Thursday, July 14, 2022

It's been a big couple of months!


This is going to be a short post. The last three months have been the busiest of my life -- exciting busy, but busy busy. Here are just a few of the exciting updates:
  • Music criticism competitions exist, and I won one! It was like extremely compressed, niche college. I wrote about the experience here. (While you're there, subscribe -- it's free!)
  • I started a new job with the fantastic Live Arts team at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Let me tell you, the Temple of Dendur hits different when the tourists aren't around.
  • I'm starting to write more! My new-concert-season resolution is to spend more time writing and less time talking about writing. We'll see where the year takes us...
Concert calendars will hopefully resume in the fall, I've just been too damn busy -- although, to be frank, I've been pretty disappointed with this summer's offerings. Oh well, there's always TIME:SPANS next month.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The CMG Concert Calendar: May 2022

I'm a few days late here -- I think the month of April is designed to kill the human race. No one I know had an easy, relaxing month, myself included. I made it to maybe half of the concerts I wrote up. Averaged maybe one a week in the latter half of the month?

Anyway, I'm in the process of bouncing back. Stress levels are still high, and convincing myself to leave the house is getting harder, especially as a current work-from-home-er.


May 2, 6, 10, 14mat, 17, 21mat (cont. from April) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
see last month

May 13, 18, 21, 26, 31 (into June) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
Several exciting debuts in this one. Hamlet is tenor Allan Clayton, whose recent Peter Grimes in London received rave reviews. Countertenors Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and Christopher Lowrey (both one-time Met competition winners) debut opposite each other as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. South African baritone (and once boy soprano) Jacques Imbrailo plays Horatio. It's even composer Brett Dean's first Met rodeo. This is going to be a powerhouse performance.

May 19, 22mat, 25, 28mat (cont. from March) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
Instead of going to the 2019 Harvard-Yale football game (the last before COVID), I decided to fly home a day early. My flight was late enough to catch the first two acts of Met's Akhnaten simulcast, but I had to leave before Act III. I still don't know how it ends. He dies, I think? This is one that you want to watch from the nosebleeds, it's about the composite spectacle -- glow-in-the-dark juggling, 40-pound costumes, nude scene and all.

May 30 (into June, only four performances!) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
I will never turn down an opportunity to see Golda Schultz, especially after her stunning Contessa Almaviva in January's Figaro run. And she heads a cast that will make my first Rake's Progress a memorable one. Ben Bliss supposedly lives up to his name (I bet I'm the first to make that joke), Raehann Bryce-Davis will make her awaited debut, and Christian Van Horn's dry humor stole January 2019's Wozzeck. At least, I think dry humor is right for Van Horn's character, Nick Shadow, but I'm basing that only on a Twitter parody account.


April 29-May 1 | 8 venues in Downtown Brooklyn | days from $95, full festival $195
see last month -- or wait for my review in Which Sinfonia!

May 13-14 | The Jazz Gallery | $25 and up
Last week, I stepped foot in the cesspit that is the Village Vanguard for the first time since 2019. In hindsight, not a great decision health-wise, but the set was fabulous: a drummer named Johnathan Blake and his new-ish quintet, Pentad. Vibraphonist Joel Ross was one of the clear stars, although Blake's approach crosses boundaries far less than Ross's, which usually fuses elements of hip-hop and other genres. I'm excited to see Ross lead a band in his own music.

May 20-21 | Roulette Intermedium | $40 online, $45 doors
I did not get to see Henry Threadgill at The Jazz Gallery a few months ago. But the same point stands: I learned about this man in my jazz history classes, and he's almost 80. Jazz was only invented a century ago, so now is the time to see the pioneers before they, uh, go the way of the dodo.


May 5 | Alice Tully Hall | $20
This already happened, but it was really lovely! Copland's In The Beginning is a nifty little piece that sounds difficult as all hell. And of all the Haydn masses, the Creation mass is definitely one of them!

May 6 | 92nd Street Y | $20 and up
The Dovers might be the best quartet in the country right now. They're here in NYC at least once a year, so I'm not going to this performance. But if you're in the area with nothing to do, you will never go wrong with a Dover evening. (I reviewed them most recently in October 2019, but I don't remember what I said. Let's find out!)

May 6 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $34.50 and up
I turned down the opportunity to see Igor Levit in recital due to Omicron, and I was hell-bent on seeing him this time. But alas, I'm skipping this concert for a very good reason (see immediately below). But you shouldn't. There are things I'd rather see Levit play than Brahms, like the Shostakovich preludes and fugues he's bringing to Carnegie next year. But Brahms is never a bad choice, nor is the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.

May 6 | Carnegie Hall (Zankel) | $38 and up
General rule: in my house, we support our friends. One of my besties designed the projections for this premiere, and her work is always stunning. It's a great ensemble, too -- I've been absolutely dying to hear Nora Fischer live after her album of electric guitar-accompanied Baroque airs (it works, trust me!). I confess, I usually am not a Golijov fan. But I am willing to be converted.

May 8mat | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $19 and up
The English Concert has been touring operas in concert for the past few years, always to great acclaim. For sopranos Lucy Crowe and Mary Bevan, Handel is their bag. Emily D'Angelo seems to do a bit of everything -- I'll be interested to read her reviews.

May 8mat | Corpus Christi Church | $10 and up
I grew up in a nerdy world where Ockeghem (think 15th-century Flanders) came up in conversation relatively often. I thus assumed that Ockeghem gets performed relatively often. Not the case, at least in this country. This may be the first (and last) major Ockeghem concert of the NYC concert season, and no way am I missing it.

May 9 | Advent Lutheran Church | FREE
Guys. It's a free Mendelssohn Octet. And one of Florence Price's gorgeous quartets. And some fun new music. And it's FREE. There is no downside.

