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The 2014 Glimmerglass Opera Festival in Cooperstown, New York

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 by Art Leonard No Comments

I’ve just returned from a weekend in the Cooperstown, New York, area, where I attended three of the four main stage presentations of this year’s edition of the Glimmerglass Opera Festival.  Glimmerglass takes it name from Lake Glimmerglass in the Leatherstocking Tales of James Fennimore Cooper.  Cooper, whose family gave its name to Cooperstown, was thinking of Otsego Lake when he created the fictional Lake Glimmerglass for his tales of Indians and settlers in colonial America.  So the Festival, now situated on a large lakeside plot just north of town, is appropriately named.  The operas are presented in a beautiful, intimate theater, large enough to support a decent-sized orchestra pit, with excellent acoustics and sightlines everywhere in the house and comfortable seating.  It is a prime place to hear opera, and the standard of performance and production values is usually very high.

And so it was this year for the operas I attended: An American Tragedy, Ariadne in Naxos, and Madame Butterfly.  The usual formula at Glimmerglass in recent years has been to present at least one very mainstream standard repertory opera,  one classic American musical, and two works outside of the standard repertory, either due to their modernity, antiquity, or obscurity.  Butterfly was our standard work, An American Tragedy our modern work, Ariadne the novelty of a not-so-frequently performed work by a major operatic composer, and the classic American musical this year was Carousel.  Having seen the recent NY Philharmonic presentation of Carousel, I wasn’t interested enough to cram a fourth program into my weekend.  One a night from Thursday through Saturday was enough for me.  Glimmerglass helpfully schedules the operas in such a way that one can see the entire run of four operas in a weekend, if one desires.  (That could be done this past weekend by attending Ariadne on Friday night, Tragedy on Saturday afternoon, Butterfly on Saturday night, and Carousel on Sunday afternoon.  I did my trifecta by seeing Tragedy on Thursday night.  The only night the theater is usually silent is Wednesday night.)

Glimmerglass brings together an ensemble of talented central New York professional musicians who constitute a high quality orchestra, they bring in experienced conductors of the repertory in question, import a combination of established professional opera singers and talented folks at earlier points in their careers, the youngest of whom are apprentices in the Young Artist Program who get to perform together with the pros, and attract top people in the various production crafts.  Usually there are a few reasonably “big names” from the opera world on hand.  The most prominent this year was Christine Goerke, who has made her mark at the Met and several other major companies, appearing as the Diva/Ariadne in the Strauss work.  Ryan McKinny, who made a big splash last season in the title role of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, sang Billy Bigelow in Carousel.  Beyond that the singers were less well known, but were all well up to their parts with only minor exceptions.  One could be well-satisfied with the performances.

The actual facility, while handsome, is not really capable of the kind of spectacular sets that one sees in the world’s major houses, but Glimmerglass makes up for that with imagination, relying heavily on flies, projections, props, and lighting to create the settings for their productions, some of which are minimalist by modern standards but always adequate to the task of invoking the proper surroundings to communicate the stories of these operas.  I never felt that any of the settings were inadequate to the musical productions.

First up for me this year was An American Tragedy, music by Tobias Picker, libretto by Gene Scheer, inspired by Theodore Dreiser’s novel of the same name, which was itself inspired by a real incident that occurred in central New York early in the 20th century.  An ambitious striving young man from a poor background is given a job in a factory by a wealth uncle, conceives a romance with another factory worker, but then meets a society girl who sweeps him off his feet, unfortunately after he’s gotten the co-worker pregnant.  The result is ultimately a tragedy, the death of the pregnant girlfriend under somewhat unclear circumstances, the prosecution of the young man who maintained his innocence but was convicted and executed.  It’s a very suitable story for operatic setting.  I saw the premiere production of this at the Metropolitan Opera, and was interested to see how it would play out in the more intimate setting of Glimmerglass.  Composer and librettist took the opportunity to revise the score, tightening and cutting by about 20 minutes.  This production was largely turned over to the Young Artists Program for casting, with Christian Bowers portraying the central character of Clyde Griffiths, Vanessa Isiguen the first girlfriend, Roberta Alden, and Cynthia Cook the second girlfriend, Sondra Finchley.  All three were superb, although Bowers lacked the special star power that Nathan Gunn brought to the Met premiere.  (Almost a decade later, I would consider Gunn probably too old for the role today, as Clyde has to be a young, callow fellow.)  George Manahan led a ship-shape performance, and the sets by Alexander Dodge and costumes by Anya Klepikov created the appropriate atmosphere for this intensely dramatic work.  Robert Wierzel handled the crucially lighting, which is such an important component at Glimmerglass. Peter Kazaras, whose singing I remember well from his NYC Opera Days, directed.  Even with the cutting, I found the first act a bit too extended — there is so much exposition to get through, and it is not all engrossing — but the second act struck me as perfect.  Certainly, the piece packs a big punch and the music communicates the dramatic intensity of the characters and their interactions.

