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???

Monday, November 1, 2021

Some October Highlights and Beyond

New York's "leading young early-music ensemble"
perhaps looking a touch younger than they do today
(God, I'm going to get myself killed one of these days...)

For someone who insisted that he was re-taking the classical criticism world by storm, I've been pretty quiet these past five or so weeks. Time, it stops for no one. Motivation has been hard to come by. I know I'll never have more time for personal projects than I do right now, and yet every time I think about, say, writing a full-length article, my stomach turns. I feel somewhere on the cusp of too busy, burnt out, and just plain lazy -- but some of those things are constants in my life.

I've still been going to concerts -- it's not like I have so many other hobbies. A few highlights from the past month:

  • The Sebastians performing music by Bach and friends with live-produced paintings. Embarrassingly, I actually still owe them a review -- they were kind enough to give me a press ticket. A lovely program, lovely playing, lovely conversation after. You'll read more on them soon, but for now: Daniel, Nick, Ezra, Jeff, and Karl, if you're reading this, consider me your biggest fan.
  • Terence Blanchard's Fire Shut Up In My Bones at the Met -- standing room only. Absolutely destroyed my lower back, but well worth the pain.
  • Voces8 later that same day. My first time seeing them live. Left me conflicted, but satisfied.
  • Robert Ashley's eL/Aficionado at Roulette in Brooklyn. My date, editor, friend, and once review topic Anna Heflin wrote a phenomenal review that followed the strange format of the piece.
  • Brahms chamber music with Garrick Ohlsson and the Tákacs Quartet. Tákacs plays Brahms in a way that makes me think they excel at Bártok (they do). Slightly choppy, but hey, Brahms is comfort food -- a slightly soggy French fry is better than no French fry at all.

And then, all of a sudden, it was November. Spooky, huh?

Clearly, I'm a little tired of the conventional review. I mean, the joy of reviewing comes from some idea that one's opinion matters. I've asked myself this question for the the last eighteen months -- why does it matter what I think? -- and I still can't figure it out.

So instead, I'm going to approach the concert from the other side: looking forward. I'm in the process of assembling a list of the concerts that I'm most excited for this month. Think of it as the Classical Music Geek concert calendar, a curated selection from other NYC-area lists, highly targeted Facebook ads, and things my friends are performing. (Just because I'm quick to disclose a conflict of interest doesn't mean I'm not also super excited.) Hopefully, I can provide some value to the reader, not just to the performer -- although, every time a performer quotes me in the Press section of their website, my heart does sing a little bit.

But that's too many words for right now -- first, sleep. Look out for that calendar in the next couple days.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

We're Back!

This was the part of my recital where I got to wail like a sad Irish fisherman -- fol-ee-o-ho-ro...
(Three Sean-Nós Songs by Rosśa Crean; projections by Camilla Tassi;)

Good news, guys: I still exist!

I think you deserve a quick update. The recital I was musing about in my last post (ten! months ago) happened, and that random Galician piece made it onto the program. I graduated. I live in New York now.

I've been writing some. Aside from the obligatory papers to finish my degree (good riddance), I've started contributing and editing for a nine-month-old publication called Which Sinfonia, founded by a composer (and now friend) who I reviewed on the first concert of my 2019 summer gauntlet -- yeah, remember that?

By the end of that summer, my writing was in the best shape of my life -- try writing 25,000 words in three months, yours might be too. But, predictably, it slipped. There were more important things to do during the pandemic.

I'm out of practice. I haven't had an easy write in, say, a year. Every time I sit down to write a piece -- profile, review, just general thoughts -- it feels like pulling teeth, and I'm never satisfied with the product. My editors tell me not to be so hard on myself, but I feel that reading one's own writing is like listening to one's own singing: it takes many years of self-loathing to finally accept that maybe, just maybe, there's a good kernel in there. But just because I'm aware of the process doesn't make me hate my writing any less!

All this to say: if I'm ever going to inhabit the niche sphere of music journalism, it's high time I start writing again. The NYC concert scene may not be back to normal, but thanks to extensive research, I've been making it to four or five performances a week. I've now seen my first live jazz, new music, early music, orchestra, choir since concert halls reopened. I still love going to concerts just as much as before, and it's time I shared that love once again.

I'm going to apologize in advance for some of the things I'm going to make you read. There will be bad pieces of writing. There will be lines so cliché they make you cringe. Consider it your good deed for the day: you're helping a young writer break through an impasse. Pat yourself on the back.

I'm not going to hold myself to the same standard as I did in 2019. I've got a job to work, adulting to do, burnout to cope with. But as of today, this site is officially active once again. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

The Geek is back.