May 11 | Roulette Intermedium | $35 online, $40 doors
God, I wish I didn't have orchestra rehearsal on May 11!!!! John Zorn aligns himself with only the best musicians in the NYC avant-garde scene. The people he trusts to give his premieres are the demigods, the ones who simply don't know how to make mistakes. Buckle up, kids, this one's going to be wild.

May 17 | Park Avenue Armory | $55
When I don't know what I want to listen to, I put on Ensemble Correspondances. They have their French Baroque niche, but they've started to branch out -- their 11th album, released in March 2021, features a German (and Swedish!) program they've been touring around the US. But here in NYC, it's comfort food: their Plaisirs du Louvre program, one that I count among my comfort albums. I requested my tickets in mid-April, never got a reply, and now it's sold out. I will show up the day of and pout as much as I need to, so help me god.

May 18 | National Sawdust | $30
I saw these projects in their first iteration, at Roulette in [September? October?], and they're so fabulous I'm considering seeing them again. In reality, I'm probably not going to schlep to Williamsburg on a Wednesday to see this again, especially considering it's coming out on twin CDs five days earlier. I also really dislike National Sawdust -- it's sort of cold and dank and unwelcoming, especially compared to Roulette's kitschy coziness -- but in this rare case, it's worth it, I promise.

May 19 | Carnegie Hall (Weill) | $38 and up
Carnegie needs to quit putting up such great concerts at the same time. This album made me smile, a rare ray of hope right around the beginning of the pandemic -- it's some of the nicest, most profound, best-though-out Schubert on the market. Yi-heng Yang is a name I'm surprised I don't see more often around here, considering the fabulous playing on this album. I think she's based in New Jersey?

May 19 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $45 and up
I finally got to chat with Julia Wolfe a bit at the Bang on a Can Long Play -- we were randomly seated next to each other at the finale. I will probably end up seeing Karim Sulayman this date, but it's only because I've gone out of my way to see most every other performance of Wolfe's music this year. This is the piece that won her a Pulitzer, a cantata about coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania. It's probably the best primer on Wolfe's incredible music that you're going to get.

May 20 | National Sawdust | $25
I've mentioned my friend Jimmy Reese here before, usually in conjunction with TENET Vocal Artists. He's a founding member of this mostly-new-music sextet in Philadelphia -- already a hotbed of avant-garde vocal music thanks to The Crossing. They release their first album this month, and this Friday performance is the release performance. Again, worth a trip to the venue that tries too hard.

May 21 | Miller Theatre | $20 and up
Next month, I'll be a fellow at the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism in San Francisco. They've kindly sent us a list of all the concerts we'll have to review, and one of them is a huge Miguel Zenón premiere at SFJAZZ. Call this research! Fun, enjoyable research.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The CMG Concert Calendar: April 2022

I think I'm in a rhythm now. Last month, I felt myself burning out. Not this month. I held my off days sacred. I didn't go to concerts for the sake of having plans. And I'm still exhausted, but I'm more happy exhausted and less cranky exhausted (though I do not regret napping instead of seeing Rodelinda last Sunday).

Between Holy Week and all these amazing concerts, April might kill me. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


April 1, 5, 9, 12, 16mat, 20 | Met Opera House | $30 and up
This will be my first Elektra, but after reading the synopsis, it makes last month's Wozzeck look like Sesame Street. The Met's Wagnerian queen, Lise Davidsen, is back for this production after stealing March's run of Ariadne auf Naxos. She's in a secondary role this time around, but that's still reason enough to come -- as if Nina Stemme and Greer Grimsley weren't already. I think I'm shooting for opening night on this one.
EDIT: This was probably the best cast I've seen this season. Nina Stemme was perhaps the weakest of the leads, and she was still absolutely phenomenal, especially considering that Elektra comes onstage in the first minute and never leaves. The amount of fire that Michaela Schuster puts into Klytämnestra alone justifies the ticket price. Run, don't walk.

April 2mat, 7, 10mat, 14 (cont. from March) | Met Opera House | $30 and up

April 2, 6, 9mat, 13, 16, 21 | Met Opera House | $30 and up
I saw this in January, so you won't see me there this month. But if you didn't, now would be a great time. Ying Fang is famous for her Mozart, Sasha Cooke never disappoints, and Gerald Finley and Christian Van Horn will probably be hilarious playing off of each other.

April 23, 26, 29 (into May) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
This updated Lucia has caused a stir in the few boomer opera-nerd Facebook groups where I lurk (how about that for niche?). Of course, I have a dirty secret: I've never seen Lucia in the first place. Maybe I'll watch a traditional production first. Maybe I won't, and my first Lucia will take place in the modern-day Rust Belt. Either way, I'm expecting a barn-burning mad scene from Nadine Sierra and one of the Met's two principal flutes -- and after seeing Matthew Rose step into a Don Carlos lead on a couple hours' notice last week, I want to hear more.


April 7-10 | The Prince George Ballroom | $50
Last time I saw On Site Opera, they were telling of the African slave trade on the big ship Wavertree in the South Street Seaport -- a moving and extremely well-executed production, even in sub-optimal conditions. Now, it's time for Gianni Schicchi in an ornate East Side ballroom -- something about wood paneling and bronze purfling makes any concert sound better (as I learned with TENET's cheeky Les plaisirs de Versailles in the gorgeous House of the Redeemer reading room last month).

April 14-15 | Park Avenue Armory | $45
New York has a lot of phenomenal new music ensembles, but seeing them perform is a crapshoot when you don't live in the city -- many of them only perform five or six one-off concerts a year. Now, it's time to make my way down the missed connections list. I've been listening to Alarm Will Sound since high school, and an hour of John Luther Adams is just the live introduction I was hoping for. 

