Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Gorgeous evening in Zagreb...

The Zagreb Philharmonic makes its home in the Vatroslav Lisinki Concert Hall in the Nu Zagreb neighborhood.  It was opened in 1973 and has undergone at least two major interior renovations, but its exterior remains essential in its late-mid-century style. It has 1841 seats with no balconies and no side boxes.  The floor of the hall is a continuous slope from the stage level to about three stories.  There are no center columns, so there are unbroken sight lines throughout.  The visible walls of the auditorium are covered in a rich, golden brown, walnut-colored wood.  The stage appeared to be exceptionally wide, with space to house the organ console, the pipes of which are located behind the stage.   The auditorium is very important to the sound of this orchestra as will be noted.
The orchestra tuned on stage, much like is done in the US, but unlike what is done in Vienna, for example. The concertmaster tunes the orchestra by actually walking through it to each section. The audience never once rose to its collective feet for a standing ovation, as seems to be de rigueur in the US.
  
The program began with Shlomo Mintz conducting  “Hommage a Bach” by Croatian composer Boris Papandopulo, who lived from 1906 to 1991.  Mostly unknown in U.S. concert halls, he created a large body of works ranging from ballets, to operas, to chamber works.  This “Hommage” was derivative and unimaginative, but sounded like the master in modern dress.

The next work was Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins- likely one of his most popular and frequently heard works.  Maestro Mintz was joined by Ukraine-born violinist Orest Shourgot, who was once concertmaster of the Zagreb Philharmonic.  He currently holds Croatian citizenship.  The two violinists created musical magic in this performance.  It was note-perfect, and showed a warmth and regard for the music that was impressive.  Mintz, of course, is one of the leading violinists today, and Shourgot seemed equally gifted. This was a magnificent performance. 

The final work on the program was Brahms’s Symphony No. 2.  This was the work that demonstrated the magnificent acoustics of the Lisinsky auditorium.  The hall provides warmth and beautiful reverberation, without a trace of muddiness.  This was particularly noticeable when the tympani played; each strike was crisp and clean, but never cold.  In addition, the first and second violins were nicely spotlighted, yet always integrated with the sound of the entire orchestra.  It was not a perfect performance (the horns had occasional trouble), but it was transcendent.  The sound of the orchestra was so burnished that it was easy to totally engage the thinking brain, and simply enjoy a masterpiece- played by a wonderful orchestra, led by a talented conductor in a lovely sounding hall.  This is when one can truly appreciate the power of a grand work by a grand master. 


When the concert was over, it was a short walk through the Viennese-like lower town, past Zagreb’s beautifully lit Baroque museums to the city center.  In all, the whole evening was gorgeous.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

AMC Maestro Series: A Conversation with Vasily Petrenko..

Maestro Petrenko was a wonderful interviewee.  He is thoughtful, self-confident and quick.  It is no surprise that he is in demand around the world.


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:  

https://bachtrack.com/review-rachmaninov-spano-hough-atlanta-symphony-april-2017

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:
Www.bachtrack.com/review-theofanidis-creation

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