A quick look at the musical highlights of the month thus far, as observed by the classical music critics of the Washington Post.
Robert Battey started the month with a brace of concerts. He heard the controlled veteran Anne-Marie McDermott in a program at the Phillips that included Haydn, Prokofiev’s 6th sonata, and a sonata that Charles Wuorinen wrote for the pianist in 2007; and he had a mixed reaction to the striking young pianist Ji, whom Young Concert Artists presented at the Kennedy Center, loving his Corigliano and Ravel but questioning his Schubert and Bach.
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.
Finally, two concertmasters had a turn in the spotlight this week. Jonathan Carney led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a program of eight “seasons,” four of them Vivaldi’s and four Piazzola’s; Joan Reinthaler had an interesting and empathetic take on Carney’s particular trait of excessive movement while playing. And Nurit Bar-Josef offered Mozart’s fourth concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra; I wish we got to see her play solos more often.
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.