Friday, January 31, 2014

Gidon Kremer and Kremarata Baltica at the 92Y

The 92Y's 'Distinguished Artists in Recital' series presented a phenomenal performance by guest-star, violinist Gidon Kremer, with the Kremarata Baltica.

The highlight of the evening's program was the Symphony No.10 for strings, op.98, a revelation of a relatively unknown work by Mieczyslaw Weinberg.
Composed and premiered in Moscow, in 1968, the ensembles' standing performance of the chamber-symphony's modernist language infused with Baroque-elements, was a magnificent example of the ensembles' capacity for intricate and fine-tuned musical interaction on a profound level. Led by violinist extraordinaire Gidon Kremer, (photo) the highly balanced orchestral sound gave the perfect aural spectrum for the intimate conversation inbetween the interchanging solis from the respective cello, viola and violin - section, with finely nuanced take-overs of the melodic themes. A supurb experience, indeed.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Maestro Abbado will be sorely missed!

With great sorrow the music world mourns the passing of Maestro Claudio Abbado, widely admired not only for his extraordinary musicianship, but for his noble character; one of the great human beings, who will be sorely missed.

Here is a personal example of how deeply Maestro Abbado touched anyone who met him, from the young conductor Noam Zur:" In 2011, I visited the Lucerne Festival and was lucky enough, not only to see the great Claudio Abbado rehearse Mahler's tenth symphony, but to actually get a photocopy of his score from him (with his handwritten annotations). He was the most noble, humble, gentle and modest man imaginable, and really took time out to talk to me during his intermissions, several days in a row. This week, I am conducting the Adagio from the tenth symphony with the Transylvanian State Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, in the first rehearsal, I told this story to the orchestra while conducting the adagio out of "his" score. In the intermission, the musicians told me that the news had broken about his death, while we were playing his edition of the Adagio. I was so shocked that I couldn't finish the rehearsal, and went to cry in my dressing room before returning to the hotel. Together with the orchestra, we decided to dedicate not only this piece, but the entire concert on the Friday, the 24th of January, to his memory. Noam Zur"excerpt from the memorial concert

Friday, January 17, 2014

International Society for the Performing Arts - Lifetime Achievement Award for Ann Summers Dossena

Ann Summers Dossena at the ISPA award ceremony-photo credit:Barbara Scales

Both opening audience’s minds and hearts to the arts, as well as fostering artists’ development and performance opportunities, have been at the core of Ann Summers Dossena’s widespread and innovative efforts.
After a successful career with Ann Summers International, her Toronto- and Rome-based artist management firm, Dossena is continuing her hands-on commitment to the performing arts world with her work with the International Resource Center for Performing Arts.

                                                                 Photo: Ann Summers Dossena receiving CPAEA Award                                                                                        (      

Initially honored with the first Manager of the Year Award by the North American Association of Performing Arts Managers and Agents (NAPAMA) in 2012, Dossena again received an accolade with a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to her at the 66th annual New York congress of the International Society for the Performing Arts ( on January 16th.  Dossena, the first Canadian to receive this award, was recognized for her dedication and distinguished service within the profession, in particular her unceasing ability to find novel ways to advance the performing arts.
There are many ‘firsts’ to her many accomplishments, some of which proved visionary. Dossena initiated the Extended Engagement Plan in New York, now known as the Artist in Residence program for chamber music groups, as well as arranged Concert Party, a series of informal concerts to build new audiences. In addition, after Carnegie Hall had been saved from its demolition, it was Dossena who produced the first series of Carnegie Hall concerts, which included the still actively programmed Visiting Orchestra series.
“It all started with trying to help out artist friends of mine. And everything grew by doing,” she says of her first classical concert promotions at the New York Biltmore Hotel for Concert Party with the founding members of the Dorian Quartet during the early 60s. While the hotel does not exist anymore, the appeal of creating the feel of community is - once again – au courant, resulting in quite a few new venues that offer that dimension for classical music presentation, as an alternative experience to the concert hall venue.
In 1983, Dossena founded the International Resource Center for the Performing Arts. This non-profit, charitable organization (incorporated in 1985) had the goal of “turning potential into accomplishment,” a principal motivation which she describes in detail in her book: Getting it all together (Scarecrow Press, 1985)
“The many artists who graduate from the schools with a curriculum that is so full are barely able to accommodate all that has to be taken in. Often left to their own devices, they are in desperate need of getting to know what is expected of them in the real market and how to handle that. Only artists who are “the whole package” can survive in today’s competitive market and they need opportunities to develop practical knowledge and artistic ideas. There needs to be a platform for an exchange of ideas, workshops for career moves and access to documentation of what others have done. In short, resources of all sorts…”   Photo: Ann Summers Dossena credit to V.Tony Hauser

