The Arty Semite

Celebrating Purim Early with Delectable Concerts

By Benjamin Ivry

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New York music lovers need hardly wait for Purim to feel the springtime party mood. From February 3rd to 6th, a City Center Encores! production of Kurt Weill’s 1949 musical “Lost in the Stars” can be seen in New York. A prescient argument against South African apartheid, Weill composed his score after studying Zulu music, which infused his music with what he called a “Biblical tone that we hope the public will like.”

A different kind of spirituality can be heard in “Rothko Chapel” by modern American Jewish composer Morton Feldman, performed at Alice Tully Hall on February 24 by Jeffrey Milarsky’s Axiom chamber ensemble. Composer Dániel Biró has aptly pointed to Feldman and the painter Mark Rothko, apart from being friends, sharing European Jewish heritage, a need for abstraction, and a will to “discover the mystery of perception within art.” Also performed at the same concert will be works by the great Hungarian Jewish modernist György Kurtág.

More traditional-sounding but no less majestic is the Concerto Grosso No. 1 by Swiss Jewish composer Ernest Bloch, played on February 28th by the Yale Philharmonia at Zankel Hall, led by Shinik Hahm. The multi-talented Bloch is currently being honored with an exhibit of his photographs at the Oregon Jewish Museum, “Ernest Bloch — Framing a Vision of the World” which opened January 12th and runs until May 8th.

More Weill is on the menu from March 3rd to 5th, when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs the master’s songs at the Rose Theater with the characterful singer Ute Lemper. The Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine arrives at Carnegie Hall on March 16 for a concert featuring Arnold Schoenberg’s sensitive 1928 Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31and ruggedly spiky 1942 Piano Concerto, Op. 42, with the mighty soloist and Schoenberg maven Maurizio Pollini. The next day, March 17, the BSO and Levine perform Mahler’s cataclysmic Ninth Symphony. On the same busy March 17th (and again on March 20th) at the Rose Theater, the Martha Graham Dance Company will perform the ballet version of American Jewish composer Aaron Copland’s beloved achievement in Americana, “Appalachian Spring.”

And from March 17th to 20th, fans of spiffy musical comedy will delight in the City Center Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert performances of “Where’s Charley?,” Frank Loesser’s musical version of the 1892 British transvestite farce “Charley’s Aunt.” Wear your Purim costume early!

Listen to part of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto played by Glenn Gould.


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