Thursday, October 17, 2013


October 9th
 Orpheus concluded their season opening program in Carnegie Hall with an exuberant reading of a crackling-with-energy Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. Incisively led by concertmaster Todd Phillips; winds and brass most often glowing in intonation and principal solos spiritedly relished; it was a tonic to hear this music played with a classical sense of balance. The turmoil of the development of the Allegro con brio was menacing nearly to violence, but never ugly.  Perhaps the Funeral March moved at too fluid a pace, emphasizing poignant remembrance over wrenching grief - were they too keen to attend the wake? The Scherzo’s pastoral horn trio was poised with great dignity, and the Finale was an unstinting delight without vulgarity. Here there were no ├╝ber-musicological agendas, but simply the joy of these excellent musicians sharing a masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

BACH Plucked and Feathered Part 2

Chris Thile, the undisputed king of bluegrass mandolin, might raise eyebrows by presenting his first volume of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas. Bach by Hillbilly….audacity? Hubris?

Mr. Thile approaches this music with the humility of an acolyte, without the baggage of traditions, mannerisms or preconceptions, and with the assurance of a star whose mission is to make people happy.

From some of our greatest violinists we have been trained to expect weighty, ponderous, even turgid interpretations; the heavier the more ‘meaningful’, so it is astonishing to hear this music played clear-eyed and fleet of foot.

BACH Plucked and Feathered Part 1

Switched on Bach; the Swingle Singers’ Bach; Bach played by polka bands; Bach on saxophone, trombone, vibraphone: Bach, Bach, Bach. And now, mandolin transcriptions. Who wins? Bach!

Deutsche Gramophone’s release of Mr. Avital’s auspicious debut recording of his own transcriptions with the Potsdam Akademie showcase this musician’s formidable technique. However, his arrangements and this recording suffer from irreconcilable issues of balance: why is the mandolin replacing the keyboard in the D and G minor Concertos, and the violin in the A minor? As provocative and impressive as this concept is, it is unrealistic to deny that the mandolin is not an instrument of projection, and seldom is the relationship easy between soloist and orchestra in this dense contrapuntal music.