REVIEW: Anne-Sophie Mutter and Friends at Carnegie Hall

Anne-Sophie Mutter renewed her claim as one of the world’s finest violinists in her recent concert with longtime pianist Lambert Orkis. In an arresting program, the pair explored contrasting and deeply expressed emotions through music, balancing two sonatas by Mozart with two compelling, yet very different twentieth century French sonatas. Blessedly, Mutter remains a champion of new music, and a world premiere was among the highlights of the evening.

REVIEW: Jean Rondeau's "Italian Recycling"

French superstar of the harpsichord world, hipster wunderkind Jean Rondeau, recently written about by Alex Ross in The New Yorker, appeared on Thursday in the intimate Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, with a program of J. S. Bach and Domenico Scarlatti called Italian Recycling, giving local audiences a chance to hear his spellbinding playing in person. His program contrasted the motoric, formalistic music of Bach — which he plays with high stakes and riveting drama — with an assortment of the relatively sensual and exotic single-movement sonatas of Scarlatti. In this wide ranging, yet cohesive, concert, Rondeau proved his mettle as one of the great interpreters of Baroque music on the stage today.

REVIEW: Michael Tilson Thomas and Vienna Philharmonic Stop Time With Mahler’s Ninth

Today’s New Yorkers clamored to hear the Vienna Philharmonic play the Ninth Symphony, often referred to as Mahler's "Farewell" Symphony, on that very stage. The audience was rapt, collectively holding its breath in anticipation of the first upbeat. Audiences these days are rarely so focused -- a congregation of the devout, readying to participate in a ritual, an exorcism of sorts. MTT knows how to pace things for maximum payoff. The final, patiently drawn out minutes, were like layers of atmosphere peeling away from the curvature of the earth. As the final note resonated into silence, Tilson Thomas held his left hand in the air, as if trying to maintain a grasp on something that had slipped away irretrievably.

REVIEW: Masterful Voices Sing of Night, Love, and Joy

Mastervoices, a 100-plus member chorus (originally founded by Robert Shaw in 1941), gave a concert on Friday night in Alice Tully Hall that seemed tailored to provide respite and consolation following what can only be described as an exasperating week in the "real world." It was a joyous evening, both because of the sheer number of performers onstage using their voices to lift all of us up, and through careful, thoughtful programming, and creative ingenuity.

REVIEW: Pintscher Conducts Pintscher at the NY Phil

Matthias Pintscher is one of today's most successful composers, having won many European awards, and a busy conductor, too, serving as music director of Pierre Boulez's prestigious Ensemble Intercontemporain. This week he leads the New York Philharmonic in a program featuring one of his own compositions. On Thursday evening, however, the performance had not fully gelled. For example, at the iconic climax -- the trumpets hailing their triumphant theme in seven -- it took a few beats for everyone to agree on a tempo. Still, the piece's impact comes through, and the performance is worth hearing for the glittering reading of Ravel's Alborada and the spectacular violin playing of  Renaud Capuçon. Hopefully, this brilliant soloist will be back (ideally with some more ingratiating repertoire) in the future.

REVIEW: NYFOS Celebrates Melting Pot of Living Composers in "Hyphenated-Americans"

The New York Festival of Song, in a program centering on the theme of America's cultural melting pot (in festive and artistic opposition to the xenophobia of the current administration), presented an entire evening of recently composed music by living American composers, "Hyphenated-Americans," who bring their disparate world heritage to the American musical voice. The formidable program had moments of spellbinding beauty; it also had moments that felt like work. But, it's valuable work, and no one does it better than NYFOS, who assembles a second-to-none roster of artists, and the rapt audience in Merkin Concert Hall on Wednesday evening was enthusiastic in their support for these "hyphenated," but undeniably American creators. The program's platter of highs and lows had moments of delicious surprises and surprising deliciousness. 

REVIEW: Jaap van Zweden leads a glowing, hopeful German Reqiuem

Jaap van Zweden led a luminescent performance of Johannes Brahms'sA German Reqiuem, Op. 45, this week, in yet another change of gears for the New York Philharmonic's new conductor. Featuring the large Concert Chorale of New York, under the direction of James Bagwell, and soloists Ying Fang, soprano, and Matthias Goerne, baritone, Brahms's unique entry into the canon of the requiem mass glowed with a sense of hope. 

REVIEW: "The Crypt Sessions" Brings a Moment of Revelation in a Crypt

One of the most powerful musical works to have emerged from World War II, Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, received a performance in the Crypt of upper Harlem's Church of the Intercession that delivered on its power. The sold-out event was presented by The Crypt Sessions, a chamber music series curated by visionary Andrew Ousley, and featured a ensemble of luxury talents, violinist Stefan Jackiw, alongside cellist Jay CampbellYoonah Kim on the clarinet, and Orion Weiss at the piano.

REVIEW: Stefan Jackiw and Conrad Tao Wax Nostalgic at 92Y

The 24 year old Tao is quickly rising to the fore as one of his generation's most promising -- scratch that, he's already delivering -- American classical musicians. This season alone, the New York Philharmonic gave the world premiere of a work entitled Everything Must Go, which they commissioned as a prelude to Bruckner's Eighth Symphony. I wasn't in town to hear it, but a visit to his website or youtube provides an enticing sampling of his talent, both as performer and composer. Stefan Jackiw's violin playing is transcendent. Like Tao at the piano, you forget that he's playing a specific musical instrument at all -- an antique  mechanical device, miraculous, of course, but rife with idiosyncratic problems and hurdles to overcome. They both utterly disappear into the music, submitting completely to the composer's creation. 

RECAPITULATION: Top 10 List - Best of 2018

2018 was a big year for classical music in New York. A veritable who’s who of the world’s top performers graced our stages. Repertoire spanning the centuries was buttressed by a healthy supply of fresh, new work. Here is my contribution to the year’s end cornucopia of “Ten Best” lists, my ten favorite classical music moments in a year full of exciting concert-going.