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This article by Elaine Strauss was prepared for the September 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
A Season in Music
Those who grieve for the anticipated demise of classical
music can fuel their chronic gloom by pointing to patches of empty
seats amid white-haired audiences at classical concerts. They can
feel acute pain if they dwell on the disappearance this summer of
Rutgers’ SummerFest, as well as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s
However, other evidence shows that the glass may be half full.
During their 2002 season, the Princeton Summer Chamber Music Concerts
consistently turned away potential listeners from their free concerts
because Richardson Auditorium was completely full. Perhaps, but only
perhaps, not having to produce the price of a ticket accounts for
the difference in attendance between Princeton University’s winter
chamber music offerings and those in the summer. Yet despite hefty
ticket prices, the Arthur Ashe Stadium overflowed with tennis fans
who wanted to watch the finals of the U.S. Open. There’s no accounting
for the size of audiences.
The fan of chamber music has to be grateful that the Princeton University
Concert series continues to present a focused program in Richardson,
undeterred by the number of vacant places. The American String Quartet
opens the season on Thursday, September 26, proceeding with its survey
of Haydn quartets, coupled with the quintets and sextets of Mozart
and Brahms; the title of the survey, "Four-Five-Six," tells
it all. A second concert takes place Thursday, May 15, 2003. The American
String Quartet, in addition to its two Princeton concerts, gives three
performances at New York’s Manhattan School of Music playing repertoire
that overlaps its Princeton choices.
Central Jersey’s proximity to New York is a boon to concert goers
here. Sometimes central Jersey venues are ideal for out-of-town try-outs
of New York performances. Sometimes artists who appear in New York
tack on a central Jersey concert, attracted by the lack of geographical
distance. Sometimes concertgoers in our area who want to hear more
can take themselves to the Big Apple for additional performances by
artists who appear here.
Another link between Princeton and New York is the concert performance
offered as one of the prizes to winners of the Young Concert Artists
(YCA) competition. New York-based YCA has been a divining rod for
artists with the potential for big careers; among their discoveries
have been Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode, and Dawn Upshaw. This season
cellist Thomas Carroll is recipient of YCA’s Princeton University
Concerts Prize, with a performance at Richardson, Thursday, March
Princeton’s McCarter Theater, with its varied array of musical temptations,
also presents artists who appear in New York, as does New Brunswick’s
State Theater. Add to the New York duplications the music that originates
in New Jersey, and we have a very rich selection in the Garden State.
Paul Somers, editor of Classical New Jersey, counted 1,678 concerts
in New Jersey during the past season.
Looking over the 2002-2003 possibilities in the immediate
area, I easily tick off several individual concerts that have a high-profile
for me. And, smitten by an attack of honesty, I feel compelled to
disclose my biases. I’m really a fussy listener. It bothers me when
pitches are just a little bit off, when timing is even slightly unsteady,
and when phrases are shapeless. Hands-in-the-air showmanship by pianists
and fancy body language by other instrumentalists strike me as no
substitute for unadulterated musicianship. I’m looking for clarity
and musical tension, not mush. I like to hear new discoveries in familiar
music. I want to be on the edge of my seat. The music I like best
is distinguished by its structure, rather than its mood. For a desert
island, I’ll take Bach and Beethoven, rather than Chopin and Debussy.
Some of my favorite performances this year are by renowned artists.
Early mobilization for purchasing tickets may be in order for these.
Particularly high on my list is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who plays at McCarter
Theater on Friday, January 24.
Ma’s superb musicianship is a springboard for his enormous curiosity
and flexibility. He has performed live for the Mark Morris Dance Group.
He has explored non-Western music in a three-concert Carnegie Hall
series called "The Silk Road," melding the music of central
Asia with western cello music. Invariably, he operates at the crossroad
of impeccability and adventure.
Also among my top priorities is the performance of soprano
Dawn Upshaw with Orpheus, the conductorless ensemble, at New Brunswick’s
State Theater on Sunday, October 13. This concert should pack a double
wallop: The unspoiled Upshaw manages to preserve the freshness of
middle America in the pressure cooker of jet-set performance; like
Ma, she has an open mind about music. Orpheus, her instrumental backup,
is remarkable in its ability to play precisely without a conductor.
