Last weekend the San Francisco Symphony, surely unbeknownst, gave me a Valentine’s Day card masquerading as a pair of tickets! I don’t honestly recall a concert in recent years I’ve enjoyed more than this one. I’ve known and loved Paul Dukas’ ballet score La Peri for more than fifty years without ever hearing it live, and as a dedicated Francophile in music, I am always delighted to hear again Camille Saint-Saëns’ iconic and fascinatingly structured Organ Symphony. Add to this the fact that I grew up in the wilds of Latin America and learned to tango just about when couples abandoned cutting a rug with each other on the dance floor in favor of wriggling in place, and you can imagine how a piano concerto based on Tango would evoke a special warmth and affection in someone like me. So I am writing more as a fan than as a critic this time.
Ever wanted to hear a Wagner opera performed with smooth singing: little or no barking, effortful huffing, or slow wobbling? Sure, there have been individual singers who have managed the trick, such as Plácido Domingo in Giuseppe Sinopoli’s famous Tannhäuser recording. But I mean the whole cast, from the biggest roles right down to the smallest. Well, here’s your chance: a complete Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg that is a near-constant pleasure to the ears. The only problem is that it’s sung in Italian: hence I maestri cantori di Norimbega. But don’t let that you put you off. Opera houses in many countries have developed their own national traditions of Wagner singing in the vernacular. Opera enthusiasts cherish certain recorded Wagner excerpts sung magnificently in French by soprano Germaine Lubin or tenor Georges Thill.
I am excited to be performing repertory for two pianos with the wonderful pianist and now colleague at Simon’s Rock, Manon Hutton-DeWys. We will be matching our trusty Steinway B (on the left in the picture) in Kellogg with a newly acquired Mason and Hamlin BB (on the right) to present great compositions that exploit the medium of piano duo, in sonority somewhere between solo piano and full orchestra. Our varied program includes Brahms’s Sonata, an alternate version of the great Piano Quintet in F minor; Debussy’s late, dramatic “En Blanc et Noir” composed during World War I, with poignant expressions of French patriotism; Stravinsky’s spare, neoclassical Sonata, and Copland’s joyful “Danzon Cubano.” We invite you to celebrate Labor Day weekend with us on Saturday, September 1 at 7:30.
The first two concerts this summer season by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra were among the best I have heard in several decades. The energy level was palpable. The intensity of the playing, particularly the strings, was a marvel. The two greatest challenges for the ensemble were Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and the Leonore Overture No. 3 of Beethoven.
At the risk of repeating myself, I must once again give my best praise to Aston Magna’s concert, “Dueling Violins, Genial Gambas,” on June 30 at Saint James Place in Great Barrington. Though I am not on the lookout for poor performances from anyone, I am continually amazed at the high level of the participating artists in this group. The style has become an easy, normal thing, speaking clearly to us centuries later in large part because of the ease these wonderful players show.
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