Lis­ten Up

James M. Keller gives an over­view of the com­ing con­cert sea­son

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - James M. Keller

The 2018-19 con­cert sea­son should be good for the pi­ano-tun­ing busi­ness in Santa Fe, where key­board mu­sic looms large among the year’s most prom­i­nent of­fer­ings. The pi­ano is a mar­velous in­ven­tion, al­low­ing to­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity for an in­ter­pre­ta­tion to be con­cen­trated into a sin­gle per­former. “Re­spect the pianoforte!” wrote the pi­anist and ar­ranger Fer­ruc­cio Bu­soni. “It gives a sin­gle man com­mand over some­thing com­plete: in its abil­ity to go from very soft to very loud in one and the same reg­is­ter it ex­cels all the in­stru­ments. The trum­pet can blare, but not sigh; the flute is con­trary; the pianoforte can do both. Its range em­braces the high­est and the low­est prac­ti­ca­ble notes. Re­spect the pianoforte!” On the other hand, over­fa­mil­iar­ity has given rise to oc­ca­sional jibes, one of the most mem­o­rable be­ing its def­i­ni­tion in Am­brose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dic­tionary: “Pi­ano, n. A par­lor uten­sil for sub­du­ing the im­pen­i­tent vis­i­tor. It is op­er­ated by de­press­ing the keys of the ma­chine and the spir­its of the au­di­ence.”

Anum­ber of fa­mil­iar pian­ists will pay re­peat vis­its to our re­gion this year. Anne-Marie McDer­mott has be­come a go-to soloist for Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Orches­tra, with whom she played all five Beethoven pi­ano con­cer­tos over the past two sea­sons. On Sept. 22-23, she will join the group again, this time in Mozart’s Pi­ano Con­certo in D mi­nor (K. 466), a brood­ing work that in some re­spects sounds like proto-Beethoven; in fact, Beethoven mas­tered the piece and kept in his per­form­ing reper­toire for some years. Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica’s long­time mu­sic di­rec­tor, Thomas O’Con­nor, will con­duct (Haydn’s

Ox­ford Sym­phony and a piece by con­tem­po­rary com­poser Chris Cer­rone are also on the pro­gram), but for the rest of the sea­son the orches­tra will usu­ally be led by guest con­duc­tors who are au­di­tion­ing to suc­ceed him.

An­other very fa­mil­iar face is Con­rad Tao, who has per­formed here al­most an­nu­ally since he was a four­teen-year-old prodigy, usu­ally un­der Pro Mu­sica’s aus­pices. This year, how­ever, he will be pre­sented by St. John’s Col­lege, where he is slated for a recital on Nov. 9. This twenty-four-year-old artist has not yet an­nounced his pro­gram, but he of­ten puts to­gether gen­uinely in­ter­est­ing recitals. We will watch ea­gerly for de­tails to emerge.

Emanuel Ax has been a more oc­ca­sional vis­i­tor here, but his con­certs are al­ways wel­come. He be­longs to the elite A-list of in­ter­na­tional pi­ano soloists, and se­ri­ous mu­sic-lovers should mark his March 31 recital at the Len­sic in their cal­en­dars be­fore any­thing else gets in the way. I have re­peat­edly crit­i­cized Per­for­mance Santa Fe for the ca­su­al­ness with which it has an­nounced (or, bet­ter put, not an­nounced) reper­toire in the past. I am over­joyed to com­mend them this time around. This year, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site in­cludes reper­toire for all the classical con­certs they are pre­sent­ing ex­cept the last one, and it may be that the en­sem­ble fea­tured in that one has not yet com­mit­ted to its playlist eight months in the fu­ture. Ax, how­ever, has ev­ery­thing in place, and it should be an in­vig­o­rat­ing con­cert: a thought­fully plot­ted mix­ture of fa­mous and not-so-fa­mous pieces by Brahms, Schu­mann, Ravel, Chopin, and Ge­orge Ben­jamin.

Los Alamos Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion had a rough time last year, de­camp­ing to an al­ter­na­tive space while its usual home (the Duane Smith Au­di­to­rium of Los Alamos High School) was un­der­go­ing ren­o­va­tion, but this year its au­di­ences will be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­proved crea­ture com­forts. On May 3, they can do so while tak­ing in a recital by Gabriela Mon­tero ,a fas­ci­nat­ing mu­si­cian who is notable as one of the few in­ter­na­tional-grade classical pian­ists who loves to im­pro­vise for her au­di­ences. She has also emerged as a po­tent voice in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs of state, speak­ing out against the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic dev­as­ta­tion of her na­tive Venezuela. Again, the spe­cific pro­gram has yet to be an­nounced.

