Historical Pianists from Sony; Kronos at 40

by Sedgwick Clark

With copyrights soon to expire, several major labels are releasing huge box sets of their holdings for their Last Hurrah at ridiculously low prices. One of the first was Sony Classical’s complete Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series on 22 CDs for $45. Others from Sony are complete editions of Toscanini, Rubinstein, and Heifetz, with Horowitz on the way. Universal has released sets of Curzon, Ferrier, the complete operas of Wagner and Verdi, Solti’s Wagner Ring remastered, and two delicious 50-CD boxes of Mercury Living Presence with a third set reportedly in the works. Decca will celebrate the Britten centennial soon with all of the composer’s recordings in one mammoth set. And the prices are IN-SANE!

Graffman and Fleisher—Two OYAPs Complete

Sony Classical has just announced upcoming box sets of its complete recordings of Gary Graffman (on RCA and Columbia) and Leon Fleisher (Epic and Columbia), two of the pianists known in the early 1950s as OYAPs—Outstanding Young American Pianists. Others in the group included William Kapell, Julius Katchen, Eugene Istomin, Jacob Lateiner, and Claude Frank.

The 23-CD Fleisher set will be released on the pianist’s 85th birthday, July 23, and includes several famous concerto recordings with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven’s 5, the two Brahms, the oft-coupled Grieg and Schumann, and Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody. After trying out innumerable Beethoven sets over the past 40 years, I’ve given up trying—there are simply none I’ve ever heard to match the Fleisher/Szells—and the Brahms pair offers a blazing, young man’s view, especially of the turbulent First.

Graffman turns 85 on October 14 and will be fêted with a 24-CD set on September 24th. Among the treasures within will be Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, Tchaikovsky’s Second and Third Concertos with Ormandy and the Philadelphians, and the famous First with Szell and Cleveland. But my favorite Graffman recording is of the First and Third Prokofiev concertos with Szell and Cleveland. I’ll never forget hearing this Third for the first time; few recordings in my collection trigger goose pimples as vividly.

Both artists, by the way, produced delightful memoirs. Fleisher collaborated with the Washington Post’s chief classical music critic, Anne Midgette, in My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music (Doubleday, 2010). Graffman’s alliterative I Really Should Be Practicing: Reflections on the Pleasures and Perils of Playing the Piano in Public (Doubleday, 1982) is particularly puckish.

And now, Sony, you could give pianophiles triple pleasure by releasing the Epic and Columbia recordings made by a third American pianist from this generation, Charles Rosen, who died last December at age 85. While hailed for his lucid performances of 20th-century classics—solo works by Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartók, Carter, and Boulez—his recordings of works by Bach and Beethoven received equally high acclaim. Rosen was Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 2008.

Lincoln Center Hails Kronos at 40

Here’s another cringe-inducing fact of life for old-timers: the Kronos Quartet is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. (It was disturbing enough when Kronos was on Musical America’s cover ten years ago!) So we’ll just note the fact and point out that Lincoln Center Out of Doors is putting on 28 Kronos concerts and events between July 24-28. No one who knows Kronos will be surprised that the most up-to-date accessories will be utilized in its performances, to wit a composition by Dan Deacon that “features one of his most recent crowd-participation creations: a light-show generated by audience smartphones via his downloadable app.”

Here, courtesy of DotDotDotMusic, are complete programs. Each evening of KRONOS at 40 touches on a distinct programming theme: 

  • The opening evening, Wednesday, July 24, is inspired by the kinetic sounds of Afrobeat music, with Superhuman Happiness and drumming legend Tony Allen, and members of Broadway’s Fela! The festivities begin with Mark Dendy’s new site-specific dance work for 80 dancers, set to classic Kronos recordings from its Nonesuch catalog. 
  • In the Thursday, July 25 program, indie rock meets eclectic art song with My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden), multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells, and Ukrainian singer Mariana Sadovska
  • Diverse global sounds rule the Friday, July 26 offerings, including Greek singer/multi-instrumentalist Magda Giannikou, Irish music supergroup The Gloaming, and Vietnamese musician Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ.  
  • Saturday, July 27 is family day, with kids’ music hero Dan Zanes, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the gifted Pannonia Quartet from the Special Music School’s Face the Music program. 
  • The grand finale, Sunday, July 28, features premieres by rock experimentalists Jherek Bischoff, Dan Deacon, and Amon Tobin

Following are further details, by date and with programs in order of artist appearance; all programs are subject to change. 

And don’t forget about the companion exhibition. The New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Plaza Corridor Gallery, is presenting For the Record: The World of Kronos on Nonesuch Records through August 30. The exhibition features original Kronos album cover artwork, composers’ manuscript materials, international awards, Kronos listening stations, and more. Further details at http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/record-world-kronos-nonesuch-records. 

Wednesday, July 24
This concert anticipates the upcoming album release, Red Hot + Fela, organized by HIV/AID awareness and relief organization, Red Hot. The program celebrates the legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, and human rights activist. 

