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papsrus

Concerts: previews / reviews

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I have some lined up this winter. Perhaps others might like to comment on concerts, festivals, operas, etc., that they are either planning to attend, or have recently attended, with their observations, impressions, etc.

The biggies this winter for me are as follows:

Jan. 29:

New York Philharmonic with Emanuel Ax, piano; David Robertson, conductor; Avery Fisher Hall

Rachmaninoff -- Vocalise
Chopin -- Piano Concerto No.2
Stravinsky -- The Song of the Nightingale
Bartok -- The Miraculous Mandarin Suite

Jan 30:
Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Riccardo Muti, conductor; Carnegie Hall

Mendelssohn -- Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture
Debussy -- La Mer
Scriabin -- Symphony No.3, "The Divine Poem"

Friday Feb. 27:

Cleveland Orchestra -- Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami

Beethoven Symphony No. 3, ("Eroica")

Shostakovich Symphony No. 6

Saturday Feb. 28:
Cleveland Orchestra -- Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami

Beethoven Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

These are the out of town concerts I've got tickets for so far. I'm particularly looking forward to the NYPO and Ax with the Chopin piece. I toyed with the idea of taking Amtrack down to Philadelphia while I'm in New York to see the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center, but didn't want to push it.

Also have tickets for a bunch of stuff locally after the new year, which I'll chime in with as they occur (if anyone shows any interest here). Among those I'm looking forward to are two string quarter performances at the Sarasota Opera House that are part of La Music Festival, which takes place here each spring.

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I see my little concert thread is generating lots of interest .... :w

Went to a performance this afternoon by the Sarasota Orchestra led by conductor/music director Anu Tali, in her first full season leading the orchestra.

Program:
Strauss -- Death and Transfiguration
Mozart -- Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (Tamara Stefanovich, piano)
Tchaikovsky -- Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
Ravel -- Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe


The opening piece -- Death and Transfiguration -- was certainly played beautifully by the orchestra, but it begins so gently that it was a bit hard to grab hold of with the audience still settling in and rustling around a little bit. (The patrons here are probably even older on average than your typical classical concert audience because of the large retiree population here. Upper respiratory issues seem to be not uncommon).

The piano concerto was delivered skillfully in the very capable hands of Stefanovich, with the orchestra parred down to near chamber size. It's a piece that allows a skilled pianist to show their stuff, and Stefanovich certainly did that.

The Romeo and Juliet overture was fine, but felt perfunctory somehow. Beautiful music played with sensitivity, but nothing really stood out.

The highlight for me was the Ravel, with full orchestra of about 90 strong navigating the shifting tempos with aplomb. Various sections of the orchestra each took their moment to shine, which I really enjoyed. The orchestra really played with assurance and muscle here. The audience that rustled a bit through Strauss was transfixed here.

We're fortunate to have Tali leading the orchestra. She replaced a music director who had been at the helm for about 15 years.

Overall a solid B+ performance, elevated by both the Mozart concerto and the Ravel.

The theme of the concert, for those who haven't detected it yet from the pieces, was "In Love." All three performances were sold out, which is nice. Sat near the rear, center and the orchestra sounded great. Much more balanced than a previous concert where I was off to the right so that the cellos kind of had their backs to me, and so were somewhat lost to me. Center = better.

Edited by papsrus

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Philharmonie de Paris opens.

NYT weighs in here.

Looks like a pretty incredible performance space, vineyard-style seating with pods / sections drooping all around the stage as if from a Dali painting.

The hall's not yet finished, so final verdict is a ways off, but the initial response of the above critic certainly seems positive. And the orchestra apparently gave the place a pretty good workout on opening night.

EDIT: The Guardian agrees.

Edited by papsrus

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Vienna Austria Konzerthaus January 17th, 2015

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Marche pour le Carrousel Royal de Louis XIV

Michel-Richard de la Lande

Caprice de Villers-Cotteret

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Tristis est anima mea / Petit motet H 382

Sola vivebat in antris / Petit motet H 388

Symphonie à 3 g-moll H 529

Tenebrae factae sunt / Petit motet H 386

Jean-Baptiste Lully

O Lacrymae fideles / Grand motet LWV 26

**********

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Te Deum / Grand motet LWV 55

**********

ENCORE :

