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Monday, February 24, 2014

Festival Preview: The Ringstrasse Cycle

Carnegie Hall opens Vienna: City of Dreams.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Carnegie Hall moves to the Ringstrasse for
Vienna: City of Dreams, this year's music festival at the famous venue.
Photo manipulation by Paul J. Pelkonen.
This week marks the opening of Vienna: City of Dreams, a three-week Carnegie Hall festival focusing on the artistic and musical legacy of the capital of Austria. In addition to six concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic (two of them featuring performers from the Vienna State Opera) the series includes lectures, films and an exploration of an age before World Wars, when Vienna was the crossroads and cultural capital of central Europe.

The centerpiece of the event is the six-concert residency by the Vienna Philharmonic, which opens Tuesday, Feb. 25. (Yes, blog-spotters, that's tomorrow night.) Under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst, the famed ensemble will play Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, paired with the Schoenberg work Friede auf Erden. The New York Choral Artists will provide vocal support, and the soloists include tenor Peter Seiffert and soprano Ricarda Merbeth.

The second concert (Feb. 26) features Anton Bruckner's Sixth Symphony, ("The Philosopher") a powerful work that is something of an afterthought between Nos. 5 and 7. Bruckner is something of a specialty and career obsession for Mr. Welser-Möst, who hails from the same part of Austria as that famous symphonist. The concert opens with Mozart's Symphony No. 28 and the modern work On Comparative Meteorology by Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud.

All that is warm-up for this weekend when singers from the Vienna State Opera returns to the Hall that Music Built for the first (and only) time since a 1991 concert performance of Elektra. Friday night (Feb. 28) is a concert performance of Alban Berg's Wozzeck, the grim three-act story of a lowly soldier who goes mad and murders his common-law wife. Matthias Goerne sings the title role. Franz Welser-Möst conducts--a late substitute for Daniele Gatti who suffered a recent shoulder injury.

On Saturday night, the Staatsoper pays tribute to the 150th birthday year of Richard Strauss with a concert performance of Salome. Soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin plays the bloodthirsty princess, and Jane Henschel is her (equally bloodthirsty) mother Herodias. On the chopping block is bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny as John the Baptist, a late replacement for Falk Struckmann, who withdrew from the performances due to illness. Newly minted Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons conducts.

On March 2, 3 and 4, violinist Leonidas Kavakos teams with pianist Enrico Pace for a survey of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas at Zankel Hall. Other chamber music performances feature the AXIOM Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall (Feb. 27) the Talea Ensemble (March 7 at the Czech Center of New York), the Scharoun Ensemble (March 12) at the Morgan Library and the Hugo Wolf Quartet (March 14 at Carnegie Hall.)

Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach give a recital at Carnegie Hall on March 5 with a complete performance of the Schubert song cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Other cultural offerings in the city include lectures, a film festival at the Museum of Modern Art and a March 1 in-depth exploration of the life and works of Franz Peter Schubert. Full schedule and details are available on CarnegieHall.Org.

The City of Dreams festival ends with the return of the Vienna Philharmonic for two more concerts at Carnegie Hall. On March 13, Mr. Nelsons leads a program of Brahms, Haydn and Brahms' Haydn Variations. The Orchestra plays Mahler's Fourth Symphony on March 15. There is one more show on March 16, a marathon survey of the rich history of Viennese music under the baton of Zubin Mehta.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.