The International Resource Center for the Performing Arts is designed to help precisely with all the practical demands of a career in the field. Panels are created that bring together publicists, managers, presenters and booking agents of orchestras which educate young artists to a world they are not necessarily familiar with, when they transition from practice room to concert stage. Amongst the Center’s programs are workshops like Encounters with Employers and Career moves, as well as a bit of handholding during the process of exploring one’s employability or trying new directions, without risk to career or reputation.
The Center assists the artist with their choices and how to put the pieces of the puzzle together: whether it is to make the proper wardrobe decision or come full circle to the conclusion that this may not be the career they really want.
Dossena, who tirelessly works her wonders as a catalyst for transformation, is currently on a mission to establish a new home for this brainchild, and create a Resource Center in Toronto. “Emerging professionals need a place to come together, exchange ideas, gain confidence, be mentored by working professionals who can pass on their career experiences, set short and long term goals, and to know they are not alone in their endeavors,” she says.

She herself is a walking lesson of what one needs in the world of the performing arts: enthusiasm, tenacity and a high energy level are a must. And she has all of that in spades.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yefim Bronfman and Friends make Contact! with the audience at SubCulture

CONTACT! at SubCulture-photo credit: Chris Lee
Something electrifying was in the air at the slightly overheated underground space at SubCulture on January 13th. The audience was brimming with press, concert-organizers, and artists, including the New York Philharmonic’s Maestro Alan Gilbert and Artistic Director of the 92nd Street Y Hanna Arie-Gaifman, co-producers of the contemporary music concert series CONTACT! at SubCulture. Having only opened a couple of months ago, the venue, co-owned by Steve and Marc Kaplan, buzzed tangibly with excitement.
And rightfully so; with the participation of stellar pianist Yefim Bronfman, this season's Philharmonic's Mary and James G.Wallach Artist-in-Residence program, and members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, notable interest in the evening’s program and its sound musicianship was as good as guaranteed.
The evening’s performance of three 20-minute works by contemporary composers was emceed by Marc Neikrug, the composer of the first presented work entitled Passions, Reflected for Solo Piano, which was written 2008. Passions received its (somewhat delayed) world premiere at this event, performed by Mr. Bronfman at the piano with his full gusto and profound, virtuosic artistry he is widely cherished for. He perceptibly managed to bring out the vastly diverse characteristics of each of the twelve small abstract episodes comprising the work, while still giving it enough balance to exist as a whole, greater than its sum of its parts. The coherence of the work’s partitions was pointed out by the composer as one of the important aspects of the piece, having been inspired by similar composite cycles found in works like Schumann’s Kreisleriana with segments that – unlike Chopin’s Etudes or Debussy Préludes, which could stand on their own – cannot be separated from each other in performance. Mr. Neikrug, longime collaborative partner of violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, has composed Passions, Reflected for Solo Piano specifically for Mr. Bronfman.
An artist of the highest integrity, Mr. Bronfman has recently stated in an interview with Zinta Lundborg:"..I like to be able to get into the composer'smind as much as I can in every way possible. I don't like's not interesting," an ambition, he clearly mastered in his performance.                                                        
