It seemed like a gala evening at Sunset Center last night as the Monterey Symphony under the direction of Max Bragado-Darman presented its February concert: Ovation. “The 3rd Annual Women’s Night Out” attracted a whole bunch of well-dressed women for its 6:30 pm festivities, the pre-concert lecture in the theatre was well attended, and the orchestra, at the top of its form, received a well deserved standing ovation.
In a letter to me some years ago, composer Morton Gould remarked that writing a new composition lay “fraught with danger — that of being judged less on its own merits than by an amalgam of its influences.” Such might have been the case for pianist Daria Rabotkina’s performance of the Sonata in B-flat Minor (1975) of American composer Paul Aurandt, given Sunday, February 9 at the Hammer Theatre, in San Jose under the auspices of the Steinway Society the Bay Area. Certainly, Aurandt follows Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto in its dramatic, if Hollywood-compressed, attempt to imitate the grand Russian style. Yet Ms. Rabotkina’s sincerity and singular keyboard prowess managed to convince us that this bravura essay in Neo-Romantic temperament had moments of singular merit.
On Friday January 31, 2020, the New World Symphony and Miami City Ballet presented a fascinating program of Stravinsky and Balanchine at the New World Center on Miami Beach to a capacity audience. The program was conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and the soloist in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto was James Ehnes, one of the greatest violinists of our time.
To accommodate the dancers on the the stage, players of the entire orchestra were seated in the seats of the lower level facing the stage where the audience usually sits.
The program opened with Stravinsky’s Apollo (written in 1927-28 and revised in 1947), with choreography by Balanchine and performed by the Miami City Ballet, an internationally acclaimed ballet company under Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez
The second half of the program opened with Stravinsky’s Circus Polka (1942-44) with Animations by Emily Eckstein (commissioned by the NWS in 2012). The visual animations in which the ringmaster was repeatedly deterred by a “lazy, hungry elephant” were projected on the hall’s three huge screens.
The concluding work was the Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1931) as choreographed by Balanchine and performed brilliantly by violinist James Ehnes with the New World Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
On Tuesday January 28, 2020 the Ehnes Quartet continued its cycle of the complete Beethoven String Quartets in Miami. Each year it has played a program of the Beethoven Quartets, with the final concert of the series to be played next year to coincide with the Beethoven Anniversary. James Ehnes formed the quartet a few years ago with violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti and violist Richard O’Neill after discussing the idea with Robert deMaine, now Principal Cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, after a rehearsal. James says ,”The amazing thing is that we both had the same idea – that we wanted it to be with Amy and Richard.”
In an epigram by Lord Bacon, cited by Edgar Allan Poe, we read, “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in its proportions.” So we must recall the Wednesday, February 5 piano recital by Vladimir Feltsman at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, “The Russian Experiment: From Mystical to Avant-Garde” that addressed the music of Aleksandr Scriabin and his selected acolytes. Feltsman took his rubric from the critic Brodsky, justifying these musical dissidents with the notion that “Darkness reveals what light can conceal.” Sparsely attended though it was, the recital – admittedly for those with acquired tastes – aroused unmitigated favor in the audience, who by the end of the tour of five composers had to acknowledge the alternately poetic and blazing prowess of our guest artist. Feltsman performed his massive program sans intermission.