Friday night it was Ariadne in Naxos, music by Richard Strauss and libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, present in an English adaptation (in part) by Kelley Rourke.  This is a two part opera.  In the first part, we are “backstage” for the goings-on at a wealthy man’s estate where preparations are taking place for an evening spectacular.  The host is having a big dinner party to be followed by live entertainment, a specially-commissioned opera featuring a leading diva.  But as the performers are assembling, the major-domo informs them that a decision was made to bring a troupe of popular artists to perform as well, and that due to the timing of the dinner and the evening fireworks, the two performing groups would have to combine and merge their presentations.  Consternation breaks out, as one can imagine.  Glimmerglass presented this first act in English, and transferred the setting from the Vienna hills to the hills of Central New York, the musical production being presented in a barnlike structure which provided the unit set for both acts.  In the second act, we see the merged presentations.  In this performance, highlighting the differences, the opera is performed in German while the more popular ensemble sings in English — except for a few lines when they don’t!  Francesca Zambello, the artistic director of Glimmerglass, directed, with sets by Troy Hourie, costumes by Erik Teague, and lighting by Mark McCullough.  Christine Goerke was splendid as the Diva/Ariadne, but the real scene-stealer was Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, the leader and soprano of the popular troupe.  Catherine Martin was excellent in the “trousers” role of the Composer.  Corey Bix, who sang the part of the operatic tenor and Bacchus, seemed to have too small a voice to be paired with Ms. Goerke, however.  A liberal sprinkling of Young Artisst Program members were sprinkled through the cast, prime among them Carlton Ford, the Harlequin, and Adam Cioffari, the Composer’s harried Agent.  This was the most “fun” production of the three operas.  I’d seen Ariadne at the Met, long ago, but it did not then make much of an impression on me.  This performance, skillfully conducted by Kathleen Kelly, really caught and held my attention, aided undoubtedly by the excellent pre-performance talk that she gave an hour before the curtain.

Finally, on Saturday night, Madame Butterfly, music by Giacomo Puccini and libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on a play by David Belasco and a short story by John Luther Long.  This is the familiar tale of the American naval officer who upon arrival with his ship in Nagasaki contracts with a marriage broker to marry a young Japanese woman, whom he then abandons with promises to return when his ship leaves.  Unbeknownst to him, his wife is pregnant.  Although the marriage broker tries to persuade her that the marriage is done after the officer, Pinkerton, is gone, Butterfly refuses to believe this, instead clinging to her love for Pinkerton and his promise to return, through three long years and the birth of their son, fending off suitors, etc.  Finally, Pinkerton’s ship does return, but he has married an American woman (who accompanies him), oblivious to the fact that he is a father.  Butterfly patiently awaits for him to come and rejoin her, and is desolated  to learn that he has married.  He is desolated as well when he comes to understand the situation.  Upon learning about his son, he persuades his wife to take the boy back to America.  Once she has confronted the truth, Butterfly kills herself.  Quite the tragedy!  And if well done, leaving the audience aghast at the end. . .  The opera was a failure at its first performance, but as subsequently revised by the composer has become part of the core repertory of major opera houses and an audience favorite.  Puccini’s music has become so familiar that audiences could probably sing along with some of the most famous arias (but one hopes they don’t)!  Yunah Lee was spectacularly good in the title role, and Dinyar Vania was an effective Pinkerton, although I don’t think quite in her class.  The Young Artists Program yielded excellent supporting players as Goro, the marriage broker — Ian McEuen — and Suzuki, Butterfly’s maid — Kristen Choi.  Perhaps the most sympathetic character in the opera is the American counsel, Sharpless, who was ably sung by another Young Artists Program member, Aleksey Bogdanov (who also contributed an excellent performance as the rich uncle in An American Tragedy).  Unlike most standard productions of this opera, the first act was first set in the American consulate, although ending in Butterfly’s mountain house; the second also divided between the consulate and the house.  Minimalist sets, with the settings being created largely from props, flies, and lighting design, but most effectively so. . .  Ms. Zambello directed, with sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Anita Yavich, and lighting by Robert Wierzel.  Glimmerglass musical director Joseph Colaneri led the splendid performance.

