This Shift lasts 7 days, and we might want more

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPRING ARTS PREVIEW | CLASSICAL MUSIC - Anne Midgette anne.midgette@wash­

A fes­ti­val of Amer­i­can or­ches­tras, cel­e­brat­ing the va­ri­ety and rich­ness of Amer­i­can mu­sic, is a great idea on pa­per. But in a field that’s stereo­typ­i­cally thought of as Euro­pean, in which the Amer­i­can com­po­nent al­ways seems to be vy­ing, like a younger sib­ling, for equal time and at­ten­tion, it’s an open ques­tion whether au­di­ences are as in­ter­ested as I am. With its Shift Fes­ti­val this spring, the Kennedy Cen­ter and Wash­ing­ton Per­form­ing Arts are plan­ning to find out.

The idea isn’t new. When the Spring for Mu­sic fes­ti­val was launched at Carnegie Hall sev­eral years ago, bring­ing or­ches­tras from across the United States to play a lot of Amer­i­can work, with a flat ticket price of a mere $25, it drew a lot of at­ten­tion — but not, alas, enough ticket buy­ers to keep the fes­ti­val go­ing be­yond the four years orig­i­nally planned. The Kennedy Cen­ter and WPA de­cided that, with the com­bined mus­cle of their two or­ga­ni­za­tions and a clearer man­date of bring­ing a cross­sec­tion of Amer­i­can work to Amer­ica’s cap­i­tal, they could give it a bet­ter shot, and thus have re-cre­ated the fes­ti­val, with a new name and con­cept but the same $25 price.

So get ready for a solid week of var­ied or­ches­tral mu­sic and ex­pe­ri­ences: an evening-long mul­ti­me­dia or­a­to­rio from the At­lanta Sym­phony; a new piece that the Brook­lyn cham­ber en­sem­ble the Knights wrote col­lab­o­ra­tively for them­selves; a na­ture walk with the Boul­der Phil­har­monic; an ar­ray of new mu­sic from the North Carolina Sym­phony. In a world where “vis­it­ing or­ches­tras” of­ten seems to be equated with “large groups of peo­ple from Europe or Philadel­phia play­ing works from the canon,” and in which timid main­stream clas­si­cal-mu­sic pre­sen­ters too of­ten seem wary of go­ing out on a limb, I’m ea­ger to see how Shift plays out.

The Shift Fes­ti­val is March 27 to April 2, with the Boul­der Phil­har­monic on March 28, the North Carolina Sym­phony on March 29, the At­lanta Sym­phony Orches­tra on March 31 and the Knights on April 1, all in the Kennedy Cen­ter Con­cert Hall. Tick­ets to ev­ery­thing are $25.

Also worth not­ing

When baroque opera comes to Wash­ing­ton, it’s a ma­jor event. This spring, three ma­jor lo­cal pre­sen­ters — the Kennedy Cen­ter, Wash­ing­ton Per­form­ing Arts and Vo­cal Arts D.C. — are join­ing forces to bring Joyce DiDonato to town in the ti­tle role of Han­del’s “Ari­o­dante,” sup­ported by the con­duc­tor Harry Bicket, a noted ear­ly­mu­sic spe­cial­ist, and the English Con­cert. At the other end of the spec­trum are two new Amer­i­can works at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Opera: “Dead Man Walk­ing,” which put the com­poser Jake Heg­gie on the map and re­mains one of the most-per­formed con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can op­eras, and “Cham­pion,” a jazz opera by Ter­ence Blan­chard.

“Ari­o­dante” takes place at the Kennedy Cen­ter Con­cert Hall on May 2, “Dead Man Walk­ing” opens at the Kennedy Cen­ter Opera House on Feb. 25 and “Cham­pion” opens March 4.

It’s in the na­ture of a recital to de­mand that we pick just one — just one fea­tured artist with whom to spend an evening. But it’s in the na­ture of a mu­sic sea­son to pro­duce a cor­nu­copia of such choices: masters vy­ing for our at­ten­tion. Some of the high­lights of the solo cal­en­dar this spring in­clude Daniil Tri­fonov, the bril­liant Rus­sian­born pi­anist who’s shap­ing up to be one of the hottest prop­er­ties for se­ri­ous mu­sic lovers, April 4 at the Kennedy Cen­ter; the so­prano Anne Sch­wanewilms, bring­ing her pow­er­ful voice to more in­ti­mate mu­sic for Vo­cal Arts D.C. on April 20 at the Univer­sity of D.C.’s The­ater Arts au­di­to­rium with Mal­colm Martineau; and Steven Isserlis, the in­ven­tive cel­list, com­ing with Con­nie Shih to the Li­brary of Congress on April 21. Some recitals, of course, don’t re­quire us to choose — such as the duo ap­pear­ance of two star soloists, Leif Ove And­snes and Mar­cAn­dré Hamelin, play­ing to­gether in works for two pi­anos and four hands May 1 at the Kennedy Cen­ter.


The Boul­der Phil­har­monic per­forms with the aerial troupe the Fre­quent Fly­ers. Catch the Colorado mu­si­cians here in the cap­i­tal. Boul­der is one of four or­ches­tras par­tic­i­pat­ing in a new ex­per­i­ment with Amer­i­can clas­si­cal mu­sic con­ducted by the Kennedy Cen­ter: its week-long Shift orches­tra fes­ti­val.

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