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Concerts: previews / reviews


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Just got back from the last performance of this year's Soundings series at the Nasher. It was a performance of Schumann's Dichterliebe and the North American premier of Jörg Widmann’s song cycle Das Heisse Herz, which was inspired by Schumann's work. Performers were baritone William Sharp and pianist Seth Knopp. . I have never heard this type of performance live before, and frankly, it fucked me up in the good way, the best way. Widmann's work in particular, it ran deep in all kinds of ways. His string quartets last night were interesting and engaging, but this song cycle was one of those things that, as they said about Monk, if you got lost it was like falling down an elevator shaft, only the logic was so strong, the melodies so pure, it wasn't a matter of possibly getting lost, it was like you knew where you were going, but damned if you knew how you were going to do it.


World premier was in October 2013: http://www.harrisonparrott.com/news/new-song-cycle-jorg-widmann-das-heisse-herz-receives-its-world-premiere

There is still new music being created, all kinds of it, music worth leaving the house for, music to wait for there to be a recording of!


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Last nigt at SMU/DCMS: http://www.dallaschambermusic.org/72ndseason/trio-solisti/


Beethoven: Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1 “Ghost”

Liebermann: Trio  No. 3, Op. 122 (commissioned for Trio Solisti)

Brahms: Piano Trio No. 2 in C major, Op. 87

The Liebermann piece was from 2012 and, as described in the composer's notes, was a piece of politico-socio paranoia. It was nice, very well-written but seemed a little too literal to spur the imagination much past what was already there. In other words, once heard, heard.

no such ceilings on the Beethoven & Brahms. Towards the end of the third movement of the Beethoven, the harmony just...went wacky and then landed back home. not that it hadn't been doing that all along, but this was in a cumulative/climatic type of way that....how did this sound back in the day when people were really...tethered to diatonic harmony as a way of life? JESUS! BEETHOVEN!

And Brahms...bloody hell, Murdoch, I have slept on Brahms way too long, and the more I wake up to it, the more asleep I realize I've been, and probably still am. Melodies and harmonies both move out of bounds at will, but never for too long, sort of like a loop that feels asymmetrical, you wonder at the moment are you breaking the loop, but no, you're not, but are you SURE? Never. Is it riveting? Always.

Admittedly no real baseline or sample size to make a meaningful comparative evaluation, but it sure seemed tome that Trio Solisti was very empathetic, totally in sync and finely nuanced for phrasing, dynamics, blend, the whole bit. I'd go back again tonight if they were there. This kind of stuff begs to be heard in person.

Beeth9oven & Brahms on the same program, in any combination, hey, where can I buy my ticket and when do I need to be there?


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The Four Seasons


Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”

Very detailed/nuances/sculpted readings of to works that could easily be made into wallpaper. Beethoven was nuts, had to have been.

Halls brought a smaller-sized orchestra and lighter sound to the orchestra., and there were moments in the Vivladi where the sense was that the thing was going to turn into Phillip Glass with the light, echoey repetitions, the short phrases with extreme dynamic contours, and the limited harmonicnature of much of the music itself.

A very interesting performance of some very familiar music.

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The PDF on the page at the link can be read without actually downloading it, but this may be dependent on your circumstances.

(Un)popular music and young audiences: Exploring the classical chamber music concert from the perspective of young adult listeners.

"This empirical study explores the responses of 40 young people to a chamber music concert, considering how their greater experience of popular music listening formed a frame of reference for their responses to live classical music. Using qualitative methods including the ‘Write-Draw’ technique to investigate the young people’s responses before, during and after the concert, we demonstrate how the emotional, responsive listening of popular music conflicted with the etiquette of the concert hall and the structures of classical music. Our study sheds new light on the continued decline of young audiences for classical concerts and presents a challenge to music education to equip young people for all kinds of live musical experience."


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Just back from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam:

Jan Willem de Vriend (conductor), The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (Orkest van het Oosten), Hannes Minnaar (piano)

Beethoven's Coriolan Overture op.62, Piano Concerto no.5, & Symphony no.7

Great performances, very similar to the recordings these musicians made on Hybrid SACD for Challenge Records (link). Hannes Minnaar signed the booklet of my copy of the newly released The Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos during the intermission.

