Saturday, February 10, 2018

Metropolitan Opera – Verdi’s Il Trovatore. February 6, 2018.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. Balcony (Seat B111, $92.50).

Story.  See previous post.

Conductor – Marco Armiliato.  Ferrando – Kwangchul Youn, Leonora – Jennifer Rowley, Count di Lun – Luca Salsi, Manrico – Yonghoon Lee, Azucena – Dolora Zajick.

We have seen this opera before, twice.  Once in 2009, and the second time in 2012 was with Pastor Al and Miss Ruth.  Pastor Al passed away in 2014, and we just visited Miss Ruth in Florida a few days before.  People change, yet this opera has been around for a good 150 years or so (I am typing this inside a plane and thus am guessing a bit.)  We saw the 652nd performance by the Met, making this an opera of medium high popularity.

The set was designed by David McVicar, and was first used in 2009.  So it looked familiar, and a little tired; time for a refresh soon, I suspect.  The fire pit, which gave me a sense of dread when I first saw it, now looked familiar.  Indeed, the word “familiar” fits much of what I saw today.  Perhaps I finally figured out how the story hangs together, so I could anticipate the drama that was unfolding on stage.

Or perhaps this was a performance that didn’t quite measure up.  At the risk of being racially insensitive, I should point out two of the (five or six) main characters were Koreans.  Korea must have a long tradition of vocal training as many soloists in the Met roster are from that country.  Youn as Ferrando was quite impressive, strong and clear.  Manrico carried himself enthusiastically on stage, and has a very strong voice.  However, he sounded rough at times.  I saw Rowley a couple of times before, once in Princeton, and once substituting for Racette as Roxane in Cyrano.  Quite a career trajectory.  However, she sounded unrefined at times.

I remember from last time how haunting Azucena sounded in one of the arias.  Today I was listening with anticipation, and – alas – didn’t feel it.  Zajick had to be very familiar with the role: she was in the 2009 and 2012 productions I saw.  After the intermission it was announced that she was sick, and couldn’t continue.  I didn’t get the name of her replacement, but she filled in without skipping a beat, even though the heavy lifting occurred in the first two acts.  I couldn’t see a prompter’s box on stage, which made it very impressive.

Curtain Call.  From left: Salsi as Count di Luna, Rowley as , Armiliato conductor, Lee as Manrico, Rachvelishvili as Azucena, and Youn as Ferrando.

Attendance was not very good tonight.  Most of the row behind us was empty, and we moved to it after the intermission.

The New York Times review was also mixed for Lee and Rowley, calling the latter's singing sympathetic, but never galvanizes.  Turns out Rowley is also replacing an ill colleague.  It also mentions Anita Rachvelishvili as being a great Azucena.

Ellie was away on business, so Anne and I went up to Hoboken to see the grandkids, Anne also prepared dinner for them.  For us dinner was at Europan.  Driving into and out of New York was quite straightforward this time of the year.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Daniil Trifonov, piano; Matthias Goerne, baritone. February 4, 2018.

Matthews Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, NJ.  Orchestra (Seat T17, $51.50).

Vier Lieder, op. 2 by Berg (1885-1935).
Dichterliebe, op. 48 by Schumann (1810-1856).
Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo Buonarroti by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903).
3 Lider aus der Suite op. 145 nach Gedichten von Michelangelo Buonarroti by Shostakovich (1906-1975).
Vier ernste Gesange, op. 121 (1896) by Brahms (1833-1897).

This concert should properly characterized as one of art songs with piano accompaniment.  I believe this is one of the few all-vocal solo performances I have attended; and I am quite sure there had been no blog entry for a concert of this nature.

The songs talk mostly of lost love, futility of life, and death.  Interestingly the last song’s lyrics are based on 1 Corinthians 13, on love.

I enjoyed the concert.  We had heard Goerne before and always appreciated his singing.  I don’t know much about vocal techniques, but that this was a 1 ½-hour concert speaks volumes about his stamina. And he will do it again in Carnegie Hall in a couple of days!  While Trifonov mainly acted as an accompanist, his brilliance would come through every now and then.

