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Club Free Time Blog


Violin key

Gail Wein
November 29, 2018

It’s the time of year when we feel bound to tradition, and many people find that music connects them to fond memories and experiences from years past.

In classical music, there is no greater holiday tradition than Handel’s glorious oratorio, Messiah and there is a full complement of performances all over the city. New York Philharmonic delivers its version on December 11-15 with big-time soloists and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. New York Baroque Incorporated presents its rendition December 4 and 6 at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue. Downtown at St. Paul’s Chapel, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra with conductor Julian Wachner perform the great oratorio on December 13, 14, 16 and 17. December 19 brings the Musica Sacra Chorus and Orchestra, Kent Tritle conducting, to Carnegie Hall. And if you can’t help but sing along, The National Chorale invites you to bring your own Messiah score and join in with the choruses on stage for Messiah Sing-In on December 9 at Lincoln Center.

The Guggenheim Museum has made an annual tradition of performances of Prokofiev’s fanciful Peter and the Wolf, this year on December 1, 2, 7, 8, 9. Isaac Mizrahi narrates the classic tale, Ensemble Signal supplies the instrumental music, and a cast performs choreography by John Heginbotham.

The New York String Orchestra, comprised of talented teens cherry-picked from all over the United States under conductor Jaime Laredo, has appeared every December at Carnegie Hall for fifty years. Their program on December 24 includes Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with soloist Yefim Bronfman. Joshua Bell is the soloist in Brahms Violin Concerto on December 28.

All six of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos performed by the musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center are another longtime December tradition. Performances are December 14, 16 and 18 at Alice Tully Hall.

And if all this tradition is a bit much for you, you can escape to Venice– virtually, that is – with St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble in a program called Vivaldi’s Venice. December 4 at Merkin Hall, December 5 at The Morgan Library & Museum, and December 7 at Brooklyn Museum.

Enjoy the music, and happy holidays to you!

Armchair Travelogue

notes and flower

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.

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