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Club Free Time Blog

Intimate Venues, Rare Programs

by Gail Wein
May 01, 2018

In this column, I usually highlight events at the major concert presenters, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic. These spots have the biggest concentration of A-List, Can’t Miss performers. But first, today, some recommendations for lesser-known artists and out-of-the way venues.

The Orion String Quartet celebrates its 30th anniversary with a gift to us: all of Beethoven’s string quartets, performed over six concerts. Remaining dates are May 2, 3, 7 and 14. Admission is free.

The Jupiter Chamber Players are an-all-too-well-kept secret. Their season of two dozen concerts at Good Shephard Presbyterian Church features solid performances, excellent programs and great players. They’ll wind up this season with Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms performed by a roster that includes the violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Christine Lamprea.

The Flea Theater recently moved to a new location in Tribeca. In addition to edgy off-off Broadway productions, the venue presents some unusual concert offerings. The early music group ARTEK combines the two art forms in “Artemisia”, a one-woman show that features live Baroque music, on May 15, 17, 19 and 20. ARTEK also gives two more traditional concerts there on May 16 and 18.

One of the longest-running series in New York is the People’s Symphony. It’s one of the most economical, too. People’s Symphony winds up its 118th season with Dover String Quartet on May 5 and Brahms all-star sextet on May 12, both at Washington Irving High School. One of the longest-running new music marathons (okay, that’s a bit of a niche category, but, still…30 years), the Bang on a Can Marathon brings us 10 hours of continuous live performances on May 13. Admission is free.

And now, as promised, some big-venue highlights:
In May, Carnegie Hall presents Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (May 4 and 5), Les Violons du Roy (May 5), pianists Emanuel Ax (May 10) and Yuja Wang (May 17), and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (May 17 and 30).

Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series brings to the stage the London Symphony Orchestra with conductor Simon Rattle (May 4, 6 and 7), cellist Sol Gabetta (May 12) and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (May 19).

A couple of highlights of the New York Philharmonic’s 175th season in May include two programs led by the conductor Semyon Bychkov: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (May 17, 18, 19, and 22) and Luciano Berio’s groundbreaking Sinfonia (with the vocal group Roomful of Teeth) paired with Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony (May 24, 25 and 26).

Well? What are you waiting for? Get out there and hear some live music!

An Early Music Spring

Gail Wein
April 02, 2018

According to the organization Early Music America, March is Early Music Month. But there are so many excellent Baroque programs happening in April, I think that we have an entire season – Early Music Spring – going on in New York City.

For early music in New York, look no further than the Music Before 1800 series. Their offerings this month celebrate the 16th century Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. On April 8, the vocal group Stile Antico performs Victoria’s motets, and on April 22, the Choir of Corpus Christi Church performs Victoria’s “Missa O magnum mysterium” and sacred works by Guerrero and Morales. Both concerts are at Corpus Christi Church near Columbia University.

Another go-to spot for music from the Baroque era is the Morgan Library and Museum They are hosting the harpsichordist Jean Rondeau performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations on April 19, and New York Baroque Incorporated performing music for viols in a “rush hour” concert on April 24.

The long-lived group Four Nations Ensemble brings a series of intriguing programs to Merkin. On April 9, they’re joined by pianist Spencer Myer in a program of music inspired by the art of Antoine Watteau by Couperin, Rameau, Debussy, Ravel and others.

The Juilliard School has an outstanding Historical Performance program, and this month they present Rameau’s first opera, "Hippolyte et Aricie." Performances are on April 17, 19 and 21 at Sharp Theater at Juilliard.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art brings us early music programs in two very appropriate spaces this month, as part of their Met Live Arts series. "Missa Papae Marcelli" by Palestrina will be performed by The Clarion Choir and Brass Consort from The Clarion Orchestra at the Met's reverberant Medieval Sculpture Hall on April 6. And on April 15, there is a program designed specifically for the Unicorn Tapestries Room at The Met Cloisters. The concert on April 15 features the counter tenor José Lemos accompanied by lute, harp, flute and vielle. Songs by twelfth-century troubadours intertwine with Renaissance court music that dates from the time of the tapestries.

For other early music concerts this month and throughout the year in New York, check out the Gotham Early Music Scene (GEMS) website.

In addition to this abundance of early music performances, I have to also mention a few “unmissable” events this month. The Los Angeles Philharmonic comes to Lincoln Center for two programs conducted by Gustavo Dudamel on April 27 and 29. The cellist Yo-Yo Ma with the Silk Road Ensemble is worth the short trip over the river to NJPAC on April 8, and Kremerata Baltica with pianist Daniil Trifonov come to Carnegie Hall on April 25 and 26.

Happy listening!

A Parade of Pianists and other Happy Tales

Gail Wein
February 28, 2018

We’re in a Golden Age of pianists, some say. In the month of March in New York City, you’ll have an opportunity to see some of the absolute best of the superstars.

One of the hottest names in piano performance lately is Yuja Wang, and she’s performing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic February 28 through March 3. Jaap Van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s new music director who takes the reins full time next season, conducts.

Carnegie Hall is, as always, an obvious go-to venue for top keyboard players, and this month is no exception. On March 1, it’s Daniil Trifonov, who is showcased all season as part of the Carnegie Hall “Perspectives” series. He teams up with the pianist Sergei Babayan for a program featuring works for two pianos. Mitsuko Uchida, one of the grand dames of piano, brings two programs full of Schubert’s exquisite piano sonatas on February 26 and March 2. On March 8, Pierre-Laurent Aimard performs Beethoven’s towering Hammerklavier Sonata. The legendary jazz pianist Keith Jarrett brings an evening of solo improvisations to the Carnegie stage on March 21.

A number of other venues feature the ebony and ivory instrument this month. The People’s Symphony concert series brings Lise de la Salle to Town Hall on March 4, the 92nd Street Y presents Angela Hewitt in her continuing Bach Odyssey on March 14 and 18. Also at 92Y, the pianist, author and music historian Stuart Isacoff gives a talk about the pianist Van Cliburn’s triumph in Russia during the Cold War on March 13.

After all that piano music, you’ll have numerous choices for a palate cleanser. And now for something completely different: Benjamin Bagby performs his unique blend of voice, ancient harp and medieval tales at the equally medieval Cloisters on March 4. Also at the Cloisters, music from the Byzantine era in celebration of the Feast of St. Gregory, performed by the vocal ensembles Pomerium and Axion Estin Chanters on March 11. Pipa virtuoso Wu Man performs traditional music on her Chinese lute along with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band at the NY Society for Ethical Culture on March 17. Classical music in a crypt? Why not? The violinist Lara St. John is featured in the Crypt Sessions series at The Church of the Intercession in Harlem on March 14 and 15.

Morning Star, an opera by Ricky Ian Gordan receives its first New York performances on March 21, 22 and 25 at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. The opera traces the life of an immigrant Jewish family living on the lower east side, affected by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, World War I and the Great Depression.

As always, plenty of performances to keep you off the streets. Enjoy!

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