Yefim Bronfman photo credit: Chris LeeAfter the bombastic finale of the unnerving, escalating runs of the piece, which left Bronfman as well as the audience a bit breathless, the performer spontaneously loosened up the somewhat muffled atmosphere amongst the audience members with a humorous remark on the fact that the venue’s bar was regrettably closed during performance, hinting at the idea that it’s ok to integrate art and entertainment. Until now, there has been an air of ambivalence surrounding the move to assimilate high-caliber artistic presentations into fashionably popular and intimate venues like Subculture, but it seems that lately, that ambivalent attitude has given way to the alluring prospect of formulating alternative communal experiences in these venues.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that audiences appear to be attracted to new artistic experiences outside that of the traditional concert hall: a marketable factor that remains rather significant for smaller productions, which now have institutions like the New York Phil and the 92nd Street Y paying attention, despite the sizeable limitation in ticket sales compared to their home venues.
Both institutions’ involvement with this performance of this season’s Contact! at Subculture series sold out the event’s 120-person space.  Funding was helped by generous support of private benefactors Linda and Stewart Nelson.
With Mr. Bronfman, this season’s artist-in-residence at the New York Philharmonic, the production gained a most significant impetus in that he not only has the personality and the knack for thinking ‘outside of the box,’ as his pianistic stunt to benefit New York’s Food Bank at Grand Central Terminal proved in 2007. Already for quite some years now, Mr. Bronfman, world-renowned for his big concert stage performances with an emphasis on esteemed romantic masterworks, has increasingly devoted his attention to contemporary works and for that has been extensively lauded by Neikrug.
Poul Ruders’ String Quartet No.4 had been performed previously at a private event at the Morgan Library in 2013, but here for the first time publicly, in New York. The work constitutes the first composition for String Quartet within his large oeuvre. It was performed admirably by New York Philharmonic violinists Fiona Simon and Sharon Yamada, violist Robert Reinhardt, and cellist Eileen Moon. The composer himself had pointed out in the program notes: “ is in five movements and is about nothing but itself.” It was one of the works co-commissioned in 2013 by the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Britten-Pears Foundation in honor of Benjamin Britten’s centennial.
For his second performance of the evening, Mr. Bronfman shared the bill with two other, eloquent members of the New York Philharmonic, violinist Qaun Ge and cellist Maria Kitsopoulus, in sparkling interaction. The three performed Trio No. 1 for Violin, Cello and Piano by French composer Marc-André Dalbavie, leaving the audience perhaps not with the most memorable work of the evening, but with the most optimistic and elated outlook. This work, premiered by Mr. Bronfman in 2008 at Carnegie Hall, builds on an intriguing simplicity of musical motives, most perceptibly its scale patterns, which build intensely in momentum during the course of the single movement work. This is the second performance of the composers work by the Philharmonic, whose work Melodia was commissioned for CONTACT!’s inaugural program in 2009.  from left: Marc Kaplan, Yefim Bronfman, Hanna Gaifman-Arie, Marc Neikrug, Steve Kaplan. photo credit: getClassical
Not surprisingly, audience members congregated around the bar area after the show, up-close and personal, to congratulate the artists, who were happy to interact without the usually necessary Green Room list.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New York International Piano Competition goes SubCulture

Photo: SubCulture  Ryan Jensen
On January 9th, SubCulture kicked off the New Year with two New York premieres, performed by former prize winners of the New York International Piano Competition’s recital series, pianists Matthew Graybil and Igor Lovchinsky.  Both pianists delivered a well conceived concert, titled:”Reflections of Walter Piston,” celebrating the work of Harvard’s eminent composer and educator.

The competition founders, Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz, who performed as one of their own generation’s distinguished piano-duos, revealed their respect to the composer’s work with their 1967 commission of Piston’s Concerto for two Pianos Soli. It was this work that Graybil and Lovchinsky gave its compelling New York premiere.