April 29-May 1 | 8 venues in Downtown Brooklyn | days from $95, full festival $195
I'm covering this one for Which Sinfonia, where I do the bulk of my serious writing, and I'm so excited -- avant-garde classical Coachella! I'm still looking for the right companion -- or, let me rephrase. I know who the right companion would be, but he won't be around. I'm looking for the right Sam substitute.


April 2 | Weill Recital Hall | $38 and up
Rule number one of concert planning: if you can, see people performing music they own. Padmore's Schubert. Bang on a Can's Wolfe. Jeanine De Bique's set of traditional Trinidadian songs. I've never encountered De Bique outside of a Handel context (a comment on me, not her), but early music specialists so often excel at mid-to-late-Romantic lieder. I'm excited.
EDIT: There are simply no words.

April 3mat | Morgan Library | $50
Yes, I'm trying to see three concerts this day. First up, at 3pm: among the world's best sopranos and fortepianists on tour with their fantastic new album of Haydn, Mozart, and contemporaries. I haven't met a soul who doesn't think Carolyn Sampson is a deity incarnate, and after hours of listening, I hold the same view of Kristian Bezuidenhout. Two of those artists I've been waiting to see for years, and the weekend is finally upon us!!!

April 3mat | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $20
Next, at 5pm: one of my good friends is making his NYC debut as a pianist for this art song collective run by a former professor of mine. Another of those instances where the program looks wacky at first glance -- Mozart, Barber, and Sondheim on the same program? -- but Richard Lalli and Tobé Malawista always, always make it fit.

April 3 | Advent Lutheran Church | $25
And finally, at 7pm: NYC's foremost period instrument quartet, whose Haydn-Seven Last Words-plus-commissions project was one of my favorite performances of [November? December? time is a construct]. Here, they present their first installment in a ten-year project of Haydn's 68 quartets, alongside responsive commissions from today's up-and-coming voices -- this time from American composer Alexandra du Bois.

April 6 | Roulette Intermedium | $20
Based on Emmanuel Iduma's reflective travelogue of the same name, Sara Serpa's Intimate Strangers is perhaps one of the most technically pieces I've seen in the past few months -- the evening-length work served as one night of her February residency at The Stone. The work is as stunning live as it is recorded, the close-harmonied vocal trio dancing around and intermingling with (but never overpowering) poised, well-considered narrations directly from the text. I have a rehearsal that conflicts with this performance (and besides which, I've already seen it), but I highly, highly recommend you make the trip.

April 7 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $14.50 and up
I don't recommend Bach on modern instruments often, but at very least go to this performance for the soloists. Julian Prégardien brings a coarse drama to his Evangelists, less smooth than some of his counterparts but with a compelling honesty. Philippe Sly has a rich voice that fits into any period -- the early music scene is so, so lucky to have him. A quartet at the forefront of the British Bach scene -- Carolyn Sampson, Hugh Cutting, Andrew Staples, and Matthew Brook -- take all of the arias, strategically saving poor choir members from double duty in the marathon, three-hour piece.

April 13 | Carnegie Hall (Zankel) | $35
Ensemble Signal is another of those new music ensembles that I've never had the fortune to see -- and after the transformative Steel Hammer that started Julia Wolfe's Carnegie residency, I'll see as many of these performances as I have time for. Plus, I remember being impressed with Tessa Lark at an informal concert she gave at the Rubinstein Atrium with her partner, Michael Thurber (of vintage YouTube fame), and this sort of repertoire seems to be among her specialties.

April 21 | Miller Theatre | $20 and up
I had the pleasure to review Yarn/Wire's performance at last year's TIME:SPANS festival -- they're a group with monstrous musicality and even more intimidating brainpower. I thought I remembered Meadowcroft on that program, but it seems I'm mistaken. But Miller's composer portraits never steer wrong.

April 21 | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $25
God, I wish I could be in two places at once on April 21. The JACK Quartet has that Midas touch -- they can do no wrong. The first time I saw them (at Miller Theatre, funnily enough), I haphazardly reoriented my plans to see them again the next night. So what do I see, fantastic new music about 25min from my apartment or....fantastic new music about 25min from my apartment?

April 22 | Carnegie Hall (Weill) | $57 and up
Il Pomo d'Oro has been around for a while, but they shot into the mainstream somewhat recently as the ensemble behind one of Joyce DiDonato's highly-acclaimed 2016 album In War and Peace. Since then, they've become prolific -- there have been months where they release two or three albums in a row, and they always sound in top shape (especially under wild-child Maxim Emelyanychev). Time to see them shine.

April 23 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $65 and up
I will be very frank: my first reaction to this program was less "Ooooooh!" and more "What is THIS clusterfuck?" I love Joyce, but it's not like she's never misstepped -- my opinions on her Songplay album remain unchanged, Grammy win notwithstanding. But this hodgepodge of Mahler, Ives, Gluck, a world premiere by Rachel Portman, and plenty of furious early-classical actually flows quite well. I'm interested to see how the staging contributes.

April 23 (late) | Carnegie Hall (Zankel) | $65 and up
If there's any time to hear George Crumb's (may he rest in peace) Black Angels, now would be the time: so much of the world ravaged, so many spirits down, so many hopes dashed. The piece, centered on the Vietnam War, is at once haunting and downright terrifying. And who better to hear play it than the Kronos Quartet, who included the work on their first concerts in the '70s? Other newer works (about which I know very little) follow, but suffice it to say that if it passes through the collective Kronos consciousness, it's bound to be good.

April 24 | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $25 and up
Parlando's last concert, centered around the tensions between Hollywood and the American concert scene, was a stunner -- I've never been surer that every note would sound perfectly as I was in Tai Murray's Bernstein Serenade. Now, it's new music time: four premieres that explore different facets of Americanism and American identity, capped off with Copland's peak-Americana Appalachian Spring.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The CMG Concert Calendar: March 2022

A screencap from the virtual rework of Steel Hammer

February was a month of some great shows, some mediocre shows, and a lot of shows that were just...fine. I'm still reeling from an eight-show-in-seven-day week where most of the concerts fell into that last camp, I may need to reconsider my strategy -- I've always had trouble balancing quantity and quality. This month, I'm going to be a little more prudent about my nights off, and maybe that will let me get my April calendar online a few days earlier...


