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Boston Symphony Orchestra Brings Opera Back to Carnegie Hall

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Carnegie Hall, 1/30/24
by Pete Matthews

While I will always and forever cherish my summers seeing the Boston Symphony Orchestra up in their summer home at Tanglewood, it's always a treat (not to mention a convenience) to catch them here in NYC, where they've played Carnegie Hall just about every year since it opened in 1891. Some of those concerts have been among my most memorable experiences at Carnegie, such as Seiji Ozawa leading a 2001 performance of Berlioz' Requiem in tribute to the victims of 9/11, or the gargantuan forces assembled for Mahler's 8th symphony in James Levine's first appearance as Music Director in 2004.

The BSO returned to Carnegie this week with a pair of concerts under current Music Director Andris Nelsons that displayed an impressive breadth of repertoire. On Monday, they performed a colorful program that included Tania León's Pulitzer Prize-winning Stride, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (with Seong Jin-Cho) and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. I wasn't in the hall that night, but was able to hear the concert from the comfort of my couch thanks to WQXR's Carnegie Hall Live program; the Rite, in particular, was both deliberate and ferocious. (Soon, you'll be able to hear an archive broadcast of the concert here.)

I did, however, make it to last night's performance: an ambitious concert performance of Shostakovich's 1934 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. (The performance was rescheduled from April 2021 due to COVID.) Under Nelsons, who grew up in Latvia (formerly part of the Soviet Union), the BSO has recently completed a decade-long survey of Shostakovich's symphonies (all recorded for Deutsche Grammophon), so it's only natural that they now turn to Shostakovich's one traditional opera. (His earlier absurdist experiment The Nose appeared at the Met for the first time in 2010.) Begun when Shostakovich was only 24, Lady Macbeth shows a remarkable command of orchestration, a bounty of colorful, expressive singing - and one helluva juicy story about a woman trapped in a sexless marriage who seeks out - and finds - sex with someone else. Which leads to all kinds of trouble.

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Weekend Preview: Brooklyn Folk Festival, Benedict Sheehan's "Akathist", Durations Festival, and more

Brooklyn Folk Festival 2023

Benjamin Sheehan's Akathist: Nov. 10, at 7:30pm at Trinity Church Wall Street

Three years in the making, Benedict Sheehan’s oratorio Akathist weaves together a diverse array of musical languages—from medieval chant and minimalism to gospel and jazz—and is based on a unique text from the Eastern Orthodox tradition known as “Glory to God for All Things.” Featuring The Choir of Trinity Wall Street; Artefact Ensemble; NOVUS NY; Downtown Voices; Trinity Youth Chorus; and Elaine Kelly, conductor. Free. Also streaming online.

Brooklyn Folk Festival: Nov. 10-12 at St. Ann's Church

Now in its 15th year, the Brooklyn Folk Festival presents the best in American and world folk music, from NYC and around the world. Located at Brooklyn Heights' historic St. Ann’s Church (157 Montague St.) the 3-day festival includes 30+ bands, vocal and instrumental workshops, a square dance, film screenings, a Banjo Toss contest and more. Lineup includes legends like Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Alice Gerrard and David Johansen, alongside newcomers such as Nora Brown and Jake Blount. Single day tickets are $65; full festival pass is $145.

Durations Festival: Nov. 9-11 at Pioneer Works and Public Records

Tim Hecker, Laurel Halo and other adventurous practitioners of electronica headline this new festival billed as "a multi-instrumentalist exploration of sound, an intentional act of connection, and exploration of time as the intensive movement of body and mind.” Tonight's Tim Hecker show at Pioneer Works is sold out, but tickets are still available for the nightcap at Public Records, as well as tomorrow and Sunday's shows. More info here

Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels' Omar : Sat Nov. 11 at 10:30pm at San Francisco Opera

Rhiannon Giddens is having a Month. She completed a tour in support of her first original album, You’re the One (Nonesuch), which just today was nominated for two Grammys. She hosted the season-opening Live in HD broadcast of “Dead Man Walking” at the Met. And her own opera, “Omar” (co-written with Michael Abels) won the Pulitzer prize and is currently onstage at San Francisco Opera. If you can't be in SF, you can watch a live stream of Saturday's performance at 730 PST (replays available for 48 hours after).  

James Adler at Yamaha Artist Services Studio NY: Tues. Nov 14 at 7pm

The award-winning pianist and composer premieres his A Curtis Reflection, commissioned by Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music for their centenary in 2024, as well as works by composers Henco Espag, Paul Turok, Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, and Vladimir Horowitz. Free, but reservations are required.

Music Preview: Kronos Quartet at 50, Aimard Plays Ligeti at the NY Phil, Anthony Davis' "X" at the Met Opera, and a Kevin Puts Premiere at Paul Taylor Dance Company

Kronos Quartet at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, 7/21/22

There seems to be an overflow of musical treats on offer in NYC this week. And none of them have anything to do with ghouls or goblins. 

Thursday, 11/2

Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ligeti's Piano Concerto with the NY Phil: In what feels like a tiny bit of a stretch, the Phil is devoting part of its season to the centennial of iconoclastic composer György Ligeti, perhaps most famous for the otherworldly music Stanley Kubrick appropriated (without permission) for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which the Phil performed live a decade ago.) This week, longtime champion Pierre-Laurent Aimard arrives to perform Ligeti's fiendishly difficult piano concerto with conductor Susanna Mälkki, on a program that includes music by fellow Hungarians Liszt and Bartók. In addition, Aimard performs a late night set of Ligeti-inspired improvisations as part of the Phil's Nightcap series (11/4), and a solo recital (11/7) juxtaposing Ligeti's music with Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy. 

Friday 11/3

Kronos Quartet: Five Decades at Carnegie Hall: I don't remember the first time I saw Kronos live, but I feel they've been an indispensable part of my musical life for as long as I can remember. I mean, how many other string quartets can claim a Golden Anniversary (even if the only remaining original member is leader David Harrington)? In celebration, Kronos takes over Stern Auditorium with a massive lineup including Laurie Anderson, Tanya Yagaq, Wu Man, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Anthony Davis'  at the Met Opera : Only 37 years late, Anthony Davis' opera about the life of controversial civil rights leader Malcolm X arrives at the Met with a stellar cast led by baritone Will Liverman (Fire Shut Up My Bones) as Malcolm X. Davis has revised his score for this new production by director Robert O'Hara (Slave Play), conducted by Kazem Abdullah. If you can't make it to the house, the opera will be live streamed on the Met's website.

Saturday 11/4

Paul Taylor Dance Company at David Koch Theater: I don't usually cover dance here, but I'm making an exception for this Saturday's program, which includes a world premiere by Lauren Lovette (Echo) set to Kevin Puts' Contact, which he wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic for the charismatic trio Time for Three. They perform live onstage, with the Orchestra of St. Luke's in the pit.