Goerne and Trifonov.

During the introduction the emcee asked the audience to hold the applause until the end of each group of songs.  Goerne would have none of that, he waved off all applause until the end of the entire concert.

Here is the listing of the songs:

Alban Berg (1885-1935): Vier Lieder, op. 2.
1.     The pain is right (Text: Friedrich Hebbel).
2.     Sleeping, I am carried (Text: Alfred Mombert).
3.     Now that I have overcome the strongest of the giants (Text: Alfred Mombert).
4.     Warm are the breezes (Text: Alfred Mombert).

Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Dichterliebe op. 48. Text: Heinrich Heine (1797-1856).
1.     In the wonderfully beautiful month of May.
2.     From my tears sprout forth.
3.     The rose, the lily, the dove, the sun.
4.     When I gaze into your eyes.
5.     I want to delve my soul.
6.     In the Rhine, in the holy stream.
7.     I bear no grudge.
8.     And if the blooms – the small ones – knew.
9.     There is a fluting and fiddling.
10.  I hear the dear song sounding.
11.  A young man loved a girl.
12.  On a shining summer morning.
13.  I wept in my dream.
14.  Nightly I see you in my dreams.
15.  From old fairy tales beckons.
16.  The old, angry songs.

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903): Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo Buonarroti.
1.     It is quite often that I think.
2.     Everything ends which comes to be.
3.     Is my soul feeling.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): 3 Lieder aus der Suite op. 145 nach Gedichten von Michelangelo Buonarroti.
1.     Dante.
2.     Di Morte certo.
3.     La Notte.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Vier ernste Gesange, op. 121 (1896).
1.     One thing befalleth the beasts and the sons of men (Ecclesiastes 3:19-22).
2.     So I returned, and considered all the oppressions (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3).
3.     O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee (Jesus Sirach 41:1-4).
4.     Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 12, 13).

To call this a Trifonov “recital” would be a great misjustice to Goerne, nonetheless his name was the only one on the ticket.  When I checked the ticketing website on Saturday, there were lots of seats in the balcony.  One wonders how many people would have come had Goerne been the headliner.  Well, I think I belong to this “shallow” group.  I may look more favorably on vocal recitals from now on, though.

Some false advertising here ...

We came back from a trip Saturday evening, and I decided to go to Princeton to buy a ticket after church, arriving about 30 minutes before the start.  If I had looked more closely, I could have gotten a 30% discount off the ticket price, the offer was sitting in my email in-box.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Metropolitan Opera – Puccini’s Tosca. January 23, 2018.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center.  Balcony (Seat C110, $133).

Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume; Cavaradossi – Vittorio Grigolo, Tosca – Sonya Yoncheva, Scarpia – Zeljko Lucic.

Program for the Performance.

Story.  See previous posts.

This is a new production credited to David McVicar, headlined by one of the hottest tenors and sopranos, which in many ways lived up to its promise.

Having seen this opera several times before, and heard the well-known arias many times, I have developed a preconceived notion of how the performance should go.  By that measure the opera was a great success.

The singing by both Yoncheva and Grigolo was superb, particularly so for Grigolo.  Both sang clearly and acted their roles well (for someone sitting in the balcony, that is.)  Between the two best known arias in the opera, I must give the nod to Grigolo’s rendition of “E lucenvan le stella” over Yoncheva’s “Vissi d’arte.”  One major reason was how loud Yoncheva’s volume was.  She could have sung the aria several decibels lower, and would still be clearly heard where I sat.  As it was, it was more a scream at god rather than an expression of helplessness.  Either approach is fine, but I prefer the other.  Grigolo built up his performance from a whisper (a bit of exaggeration) to railing at fate.

Lucic’s voice didn’t come across as well as the main protagonists, which is understandable given the range of the role.  My greatest gripe, however, was he didn’t come across sinister enough.  I still recall the shock and disgust at the character when I first saw it (a NYC Opera production, I believe.)  For tonight’s performance, his acting was just not consistent with his words.

