Lis­ten Up

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James M. Keller’s picks for the 2016-17 con­cert sea­son

Com­posers have some­times pi­geon­holed Septem­ber as the be­gin­ning of the end. “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to De­cem­ber/ But the days grow short when you reach Septem­ber,” run Maxwell Anderson’s lyrics for Kurt Weill’s fa­mous “Septem­ber Song” in the 1938 show Knicker­bocker Hol­i­day, the idea be­ing that any­one sit­ting around wait­ing to fall in love had bet­ter seize the mo­ment. Still more cre­pus­cu­lar is the most mag­nif­i­cent of all Septem­ber songs, the set­ting that is one of the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss. Com­posed in Sept. 1948 — Strauss would die ex­actly one year later — “Septem­ber” per­fectly con­veys the com­bi­na­tion of sen­su­ous­ness and ex­haus­tion de­scribed in Her­mann Hesse’s poem: “Sum­mer sum­mons up a smile — as­ton­ished, weak — in the dy­ing dream of the gar­den. It re­mains stand­ing yet a while be­side the roses, yearn­ing for peace. Slowly does it close its big, weary eyes.”

We get the picture, but did th­ese com­posers for­get that Septem­ber is also the start of the con­cert sea­son? In Santa Fe, it is re­ally the end of Au­gust when mu­sic lovers close their big, weary eyes (and ears) af­ter the ridicu­lously jam-packed sounds of sum­mer. Septem­ber is a time of re­birth, ush­er­ing in a new an­nual cy­cle of con­cert-go­ing.

In that sense, the 2016-17 sea­son is like those that pre­ceded it. This year, how­ever, our lo­cal pre­sen­ters are of­fer­ing lit­tle in the way of in­ter­na­tional-level stars, and the pro­gram­ming our home­grown or­ga­ni­za­tions have put to­gether looks over-fa­mil­iar and even a bit weary. Back in July we com­mented on the paucity of clas­si­cal-mu­sic con­certs in this year’s lineup from Per­for­mance Santa Fe, at least fol­low­ing the flurry of its sum­mer vo­cal recitals. Shortly af­ter that, the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter an­nounced its sea­son, which added noth­ing sig­nif­i­cant to the mix in the way of live clas­si­cal mu­sic. Last spring the Santa Fe Sym­phony se­lected Guillermo Figueroa as its new principal con­duc­tor, fol­low­ing two years of au­di­tion­ing can­di­dates who in­jected oc­ca­sional sparkle into the pro­grams; and hav­ing done that, it seems to be set­tling back into the meat-and-pota­toes reper­toire rou­tine to which it had been pre­vi­ously ac­cus­tomed. Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica con­tin­ues to show gump­tion, host­ing two string quar­tets of high qual­ity, in ad­di­tion to in­clud­ing some re­cently com­posed works along with fa­mil­iar clas­sics in each of its self-pro­duced or­ches­tral con­certs. The Los Alamos Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion also seems to be buck­ing the trend; af­ter a few hum­drum years, it is of­fer­ing a sea­son that should in­spire Santa Feans to make mul­ti­ple treks up the hill dur­ing the com­ing months.

Each of our city’s many mu­si­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions has its own fol­low­ing, as they should. There is no rea­son that mu­sic-lov­ing fans should not go to ev­ery­thing their fa­vorite group presents. A cu­ri­ous thing about Santa Fe’s con­cert life, how­ever, is how lit­tle au­di­ence cross­over one sees from or­ga­ni­za­tion to or­ga­ni­za­tion. For ex­am­ple, a sur­pris­ing num­ber of peo­ple re­port that they go to the Santa Fe Sym­phony but not to Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica; or they go to the Desert Cho­rale but not to the Santa Fe Women’s Ensem­ble; and so on. I have long thought it would make good sense for our city’s clas­si­cal mu­sic groups to band to­gether to cre­ate an in­ter-or­ga­ni­za­tional sub­scrip­tion series that would en­tice peo­ple to sam­ple the va­ri­ety of their of­fer­ings. Since they haven’t, I will.

