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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.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Opera Review: Fox Does Politics

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble flushes The Cunning Little Vixen.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Into the woods: the Fox (left) and the Vixen (Rachel Hall) meet cute in Janáček's opera.
Photo by Brian Long © 2017 Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
In the remarkable string of operas that the Czech composer Leoš Janáček crafted in the last years of his life, it is Příhody lišky Bystroušky (usually represented in English as "The Cunning Little Vixen" that stands apart. Based on a Czech newspaper cartoon that was popular in Janáček's hometown of Brno, it is the only one of his operas that has any appeal to a younger audience. And yet, as shown in an intriguing new production by Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble. the Vixen is a deeply relevant opera whose sunny libretto masks some strong political subtext.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Opera Preview: La Fanciulla del West

New York City Opera will kick off its season with Puccini's most American opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Cards with a stranger: Emmy Destinn (right) and Enrico Caruso (center) in Act II
of La Fanciulla del West. Photo © 1910 the Ricordi Archives.
The resuscitated New York City Opera has reclaimed its position as the leadoff hitter of the 2017 fall cultural season in New York City, as they prepare to open Sept. 6 with a staging of Giacomo Puccini's La Fanciulla del West.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Concert Review: Robert and Clara (and their friend Johannes)

It's all Schumann and Brahms at Mostly Mozart.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The 5,000 Fingers of Kirill Gerstein. The pianist played Mostly Mozart this week.
Photo by Marco Borggreve.
The trials and tribulations of the great Romantic composers have always fascinated the classical music-loving public. From the extramarital wanderings of Richard Wagner to Frederic Chopin's stormy relationship with the lady novelist George Sand, it has provided fodder for intermission conversation over coffee and small overpriced sandwiches,. Arguably, the most famous triangle relationship was between three composers: Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann (née Wieck) and Johannes Brahms.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Concert Review: The Survival of the Fittest

Yes bring their touring "Yestival" to Coney Island.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Yes go close to the edge. L.-R.: Steve Howe, Dylan Howe, Jon Davison, Geoff Downes, Alan White, Billy Sherwood.
Photo by the author, graphics by Roger Dean.
Yes, the British progressive rock band known for long Byzantine songs and perpetual lineup changes, rolled through Brooklyn last night, bringing their tour, dubbed "Yestival", to the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The veteran band, who are celebrating their past due induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, brought yet another lineup change, and a set that featured ten carefully chosen songs, one from each of] their first ten albums, played in chronological order.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Concert Review: The Antic Disposition

The Danish String Quartet play Beethoven.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

The members f the Danish String Quartet and their latest construction project.
Photo courtesy Kirshbaum Associates. 

Each summer, the Mostly Mozart Festival is dominated by the main stage orchestra offerings at David Geffen Hall. On Thursday evening, however, the ears of its audience were attuned to chamber music. This concert at Alice Tully Hall featured two of the great string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven, as played by that excellent and fast-rising ensemble, the Danish String Quartet. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Concert Review: Rolling Doubles

Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis at Mostly Mozart.
Violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis team up again at Mostly Mozart.
Photo courtesy Linfoln Center/Mostly Mozart.
Tuesday night's concert at Mostly Mozart, conducted by Andrew Mainze and featuring an all-star tandem of soloists featured a distinct absence of music by Mozart. Rather, the Festival Orchestra turned its talents to Brahms, Bach and Mendelssohn. The program was well chosen, bringing together three unusual and infrequently layer pieces together. Credit for this must go to the scholarly Mr. Mainze, whose cool-headed, cerebral approach to music-making has four him at the helm of the Academy of Ancient Music and the English Concert.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Concert Review: New Blood for Old Masters

Beatrice Rana plays Mostly Mozart.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The young virtuoso Beatrice Rana took Mostly Mozart by storm.
Photo courtesy Warner Brothers Classics.
The music of Bach and Beethoven form a rite of passage for any young pianist. Playing the challenging works of these composers before a paying audience (as Beatrice Rana did last week at Mostly Mozart) is a further test. On Friday night, Ms. Rana made her festival debut with two performances: a preliminary concert featuring Bach's Partita No. 2 in c minor and the main event: a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Friday, August 4, 2017

There is Water Under Ground

The importance of Remaining in Light.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Benin-born singer Angelique Kidjo performed Remain in Light
by the Talking Heads at Lincoln Center on Wednesday night.
The other night, as my concert companion and I walked out of Mostly Mozart, we started crossing Lincoln Center Plaza southward. As we approached the bandshell, we heard the extraordinary sound of...the Talking Heads. Now, I don't usually go to another concert right on top of the first one, and I'm reluctant to be in a crowd when processing a show. However, this was Angelique Kidjo and her band, and one of the events this summer that I had wanted to see (and had forgotten about) a complete performance of the classic 1980 Talking Heads album, Remain in Light presented by Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Concert Review: Of Trash Cans, Bottles and Pipes

Sō Percussion joins Mostly Mozart for a new concerto.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
They're lumberjacks and they're OK: the men of Sō Percussion.
Photo © 2017 
Sō Percussion/Mostly Mozart Festival.
In recent years, the Mostly Mozart Festival, once the staid haven of conservative music lovers in the hot summers of New York City, has become a home for new music. On Wednesday night, the Festival Orchestra and its music director Louis Langrée were joined by Sō Percussion, a New York based quartet. This was the second of two concerts this week, featuring the premiere of man made, a new work by David Lang.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Recordings Review: This Ain't No Fairy Music

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Mendelssohn's five symphonies.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Cover portrait of Yannick Nézet-Séguin from his new DG cycle
of Mendelssohn symphonies. © 2017 Deutsche Grammophon/UMG
The five symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn have enjoyed a mixed reputation in the hectic whirl of the 21st century. Two of them remain standard program items: the Third ("Scottish") and Fourth ("Italian"), musical walking tours in which the composer muses on his travels to those two countries. The Fifth ("Reformation") stands between the early Romanticism of Beethoven and the perfectionism of Brahms. And the first two are almost never programmed: a cheerful work of the composer's early maturity and a massive choral symphony that is closer in its nature to a cantata. All these works used to be recorded regularly, but a new cycle of Mendelssohn symphonies is like a tricycle for adults: stable, reliable, but not everyone wants or needs one.

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