The Met has made a great deal out of the new sets, using the structure in Act 3 in many of their promotional material.  I am not sure how big the fuss was.  While the cathedral looked grand, replete with candles burning in the background, I didn’t think the new set is entirely necessary.  Also, the many people walking along the “street” didn’t add anything to the drama of the story as far as I am concerned.  When the Met was overflowing with cash (if ever there was such a time,) it might have been okay; given the financial problems the organization has, I think they could spend the money more productively somewhere else.  A counterargument, however, is attendance seemed great, from what I could tell.  Was the new production a factor?

The new set for Act 3.  This is supposed to be the "platform of Castel Sant'Angelo."  Not sure if the details are needed, or make any sense.

Act 2 takes place in Scarpia’s residence, with walls around the stage.  It produced an undesirable effect of drastically different levels of loudness, depending on where the singers stood.  Today’s effects seemed particularly marked.

The orchestra did a great job.  With Puccini a lot of the “music” happens in the orchestra, so how well it does affects how well the performance goes.  The solos and small ensembles did particularly well.  Ceysson, the harpist we saw last week in Hong Kong, was back in his usual post in the pit.

Curtain Call.  Grigolo was exuberant, and ended up sweeping Yoncheva off the stage.

The New York Times review, while heaping praise on many aspects of the opera, is overall critical in my view.  I didn’t know all the principals (Andris Nelsons, Kristine Opolais, Jonas Kaufmann, and Bryn Terfel) all cancelled; on the other hand, having heard all these singers before, I didn’t think the current cast needed to give any apologies.

Traffic was light going in, heavier than expected on the way back, but quite straightforward both ways.  We had dinner at East Szechuan; it had been a while, and the place seems to be under new management.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

New Jersey Symphony – Andrew Constantine, conductor; Terrence Wilson, piano. January 20, 2018.

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick.  Front Orchestra (Seat J101, $15).

Program: Winter Festival – America, Inspiring
Thunderbolt P-47 (1945) by Martinu (1890-1959).
Piano Concerto in G Major (1929-31) by Ravel (1875-1937).
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940) by Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).

I got these tickets at $15 each during the Black Friday Special sale.  We returned from Hong Kong a couple of days ago, and I wasn’t sure how the evening would turn out.  It went fine.

The Thunderbolt P-47 was a workhorse fighter plane used during the second World War by British, French and American air forces.  It was the result of a (small) commission Bohuslav Martinu wrote “in praise of speed.”  Indeed the composition was one continuous pulsating piece made more urgent by the syncopation used throughout the orchestra.  I noticed only a couple of times when the violins took a rest.  (We were seated in the 10th row, on the left, so the first violins were very much in our line of sight.)  It was quite a feat the orchestra pulled to be as precise as it was.  This was the NJSO premiere, and my first time listening to it.  While there was a sense of urgency in the music, I thought it could have used a bit more contrast (pilots flying loops, bombing runs, or whatever fighter planes do.)

The Thunderbolt P-47.

I attributed my appreciation of Ravel’s piano concerto to a performance I saw by Yuja Wang.  That was in October, 2016. While now I can pick up the major aspects of the piece (the beginning that could pass as Gershwin’s work, for example,) I still have a lot to learn.  The NJSO website quotes Ravel as saying about the concerto: “What is being written today without the influence of jazz? It is not the only influence, however; in the concerto one also finds bass accompaniments from the time of Bach, and a melody that recalls Mozart, the Mozart of the Clarinet Quintet, which by the way is the most beautiful piece he wrote.”

Tonight’s performance was good, but certainly not at that level.

For starters, the piano was at times overwhelmed by the orchestra.  Perhaps our seat’s acoustics had something to do with it, even though they gave us a good view of the pianist’s actions.  So it was particularly frustrating when I saw his fingers running across the keyboard but could only barely make out the glissando.  The Program Notes says the score specifies 32 string, but we had the full orchestra on for tonight, what gives? There were times (such as in the third movement) when the hand and finger movements were as interesting as the music itself, though.  The disappoint was the second movement which instead of sounding ethereal was more like something the soloist and orchestra simply wanted to get over with.

