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June 2013

New York Philharmonic Plays Dukas, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky

by Caroline Sanchez

NYPhil6.15.13

Having only ever seen the New York Philharmonic in outdoor venues as part of their Concerts in the Parks series, I can technically call Saturday night’s concert my first Phil-in-Fisher experience. It was no wonder that the Phil played to a packed Avery Fisher Hall, as the concert featured crowd-favorite composers Stravinsky, Prokoviev, Dukas, and Kodály, as well as a pair of top-notch guest artists, the conductor Lionel Bringuier and solo violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

The concert began with the familiar Sorcerer's Apprentice, the orchestral interpretation of Goethe’s fictional poem made famous in 1940 by Disney’s Fantasia. From the onset, Bringuier’s musical interpretation was received well by the orchestra; he was sensitive without being overly flashy, giving him the ability to enhance the comic quality found in Dukas’ score. 

Any fantasy created by Dukas’ work was sharply contrasted by the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by visiting soloist Leonidas Kavakos. LeonidasKavakosKnown for his long, winding melodic lines, Prokofiev created melodies in the concerto that hauntingly linger, grounded by unexpected harmonies and mechanical backing rhythms. Taking on the solo like a true virtuoso, Kavakos embodied the yearning and complexity that surrounds Prokofiev’s music, compelling the audience through all three movements. 

Stravinsky's Firebird can be identified as the ballet that started it all for the young composer, its success paving the way for several other commissions from the Ballets Russes, including The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. The Philharmonic provided a most visceral experience for the audience, triggering everything from head nods to shudders and gasps. The third movement and the final movement were a real highlight for Lionel Bringuier, whose slight variation in tempo confirmed that his conducting was not only pleasant to watch but musically effective, never getting in the way of the power of the music being created.

Information about the final performance of this program can be found on the event page at the Phil's website. 

LincolnCenter6.15.13


Stonewall Chorale Brings Fiery "Carmina Burana" to Church of the Holy Apostles

by Michael Cirigliano II

Stonewall Chorale, Carmina Burana, Pride Concert

Marking the end of their 36th season, the Stonewall Chorale—the nation’s first LGBTQ chorus—presented an intense reading of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, using its alternate orchestration of duo pianists and percussion ensemble. Although an avocational group, the chorale has built a reputation for committed performances, with a particular focus on delivering new music and increasing audience engagement. And as evidenced by the enthusiastic sold-out crowd Saturday night at the Church of the Holy Apostles, it is clear that the chorus’ footprint in the LGBTQ community is incredibly strong.

Leading the 60-member choir was Artistic Director Cynthia Powell, who meticulously directed the proceedings while communicating a great sense of rhythmic clarity from the combined forces. Given the percussive vocal writing Orff dictates throughout the work, Powell’s choice of the piano/percussion accompaniment was wise, allowing the smaller chorus to project while never forcing their sound; the result was an articulate presentation of the wordy texts and a resonant, crystalline timbre.

Both the bombastic material and the meditative chants were given room to breathe, and despite Powell quickly moving between the 25 movements with an acute brevity, the pacing was never forced—each phrase was pleasantly released and allowed the church’s acoustics to add polish to each movement’s final moment.

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Bonnaroo 2013: Sunday

bonnaroo 2013 press conference

One more panel in the press tent, with (l-r) Bob Saget, Matt Berninger (The National), Britt Daniel (Spoon, Divine Fits), Chris Stapleton, and Alex Sharpe (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros), who I unknowingly met coming out of the Port-o-San about an hour ago. When asked about their show last week at the Barclays Center, Berninger said it was "strange to play in a place that was the source of protests, given that Freddy's was the first place we ever played. But, it was still cool."

Berninger was also sanguine about what festivals like Bonnaroo have meant to musicians like them. "It's how we get paid. It's how we pay the rent, put food on the table. Most bands like ours will never get signed to a major label, so all of these festivals have allowed us to make a decent living."

Saget, for his part, said he's "looking forward to rolling around in the mud and having a kid piss ecstasy all over me." Right-o.
More pics from Saget, Edward Sharpe, Divine Fits, plus David Byrne & St. Vincent and closing headliner Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the photo page.

Bonnaroo 2013: Saturday

jack johnson bonnaroo 2013

Saturday at Bonnaroo couldn't possibly live up to the standard set by Paul McCartney's marathon set Friday night, but organizers were thrown a particularly gnarly curve ball when Saturday headliners Mumford & Sons abruptly canceled the remaining dates on their U.S. tour after bassist Ted Dwayne had surgery last week to remove a blood clot from his brain.

Fortunately, the Hawaiian folk-rocker Jack Johnson—who played the very first Bonnaroo and headlined here in 2008—was already on site to sit in with labelmates ALO, but mostly just to soak up the atmosphere. Miraculously, Johnson and his band, who hadn't played a legit show in over a year, organzied a two-hour set in less than 48 hours, taking the What Stage last night around 9PM as Bonnaroo's first-ever headlining replacement. Johnson even found time to pen a new song—called, simply, "Bonnaroo"—telling the tale of his last-minute recruitment, along with his longtime love for this festival, which he calls "one of my favorite places in the world." There were a few shaky moments and minor fuckups, but, given the circumstances, it was an impressive feat. 

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