By pick­ing and choos­ing se­lec­tively among the of­fer­ings of var­i­ous con­cert or­ga­ni­za­tions, I have de­vised a promis­ing lis­ten­ing plan for Santa Fe’s clas­si­cal mu­sic lovers in the 2016-17 sea­son. I have cho­sen th­ese based on the con­certs them­selves, not by try­ing to be even-handed about in­clud­ing one or­ga­ni­za­tion or an­other, although they do end up of­fer­ing a con­sid­er­able va­ri­ety of per­form­ing forces and reper­toire. I have steered away from pro­grams that ar­rive with an­nual pre­dictabil­ity. If you al­ways like to go to the Sym­phony’s Mes­siah, the Desert Cho­rale’s Christ­mas-sea­son “car­ols and lul­la­bies,” or Pro Mu­sica’s Holy Week Baroque con­certs, you should ab­so­lutely go again this year — but you shouldn’t ex­pect any­thing rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from your past ex­pe­ri­ence. An­nounce­ments for unan­tic­i­pated events will surely ar­rive as the sea­son pro­gresses, but based on what we know at this point, this looks to me like a promis­ing “sub­scrip­tion” you could put to­gether for your­self out of the sea­son’s of­fer­ings.

▼ Sun­day, Oct. 16 (4 p.m., Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter) — Pi­anist Olga Kern, the co-win­ner of the 2001 Van Cliburn In­ter­na­tional Pi­ano Com­pe­ti­tion, has im­pressed in past per­for­mances here. This Rus­sian pi­anist (now liv­ing in New York) tends to­ward pow­er­ful, vir­tu­osic play­ing, which should serve her well in Rach­mani­noff’s Pi­ano Con­certo No. 3, warhorse that it is. The guest con­duc­tor for this Santa Fe Sym­phony con­cert is Ig­nat Solzhen­it­syn, a no­table pi­anist in his own right but also an ac­com­plished con­duc­tor. Yes, his fa­ther was Alek­sandr. Au­then­tic Rus­sian bona fides should be brought to bear on the Rach­mani­noff and Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s Rus­sian Easter

Over­ture be­fore the or­ches­tra con­cludes with Si­belius’ big-boned Fifth Sym­phony. ▼ Satur­day, Nov. 5 (4 p.m., Len­sic) and Sun­day, Nov. 6 (3 p.m., Len­sic) — The string play­ers of the Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Or­ches­tra, con­ducted by Thomas

O’Con­nor, present Schu­bert’s fa­mous Death and the

Maiden String Quar­tet as tran­scribed and “re­touched” (as he put it) by Gus­tav Mahler — an in­ter­est­ing in­ter­sec­tion of great names. Round­ing out the con­cert are Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyen­das: An An­dean

Walk­a­bout, which draws on the Peru­vian strand of her fam­ily her­itage, and a piece that should make Santa Feans spring to at­ten­tion: Michael Daugh­erty’s Lad­der

to the Moon, con­sist­ing of two move­ments in­spired by spe­cific paint­ings of Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe. Scored for solo vi­o­lin and string or­ches­tra, it was pre­miered in 2006 by vi­o­lin­ist Ida Kavafian, who will be the soloist here as well. ▼ Tues­day, Nov. 29 (7:30 p.m., Len­sic) — Stephen Hough is a re­mark­able pi­anist, but some­times he gets la­beled a “pi­anist’s pi­anist” or a “con­nois­seur’s mu­si­cian” be­cause his stage de­meanor is so un­pre­pos­sess­ing and his in­ter­pre­ta­tions are so ob­vi­ously driven by se­ri­ous in­tel­lec­tual cu­rios­ity. Mu­sic lovers should not miss the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence mas­ter­works as fil­tered through the mind and fin­gers of this re­spected Bri­tish performer. In his recital, pre­sented by Per­for­mance Santa Fe, he’ll play Schu­bert’s late, searching A-mi­nor Sonata; Franck’s luminous Prélude, Choral et Fugue; one of his own com­po­si­tions, Sonata III (Trini­tas); and pieces by Liszt, in­clud­ing two of the Tran­scen­den­tal Etudes. ▼ Mon­day, Dec. 5 (7:30 p.m., Cathe­dral Basil­ica of St. Fran­cis of As­sisi) — Per­for­mance Santa Fe’s other ma­jor clas­si­cal of­fer­ing this year is The King’s Singers. Founded in 1966 by six choral schol­ars at King’s Col­lege, Cam­bridge, this a cap­pella ensem­ble has re­mained in fine form for half a cen­tury, seam­lessly sur­viv­ing many changes in per­son­nel while up­hold­ing their punc­til­ious style and charm­ing hu­mor. We as­sume their con­cert will in­clude se­lec­tions from their new CD, ti­tled Christ­mas Song­book, which con­sists of fa­mil­iar car­ols in imag­i­na­tive ar­range­ments; but their pro­grams usu­ally in­volve some Re­nais­sance motets, too, as well as witty set­tings of pop­u­lar songs. ▼ Sun­day, Jan. 15, 2017 (3 p.m., St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium) — The top drawer of Amer­i­can string quar­tets is not crowded, but you’ll def­i­nitely find the Brentano String Quar­tet there. Go­ing strong since 1992, the four­some is a ma­jor ex­po­nent of clas­sic lit­er­a­ture, such as the works by Haydn (Op. 20, No. 1) and Beethoven (Op. 59, No. 1) that fig­ure in this con­cert. Also on their playlist is a new piece be­ing writ­ten for them by Amer­i­can com­poser Steven Hartke, whose works are al­ways ex­pres­sive but, apart from that, hard to pre­dict. “We com­posers write the mu­sic we do be­cause we like it,” Hartke has said. “We do it as an of­fer­ing to in­trigue, please, en­ter­tain, stim­u­late, and move.” ▼ Fri­day, Feb. 3 (8 p.m., Duane W. Smith Au­di­to­rium, Los Alamos High School) — Quite a few young hot­shots of the vi­o­lin world have con­fessed that, at one point or an­other, they as­pired to be Joshua Bell. A fine fid­dler he is, this fel­low from In­di­ana who will turn fifty at the end of 2017 but still ex­udes youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance. His pro­gram is not yet an­nounced, but since he’s com­ing with a pi­ano ac­com­pa­nist (Sam Hay­wood, his usual duo-part­ner), at least we can as­sume he’ll put his Stradi­var­ius to use in some stan­dard sonata lit­er­a­ture. To whet lis­ten­ers’ ap­petites, Los Alamos Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion will be screen­ing The Re­turn of