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Cadmus et Herminone Finale

----------------------------------------------

Le Poème Harmonique, Ensemble
Capella Cracoviensis, Choir
Vincent Dumestre, Director
Amel Brahim-Djelloul, Sopran
Claire Lefilliâtre, Sopran
Jean-François Lombard, Tenor
Jeffrey Thompson, Tenor
Benoît Arnould, Bass
Marvellous performance - highlighted by Lully`s Te Deum and the Finale from Lully`s first Opera Cadmus et Hermione (have to go now for the DVD from 2009 !!)......nuanced singing by the soloists and remarkable sensitivity from the woodwind players.....perfect start into the concert season 2015....
Edited by soulpope

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Meanwhile the Barbican in London has announced its 2015-16 season http://www.barbican.org.uk/classical1516/media/summary-sheet.pdf

Standouts include Gergiev in a Bartók/Stravinsky series, Immersion Days on Andriessen, Górecki and Dutilleux, and so much more. Wynton Marsalis violin concerto! Two Mahler 3s in there, one of them from LA. And so much more, as you can see.

There will be another stack of stuff announced soon at the Royal Festival Hall, not quite the same range as at the Barbican but all grist to the mill.

What have you got going on in your town...?

OK I know no-one can match all that. But don't be jealous - just come and live here.

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Three Benjamin concerts, three Macmillan concerts, only two Ades though (I know - almost as if we are not even interested in music here...); Fleming, Bartoli, Villazon; Bronfman, Pires, Aimard (in Vingt Regards !!); Tetzlaff, Kavakos, Znaider, Batiashvili, etc.

The only down side of the London concert season is all the things you have to miss.

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Had to do a double-take when I saw this:

LSO Composer Focus: Thomas Adès

Thomas Adès Polaris

Brahms Violin Concerto

Thomas Adès Brahms

Thomas Adès Tevot

London Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Adès conductor

Anne-Sophie Mutter violin

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That is a feast.

As I've been veering toward Haydn lately, it's nice to see a smattering there. Not much, but that seems generally the case anywhere. Still welcome.

As well you'll have a generous helping of the old war horses alongside the unfamiliar -- a few premiers.

And you can stumble through the door for most of these concerts for very reasonable prices -- $15 equivalent. I'm lucky to pay under $50 to join the cattle call at my local barn to listen to an orchestra that, while fine, is obviously well below the standard for those that appear at the Barbican. Obviously. Even when an out-of-town orchestra makes a whistle stop here, it's usually a second- or third tier band. (The Royal Phil with Pinchas Zuckerman did touch down here for one night a few weeks ago, but I was unable to go.)

Damn you! :g

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Yes London concerts are not expensive.

I'm on a Haydn kick myself at the moment - the classic RCO/Davis London Symphonies. Those are recordings I can just keep coming back to.

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I've been wanting to investigate his string quartets. The man's output was overall so staggering that it's hard to know where to begin.

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papsrus, good idea for the thread.

I am attending Hespèrion XXI performing Biber's Missa Salisburgensis. The full line-up is here: http://konzerthaus.at/kh/d/0201_detail_frame.asp?KHGVA=true&vaid=0015e412

Will post my impressions.

So, here it goes.

Wiener Konzerthaus

Performers

Hespèrion XXI, Ensemble Le Concert des Nations, Orchester La Capella Reial de Catalunya,

Ensemble Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, Sopran Marianne Beate Kielland, Mezzosopran Pascal Bertin, Countertenor David Sagastume, Countertenor Nicholas Mulroy, Tenor Lluis Vilamajó, Tenor Daniele Carnovich, Bass Antonio Abete, Bass Jordi Savall, Leitung

Program

Bartholomäus Riedl Ist ein schöner Aufzug Ein langer und schöner Aufzug

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Plaudite tympana à 53 (1682)) Battalia à 10 (1673) Sonata Sancti Polycarpi à 9 (1673) Missa Salisburgensis à 53 (1682)

Encore: Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Gloria (Missa Salisburgensis à 53) (1682)

The hall was packed - mostly with retirees, but there were some youngish faces. I decided not to familiarize myself with the music beforehand, so it was all fresh for me. The instrumentalists were good, although from where I was sitting it seemed like horn players on the left and on the right (they were positioned in semi-circle on the balcony) were a bit out of sync - but it might be just due to my being positioned right upfront and to the side (this is what you get when you buy the tickets in the last moment). The music was good, but fairly predictable. There was an interesting moment in Riedl's piece (never even heard of Riedl, btw) that sounded really dissonant - gotta check out if this was intended or some performance fuck-up.

