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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Concert Review: Finishing What He Started

Alan Gilbert conducts Sibelius and Mendelssohn.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Philharmonic from upstage with Alan Gilbert at the controls.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2015 The New York Philharmonic.
2015 has been a year of transition for Alan Gilbert. The music director of the New York Philharmonic announced back in February that next season would be his last at the helm of the orchestra. However, Tuesday night saw him back on the podium at David Geffen Hall, leading the orchestra in a program of Mendelssohn and Sibelius. The latter is greatest composer in the history of Finland, and 2015 marked his 150th birthday.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Concert Review: The Unquiet Dead

Town Hall witnesses the long-awaited resurrection of P.D.Q. Bach.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Peter Schickele (left) demonstrates Steinway/Everlast's Piano Glove.
Photo from Bucklesweet Media © 2015 Peter Schickele.
Mention the name Peter Schickele in a circle of New York concertgoers and you will be met with a smile, a chuckle, and perhaps a roll of the eyes. (Unless they're young, in which case they'll need an explanation.)  Mr. Schickele, a distinguished teacher and composer based in New York, has spent half a century moonlighting as the misguided musical paleontologist whose lone discovery is the justifiably forgotten output of P.D.Q. Bach, the last and most misbegotten of Johann Sebastian Bach's children.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Concert Review: Keeping the Faith

The Philharmonic resurrects Handel's Messiah.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Jane Glover.
Photo by Ken Howard for Chicago Music of the Baroque.
Ever since the twelve-year music directorship of the late Kurt Masur, the oratorio has resumed pride of place at the New York Philharmonic. That was confirmed last week when Jane Glover, the eminent British musicologist and conductor known to New Yorkers from her opera performances at Juilliard, made her debut with the orchestra conducting this year's run of Handel's Messiah.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Concert Review: No Country for Forgotten Men

The ASO explores Russia's lost Jewish composers.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Big stick: the composer Anton Rubinstein on the podium. His work was played
Thursday night by the American Symphony Orchestra.
Painting by Ilya Repin.
The concert hall music of Russia has a shorter history than most, as no major composers emerged in that land until the 19th century. And yet, there are as many forgotten and neglected composers from Russia as there are trees in its vast taiga forests. On Thursday night, Leon Botstein chose four Jewish composers from Russia as the focus of a Carnegie Hall concert by the American Symphony Orchestra: Aleksandr Krein, Anton Rubinstein, Mikhail Gnesin and Maximillian Steinberg.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Obituary: Kurt Masur 1927-2015

The German conductor led the New York Philharmonic for 11 years.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Kurt Masur at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2015 The New York Philharmonic.
Kurt Masur, who led the New York Philharmonic as music director from 1991 to 2002 died earlier today in Greenwich CT. The cause of death was reported in the New York Times as "complications from Parkinson's disease."  The maestro was 88. Performances in later life were affected by a notable tremor in his hands. His passing follows a hospitalization after he fell off a podium while conducting the Orchestre National de France.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What Beethoven Means (to Some)

A reflection on the composer's 245th birthday.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Beethoven said it best.
Image from the ironically named
The composer  Ludwig van Beethoven towers over the world of classical music, a colossus even though the man himself stood about five-four. Janus-like, his music looks forward and back at once, drawing on the rigid classical structures of the 18th century and looking ahead to the wild Romantic experimentation of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. But why is this composer, with his nine symphonies, thirty-two piano sonatas and one lone opera held in such high esteem? On the occasion of his 245th birthday, Superconductor seeks some of the reasons that Beethoven will forever be immortal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Concert Review: The Power of the Collective

The Manhattan Chamber Players' Holiday Concert.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Members of the Manhattan Chamber Players (with artistic director Luke Fleming
in the red tie) looking for a place to play. Photo by Sophie Zhai © 2015 Manhattan Chamber Players.

The arrival of a new chamber music ensemble in New York is an occasion for celebration, for virtuosity and for its members to show the concert-going music-loving public what they can do. That opportunity was presented on Tuesday night when the Manhattan Chamber Players gave their second concert...ever in the Recital Hall at Baruch College. (Their first was last week at Le Poisson Rouge.) A collective that formed earlier this year, the MCP is formed from members of other still extant ensembles: a large circle of friends and colleagues who convene for the purposes of playing pure music.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Do You Hear What We Hear?

A quick Superconductor guide to holiday concerts.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Homer Simpson does some last minute shopping.
Image from Tis the Fifteenth Season © 2004 Gracie Films/20th Century Fox.
The holidays are in full festive swing at Superconductor and we are proud to present this quick guide to music being made in the late December here in New York City. So here's ten concerts, light on the gingerbread for when you want to hear something other than Handel's Messiah. (Don't worry our elves start off with a recommendation for Messiah also.)