Based on the original work that Piston had created for “Two Pianos and Orchestra,’ in 1964, the two-piano version with three movements (allegro non troppo, adagio and con spirito) demonstrated the composer’s ability to construct an abstract musical landscape with mesmerizing rhythmic and high-speed climaxes, and proved an ample showpiece for the performers’ superior pianistic abilities. Piston, a distinguished music theorist and professor of music, whose students included Leroy Anderson, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, once commented on the commission:”I did not wish to make an ‘arrangement,’ but rather a rethinking of the entire score in terms of the two solo instruments, so that the two versions stand as separate and individual works.”

The Stecher and Horowitz Foundation and its competition, started in 2002 as an outgrowth of the former Stecher and Horowitz School of the Arts, which was co-founded and co-directed by the two pianists and educators in 1960 in Cedarhurst, New York. The foundation and its competition continue to inspire and support young talent, resulting in concerts with an interesting angle, often paying tribute to infrequently heard works of the 20th and 21st century.
Photo: Igor Lovchinsky
Pianist Igor Lovchinsky admitted to being unfamiliar with Piston’s work prior to his participation at the competition and enjoyed the time spent in mutual preparation for the concert, with Matthew Graybil. Lovchinsky’s special affinity for another 20th century composer’s output, the work of Earl Wilde, had already afforded him his piano debut disc. Upon hearing Lovchinsky’s performance of Wilde’s Etudes on Themes of Gershwin, the composer, impressed with the young pianist, offered him a recording on his own Ivory Classics label.

Hailed by Gramophone Magazine as ‘a star of the future,’ Lovchinsky, who received his masters degree from the New England Conservatory in 2009, indeed showed effortless expressiveness even in some of the most complex passages, especially notable in his solo performance of Piston’s Sonata pour piano, an unpublished work dated 1926, which received its New York premiere that evening.

                                                                                                                                                                                Photo: Matthew Graybil
Graybil ‘s debut album, featuring works by Brahms and Schubert, was released by the Victor Elmaleh Collection in 2012 and received reviews such as in Fanfare Magazine: “Matthew Graybil’s playing marks him…as one of the most sensitive, poetic young pianists to debut on record in recent memory.” A second recording of Chopin’s Etudes, Op 10, will be released this year as part of a ‘Chopin Project’ compilation.

During Graybil’s two Piston solo pieces Improvisation and Passacaglia, he impressed the audience with his sincere approach to the melodically simple, but increasingly challenging, counterpoint configurations and at times rhythmically stark motives. In balanced rhythmic response to his syncopated counterpart, Graybil often seemed to possess the voice of reason, as seen in Piston’s Concerto for Two Pianos Solis.  In Leonard Bernstein’s two-piano transcription of Aaron Copland’s El Salón México, it seemed that Graybil fully vanished into the imaginary scenery provided by the composer.

“Even though it has been years since Igor and I were contestants in the competition, the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation remains active in fostering our careers and presenting its winners in concerts," says Graybil.

Photo: Matthew Graybil
Graybil and Lovchinsky are good friends, and were classmates and fellow students of Jerome Lowenthal at the Juilliard School. The concert was a welcome opportunity for the both of them to work together in the two-piano part of the program. “Although chamber music is a regular part of most pianists’ lives, playing two-piano music in concert has become less common,” says Graybil who is an avid chamber music performer. He shared his excitement about premiering a work of a major American composer:”It is almost unreal to be involved in the New York premiere of a work by a major American 20th century composer almost 50 years after it was written. That's of course exciting for both of us and it is especially rewarding to play this concert with a close friend,“ said Graybil, a fact the audience was pleasantly aware of throughout the evening’s performance.


The final concert of this season’s NYIPC series at SubCulture, will feature pianist Kate Liu on March 6th at 7.30 pm.