Edited by erwbol
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Didn't see this one coming....Hilary Hahn moved Brenda so deeply that when intermission came, she said said she had to leave, that she had never heard anything so beautiful in her life and she needed some time to digest/absorb/recover, she had tears on her face and was actually kind of quivering. Never, ever has she had a response like that to any music. So, we left at intermission. Far be it for me to question that kind of response to music.

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4 hours ago, JSngry said:

Didn't see this one coming....Hilary Hahn moved Brenda so deeply that when intermission came, she said said she had to leave, that she had never heard anything so beautiful in her life and she needed some time to digest/absorb/recover, she had tears on her face and was actually kind of quivering. Never, ever has she had a response like that to any music. So, we left at intermission. Far be it for me to question that kind of response to music.

The Dvorak Violin Concerto - if performed properly - digs deep in the listener's soul .... so Hilary Hahn was obviously in good form which unfortunately is not the the rule nowadays ..... btw Hannu Lintu is a gifted conducter - a pity you missed the Shostakovich 1 .....

Edited by soulpope
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Indeed, I started to insist that we stay, but really, Brenda was moved in a way that I've never seen her be moved, and ultiamtely, I had to respect that.

Lintu is indeed gifted based on this extremely limited sample size. He got the band to play lighter and more transparently than I've ever heard them, and they seemed to do so willingly and gladly. Early reviews were going on about how "demonstrative" (or something like that) a conductor he was, but he got what he wanted and it was good, etc. All I can figure is that between Thursday night and Saturday night, nobody needed any further prompting, because compared to van Zweden, this guy was Charlie Watts.

No complaints either way, just to be clear. I love it that this band can do all of that, not all bands can.

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DCMS season begins tonight: http://www.dallaschambermusic.org/danish-quartet/

Monday, October 16, 2017, 7:30 pm at Caruth Auditorium at SMU

Bartók : String Quartet No.1, Op.7, Sz.40
Traditional, Arr. DSQ: Nordic Folk Music Selections
Beethoven: Quartet No.14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

Some scowly looking motherfuckers. I may or may not find that a good sign.



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Good scowls. They played Bartok with a definite point to make, and they made it.

Their Nordic folk song medleys definitely had a point and seemed to relax all concern.

After intermission, with everybody relaxed, the played Beethoven. As the old joke goes, Beethoven won. But the quartet did put up a good fight. Hoeveer, Beethoven is better than most people, so...a little to relaxed going in, and then, next thing you know,....Beethoven is here. UH-oh!

Also, the guys have a publicity photo that shows their age to be the same as it is when they come on stage. Nice surprise, that.

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Last night, DSO:


RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
DEBUSSY Gigues & Rondes de Printemps, from Images
RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2

The Ravel concerto was a real discovery for me.

I found it odd that Heras-Casado gave both Debussy items a very transparent,almost flat-lined reading, whereas Ravel was allowed to bite in an almost violent manner. I prefered the range given Ravel, but it goes against the grain of how I usually hear his music performed, and same with Debussy, usually it's played with "shimmer" on top, here it was in the background. An interesting choice on both fronts, but not choices that showed an immediately apparent justification. Hmmmmm....

On the non-musical side of things, Jean-Yves Thibaudet was a most marvellous pianist, but is one of the most poorly dressed performers in any idiom I've ever seen. A suit coat several sizes too small (and at least a decade too old), slacks that seem to have just shown up on his body when he wasn't looking, and suede loafers with gaudy diamond (or rhinestone) covered saddles. Cat played his ass of, though, so it's all good.


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Double Concerto for Two Pianos
Symphony No. 8

Ok, I'm still not sure about Phllip Glass (not that I have a say in these things), but this one had more...nuance than I'm used to hearing from his work. At the end of the day, though, I remain convinced that his music can be ultimately reverse-engineered into a Phil Spector record. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But one of the percussionists seemed woefully out of sync the whole way through, and in this most meticulously metrically subdivided music, hey, Spector doubled everybody but Hal Blaine, who was nowhere to be heard or felt here. A fundamental flaw in performance, better luck next time, maybe.