Each of these operas was so very different that it is difficult to single out a favorite, but I think at the end of the weekend that Ariadne had made the biggest impression on me — probably because it was an opera I hadn’t really appreciated in the past but that now looms much larger in my estimation because of this excellent production.  But all three were terrific.  It is such a big loss for NYC that the old Glimmerglass-NYC Opera connection was broken as NYC Opera reduced its scale of operation and then went out of business entirely, since transfers of productions from Glimmerglass back during the years when Paul Kellogg directed both companies were frequently highlights of the City Opera season.  It would be great if somebody in NYC could re-establish the connection so these excellently conceived productions would have a wider audience.

In the meantime, however, if you haven’t given it a try in the past, think about Glimmerglass for next summer.  The festival runs from July 10 through August 21, and the schedule includes four great works: Mozart’s Magic Flute (for which this opera house is the perfect size), Verdi’s MacBeth, Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica (a real novelty!), and Bernstein’s Candide – presumably the opera house version.  I’ve already booked!

 

Cultural Diary – March 23 through May 1, 2013 – A Busy Season in NYC

Posted on: May 2nd, 2013 by Art Leonard 1 Comment

Between work, concerts and theater, I’ve been so busy that I’ve generally avoided blogging about the things I’ve been attending over the past five weeks or so.  This is a catch-up posting, briefly mentioning that things I haven’t had time to write about in longer posts.  This post details the musical events (including opera).  In another, I’ll address the theatrical ones.

Beginning at the beginning, with Richard Goode, and – surprise – ending with him as well, because the first concert I’ll note included his performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on March 23, and the last is his solo recital last night in the same location, devoted to late piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Schumann Concerto was excellent, in the best “Goode” manner – solid, mainstream tempi, beautiful piano sound, careful but energetic navigation of the rhythmically difficult finale.  Indeed, it is hard to understand how a pianist and orchestra can get through that finale without a conductor at a reasonably fast tempo (it is marked “Allegro vivace”), because of the syncopation in the score that must make coordination difficult unless everybody figures out how to ignore the bar lines and just go with the flow…  They obviously figured that out here, and the effusive ovation of the audience earned a more bountiful encore than usual: the “Adagio” second movement from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453!   For the first half of the program, Orpheus gave us a fleet, songful run through Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, the “Italian” symphony.

The next afternoon, I was in for another pianistic treat as Yevgeny Sudbin presented a brilliant recital at Town Hall under the auspices of Peoples’ Symphony Concerts.  Sudbin has been a favorite since I acquired his first solo recording on the BIS label of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.  His BIS albums are cherishable as much for his revelatory program notes as for his playing.  This is a man who thinks deeply about everything he plays, and always has cogent reasons for his departures from tradition — such as his decision to record the original version of Rachmaninoff’s 4th Piano Concerto rather than the composer’s revision.   He presented a mixed recital on March 24, beginning with four Scarlatti sonatas, continuing with Frederic Chopin’s Ballade No. 3, Op. 47, and completing the first half with Claude Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse.  After intermission, we had Franz Liszt — Funerailles from the Harmonies poetiques et religieuses, and Harmonies du soir from the Transcendental Etudes.  The final programmed piece was Alexander Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5, Op. 53.  Encores included more Scarlatti, some Rachmaninoff, and Sudbin’s paraphrase on Chopin’s Minute Waltz.  Some people find Sudbin too cerebral or too dry, but I find him wonderfully clear-eyed and totally engaged in whatever he is playing.  I enjoyed every moment of this concert, and could have listened to him play even more encores!  He is in the midst of recording a Beethoven Concerto cycle with Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra, and every one will be worth hearing, but his newest recording, just out, of Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto with Lan Shui and the Singapore Symphony is superb in every way, and Shui’s urgent traversal of the rarely performed Symphony No. 1 must be heard to be believed.  He makes more sense out of this piece than anyone I’ve heard.