6 pm – Mark Dendy Dance & Theater Projects  Ritual Cyclical  World Premiere Josie Robertson Plaza

7:30 pm – Superhuman Happiness: Music from How to Survive a Plague  Damrosch Park Bandshell

Red Hot + FELA LIVE! (World premiere)
Featuring: Tony Allen and Superhuman Happiness
with Baloji, Abena Koomson, Kronos Quartet, Sahr NgaujahSinkane, and Kalmia Traver
Musical Director: Stuart Bogie     

Thursday, July 25
Vocalist/composer Sadovska joins Kronos in the premiere of her work regarding the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster of 1986, which took place in her native Ukraine.

6 pm – Mark Dendy Dance & Theater Projects (see July 24) Josie Robertson Plaza

7:30 pm – Kronos Quartet with special guest Mariana Sadovska (voice): Chernobyl.The Harvest. ​ US premiere  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– Emily Wells  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– My Brightest Diamond  Damrosch Park Bandshell

Friday, July 26
Kronos is joined by Greek composer/performer Giannikou on the laterna, a hand-cranked, portable barrel piano popular in Greece in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Võ on traditional Vietnamese instruments, including the dan tranh zither. Found Sound Nation creates music from passers-by and environmental sounds.  

4:00 pm – Found Sound Nation  Josie Robertson Plaza

6 pm – Chinese American Arts Council: Romance of the Iron Bow  Josie Robertson Plaza

7 pm – Magda Giannikou: traditional Greek laterna music  Josie Robertson Plaza

7:30 pm – The Gloaming  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– Kronos Quartet  Damrosch Park Bandshell

Program to include:
Omar Souleyman (arr. Jacob Garchik):  La Sidounak Sayyada (I’ll Prevent the Hunters from Hunting You)
Alter Yechiel Karniol (arr. Judith Berkson):  Sim Sholom
Ramallah Underground (arr. Jacob Garchik): Tashweesh

Traditional/Kim Sinh (arr. Jacob Garchik) Lưu thủy trường
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ / Selections from All Clear
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ / Queen of the Night
    with special guest Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võdan tranh

Ram Narayan (arr. Kronos, transc. Ljova): Raga Mishra Bhairavi: Alap

Magda Giannikou / Strophe in Antistrophe  World premiere            �
with special guest Magda Giannikou, laterna, Keita Ogawa and Marcelo Woloski, percussion

Saturday, July 27
“Family Day”
Featuring boundary-stretching, innovative, new work being created for and performed by the next generation of young artists, including many who have collaborated with Kronos. With Latin, Hip-hop, rock, funk band Ozomatli from Los Angeles, and the group’s family-friendly offshoot, OzoKidz. 

11:30 am – 2 pm / 4:30 – 7:30 pm – Found Sound Nation Josie Robertson Plaza

12 pm – 4 pm – Craig Woodson, MC Hearst Plaza

            Elena Moon Park & Friends
            Face the Music – Pannonia Quartet
                        Aleksandra Vrebalov / Pannonia Boundless 
                        Steve Reich / Different Trains 
                        Michael Daugherty / Sing Sing: J. Edgar Hoover 

            Brooklyn Youth Chorus

            Play-Along Concert with Kronos

5 pm – OzoKidz  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– Dan Zanes & Friends: Tribute Lead Belly  Damrosch Park Bandshell
             Program to include: Huddie Ledbetter / Grey Goose

8 pm – Ozomatli  Damrosch Park Bandshell

Sunday, July 28
The final concert of Kronos’s week at LCOOD features experimental pop composer/electric guitarist Bischoff, who will perform with Kronos; Deacon, who will appear with the group on live electronics, involving the audience with a smartphone app; and, from Russia, 21-year-old Juilliard Teaching Fellow Boguinia, the youngest composer to be premiered by Kronos this season. Amon Tobin’s Notoation receives its East Coast premiere on this program also. Kicking things off are Jacob Garchik’s self-proclaimed “atheist trombone shout choir” The Heavens, and new-music marching band provocateurs Asphalt Orchestra, performing their arrangement of The Pixies’ breakthrough album Surfer Rosa on the 25th anniversary of its release. 

3:30 pm – 6 pm – Found Sound Nation  Josie Robertson Plaza

6 pm – Parades: Asphalt Orchestra and Jacob Garchik’s The Heavens  Josie Robertson Plaza

6:30 pm – Asphalt Orchestra premieres The PixiesSurfer Rosa  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– Jacob Garchick’s The Heavens  Damrosch Park Bandshell

– Kronos Quartet  Damrosch Park Bandshell
Program to include:
Bryce Dessner / Aheym (Homeward)�
Nicole Lizée / Death to Kosmische
Clint Mansell (arr. Kronos Quartet) / Death is the Road to Awe (from The Fountain)
Amon Tobin (realized by Joseph Colombo) / V838 Monocerotis  East Coast premiere
Jherek Bischoff A Semiperfect Number  World premiere
             with special guest Jherek Bischoff, bass guitar
Yuri Boguinia / On the Wings of Pegasus  World premiere
Clint Mansell (arr. Kronos Quartet) / Death is the Road to Awe from The Fountain
Dan Deacon / Four Phases of Conflict for string quartet, electronics, and audience  World premiere
             with special guest Dan Deacon, electronics 

For further details visit http://www.lcoutofdoors.org. See you at Lincoln Center!

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