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Barber of Seville

The Met revives the Barber in "family-friendly" English.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
She's a vipera: Isabel Leonard returns as Rosina in The Barber of Seville.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
Rossini repackaged for the kids: with the most famous comedy in opera trimmed down to a lean 90 minutes. This is the Met's special holiday presentation of Gioachino Rossini's Barber of Seville with the radiant Isabel Leonard returning to the role of Rosina.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Opera Review: An Overwhelming Sense of Gilt

The Dangerous Liasons bows at MSM.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Comte de Valmont's favorite piece of furniture in The Dangerous Liasons.

Since its publication in 1782, the French novel Les Liasons Dangereuses has had many incarnations. It has spawned six film adaptations, a hit Broadway show and kept corset-makers in business. In 1994, composer Conrad Susa and librettist Philip Littell turned it into an opera: The Dangerous Liasons  which premiered in San Francisco with an all-star cast. Mr. Susa's version  arrived this weekend at the Manhattan School of Music, with three performances (featuring two seperate casts) at Borden Auditorium.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Concert Review: Alone in the Dark

The experience of Goldberg at the Armory.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Marina Abramović re-invents the concert experience with Goldberg
at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo by James Ewing © 2015 Park  Avenue Armory.
Off came my wristwatch, a trusty concert-going companion of many years. My iPhone was turned off and put in my bag next to my iPad, also off. Bag and grey Marillion fleece jacket were put in locker No. 42 and I locked it and took the key. I stood in line with other concertgoers, some there for the music: Bach's Goldberg Variations, others for the auteur of our evening: performance and conceptual artist Marina Abramović . The bringing together of these forces is called Goldberg, and is Ms. Abramović's latest stage work.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Essay: The Critical Ear

What do reviewers listen for at a classical music concert?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The protest against silence from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
Art by Jules Feiffer © 1961 Random House LLC.
You see us at the Philharmonic, at Carnegie Hall, at chamber music performances, and at the opera. We sit there sometimes scribbling in ugly notebooks, sometimes perusing progam notes or musical scores, sometimes with eyes closed, heads bowed in some sort of deep communion with the spirits of the creators of the music being performed.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Opera Review: Bloody Deeds in Brooklyn

LoftOpera takes on Britten's The Rape of Lucretia.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Detail from Lucretia by Rembrandt.
The chamber operas of Benjamin Britten are works of great  dramatic power, demanding a tight ensemble and a cast that can act as well as sing. All those quantities are present in LoftOpera’s first production of “The Rape of Lucretia," seen Saturday night in a temporary performance space created, seemingly out of thin air at the event space/art gallery 501 Union. This production marks this bold young company’s first staging of a Britten opera and its first show in English.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Concert Review: Making Tracks in Brooklyn

Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer rolls into BAM.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Bang on A Can All Stars and the SITI Ensemble perform Steel Hammer. 
Eric Berryman (standing, right, with hammer) is John Henry.
Photo © 2015 the Krannert Center and courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The composer Julia Wolfe is one of the most important voices in American music. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her oratorio Anthracite Fields she combines Appalachian folk music, minimalist techniques and the power of the human voice to create a unique American sound, rock-ribbed, raw-boned and bursting with vitality. On Wednesday night, the Bang On A Can All-Stars and the SITI Company brought the New York premiere of the fully staged version of her first oratorio Steel Hammer to the BAM Harvey Theater in the waning days of this year's NextWave Festival.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La Donna del Lago

Joyce DiDonato reprises the title role in this Rossini rarity.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Scotland the Brave: Joyce DiDonato shines in La Donna del Lago.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Met continues its Rossini revival with one of the bona fide hits of last year: La Donna del Lago ("The Lady of the Lake"). Paul Curran's production bowed in 2013 at Santa Fe. At the Met, the magnificent natural vistas of New Mexico are replaced with scenery. (It was either that or knock out the back of the opera house and give the audience a backdrop of Amsterdam Avenue.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

They're Back From the Dead

And they're ready for Tosca: The New York City Opera Renaissance.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Original art from Iron Maiden's No Prayer for the Dying.
Painting by Derek Riggs © 1990 Iron Maiden/CBS Records.
The above headline suits the giddy anticipation that some opera lovers in New York have regarding the resurrection of the New York City Opera, the long-running company that bit the dust in 2013. In stories reported yesterday in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it was announced this week that the New York City Opera Renaissance will move forward with its plans to bring the historic company out of bankruptcy and get back to the business of putting operas on the stage.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Concert Review: Meet the Door Busters

Andris Nelsons and the BSO on Black Friday.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Sale of the Century: Andris Nelsons (left) and Yefim Bronfman storm through Bartók.
Photo by Winslow Townson for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The day after Thanksgiving is dreaded by most Americans as when bargain-hunters swarm the shopping centers in search of material goods to stuff under trees. However, Symphony Hall in Boston offers an oasis in all this commerce with an annual post-Thanksgiving performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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