On April 17, I experienced a feeling of deja vu when I opened the program book in Carnegie Hall for the concert by Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden: An all-Johannes Brahms program: Academic Festival Overture, Violin Concerto (with Lisa Batiashvili), and Symphony No. 4.  Deja vu because this is exactly the program I heard in the fall of 1974 when Klaus Tennstedt made his conducting debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra!  Exactly the same!!  And what a difference.  Tennstedt made the BSO sound like a rich, luxuriant central European big-city orchestra.  By contrast, Thielemann made his group — a central European big-city orchestra — sound nothing like that at all.  The sound was much more tightly defined, the strings less luxuriant, and phrasing more clipped, less songful…  At every turn, this Dresdners sounded less central European than that long-ago evening with the BSO.  Of course, memory can play tricks, and perhaps my memory has enlarged the differences.  In any event, Thielemann and his band were definitely worth hearing, especially in the Symphony, which got an excellent performance, particularly in the intense and dramatic finale.  The Academic Festival was big-boned and joyous, the Violin Concerto sweetly songful with Batiashvili a stronger soloist than was Miriam Fried in my recollection of that long-ago Boston affair.   Thielemann has a sense of humor as well: For an encore they played the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner.  Only a conductor with a real sense of humor would cap an all-Brahms program with a Wagner encore.

On April 19 I enjoyed the rare treat of a New York Philharmonic program devoted entirely to American music – almost unheard of in these parts.  Alan Gilbert led the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s “Prospero’s Rooms” and was joined by Joshua Bell for Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) for Violin, String Orchestra, Harp and Percussion.  After intermission, we had Charles Ives’s Symphony NO. 4, with Eric Huebner the prominent piano soloist, members of the New York Choral Consortium intoning the opening hymn and the worldless choral lines in the finale, and Case Scaglione occasionally standing up to co-conduct during the most rhythmically complex passages of the second and fourth movements.  This was a wonderful concert!!  I always experience some nostalgia for my college days when I hear works by composers who were among the musical composition graduate students at Cornell when I was there as an undergraduate.  Earlier this season, it was Steve Stuckey, and at this concert, Christopher Rouse.  His piece was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” and paints a vivid, moody picture with his usual extreme dynamic contrasts.  It was much fun to hear the first time through, and I hope a recording eventuates, since I’d like to get to know this one better.  The Berstein is always a pleasure to hear, and Bell knows how to dramatize the music effectively.  I’ve yet to hear a totally convincing concert performance of the Ives — I’ll always have the Stokowski/ASO world premiere version in my head from listening to that old LP so many times and trying to figure out what was going on in the even-numbered movements.  Gilbert has the measure of the piece, and actually made an even richer thing out of the third-movement fugue than Stokowski.  But nobody exceeds the old wizard in finding the transcendental pitch of the last movement.  This performance left me engaged, but not quite exalted.

Then to NYC Opera at City Center for Gioachino Rossini’s “Moses in Egypt” in a rather minimalist production relying on projections rather than sets.  I thought the cast was better than the show in many respects, and David Salsbery Fry, who stood in on short notice for the indisposed David Cushing as Moses was excellent.  This is not an opera that we are going to hear at the Metropolitan any time soon, so City Opera does a distinct service in giving it a short revival for our delectation.  But it is clear why it is not in the standard repertory.  Rossini in a serious mood does not entertain as well as Rossini in a more frivolous mood – think Barber of Seville – and there are only a handful of really memorable moments in the score. 

As the season neared its end, I managed to squeeze in a last visit on March 31 to the ongoing Schubert & Co. lieder project.  I wish I could have attended more of these, because the young artist performing at these concerts — all volunteers — have been superb, and the opportunity to hear so much rarely, if ever, performed music is unlikely to recur soon.  Schubert wrote more than 500 songs, and the goal of Lachlan Glen and Jonathan Ware, pianists and co-Artistic Directors of this series, was to present all of them over the course of the season.  By March 31, they had really and truly gotten the hang of the challenging acoustics at Central Presbyterian Church, producing a fine balance of voice and piano, and they assembled a terrific cast to explore settings of verses by Ruckert, Holty, Schreiber and Pyrker — not all deathless poets, but usually deathless music.  Singers for the evening were Simone Easthope (soprano), Michael Kelly (baritone), Alexander Lewis (tenor), and Jazimina MacNeil (mezzo-soprano), and Glen and Ware shared collaborative honors with pianist Ken Noda, who partnered with Lewis for his extended set of eight songs in the middle of the concert.  Lewis was a new discovery for me, very exciting, brilliant dramatization of the texts, large handsome voice, and a very attractive manner.  But all the performers were great, and I so regret I’ll be out of town this weekend and so will miss the big finale of concerts on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening – Schwanengesang, of course, to wind things up, with baritone Edward Parks and pianist Lachlan Glen, whose growth as a collaborate keyboard artist over the course of this season has been extraordinary!  Congratulations to this enterprising crew!