February 28, March 3, 6mat, 10, 13mat, 18, 22, 26mat | Met Opera House | $30 and up
These next few years are the time to refine my opera tastes -- embarrassingly, I still haven't made it through much of the canon, simply because I will never opt to see Traviata on a night when, say, International Contemporary Ensemble is playing down the street. But the Met has shows six nights a week, and now is the time for an open mind. I couldn't quite talk myself into trying the six-hour Meistersinger earlier this season, (which I regret having skipped now that I've seen soprano Lise Davidsen in action, see Ariadne below), but four and a half hours of interesting French Verdi with what looks like a star cast seems like a good way to spend an evening.

March 1, 5mat, 8, 12mat, 17 | Met Opera House | $30 and up
I got to see this on opening night. Run, don't walk. Easily one of the best things I've ever seen at the Met. I'd pay another $30 just to hear Lise Davidsen sing the opening sequence of Act II over again -- and I very well might, especially considering someone's phone chime went off every five minutes through the entire 85-minute act. (The rest of the cast sounded good too, although with such a small orchestra, if you're getting covered up, it's probably your fault...) Ariadne is a comedy at its heart, but the opera-within-an-opera format allows for these long, drawn-out sections of almost-plotless meander where you can just lose yourself in the music. During one of those chunks, take a few minutes to admire Strauss's orchestration -- that orchestra of 30 is far greater than the sum of its parts.

March 2, 5, 9, 12 | Met Opera House | $30 and up
An oldie, a goodie. I've seen it twice and I remember so little of it that I want to see it again. I mean, it's Puccini, the opera isn't going to blow my mind. But I always love seeing married couples play star-crossed lovers on stage, so I'll go see Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna if I have a serendipitous free evening. And Željko Lučić is never bad.

March 25, 29 (into April) | Met Opera House | $30 and up
I'm not a Tchaikovsky fan, but I saw Onegin during undergrad and I had fun! This isn't a Saturday night headliner for me, but like, sure I'll go see Onegin on a random Tuesday night! Ailyn Pérez is going to be a fantastic Tatiana, Ain Anger always stuns, and I'm curious about Igor Golovatenko, who's playing Onegin. Piotr Beczała....whatever.


March 2-5 | The Stone at The New School | $20 (cash at the door)
My way through the vast world of jazz is very, very slow. I start with an artist I know I like, listen to a couple of their albums. Then I focus on to one of their bandmates, selected at random, and listen to a couple of their albums. Rinse and repeat. It's like a snail's game of six-degrees. Drummer Tomas Fujiwara was my first-degree foray from guitarist Mary Halvorson, and I'm kind of hooked -- not just on them, but also on their bandmates: cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, violist Jessica Pavone (who I got to profile earlier this year), the list goes on. I'll be at The Stone on Friday 3/4, when Fujiwara celebrates his Triple Double ensemble's (2x trumpet/cornet, guitar, drums) new album, and for his Thumbscrew trio with Halvorson and bassist Michael Formanek on Saturday 3/5.
EDIT: We got turned away at the door for Triple Double -- apparently The Stone's online signup is just to get your contact tracing info into the system and doesn't count as a reservation. Not my favorite system, but I'd expect nothing else from an avant-garde jazz venue. Tonight, I show up half an hour early.

Part I: March 9, 10, 11, 12 | Alice Tully Hall | $52 and up (limited availability)
Part II: March 17, 18, 19, 20mat | Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center | $59 and up
I have an immense amount of pride in my native arts scene, and so much of the greatness that comes out of LA stems directly from Dudamel and the LA Phil. Now, he brings some of his innovative programming to NYC. Premieres by Gabriela Ortiz and Andreia Pinto Correia spread Dudamel's Pan-American Music Initiative's beyond Los Angeles, flanked on either side by Schumann's four lovely symphonies. I'm on the waitlist for this series, but I'm praying to the concert gods...

March 22-30 | Park Avenue Armory | $45
Michel van der Aa's Upload opened last fall at Dutch National Opera to unilaterally rave reviews. The show exists somewhere on the cusp of analog and digital, film and live. General rule of thumb: if Julia Bullock is in it, it's probably going to be insanely cool -- her programming ranks among the classical world's most imaginative. And Roderick Williams is a classical music superhero, I would rush equally fast to see him in Bach as Brahms as Vaughan Williams as van der Aa.

March 25, 26mat&eve, 27mat | Neidorff-Karpati Hall, Manhattan School of Music | $30
I'm not going to turn down a Sunday in the Park. Especially not one with $15 student tickets. The MSM opera I saw a few months ago was pretty laughable, but I've been assured the musical theatre students are better actors...

March 29, 31 | St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (29), Trinity Wall Street (31) | $20 and up
I mean, it's a St. Matthew Passion with NYC's foremost baroque ensemble and choir. I can imagine what it's going to sound like in my head -- most of NYC's professional baroque ensembles share the same pool of freelancers, so they all sound somewhat similar. It's going to sound like a St. Matt should: reliable, tight, very pretty, and a great way to spend a Tuesday or Thursday night.


March 3 | Carnegie Hall (Zankel) | $35 and up
One of my last papers of undergrad was a six-page profile of Julia Wolfe. The only caveat: we couldn't interview our subjects. I spent hours and hours on that assignment, and now I feel invested in her Carnegie Hall residency. Steel Hammer centers around divergent accounts of the John Henry folktale, and this particular group of performers premiered a stunning virtual rework of the piece through Berkeley's Cal Performances last year.
EDIT: This performance was SUPERHUMAN. Make sure you get to Anthracite Fields, Steel Hammer's Pulitzer-winning sequel-of-sorts, which Carnegie is putting up in May.

