I was at a concert: FINALLY!

A week ago Saturday brought to a close the New York Philharmonic season as far as my attendance is concerned. It’s been a pretty disappointing first year for symphony concerts here in the Northeast in my opinion. Good-and-occasionally-very-good-but-not-great performances of Strauss, Mahler, Bruckner, and Beethoven (James Ehnes excepted!)  from the NYPO, the bullet-riddled corpse of Schumann 4 in Philly, and a respectable but ultimately unspectacular Rachmaninov 2 from the band on the Jersey side left me wondering just when the Phil was going to bring the pain and fucking represent as their reputation suggested they should have been doing all along. I got my wish thanks to John Storgards and the genius that is Sibelius.

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I was at a concert: Mahler 9

For  many years I had threatened to see Bernard Haitink in live action, and Saturday night that threat made the transition to promise thanks to the Philharmonic. Haitink is 87 years old now, and I think I had projected some ill health on to him that he does not at all appear to be suffering from. Mahler 9 is obviously right in his wheelhouse, and even at his advancing age his conducting was as clear and impactful as I always figured it was. He received warm ovations both before and after the music, the applause feeling to me like it carried the subtext of a final goodbye for certain audience members, myself included. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to see and hear the man in his element again, but I can tell you unequivocally that dude’s still got it.

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I was at a concert: Mahler 6

Last Saturday was cold as balls. Nevertheless, we spent the entire day in the city, seeing “Fun Home” in the afternoon on a whim (it was superb…one of the best things I’ve seen since moving here) and ending the night at Lincoln Center listening to Semyon Bychkov leading the Philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony no. 6. Continue reading

There’s a performance of The Star-Spangled Banner that tops Jimi at Woodstock, Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game, and even Whitney at Super Bowl XXV, and it took place at some sort of fund drive for a Christian broadcasting network based in Dallas

Is this cheesy? Lord yes. Is it also God damn glorious? Yup. That’s at least 50 dudes singing in rich, rich harmony and, most impressively, it’s crisp and together. Let’s break down why this should be surgically implanted into the brain of every American:

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I was at a concert: Beethoven and Bruckner

A couple weekends ago we headed to Lincoln Center for a concert featuring music by one of the three B’s and another B that I assume would crack the top ten of B’s if we were ranking them (I’ll file that one away). Guest conductor Juanjo Mena, who I remember from a show back in Kansas City, was there, as was James Ehnes, whose violining I’ve enjoyed from the distance of various broadcast recordings for some time now. It was a surprisingly well-attended and perhaps not-surprisingly good concert. Continue reading

Europe: Still better than us

Jaap Van Zweden was selected to be the next conductor of the New York Philharmonic, taking over in a couple years. Another prime American orchestra gig goes to another medium-profile European dude. In the wake of LA’s Gustavo Dudamel appointment, the trend seemed to be towards young, energetic guys, even if they lacked Dudamel’s charisma and escaped-mental-patient-plotting-to-destroy-the-dam haircut, which is how we ended up with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Andris Nelsons, Ludovic Morlot, et al. Alan Gilbert was in this wave, too.

I was happy at the time to see an American get arguably the most prestigious conducting post in the States (friendly reminder that it’s a spot previously held down by the likes of Mahler, Toscanini, and Bernstein), even if it came with the even more American appearance of flagrant nepotism, rightly or wrongly. I thought it might be something of a turning point for American orchestras in general. Continue reading