Terrence Wilson and Andrew Constantine.

Wilson is a local person (lives in Montclair) and a graduate of Julliard.

After the intermission, the British-born Constantine talked a little about the program, in a light-hearted way.  He added quite a bit to the structure of the Rachmaninoff piece than was in the Program Notes.  For example, he described how the four entrances represented four people coming on stage, with the last one starting a bit off.  And that the oboe and clarinet duet represents two people left on stage, with the alto saxophone looking on.  In addition to the Dies Irae that Rachmaninoff loved to incorporate in his music, the composer also incorporated a theme from his first symphony, the one that famously flopped at the premiere.

I got the Dies Irae, which underwent a lot of embellishment in this work.  I think I got the four entrances and the oboe/clarinet duet.  I didn’t get the first symphony reference as I probably had never heard it.

The piece was completed in 1940, three years before Rachmaninoff passed away.  Nonetheless it was his last completed work.  The three movements are (i) Non allegro; (ii) Andante con moto (Tempo di valse), and (iii) Lento assai – Allegro vivace.  The character of this piece is quite different from his more familiar works: less brunt athleticism and more nuanced.

Why “America, Inspiring?”  Each piece had something to do with America.  Martinu’s piece was commissioned by Hans Kindler of the National Symphony.  Martinue lived in the US for 12 years, and was for three years chair of the composition department at Princeton.  Ravel’s work was influenced by the jazz music he heard while traveling around the US.  Rachmaninoff wrote the Symphonic Dances in Huntington, Long Island.  Certainly American enough.

The concert was poorly attended, with huge sections empty.  I appreciate the artists ability to not that disturb them (at least on the outside.)

New Brunswick is easy for us to get to.  We were home before 10:30 pm.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival 2018: An Evening in Paris. January 17, 2018.

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall. Rear Stalls (Seat ZA22, HK$120).

Petite Suite for Piano Four Hands (1889) by Debussy (1862-1918).
     Orion Weiss, Anna Polonsky
Impromptu No. 6, Op. 86 (1904) by Faure (1845-1924).
     Emmanuel Ceysson
String Quartet in F Major (1905) by Ravel (1875-1937).
     Jerusalem Quartet
Fantaisie for Violin and Harp (1907) by Saint-Saens (1835-1921).
     Cho-Liang Lin, Emmanuel Ceysson
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (1916) by Debussy.
     Patrick Gallois, Richard O’Neill, Emmanuel Ceysson
Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet (1906) by Ravel.
     See below.

We had to wake up at around 4 am this morning to catch a flight to Hong Kong from Kunming.  Nonetheless, we felt energetic enough to buy tickets for this concert.  At a senior discount price of HK$120, it was an easy decision.  A great decision, it turned out.

Evidently there had been eight prior HKICMFs before I found about it - not being in Hong Kong generally in January probably contributed to my ignorance.  The artistic director is Cho-Liang Lin; yes, that guy from New York.

After the Executor Director of “Premier Performances” thanked all the sponsors, Lin talked a bit about tonight’s program and the sensuality of French chamber music.  He also mentioned that Ceysson, who would feature prominently in tonight’s program, would not be wearing formal pants as the dry cleaner evidently lost them, which gave the audience a chuckle.

It turns out Ceysson is Metropolitan Opera’s principal harpist, so we had seen him play many times before.  I just never bothered to find out his name.  His playing was clear, and the difficult passages didn’t faze him.  And all from memory, even the chamber music.

The rest of the music sounded fine.  Lin plays on a 1715 Stradivarius (the Titian).

