Critic’s Choice for 2019-20

Tue Aug 20, 2019 at 10:24 am
Peter Mattei stars in Berg’s “Wozzeck” at the Metropolitan Opera and performs Schubert’s “Winterreise” at Carnegie Hall in the 2019-20 season. Photo: Paola Kudacki /Met Opera

Brooklyn Art Song Society “Home” series. Brooklyn Historical Society. October 4.

During 2018-19, the always-lively Brooklyn Art Song Society dug deep into American song idioms. In its 10th-anniversary season, the Society sallies forth to the places other composers call “Home.”  You could attend the first program on October 4, titled “Roma” (for the ethnic group, not the city), to get a feel for the intimate, curated recitals—no actual Roma composers this time, but “gypsy”-inspired songs by Westerners such as Brahms and Liszt, mixed with some familiar piano and violin pieces. (DW)

Music of John Luther Adams. JACK Quartet. October 21.

The artistic partnership between one of the country’s leading composers and one of the leading ensembles delivers the New York premiere of Lines Made By Walking. The piece continues Adams’ meditations on the natural world as it might be like without our presence, and the concert’s setting in the crypt under the Church of the Intercession should be equal parts sonically luxuriant and philosophically prophetic. (GG)

Shostakovich’s String Quartets. Borodin Quartet at the 92Y. November 5 and 7.

Shostakovich was certainly not alone among 20th-century composers in trying his hand at the string quartet, but no other post-Romantic explored the genre more deeply or extensively. His fifteen quartets crackle with emotion and trace with keen insight the Russian composer’s career from promising young talent, to Soviet cultural hero, to bitter dissident, all the way to his painful final years of illness. This fall, the Borodin Quartet begins a two-year cycle of Shostakovich’s complete quartets at the 92nd Street Y, offering a chance to hear a full survey of these chamber music masterworks. (ES)

Marc Blitzstein’s No For An Answer and Kurt Weill’s Der Silbersee (Silverlake). New York Festival of Song. November 19. 

NYFOS consistently excels at connecting their performers to everyday human experience, and this double bill features two composers who were in touch with the profundities of the day to day. Both works are exceedingly rare: No For An Answer had less than a handful of concert performances during Blitzstein’s life, and wasn’t fully staged until 2001. Der Silbersee was Weill’s last work in Weimar Germany and was banned by the Nazis after 16 performances. It has not been heard in New York in nearly 40 years. (GG)

Jaap van Zweden will lead the New York Philharmonic in Steve Reich’s “Music for Ensemble and Orchestra” December 5-7. Photo: Chris Lee

Steve Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra. New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden. December 5-7. 

Thirty years ago, as Steve Reich tells it, most symphony orchestras and conductors didn’t understand his pioneer minimalist idiom well enough to perform it satisfactorily, so he turned instead to composing for, and touring with, his own hand-picked ensemble. But now six major orchestras have coaxed him out of symphonic retirement, and his Music for Ensemble and Orchestra has been making waves from Los Angeles to London to San Francisco to Sydney, with some listeners heralding a new composing frontier for the 82-year-old master. The co-commissioning New York Philharmonic, led by Jaap van Zweden gets its crack at the new piece December.5-7 at David Geffen Hall. (DW)

Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera. December 27 2019–January 22, 2020

The Metropolitan Opera’s partnerships with South African artist-director William Kentridge have been fruitful. Already he has created two acclaimed productions of 20th-century masterpieces for the company, with Shostakovich’s The Nose in 2010 and Alban Berg’s Lulu in 2015. This December, Kentridge returns to direct Wozzeck, Berg’s gripping, disturbing first opera. Peter Mattei headlines a superb cast that includes Elsa van den Heever as Marie, Tamara Mumford as Margret, Christopher Ventris as the Drum Major, Gerhard Siegel as the Captain, and Christian Van Horn as the Doctor. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts. (ES)

Schubert’s Winterreise. Peter Mattei and Lars David Nilsson at Carnegie Hall. January 31.

In the two decades or so that he has enjoyed a major international career, Swedish baritone Peter Mattei has proven himself to be one of the most versatile artists on the operatic stage. At the Met alone he has distinguished himself in repertoire as varied as Mozart, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, yet he has given few local recitals in that time since his 2002 debut. New York audiences will have an extraordinary opportunity to hear him this January as he performs Schubert’s cycle Winterreise, one of the greatest achievements of art song, with Lars David Nilsson at Carnegie Hall. (ES)

Missy Mazzoli + Kelly Moran. Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center. February 29.

Composing worlds collide as the “Ecstatic Music” series brings together a rising star of the avant-garde and a queen of the moyen-garde for a leap-year special of new works for multiple keyboards. Let’s see what the much-awarded and -commissioned Missy Mazzoli and the self-producing, prepared-piano-and-electronics-wielding Kelly Moran have to learn from each other. (DW)

Dai Fujikura Composer Portrait at Miller Theatre.  March 5.

Concerts like this underline the value of Miller Theatre’s Composer Portrait series. While often a celebration of an established figure, they are at their best when they offer a deep introduction to a lesser-known composer. On this night International Contemporary Ensemble will play music by a composer who has long been neglected in New York. Fujikura’s distinctive voice is skillful, imaginative, and uncompromising. (GG)

Music of Mozart and Mahler. Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic with Daniil Trifonov. April 15.

The New York Philharmonic was Gustav Mahler’s own orchestra, and this season the Philharmonic is presenting a short but important Mahler/New York series. The program that opens this night in April has two headliners—Jaap van Zweden will lead the orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, while Daniil Trifonov—this season’s artist-in-residence—will open the concert playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, which alone would make an outstanding program. (GG)

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