27 August 2012
Beautiful Music Together
In 1946 Gyorgy Kurtág — whose … quasi una fantasia … will be performed in the Philharmonic’s season-opening concert — met his wife, Marta, through her piano teacher. Kurtág played Marta some Liszt. “He played, and I thought I would like to be his wife,” said Marta. “I said, ‘Please would you like to play some pieces for two pianos?’ And in six months we were married.”
Six decades later, the Kurtágs’ love story continues to play out. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross called their 2006 Vienna performance of Kurtág’s four-hands transcription of Bach’s Sonatina from Actus Tragicus, Cantata BWV 106, ”one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.”
Watch and listen in the video above.
8 September 2011
Those of us who crave music knew that things wouldn’t begin to feel even close to right until we could stand in a crowd with amplified sound crashing into us, getting us to move, offering its own explanations. So we gathered in clubs and theaters as soon as we could.
In 2001 I was working for The New York Times, reviewing shows a couple of times a week. For the weekend of Sept. 15, I’d planned to attend the CMJ Music Marathon, an annual event that brought in artists from all over the world and packed all the big clubs in town. Instead I made it to the Bowery Ballroom to see a fragment of that event — a few acts who’d arrived before the catastrophe that had gathered to play a benefit for the New York Fire Department.
I’d come mostly to see the Clean, an indie cult favorite from New Zealand whose stateside appearances were as rare as those of the buff-breasted sandpiper. Once I stood at the Bowery Ballroom’s balcony bar, however, embracing a steady stream of acquaintances, I realized I was really there for another reason. Here was my quotidian community: the other writers, music biz folks, club kids and superfans with whom I spent countless convivial nights without ever taking the next steps toward intimacy. These were the kind of friendships that defined life in the city: the circumstantial connections that we took for granted, and which suddenly seemed endangered. Confirming them was crucial.
—Ann Powers on going out after Sept. 11.
Read more post-9/11 concert memories from Alex Ross, Nate Chinen, Will Hermes and other music writers.
The writing of Alex Ross in The New Yorker and elsewhere reminds us that classical music can shake the soul as much as popular music can; two concerts in the wake of Sept. 11 stood out for him.
“Both of them, oddly or not, involved 19th-century German music,” he wrote. “One was a now-legendary performance of Brahms’ German Requiem by the New York Philharmonic. It was beautifully sung and played, and the essential humility of Brahms’ act of mourning came through powerfully. When it was over, the elderly Kurt Masur simply stood to one side with the orchestra, not bowing, immobile like an honor guard. That was very moving.
16 May 2011
New Yorker critic and best-selling author Alex Ross writes about this week’s Mahler performances, honoring the centennial of the death of the conductor/composer (and former Philharmonic music director). Last night the New York Philharmonic was in Vienna to give an all-Mahler concert at the Musikverein, three days before the anniversary in the city where he died. Be a part of this historic occasion and experience the commemoration through the Orchestra’s virtual tours. The next installment is later this afternoon!
9 December 2010
New Yorker critic Alex Ross on
Conductor: In a startling turn of events, Alan Gilbert, midway through his second season at the New York Philharmonic, has transformed a once hidebound orchestra into a crusading modern-music ensemble. Even more surprising, he has brought much of the audience along with him, inciting full-throated ovations for such risky fare as György Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre,” Edgard Varèse’s “Amériques,” and Magnus Lindberg’s “Kraft.” Gilbert’s task is now to bring the same fire to standard repertory.
30 November 2010
“ Zarin Mehta, the Philharmonic’s president, was sitting behind me, and afterward an elderly woman approached him, wagging her finger. ‘Fan-tas-tic,’ she said. Perhaps audiences are finally beginning to approach twentieth-century music with the same open-mindedness that they long accorded twentieth-century painting. ”
— Alex Ross describes a “seldom witnessed” scene at Avery Fisher Hall, following the Philharmonic’s performance of Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft in October. The article “Darkness Audible” appears in the November 29 issue of The New Yorker.
30 November 2010
In the November 29 issue of the Guardian (UK), author and music critic for The New Yorker Alex Ross cites Alan Gilbert’s efforts in performing modern repertoire, and poses the question: Are classical music audiences missing out by looking too much to its past?
Alan Gilbert, who took over as the New York Philharmonic’s music director last season, has had startling successes with such rowdy fare as Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Varèse’s Amériques, and, at the beginning of this season, Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft. Veteran observers were agog at the sight of Philharmonic subscribers cheering Lindberg’s piece, which contains hardly a trace of tonality and requires the use of discarded car parts as percussion. What made the difference was Gilbert’s gift for talking audiences through unfamiliar territory: in a mini-lecture, he mapped out the structure of the piece, demonstrated a few highlights, made jokes at his own expense, and generally gave people the idea that if they left early they’d be missing out.