Minsoo Sohn in Beethoven, Liszt arrangements, Ravel, and Kirchner at Jordan Hall, Friday, April 30, at 8 pm.

I first heard Minsoo Sohn play at an Emmanuel Music Bach concert in January 2008, where he played with a chamber group as well as solo, in a couple of Busoni arrangements of Bach chorale preludes. I was so impressed with the musicality and seriousness of his playing, that I made a note to follow his future appearences. Although he has been very active, this has been my first opportunity to hear him play a full solo recital.

Spoils of Conquest: Crescendo Performs Latin American Choral Music (1600–2010) Saturday, April 17, 2010, First Congregational Church, Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Christine Gevert, the indefatigable choral conductor, early music specialist, harpsichordist, and composer, consistently makes her mark in producing unusual and meticulously prepared theme-centric vocal concerts. In the past, we’ve heard rarities of the Mendelssohns (Felix and Fannie), a U.S. premiere of Telemann’s impressive oratorio the Hamburische Kapitänsmusik, and tonight, an exotic syncretism of indigenous Latin America culture and seventeenth-century western European Christianity.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Grab a beer and a bowl of pretzels when you sit down with The Big Short by Michael Lewis. You’re not just reading a book, you’re going to a game – a big, ugly, but oh-so exciting game. Lewis reports the causes of the current financial disaster with all the passion, pacing and testosterone of John Madden calling NFL plays – not surprising from the author of The Blind Side and Moneyball. He makes a complicated story easy to understand (most of the time) and takes us inside the heads, souls and maneuverings of several fascinating players.

A Passion for Bach: a composer’s greatness shines through at the Leipzig Gewandhaus

Each spring, Easter offers us a time for family, a time for oversized rabbits, for pastel-colored eggs and for Bach oratorios. Since the 19th century, the St. John Passion (as well as the longer, more complete St. Matthew Passion) has become a holiday standard for classical music buffs with its musical retelling of the Easter story, replete with arias, ariosos, recitatives, choruses and some of the most memorable hymns in the Western canon.

Gruberova and Haider bring back Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux at the Bayerische Staatsoper

Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux (1837) is quite a rarity, and many who are new to it might be tempted to assume that this is rather well justified. It could be said that the librettist Cammerano concocted a travesty of the story of Elizabeth and Essex, with singularly unappealing characters tied up in a knot of bad faith and vengefulness (one might equally say that of Wagner’s Ring, of course), and that Donizetti glossed over it with course after course of conventional emotivity bathed in meretricious bel canto sauces. However, after seeing and hearing this at first seemingly rather strange and off-putting but passionately committed production, only the most rigidly prejudiced will refuse to admit that they have been fascinated and moved. Conductor Friederich Haider, above all, conveyed his belief in Roberto Devereux’s quality and power through his deep understanding of bel canto as a psychological and dramatic idiom. In fact his contribution was equalled by the magnificent performances of Edita Gruberova and Paolo Gavanelli. Christof Loy’s production, which sets the action in modern Britain, may seem perverse at first and Herbert Murauer’s set and costumes singularly depressing, but eventually the distracting contemporary details vanish, as one abandons oneself to Donizetti’s spell.

Now available: “Celebrating Carter’s Century,” music by Elliott Carter from the 2008 Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood

An especially exciting bit of news was tucked away in the middle of the release: the BSO’s own recording label, will release as a download Celebrating Carter’s Century, music by Elliott Carter from the 2008 Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. We can only hope that the documentation of this great event will be as complete as possible.

Spring Breaks, Musical Rests: The Bard College Conservatory of Music, Sunday April 4, 2009

It was a “playful” afternoon, with so much young talent to admire that the occasional boisterous interpretation seemed completely in line with the mood of the day. Celebrating the spirit in beautiful sounds was as fitting a ceremony as I could imagine on such a stunning Easter Sunday. The presence of performing genius, such as that of Melvin Chen or Dawn Upshaw, made the day even more celebratory. Leon Botstein’s direction allowed these young performers to shine and impress both as individuals performers – since the three pieces sported many solo passages – and, as well, as a polished, cohesive ensemble.

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