The new music season promises a schedule of dramatic, novel, and unexpected events — with many free performances.
Marna Seltzer’s Princeton University Concerts (PUC) continues to wipe out the gulf between performers and audiences, with its “PUC125: Performances Up Close” series. In addition to four interactive hour-long performances on the stage of Richardson Auditorium this season, where listeners surround musicians, PUC has added two new initiatives to the mix: Performers as Teachers, and Mindfulness with Music.
The Performers as Teachers series invites the community to attend four sessions, gratis, where performers in PUC’s Concert Classics series coach Princeton music students. The first takes place on Friday, October 7, with mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton.
The Mindfulness with Music series, launched in 2015-’16, is a collaboration with the Princeton University Office of Religious Life. Twice during the season the public is invited to a free live music meditation and lunch in the belief that, outside of the concert hall, listeners’ relation to the music is simplified. The first event takes place on Wednesday, November 16, with the Takacs String Quartet.
The Takacs’ performance of the entire cycle of Beethoven string quartets in six concerts during the season brings the number of PUC concerts to a record-breaking 23. Among the scheduled performances are three concerts featuring duo performers. Pianists Sergei Babayan and Danil Trifonov play on Thursday, October 27; banjo players Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn appear Thursday, April 13; and violinists Pamela Frank and Christian Tetzlaff perform Thursday, April 20.
Princeton University Concerts is not alone in eroding barriers between performers and audiences. Three Sunday afternoon events of the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra (NBCO), at Rutgers’ Zimmerli Museum, “NBCO @ Zimmerli,” are an informal amalgam of contemporary classical music, wine, cheese, and conversation. NBCO’s articulate artistic director Mark Hyczko contributes his comments. The first of the free series takes place Sunday, October 30.
At the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), the new element in 2016-’17 is the change in leadership. Vibrant Xian Zhang succeeds multi-talented Jacques Lacombe, NJSO’s music director for six years, who left for the Bonn, Germany, Opera House in June.
Zhang, now music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, has been an associate conductor at the New York Philharmonic and has guest conducted the NJSO several times in the last few years. She will continue to keep her Milan post.
Leading the NJSO as a guest conductor in April this year, Zhang’s expressiveness and clarity enfolded the audience in her musical desires. Responding to her vivid gestures was inevitable for both performers and listeners. Equally compelling was her leadership by the tilt of her head in quiet passages.
Zhang attributes her taking the NJSO post to the orchestra’s members. “The musicians are very flexible,” she said. “They can change styles. They’re interesting to conduct.” NJSO musicians were involved in her selection.
Zhang herself has programmed the seven concerts she will conduct for the NJSO in 2016-’17. She has chosen pieces ranging primarily from the solid classical repertoire: Haydn and Mozart, through Brahms and Tchaikovsky, to Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Her first official appearance as conductor takes place in late October for an all-Tchaikovsky program, which plays in both Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium on Friday, October 28, and New Brunswick’s State Theater on Saturday, October 29.
A whimsical program distinguishes Zhang’s batch of concerts in early April, which includes the Saturday, April 8, performance at the State Theater. Tan Dun’s “Internet Symphony ‘Eroica,’” commissioned by You Tube and Google in 2008, is on tap, along with a Vaughan Williams tuba concerto, Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals,” and Ravel’s “Bolero.”
As it happens, the September 28 opening program of the NJSO season at the State Theater includes a work being played in its initial classical subscription concert of 2016-’17 by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) — Piazzola’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” For the NJSO, the piece is one of four rather diverse pieces programmed; for the PSO, it is one of two closely related compositions.
The PSO version, set for Thursday, September 15, at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium, consists of Vivaldi’s original “Four Seasons,” dating from the 1720s, intertwined with an arrangement of the equally perky Piazzola piece, completed in 1970. The 1990s arrangement by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov allows the two pieces to be performed as a single set. English violinist Daniel Rowland both conducts and solos.
The Desyatnikov/ Buenos Aires segments include several quotations from Vivaldi re-named because of the inversion of seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres; for example, Desyatnikov has used Vivaldi’s “Verano,” (“Winter”) in Piazzola’s “Porteno” (“Summer.”)
