peace.” Lord knows we could all use some of that.
This season’s White Light Festival is so remarkable that I have to include a second pick from among its offerings: namely, Kaija Saariaho’s new opera, Only the Sound Remains, which will be performed November 17 -18. The Finnish-born Saariaho made a gigantic splash with her previous opera, L’amour de loin, which, when it was first presented by the Metropolitan Opera in 2016, marked the Met’s first staging of an opera by a female composer since Ethel Smyth’s Der Wald in 1903. Indisputably one of the world’s great living composers, Saariaho weaves sophisticated, dreamlike orchestral tapestries that plumb the depths of her characters’ psyches. Based on Ezra Pound’s translations of two Japanese Noh plays, Only the Sound Remains, as directed by the visionary Peter Sellars, promises to be a stimulating, one-of-a-kind evening of music theater.
Schubert wrote both a song and a string quartet called “Death and the Maiden.” You can hear them side by side at the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society’s concert of the same name on November 18, a chance to appreciate how the great master turned the song’s somber piano introduction into a dazzling theme and variations in the second movement of the quartet. Also on the program are Mussorgsky’s chilling cycle “Songs and Dances of Death,” and the only two surviving movements from Rachmaninoff’s early but prescient String Quartet No. 1, which he wrote at the ripe age of age sixteen. The program will feature baritone Nikolay Borchev, pianist Wu Qian, and the Schumann Quartet.
Cover: Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna in a publicity photo for the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Saint-Saëns’s ‘Samson et Dalila’; photo: Vincent Peters / Met Opera.