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About Superconductor

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 © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Concert Review: Nothing But Beethoven

The Philharmonic ends their season with farewells.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert (left) with pianist Yefim Bronfman.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2014 The New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic's concerts last week were more than just the climax of the 2013-14 season--they marked a major turning point in the history of the United States' oldest orchestra.  They were the departure of two key Philharmonic artists: principal trumpet Philip Smith and concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, whose 34-year tenure in that position is the longest in the Philharmonic's history.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sailing Toward the Rocks

How the Met's Klinghoffer cancellation could wreck more than an opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists in 1985.
The Metropolitan Opera's abrupt decision to cancel the Live in HD broadcast and radio broadcast of John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer has already damaged the company's artistic credibility. The long-term costs could be even more serious.

Loud, Proud and Uncowed

Some Words on Gay Pride.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
OK, they're not really there but they look cool. Rainbow flags over Lincoln Center.
Photo alteration by the author.
For the last week, the blog has been fairly quiet (except for previews and roundups and suchlike) but that's what happens in late June--the season is basically over and we're all taking a deep breath before jumping into the summer festival season both here in New York and in its environs.

Today is also the 45th anniversary of Heritage of Pride, the parade that marches down Fifth Avenue, turns right at the Washington Square Arch and moves down Washington Street, Waverly and Christopher past the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 police raid and riot that essentially sparked the gay pride movement in these United States.

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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Superconductor Interview: Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz

The founders of the New York International Piano Competition.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz (left).
Photo from the Stecher Horowitz Foundation.
Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz know a good pianist when they hear one.

New York-based and partners in pianism for over six decades, (they met at the age of 17) they are the creators of the New York International Piano Competition, which starts June 23 at the Manhattan School of Music. In a telephone interview with Superconductor these two pianists (now 81) discussed their piano competition with energy and eagerness, occasionally interlocuting for each other with the ease of long musical partnership.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Marches On: The 2014 Superconductor Festival Guide Part II

Three big festivals make New York more bearable in the summer.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Lincoln Center becomes a cultural oasis in the summer months.
Unfortunately that's not a real palm tree. Photo alteration by the author.
The Rolling Stones once said "you can't always get what you want." For New Yorkers sweltering through summer heat, that might translate to "you can't always get out of town." For those city-bound urbanites or visitors to this great metropolis, Mostly Mozart is the ideal cure, a shelter of musical marvels in the helter-skelter of a summer swelter. (And yes, readers, I know that's from an entirely different song.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Met Throws Opera Overboard

The Met cancels its broadcast of The Death of Klinghoffer.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A scene from the English National Opera's production of John Adams' opera
The Death of Klinghoffer which comes to the Metropolitan Opera in 2012.
Photo by Richard Hubert Smith © 2012 English National Opera. 
The Metropolitan Opera announced today that the company's 2014-15 Live in HD broadcast schedule will not include John Adams' controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Marches In: The 2014 Superconductor Festival Guide Part I

Your guide to getting out of New York and hearing great music.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Soprano Ellie Dehn is Euryanthe at Bard SummerScape.
Photo by Todd Norwood © 2014 Bard Festival.
As summer marches in, the festival season is upon us. Here's the Superconductor guide to getting out of New York for spectacular scenery, gorgeous music, and opera performances that you'll read about here in the next two months.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Concert Review: Soul Over Beethoven

Yefim Bronfman plays two of The Beethoven Concertos.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Ludwig van Beethoven (left) and Yefim Bronfman.
Beethoven portrait 1803 by Christian Hornemann. Mr. Bronfman photo by Dario Acosta.
Photo alteration by the author.
For the past two seasons, the New York Philharmonic has ended its long season with a festival, multiple weeks of concerts devoted to a single artistic focus. This year, that focus is the five piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven, played by  this year's artist-in-residence Yefim Bronfman and led by music director Alan Gilbert.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Opera Preview: The Tender Land

Aaron Copland's American opera at Chelsea Opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Aaron Copland's The Tender Land brings the American heartland to Chelsea.
Photo from
Chelsea Opera, the small company that gives its performances at St. Peter's Churg on W. 20th St. in Manhattan, concludes its 2014 spring season with Aaron Copland's The Tender Land. This is Copland's only opera, composed in 1954 and premiered at the New York City Opera in 1955. There are just two performances: on June 13 and June 14.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Open Birthday Greeting to Richard Strauss

A Letter to the Composer on his 150th Birthday.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The composer Richard Strauss at his desk in between letters from an American blogger.
Photo © 2014 Richard-Strauss Institut, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Paul J. Pelkonen
Editor, Superconductor
*** 44th St. Apt. *
Brooklyn NY 11220 USA

Dr. Richard Strauss,
The Villa Strauss, 42 Zoeppritzstraße,
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany 82467                             June 11, 2014

Dear Dr. Strauss:

I know we don't know each other and I am sure you are getting a lot of birthday greetings today. I wanted to take this occasion to wish you the very happiest of 150th birthdays and to write a little about what your music has meant to me in the past 25 years of my life. I'm an American music critic living and working in New York City, and my music blog Superconductor is frequently devoted to writing about your work.

