|Teatro Real Orchestra|
After a busy summer of tying off loose threads and starting new ones, I’m itching to get back into the concert hall — musically, it’s been a dry season in NYC absent the once-robust Mostly Mozart Festival. And of course, I had COVID straight through two of my favorite August events: the TIME:SPANS festival, a haven for the most mind-rending of contemporary music, and dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s three-show season, where the most promising artists of tomorrow’s opera world make themselves known. (I did get to one TIME:SPANS show of 13, a fabulous program of works by Eric Wubbels and Catherine Lamb with the JACK Quartet. It was the same day I exited quarantine. No rest for the wicked.)
And now, September heralds the start of NYC’s busy concert routine, difficult choices, FOMO, and all. Most of the big companies don’t open until late in the month (or early next), but there’s plenty to whet the appetite.
A quick personal note: this may be my last post in this space. As Blogger continues to age, I think it’s time to jump ship. The plan is to start a Substack newsletter for listings, reviews, and recommendations, to be archived on my forthcoming personal website. My new-season resolution is to publicize myself for real — more posts on social media, more self-promotion, more presence in the music world’s collective consciousness. It’s big talk, but hopefully I’ll find the time to switch!
Sept 10, 5pm | Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church | $30+
It’s The Sebastians’ tenth anniversary, and they’ve lined their eight-concert season with plenty of music by their namesake, J.S. Bach. They open with a program that features a couple of Brandenburg concerti and works by Bach sons and friends, some comfort food to start a season that includes singing, dancing, video, new music, old music, and a Louis XIV-sized string band (the largest The Sebastians have ever assembled). And they’re experimenting with this new 5pm Saturday slot — if it means I can see another concert at 7:30, I’m all in favor!
Sept 14, 7:30pm | Roulette Intermedium | pay what you can ($20 suggested, students free)
Kate Soper’s newest work, an infernal, self aware satire, celebrates Wet Ink Ensemble’s Artists-in-Residence (drummer-composer Vicente Hansen Atria and composer-playwright Rick Burkhart) in tandem with “Alien chamber-folk” septet Orlando Furioso, who stand on the cusp of their first album release (October 9). What does “alien chamber-folk” entail? I plan to find out.
Sept 15, 8:30pm | Carnegie Hall (Stern/Perelman) | $12.50 and up
Decades of snarky comments about how “French composers write the best Spanish music” (ugh) have cheapened the masterful colors of de Falla, Albéniz and company, and I’m here to dispel that notion once and for all: turn-of-the-20th-century Spanish music is really fantastic stuff. Madrid’s Teatro Real was named the best opera company of 2021 by the International Opera Awards, a conglomerate that seems powerful, if not totally objective. But hey, I’ll bite, especially for an opportunity to hear pianist Javier Perianes live. And no one ever performs zarzuela — Spain’s opera-adjacent heritage theatrical form — in the U.S., so I’m in it as much for the education as the enjoyment.
Sept 16 (8pm) & 18 (3pm) | Park Avenue Armory | $55
Sept 16, 17, 23, 24, 8pm | Irondale Center | $25+
Lili Boulanger left more than 50 works when she died in 1918 aged only 24 — in my opinion, the most tragically early death of any composer in the 20th century, and one of the most tragic in music history. But short as her life was, her singular musical language stands in a distinct vein from those of her French contemporaries (think Debussy and Ravel). NCO mounts a staging of Boulanger’s cantata Faust et Hélène, a loose adaptation of Goethe’s Faust which garnered Boulanger the prestigious Prix de Rome at age 19. To complement, Ravel’s Spain-flavored comedy L’heure espagnole.
Sept 18, 4pm | Holy Trinity Lutheran Church | $30+ ($10 students/seniors)
An actual (paraphrased) conversation I had with TENET’s General Manager at their last concert in April:
CMG: So, any spoilers for next season?
GM: I can’t give you much, but I can tell you we’ve got some great Bach on tap.
CMG: Ooh, maybe the motets?
GM: ….If I told you, I’d have to kill you.
Even though TENET is only doing five of the six motets (where’s the love for Lobet?), I’m still content in both my prescience and their programming. Plus, Telemann instrumental music never disappoints.