The singers (there were 16) were excellent, female ones (two mezzos, two sopranos) in particular. One of the sopranos was on the last weeks of pregnancy, had to hold her belly when bowing. It is heroic that she managed to stand the whole concert. She was outstanding, which was a relief, since being positioned right next to her, she was whom mostly heard. I really enjoyed the (very few) polyphonic moments when the whole choir was singing - otherwise, these were mostly solos / duos. Pretty, but repetitive. I had my regular qualm with vocal choir music reinforced - the "s" sound (and "t" to a lesser extent) is so pronounced - particularly when the whole choir is singing, then it really sounds like a snake pit - it affects my enjoyment of the music. I should start a petition to ban the use of texts in favor of wordless (and consonant-less) vocalizing.

Mandatory thundering applause (I still have to attend a concert in Vienna that would not end in 10-minute ovation, retirees are very polite here). And an encore from which I escaped.

Edited by Д.Д.

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Thanks for posting. Most comment I have read about this piece - which I have never heard - concentrates on the (for the period) lavish use of instruments, and also the spatial deployment of the singers and musicians. I guess there was not much use of space, but how about the instruments? I wonder if a stage-presentation somewhat neutralises the effects of the instruments and makes them sound more like the backing-band?

Also I wonder if Alia Vox will issue this. Savall does issue a lot of stuff...

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Yes, it was deployed. The singers ware in semicircle all through the stage. Same with the musicians - symmetrically split over central stage (two violins on extreme right - two on extreme left, and so on). A lot of singing and playing was in call-and-response fashion from one side to the other. Since I was sitting on the side this was lost on me.

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papsrus, good idea for the thread.

I am attending Hespèrion XXI performing Biber's Missa Salisburgensis. The full line-up is here: http://konzerthaus.at/kh/d/0201_detail_frame.asp?KHGVA=true&vaid=0015e412

Will post my impressions.

So, here it goes.

Wiener Konzerthaus

Performers

Hespèrion XXI, Ensemble Le Concert des Nations, Orchester La Capella Reial de Catalunya,

Ensemble Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, Sopran Marianne Beate Kielland, Mezzosopran Pascal Bertin, Countertenor David Sagastume, Countertenor Nicholas Mulroy, Tenor Lluis Vilamajó, Tenor Daniele Carnovich, Bass Antonio Abete, Bass Jordi Savall, Leitung

Program

Bartholomäus Riedl Ist ein schöner Aufzug Ein langer und schöner Aufzug

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Plaudite tympana à 53 (1682)) Battalia à 10 (1673) Sonata Sancti Polycarpi à 9 (1673) Missa Salisburgensis à 53 (1682)

Encore: Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Gloria (Missa Salisburgensis à 53) (1682)

The hall was packed - mostly with retirees, but there were some youngish faces. I decided not to familiarize myself with the music beforehand, so it was all fresh for me. The instrumentalists were good, although from where I was sitting it seemed like horn players on the left and on the right (they were positioned in semi-circle on the balcony) were a bit out of sync - but it might be just due to my being positioned right upfront and to the side (this is what you get when you buy the tickets in the last moment). The music was good, but fairly predictable. There was an interesting moment in Riedl's piece (never even heard of Riedl, btw) that sounded really dissonant - gotta check out if this was intended or some performance fuck-up.

The singers (there were 16) were excellent, female ones (two mezzos, two sopranos) in particular. One of the sopranos was on the last weeks of pregnancy, had to hold her belly when bowing. It is heroic that she managed to stand the whole concert. She was outstanding, which was a relief, since being positioned right next to her, she was whom mostly heard. I really enjoyed the (very few) polyphonic moments when the whole choir was singing - otherwise, these were mostly solos / duos. Pretty, but repetitive. I had my regular qualm with vocal choir music reinforced - the "s" sound (and "t" to a lesser extent) is so pronounced - particularly when the whole choir is singing, then it really sounds like a snake pit - it affects my enjoyment of the music. I should start a petition to ban the use of texts in favor of wordless (and consonant-less) vocalizing.

Mandatory thundering applause (I still have to attend a concert in Vienna that would not end in 10-minute ovation, retirees are very polite here). And an encore from which I escaped.

have been a (partially dedicated) follower of Jordi Savall and his projects for a couple of decades, but now being on hold for quite some time regarding his new recordings/concerts etc......IMO the spontaneity of his music (which had during the years 1980 to the early 2000`s at the same time an unbelievable precision) somehow got lost......don`t have an explanation ( probably being beleaguered with the additional economical responsibilty by going indipendent via Alia Vox...or the death of his wife Montserrat Figueras ?) for this impressions.......

don`t get me wrong, the performance you`ve witnessed for sure was still a good one and a baroque music festival needs some well known "names" as headliners, but still would wish the organizers of "Resonanzen" in future would look for alternatives like for instance

Sébastien Daucé & Ensemble Correspondances

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDD7tDMl64Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxgJX9IUAX8

just my 5 cent worth....

ps this ensemble`s recent Étienne Moulinié recording is excellent....

