Music Director Tonu Kalam and the UNC Symphony Orchestra take their bows.

The UNC Symphony Orchestra has won The American Prize in Orchestral Performance – College/University Division for 2012

The University of North Carolina Symphony Orchestra has won The American Prize in Orchestral Performance – College/University Division for 2012. This is an important award, and we congratulate maestro Tonu Kalam and his outstanding student musicians on their achievement. For a review of one of their concerts, read Steven Kruger’s account of his visit to Chapel Hill, “Two Orchestral Concerts at Chapel Hill: Tonu Kalam conducts the UNC Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts the European Union Youth Orchestra:” click here.

Here is their award-winning performance of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

Charles Dutoit.

The Philadelphia Orchestra at Davies Hall — A Great Legend Intact — Two Concerts

The Philadelphia Orchestra always WAS the sexiest!

Back in the publicity heyday of art music and the aftermath of Toscanini, Americans knew their five orchestras. It went like this: in Boston you listened to Charles Munch for Gallic excitability. In Chicago, Reiner ruled with a heart of stone but turned out warmer central European renditions than Toscanini had. You flocked to Bernstein for eruptive passion and disreputable energy in New York. And at Severance Hall, in a state of penance, you submitted to the owlish purges of George Szell. But nothing seduced the listener so much as The Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Eugene Ormandy.

Jaap van Zweden Conducts the BSO in Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Emanuel Ax

Last summer two extraordinary new conductors made their Tanglewood debuts, both of whom are former concertmasters, the Finn John Storgårds and Jaap van Zweden, who held the post at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Both enjoyed enormous successes. Van Zweden, now around fifty, turned to conducting in his mid-thirties (after a career concertmaster of the Concertgebouw from the age of eighteen!), and soon came into important music directorships in the Netherlands, those of the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in Hilversum. Since his appointment as Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2008, he has been making sparks fly in the U.S. with his electric interpretations and the quality of playing he elicits from the orchestras he conducts.

Vassily Primakov

Vassily Primakov plays Schubert, Schumann, and Rachmaninoff at Tannery Pond

Vassily Primakov’s piano recital has been the most anticipated event of the Tannery Pond season. It is hard to believe that he is only thirty and still viewed by many as a young or emerging artist. This is certainly not evident in his mature musicianship and in nature of his repertory, which includes some important contemporary works, like Poul Ruders’ Piano Concerto, which was written expressly for him, along with some challenging nineteenth century compositions outside the basic repertory, like Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons and Grand Sonata, the Dvořák Piano Concerto, and now Schumann’s Third Piano Sonata in F Minor, which he played in this recital in Schumann’s first version, which has an extra movement, a scherzo following the first movement—a rarity which was definitely among the treasures of the evening.

Yuri Temirkanov Conducts the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra with Nikolai Lugansky, Piano in Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov

recent San Francisco visit of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, grandly led by Yuri Temirkanov and featuring Nikolai Lugansky as piano soloist, is a fine example of why one should make a point of hearing orchestras on tour.

Present-day listeners are frequently tempted to overgeneralize about music in Russia, knowing only Valery Gergiev or some of the younger conductors currently recording in the UK. Gergiev’s brand of intensity sometimes invites lurid cliches about Russian “barbaric splendor.” Indeed, there have been Gergiev concerts where passion seemed to destroy luster and raw perspiration carried the day—an approach more bear than bearnaise. So it is enlightening to encounter in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic the continuation of a highly charged but more patrician attitude towards music-making. One recalls that Mravinsky and his “Leningrad Philharmonic” cast a grand Karajan-like shadow over the Russian-speaking musical world for forty years. Something of that special dignity remains. Indeed, an almost nineteenth-century manner.

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