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Club Free Time Blog

Celebrate the Holidays and Major Milestones


Gail Wein
November 29, 2017

In 1842, John Tyler was president, Charles Dickens was all the rage, and the New York Philharmonic gave its very first concert. Now, 175 years later, the venerable institution recreates that first program, including Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the Overture to Oberon by Weber, with Alan Gilbert conducting. Performances are December 6-9. Later in the month, in a tradition almost as long, the Philharmonic delivers the holiday favorite, Handel’s Messiah, on December 12-16, with the Westminster Symphonic Choir led by Andrew Manze.

The 92nd Street Y always has great programming, and it is especially spectacular this month. Guitarist Isbin with young upstart Colin Davin on December 2, soprano Dawn Upshaw with the Brentano Quartet on December 2, and the pianist extraordinaire Jeremy Denk on December 9. And on Christmas Eve, it’s the Y’s annual tradition of David Broza’s “Not Exactly Christmas Eve” concert.

Other longtime traditions this month include Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s programs of Brandenburg Concertos on December 15, 17 and 19 at Alice Tully Hall, a fanciful and fun production of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, with Isaac Mizrahi narrating at the Guggenheim Museum on December 2-3 and 8-10, and the Metropolitan Opera’s family-oriented presentations of The Magic Flute (December 4, 7 and 9) and Hansel and Gretel (December 18, 22, 26, 28, 30, and January 1 and 6).

Some other performances that will be great destinations this month:
The internationally renowned early music vocal ensemble Tallis Scholars perform music that has endured for 500 years at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on December 6, presented by Miller Theater; and the well-rehearsed Juilliard Orchestra performs a fabulous program of music by Frenchmen Ravel and Debussy, led by Frenchman Emmanuel Villaume on December 4 at Alice Tully Hall.

For something out of the ordinary, on December 2 and 3, join the pianist Jed Distler and the vocalist and actor Charles Miller for I DREAM A WORLD: The Life and Writings of Langston Hughes, celebrating the iconic poet on the 50th anniversary of his passing, at BronxArtSpace.


Wonderful Women on Stage


Gail Wein
November 03, 2017

There are some phenomenal concerts are coming up this month, and the best of the best just happen to be women

The Park Avenue Armory has built a reputation for unusual presentations and star-power performers. The much-ballyhooed soprano Barbara Hannigan is giving her US recital debut in the building’s intimate Board of Officers Room. The Viennese program on November 16 features works by Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and Alma Mahler, and the November 18 program is entirely music by Erik Satie.

On November 21 at Le Poisson Rouge, the fabulous violinist Lara St. John recreates the historic Central Park concert given by the tango king, Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla died in 1992, but his pianist, Pablo Ziegler, carries on the tradition with his Quartet for New Tango. Admission is free if you have an LPR membership (well worth it), otherwise, tickets are available online and at the door.

Another spectacular violinist, Leila Josefowicz, performs at 92nd Street Y with the pianist John Novacek. The program includes music by Prokofiev, Sibelius and John Adams. That’s on November 4. Just a few days later, on November 8, the pianist Angela Hewitt takes the stage at 92Y for a program of Bach partitas. It’s part of her exploration of all of Bach’s keyboard works, a herculean task that the Canadian pianist - well-known for her bach interpretations - is executing with panache.

The pianist Jenny Lin performs at Lincoln Center on Sunday morning, November 12. After her tribute to Valentin Silvestrov – featuring the visionary Ukrainian composer’s lyrical meditations on Mozart, Schubert, Chopin – the audience will enjoy coffee and pastries at the post-concert reception. The concert is part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.

I am very excited that Sweet Honey in the Rock will be performing at Symphony Space on November 3. This is an a capella ensemble of women, a group rooted in African American history and culture. Their programs incorporate vibrant song, dance, and storytelling.

One more performance not to be missed: the Israel Philharmonic led by Zubin Mehta at Carnegie Hall on November 7 (featuring the pianist Yefim Bronfman) and November 8 (Mahler’s Symphony No. 3).

And, finally, the New York Philharmonic gives us a respite from leftover turkey on Thanksgiving weekend. The storied Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda, the new music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, delivers a filling program: Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 and the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto with the NY Phil’s concertmaster, Frank Huang as soloist. November 22, 24 and 25 at Lincoln Center.

There is much to be thankful for this month, and live classical performances are at the top of my list.


October Rhapsody


Gail Wein
October 03, 2017

Bernstein is the man of the moment, as celebrations of his centennial come into full swing. Everyone’s getting into the act, especially the New York Philharmonic - Bernstein led our hometown band as music director in the 1960s, and appeared as Laureate Conductor many many times in the decades that followed.

October 25-31, the violinist Joshua Bell is featured in a program that includes Bernstein’s Serenade and his Symphony No. 1. The festivities continue November 2-4 with Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” Symphony paired with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the conductor Leonard Slatkin is on deck November 9-14 leading the NY Philharmonic in Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3. On the small ensemble side, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offers a program featuring Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles on October 29.


The Emerson String Quartet turned 40 (40!) last year, and they perform two programs of Beethoven and Shostakovich at Lincoln Center this fall, on October 24 and November 28. Another great...make that phenomenal...quartet is Takacs, appearing in two programs at Carnegie on October 12 and 14. One of my favorite string quartets, Brooklyn Rider, make their only NYC concert appearance on October 19 at Roulette in (of course) Brooklyn.

Gordon Getty is known as one of the richest people in the US. But he’d like to be known as a composer. In fact, the 85-year old is no hack – he has been writing music for many years, some of it to critical acclaim. Two one-act operas, Usher House and The Canterville Ghost, will be performed at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on October 19 and 21.

Two more upcoming performances stand out. The glamorous soprano Renee Fleming is in recital at Carnegie Hall on October 23. And the Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock bring their unique blend of blues, jazz and gospel to Symphony Space on November 3.

There’s an insane number of fantastic concerts this month – so go crazy, my friend!


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