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Friday, June 20, 2014

The Superconductor Untitled Awards 2014

Looking back at the best performances of the spring concert season.
Untitled # 26 by Richard Diebenkorn.
Painting © 1984 the estate of Richard Diebenkorn.
As the busy concert season winds down (and I get away for some much needed days of rest and recreation) it's time to look back on the very best of the spring 2014 concert season. Presenting the five best concert hall performances followed by the best chamber music, piano and choral concerts I attended and reviewed in the last six months. I'm entertaining suggestions as to what to call these awards. Until then they remain Untitled...and in chronological order.

Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (Feb. 12, 2014)
"This was a full reading of this monumental and endlessly rewarding score. Mr. Haitink conjured Ravel's tableaus of pastoral Greece, with woodwinds and brass filling in the display of colors with delicate brush-strokes of sound. Timpani and exotic percussion provided accents, and flutes (both straight and alto) competed for attention with dueling bird-noises."

Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall (March 15, 2014)
"Mr. Eschenbach chose a stately, almost ceremonial tempo that allowed the unique tone qualities of this venerable orchestra to shine forth. He succeeded in drawing the audience into the very private world of this music, concluding with a profound, serene sadness in the last bars."

New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall (March 28, 2014)
"Mr. Honeck did not disappoint, steering the vast orchestra through an occasionally stormy ocean of sound, maintaining the necessary rhythmic momentum but always keeping the work moving forward. As the conductor lifted his hands for the last note, a respectful silence filled the room--a moving tribute to Bruckner and his struggle with the infinite. "

Seattle Symphony at Carnegie Hall (May 6, 2014)
"Become Ocean reflects the great coastline of the Last Frontier, with an inexorable swell of orchestral sound that rolls over the listener with the slow and inevitable force of a great tsunami. Like the mysteries of the ocean itself, this work has deep rewards that are at first, difficult to access."

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (May 16, 2014)
"A blistering performance of Hector Berlioz' phantasmagorical Symphonie fantastique with the lush strings providing the first statement of the work's central idée-fixe. The theme was tossed to winds and brass as Mr. Jansons whipped the orchestra into a froth for the first movement, drawing particularly beautiful textures in the Religioso coda

Chamber Music:
Yefim Bronfman with members of the New York Philharmonic at the 92nd St. Y (May 26, 2014)
"Mr. Bronfman showed himself a skilled chamber player here, letting the piano make its own original statements while heeding close to the printed music. As for the other string players, their skill and long familarity made this a pleasure to hear, the sound of great musicians free to express themselves outside the rigors of the orchestral stage."

Piano Recital:
Richard Goode at Carnegie Hall (May 1, 2014)
"The First Book of Preludes eschews tonal organization for a set of twelve vastly different works that create compelling aural pictures from sound. Mr. Goode's technique, deceptively gentle cascades of notes giving way to fearsome from-the-shoulders force in key passages, brought out the detail and clarity in these pieces in vivid bursts of color and sound."

Choral Concert:
The Collegiate Chorale: battle hymns (May 15, 2014)
"A slow crescendo from the chorus climaxed with the rat-a-tat-tat of a military drum. The drummer, Brendan Ko, moved throughout the house as he beat the time, giving the listener the unsettling feeling of the approach of enemy troops, and providing a different listening experience for everyone in the audience based on where they happened to be sitting."
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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.