The PSO stands out in habitually sponsoring a comprehensive array of free community events and collaborations in addition to three subscription series (a classical series, a Saturday evening pops series, and a holiday pops series). A 28-page illustrated brochure, new this year, lists events by date and gives an encyclopedic account of the PSO musical universe.
Composer Zhou Tian’s PSO residency illustrates how the ensemble manages the intersection between subscription concerts and community involvement. The United States premiere of Tian’s “Broken Ink” takes place at a concert on Sunday, May 7; a reception follows in the Princeton University Art Museum. Commissioned in China in 2013, the piece draws on the Chinese poetic tradition.
On Thursday, May 4, PSO music director Rossen Milanov and composer Tian discuss compositional influences and Chinese calligraphy at a free PSO “Soundtrack” presentation in the Princeton Public Library.
Another Tian work appears in PSO’s chamber music series. Partnering with the Princeton University Art Museum, the orchestra features his “Red Trees, Wrinkled Cliffs,” on Saturday, May 6, in the museum and on Monday, May 8, in the Monroe Township Public Library.
The PSO extends its circle of collaborators this season to the American Repertory Ballet, presenting the world premiere of Douglas Martin’s full-length ballet “Pride and Prejudice,” based on the Jane Austen novel. Choreographer Martin is ARB’s artistic director. The performance takes place Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22 in Princeton’s McCarter Theatre.
Traditional dance appears in the PSO calendar when the ensemble concludes Princeton University Art Museum’s daylong South Asian Arts and Museum Festival on Saturday, December 3. Ramya Ramnarayan performs Indian classical dance.
In its “Bravo” programs the PSO collaborates with schools. Noteworthy this year are two master classes spun off from PSO’s classical subscription series. Clarinetist David Krakauer’s coaching session takes place Saturday, January 28. Violinist Philippe Graffin works with students Saturday, March 18. Both events take place at Westminster Conservatory, the community music school of Westminster Choir College of Rider University.
The Capital Philharmonic’s fourth season at Trenton’s War Memorial brings guest artists and an eclectic mix of repertoire. Its season opens on Saturday, October 22, with “The Dream of America.” Included is Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Antonin Dvorak’s famous “New World Symphony.”
But the program’s centerpiece is “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” by contemporary American composer Peter Boyer. The piece is a multi-media production that will feature actors from Trenton’s Passage Theater and projected images from the Ellis Island. December 31 marks the orchestra’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert of popular classics, including Leonard Bernstein’s “Three Dances from Fancy Free” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed by guest pianist Leon Bates.
On Saturday, March 11, the Capital Philharmonic’s Chamber Orchestra will emphasize strings with guest Cuban violinist Ilmar Gavilan and a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.” Then on April 22 look for “In the Mood,” a celebration of the music of the 1930s and ’40s Big Band era with the String of Pearls Big Band, dancers, and period costumes. For more information visit www.capitalphilharmonic.org
Among the area’s musical Leviathans, look for the excellent choral ensemble Princeton Pro Musica (PPM), with its four-concert program, displays its programming creativity. Incorporating dance, and reaching out to collaborate, the ensemble presents Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with Hunterdon-based Roxey Ballet and the Princeton Girlchoir on Sunday, May 21.
Westminster Choir College (WCC), meanwhile, with its eight choral groups, not surprisingly, sometimes forsakes the Princeton area to perform with leading orchestras on their own turf, and at leading festivals. Simultaneously, it retains a local presence with choral offerings and faculty recitals.
A dramatic WCC event this season is the appearance of Joe Miller’s Westminster Choir in Trenton’s former Roebling Wire Works factory on Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22, with the Bang on a Can All-Stars for Julia Wolfe’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize composition “Anthracite Fields.” The 50,000-square-foot space is the site of Trenton’s annual Art All Night festival. In June Westminster Choir performs the piece at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, where the choir is the chorus-in-residence.
Wolfe’s piece deals with Pennsylvania coal-mining life around 1900. She spent more than a year researching the subject in museums and interviewing miners and their families. The five-movement, hour-long piece to be included in the WCC roster this season is scored for chorus and sextet. Composer Wolfe is a co-founder of Bang on a Can and the second composer from the group to win a Pulitzer.