Members of the ensemble claim that the absence of a conductor makes
them particularly sensitive to how they interact musically with their
fellow performers. The functioning of this orchestra has, in fact,
become a model in business schools.
I plan to be on hand for the performance of the King’s Singers at
McCarter Monday, February 24. The six-man a cappella ensemble mixes
its uncannily excellent musicianship with its capacity for mirth.
I’ll be there, as well, for mezzo-soprano Susan Graham’s concert at
McCarter Thursday, April 17. The human voice has a capacity for nuance
that good instrumentalists can only hope to mimic, and Graham’s skill
and sensitivity are spectacular.
In addition, I’ll be competing to hear Midori at New Brunswick’s State
Theater, Saturday, September 29; Awadagin Pratt at the Peddie School
Saturday, October 5; Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with the New Jersey
Symphony Orchestra, at New Brunswick’s State Theater, Sunday October
13; and violinist Sarah Chang at McCarter, Monday, March 10.
Among the chamber music offerings I’ll pursue are the Concordia Chamber
Players, which opens its three concert season at New Hope’s Stephen
Buck Theater, Sunday, November10. Organized by cellist Michelle Djokic,
the series this year offers beloved chamber works played by musicians
active in the New York chamber music scene. Also intriguing is a new
Sunday afternoon all-Mozart chamber series assembled by the Princeton
Symphony Orchestra (PSO). Taking place at the Montgomery 1860 House,
members of the PSO, formerly known as the Princeton Chamber Symphony
Orchestra, play in small ensembles. "We’re going back to our roots,"
says executive director Josh Worby.
Sometimes the program, as well as the performers, plays a role in
my decision to attend a concert. That Emanuel Ax and clarinetist Richard
Stoltzman play Brahms’ two haunting sonatas for clarinet and piano
on Monday, April 7, at McCarter makes the concert doubly attractive.
The plethora of notable artists and pleasing music in
central Jersey is comparable to that in New York. Writing in the New
York Times, Bernard Holland declares that the music season "spreads
out like a green, well-tended lawn;" he hopes for what he calls
"the odd weed." I eagerly join him in thinking of the word
"weed" as a complimentary metaphor for something out of the
ordinary. In our area there is a cornucopia of unexpected "weeds"
Andrew Megill’s Fuma Sacra ensemble (the name means "Holy Smoke")
provides a bouquet of them. The vocal ensemble, which handles music
from all centuries with equal transparency combines with an ensemble
of period instruments to perform neglected works of German baroque
mastery on Sunday, September 22, at Bristol Chapel on the Westminster
campus. In Wolfensohn Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study, Fuma
Sacra gives three performances, the first of which takes place on
Wednesday, October 9. The program includes music by Jon Magnussen,
artist-in-residence at the Institute. (Tickets for the Institute’s
free series, tickets should be requested by mail well in advance.)
On Sunday, December 22, the ensemble presents the first of its two
ever-varying annual programs, "A Modern and Ancient Christmas"
in Bristol Chapel.
I happily put non-European or "world" music in the "weed"
category and will listen cheerfully to any music that comes from far
away. As long as the music sounds authentic, I’m satisfied. I don’t
care so much whether it’s familiar or not.
As it happens, I like Indian classical music, with its incisive rhythms,
its bending of pitches, and constant percussive presence, so I’m in
luck this year. Kicking off the season’s offerings of Indian music
is a free two-hour workshop on Indian classical music featuring Mitali
Banerjee Bhawmik at the South Brunswick Public Library on Sunday,
September 22. Anoushka Shankar, the only musician trained by her father,
sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, performs at McCarter Friday, November
8. Ali Akbar Khan, the legendary 82-year old sarodist, appears at
McCarter Wednesday, March 5, joining the return appearance of the
West Coast tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain.
Other non-Western musics are available this season. McCarter is the
site of a Peking Opera performance on Wednesday, April 16; Senegalese
music by Youssou N’Dour on Friday, April 18; and native American music
featuring flutist R. Carlos Nakai on Monday, May 19. At Westminster’s
Bristol Chapel on Saturday, May 31, Marvin Rosen presents little-known
music from Azerbaijan, Greece, and Estonia.