the Vi­o­lin, a doc­u­men­tary that traces the cu­ri­ous story of Bell’s Strad, on Jan. 22 at 2 p.m. ▼ Sun­day, March 5 (3 p.m., St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium) — An­other highly re­garded string quar­tet ar­rives cour­tesy of Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica: the Cali­dore String Quar­tet, which sprung to promi­nence last spring when it was awarded the oddly named M-Prize, which car­ries with it $100,000, the rich­est purse of any cham­ber mu­sic honor. It is cur­rently on the ros­ter of CMS Two, a con­stituency of the Cham­ber Mu­sic So­ci­ety of Lin­coln Cen­ter that pro­motes es­pe­cially promis­ing young en­sem­bles. Two ma­jor clas­sics are on their pro­gram here — Mozart’s Quar­tet in D mi­nor and Dvorˇ ák’s Amer­i­can Quar­tet — along with a new work by Caro­line Shaw, win­ner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Mu­sic.

But there’s a prob­lem. Ex­actly one hour later be­gins a con­cert by the Bal­ti­more Consort, an adept and en­ter­tain­ing early-mu­sic group that is be­ing pre­sented by the Los Alamos Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion (Duane W. Smith Au­di­to­rium, Los Alamos High School). They’ll be play­ing a “great­est hits” pro­gram of in­stru­men­tal mu­sic from the Bri­tish Isles. You de­cide.

▼ Sun­day, March 19 (4 p.m., Len­sic) — The con­cert mark­ing Guillermo Figueroa’s ac­ces­sion as principal con­duc­tor of the Santa Fe Sym­phony will have taken place on Jan. 22, but a more in­ter­est­ing pro­gram is this one, in which he’ll lead Mahler’s Sym­phony No. 5, a piece most fa­mous for its af­fect­ing Adagi­etto move­ment. The sym­phony as a whole is a vast panorama of hu­man emo­tions, and it will de­mand care­ful prepa­ra­tion from the con­duc­tor and the or­ches­tra. Also on the bill is Glazunov’s col­or­ful Vi­o­lin Con­certo, with emerg­ing vir­tu­osa Jin­joo Cho. ▼ Satur­day, April 29 (4 p.m., Len­sic), and Sun­day, April 30 (3 p.m., Len­sic) — If Beethoven is your man, this should ring your bells. This sea­son and next, Thomas O’Con­nor will be con­duct­ing his Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Or­ches­tra in all five of that com­poser’s pi­ano con­cer­tos, be­gin­ning with Nos. 2, 3, and 4 in this con­cert. The pi­anist for the en­tire in­cen­tive is Anne-Marie McDermott, an im­pres­sive soloist and cham­ber mu­si­cian as well as artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Bravo! Vail fes­ti­val in Colorado. I have never known a per­for­mance of hers to dis­ap­point, and you can wa­ger on the fact that she wouldn’t un­der­take a trek like this if she weren’t deeply com­mit­ted to it.

We’ll re­mind you about all th­ese con­certs as they ap­proach, along with any pro­gram changes that may arise. But, ba­si­cally, there you have the core of a pretty good con­cert sea­son.

Olga Kern

Thomas O’Con­nor

Brentano Quar­tet

Joshua Bell

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