The other Bang on a Can composer to capture the prize is David Lang, now the artist in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), who won his Pulitzer in 2008 for “The Little Match Girl Passion.” Lang has curated four free concerts that make up the Edward T. Cone series at the IAS. The Choir of Trinity College sings at the first of the lot on Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1. “So Percussion,” Princeton University’s quartet in residence, performs at the end of the series on Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4.
Lang’s activities overflow into the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. A Lang piece for saxophone quartet appears on the PSO chamber concert series Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4.
In addition to his presence at the IAS and PSO, Lang’s composition, “the so-called laws of nature” is the first major composition to be commissioned by So Percussion. The instrumentation for the piece consists of tuned flowerpots. The Lang work shares space on a program presented by the Princeton University Department of Music (PUDM) that includes the Friday, September 16, world premiere of emeritus professor Paul Lansky’s “Springs,” and “Taxidermy,” a piece written by the ubiquitous Caroline Shaw, Princeton graduate student and Pulitzer Prize winner.
The PUDM offers a multitude of musical events. A monthly calendar, “Music at Princeton,” includes many under-publicized attractions. The free subscription is available through www.princeton.edu/music
Opera as a medium has been gradually shrinking in our area. Westminster Choir College is one of two entities that keep it present during the main music season. The other is Boheme Opera. In summer, Princeton Festival invariably includes an opera performance.
With its stress on vocal music, WCC presents four music drama programs in 2016-’17. The roster includes Ravel’s “L’Enfant at les Sortileges” and Puccini’s “Suor Angelica,” Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3; Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Thursday through Sunday, January 19 through 22; Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe,” Tuesday and Thursday, February 7 and 9; and Smetana’s “Bartered Bride,” Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8.
Boheme Opera, devoting itself solely to opera, offers full performances of two operas in 2016-’17. Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” plays on Sunday, January 29, and in early February. Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” takes place Friday and Sunday, April 7 and 9. Boheme Opera has also scheduled additional programs focusing on particular aspects of music drama.
For fans of baroque music, our area offers multiple opportunities to listen. Pennsylvania-based La Fiocco has planned a season that includes explorations into relatively offbeat baroque regions. It initiates the season with “Golden Age of the Countertenor” programs on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30, in Princeton and Solebury, Pa. A second concert on Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2, focuses on virtuoso chamber music from the 17th century in Italy and Flanders; the concert features cornetto, a hybrid wind instrument; dulcian, a forerunner of bassoon; and other baroque instruments. La Fiocco concerts on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, showcasing late baroque works, include the North American premiere of works from the Brussels Cathedral, transcribed and edited by La Fiocco artistic director Lewis R. Baratz.
The Dryden Ensemble — a group also dedicated to baroque music played on period instruments — starts its new season on Saturday, November 5 at Miller Chapel, 64 Mercer Street, on the Princeton Theological Seminary’s campus with “From Corelli to Bach — Make it a Double!” featuring concertos by the two named composers as well as works by Vivaldi, Muffat, and Handel. The presentation will be repeated on Sunday, November 6, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania.
“Le Medicin & La Musique,” suites and curiosities from the French baroque with readings by actor Paul Hecht, is set for Saturday, February 11, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury and Sunday, February 12, at Miller Chapel. A “Bach’s Birthday” celebration is set for Saturday, March 25, Trinity Episcopal Church, Solebury, and Sunday, March 26, at Miller Chapel.
And pushing back beyond the baroque period, Aura Polyphonica, the a cappella choral ensemble, sings a 16th century choral work. Palestrina’s “Missa Papae Marcelli,” his best-known and most frequently performed composition, is scheduled for Friday, October 21, at Christ Church in New Brunswick.
At the opposite end of the music spectrum is Cosmic Crossings, a new electronic music series appearing at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington Crossing.
The opener is the Friday, September 16, presentation of Modulator ESP (a.k.a. Jez Creek), featuring an improvised experimental soundscapes using synthesizers, sampling, sequencing, looping, and processing. On Saturday, October 29, are Morrisville-based thereminist Kip Rosser and Electric Diamond — sound performers Don Slepian on keyboard and Stuart Diamond on an electric wind instrument. And the Sunday, November 13, program features Philadelphia-area “space” musician and host of WXPN’s Star’s End, Chuck van Zyl.
