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April 2015

Australian Chamber Orchestra at Zankel Hall

Australian Chamber OrchestraThe chamber orchestra is a unique musical animal, combining the fleetness of a string quartet with the power of a full symphony orchestra. Once the standard performance ensemble of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the chamber orchestra has experienced a renaissance e over the past few decades, courtesy of crack bands like the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and New York's own Orchestra of St. Luke's

Add to that list the Australian Chamber Orchestra, who performed Sunday afternoon at Carnegie's Zankel Hall. Regarded as one of Australia's leading ensembles since it was founded 40 years ago, the ACO has been led for the past 25 years by lead violinist and artistic director Richard Tognetti, who performs with the buoyant enthusiasm of someone half his age.

The ACO began with Tognetti's own string arrangement of Prokofiev's piano cycle Visions fugitives, Op. 22. Performing while standing, the ACO, dressed stylishly in black, exuded energy and confidence in this music, filled with Russian fire. 

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Michel Camilo "Three+Three" at the Blue Note

by Nick Stubblefield

michel camilo three+three, blue note

Growing up playing piano, I was often asked, "Who is your favorite pianist?" It was a tough question, and the fact was that pretty much all of them had passed on, or would soon. That changed when I discovered Dominican-born pianist Michel Camilo, who soon became my favorite living jazz pianist. Camilo plays with furious energy and deep emotion, a line that is often difficult to walk. He can absolutely defy physics with the repeated chords he hits with his right hand, but his virtuosity always seems to serve a larger musical purpose -- one that is fiery, groovy, and heaps of fun. 

Last week, the dynamic Camilo brought his trio, along an additional three piece horn section, to the Blue Note for a show he dubbed "Three+Three."  The core trio, consisting of Camilo, Lincoln Goines, (bass), and Cliff Almond (drums) played with the kind of easy synchronization that only comes from years of familiarity with each other. Michael Mossman (trumpet), Ralph Bowen (sax and flute), and Conrad Herwig (trombone) complemented the trio sound perfectly, each taking vicious, masterful turns on solos. The added "Three" had the added benefit of allowing Camilo to play his compositions that are often reserved for his big band.

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Handel's "Orlando" at the Whitebox Art Center

by Christina Klessig

Orlando, Whitebox Art Center
Entering into the minimalistic Whitebox Art Center on Friday night was like stepping into a rehearsal space at Julliard, the only stage set an empty five seat park bench on risers. Seeing two donation boxes with small amounts of cash at the entrance raised some red flags about the quality of the production of Handel's Orlando I was about to see, but once the houselights went down, I knew this was going to be something special.

I was there for a preview of Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando, directed by R.B. Schlather. Schlather didn’t simply update the setting to modern times, he actively modernized the interpretations of Handel’s baroque lyrics to coincide with our modern day expectations of body language and communication. There was deep emotion in the acting, which allowed the strong vocal performances to wash over the space. Towards the end, the performance began to blur the lines between opera and performance art - perhaps not unexpected in a space that doubles as an art gallery. The orchestra could have used a few more rehearsals, but otherwise this was an intriguing reinterpretation of this nearly 300 year old masterpiece. 

The final performance of Orlando at the Whitebox Art Center is tonight at 7pm. A limited number of rush tickets are still available; more info available online