Festival Preview: The Beethoven Concertos

Yefim Bronfman and the New York Philharmonic close out the season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The pianist Yefim Bronfman with an unidentified composer providing inspiration.
Photo sourced from, collage and image alteration by the author. 
In the wake of the New York Philharmonic's hugely successful 11-day NY PHIL BIENNIAL, New York City's oldest orchestra is ready to close out the 2013-14 season with one more festival. For three weeks, the orchestra will celebrate the music of Beethoven with a complete cycle of five Beethoven piano concertos, all played by artist-in-residence Yefim Bronfman and conducted by music director Alan Gilbert.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Concert Review: With a Bang, Then a Whisper

The first-ever NY PHIL BIENNIAL ends.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Alan Gilbert (inset) and the New York Philharmonic ended the first-ever
NY PHIL BIENNIAL on Saturday night.
Inset photo by Chris Lee. Owl image © 2014 The New York Philharmonic.
The first ever NY PHIL BIENNAL ended Saturday night with the last of three consecutive concerts by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. Saturday's concert was led by music director Alan Gilbert, who took the stage with microphone in hand to announce the end of the festival and to thank his orchestra musicians for learning all these new pieces and playing them at a high level.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Superconductor Interview: Matthias Pintscher

We sit down with the composer to discuss the NY PHIL BIENNIAL.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Composer Matthias Pintscher.
Photo by Jean Radel © 2011

The Austrian composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher is one of the most important voices in the contemporary music scene. And thanks to his close association with the New York Philharmonic and his working relationship with music director Alan Gilbert, he has been a driving force behind the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, the 11-day new music event that has swept through Manhattan this month in a tidal wave of sonic innovation.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Opera Review: All Hail the Queen

The Opera Orchestra of New York presents Roberto Devereux.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Mariella Devia (here pictured in Anna Bolena) returned to Carnegie Hall Thursday night
as Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux. Photo from Opera di Florenze.
There was a definite feeling of nostalgia surrounding Thursday night's concert performance of Roberto Devereux at Carnegie Hall, the lone season offering this year from the Opera Orchestra of New York. Not only did this concert mark the return of Eve Queler to the podium, but it was also the long-awaited New York return of semi-legendary 66-year-old soprano Mariella Devia in the key role of Elizabeth I, Queen of England. This was the singer's first New York appearance in 15 years.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Concert Review: Playing in the Basement

At SubCulture, six young composers make CONTACT!
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Slide on this: trombonist Joseph Alessi makes CONTACT! at SubCulture.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2014 The New York Philharmonic.
The NEW YORK PHIL BIENNIAL is in its second week. On Tuesday night, six members of the Philharmonic gathered at SubCulture for the second CONTACT! program of the festival, featuring works commissioned for solo performers by a minor galaxy of talented young composers. The concert, hosted by SubCulture co-founder Eric Kaplan showed the brilliance and diversity of each composer, and the talents of featured Philharmonic players in these very different compositions.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Concert Review: Unbowed But Undefeated

The Budapest Festival Orchestra plays Dvořák. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Iván Fischer. Photo © 2014 by Dan Porges.
When the Budapest Festival Orchestra arrived in at Newark Airport, they received an unwelcome surprise. The orchestra's violinists had their bows (which were shipped separately to J.F.K.) seized by U.S. Customs at the Kennedy Airport due to suspicion that these vintage implements might contain ivory. On Monday night, with substitute bows (loaned by generous local string players) in hand, this Hungarian orchestra presented the second of two concerts focusing entirely on the music of Antonín Dvořák.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Concert Review: All About the Benjamin

The Orchestra of St. Luke's explores the modern British composers.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Chillin' with Pablo: Orchestra of St. Luke's principal conductor Pablo Heras-Casado
takes a backstage break. Photo by Felix Broede from hs website
The British composer George Benjamin has emerged as an important voice in the 21st century, with his opera Written on Skin and instrumental works gaining in popularity and performance. On Sunday afternoon, conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and the Orchestra of St. Luke's offered its second program of the current NY PHIL BIENNIAL, exploring works by Mr, Benjamin, this year's Musical America composer of the year, and other composers who are his influences and followers in the current flowering of contemporary British music.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Concert Review: A Fixed Explosion of Ideas

The Orchestra of St. Luke's plays Pierre Boulez.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
 Pierre Boulez and his student the conductor Pablo Heras-Casado.
Photo by Priska Ketterer © 2012 The Lucerne Festival.
From his heaven-storming early piano works to his current place as a grand statesman of modern music, there is no overstating the importance of composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. On Saturday afternoon at the Rose Theater in the Time Warner Center, the Orchestra of St. Luke's unveiled their first concert of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL: Circles of Influence: Pierre Boulez. This concert celebrated recent works (including four U.S. premieres) and examined the Boulezian influence on contemporary European composers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Concert Review: Slaughter-House Four

The American Symphony Orchestra offers Forged in Fire.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The trenches of France in World War I.
The First World War (known as the "Great War" in the years between its ending and World War II) was one of the key events of the 20th century. Starting on June 28, 1914, this five-year conflagration destroyed much of France, severely damaged Germany and cost the lives of an entire generation of young men, slaughtered in the battlefield trenches by the mechanized weaponry of the early 20th century. However, observance of this tragic event has been largely muted, even as the centennial of the war approaches this year.

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