Edited by soulpope

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Yes, it was deployed. The singers ware in semicircle all through the stage. Same with the musicians - symmetrically split over central stage (two violins on extreme right - two on extreme left, and so on). A lot of singing and playing was in call-and-response fashion from one side to the other. Since I was sitting on the side this was lost on me.

Got it - thanks.

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Thanks for your impressions of the Konzerthaus performance.

I like the idea that you didn't familiarize yourself with the music before attending the concert. Listening to music live is (or can be) much more of a visceral experience than listening to recorded music, I find. You're very much in the moment. Part of the shared experience. And when the music is completely new to you, perhaps that sense of being in the moment is even more heightened.

Anyways, glad you enjoyed and thanks for your thoughts.

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This afternoon:

A chamber performance titled "Trumpet," featuring some of the principals of the Sarasota Orchestra -- although trumpets were featured only in the first, brief piece and the final piece. More on that below.

I sat dead center, three rows back in the cozy 250-or-so seat hall.

Program:

Britten -- Fanfare for St. Edmunsbury

Mendelssohn -- Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49

Strauss -- Serenade in E flat major, Op. 7

Vivaldi -- Concerto for Two Trumpets in C major, RV 537

The Britten is a short call and response piece. For this performance one trumpet was positioned center stage, one trumpet was in the upper right balcony at the side of the stage, the third was in the upper left balcony at the other side of the stage. Very effective for this brief intro piece, which also includes some nice polyphony with all three trumpets. Short, sweet.

The Mendelssohn was the standout. Piano, cello, violin. I've heard the violinist, Jennifer Best Takeda, in another string quartet she performs with in a local church here and she's wonderful. This was, to me, the best music of the afternoon, played with real sensitivity and passion. I was pleased but curious as to why it was included in a performance ostensibly devoted to trumpet / brass / woodwind pieces. Nonetheless, the packed house ate this one up, bursting into a brief, spontaneous (but frowned upon) round of applause after the first movement. Beautiful melodies with the melodic lines passed around among the instruments, then developed, then returned to again and passed around. I'll have to listen to this piece again.

The Strauss was performed by a 13-piece ensemble, all woodwinds with french horns. Particularly enjoyed paying attention to the bassoon and contrabassoon players as they provided what could almost be described as a little funk to the proceedings. Another brief piece -- perhaps 10 minutes.

They wheeled out a harpsichord for the Vivaldi, and a string ensemble of perhaps 12 players backed the principal and co-principal trumpet players from the orchestra for this piece. The principals played beautifully together. The one disappointment was that the harpsichord was barely audible. I had high hopes for this but they positioned the instrument so that it was pointing straight out toward the audience rather than sideways, as they typically do with a piano. And it was in the center-back of the ensemble. Maybe this is typical, I don't know. They must have thought about this, but the instrument was mostly lost behind the trumpets, certainly, and the strings on either side.

All in all, Mendelssohn's piano trio gets an A. The rest fell somewhere short that fine performance, but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Edited by papsrus

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Just back from two great nights in New York.

Thursday:

New York Philharmonic; Emanuel Ax, piano; David Robertson, conductor

Avery Fisher Hall

Rachmaninoff - Vocalise

Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 2

(intermission)

Stravinsky - Firebird Suite (substituted for the originally programmed The Song of the Nightingale)

Bartok - The Miraculous Mandarin Suite

OK, I don't feel qualified to comment on the interpretations given or the strengths of the orchestra, beyond saying that the NYPO and Ax were both excellent. I was most interested in the Chopin, as the concerto's exquisite lyricism and melodic beauty captured me from the first time I listened to it. I enjoyed it with the following caveat:

My ticket was for first balcony, center, last row (that's about 6 rows back). And this is where I sat for the first part of the concert (Rachmaninoff, Chopin).That was a mistake in the acoustically prickly Avery Fisher. I should have known better.

While the articulation of the orchestra and Mr. Ax were clear not blurred, the music sounded as though it was being played on the other side of a pane of glass. Weak and distant. This due, I'm sure, to the large overhang above the first balcony in the rather large hall. The young couple sitting off to the right of me one row forward texting away on their phones didn't help. Despite the repeated glares from other patrons, they continued on unconcerned. Assholes. I just closed my eyes and ignored the whole thing as best I could.