Debussy’s Petite Suite was performed by the husband and wife team of Weiss and Polonsky.  Its movements are En bateau, Cortege, Menuet, and Ballet.  Ravel’s quartet was quite long (30 minutes per Program Notes) and consists of four movements: Allegro moderato; Assez vif – Tres rythme; Tres lent, and Vif et agite.  Members of the Jerusalem Quartet are: Sergei Bresler, Alexander Pavlovsk, Ori Kam, and Kyril Zlotnikov.  There were some rather dramatic pizzicato passages in the second movement.  The Debussy Sonata has Pastorale, Interlude, and Finale as its movements.  The artists who performed Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro were: Emmanuel Ceysson (harp), Cho-Liang Lin (violin), Kitty Cheung Man-yui (violin), Richard O’Neill (viola), Isang Enders (ccello), Patrick Gallois (flute), and Andrew Simon (clarinet.)

At the conclusion of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro.  From left: Isang Enders, Kitty Cheung (blocked by harp), Richard O'Neill, Emmanuel Ceysson (wearing jeans), Cho-Liang Lin, Andrew Simon, and Patrick Gallois.

The program was quite long: over 90 minutes of music.  I managed to stay awake the whole time.

Before our friend David got us interested in the Princeton summer concerts, I was not a great fan of chamber music. I have grown to appreciate it more the last several years.  And if I had known about this festival in advance, I might have postponed our return to NJ for a few days so I could take in a couple more events.  Quite an endorsement …

Even though the attendance was good, I suspect the festival has some level of financial difficulty given the plea made at the beginning of the concert.  Let’s hope they can continue.

St. Petersburg Theatre Russian Ballet – Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. January 13, 2018.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.  Upper Circle (Seat G16, HK$400).

Cast. Odette/Odille – Anna Voitina/Natalia Potekhina; Prince Siegfried – Aleksandr Voitin; Rothbart – Andrei Provotorov/Daniil Sanzonov; Jester – Robert Makhiyanov/Sviatoslav Gaevoi.
Choreography (1895 version) by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Anne and I were in Hong Kong for a few days, mostly because we couldn’t pass up this bargain airfare on United.  There were not that many concerts during our stay, so we decided a ballet would foot the bill.

Many years ago we were on a cruise which stopped at St. Petersburg, and one of the shore excursion activities we did was to see a ballet.  I vaguely recall “Kirov,” but not sure if it was the name of the theatre or the ballet corps.

To answer the questions in my mind as I try to write this, I went to Wikipedia. Kirov Ballet, formed in 1740, is now known as Mariinsky Ballet, and is the resident ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre.  Russian Ballet was formed in 1994, by an “entrepreneur” (per Wiki), thus quite young by comparison.

One of the reasons I thought this was a good event was it was Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, so at least I could enjoy the performance.  On that I was disappointed.  The music was fine, except it was taped, and the sound system was not the best.  So it was like listening to a CD being played in an auditorium.  At least they should provide some information about which orchestra did the taping.

This, and the simple set, probably caused my initial reaction that this was at best a tolerable event.

I had to say my attitude improved as I got over these disappointments.  I began to appreciate the athleticism, artistry, and precision that ballet dancers have.

While there weren’t any scenes that were particularly memorable, I do want to note a few of them.  The dance by the “baby swans” was quite hilarious, and the young dancers (I assume they were, we were too far back to really tell) did well.  I counted about 30 fouettes in the “famous” scene, which was quite impressive.  Finally, no one needed to die to break Rothbart’s spell, so very young people can come see this production, which was abridged to a bit less than 2 hours.

Curtain Call.  I was quite sure Odette and Odille were performed by two separate dancers, now I wonder if that was correct as only Odette was on stage.

Indeed, the age limit for this event was 3.  It is inhumane to ask a 3-year old to sit still for a 2 hour performance.  Indeed the young girl sitting in front of me couldn’t stay still.  I finally had to tap on her mother’s shoulder when her arm waving became too distracting.

We tried to eat at a cafĂ© before going to this ballet.  What Anne ordered should have come quickly, but somehow it took so long that we had to skip it.  And we only made the show with about 10 minutes to spare.

Overall, the experience was unexpectedly enjoyable.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

New York Philharmonic – Jeffrey Kahane, conductor/piano; Alisa Weilerstein, cello. January 5, 2018.

David Geffen Hall.  Orchestra (Seat M106, $58.)

Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K. 453 (1784) by Mozart (1756-91).
Variations on a Rococo Theme, for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33 (1876-77) by Tchaikovsky (1840-93).
Symphony No. 98 in B-flat major, Ho. I:98  (1792) by Haydn (1732-1809).

This was a delightful concert.  The programmed pieces made sure of that, with easy-listening Mozart concerto and Haydn Symphony.

To me most of Mozart’s music are delightful, and most have been commented on extensively throughout the years.  Every now and then I would learn and remember something interesting, such as how he meshed four or five themes together in the Jupiter Symphony.  For this program the commentator in a sidebar “Listen for … the Starling’s Song” talks about Mozart’s pet starling which was taught to whistle the tune used in the last movement.  I didn’t know people kept starlings as pets, and that they could be taught particular tunes.  The main body of the commentary was more on the history of the symphony than on the music.  Which is fine with me.  The other aspect was that the cadenzas played today are “unquestionably by the composer.”

Kahane was both the conductor and soloist.  For this orchestra probably no conducting was necessary; and, as I have said before, this arrangement loses the true give-and-take between the piano and orchestra.  For a live performance the arrangement is such that the audience sees only the back of the pianist.  Nonetheless, it was a good (can’t tell good from excellent, remember?) and delightful performance.  The movements are allegro, andante, and allegretto – Finale: Presto.

Curtain call after performance of Mozart's Concerto.

We heard the Rococo Variations in October last year at a New Jersey Symphony concert.  Today’s was no less delightful a performance.  Seated close to the stage, it was easier to appreciate the technical difficulties presented by the piece.  Weilerstein made this crowd-pleasing piece look easy.  I do hope she has a heavy coat, just looking at her dress made me feel cold.

Alisa Weilerstein after playing Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations.

Haydn’s 98th Symphony was the last of his first group of London Symphonies.  Many of the 12 London Symphonies have nicknames: Surprise, Military, Clock, Drumroll (per Playbill), I would agree with the commentator that this one takes a back seat to none.  Indeed its freshness of this symphony made it an enjoyable experience.  The one interesting fact alluded in the Playbill was Haydn’s musical signature, performed at the fortepiano.  Kahane was again the solist/pianist. The Pianoforte didn’t get a lot of airtime, mostly providing a continuo role.  The signature towards the end, however, was unmistakable.  Haydn himself played the 11-measure passage at its premiere.  The four movements of the Symphony are Adagio – Allegro; Adagio cantabile; Minuetto – Trio; and Finale: Presto.

The Fortepiano was used in Haydn't 98th Symphony.  It sounded more like an harpsichord than I remember.

The New YorkTimes review is mixed: praising the performances, panning (a bit) the programming. He also mentioned Kahane did less continuo for the Haydn than he would expect (or would have liked.) Weilerstein was wearing the same dress on Thursday; some performers I know change during the same concert!  Evidently she first performed this at age 13 with the Cleveland Orchestra.  The article didn’t talk about attendance at an evening where traffic had to be very bad.  For today’s 11 am concert, the hall was quite full.

Yesterday (Jan 4) saw the area hit with between 8” to a foot of snow, so our initial thoughts were to either skip this concert or take public transportation.  We decided to drive in and park in one of the nearby garages.  Turns out okay as traffic was very light as the cold spell we have (since December 26 the temperature has not reached freezing, and may break tomorrow Monday Jan 8) probably kept a lot of people off the roads.  We ate something simple at Panera Bread before heading home.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New York String Orchestra – Jamie Laredo, conductor; Richard Goode, piano. December 28, 2017.

Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall.  Parquet Mid (Seat N5, $25).

Elegia Andina (2000) by Frank (b. 1972).
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 (1785) by Mozart (1756-1791).
Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56, “Scottish” (1842) by Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

The tickets were bought at a discount on Cyber Monday.  I didn’t know anything about the NYSO, but thought I couldn’t go wrong with Laredo and Goode.

Tonight turned out to be a rather interesting experience.  Turns out NYSO is a 70 or person ensemble consisting of high school and college students, they come together for an intensive 10-day practice period and put out this concert as a result.  This current group range in age from 16 to 23, coming (mostly) from North America, Asia, and Central and South America.

