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Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall

    Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  Carnegie Hall - Feast of Music Jan 17  2018 at 11-005

“Music remains for me not sacred, but a spiritual moment. I’m devoted to God because I think I was gifted by him, and I know that my mission during my years here on this earth is just to try and develop the gift that I received.” - RCO Chief Conductor Daniele Gatti, NY Times, 2016

By most estimates one of the best orchestras in the world (if not the best), the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has always impressed during their visits to the Big Apple. But, as great as this orchestra has been for most of its 130 year existence, the addition of the formidable maestro Daniele Gatti last season as Chief Conductor seemed to raise the artistic bar even higher, as evidenced by their two concerts at Carnegie Hall this week.

These were Gatti's first local appearances with the RCO, but he is no stranger to New York concertgoers, having led the Vienna Phil in a series of memorable concerts in 2015, as well as the Met's extraordinary new Parsifal in 2013, which returns next month. As with that six hour opera, Gatti conducted everything on these concerts from memory, revealing a near-insane level of preparation that is said to extend beyond mere score analysis to poring over biographies, historical essays, even related novels and plays that the composer may have read.

“What is important is to try and be in the head of the composer,” Gatti told the NY Times in 2016. “If I’m seeing the world through different eyes, I can see also the score with new eyes.”

This deep level of familiarity allows Gatti to take the music to unexpected places. In the Act 3 Prelude and "Good Friday Music" from Parsifal, Gatti drew the tempi way out to highlight the majestic consonances of Wagner's music in the tender strings and burnished brass. It was clear from the outset that Gatti had gone over every square inch of the score - each note, every marking - and had successfully  gotten the RCO players to buy into his vision.

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Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall

by Steven Pisano

Daniil Trifonov Carnegie HallIn the Playbill for his solo concert at Carnegie Hall, the portrait of Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov taken by celebrity photographer Dario Acosta shows a groomed young man, hair slicked down, short beard well-manicured, his steady gaze a study in relaxed intensity. And maybe Mr. Trifonov actually looks like this if you come across him anywhere but on stage. But seat him at a piano, and what you will see is a quietly simmering wild man. His hair explodes off the top of his head as he jumps up from his bench like a rock and roll guitarist reeling off a lick. Then he leans over like a hunchbacked drunk, practically kissing the keys. He stretches back like a cat, smiling, almost laughing with joy. Then just as suddenly, he grimaces as if the music hurts. At all times, he looks as if the music is running through him like a high-watt electric current straight to the piano keys.

On Saturday night, Trifonov presented a program called Hommage a Chopin, performing Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 alongside works inspired by Chopin, including pieces by Frederic Mompou, Robert Schumann, Edvard Grieg, Samuel Barber, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. At 26, Trifonov has quickly earned a reputation as one of the finest pianists of his generation. His recording last year of Franz Liszt's Transcendental Etudes (Deutsche Grammophon) was named by the New York Times as one of the best classical recordings of the year, while Gramophone magazine named him the 2016 Artist of the Year.

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Mischa Maisky and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Kick of 92Y Season

by Robert Leeper

Orpheus and Mischa Maisky The 92Y’s season kicked off last Thursday with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra — best known for their conductor-less performances — performing with cellist Mischa Maisky. Schubert’s beloved “Arpeggione” Sonata, arranged for cello and string orchestra by Dobrinka Tabakova, was bookended by Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, and Tchaikovsky’s own Serenade for Strings.

Beginning life as as the slow movement of Arensky’s String Quartet No. 2, the variations on Tchaikovsky’s “Legend” from his Sixteen Children’s Songs were composed the year after Tchaikovsky’s death as a tribute to the late composer. Arensky's seven variations and coda all stay fairly close to the hymn-like theme. Particularly notable was the the fifth variation (Andante), which was given an exceptionally beautiful rendition.

Tchiakovsky's Serenade for Strings is written in Neo-Classical mode, and Orpheus delivered with Mozartian transparency and articulation. In the stately introduction, the noble theme was a given a warm reading and there was buoyancy and character in the main allegro section. The gracious Valse was sunny and light, while the Élégie was robust and evocative before teasing out bits of Russian flair tucked into the niceties of the finale.

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"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater

by Steven Pisano

"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

"We Shall Not Be Moved," which played at the Apollo Theater this week following its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia last month, is an urban opera that riffs on the history of the radical political group MOVE. Established in Philadelphia the early 1970s by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart), MOVE is vividly remembered for several violent confrontations with the police - including a 1985 firefight that killed 11 MOVE members (including 5 children) and which destroyed over 60 houses.

Against this intensely violent background, composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director Bill T. Jones have written a contemporary story of urban struggle. Five teenagers, who have veered in and out of trouble, find their school has been closed, so they squat in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia - which just so happens to be the former MOVE headquarters from the 1980s. The house is populated by peaceful ghosts dressed in gray sweatsuits who dance through the house and try to guide the teens.

But the teens have also caught the eye of Glenda, the local beat cop. She wonders why they are not in school during the day, and eventually their interactions escalate until one day the police officer accidentally discharges her gun and shoots one of the kids. The young people grab her gun, then hold her captive, not knowing exactly what to do now that everything has suddenly spun out of control.

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