The Arty Semite

The Arty Semite Guide to May Classical Concerts

By Benjamin Ivry

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Photo Janette Beckman, Courtesy of concertartists.org
Chasing Reich Flutist Claire Chase will perform Steve Reich’s “Vermont Counterpoint” at the Walter Reade Theater.

As summertime slowly approaches, concerts of music both minimal and maximal will enchant Manhattanites in search of aural Yiddishkeit. On April 29 at the Walter Reade Theater, flutist Claire Chase will perform Steve Reich’s “Vermont Counterpoint” in its version for flute and tape; the alternate version, for eleven flutes, would doubtless exceed even the gifted Chase’s capacities. She will be joined for other, less minimalist, works on the program by the pianist Jacob Greenberg. On May 1 at Carnegie Hall, Reich’s mini-fluting is exchanged for emotional maxing-out in the form of Gustav Mahler’s songs interpreted by baritone Matthias Goerne with the superstar pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

The next day at Zankel Hall, Hungarian Jewish pianist András Schiff offers not-to-be-missed performances of his landsman György Kurtág’s aphoristic works, including two American premieres. On May 4 at Bargemusic, cellist Dave Eggar and pianist Olga Vinokur will play more intriguing sounds in reduced formats, including Philadelphia-born Aaron Jay Kernis’s “Air for cello and piano” (1996) and Marc Mellits’s “Fruity Pebbles” for violin, cello, and piano (1997). The latter work contains a playful tribute to Leonard Bernstein, somewhat curiously quoting TV’s “Brady Bunch” theme, itself a classic at Maryland’s Beth Tfiloh Day Camps where Mellits’ mother long worked as assistant director.

Still at Bargemusic on May 11, the pianist Geoffrey Burleson, who has authoritatively recorded works of American Jewish composer and critic Arthur Berger for Centaur Records, will perform Berger’s crisply rhythmic, concise “Three Bagatelles.” On May 11 at Weill Recital Hall, the song cycle “La bonne cuisine (Four Recipes)” by Bernstein, a composer who never stinted on anything, will feature soprano Nadine Sierra backed by pianist Carol Wong.

Equally large-scaled are the fervent “Piano Variations” by Bernstein’s mentor Aaron Copland, as played by Emanuel Ax at a must-hear May 17 Carnegie Hall recital. A May surplus of Bernstein also includes the composer’s “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’” played by the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York on May 19 at Carnegie Hall. The next day at the same venue, the eloquent violinist Christian Tetzlaff plays majestic concertos by Felix Mendelssohn and Arnold Schoenberg with the MET Orchestra led by David Robertson.

Then at Bargemusic on May 26 and 27, Mark Peskanov (violin), Kyle Armburst (viola), Eric Jacobsen (cello) and Steven Beck (piano) play superlative piano quartets by Mahler and Mendelssohn, an even odder couple than Mendelssohn and Schoenberg. Altogether a May of minimal and maximal marvels.

Listen to Marc-André Hamelin play Aaron Copland’s “Piano Variations.”

Watch part of Marc Mellits’ “Fruity Pebbles” played by Ellen Jewett (violin), Irem Yüksel (cello), and Zeynep Özsuca (piano) in 2011.


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