The Bruckner was amazing. van Zweden gets it, and gets the band to play it. Yeah, it was long. Yeah, it was kind of (or more) OCD-ish. And yeah, there are some conceptual similarities between Bruckner and Glass (and in that regard, brilliant programming!) but whereas Glass reverse engineers into Phil Spector - to Spector's advantage,btw - Bruckner is wholly organic and reverse engineers pretty much back into itself, if not in overt source, then definitely in architecture. So many internal references keep repeating yet unfolding...gotta be a bitch to play this, gotta be even more of a bitch to conduct it, to keep that macro arc moving forward while giving all the micro details the fullest detail. I kept waiting for the thing to blink, or look down, or in some other way break the trance, but it never did.

And see, that's the thing - Glass presupposes that you're going to trance out on his shit, which seems a bit of a con-job to me, no matter what the music actually is...people can fool themselves into liking shit because it sounds like what they think it's supposed to sound like.. Bruckner doesn't really presuppose anything other than...what he wrote is what you're going to get. But that's not a given, you're not going to get shit if there's a basic misunderstanding of what "it" "is". Presuppositions and conclusions are not really the same thing, are they? Glass, presupposition. Brucker, an conclusion borne of being convinced.

Bruckner, ftw.

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Last night, Dallas Chamber Music Society:


Schubert: Quartettsatz in C minor, D. 703
Dvořák: String Quartet No.14 in A-flat major, Op.105
Janáček: String Quartet No.2 (“Intimate Letters”)

A really splendid program, and a pretty good quartet. They seemed a bit..."timid" at first, but as the evening wnet on, I realized that they were playing exceptionally well within themselves, so,,,that's how they wanted it to be. They also took the novel (in my experience, anyway) of introducing each movement of the Janacek with a selection of his letter to Camilla written during the time he was composing the work. That dude...would probably not survive in today's world. Yet, for providing context to the music, it was a very effective move, I mean, running waters where couples come to catch babies swirling up and out of the stream, whoa....intense imagery all in the service of a one-way obsession..

I went home happy, with yet another reminder that the suggestion I was given a few years ago to not take Dvorak too lightly continues to be a good one..

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Having a week of lots of live classical music...

Monteverdi's Vespers by Hastings Philharmonic Baroque Ensemble - first time I've heard the Hastings Philharmonic in any guise, very impressed, much more than anticipated.  Superb instrumentalists and soloists, all gut strings, baroque bows etc, chorus were presumably local but very good.  Will definitely be going to more of their productions

Then on Monday Aleksander Madzar playing Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' at Wigmore Hall - solo piano is not really my area but I thought it was astonishing, very intense

And tonight, if the train makes through the snow - the Doric Quartet playing Haydn's op.64 4, 5 & 6

Edited by Olie Brice
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Recently: Bellini's "Norma" and the rarely performed "Tiefland" by the apparently rarely heard Eugen d'Albert at the Sarasota Opera House.

For the latter I abandoned my usual front row balcony perch and plopped down in a seat second row, center. I now have a new favorite seat. 

Norma was fine, soprano was excellent, the rest of the gang seemed to me to be a slight step down, and the staging was somewhat static throughout. No problem closing the old peepers now and again and sitting back to just listen with this one.

Tiefland was excellent -- wonderfully melodic score; the singers and orchestra were excellent and engaging all around; ample characters coming and going to keep the performance moving along at a nice pace.

The performance was the season finale, and was being recorded for "possible" release, so a DVD or YouTube of the opera may show up at some point. This was just the third production of Tiefland in the U.S. and now that the opera company has finished its 28-year Verdi cycle, I'm hoping they continue to bring lesser-performed titles to the stage in future seasons. 


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Tonight, Jaap van Zweden's farewell gig leading the SO on Beethoven 9. It was magical - the band was in a zone, and seriously that piece is...yeah.

Bye, wish I had gotten in on the van Zweeden transformation sooner than I did, but I caught enough of it to know that it was real, and that it mattered.

Adios, Maestro!


This guy, otoh, ain't goin' nowhere, ever, not as long as there is information.




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Just got back from a fully staged performance of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale - chamber orchestra, narrator, and three dancer/actors. The musicians were all on the faculty of Georgia State University, conducted by my friend Stuart Gerber, and the three dancers were students - who did very well, for the most part. (At times their inexperience showed a little). The music was impeccably performed.

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DSO tonight:




HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3

BEETHOVEN King Stephen Overture

KODÁLY Háry János Suite


Very encouraged by the lead line of the opening night review by the normally staid Scott Cantrell:

Well, that was a fun concert.

Well, good!

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