Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Instructive but not particularly enjoyable:

Single-composer nights seem like a good idea, especially if the composer is your favorite. It can provide an opportunity to hear the composer’s growth and development and it encourages in-depth reflection on his/her style. Or might such programming simply lead to boredom from repetition, an appreciation of the composer’s limited range, and assorted compositional deficits? Judged by the number of times orchestras feature one composer, those doing the programming must think the positives outweigh the negatives. About four years ago, the Atlanta Symphony under music director Robert Spano played Sibelius’ Sixth and Seventh Symphonies together on one program. By the end of the concert, one had to ask how many more bleak landscapes, wind driven snow storms, and frozen lakes should one have to endure in one sitting. Click here for the full review:  


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Conversation with Maestro Michael Stern....

Maestro Michael Stern has embarked upon his second decade with the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic ascent, original programming, organizational development and stability, and the extraordinary growth of its varied audiences since his tenure began. Over the last five seasons, Stern and the orchestra
have ushered in a new era and have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their performance home, Helzberg Hall at the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Stern is also the founding artistic director and principal conductor of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tenn.  His other positions included being the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbr├╝cken Radio Symphony Orchestra,  the Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France,  and the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Stern received his music degree from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, “The Grammar of Conducting,” and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree
in American history.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spano and Theofanidis Reach New Heights...

Two titans of contemporary classical music paired for a second time to stage the masterpiece that is Creation/Creator. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Music Director and stalwart “headmaster” of the group that calls itself the “Atlanta School of Composers” Robert Spano, joined together with one of his star faculty members, composer Christopher Theofanidis, to again present this magnificent work in concert in Atlanta. Commissioned by the ASO, the oratorio’s first performance in 2015 was a tremendous success, and it resulted in a highly successful recording. For the complete review go here:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New CD from Domenic Salerini....

Check out music from Domenic Salerni's new album, titled "Atmospheric Lines."  He is a brilliant young violinist who lives near Philadelphia and recently joined the Dali Quartet.  He was the first classical music artist interviewed by AtlantaMusicCritic.com.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Great Vaughn Williams...

The program began with a quintessential piece of Americana by Aaron Copland, the suite from the ballet Appalachian Spring. The version played here was from 1945, in which the composer expanded the original 13-piece chamber orchestration to one for a larger symphony orchestra. The six-part work begins with a slow introduction designed to introduce the ballet’s characters, and it was performed with suitable restraint. The second section begins with a rapid announcement by the strings followed by an overly loud entrance by the brass. The third section, labeled Moderate, was a showcase for the flawless warmth of the woodwind section. The Quite Fast fourth section was rousing and the fifth section Still Faster had some wonderfully impressive unison playing by the violins. The Very Slow sixth section was beautifully moody and the final Calm and Flowing (known for its Simple Gifts theme) section was suitably spare, reverent and triumphant. The violin and flute duet at the work's conclusion was played magnificently, the two musicians matching each other perfectly, as if only one were playing, and almost creating the sound of a new instrument (maybe the violute or the flutolin!?). The final section had some orchestral imbalances, which may have been related to the size of the orchestra itself (neither a chamber orchestra nor a full-sized symphony ensemble).  For the complete review, click here:  https://bachtrack.com/review-vaughan-williams-francis-grosvenor-atlanta-february-2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

The best so far...

Early in my career, the joke was “Here comes the boss... look busy!” The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Music Director, Robert Spano, returned last evening to conduct his Orchestra. Not only did the ASO musicians look busy, but they played superbly, sounding ever so much like a “world-class ensemble”, an appellation to which they aspire. With Spano on the podium, it seems to have a focus and shared sensibility about the music being played, and all sections of the orchestra are on their best musical behavior. The Maestro seems to inspire a respect and an obligation to perform well among the musicians that sometimes is not always apparent with guest conductors. Furthermore, Spano never seems to provide less than a fully competent interpretation of most works, and often he is inspired, as in this performance.   For the complete review, click here:  https://bachtrack.com/review-mahler-spano-pohjonen-atlanta-symphony-february-2017
Robert Spano © Angela Morriss

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Runnicles takes it to the limit.....

One of the arguments for having guest conductors at symphony orchestras is that they can bring new perspectives and techniques to challenge the status quo of musicians and resident conductors. Like so much of life, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Maestro Donald Runnicles has been principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for about a decade. He has developed a reputation as someone who how can shake things up, in a good way, each time he visits. In tonight’s concert, he demonstrated some of what he does best: creating tight tempi, great ensemble among the musicians, rapport with the guest artist, and paying attention to the detail of dynamics, which he successfully communicates to the musicians. If one were to hear the ASO for the first time with Runnicles on the podium, it would sound like the world class orchestra it aspires to be.  For the complete review, go here:  https://bachtrack.com/review-runnicles-gerstein-atlanta-symphony-january-2017https://bachtrack.com/review-runnicles-gerstein-atlanta-symphony-january-2017

Photo:  Greg Mooney