McCarter Theater, Princeton’s wide-ranging venue, continues to provide varied events. A Wednesday, January 18, program, unusual in presenting three clarinet trios, becomes more unusual because it includes a new work by Philadelphia composer Joseph Hallman, along with clarinet trios by Beethoven and Brahms. Performers are Inon Barnatan, piano; Anthony McGill, clarinet; and Alisa Weilerstein, cello.
A McCarter rarity is the program of the Philadelphia Orchestra, appearing for the first time in more than 30 years, on Saturday, February 11.
Truly admirable this season is McCarter’s special programming director Bill Lockwood’s ferreting out of anniversaries. He has knowingly gathered into McCarter’s events the 20th anniversary of Gidon Kramer’s ensemble Kremerata Baltica on Friday, February 3, as well as the 100th birthday of jazz greats Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Monto Santamaria in a program on Saturday, October 1, with Danilo Perez, piano; Lizz Wright, vocalist; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone; Avishai Cohen, trumpet; and Wycliffe Gordon, trombone.
Happy listening, readers.
101 Scotch Road, Ewing, 609-392-6409. www.1867sanctuary.org.
Vladimir Dyo’s Solo & Chamber Music Concert Series. Friday, September 30.
Princeton Alliance Church, 20 Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro. www.bravuraphil.org.
Masterworks. Featuring Noah Lee with Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. Sunday, September 25.
Patriots Theater at Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, 215-893-1999
The Dream of America. Multi-media production. Saturday, October 22.
First Reformed Church of New Brunswick
9 Bayard Street, New Brunswick. www.firstreformedchurch.net.
Downtown Lunchtime Recital Series. Mezzo-soprano Jessica Renfro with Lynda Saponara on piano. Wednesday, September 21.
Ezgi Yargici on Baroque cello and Benjamin T. Berman on harpsichord. Wednesday, October 19.
Carolyn Enger on piano. Wednesday, November 2.
Grounds For Sculpture
126 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. www.groundsforsculpture.org.
Guild For Early Music. Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music by numerous regional performance groups. Instrument “petting zoo.” Tours in line with the theme of “The Zodiac and the Night Sky.” Sunday, October 16.
2540 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville. www.steinwaysocietyprinceton.org.
Kairy Koshoeva $18. Sunday, October 9.
Beatrice Long. $18. Sunday, November 6.
All Saints’ Church, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton. www.kinnaraensemble.org.
Reverence. Featuring Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah and Britten’s Flower Songs. $25. Saturday, September 17.
Princeton United Methodist Church, 7 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton, 917-747-6007. www.lafiocco.org.
Golden Age of the Countertenor. Featuring Ray Chenez and Daniel Moody in bravura arias and duets of Handel and Vivaldi. $10 to $25. Saturday, October 29.
Mason Gross School
Christ Church, 5 Paterson Street, New Brunswick. www.masongross.rutgers.edu.
James David Christie Recital. Boston Symphony Orchestra organist. Free. Sunday, November 13.
Mortensen Hall, Rutgers University. masongross.rutgers.edu.
Recital. George Curran on bass trombone with Hanako Yamagata on piano. Free. Sunday, September 18.
The TranScript Project: Music from Poems. Flutist and poet Wayla J. Chambo that explores the intersections of text and music by using poems to construct a piece for solo flute or flute with electronics. Sunday, September 25.
The Legacy of Robert Moevs. The American Modern Ensemble performs Moevs’s first string quartet, Judith Shatin’s “Elijah’s Chariot” for string quartet and electronics, and more. Reception to follow concert. Sunday, November 13.
Violist Roberto Diaz. Free. Monday, November 21.
Nicholas Music Center, 85 George Street, New Brunswick.
Violinist Cho-Liang Lin. With Min Kwon on piano, Yoon Kwon on violin, Dan Panner on viola, and Alan Stepansky on cello. Monday, September 26.
Voorhees Chapel, Rutgers.
Cantata as Drama. Marguerite Krull, soprano; David Bakamjian, baroque cello; Rebecca Cypess, harpsichord. Monday, September 19.
Organ Program Recital. Showcase of music spanning five centuries for organ and other instruments. Sunday, October 16.
