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New Year, New Leaf: Igor Levit at Carnegie Hall

Igor Levit at Carnegie Hall
Well, it's been a rough couple of months here in NYC. Just when we thought we were almost done with COVID-19, it came roaring back around Thanksgiving, shutting down bars, restaurants - and lots of live music. This month alone has seen the cancellation of both the PROTOTYPE opera festival (they say it's "postponed") and the Winter JazzFest Marathon (which is now the "Virtual Marathon," which started this week.) Not to mention seemingly half the shows I see listed on Ohmyrockness.

The city's opera and concert halls, on the other hand, have largely kept their doors open, which is ironic given the relative size of their auditoriums and potential risk of infection. Guess some folks like to freak out more about Omicron than others. (Full disclosure: I caught COVID just before Christmas, and experienced relatively mild symptoms for about a week. Thank you, Pfizer!)

One of those venues that's persevered is Carnegie Hall, which has navigated this year's various COVID-related travel restrictions by filling its three stages with soloists, chamber groups, and the occasional local orchestra. To be frank, it's not been a banner year of programming thus far. BUT, things are ramping up quickly here in 2022, with stalwarts such as the Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and the Emerson String Quartet all set to perform in the coming weeks. 

Safety is of course a top priority at Carnegie, and was in clear evidence Thursday night by the line snaking around the corner of 57th and 7th to check ID's and proofs of vaccination. Fair warning: all tickets now come with a designated entry time and one of several designated entrances, though I'd recommend getting there at least a half hour before curtain regardless of what your ticket says. And, for God's sake, don't forget your mask!

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It's Been a Year

Prospect Park BandshellAlmost impossible to believe, but it was a year ago today that I saw my last live concert: the NY Philharmonic with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and conductor Louis Langrée. From what I recall, was a fine concert, mostly memorable for Leonard's radiant performance and Scriabin's massive Poem of Ecstasy ("basically a 20 minute sexcapade, slowly building from soft murkiness to a deafening crescendo.") At the time, it felt like something of an afterthought after having just sat through complete cycles of Beethoven's symphonies and string quartets. Had I known, I would have appreciated it more. 

Most New York performing arts institutions - the Phil, the Met, Carnegie Hall and the lot - are tentatively scheduled to return in the fall. Still no word about the summer outdoor festivals, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Celebrate Brooklyn and Summerstage can pull something together.  I'm less optimistic about the Bowery venues, jazz clubs and other indoor spaces that get their energy from teeming, exuberant crowds; personally, I'd rather wait until everyone gets their shot than see a show in a half-full Bowery Ballroom. 

For music lovers, this has been a nightmare year; for musicians and venue personnel, it's been far more devastating. But, everything looks up when you're down on the floor, and I know we'll all be back out there someday. Until then, stream away and drop a dollar in the bucket of your local busker. IMG_8893


Music at Home

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Ok, being stuck at home sucks, but at least we have modern technology to get us through the day. And no, I don't mean bingeing Tiger King. There is a ton of great, free music streaming online, too much to list here. NPR Music has a great running tally here, which I use as my basic go-to guide. Below are some highlights (all times EDT).

Opera: Just yesterday, I watched John Adams conduct his own Nixon at China at the Met Opera, one of the Met's daily free live streams. Today's opera, Bizet's Pearl Fishers, will be available until tomorrow night. (Pro tip: as long as you start watching before 6:30pm, you can pause it and resume at some later point.) Among other opera companies, the Vienna State Opera is currently streaming Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. Meanwhile, the Met Museum is sharing their recent performance of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thompson's The Mother of Us All at 7pm.

Classical: The Berlin Philharmonic continues to make its entire archive of high quality digital streams available for free. Closer to home, the NY Phil is offering select videos of past concerts here

Jazz: Fred Hersch has been doing a daily stream on Facebook every day at 1pm. At 7pm, Chick Corea is playing as part of the Live from Our Living Rooms festival, followed by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh. At 8pm, Lizz Wright appears courtesy of SF Jazz (this one costs $5 for a 1-moth membership.) And, Christian McBride hosts a listening party at Jazz House Kids with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cecile McLorin and Melissa Walker.

Lots of streaming shows from the rock, roots and experimental worlds listed here and elsewhere.