March 10 | Carnegie Hall (Weill) | $57 and up (but actually sold out)
You're not going to get tickets to this show. Hell, I'm probably not going to get tickets to this show -- I'm deep on the waitlist after saying for months that, if I didn't act fast, I probably wouldn't get a ticket. Words to live by, words to die by. But let this be your cue to listen to the two fabulous albums of Jupiter, a baroque ensemble founded by it-boy lutenist Thomas Dunford and his friends. Their Vivaldi album is perhaps among the most spirited takes on the often-dialed-in composer's works, and their more recent Amazone is full of underheard French Baroque gems and moments that make you say "Aaaaahh..."

March 10 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $15 and up
So then, the cardinal question: if not seeing Jupiter, where will I be on March 10? In all likelihood, I'll be just a few flights upstairs, seeing MasterVoices. Anyone Can Whistle is one of Sondheim's less good musicals, but that means it comes around less often than the others -- I'd like to pounce on this opportunity to see it, even if only in concert(?). And the cast looks great, from what little I know about musical theatre casts. I can toss opera singers into conversation all day, every day, but ask me a single thing about a Broadway actor and my mind goes blank.

March 10 | Roulette Intermedium | $20 
Part of my consideration for March 10: the commute. Carnegie is half an hour from me, Roulette is double that. This is going to be a fascinating concert -- Thomas Buckner was a close collaborator of Robert Ashley, who's theatre-opera-poetry-performance art pieces are delightfully wacky. (I got to see his eL/Aficionado earlier this year, read my editor/companion's response here.) Here, he's joined by synthesist Earl Howard, avant-garde violin duo String Noise, and others, for a program of new works. If I lived in Brooklyn, I'd be there. But sometimes, you just have to consider how much your time is worth.

March 13mat | Carnegie Hall (Weill) | $54 and up
There's not a whole lot to say here. Mark Padmore is one of the great light tenors of our time, perfect for Bach, early Lieder, and anything else where the tenor needs to float above rather than cutting through. Mitsuko Uchida, a titan pianist whose careful touch matches that timbre perfectly. And a program of music I adore -- most notably, Schubert's Schwanengesang, the song not-cycle that so often gets overlooked in favor of its programmatic counterparts.

March 15 | Carnegie Hall (Stern) | $22.50 and up
Wozzeck is freaky. It's this weird psycho horror story -- I won't ruin it, because it plays so seamlessly with the music that you'll want to preserve the surprise. Bo Skovhus is well-renowned for his Wozzeck, but Goerke is relatively new to the role; upon cursory search, it looks like this program's October performances in Boston were one of, if not her first run. But she's just an all-around badass, I'm quite sure it'll be great.

March 18 | Jalopy Theatre | $20 
No shame, I discovered these guys on TikTok, singing Corsican polyphony that I've dabbled in but never studied. They do folk music from all around the world, although their internet presence mostly shows Corsican, Sardinian, and American traditions. This one's a schlep -- Carroll Gardens, 15min walk from the F train -- but it's a Friday night adventure, and a much-needed change of pace. For the record, I would absolutely attend a Windborne workshop on Corsican polyphony....

March 26 | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $25
A few years ago, Anthony de Mare released a three-plus hour album of living composers' solo-piano takes on Sondheim -- everyone from Steve Reich to Nico Muhly to Wynton Marsalis to Tania León. I listened to a bit of it, and it's perhaps one of the most interesting albums I've come across this year. Because Sondheim balances the elements of his music just so (reductively: rhythm, harmony, melody, etc.), every composer zeroes in on a different aspect, each focus as valid as the last. Now, he's commissioned another handful of composers for a new cycle. I want to see it really badly, but...

March 26 | St. Luke in the Fields | $35
...I promised a friend I'd go with her to this. A few weeks ago, one of my friends texted me: "It's almost time for TeneSchütz!!" I knew exactly what she meant -- TENET canceled a Schütz concert (for which I had tickets) on March 20, 2020, and this is the replacement. Said friend and I were supposed to go together in 2020 as well. This is the first time this month that I'm truly torn, it might have to be a coin toss.

March 31 | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $25
Holland Andrews was my first artist profile ever -- they put on this virtual telephone performance that was innovative, calming, and oh so lovely. Now, their name won't leave my newsfeed. I led that first artist profile with, "Holland Andrews has had a big year," but this year has been so much bigger. Major symphony orchestra debuts. Headshots on posters outside of the Kaufman Center. Touring with Anna Meredith, who I gather is a big deal in the electronica world. I owe them a text. And maybe another article...

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The CMG Concert Calendar: February 2022

Thanks to our dear friend Omicron, I took a prolonged concert break over the winter holidays -- I basically spent Christmas week shuttling between my church gig and home, where I did nothing but watch 30 Rock in bed. But I've decided that, for the sake of my own mental health, it's time for me to go back to the concert hall. I just wish that had been the case for the night Igor Levit played Carnegie...anyway, here are some of my picks for the month.

Horszowski Trio

EDIT: I've already seen a few concerts this month, I was just a little slow on the publishing side. Life is busy, shit happens. One, the Horszowski Trio, was phenomenal -- their Feldman-and-friends set managed to hush an audience full of noisy 70-somethings. Impressive. (That said: I still believe that Dvořák's Second Piano Quartet is among the stupidest pieces of chamber music known to man. They played it very well. I'm not budging on this.)

Neither of the others was phenomenal on the whole, though the NY Phil's performance of Julius Eastman's Second Symphony -- the new edition's professional premiere -- was astounding, and convinced me that the contrabass clarinet is a badass instrument.

