Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Behind the scenes...

This is an interesting article about the behind-the-scenes activity that supports an international tour my a major orchestra: 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Oundjian is a keeper...

As part of its recognition of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, the ASO has scheduled several of his works throughout the year. It provides a great opportunity to hear and assess the works of the quintessential American composer, who, in recent years, is not heard quite as frequently as he once was. Bernstein’s strength was that he synthesized the cultural atmosphere of the time (including Pop music and Jazz) and applied the rigors of his musical genius to morph it into pieces for large orchestras. In contrast to other composers who delicately incorporated folk or Pop music into their works, Bernstein’s references are not subtle – he doesn’t just include themes or melodies – he adopts the energy, instrumentation, rhythms and colors of the popular culture. The Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free are good examples of the way in which this music, composed in 1944, is musically linked to the 1940s New York City zeitgeist. This, combined with his fairly limited orchestral palette, results in many pieces that often sound strikingly similar. The Dance Variations are bright, brassy, bold and rhythmically driven, but all too sonically familiar to anyone who has heard Bernstein’s other compositions. The Variations pieces were composed for the Ballet Theater and choreographer Jerome Robbins, and were the musical backdrop for three men competing to impress their female audience by each individually dancing a gallop, a waltz, and a danzon. Oundjian kept a brisk pace throughout the work and the ASO performed with enthusiasm, which ratcheted up the music’s already high energy.  For the complete review, go here:  https://bachtrack.com/review-saint-saens-bernstein-atlanta-s

Photo credit:  Dane Sponberg.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Guest Came to Dinner....

Atlanta's Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (STP) is a wonderful venue for chamber music.  It is resonant, the musicians are on seated on a raised stage so sight lines are quite good.  And for attendees, having the chance to purchase a meal is an added benefit.  Last evening, the Atlanta Chamber Players (ACPs) returned to the STP with guest Andres Cardenes.  It was a night of sublime music making.

The first two works on the program were by Sergei Prokofiev, a great Russian composer whose works have seen a recent resurgence because of the 125th anniversary of his birth.  Anyone growing up in the 1950's and whose parents had a television likely would have heard his music; it was frequently used in the live dramas (e.g., "Studio One") that made up the new medium's "First Golden Age."  The composer's ballets, symphonies, and movie scores are most familiar and it was a good choice of the ACP to program his lesser known "Five Melodies" and "Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin and Double Bass."  The "Melodies" is a piano-violin duet, here featuring  Elizabeth Pridgen and guest violinist Andres Cardenes.  The music is beautiful, but more boldly modern than Prokofiev's works for larger ensembles.  There are passages where it is almost as if the two parts are playing different pieces- but somehow the music is still very appealing.  Cardenes is a master of the violin and his instrument was one of the sweetest sounding in recent memory.  His playing style is very fluid as if the violin was an extension of his left hand and the bow of his right arm.  Pridgen, a strong and intense player, was a great match for Cardenes.  The 25-minute long "Quintet" was originally written for a post World War I chamber ballet. Its six movements contain some jazz-like sections, but it not to the degree that can be heard in Stravinsky's chamber ballet L'Histoire du Soldat, from roughly the same time period.  The addition of the oboe (played ably by Elizabeth Koch Tiscone) and the clarinet (played beautifully by Alcides Rodriguez) added to the jazz-like sound.

The final work was Schumann's stunning "Piano Quintet in E-flat major" featuring Cardenes, Helen Hwaya Kim (violin), Catherine Lynn (viola), Brad Ritchie (cello), and Pridgen.  This music is so lushly beautiful and full of wonderful melody that only a curmudgeon would dislike it.  Here again, Cardenes' playing soared; everything that made his performance so strong in the "Melodies" was even more evident here.

This was a great evening of fine music making by the ACP.  The program was nicely balanced and the venue is great.  The next concert of the ACP at the STP is April 17, 2018.  It will be titled "Octets at the Tavern."  For information, go here:  atlantachamberplayers.com

Monday, November 6, 2017

Markle delivers...

There are many variables that can affect the enjoyment of a symphonic performance, at the head of which is the relationship between the musicians and the conductor. If it is strong and productive, it can take a performance to new musical level. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Jun Märkl seem to have that kind of sympathetic relationship and it resulted in some fine music-making in this program. For the complete review go here: https://bachtrack.com/review-markl-cuervo-chamayou-atlanta-symphony-november-2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Let's here it for Ray Chen...

A few years ago, Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, guest conducted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a concert that was best described as unremarkable.  But, as is said, “second time is a charm” and so it was with Maestro Morlot and the ASO this week. Marketing for the concert said that the program represented composers who are “cheeky, irrepressible, brazen and poetic”. In spite of the hyperbole, the program was a great opportunity to hear some of the better music of the 20th century.  Click here for the full review:  https://bachtrack.com/review-morlot-chen-prokofiev-atlanta-october-2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Othello .

In the United States, there is a saying: “Go big, or go home.” This week’s concert by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was an example of “Going big and almost not going home.” As it has done over the several past seasons, the ASO artistic leadership decided to stage an opera in a concert setting with no props, no scenery, no costumes and almost no acting. Instead, there is simply chorus, soloists, and orchestra. For the complete review click here: https://bachtrack.com/review-otello-spano-thomas-williams-ford-atlanta-symphony-october-2017