At intermission I asked an usher if I could move down to one of the open seats at orchestra level (the hall was about 3/4 full, so there were plenty of good seats open down there.) She said that was fine, and advised me to just wait for the two-minute bell and snag whatever seat was open at that point. So I did, situating myself dead center about 3/4 the way back. The difference in the acoustics was quite pronounced. I could hear the orchestra in both pianissimo and forte quite clearly and fully; the sound was louder and right there in front of my nose when I closed my eyes (not behind a pane of glass somewhere) and so I obviously enjoyed the two latter pieces much more than the Chopin I had primarily come to hear.

Not really a disappointment, despite missing Chopin in full bloom, as I was pleased to hear the NYPO in distinctly fuller force in the second half of the performance.

Keep in mind I'm used to my local band, which is skilled and really enjoyable. But hearing the seamless, shimmering strings and the power of the NYPO there at Robertson's command anytime he asked for it was really impressive. Likewise, to hear them in delicate pianissimo with full, clear articulation was thrilling.

My advice for Avery Fisher: Get orchestra level seats in the center. The closer to the front the better, I assume. Although rear was great. And the folks down at orchestra level are there for the music, not to text their friends, "OMG I'm at the Linkin Cenner."

Friday:

Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Richardo Muti, conductor

Carnegie Hall

Mendelssohn - Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture

Debussy - La Mer

(Intermission)

Scriabin - Symphony No. 3 "The Divine Poem"

Now for this performance I originally had seats again in the first balcony, center, which by all accounts are fine, perhaps even the best, at Carnegie. But given my previous night's experience, I upgraded the day of the performance to orchestra level, center, 6 rows from the stage. It was perhaps the greatest musical experience of my life. No shit. The Chicago orchestra with Muti is an incredible force. Forget the famed brass, the strings on all sides were sublime. The hall radiant. The audience quiet and attentive. You still can't wipe the smile off my face today.

The first violinist, or concertmaster, Robert Chen was exuberant, bouncing forward in his chair as he would dig into particularly vigorous passages. And Muti was thrilling to watch, the way he teased out or forcibly willed various sections of the orchestra, turning to face the violins or standing on his toes to direct the oboes or brass.

Absolutely thrilling orchestra.

Quite a different audience at Carnegie as compared to Avery Fisher, as well. Or perhaps that impression was due to my choice of seating. I was up in what felt like the upper deck of a tourist bus as Avery Fisher, while at Carnegie many of the patrons I sat amongst greeted one another as familiar friends. They seemed more hip, more eccentric. And as I said, the audience at Carnegie was more engaged / respectful of the performance than was the balcony brigade at AF, certainly.

Edited by papsrus

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papsrus, thanks, interesting read. The greatest musical experience of your life, wow!

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Time (and money!) well spent, my friend. Thanks for the write up.

I could write you a page or two on where to sit in the London concert halls. The Barbican can be bad; more than half of the Royal Festival Hall is hopeless.

The story is that Simon Rattle has asked for a new concert hall in London to meet modern standards, as a condition for signing up as Principal Conductor for the LSO. I hope we get it.

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Time (and money!) well spent, my friend. Thanks for the write up.

I could write you a page or two on where to sit in the London concert halls. The Barbican can be bad; more than half of the Royal Festival Hall is hopeless.

The story is that Simon Rattle has asked for a new concert hall in London to meet modern standards, as a condition for signing up as Principal Conductor for the LSO. I hope we get it.

Yes. Well, I would like to know where to sit in London halls! May be helpful, although no need for a page or two :tophat:

The trick is to know where the good seats are and, if available, sit in them -- particularly for places like Avery Fisher and, as you say, Barbican or Royal Festival. I would assume that orchestra level, center, mid-way back or closer is a pretty safe bet just about anywhere.

If I lived in New York I would be spoiled by Carnegie and probably not bother with AF much, although the newly refurbished Alice Tully at Lincoln Center (for chamber and smaller performances) is said to be great.

Edited by papsrus

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Sounds like great time.

Indeed. Not quite the pagoda in Pensacola, another favorite venue for other reasons. :lol:

Later this afternoon:

Sarasota Orchestra

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Part -- Cantus in Memoriam to Benjamin Britten

Beethoven -- Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Steven Hough)

Elgar -- Enigma Variations

And if I have anything left after that, I may go tonight to the Historic Asolo Theatre for a piano-violin performance with Adrian Anantawan (v) and Amy Yang (p).

Brahms -- Violin Sonata, Op. 78, No. 1 in G minor

Ravel -- Sonata for Violin and Piano, No. 2 in G major

Mozart -- Sonata in F major

We'll see which way the wind blows for that one.

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