February 10 | Roulette Intermedium | $20
As a historical performance enthusiast (a.k.a. biiiiiiig nerd), I love a good historical organ (like this biiiiiiig prelude). But I never considered the early 20th-century organ, obviously a huge part of American popular culture -- the organ-grinder on the side of the road! I've also heard great things about both Schrey and Olencki. Color me intrigued.

February 10, 12-13 | The Met Fifth Avenue (Rogers Auditorium) | $25 and up
Ten or fifteen years ago, the executive team of Heartbeat Opera was sitting on the board of my undergraduate opera company -- the same company with whom I conducted, played, sang, administrated (administered?) and most importantly, partied. This overhauled and largely rewritten Fidelio has received its share of good press since it premiered in 2018, and I'm excited to finally experience it.

February 11 | Holy Trinity Lutheran Church | $30 ($15 fixed income, $5 students)
This season is the first for Gotham Early Music Scene's Open Gates Project, an initiative which helps to promote diversity on early music stages as well as access to early music for underserved communities. Five countertenors share this performance, which features favorite consort songs of Byrd and Purcell, a few selections both Italian and Italianate (here's looking at you, Ombra mai fu), and a new Ave Maria by local composer Trevor Weston -- I sang his Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for a virtual choir, I remember it being fantastic music, if exceptionally difficult.

February 12 | Good Shepherd - Faith Presbyterian Church | $30 and up
I try not to miss The Sebastians if I can help it. This month, Bach obbligato sonatas and some Frenchy harpsichord music -- really hard to go wrong there, especially with Daniel Lee and Jeff Grossman, two performers I see often and yet still go out of my way to hear. This is the kind of performance I'm always in the mood for.

February 17 | Willow Place Auditorium | Free?
On May 28, 2019, I reviewed the S.E.M. Ensemble playing, among other things, a work by composer Anna Heflin. Anna is now a dear friend and colleague, one of very few people who I trust to edit my work. So, in a way, S.E.M. director Petr Kotik unknowingly introduced us. We think he'll find that story very funny. Plus, I love Willow Place -- YMCA basketball court vibes, toddler gymnastics mats haphazardly shoved in a corner, equal parts performance venue as sporting center, kiddie social hub, and reception room.

February 17-19 | Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center | $49 and up
I haven't listened to Tchaik 5 since high school -- really, I'm not the biggest Tchaikovsky fan. But sometimes, you get an undeniable hankering for something you don't love. For me, it's all youth orchestra nostalgia. Anyway, I figure if I'm only going to listen to the symphony once every few years, I may as well go see it live when the craving hits. And not only live, but with a conductor I adore (Santtu-Mathias Rouvali) alongside a soprano I adore (Golda Schultz) singing songs I adore (Strauss's Brentano-Lieder) and watching one of my close friends play as a substitute bassist.

February 19 | Miller Theatre | $30 and up
My very first musical thought piece began with a Stile Antico anecdote (before launching into an anti-establishment tirade -- god, 19-year-old Emery really didn't know when to shut up). They're one of few groups that truly embraces the idea of vocal chamber music. They don't have a director; everyone pitches in both musically and administratively. Stile Antico is one of my dream jobs, and their Victoria Tenebrae, which I saw live at Music Before 1800 (see below) in 2018, changed my life. And as I've said before: if it happens in the four walls of Miller Theatre, it's going to be good. Full stop.
Last time I saw Jordi, his continuo team stole the show. He's quite a fine player -- he was, after all, the OG gamba player -- but lately, he's a bandleader first and foremost. I'm hoping to go to the Monteverdi performance, though I'll pass on Versailles (I think that was his program last time I saw him a couple years ago). For small-ensemble vocal music, Jordi Savall tends to surround himself with Spain's brightest and best young singers, a demographic we usually don't hear unless they cross over into the French market as well. Spanish early music recordings are few and far between, and 80% of them come from Jordi -- he has his own record label, so it's not really a fair fight.

February 23 | Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium) | $30
David Robertson, conductor | Yan Liu, clarinet
This is where I'll be on February 23. I'm often anti-Wynton Marsalis because my favorite jazz doesn't fall under his narrow conception of the genre, but I feel it's unlikely I'll get to hear his Swing Symphony again anytime soon. If you take one thing away from this, let it be: always see the concert that is hardest to reproduce.

February 24 | Peter Jay Sharp Theater | $20
Ever since I discovered last year that Julie Roset, one of my favorite young early-music sopranos on the scene today, was finishing a master's at Juilliard, I've been looking forward to this concert. The program is Handel's first oratorio, Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, which ends with one of the most wrenchingly beautiful soprano arias in the Baroque repertoire. Roset's professional recording doesn't release for some months, but I keep returning to this one-minute snippet from the recording session, it's that good. The featured tenor, Richard Pittsinger -- who played the Orpheus to Roset's Eurydice in Rossi's Orfeo earlier this year -- is also a tremendous early music up-and-comer.

February 26 | House of the Redeemer | $55
My Spotify Wrapped last year was basically just a who's-who of French Baroque. It's the music I default to when I don't know what I want, and some of the music that I want most often. I may have listened to Les Plaisirs de Versailles -- one of Charpentier's many opera-like items -- once on the subway, but I'm so excited to see it live. TENET will do it justice, I know. Plus, Ensemble Caprice provides a rare glimpse into the insular, but thriving Baroque scene of North America's most underrated historical performance mecca: Montreal.

February 27 | Corpus Christi Church | $25 and up (cheaper for blocked/partial view and students)
Renaissance winds are notoriously hard to wrangle, but those who do it best do it really, really well. I'm well-acquainted with the folks over at Piffaro -- in fact, I've peddled their CDs at the Met Cloisters -- and I know not to miss a performance. The musicianship is haute, but I really go for the curation. For instance, this program centers around the life and legacy of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Duke of Austria, from his youth in Flanders, through Netherlands and Spain, and on to the New World. Expert music-making is one thing, but that's expert scholarship.

