“I Know What I Like!”

by Sedgwick Clark

The other day Harris Goldsmith told me of a CD he thought impressive by duo-pianists Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia, and I was reminded again of the disconnect between young musicians and traditional subscribers. They perform under the billing Stephanie and Saar, which is how you should google them for info about this CD if you wish.

Anyway, here’s the repertoire—conservative, colorful, and eminently listenable:

Messiaen: Visions de l’Amen: IV. Amen du desir

Schubert: Sonata in B-flat, D. 619

Debussy/Ravel: Nocturnes

Janácek: Moravian Dances 1-12

Stravinsky: Pétrouchka: Scene IV – The Shrovetide Fair

Isn’t this scary? I’m confident that most hidebound subscribers (“I know what I like!”) would find this CD delightful in a blindfold test. But take off the blindfold, and you’d have half a house even with Schubert as a come-on. The problem is, such once-terrifying composers as Bartók, Stravinsky, and Varèse are mother’s milk to the younger generation of performers, and they want to play this music along with the three Bs.

It’s a quandary because the subscribers are the people who have the money to support the concerts; but the younger audiences who would embrace such music don’t have enough money to support a large presenting organization like Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center or even little Merkin Hall, which largely has turned away from the classics since its recent renovation.

Perhaps Alan Gilbert will be allowed to take a few chances at the New York Philharmonic, given that his first season’s overwhelming triumph was a semi-staged concert performance of Ligeti’s 1975 opera Le Grand macabre, followed by the all-Varèse concert two weeks ago at the Lincoln Center Festival. Maybe, one of these days, he’ll ask Stephanie and Saar to do a new concerto for two pianos.

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