December concerts in review: student-like recitals, opera, and concertmasters in the spotlight

December 9, 2013

A quick look at the musical highlights of the month thus far, as observed by the classical music critics of the Washington Post.


Young Concert Artists presented the young pianist Ji in recital earlier this month; Robert Battey found it at least partly impressive. (Christian Steiner)

Charles T. Downey took in some vocal performances, starting at Vocal Arts DC, which presented the promising young bass-baritone Brandon Cedel in a program Downey found rather pedestrian, and continuing at the Kennedy Center’s Fortas series with Cantus’s “All is Calm,” a “radio-drama-like re-creation” of the Christmas Truce of 1914, an event that seems to exert continual fascination in the music world (it was also the subject of Kevin Puts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera “Silent Night”).

Simon Chin heard the Academy Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala play a program of greatest operatic hits at Strathmore that felt to him a bit like a school recital.

And speaking of opera, Grace Jean generally enjoyed the Virginia Opera’s updated, English-language version of “The Magic Flute,” with Nadine Sierra as Pamina.


Heather Buck as the Queen of the Night in the Virginia Opera's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," which our critic Grace Jean generally enjoyed. (David A. Beloff)

For better or worse, however, my review of that event focused on Christoph Eschenbach, the orchestra, and the Brahms First Symphony. I have had my share of reservations about Eschenbach’s conducting technique, but I always try fairly to note the emotional component and attendant excitement that many people feel he brings to performances. However, Thursday’s performance of the Brahms hit me, personally, like a bucket of cold water over the head, and writing my review rapidly after the concert, I seem to have been particularly blunt about it. I’ve had plenty of reaction, in my mailbox, in the comments section of my review on-line, and elsewhere on the Web; and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts here, as well.

One highlight was sadly left un-highlighted; there were no critics available to review Alexander Fiterstein’s recital at the Kennedy Center on December 1, presented by Pro Musica Hebraica. If anyone who was there would care to weigh in with his or her views, I am sure other readers would greatly appreciate it.

Above: Ronn Yedida was one of the composers that the clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein included in his Chanukah concert at the Kennedy Center on December 1, which was unfortunately not reviewed.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.
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