February 28 | Roulette Intermedium | $20 online, $25 doors
I'm trying to remember how old I was when my best friend sent me Eric Wubbels's Katachi...senior year of high school, I want to say? Anyway, that album hooked me on Wet Ink, as well as all the members individually -- I have an extremely specific memory of listening to the group's 20th anniversary album while walking to class on a crisp spring day. (That sounds made-up, but I swear I remember exactly where and when I stood when that first bout of static hit. Scared the shit out of me.) And now, it's Eric Wubbels's turn for an album. I'll listen to it recorded, sure. But why not have it both ways?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The CMG Concert Calendar: December 2021

I had fun doing this last month, so I'm going to do it again! Same disclaimer: I can only be in one place at a time, and sometimes that place is somewhere other than the concert hall. Just because I recommend it doesn't mean I'm going to be there.

Another note: almost all of these concerts have student discounts. Someone with a student ID rarely has to pay more than $20 anywhere.

I miss the Messiah so much, but I'm pretty sure one will be enough. Two tops. But you deserve to know about all of them!

December 3, 4, 5mat | Church of St. Vincent Ferrer | $20 and up
This is the one I'm going to -- Saturday night, in case you care. TENET is one of those ensembles that I build my schedule around. Their programming is uniformly great, and it also happens to be the music for which I'm always in the mood: small vocal ensemble early music. A few people I know are in this one -- old chamber coaches, conductors, a tenor who snapped me back to tempo when I dragged egregiously at my first conducting gig. That tenor also happens to have the sweetest, clearest voice that I've ever heard. You think I'm joking. Just wait until you hear Jimmy Reese.

December 9 | Saint Thomas Church | $20 and up
cond. Filsell; Brailey, Sollek, Müller, Pike

December 14, 15, 17, 18 | The Riverside Church | $109 and up (is that fucking possible?)
cond. Sorrell; Forsythe, Holiday, Phan, Deas
I have friends in this one -- actual friends who I went to college with. One of them is staying with me for the duration of the gig. I will only be going to this if I win one of the four (4) tickets in the comp lottery, because great as Jeanette Sorrell, Amanda Forsythe, John Holiday, and Nick Phan are (I'm sure Kevin Deas is great too, I've just never seen him) there's no chance in HELL I am forking over $110 to hear the NY Phil plod through the Messiah on autopilot. No way, no how.

December 16 & 17 | Roulette Intermedium | $20 and up
Okay, maybe don't go to this one if you actually want to hear the Messiah start to finish. Heartbeat is a small company with big ideas -- the rest of their season includes a Fidelio that comments on mass incarceration and a new short film pastiche centered around social commentary operas. But this, this is their annual drag show. Often it happens on Halloween. I'm just as excited for the Christmas iteration.

December 20 | Stern Auditorium (Carnegie Hall) | $28 and up
cond. Tritle; Fagan, Petrie, Blue, Outlaw



December 5 | Corpus Christi Church | $5 and up
This is another series that I've been awaiting impatiently. Sunday afternoon will be their first live concert since the shutdown, though they've been putting out phenomenal virtual programming. I actually wrote my first musical thought piece (no, you may not read it) about a fantastic 2018 Stile Antico performance that MB1800 sponsored. Plus, one of my best friends is playing a concerto -- join me to support Vivian!

December 9 | Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center| $20 and up
Three weeks ago, this performance would have flown far under my radar. But William Socolof was one of the primary characters in last month's Rossi L'Orfeo at Juilliard, and he almost ran away with the show. He's got this lovely rich voice, but rich with the kind of levity that doesn't disqualify him from comedic roles. His program is interesting too -- old and new in what looks like equal-ish measure!

December 9 | Miller Theatre | $20 and up
I know very little about Kati Agócs except that she teaches at New England Conservatory, but I've never seen anything at Miller that falls short of spectacular. I trust that the new cantata they're presenting for their first concert in 18 months will stick to form. Besides which, Lucy Dhegrae is one of the best soprano's on NYC's new music scene -- she stunned in a modern opera double bill mere days before NYC shut down in March 2020.

December 9 | 92Y | $10 and up
Occasionally (pretty rarely these days), I listen to an album and have what I call a "holy shit" moment. I call it that because it's the moment where I stop whatever I'm doing and say, usually out loud, "Holy shit." (I'm very creative.) I had a one of those moments on the first track of Randall Goosby and Zhu Wang's recent album. And again during the Heifetz Gershwin arrangements. 

Factor in the distances: half-hour subway commute to both Merkin and Miller, but an hour on the subway/bus or a very expensive 15-minute cab ride to 92Y. On a Thursday night. I'm leaning Kati Agócs, but my mind may change.

December 9-12 (12mat) | Neidorff-Karpati Hall (Manhattan School of Music) | $30
Because who doesn't want to see a production with this poster?

December 10 - January 5 | Met Opera House | $30 and up
I just really, really, really love The Magic Flute. Enough to go see it in a language that's not German. Plus, this keeps going when most other things shut down -- I'll see this on, like, a random weekday after Christmas when nothing else is happening.

December 11 | St Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church | $35 and up
I told you I build my schedule around them! Not a ton of Praetorius on the concert market today, other than holiday pop arrangements of "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming." Pro tip: a good choir backed by a good baroque brass ensemble is one of life's hidden joys. Happy 400th/450th Mikey!

December 11 | Zankel Hall (Carnegie Hall) | $65 and up
It's a steep price for what looks like a great program. I haven't listened to the album that this program comes from, but these performers and composers are simply never bad, it's just a matter of great versus extraordinary.

I may actually be able to make both of these work -- TENET runs until 8:30, this starts at 9.