I think of a touch of scholarship as an inviting weed. The Riverside
Symphonia comes through in this category with performances on Saturday
and Sunday, January 18 and 19, of Schubert’s "The Trout" in
two versions: the original vocal version of the work, followed by
the piano quintet version. The concerts take place at Lambertville’s
First Presbyterian Church.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra turns to American musical roots
for its January festival, stressing connections between indigenous
American music and high art. Festival delicacies include works by
Ives and Dvorak, as well as jazz and music of native American origin.
There are other weeds: an appearance by the Orquestra de Sao Paulo,
Brazil at New Brunswick’s State Theater on Saturday, November 2; four
performances of Mark Adam’s opera "Little Women" at Westminster’s
Playhouse, beginning Thursday, November 14; and the Blind Boys of
Alabama at McCarter, Tuesday, February 25.
But wait: are there no chestnuts?
Oh yes, we’ve got them, too. Puccini’s "La Boheme" turns up
in non-less than three full stagings: The Western Opera version at
New Brunswick’s State Theater on Sunday, November 3; the Russian State
Opera version at the State on Thursday, January 23; and Boheme Opera’s
production at Trenton’s War Memorial on Friday and Sunday, April 25
Folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary appear at the State Theater Thursday,
November 14; the Princeton University Chapel follows its Halloween
tradition and shows the silent movie "The Phantom of the Opera,"
with organ accompaniment, this year on Friday, October 11. Princeton
Pro Musica puts on "Messiah" for those who want to listen
on Saturday, December 14 in Richardson; and the Princeton University
Chapel provides instrumentalists and soloists for those who want to
make their own "Messiah" in a sing-along on Monday, December
Scanning the above selections from classical music in the immediate
region, it’s clear that even if one counts only the performers, there
will be a lot of people in local venues during the 2002-2003 season.
And that’s not even counting our own baroque stalwarts, all performing
on period instruments: Concert Royal, whose season begins this week,
followed by the Dryden Ensemble, and Le Triomphe de l’amour.
Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, Trenton, 609-581-7200.
$20 to $55.
by Reegan McKenzie, with music director Joseph Pucciatti. Lorraine
Ernest is featured at Lucia, with Barton Green as Edgardo. Friday
and Sunday, October 25 and 27.
Superstar" features Princeton-born baritone Mark Delavan. $15
to $35. Saturday, November 30, 8 p.m.
in 19th-century Paris, directed by James Marvel, features Valerie
Bernhardt as Mimi, Thomas Roche as Rodolfo, and Joan Eubank as Musetta.
Friday and Sunday, April 25 and 27.
Partnership at Peddie
Mount-Burke Theater, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550.
$20 to $22.
James Richman artistic director. $19 & $27; $10 students.
season with the "Les Arts Florissants," presented by the baroque
music ensemble and the New York Baroque Dance Company. September 28,
performs the "Goldberg Variations" by J.S. Bach. November
2, 8 p.m.
and Brandenburg No. 3 and 6 by J.S. Bach. January 4, 8 p.m.
Cantatas. February 23, 3 p.m.
gamba soloist. March 22, 8 p.m.
$18 & $22.
of Baroque counterpoint by Pachelbel and his contemporaries. October
20, 3 p.m.
collaboration with conductor Scott Metcalfe of the Cambridge Bach
Ensemble. March 21, 7:30 p.m.
London years. Barbara Hollinshead, soloist. January 11, 8 p.m.
advance ticket request.
Guillaume de Machaut, Steven Stucky, Augusta Read Thomas, and artist-in-residence
John Magnussen. October 9 and 11 at 8 p.m.; October 13 at 4 p.m.
and Schubert. November 20 and 22 at 8 p.m.; November 24 at 4 p.m.
Breitman present works by Duparc, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Wolf, and Jon
Magnussen. February 12 and 14, 8 p.m.
works by Nazareth, Brouwer, Takemitsu, Henze, and Jon Magnussen. March
26 and 28, 8 p.m.; March 30, 4 p.m.
$15 adult; $5 students.
12th season with a concert of music by J.S. Bach and G.P. Telemann.
Baroque flutist Laura Ronai, soloist. October 19, 8 p.m.
ensemble regulars Tom Moore, baroque flute, Donna Fournier, viola
da gamba, and Janet Palumbo, harpsichord. January 18, 8 p.m.
a baroque entertainment in the style of 18th-century London. March
8, 8 p.m.
