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Calder Quartet Play Norman, Adès and Ravel at the Brooklyn Library

Calder Quartet, Brooklyn LibraryFor more than 40 years, Carnegie Hall has offered a series of free Neighborhood Concerts at theaters, libraries and community centers in all five boroughs. For many, these concerts - which run the gamut from classical, to jazz, to world music - are the only opportunity they have to hear some of the same world class music that graces the stage(s) of 57th and 7th on a nightly basis. 

Somehow, in all my years of NYC concertgoing, I've never managed to make it to one of these neighborhood concerts. Until last Sunday, when LA's Calder Quartet played a free show at the Brooklyn Central Library. The concert, which was held in the library's subterranean Dweck Center, drew a large crowd, obviously familiar with the Calder's reputation as one of this country's finest working quartets. (There was a bit of a snafu when most patrons showed up without seat reservations, but to Carnegie's credit, they were able to seat everyone who turned up.)

Unlike Calder's collaborations with Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth or Dan Deacon, this was a straight-up recital, featuring a trio of works that ranged from early 20th century to early 21st. Andrew Norman's melodic, pointillistic Sabina (2009) seemed to emerge from nowhere, slowly building in passionate intensity like the Roman sunrise that inspired it. 

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 9 Recap with Photos

DSC08172Austin, TX - The 9th edition of Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest tore up Auditorium Shores once again last weekend with a heady mix of indie, punk, metal, electronica, and everything in between. While things got off to a bit of a rough start on Friday, it turned out to be a beautiful weekend with sunny days and cool nights - perfect to see that long lost band you used to freak out to in your parents' basement, or that hot new act you keep missing every time they come to town. Only at Fun Fun Fun Fest is it possible to wander from sensitive alt-rock (Neutral Milk Hotel), to classic hardcore (Murder City Devils), to white hot hip-hop (Wiz Khalifa), all in less than an hour? Not to mention all of the afterparties - free with FFF wristband - which tore up Austin til the wee hours. 

Below is a highly selective sample of some of our favorite acts from the weekend. Additional pics from Friday here, Saturday here, and Sunday here

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Coffee Conversation: Alondra de la Parra

by Steven Pisano

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Photo by Steven Pisano


Conductor Alondra de la Parra is something of an anomaly. Aside from being a woman - still a rarity in the classical music world - she was raised in a country (Mexico) which isn't exactly heralded for it's contributions to classical music. Still, de la Parra, 34, has managed to carve out a successful career, first as music director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas - which she founded when she was still a student in order to showcase composers and performers from the Americas - and more recently as a globetrotting guest conductor. 

Fresh off of Saturday's Town Hall concert commemorating the Latin American holiday of El Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”), we had the chance to sit with Alondra to talk about her career, her Mexican heritage, and her love of music - classical and otherwise. 

On Being A Mexican Conductor: I was raised in Mexico - my parents are Mexican - and I still live there. I think growing up there gave me a sense of rhythm and a very particular sense of musicality and musicianship which I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t Latina, and specifically Mexican. Though nowadays, since I’ve lived in many places and move three or four times a month from one place to the other, I feel more like a citizen of the world. But my Mexican roots and my Mexican soul - that’s why I named my album Mi Alma Mexicana - will always remain.

On Latin American Composers:  I love showing the world that Mexican culture is much more than the clichés that people know us by, that we do have folklore, but not every piece of music is based on this. We also have music that is contemporary, that is inspired by European music, and I just like sharing the music of Latin American countries as being competitive in quality with music from anywhere else in the world.

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¡Viva México!: Alondra de la Parra and Natalia Lafourcade at Town Hall

by Steven Pisano

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Photo by Steven Pisano

El Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”) is a Latin American holiday when the dead are remembered a time to celebrate the lives of loved ones past. So it was appropriate that the Celebrate Mexico Now! Festival asked Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra to bring her Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) to perform at Town Hall on November 1.

Although this concert was a one-off - the POA was indefinitely suspended in 2011 - Ms. de la Parra was clearly overjoyed to be standing on the podium in front of the orchestra she created a decade ago to champion the music of Latin American composers, despite years of guest conducting orchestras around the world. And the musicians in the orchestra clearly loved being back together with her. How could you tell? Most orchestras do not smile this much! They played their instruments with great physicality, the violinists almost rising en masse out of their seats as they bowed their strings, like a flock of crows flying out of a wheat field. Weighing in at almost half the size of the New York Philharmonic, the POA packed a pound-for-pound sonic punch that filled Town Hall with a full, rich, and thrilling sound.

The orchestra performed music mostly by Mexican composers, such as Arturo Marquez (“Danzon No. 2”) and Jose Pablo Moncayo (“Huapango”). The one exception was a stirring and eerily menacing piece about Buenos Aires, “Tangazo,” by famed Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla. The orchestra's performance was strong enough that one openly wondered if it might soon perform again on a regular basis. Ms. de la Parra is currently under consideration to lead the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, so if she is successful, that may need to wait.

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