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February 2015

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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Vienna Philharmonic Perform Brahms with Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall

Vienna Philharmonic with Daniele GattiAn astonishing event last night at Carnegie Hall, with Daniele Gatti leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Brahms Symphonies No. 3 and 1 (in that order). More to come, but suffice to say these were among the most intense, passionate performances of these symphonies I've ever heard, rivaled only by Berlin's cycle five years ago.

More pics from last night's concert on the photo page

Preview: Vienna Philharmonic Brings Brahms Back to Carnegie Hall

Vienna Philharmonic, Carnegie HallAfter last year's month-long Vienna: City of Dreams festival, I seriously considered sitting out this weekend's appearance by the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, where they've visited almost every year since the 1950's. I mean, isn't there such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially when this year's program consists of Brahms' four symphonies and the German Requiem? (yawn.)

No. Because it's Vienna. Because it's Vienna playing Brahms. Because these concerts are led by the extraordinary Daniele Gatti, soon to be the Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Like Keats once said: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." Go, especially if you've never been. 

Tickets still available for all three concerts, available at the box office and online.

NOVUS NY, Trinity Choir and Washington Chorus Perform Ives and Ginastera at Carnegie Hall

Julian Wachner, NOVUS NY, Trinity Choir and Washington ChorusThinking back, I've seen some pretty massive concerts at Carnegie Hall over the years. There was Seiji Ozawa conducting Berlioz' Reqiuem with the BSO barely a month after 9/11/2001. Or James Levine conducting that same orchestra three years later in Mahler's 8th Symphony, requiring a stage extension and the removal of the first six rows of seats. Or last season's operatic performances by the St. Louis Symphony and the Vienna Staatsoper.

But, I hadn't heard anything at Carnegie quite so ambitious as last Saturday's production by Trinity Wall Street, featuring the combined forces of contemporary music orchestra NOVUS NY, the Trinity Choir and Trinity Youth Chorus, the Washington Chorus, and the boys and girls of the Washington National Cathedral Choir, all led by Trinity's Director of Music Julian Wachner. Wachner, who was also the mastermind behind the program featuring rarely performed works by Charles Ives and Alberto Ginastera, seemed completely at ease for someone making their Carnegie Hall debut, cracking jokes and leading the audience in an impromptu hymn singalong.

I first heard Ives' 4th Symphony two years ago by the Detroit Symphony at Carnegie as part of the annual Spring for Music festival. Written in 1924 but not given a complete performance until 1965 (also at Carnegie), the 4th symphony vacillates between wild cacophony and an almost simplistic tonality, quoting popular hymns of the day such as "Watchman" and "Nearer My God to Thee." As in the DSO performance, Wachner placed performers throughout the hall in order to amplify the work's spatial configurations: the chorus in the 1st tier boxes, a chamber orchestra up in the Dress Circle (conducted by Scott Allen Jarrett). From my seat in the center orchestra, the music seemed to be coming from all directions: no 2-track recording does this work justice. 

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