April 12, 8 p.m.
plus works by Handel and Telemann. Andrew Manze, conductor and violin
soloist. October 21, 8 p.m.
trained completely by her father, the legendary sitar virtuoso Ravi
Shankar. November 8, 8 p.m.
forces with legendary Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha. November
20, 8 p.m.
team. January 20, 8 p.m.
and conductor Jaime Laredo and the Brandenburg Ensemble in an all-Bach
program. January 27, 8 p.m.
a variety of music spanning four centuries. February 24, 8 p.m.
and piano soloist in a program of works by Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
March 4, 8 p.m.
sarode, Ali Akbar Khan, in concert with Indian-born tabla virtuoso,
Zakir Hussain. March 5, 8 p.m.
invokes the spirit of the Samurai. March 6, 7:30 p.m.
production. March 8, 8 p.m.
9, 3 p.m.
with pianist Lars Vogt. March 10, 8 p.m.
a cappella quintet. March 15, 8 p.m.
on piano accompanied by clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. April 7, 8
has made him a favorite of orchestras for more than 25 years. April
14, 8 p.m.
with martial arts, acrobatics, juggling, mime. April 16, 8 p.m.
piano. April 17, 8 p.m.
music famous throughout the world. April 18, 8 p.m.
ensemble. May 19, 8 p.m.
NJ Symphony Orchestra
Artists Auditions winner, leads the program of Sibelius’ Symphony
No. 2. October 25, 8 p.m.
to Semiramide," Dvorak’s "Serande in D minor." Eric Wyrick,
violin. November 29, 8 p.m.
featuring Adams’ Violin Concerto. January 3, 8 p.m.
Trio. January 24, 8 p.m.
Mass in B-flat major. March 14, 8 p.m.
the orchestra with the violin soloist in a program featuring music
by Rossini, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich. $19 to $72. October 13,
Roussel’s "Bacchus et Ariadne," Suite No. 2 and Ravel’s "Bolero."
November 17, 3 p.m.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra," Alan Feinberg, piano. January
9, 8 p.m.
Busoni’s "Indian Fantasy," MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No.
2. Andre Watts and Benjamin Pasternak, piano. January 26, 3 p.m.
Brahms symphony No. 3. Jospeh Kalichstein, piano. March 6, 8 p.m.
Annual Concert. Jonah Kim, cello. Keri-Lynn Wilson, conductor. March
20, 8 p.m.
Jersey’s young musical talent. March 30, 3 p.m.
Philip Glass’s "Concerto Fantasy" and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.
May 4, 3 p.m.
premiere of Danielpour’s "Apparitions." May 15, 8 p.m.
$15 to $72.
works by Antonin Dvorak. Zdenek Macal, conducts. September 27, 8 p.m.
City Opera Singers in this all-Puccini program. November 23, 8 p.m.
December 14, 8 p.m.
Piano and Orchestra," Alan Feinberg, piano. January 10, 8 p.m.
Busoni’s "Indian Fantasy," MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No.
2. Andre Watts and Benjamin Pasternak, piano. January 25, 8 p.m.
the silent comedies of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin.
February 14, 8 p.m.
orchestra with soloist Jonah Kim on cello. March 21, 8 p.m.
selections from Hamlisch’s new show, "The Sweet Smell of Success."
April 11, 8 p.m.
to the Beatles. May 2, 8 p.m.
music by Philip Glass and Mahler. May 3, 8 p.m.
symphony and the world premiere of Danielpour’s "Apparitions."
May 16, 8 p.m.
Susan Eagan, Doug LaBrecque, Ron Raines, and the NJSO. May 29, 7:30
Princeton Pro Musica
$25 & $30. Frances Fowler Slade, music director.
with the Mozart Requiem in D Minor. Program opens with Schubert’s
"Unfinished" Symphony No. 8. October 27, 4 p.m.
"All-night Vigil." May 2, 8 p.m.
and Durufle’s "Requiem." March 1, 8 p.m.
Princeton Symphony Orchestra
director . $24 to $36; students $10.
its five-concert season with a program featuring guest soloist Vladimir
Ovchinnikov performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. September
29, 4 p.m.
in a program featuring Tchaikovsky’s "Variations on a Rococo Theme."
November 3, 4 p.m.
whole family. December 15, 4:30 p.m.
Philadelphia joins for a program of popular works by Wagner, Verdi,
Puccini. January 19, 4 p.m.
by Laurence Bitensky, "A Perfect Rest, A Jewish Prayer of Remembrance."
