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Classical Music Concerts in New York City, NYC

Visiting Orchestras, Polish Exiles and a Brass Band

music festival

Gail Wein
April 30, 2019

Flowers burst into bloom, trees are green and skies are blue. It’s May in New York City and live performances abound.

Visiting orchestras from around the country bring exciting programs to our fair city. The Pittsburgh Symphony comes to Lincoln Center on May 19. Though you may not think of Pittsburgh as a hotbed of orchestral music the conductor Manfred Honeck and the pianist Till Fellner (performing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto) are as good as it gets. Coming up the pike from Washington DC, the National Symphony Orchestra and its music director Gianandrea Noseda bring two beefy, rarely heard works to the Carnegie stage, Rossini’s “Stabat Mater” and the “Dante Symphony” by Liszt, also on May 19. Michael Tilson Thomas leads the New World Symphony – an astoundingly superb training ground for post-graduate orchestral musicians – in two programs at Carnegie Hall. May 1 features the indominable pianist Yuja Wang in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 5, and May 2 showcases music by Schubert alongside compositions by MTT himself.

The prolific Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg would be turning 100 this year, and one of the celebrations of his centennial is on May 19 (yes, there seem to be many concerts happening on this same day), at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. The program features Weinberg’s “24 Preludes for Solo Cello” and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Music by another composer exiled from his native Poland, Karol Rathaus, will be highlighted at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall on May 3. In his Carnegie debut, the pianist Daniel Wnukowski performs Rathaus’ music alongside works by Handel and Chopin.

A terrific program on May 8 puts the music of Harry Burleigh in context in a program that also includes compositions by William Grant Still and Florence Price. Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra performs this program of works by African-American composers at the Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture in Harlem. And finally, in the category of not-quite-classical-but-it’s-classical-to-me, the Rebirth Brass Band brings their vivacious rhythms up from New Orleans for a crowd-pleasing show at Symphony Space on May 11.

Enjoy the flowers, the blue skies AND the live music!

Keyboard Fans: we’ve got you covered!

Violin Key spring

Gail Wein
March 31, 2019

April showers brings….lots of phenomenal pianists to stages all around New York.

First off, there’s “In Visible Roads”, co-hosted by Metropolis Ensemble & BLUEPRINTS Piano Series. This brand-new innovative festival brings together top-notch pianists from both the classical and jazz disciplines, paired with other instrumentalists and composers. The result is a bouquet of eclectic programs with a stimulating array of music. The series is already underway, and April performances include RighteousGIRLS (Gina Izzo, flute & Erika Dohi, piano) performing selections that make use of multi-track layering and improvisation (April 2), Lisa Moore, one of the best contemporary classical pianists in existence (April 11), Aaron Diehl, one of the most versatile jazz pianists around (April 17), and several other intriguing programs. All of the performances are at Metropolis’s space on Rivington Street in lower Manhattan. Tickets available at Metropolis’s website and at the door.

And then, there are the Big Names Not To Be Missed. There’s a veritable parade of superstars, just at Carnegie Hall alone. Yefim Bronfman (April 4), Maurizio Pollini (April 7), and Mitsuko Uchida (April 30) each perform recitals of much-beloved repertoire. Uchida’s all-Schubert program is especially swoon-worthy. The French pianist Hélène Grimaud performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto with Orchestra of St. Luke’s on April 18, and the indominatable Yuja Wang collaborates with cellist Gautier Capuçon in music by Franck and Rachmaninoff on April 10. In a partnership that has to be the supreme match of the past several decades, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Evgeny Kissin join forces to play Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata along with favorites by Mozart and Brahms.

You might be tempted to pitch a tent and stay at Carnegie for the entire month. But then you would miss Piotr Anderszewski playing Beethoven’s “Diabelli” variations at Alice Tully Hall on April 2, Garrick Ohlsson at The 92nd Street Y on April 28 and Peter Serkin in an all-Brahms recital at Town Hall on the People’s Symphony series, also on April 28.

Capping off this month’s concert recommendations, two ensembles from English-speaking countries abroad at Lincoln Center: Australian Chamber Orchestra on April 9, and London Symphony Orchestra on April 14 and 15. You really cannot go wrong with either of these “A-list” groups.

March Like a Lion

Violin Key spring

Gail Wein
February 27, 2019

This month we’ll shine a spotlight on some notable chamber music venues and series.

The 92nd Street Y has an especially rich bundle of classical offerings this month, with several of the Upper East Side institution’s favorite artists. On March 9, it’s the Brentano String Quartet in a music-and-poetry program, featuring Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132, a recent work by the American composer Martin Bresnick, and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. March 12 sees the return of Gidon Kremer & his Kremerata Baltica ensemble. The program features Schumann’s Pictures from the East accompanied by an animated film displaying the striking stone sculptures by the Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, plus a set of works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg. On March 17, I predict that baritone Mattias Goerne and pianist Daniil Trifonov are going to knock one out of the park with a super set of lieder by Schubert in arrangements that include several members of the New York Philharmonic string section.

The Morgan Library and Museum’s concert spaces including a jewel box of a recital hall and a cozy library. The Morgan has just announced a major renovation project on the exterior of the building, but the museum will remain open while work is happening. On March 8, Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, comprised of members of the Berlin Philharmonic play Brahms Clarinet Quintet, the Beethoven Septet, and a recent work by Sean Shephard. In a weekday noontime series that showcases musicians on the Young Concert Artists roster, flutist Anthony Trionfo and pianist Albert Cano Smit perform Bach, Copland and Weber on March 13. March 24 brings the annual George London Foundation Recital to The Morgan, with tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and soprano Amy Owens performing works by Richard Strauss, Darius Milhaud, Charles Ives, Jerome Kern and Eric Idle(!), among others. In the cozy environs of Mr. Morgan’s Library, members of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia perform a rush hour concert on March 19, beginning at 6:30 pm. They’ll perform works by David Baker, Jeffrey Mumford, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Ulysses Kay, all African American composers.

People’s Symphony, a tradition in New York City that predates both pizza and bagels (it’s in its 119th season), presents fantastic artists at, well, pizza and bagels prices. Concerts are at Town Hall and in the auditorium at the historic Washington Irving High School near Union Square. The month of March is chock-full of fantastic performers. The Skride Piano Quartet performs Mozart, Brahms and Mahler on March 10; the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman performs Robert Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces, Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata and Franz Schubert’s The Shepherd on the Rock with soprano Sara Shafer and pianist Anna Polonsky on March 16; and Los Angeles Guitar Quartet plays Rossini, Liszt, Pat Metheny and more on March 24. Winding up the month on March 30 is the Argus Quartet with a wide-ranging program that includes music by Claude Debussy and Christopher Theofanidis.

See you at the concert hall!

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