It was back to the New York Philharmonic for me on April 3, for a collaboration with pianist Andras Schiff in Bach keyboard concerti (Nos. 3 and 5) and orchestral music by Mendelssohn and Schumann.  I find Schiff’s approach to the keyboard concerti a bit heavy-handed compared to Murray Perahia, whose recording of this repertory I love.  Also, he’s a bit more straight-laced than David Fray, whose recording and DVD of this repertory are most entertaining.  But Schiff’s approach has it’s place, too, bringing lots of beefy good cheer to the fast movements — played at a more moderate pace than the competition, it must be said — and much poetry to the slow ones.  The early Mendelssohn string sinfonia (the composer was 14 when he wrote it, and not yet the mature musical thinker he would become in just a few short years) was a bit of a throw-away on this program, but the best came last.  Schiff’s conducting of the Schumann 4th Symphony was superb in every respect.  I would love to hear him conduct the entire cycle.

For an interesting break, I went up to Miller Theatre at Columbia University on April 6 to hear baroque ensemble “Les Delices” play a program they called “The Age of Indulgence,” a collection of instrumental music by French baroque composers: Philidor, Rameau, Mondonville, Duphly, and Dauvergne.  One might think that an entire evening of French baroque chamber pieces would blend into an indistinguishable blur, but not so in the hands of these excellent musicians – Debra Nagy, Julie Andrijeski, Scott Metcalfe, Emily Walhout and Michael Sponseller.  Everything was richly characterized, contrasts were pointed up, and teh evening ended on a sprightly note with Dauvergne, a composer rarely encountered.  One could easily hear why Rameau is the one of these still best remembered today, as his Concert No. 3 from the Pieces de clavecin en concert was the most inspired piece of the evening, but everything heard on this program was worth hearing and in the context provided an interesting display of the variety possible within a very narrow range of stylistic permissibility.

On April 7, back to Town Hall for PSC’s presentation of the Johannes String Quartet, playing Brahms (naturally!) No. 1, Op. 51, No. 1, Dutilleux’s “Ainsi la nuit”, and then Brahms No. 3, Op. 67.  The Johannes are well-named. They do know how to play the music of their namesake composer with grace, poise and insight.  That said, I like the rather more assertive performances on the Emerson Quartet’s recording, but the Johannes’ way was no less valid.  The Dutielleux is a startlingly modern effusion of the mid-1970s, treasurable more for sound effects than for melody or motivic development. 

PSC provided a very different string quartet experience with the Quatour Ebene, performing at the High School of Fashion Industries (as the renovation of Washington Irving High School’s auditorium drags on and on).  I am a big fan of Quatour Ebene, four young Frenchmen who play with incredible subtlety.  Perhaps they could have been a bit more forceful in Mozart’s Quartet K. 465, the “dissonant” quartet, but after that was out of the way, the evening was sheer bliss.  Their performance of Schubert’s Quartet D. 804, called the “Rosamunde” because its variations movement uses a theme from the composer’s incidental music for the play of that name, was incredible. That’s the only word for it. They found a degree of mystery, pathos and tension throughout the piece that was unrivalled in my experience.  At the end of each movement, there was a collective feeling of “wow!” from the audience.  Everybody was buzzing during intermission.  And then the Mendelssohn, ending with an “allegro molto” supercharged to the finish line!!  (I promptly ordered a copy of their new recording, which includes the Mendelssohn Op.80 – just arrived and not heard yet, so I hope it adequately recreates the experience!  For encores they played some selections from their “Fiction” album, short pieces based on popular songs, including “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  You haven’t really heard it until you hear what these guys can do with it.  They even sing some of it.  (I already knew they could sing… Their brief vocal performance with Philippe Jaroussky on his new DVD recital release is worth the price of admission.)  Can’t get enough of the Ebene.  This was probably the most memorable concert I’ll mention in this diary.