March 16, 4 p.m.
performed by rising star violinist Christina Castelli. April 27, 4
November 23, 8 p.m.
and soloists. Scores provided. $5 adults; students free. December
9, 7:30 p.m.
and "Serenade to Music" by Ralph Vaughan Williams and solo
violinist Mineko Yajima performs Williams’ "The Lark Ascending."
Free. April 5, 8 p.m.
May 30, 3:30 p.m.
Princeton University Concerts
piano, and James Dunham, viola, are featured soloists. September 26,
Rhonda Rider, cello, and Lois Shapiro, piano, in an all-Beethoven
program. October 24, 8 p.m.
Concert featuring works of Chopin and Janacek. November 7, 8 p.m.
Yael Weiss, piano, present an all-Brahms program. February 20, 8 p.m.
winner. March 13, 8 p.m.
and horn. April 3, 8 p.m.
viola, soloist, in works by Haydn and Mozart. May 15, 8 p.m.
McDonald in a recital program featuring works by Mozart and Strauss.
September 28, 8 p.m.
Brazilian music. Conducted by John Neschling. November 2, 8 p.m.
classic. November 3, 8 p.m.
5, 8 p.m.
by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra featuring guest soloist, soprano
Dawn Upshaw. December 8, 8 p.m.
family. December 11, 8 p.m.
14, 8 p.m.
classic. January 23, 8 p.m.
of The Scots Highlanders. Repertoire ranging from Tchaikovsky to the
Beatles. January 25, 2 p.m.
and Strauss. January 31, 8 p.m.
and the tenor aria "Di quelle pira." February 6, 8 p.m.
group. February 13, 8 p.m.
early 20th-century classic about the clash of cultures. February 19,
percussion. March 7, 8 p.m.
early St. Patrick’s Day celebration. March 8, 8 p.m.
Gergely Boganyi performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat
major. March 11, 8 p.m.
tragic Russian Tzar. March 29, 8 p.m.
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. Gerhard
Markson, conductor. April 11, 8 p.m.
box office 609-921-2663. $7 to $25. Website: westminster.rider.edu.
the German Baroque by Zelenka and Weckman. September 22, 4 p.m.
annual Musical Heritage series, coordinated by Luba Sindler. Opening
program on German music. November 24, 4 p.m.
J.A. Kawarsky, Joel Phillips, and Daniel Adamczyk. December 1, 8 p.m.
annual celebration of the season directed by J. Donald Dumpson. December
6, 8 p.m.
Choir, directed by Kathleen Ebling-Thorne. December 7, 8 p.m.; December
8, 4 p.m.
Christmas music and holiday favorites. Robert Keating is conductor.
December 21, 4 p.m.
directed by Andrew Megill, presents its holiday concert. December
22 & 23, 8 p.m.
Program on France. March 16, 2003, 4 p.m.
Jubilee Singers in music from the African-American tradition. March
30, 4 p.m.
in music from madrigals to moderns, and from Brahms to Broadway. April
5, 8 p.m.
April 27, 8 p.m.
is artistic director in a Christmas program featuring Westminster’s
Chapel Choir, Schola Cantorum, and Concert Bell Choir. December 14,
in English. Bill Fabris directs; Richard Cordova music director. November
14, 15, & 16, 8 p.m.; November 17, 3 p.m.
Bill Fabris directs and Richard Cordova is music director. March 6,
7, & 8, 8 p.m.; March 9, 3 p.m.
for winds and piano. September 28, 8 p.m.
October 17, 8 p.m.
piano. October 20, 4 p.m.
present works by Schumann, Chausson, Blitzstein, and Weill. November
3, 4 p.m.
Brahms. November 17, 4 p.m.
clarinet. January 11, 4 p.m.
19, 4 p.m.
26, 4 p.m.
20th century duo piano music. February 2, 4 p.m.
Busic, flute; and Esma Pasic-Filipovic, piano. February 15, 8 p.m.
23, 4 p.m.
duo piano music. March 2, 4 p.m.
23, 4 p.m.
Bechtler, soprano; and Eric Houghton, piano. April 12, 8 p.m.
Discoveries" of little-known music from Azerbaijan, Greece, and
Estonia. May 31, 8 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
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