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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: The Orchestra Concerts

Superconductor recalls the five best orchestra concerts of Spring 2016.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The amazing Esa-Pekka Salonen in flight. Photo by Chris Lee.
The blog reviewed a lot of orchestra concerts this spring, with performances in far-flung exotic places like Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, NJ and Brooklyn, NY. Here's our list of the best-conducted and best-played shows of the last six months.


As always with these roundup list-type articles, the links go to complete reviews and all quotes are drawn from Superconductor and are by myself, Paul J. Pelkonen. Enjoy.

New York Philharmonic: Turangalîla-symphonie
Esa-Pekka Salonen struck a perfect balance between the titanic orchestra (quadruple horns, triple wind, an army of strings and percussionists), the solo piano (played by the virtuoso Yuja Wang), the ondes Martenot (played by soloist Valérie Hartmann-Claviere and a second percussion section (two celestas and a vibraphone) played at stage right. Most importantly, he maintained a central narrative thread over the ten movements, showing the concise logic in each movement and how Messiean builds soloists, players and ultimately, the listener into an eventual state of ecstasy."

Jane Glover conducts the Cleveland Orchestra
"Although playing as a mid-sized ensemble, the rich, satisfying sound of the Cleveland Orchestra was to the forefront for the Mozart Symphony No. 39. Indeed, the opening movement sounded particularly focused, with all the precise little musical building blocks carefully in place. Ms. Glover favored a vigorous tempo for the work, redolent of the historically informed performance practises that she has based much of her career on."

Los Angeles Philharmonic: Dudamel's Mahler Third
"Mahler adds voices to the fourth and fifth movements of his symphony. Mr. Dudamel took these and the sixth movement attacca, forming one continuous stream of musical thought for the last half of this huge work. Here, the contralto soloist was a familiar face: Tamara Mumford, who appears regularly on New York's opera stages. She sang "O Mensch, gib' Acht!" (the text is Nietzsche) with a hushed sense of awe, accompanied by familiar basso rumblings that looked back to the the development of the first movement."

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra: Wagner, Schumann, Brahms
"Here, the Siegfried Idyll was presented in an expanded arrangement for full symphony orchestra and taken at a dead-slow tempo by Mr. Arming. This allowed not only the main thematic ideas to bloom but revealed the leitmotivs from the Ring hidden in the harmony parts: a descending fourth, a repeated staccato horn-call, and of course the spears and magic helmets that populate this mythological cycle. Under Mr. Arming's hand, time stopped for a brief while and the ear was utterly enchanted."

Trinity Church: Beethoven and Ginastera
Ginastera's setting of Psalm 150 ("Let All Things Praise the Lord") is a massive choral arrangement on a scale that would make Gustav Mahler proud. Like that earlier composer's Eighth Symphony, it opens with a mighty shout of sound, with the Downtown Voices and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street singing first in unison and then in more complicated polyphony and fugue. The massive orchestra (members of NOVUS NY and the Norwegian group 1B1) thundered, supporting the singers in a pillar of strength.

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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.