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?