Sept 22, 8pm | Merkin Hall, Kaufman Center | $25+
Again, the folks at Parlando are friends — doubly so this time, with harp soloist Parker Ramsay. But Parlando always puts on a show worth seeing, and this is a great intro to some great music. Debussy’s double dances for harp and strings don’t get played too often (I hear they’re fiendishly difficult), unlike the cavatina (Op. 130) and Grosse Fuge (Op. 133) from Beethoven’s later quartet oeuvre. They’re popular for a reason! Reena Esmail’s Teen Murti tableaux, apt representations of Esmail’s signature Hindustani-Western mix, start the program.
Sept 27-Oct 28 | Metropolitan Opera House | $30+
Bummed as I am that this is Cherubini’s Medea and not the Barber’s (turns out that one is a ballet with vocalists, potato potahto), this should be a fascinating production. There are few opera stars who singers laud as highly as Sondra Radvanovsky, and this role — a Callas favorite — provides plenty of room for fireworks. David McVicar, a Met favorite for Italian opera, directs.
Sept 27-Oct 8 | Park Avenue Armory | $40+
The Rothko Chapel opened in 1971, one year after Mark Rothko died by his own hand; Morton Feldman wrote his Rothko Chapel to commemorate the opening. 50 years later, the Houston chapel commissioned polymath Tyshawn Sorey for another tribute, this time both to the space and to Feldman’s immense output. I love Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel so much that I named my wi-fi router after it, so I’m understandably excited for the “sequel.” And the performer list is a true who’s-who — star violist Kim Kashkashian, avant-garde titan percussionist Steven Schick, baritone Davóne Tines (currently be among the country’s most visible classical singers), and more, all presided over by director Peter Sellars and, of course, Sorey himself.
Sept 27, 7:30 & 9:30pm | The Jazz Gallery | $20+
There are only a few jazz cellists on today’s scene, but Tomeka Reid reigns among them. Her gritty, delightfully erratic style produces improvisations that are quick both in wit and technique. This quartet has been garnering acclaim since they first recorded together in 2015, and includes several favorite members of avant-jazz scenes both in NYC and beyond: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).
Sept 29, 6pm | Roulette | $20
Sept 29, 8pm | Miller Theatre | $20
I experienced Many Many Women last June, in what must have been the single stuffiest room in Brooklyn. It’s six hours long, no intermissions — a Gertrude Stein novella, start to finish. I lasted about three, with many breaks, and the music is just enchanting. I would absolutely go again, but it’s the same night as Miller Theatre’s opening concert, a portrait of Australian composer Liza Lim. The program includes both a commission and this fascinating piece for “solo cello prepared with violin and thread,” a concept I had to explain in a sentence and a half on a social post earlier this year. That was really difficult, so I’ll refer you to the video below. My decision for this evening is partially colored by the fact that Miller Theatre is close to home, so I’d encourage you to take that into account. You can’t lose.
Sept 29-Oct 21 | Metropolitan Opera House | $20
This opera is the reason Shostakovich feared the government every second for the remainder of his life. I know very little about the show, but here are some reviews that pique my interest:
“Pornophony” –The New York Sun, 1935
“Lamentably provincial” –Igor Stravinsky
“A justification of genocide” –Richard Taruskin
Sept 30 (7:30pm) & Oct 2 (2pm) | NYU Skirball | $50
One of the final concerts I saw before the pandemic involved Talea Ensemble and a Toshio Hosokawa opera at the 92nd Street Y. I don’t remember my specific impressions of the concert (more important things to remember from that period), but I do recall enjoying myself. I just hope they have supertitles this time, I remember struggling to understand the singers.
Sept 30, 7:30 & 9:30pm | The Jazz Gallery | $20+
My best friend saw this ensemble at The Stone last month, and he said they broke out into Bach in the middle of the set. Who knows if they’ll do it again, but if they do, I want to be there. I saw Peter Evans do a solo set as part of that same residency, and I’ve never been so enthralled by trumpet playing — he just stood there and played for, like, an hour. The stuff of legends.