The pi­ano team of An­der­son & Roe have been here of­ten enough that con­cert­go­ers will have a sense of their ca­pac­ity to veer into over-ar­dent glitzi­ness. None­the­less, this is a highly ac­com­plished en­sem­ble, and one looks for­ward to hear­ing them when they join the Santa Fe Sym­phony and con­duc­tor Guillermo Figueroa for a Christ­mas Eve con­cert at the Len­sic. Their “let me en­ter­tain you” side will doubt­less come to the fore when they play their Car­men Fan­tasy, which they ar­ranged out of themes by Bizet. But the rea­son this item should go into your date­book is that they will also be fea­tured in Poulenc’s Con­certo for Two Pianos, one of the most stel­lar pieces in the duo-pi­ano reper­toire.

Donna Cole­man, an Amer­i­can pi­anist who has de­vel­oped much of her ca­reer in Aus­tralia, may not

boast a very fa­mous name, but her record­ings are im­pres­sive and her mu­si­cal imag­i­na­tion is com­pelling. This fall, she will be at the cen­ter of the “OutBach Fes­ti­val of (Mostly) Amer­i­can Mu­sic” at the in­ti­mate San Miguel Chapel, a se­ries of three con­certs that fo­cus on Charles Ives (her spe­cialty) and other Amer­i­can com­posers of the 19th and early 20th cen­turies. Her CD of Ives’ Con­cord Sonata is rou­tinely cited as a notable reading. On Nov. 27, she per­forms what she calls her “scripted ver­sion” of that piece — which we guess means with read­ings from the au­thors who in­spired its four move­ments. The fes­tiv­i­ties con­tinue with con­certs, on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, in which she is joined by her col­leagues in the Con­cord Trio, per­form­ing Amer­i­can pieces (in­clud­ing Ives’ Pi­ano Trio) and also co­eval cham­ber works by Kodály and Ravel.

Else­where in the key­board world, Santa Feans will have many op­por­tu­ni­ties this sea­son to ap­pre­ci­ate the C.B. Fisk tracker-ac­tion or­gan at First Pres­by­te­rian Church. It is with­out a doubt the finest or­gan in New Mex­ico based on his­tor­i­cal or­gan-build­ing prin­ci­ples that would have been fa­mil­iar to Bach, Couperin, Mozart, and all other com­posers of pre-Ro­man­tic times. To mark the 10th an­niver­sary of its in­stal­la­tion, the church has put to­gether a year-long cel­e­bra­tion that spot­lights a suc­ces­sion of re­doubtable or­gan­ists, ris­ing to a peak in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. The recitals in­clude names greatly re­spected in the some­what clois­tered realm of or­gan afi­ciona­dos. Three that par­tic­u­larly snagged our at­ten­tion are Janette Fishell, chair of the or­gan depart­ment of In­di­ana Univer­sity’s Jacobs School of Mu­sic, on Oct. 19; Kim­berly Mar­shall, for­merly univer­sity or­gan­ist at Stan­ford Univer­sity and a spe­cial­ist in or­gans and reper­toire of the late medieval and Re­nais­sance pe­ri­ods, on Nov. 2; and Nathan J. Laube, from the fac­ul­ties of the East­man School of Mu­sic and the Royal Birm­ing­ham Con­ser­va­toire in the United King­dom, one of the fastest-ris­ing stars of the or­gan world, on Nov. 9. You don’t do or­gan recitals? This might be the year to re­think that.

Lis­ten­ers whose tastes run to string-play­ing should take note of a recital by the Scot­tish vi­o­lin­ist Ni­cola Benedetti. Per­for­mance Santa Fe presents her, as­sisted by pi­anist Alexei Grynyuk, at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium on Jan. 23. The first half of the pro­gram looks al­lur­ing: the much-tra­versed Cha­conne from Bach’s Par­tita No. 2 for Un­ac­com­pa­nied Vi­o­lin, and then Prokofiev’s Vi­o­lin Sonata No. 2, which should be well cal­i­brated to Benedetti’s mu­si­cal ex­tro­ver­sion. Af­ter in­ter­mis­sion comes a new, as-yet-un­named piece by Wyn­ton Marsalis (is it de­rived from the Vi­o­lin Con­certo he wrote for her a cou­ple of years ago?) and the Richard Strauss Vi­o­lin Sonata, a penance we last bore when Vadim Gluz­man trudged through it (also for Per­for­mance Santa Fe) this past Fe­bru­ary.

