by Nick Stubblefield
AJ Wilhelm for NPR.org
When a solo pianist can fill Carnegie’s two-thousand seat Stern Auditiorium, and has the clout to insist upon bringing his Bosendorfer concert grand to every recital, you know you're in for a world-class performance. On Thursday night, Hungarian-born Sir András Schiff performed a set of piano works that ran the classical gamut —Schumann, Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach — while bypassing the traditional applause breaks between pieces. The resulting seamlessness at first seemed to disorient the audience, but we adjusted, and Schiff did not relinquish his hold on us until he played the final note.
The opener, Robert Schumann’s Variations on an Original Theme, WoO 24, set a restrained and thoughtful tone for the evening. The piece maintains a slow tempo and soft dynamics, developing the opening theme through a series of variations. The program noted that the composition reflects a manic-depressive period of Schumann’s life, and Schiff’s understated, gentle touch reflected a sensitivity to that context.
Some of the Brahms Intermezzos, extracted from his Three Intermezzos Op. 117 and his Klavierstücke, Op. 118 and Op. 119, peppered the program throughout. The Intermezzos remain popular with both pianists and audiences for their brevity and beautiful, soaring melodies. Schiff's sharp attention to balance on each Intermezzo delivered clear, distinct right-handed melodies underpinned with the left-hand arpeggiations. Melodies rose and fell like the breath and phrasing of a good singer.
A new work by Meredith Monk is always a cause for celebration. Her performances, which always feature a magical combination of singing, dancing, and visuals, never fail to provoke the mind, even as they entertain. Always more interested in the textures of the voice as instrument, rather than simply a conveyance to sing a song, Monk has long been one of the most extraordinary vocalists of the last 50 years.
Monk's new work, Cellular Songs, is playing at the Harvey Theater at BAM through this weekend. Cellular Songs is sparer than the last work Monk presented at BAM: the brilliant On Behalf of Nature, which played three seasons ago. That work was a rich whirlwind of colors in the sets and in the costumes, and was brimming with Monk's trademark chant-like singing.
In Cellular Songs, Monk sings with less force than she has in the past, but even in her mid-70s now, she can still entice your ears in a way only she can. If you've only heard her on recordings or in videos, you've missed the special experience it is to hear her sing in person.
In the centennial year of the celebrated conductor, pianist, and composer Leonard Bernstein, there are plenty of options for celebration. Feast of Music is giving away THREE PAIRS of tickets to Bernstein's only opera, A Quiet Place. Next Tuesday's performance will be by the Curtis Opera Theater at the
Kaye Playhouse at 8 pm.Here's how to enter:
1. Email email@example.com -OR-
2. Retweet our post with the hashtag #freetickets -OR-
3. Head to our Facebook page and COMMENT on our giveaway post!
by Nick Stubblefield
When SubCulture announced in July 2015 that they were “re-structuring their business model” and cancelling the majority of their lineup, many faithful concert-goers fretted about losing this intimate, inviting venue for good. Luckily, over two years later, it’s still here - though indeed the business model has changed. Now there are far fewer artists on the calendar, with more focus on residencies and concert series.
When I stopped in Wednesday night to hear pianist Ian Hobson perform part six of his eight-part concert series of Debussy and Ravel pieces for piano, I figured he must know his way around the instrument quite well. After all, the now highly-selective venue booked him for eight programs. And my hunch was correct: Hobson, a native Englishman, channeled every ounce of impressionistic beauty in selections from two of France’s beloved composers.
Hobson opened his set with a series of four Debussy works. Berceuse heroique entered like a slow funeral march, gradually building momentum until the climax. Valse and Mazurka are more sprightly numbers, so Hobson’s fingers lightly danced and frolicked across the keys, whereas the Nocturne was grander, darker, requiring a heavier hand.