There are quite a few woodwind and percussion members in the ensemble, so I wonder if they should drop the “string” in their name.  Of course calling themselves “New York Orchestra” probably won’t work.

The works performed were written in the 18th, 19th and 21st (well, year 2000) centuries, so quite a range.

Gabriela Lena Frank was born to a Peruvian-Chinese mother and a Latvian-Jewish father.  Her music comes from an anthropological perspective while maintaining its own distinctive voice.  Andean Elegy, one of Frank’s first written down compositions, is dedicated to her older brother, and explores what it means to be of several ethnic persuasions – of several minds.  One characteristic is the use of two flutes to mimic the Peruvian double-row panpipes.

The paragraph above is taken directly from the description in the Playbill.  I thought while the 11-minute long piece has its interesting moments, it sounded quite repetitive, and flat (perhaps befitting an elegy.)  I did catch the effect produced by the flutes, and still wonder how that somewhat eerie sound was generated.

I have heard Richard Goode a couple of times before, and generally enjoyed his playing.  He again needed the music in front of him, although for tonight I was sure just as insurance (most of the time anyway.)  Tonight the sound he produced on a Steinway concert grand sounded very subdued, at times very much like a period fortepiano.  It came across well.

Richard Goode, Jamie Laredo, and the New York String Orchestra.

The Scottish Symphony is a 40-minute long piece inspired by Mendelssohn’s visit to Scotland.  He also wrote the Fingal’s Cave Overture as a result of the visit; this Symphony would come 12 years later.  While I was sure the players had no problems with the music, the lack of “together time” showed on several occasions by the somewhat muddled playing.  The three movements, played with no (or minimal) pause are (i) Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato; (ii) Vivace non troppo; (iii) Adagio; and (iv) Allegro vivacissimo – Allegro maestoso assai.

Since 12/26 we have had a cold spell (temperature not breaking freezing) that is forecasted to last through 1/7/2018.  On top of that the Newark Bay Bridge was closed for emergency repairs, making driving quite untenable.  We ended up taking the train.  After the concert we rushed back to Penn Station to catch the 10:20 pm train.  Along the way we bought a couple of McDonald’s burgers, but had to leave before getting the food because we were afraid we would miss the train.  I had a light meal before we left, Anne was quite hungry by the time we got home.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the evening.  It was good to see so many young people take their music so seriously, and that there are people willing to help them along.

Monmouth Civic Chorus – Ryan James Brandau, conductor. December 17, 2017.

Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ.  Orchestra (Seat L6, $45).

Joy to the World: The Messiah & More

Meg Dudley, soprano
Bob Kelly, reader
Kenneth Wasser, baritone
Daniel Ford, reader
Gerald Metz, baritone
The New Jersey Youth Chorus – Patricia Joyce, Artistic Director

This concert was again part of the celebration of my “twin” Lorinda’s and my birthday.  Jennifer again sang in the chorus.

I don’t plan to do a critical review of the concert, instead just a few general remarks.

The concert was quite well-attended, better than any of the NJSO concerts I have been to at this venue.  I imagine if each performing member brings along 5 guests, it would fill half the auditorium already.

A selfie of the four of us.

Again, the acoustics left something to be desired.  I am sure in a hall with better acoustics I would be able to hear the chorus clearly.  Instead I had to strain, quite hard at times, to make out what they were singing.  The NJYC had a few numbers, and they did well.  As they say, children and animals always steal the show.

Meg Dudley is a professional singer and I enjoyed her singing.  The other two singers are part of MCC, they have beautiful voices but needed the PA system for sound projection. I wonder if that resulted in an unfair assessment of how Dudley did.

There were three numbers from Messiah, perhaps the program should be titled: “More and Messiah?”  In any case, it was an enjoyable evening.  The audience enthusiastically joined in the singing of “Jingle Bells.”

Meg Dudley on the right side of photo.  Members of NJYC in front.

Afterward the Homs and we had a nice, simple dinner at Juanito’s.