December 14 | Alice Tully Hall | $35 and up
There is no music that can make me happy faster than well-played, period-informed Mozart. The American Classical Orchestra's member list looks largely similar to most other period ensembles around the city, and those ensembles are also great! I absolutely adore Aisslinn Nosky's playing -- plus she won an Emery award way back in the day, I still haven't forgotten the green of those sneakers. You can dig for the review yourself, that was one of the embarrassing ones.

December 17 | The Jazz Gallery | $35 and up
I literally learned about Henry Threadgill in my jazz history class. Need I say more?

December 19 | Corpus Christi Church | $5 and up
I don't know a ton about Ars Lyrica Houston, but I trust the curators of this series enough to come to anything they mount. I've always been curious about Baroque music of the new world -- what I've heard, I've enjoyed. Some of it is in Quechua!

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The CMG Concert Calendar: November 2021

I should disclaim: I may not actually be at every single one of these concerts. There will be a few with overlapping times. This is my perfect-world list -- if I didn't have to obey the laws of space and time, I would make sure to be at every single one of these performances.


MET OPERAS (all month, I'm too lazy to write out the dates)

Met Opera House | $37 and up
cond. Robertson; Blue, Brugger, Moore, Graves; Ballentine, Owens, Walker
I had a phase with this show, but I only got to see the Broadway version in LA. I'm sure it'll live up to the reviews -- I'm a huge fan of both Angel Blue and Eric Owens.

Met Opera House | $30 and up
cond. Kim; Hartig, Lombardi; Castronovo, Ruciński, Birch Elliott, N. Brownlee
I'm taking a good friend of mine to this. She's never seen an opera. Really, is there a better first opera than the Zeffirelli Bohème? I can't give away any of the plot -- my friend is going to be reading this. I chose this cast very deliberately: Charles Castronovo is supposed to be fabulous. Plus, Nick Brownlee is an old studio member from LA Opera, I remember being very impressed every time I saw him -- it must have been three or four times.

Met Opera House | $30 and up
cond. Nézet-Séguin; Morley; Orliński, Banks, Hopkins, Berg
My best friend and I saw a few snippets of a Eurydice-in-progress at Caramoor a few summers ago. We liked it. I couldn't be in LA for the premiere, but I've only heard good things. It'll be my first time hearing Jakub Józef Orliński live -- that's been a long time coming.



November 5 & 6 | The Lab at Alchemical Studios | $20
The folks over at Pleiades Project are friends, but don't let my insistence on ethical disclosure mitigate my actual excitement for the event. I haven't seen a work of musical theater (not counting opera) in at least a year, likely more. And this performance falls into my favorite genre: exhaustively researched, politically charged historical comedy. In my opinion, laughing pairs best with thinking and learning. At time of writing, this is tomorrow, and I'm psyched.

November 10, 12, 14mat | Peter Jay Sharp Theater | $40
An obscure baroque opera that seems to follow me around, Rossi's L'Orfeo is a delightful piece, if not as earth-shattering as Monteverdi's. The only CD of the full opera is garbage, so I always appreciate an opportunity to refresh my memories. I'm going with another friend who played in the pit with me in college -- and she's getting me in for free 😊
EDIT 11/11: I'm seeing this tomorrow, and I just found out that Julie Roset -- a superstar French soprano whose light, clear voice I've gushed about since her first solo album dropped in 2020 -- is playing the lead role of Euridice. Turns out she's finishing up a degree at Juilliard. I couldn't be more excited.

November 6, 7mat | St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church | $15 and up
It was Meistersinger or this. I can't choose Wagner over Monteverdi, it's against my moral code. I don't know the sixth book as well on the whole -- I'm more of a four-and-five person -- but I'm never not excited for Monteverdi. Bring on the ohimès.



November 6 | Alice Tully Hall | $20
A couple of my best friends are playing in this concert, but it would be on my radar even if that weren't the case. Nothing hits me quite like historically informed early Classical music -- done right, its energy is contagious. I'm not sure exactly when Pablo Heras-Casado got into early music, but he does it now and he does it well.

November 6 | Good Shepherd - Faith Presbyterian Church
Okay, I'm going to be very frank: I can't make this one, I have to support my friends over at Juilliard. But as I said in the last post, I'm a very, very big fan of The Sebastians. They have ideas, interesting ones. This program celebrates newly-400-year-old French poet Jean de la Fontaine and intersperses music and story. I really, really wish I could be in two places at once -- this will be a recurring theme.

November 11 | Church of St. Luke in the Fields | $25
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Sherry Panthaki is my former voice teacher, so of course I'm going to this. But again, I'm really, really, really excited. Hearing one's teacher sing is one of life's simple joys -- teachers teach their own technique, and thus are the closest to a perfect example any struggling student will get.

November 14mat | Merkin Hall at Kaufman Center | $25 and up
Another conflict of interest -- the conductor is one of my best friends from school. But he conducts a mean orchestra, and his programming beats the shit out of that of most other ensembles in this city -- and he knows that I wouldn't say that if I didn't mean it from the bottom of my heart.

November 15 | Alice Tully Hall | $30
Nicholas Swensen, viola
Heldenleben is a guilty pleasure. It's big, and loud, and bombastic, and yet so well-constructed. Probably too big for Alice Tully Hall, but the much of the beauty of the piece comes from having your eardrums blown to bits. Also, since I'm not seeing Meistersinger, this is my chance to see Antonio Pappano before he takes another 25-year hiatus from New York (please don't, Tony). 

November 18 | The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture | $30
November 21 | Flushing Town Hall | $25
Most of these concerts have been on my radar for a while. I found out about this performance approximately an hour ago, and it may be the one I'm most excited for this entire month. The Cramer Quartet get rave reviews everywhere they go. The Haydn Seven Last Words are among the finest quartet pieces ever written. That lineup of composers is so New York -- plus, bonus points on new music for old instruments, the Cramer Quartet play on classical setups. Plus, one of my dearest friends and collaborators is designing projections. Camilla, if you read this: why didn't you tell me about this sooner???