Happy New Year. After a period of radio silence, we now return you to this blog’s regularly scheduled programming. Thanks to all who asked if I was all right during this hiatus, though I hope a steady stream of articles in the Washington Post attested to my continued good health.
2013 dawned bleak for American orchestras, but bright in many ways for Washington. Classical music in this city has blossomed since I arrived in 2008. Then, I noticed a passionate but conservative audience; now, I’m seeing a wider range of music, crowded halls for John Cage and So Percussion, and so many events that even then, in our glory days of print coverage, there would have been no way to fit reviews of all of them into the paper.
This is all more proof, if any were needed, that the ongoing crisis of classical music — the various combinations of financial duress and bad management we’re seeing at the Minnesota Orchestra and in St. Paul and Atlanta and Indianapolis and elsewhere — is not bringing the field’s downfall, but, quite the contrary, a kind of renaissance.
I have a new favorite metaphor for the classical music field, which so often seems to espouse the attitude that bad news should be glossed over. I equate it to a woman giving birth. “Oh,” you say, “that woman appears to be in a lot of pain,” and immediately you are hushed by a dozen voices, hissing at you to be quiet: “It’s the miracle of childbirth!” Well, it’s a miracle indeed, but maybe you can make things easier for everyone if you face the facts, and find ways to help the woman
So that’s my stock-taking for the New Year. On to the stories. Last week I was in Cartagena, Colombia for a workshop sponsored by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Foundation for Journalism, talking to mid-career writers from around the world about covering classical music during the Cartagena International Music Festival. Thus I didn’t see or hear my first Washington concert of 2013 until last night’s National Symphony Orchestra concert (review here), which included a scintillating rendition of Bartok’s second piano concerto by Tzimon Barto.
Also in Friday’s paper is a look at the pianist Brian Ganz, who’s currently in the third year of a ten-year project to perform all the piano music Chopin ever wrote — the solo pieces, the chamber music, the concerti, the works.
Charles T. Downey was able to attend a recital I would have liked to have heard: the British tenor Toby Spence made his DC recital debut thanks to Vocal Arts DC, and it sounds like it was well worth hearing.
The year has already been filled with interesting concerts, and not all of our reviews made it into the paper, so I here offer a review digest, with links to our 2013 coverage to date. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
Charles T. Downey wrote about the period group Quicksilver, at Dumbarton Oaks, and took in the bombast of Prokofiev’s score of “Alexander Nevsky,” performed along with the film by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Joan Reinthaler heard the Australian Orava Quartet; the composer-performer Cornelius Dufallo (“an absorbing exercise in communicating a mindscape”); and the technically adroit but unnuanced pianist Alexander Paley.
Stephen Brookes covered the Jack String Quartet playing Ligeti, Bermel and Brahms, as well as the premiere of a multimedia suite dedicated to Edvard Munch
And when the Folger Consort joined the Washington National Cathedral’s in-house group Cathedra, Patrick Rucker said, the results were wonderful.
So there we are. Stay tuned for a cornucopia of additional events in the coming weeks. And if you’ve seen a concert that you haven’t seen reviewed here, please feel free to write about it in the comments. Now more than ever, there are lots of fine concerts we don’t have the space to cover.