On April 21 I was up at Symphony Space for the last of this season’s Classics Declassified programs by the American Symphony Orchestra.  Leon Botstein selected music from Lohengrin and Tristan and Isolde, marking the Wagner bicentennial year.  But I thought this program was a rare misfire from Botstein and the orchestra.  His talk verged on incoherence, disorganized, rambling, and full of too-long orchestral examples with no real follow-up to tie up his pre-playing propositions.  The performances themselves sounded underrehearsed and uninspired, with the possible exception of the Lohengrin Prelude to Act III, although I still had the triumphal sound of Thieleman and the Dresdners in my ears, so it wasn’t a fair comparison.

On April 25 it was back to City Center for Jacques Offenbach’s La Perichole – or what was purported to be La Perichole – presented by New York City Opera.  This was one of Christopher Alden’s re-imaginings of a classic musical theater piece, and I thought he managed to trash the piece pretty well.  The singing and acting was fine, but the staging was bizarre, reducing the French light opera tradition to slapstick and pratfalls.  I was not amused, just aghast.  I give the cast credit for gamely going along with the shenanigans and doing their best, but still…. 

For a complete contrast April 28 I journeyed to the East Village for the Greenwich Village Orchestra’s Wagner program, conducted by Pierre Vallet.  This is an amateur neighborhood orchestra with high goals, and they set themselves quite a challenge with this program.  Indeed, some of this music would put the most exalted professionals to the test, and it was to the credit of orchestra and conductor that they got through the program with honor. (Indeed, their playing of the Prelude and Leibestod bested the ASO from a week early, IMHO, although they had the advantage of Christine Goerke singing the Liebestod while the ASO went it alone.)  Madame Goerke, a fine Wagnerian soprano, also gave us two arias from Tannhauser and Senta’s Ballade from Dutchman.  Jesse Blumberg, in splendid voice, sang Wolfram’s Hymn to the Evening Star from Tannhauser as well.  This was an afternoon well spent.

On April 30 I attended the last NYFOSNext program of the season.  This is a series mounted by the New York Festival of Song to showcase music by living composers in the intimate surroundings of the DiMenna Center on West  37th Street.  Each program is “curated” by a composer, who assembles a program from the music of his or her friends and acquaintances calling upon a variety of talented young performers.  For this program Mohammed Fairouz brought together fellow composers Daniel Bernard Roumain, Paola Prestini and Huang Ruo to provide a very diverse evening of song.  I have been a Fairouz fan since hearing his contribution to the 5 Boroughs Songbook, and it was a delight to hear three offerings from him: Tahwidah and For Victims (both on the new Naxos CD of his chamber works) and The Poet Declares His Renown.  I would say that the strongest of these is For Victims, a Holocaust remembrance piece that was strikingly sung by baritone Adrian Rosas with the Catalyst String Quartet.  (The equally striking performance on the recording is by David Kravitz and the Borromeo Quartet.)  Other excellent singers for the evening included Kristina Bachrach and Fang Tao Jiang (sopranos) and Samuel Levine (tenor).  I enjoyed hearing so much new music, so well and energetically performed. Thanks to NYFOS for putting on this series!!

Finally, coming full circle, last nights recital at Carnegie Hall by Richard Goode.  Goode chose to play the last three Beethoven piano sonatas, Opp. 109, 110 and 111, with six bagatelles from Op. 119 to introduce the second half of the program.  I had the strange feeling of duality in this program.  The first half struck me as a bit sleepy, even boring.  Maybe it was me.  I don’t know. But I found Goode’s approach to Op. 109 and Op. 110 to be so restrained, flowing, understated, as to pass by uneventfully, which one doesn’t expect with Beethoven. But something really seemed to charge him up during the intermission, because the second half was Beethoven on steroids.  The Bagatelles were charming and sparkling, the firsrt movement of Op. 111 ferociously dramatic, and the final movement, the extended variations, a symphony of contrasts culminating in that heavenly, quiet ending.  He refused to play an encore, despite the rapturous audience response, and I fully agreed – one can’t play anything after Op. 111.  It’s a natural concert closer, puts a period to things, and shouldn’t be followed by some trifle.

Thus ends a prolonged period of season-ending musical activities.  (But not entirely, of course, since the season has weeks to run, and because the Philharmonic will be away on tour for part of that time, the season is really extended to the end of June, so more to come…)