Performance Santa Fe,
Ehnes, who has been gaining an international reputation for smart, sensitive musicianship: “He really does combine complete technical mastery with deep, soulful playing of melodies, and this makes him perfect for the Tchaikovsky Concerto.” Illick will also conduct a relative rarity from Tchaikovsky’s catalog: the Symphony No. 1, subtitled “Winter Dreams.” “It isn’t played as often as his Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Symphonies, but it is the youthful masterpiece of a genius. It has wonderful melodies, it’s full of passion, it’s sometimes exuberant and sometimes melancholy, and it has a thrilling and rousing finale.”
The scope of PSF’s offerings notwithstanding, a fair amount of classical music will still parade through in the course of the season. The orchestra will convene again for the organization’s traditional performances on Christmas Eve (in which Illick will conduct Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony and the duo-pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Roe will be featured in an arrangement of Brahms’ Double Concerto, which was originally crafted for violin and cello) and on New Year’s Eve (Beethoven’s Third Symphony plus Schumann’s Piano Concerto, featuring Joyce Yang). The most highbrow recital will doubtless be the one on Dec. 1, in which Gil Shaham plays Bach’s three Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin, two of which — those in E major and D minor — he also performed here when PSF (then SFCA) presented him in 2011. (Curiously, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was also on the group’s orchestral season opener that year. History repeats itself.) Further solo recitals will come from guitarist Ana Vidovic´ (April 15) and pianist Yuja Wang (May 9).
The most interesting recital of the season is scheduled for Feb. 20: an organ recital by Cameron Carpenter. A number of notable organists have performed in Santa Fe in recent years, drawn by the Fisk tracker-action organ at First Presbyterian Church, but Carpenter will not be appearing there. He will be playing at the Lensic, and he will be bringing his own instrument with him, the “international touring organ” he designed to his own specifications — spanning five keyboards plus pedal work — and had constructed by the Massachusetts firm of Marshall & Ogletree. Pianists must constantly adapt to unfamiliar instruments while on tour, but the challenge is even greater for organists, who must select from a profusion of timbral resources to support their interpretations, resources that vary vastly from organ to organ. Carpenter’s solution is a portable digital instrument rather than a pipe organ. Back in, say, 1981 — the year Carpenter was born — electronic organs did not really have a role to play in the context of the high art of organ playing. But the state of electronics has advanced just a bit in the ensuing decades. Digital organs remain a species distinct from pipe organs, but the best of them now boast extraordinary resources on which an attuned musician might draw. Whatever your image of an organ recitalist may be, it is probably not what Carpenter is — that is, unless you have encountered him before. People may get all hot and bothered about Yuja Wang’s scanty dresses, but it is Carpenter who may walk onstage wearing a black leather get-up or a silver-lamé ensemble along with jewel-studded footwear. The shoes involve Swarovski crystals from Austria, he insisted in an interview with New York City radio station WQXR a few years ago. “I find that crystals on the shoes not only improve visibility, but they’re very difficult to imitate without being totally obvious.” In any case, he possesses terrifying technique that he looses on a breadth of material that might stretch in a single recital from Bach and Franck to ’60s pop songs and music from movies real or imagined. This concert may not prove to everyone’s taste, but one would miss it at one’s peril.
Some of the season’s strongest offerings involve dance. Stars of American Ballet is now behind us, but still ahead, on Oct. 27, lies an appearance by the Mark Morris Dance Group. The company will consist of 19 dancers blessedly assisted by two pianists, a violinist, and a cellist — and, really, having live music
in a dance performance makes such a difference. Three works are on the bill, set to scores by Bach, Hummel, and Lou Harrison. The troupe, which Morris founded in 1980, has managed to straddle the divide between dance connoisseurs and “lay audiences,” offering much to admire no matter what the viewer’s background. Color, vivacity, subtle humor, and infectious ebullience are typically prominent in Morris’ arsenal, along with the profound connection his choreography has with the music he employs. At the end of the season, on May 22, comes Savion Glover, the acclaimed avant-garde tap-dancer; he’ll be joined by fellow tapper Marshall Davis Jr. and jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette.
A return appearance by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (Sept. 29) is self-recommending for jazz aficionados. Classical-jazz crossover arrives by way of the Harlem String Quartet (Nov. 16), and the string trio Time for Three (Feb. 16) will bring a playlist that is likely to touch on those areas plus rock, bluegrass, and hip-hop. The Canadian Brass (Jan. 26) can be counted on to bring one of its technically impressive “classical lite” programs. The world of musical theater gets its moment, too, when PSF mounts a cabaret staging of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Oct. 9-10). This revue of some 25 songs by the Belgian songwriter has shown remarkable staying power since being unveiled in 1968. Quite a few of its numbers — including “Madeleine,” “Marathon,” and “Carousel” — are hard-wired into the memories of people who came of age in those heady times, but younger viewers have also proved susceptible to the show’s timeless appeal, which rests on its anti-establishmentarian idealism, its sense of unvarnished realism, and its poignant take on la condition humaine.
Mark Morris Dance Group
Elizabeth Roe and Greg Anderson