Time to Catch Up

by Sedgwick Clark

Our Musical America Awards party was on Tuesday (12/17). As always, I got behind on my weekly blogs while preparing for the party. As always, in receiving their awards, our honorees spoke eloquently in words that left us all in awe of their commitment to their art. Susan Elliott provided a full report on our Web site the next day. For the record, the honorees were:

Audra McDonald, Musician of the Year

George Benjamin, Composer of the Year

Pablo Heras-Casado, Conductor of the Year

Jeremy Denk, Instrumentalist of the Year

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Ensemble of the Year

Shostakovich at Juilliard

A month ago in this space I raved about a November 15th Juilliard Orchestra concert and urged readers not to miss the following Monday’s concert (11/25) of early Shostakovich works conducted by Vladimir Jurowski: selections from the composer’s film score to The New Babylon (1929), a suite from music for a 1931 variety show, Hypothetically Murdered, and the teenage composer’s First Symphony, which was unusually clear and cogent in Tully Hall’s tight acoustic.

A quick scan of orchestral personnel revealed this to be an entirely different, and equally musical, group of players. The concertmaster, Francesca Rose dePasquale (a Master of Music student from the great family of strings that played in the Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony), was scintillating in her many solos throughout. A distinguished career will undoubtedly be hers.

I Remember Rosenkavalier

Based on memories of past Rosenkavaliers at the Met, I urged readers to see the current revival of the 1969 Nathaniel Merrill production before its rumored replacement. I caught it again on 12/7, and barring a new paint job I’m afraid I see the wisdom of its retirement (while quaking at the thought of what gawdawful updating a la the Met’s Las Vegas Rigoletto we might be in store for). I’m sorry to report that the cast had the notes but little more and that Edward Gardner’s conducting eviscerated the Met orchestra’s customarily sumptuous tone from first note to last and provided scant lilt in Strauss’s glorious waltzes.

We all have bad nights. A constant opera goer in my apartment building saw the next performance—four days later, from her usual seat in the Dress Circle, with the same cast and conductor—and said that it was far better than what I describe above.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

12/22 Carnegie Hall at 3:00. MET Orchestra/James Levine; Peter Mattei, baritone. Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Symphony No. 7.

12/27 Metropolitan Opera at 7:30. Verdi: Falstaff. James Levine, cond. Oropesa, Meade, Blythe, Cano, Fanale, Maestri, Vassallo.

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