Sentiment and Enlightenment Recital. Rebecca Cypess, fortepiano; Sonya Headlam, soprano; Sahoko Sato Timpone; mezzo soprano. Thursday, October 20.
91 University Place, Princeton, 609-258-2787. www.mccarter.org.
Imogen Cooper. British pianist. Wednesday, November 9.
NJ Symphony Orchestra
State Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 800-ALLEGRO. www.njsymphony.org.
Opening Weekend with Sarah Chang. Teddy Abrams conducts. Music of Bernstein, Piazolla, Ravel, and Copland. Saturday, September 24.
Grieg Piano Concerto with Stewart Goodyear, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Gemma New conducts. Music of Lilburn, Grieg, and Silelius. Sunday, October 9.
Xian Zhang Debuts as Music Director. Music of Tchaikovsky. Saturday, October 29.
Greatest Hits of Elton John and More. Michael Cavanaugh on vocals and keyboard. Sunday, November 13.
Thanksgiving Feast. Music of Mozart and Schumann. Hans Graf conducts. Sunday, November 27.
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University.
Grieg Piano Concerto with Stewart Goodyear. Gemma New conducts. Music of Lilburn, Grieg, and Silelius. Friday, October 7.
Xian Zhang Debuts as Music Director. Music of Tchaikovsky. Friday, October 28.
Princeton Pro Musica
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 609-683-5122. www.princetonpromusica.org.
Polydora Enemsble. Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Sunday, October 30.
Patriots’ Theater at the War Memorial, Trenton.
Holiday Classics. With the Trenton Children’s Chorus. Sunday, December 11.
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 609-479-0020. www.princetonsymphony.org.
The Seasons. Violinist Daniel Rowland conducts musicians as they perform “The Four Seasons” interwoven with the Astor Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” Thursday, September 15.
Classical Viennese Reflections. Grammy-nominated Violinist Leila Josefowicz, Conductor Rossen Milanov, and guest composer Julian Grant perform Alban Berg’s “Violin Concerto.” Sunday, October 9.
Impassioned Russia. Pianist Natasha Paremski with conductor Jayce Ogren. Sunday, November 6.
Wolfensohn Hall, Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, Princeton.
The Schubert Octet. Performing Franz Schubert’s Octet. Thursday, September 22.
PUBLIQuartet. Curtis Stewart and Jannina Norpoth on violins, Nick Revel on viola, and Amanda Gookin on cello. Performing works by Schnittke, Villa-Lobos, and J.S. Bach. Sunday, October 23.
Monroe Township Public Library, 4 Municipal Plaza, Monroe.
PUBLIQuartet. Curtis Stewart, violin; Jannina Norpoth, violin; Nick Revel, viola; Amanda Gookin, cello. Monday, October 24.
Princeton University Concerts
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, 609-258-2800. www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org.
Performances Up Close. Violinist Augustin Hadelich guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas. Thursday, September 29.
Jamie Barton. Mezzo-sporano performing with pianist James Baillieu. Thursday, October 6.
Belcea String Quartet. Thursday, October 13.
Pianists Daniil Trifonov and Sergei Babayan. Thursday, October 27.
The Takacs String Quartet. Performing Beethoven string quartets. Tuesday and Thursday, November 15 and 17.
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7469. www.statetheatrenj.org.
The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Sunday, October 23.
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Performance of Handel’s “Messiah” conducted by Julian Wachner. Wednesday, November 30.
Miller Chapel, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton. www.drydenensemble.org.
From Corelli to Bach. Playing Corelli, Vivaldi, Muffat, Handel, and Bach, including the Bach double for two violins and Vivaldi’s doubles for pairs of oboes and cellos. Saturday, November 5.
Trenton Conservatory Mansion
540 East State Street, Trenton. 609-858-2279.
Trenton Makes Music: Classical & Sacred. Salon-format discussion hosted by Sarah Dash about classical music in Trenton from the late 19th century through the present day. Panelists include leading local musicians and scholars; topics include Trenton’s early classical music institutions/venues/stars, the local and international impact of composer George Antheil, the singing waiters of Chambersburg, and current Opera activities in the city. Live music and reception. Wednesday, September 21.