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Club Free Time Blog

Armchair Travelogue


Gail Wein
November 06, 2018

One of the greatest aspects of the New York concert scene is that it’s a mecca for accomplished performers from all over the globe. This month we are graced with a number of outstanding visiting artists.

The Hungarian State Opera and Hungarian National Ballet bring their considerable talents to Lincoln Center with performances through November 11. Concurrently, the celebrated Hungarian conductor, Ivan Fischer, leads the New York Philharmonic in works by Schubert and Beethoven, November 7, 8 and 10.
The Hungarians aren’t the only Eastern Europeans to bring their wealth of culture to New York this month.

The Silesian String Quartet from Poland performs works by their landsmen, Lutosławski, Szymanowski and others on November 6 in the intimate hall at The Morgan Library and Museum. Also from Poland, “Voices of the Mountains”, an enormous multi-genre program at Carnegie Hall on November 14. The Polish National Opera (aka Teatr Wielki), along with jazz, folk and other classical musicians perform music by their fellow Poles, including Gorecki, Kilar and Szymanowski. And on November 30, Downtown Voices, an excellent New York City group, brings a program of Estonian choral music to our fair city. Some of the most exquisite sounds ever heard is vocal music from Estonia; I have always found this music to be an ethereal and moving experience.

In addition to the wealth of talent from Eastern Europe: A homegrown performance of Benjamin Britten’s eerie chamber opera “Turn of the Screw” is not to be missed, it’s at Juilliard on November 14, 16 and 18. The Danish String Quartet performs at 92Y on November 17, and if you can get a ticket, you’ll hear why the foursome is in such hot demand.

The Dover Quartet – an exceptional young ensemble - performs at Washington Irving High School on November 10. The recital is on the high-quality low-price Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, and the group has been designated the first Resident Ensemble of the series.

Enjoy the music!


Big Winners


Gail Wein
October 01, 2018

The largest cash prize in chamber music is the recently instituted ‘M-Prize Competition’ at the University of Michigan. Last year, the grand prize winner, to the tune of $150k, was the group Russian Renaissance, an eclectic combination of Russian string instruments (balalaika, domra and the insanely large contrabass balalaika) and button accordion. They say they perform “high caliber traditional folk music through a modern lens,” and the best way to find out what that sounds like is to head over to Washington Irving High School’s auditorium on October 13 for the Peoples’ Symphony presentation of this unusual and highly accomplished young group.

If you find you love the sound of the accordion in Russian Renaissance, you’re in luck, because Young Concert Artists has selected its first ever accordionist for its roster this year. Hanzhi Wang makes her New York debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on October 22, which is also the concert that opens Young Concert Artists’ New York season. Ms. Wang is joined by the Zora String Quartet for music from Mozart to Piazzolla.

In addition to these instruments seldom heard on the classical concert stage, there are a number of A-List artists coming to town this month. The Czech Philharmonic brings an outstanding program and performers to Carnegie Hall on October 27. Semyon Bychkov conducts an all-Dvorak program, including the Cello Concerto with Alisa Weilerstein as soloist. Heartthrob tenor Jonas Kaufman brings an evening of operetta to Carnegie, accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s on October 5. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble performs at 92Y on October 16, and the chamber choir Stile Antico performs music from Renaissance England, including works by William Byrd and John Dowland. The concert on October 13 is presented by Miller Theatre, but takes place at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The Morgan Library & Museum celebrates the 350th birthday of François Couperin on October 16.  Les Talens Lyriques perform works by the French Baroque composer, including music composed for the court of Louis XIV.


Another Opening, Another Show


Gail Wein
August 29, 2018

Reach into the back of your closet and pull out your fancy hat and your (faux) fur coat – it’s time to get ready for the glamour of season opening galas. You don’t actually need a tux or an evening gown to attend these glitzy opening night performances - just a ticket in hand – though I promise you the people-watching will be first-rate.

First up is New York Philharmonic’s opening night on September 20, featuring the Phil’s new music director, Jaap Van Zweden. Van Zweden conducts the young phenom pianist Daniil Trifonov and the orchestra in Ravel’s Piano Concerto. Also on the program, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (which is reported to have caused a riot at its premiere 100 years ago) and the world premiere of a work by the atmospheric composer Ashley Fure, commissioned by the NY Phil. Just a few days later, another caravan of limos will pull up to Lincoln Center Plaza as celebs arrive for the glitz of Metropolitan Opera’s opening night on September 24. Fiery-hot mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča and tenor Roberto Alagna star in Saint-Saëns’s epic Samson et Dalila.

Carnegie Hall always brings in big-name artists for their opening night, and this year – October 3 – is no exception. Superstar soprano Renee Fleming and Broadway diva Audra McDonald join the San Francisco Symphony, led by Michael Tilson Thomas. The program features Gershwin’s An American in Paris and songs and arias from opera and musical theater.

Some other performing arts series present their first performance of the season with much less fanfare, though the artists and programs are definitely notable. On September 14 at St. Paul’s Chapel, New York Baroque Incorporated with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street presents music by three of the Bach family. On September 15, mezzo-soprano Julia Bullock opens the Met Live Arts season with "History's Persistent Voice”, a recital featuring traditional slave songs and words by Black American artists from the southeastern United States, set to original compositions by Tania León, Courtney Bryan, Jessie Montgomery, and Allison Loggins-Hull.

The first of Miller Theater’s Composer Portrait series highlights the composer Missy Mazzoli with the New York premiere of her chamber opera Proving Up on September 26 and 28. The work is set in post-Civil War Nebraska and relates a harrowing tale of one family's pursuit of the American Dream.

If you crave an appetizer to these richly-programmed season openers, consider taking in the pianist Taka Kigawa at his annual late-summer appearance at Le Poisson Rouge (August 27), in which he’ll deliver riveting performances of music by Matthew Aucoin, Luciano Berio and Beat Furrer. Or, head to Roulette in Brooklyn for the annual Resonant Bodies Festival (September 11, 12 and 13). The Festival showcases mainly female singers performing contemporary music, blending classical, avant-garde and indie-folk genres. This year’s festival features Helga Davis, Lucy Dhagrae, Kiera Duffy, Caroline Shaw and more.


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