Sweeney, Perahia, and Honeck

By Sedgwick Clark

I often attend some 20 concerts a month, with many going unreported. The death on April 2 of my long-time friend and colleague Harris Goldsmith occupied my thoughts completely, and my tribute to him appeared as a Musicalamerica.com news story on April 7. Instead of several separate reviews, last week’s blog dealt with a single conductor I admire, Gianandrea Noseda, who led three orchestras in different venues in the New York area: The Met Orchestra in two Met productions, the Israel Philharmonic in Newark, and the Philadelphia Orchestra on its home territory, Verizon Hall. So let’s try to catch up some of those concerts I’ve neglected in the past month, beginning with three in March.

The NYPhil’s Sweeney Todd

Some old poops think the Philharmonic should stick exclusively to the symphonic repertory. That’s balderdash—at least regarding classic American music theater, which is so much a part of our heritage. When the Phil can gather the superb likes of Bryn Terfel (Sweeney), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Lovett), and Audra McDonald (the Beggar Woman), along with a topnotch supporting cast, marshalled by Music Director Alan Gilbert at his best, in a semi-staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney, I’ll savor that any day over another Dvořák “New World,” which the orchestra has been playing to death for the past 25 years. (I know the Phil has a certain imprimatur on the symphony, as it premiered it in Carnegie Hall in 1893, and it is a great piece, but come on, guys.) Sweeney was taped for a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast on PBS, soon to be announced. Don’t miss it.

Murray Perahia

Once again, Perahia offered the most satisfying recital I heard all year, on March 9 at Avery Fisher Hall, a venue whose drier, more focused acoustics I prefer for solo recitals over Carnegie Hall. Among the American pianist’s exquisite performances were a reflective Bach French Suite No. 4, a Beethoven “Appassionata” Sonata with expressive hills and dales yet all the requisite fire one could desire, a playful Schumann Papillons (over which I recall Harris especially enthused; he always loved Perahia’s playing), and three Chopin Etudes and the Scherzo No. 2 that benefitted from the pianist’s refusal to overpower the works’ virtuosity. There was a time when Perahia unfortunately reacted adversely to critical descriptions of his performances as “small scale” by playing more forcefully, which may have led to the injuries that caused a temporary suspension of his career. For the third season in a row such tendencies appear happily to be in the past. There is no other pianist I would rather hear.

Honeck, not Dudamel, at the Phil

What a spate of conductor cancellations in New York of late. At Carnegie Hall’s Vienna Festival, Daniele Gatti cancelled Wozzeck on February 28 due to “acute inflammation of the tendon in both shoulders,” with Franz Welser-Möst stepping in [blog 3-14-14]. Gatti’s appearance in a Vienna Philharmonic concert on March 15 was also cancelled, with Christoph Eschenbach subbing. Two weeks ago, Lorin Maazel cancelled two Munich Philharmonic all-Strauss concerts at Carnegie due to “illness” (after he had stood in for Gatti in a Vienna Phil concert in Los Angeles). Valery Gergiev, Maazel’s controversial successor as music director in Munich next year, flew in from London for one day to conduct the first Carnegie concert, cancelling a concert in Siberia in the process. Fabio Luisi, in town to rehearse the Met’s La Cenerentola, led the second Carnegie concert.

At the end of March, Gustavo Dudamel cancelled a highly anticipated (for once the phrase is accurate!) engagement at the NYPhil due to “severe flu,” not long after a Los Angeles Philharmonic American tour that included a pair of Lincoln Center concerts [blog 3-20-14]. In his stead was Pittsburgh Symphony Music Director Manfred Honeck leading Dudamel’s program, Claude Vivier’s Orion and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. I’ve been waiting for Honeck to impress me as much as he apparently does my colleagues. This time I walked out thinking he must be deaf, or at least soon will be. The ferocity with which he unleashed the Philharmonic brass in Avery Fisher Hall was unmerciful to the audience, the players’ longevity, and to Bruckner’s reputation.  The night I attended, an audience member let go with a loud “whew” during the long silence following the triple-forte onslaught before the third-movement coda.  A couple of sensitive moments, such as the velvety string attack in bar 155 of the finale, were reminiscent of the 1966 Karajan recording, but otherwise I yearned for Erich Leinsdorf, who knew how to get a warm, idiomatic tone from this traditionally anti-Bruckner orchestra. I enjoyed the Vivier piece, despite or perhaps because of its nods to Varèse, Messiaen, and the opening of Das Rheingold and would not mind hearing it again.


Looking Forward

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

4/25 Metropolitan Opera at 7:30. Rossini: La Cenerentola. Fabio Luisi, cond. Joyce DiDonato (Cinderella), Javier Camarena (Don Ramiro, the prince), Alessandro Corbelli (Don Magnifico, the wicked stepfather), Patricia Risley and Rachelle Durkin (Tisbe and Clorinda, the wicked stepsisters), Luca Pisaroni  (Alidoro).

4/28 Symphony Space at 7:30. Cutting Edge Concerts/Victoria Bond. Performances by Sequitur, loadbang, and Mivos. New works by Harold Meltzer, Andy Kozar, Carlos Cordeiro, Jeffrey Gavatt, William Lang, Victor Lowrie, Josh Modney, Olivia De Prato, and Mariel Roberts.

4/29 Zankel Hall at 6:00. Augustin Hadelich, violin; Steven Schick, percussion; Paul Lazar, actor. David Lang: Mystery Sonatas (world premiere). John Cage: Indeterminacy and 27’10.554” for a percussionist.

4/30 Carnegie Hall. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Robert Spano. Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Evelina Dobracheva, soprano; Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor; Stephen Powell, baritone. Britten: War Requiem.

5/1 Carnegie Hall. Richard Goode, piano. Janáček: On the Overgrown Path, Book I (selections). Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze. Debussy: Préludes, Book I.

5/2 Carnegie Hall. Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Lisa Batiashvili, violin. Barber: Adagio for Strings. Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 1. Bruckner: Symphony No. 9.

5/5 Carnegie Hall at 7:30. Spring for Music. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Jacques Imbrailo, baritone; Westminster Symphonic Choir; Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Christopher Rouse: Requiem (N.Y. premiere).

5/6 Carnegie Hall at 7:30. Spring for Music. Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot. John Luther Adams: Become Ocean (N.Y. premiere). Varèse: Déserts. Debussy: La Mer.

5/7 Carnegie Hall at 7:30. Spring for Music. Rochester Philharmonic/Michael Christie; singers from the Eastman School of Music Opera Department. Hanson: Merry Mount (complete concert performance).

5/8 Avery Fisher Hall at 7:30. New York Philharmonic/Bernard Haitink; Leonidas Kavakos, violin. Webern: Im Sommerwind. Berg: Violin Concerto. Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).

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