There were two big concerts for Washington on Sunday. At Strathmore Maurizio Pollini, one of the great pianists, was a little hard-edged in Chopin but gave Debussy room to blossom, according to critic Stephen Brookes. And at the National Presbyterian Church, Scott Tucker made his official debut as Norman Scribner’s successor as the artistic director of the Choral Arts Society; in her review, Cecelia Porter called him an “ardent, driven champion.”
I attended a perhaps less significant concert that represents what you might call the bread-and-butter of the classical music world: the fine cellist Carter Brey in a workmanlike recital at the JCC.
Meanwhile, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, and the Post celebrated the well-deserved criticism prize win of the polymathic art and architecture, cultural, and erstwhile classical music critic Philip Kennicott. The music prize winner was also recently heard in DC; the composer Caroline Shaw is a member of the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, which performed part of her winning work, “Partita for 8 voices,” on its program at the Atlas in March. And no, the reviewer didn’t mention it in the review (that would be me). We are all fallible.
Shaw’s win brings the Pulitzer to a younger generation of composers, and has to be a shot in the arm for her label, New Amsterdam Records, which released the CD containing the complete work, the self-titled debut recording of Roomful of Teeth, in October. New Amsterdam, you’ll remember, was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Sandy, and is still getting back on its feet.
The two finalists were Aaron Jay Kernis and Wadada Leo Smith, the latter reflecting the Pulitzer’s ongoing efforts to open up the music prize to a broader and arguably more representative spectrum of music. So far, jazz is making its way slowly in, but so-called pop is still outside the gates.
Above: “Passacaglia” by Caroline Shaw, one movement of her Partita for 8 voices, which won the Pulitzer Prize for music, performed by the ensemble Roomful of Teeth at Mass MoCA in 2009. (The piece was released on the ensemble’s self-titled CD in October, making it eligible for this year’s prize.)