The em­i­nent Emerson String Quar­tet, pre­sented by Per­for­mance Santa Fe comes, in on May 10, but other quar­tets of grand stand­ing will also pass through, courtesy of Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica. Con­nois­seurs of cham­ber mu­sic will prob­a­bly al­ready ad­mire the Barcelona-based Cuar­teto Casals, the lead­ing string quar­tet of Spain (well, its vi­o­list is Amer­i­can). Founded in 1997, the group gained early at­ten­tion by win­ning sev­eral high-pro­file in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and dis­sem­i­nated its work through nu­mer­ous CDs on the Har­mo­nia Mundi la­bel. Their pro­gram on Feb. 24 will fo­cus on clas­sics: Haydn’s Bird Quar­tet, Bartók’s Quar­tet No. 3, a set of Pur­cell fan­tasias, and De­bussy’s Quar­tet. Also on Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica’s sched­ule is the Elias String Quar­tet, which on the af­ter­noon of March 31 will of­fer quar­tets by Mozart, Schu­mann, and the con­tem­po­rary Bri­tish com­poser Sally Beamish. Based in Lon­don, the Elias was formed just a few years af­ter the Casals, and they have a still more in­ter­na­tional makeup — as they de­scribe them­selves, “two French-Cata­lan sis­ters, a Swedish vi­ola player and a Scot.” This will be dou­ble­header day for mu­sic-lovers, with the Elias four­some play­ing at 3 p.m. and Emanuel Ax per­form­ing at 7:30 that evening.

Lovers of early mu­sic were dis­ap­pointed last March when storms on the East Coast pre­vented the Venice Baroque Orches­tra from ar­riv­ing for its planned per­for­mance in Los Alamos. We get an­other chance, since Per­for­mance Santa Fe will host the pe­riod-in­stru­ment group on Oct. 30. The en­sem­ble is a se­ri­ous player in the in­ter­na­tional his­tor­i­cal-per­for­mance scene, hav­ing re­leased many lauded record­ings on the Naïve, Sony, and Deutsche Grammophon la­bels. Ex­cept for one work by Francesco Gem­ini­ani (his re­cast­ing of Corelli’s Vari­a­tions on La fo­lia), ev­ery­thing on the pro­gram is by Vi­valdi, the su­per­star of late-Baroque mu­sic in Venice — so a home­town com­pa­triot for these mu­si­cians. In other hands, a mostly Vi­valdi con­cert could be som­no­lent, but this en­sem­ble brings depend­able ex­u­ber­ance to its per­for­mances. Among the mu­si­cians fea­tured in this con­cert is recorder vir­tu­oso Anna Fusek, who is also known to ap­pear as a highly ac­com­plished soloist on pi­ano and on vi­o­lin — so sur­prises may be in store here.

Ap­pre­ci­a­tors of early mu­sic may also want to carve out some hours at the end of May and be­gin­ning of June. On May 31, Per­for­mance Santa Fe presents the Los An­ge­les Mas­ter Cho­rale (con­ducted by Grant Ger­shon) in a staged ren­di­tion of the La­grime di San

Pietro, a cy­cle of sa­cred madri­gals by 16th-cen­tury com­poser Or­lande de Las­sus (a.k.a. Or­lando di Lasso). This will be per­formed as a staged event directed by Peter Sel­lars. You may re­call that the com­bi­na­tion of di­rec­tor Sel­lars and con­duc­tor Ger­shon gave rise to that pro­duc­tion of Vi­valdi’s Griselda at Santa Fe Opera back in 2011, a mem­ory that would be a jus­ti­fi­able rea­son to book pas­sage to any­where but Santa Fe on that date. On the other hand, many peo­ple have been moved by Sel­lars’ ac­tion-packed ver­sions of such con­cert works as Bach’s St. Matthew Pas­sion, so maybe this will be rev­e­la­tory. In any case, it is an ex­cel­lent choir, and the mu­sic (com­posed in 1594, the last year of Las­sus’ life) is re­strained and mys­ti­cal. Since Sel­lars is in­volved, the cho­rus mem­bers will prob­a­bly spend a por­tion of the evening ly­ing on the stage floor.

Turn­ing to a still ear­lier era, the Santa Fe-based group Sev­er­all Friends will of­fer a rare per­for­mance of the Ro­man de Fau­vel, a 14th-cen­tury French ro­mance-in-verse. The most re­mark­able sur­viv­ing copy of the piece has mu­sic in­ter­spersed, some of it by the noted medieval com­poser Philippe de Vitry. The work is an al­le­gory about rep­re­hen­si­ble hu­man traits. The cen­tral char­ac­ter is Fau­vel, a horse (or ass), whose name is an ana­gram for Fla­terie, Avarice,

Vi­lanie, Va­ri­eté, En­vie, Lascheté — which is to say, Flat­tery, Avarice, Vile­ness, Fick­le­ness, Envy, and Cow­ardice. The singers and in­stru­men­tal­ists will be joined by pro­jected il­lu­mi­na­tions cus­tom-made for this pro­duc­tion. Per­for­mances are slated for San Miguel Chapel on June 1 (the venue may pos­si­bly change), and at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos on June 2. This is the sort of ironic spoof our medieval an­ces­tors could bring off with rol­lick­ing cyn­i­cism, and one ex­pects that its out­look will prove ev­ery bit as rel­e­vant to our own time.

Emanuel Ax

Anne-Marie McDer­mott

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