Brooklyn Rider In-Studio

Brooklyn Rider 5 by Sarah Small

(Photo credit Sarah Small)

Prokofiev Shines in Louisville orchestra broadcast

robert thies

Jorge Mester conducts and Robert Thies is the pianist in our next broadcast of the Louisville Orchestra on Classical 90.5, Thursday at 8 pm. Thies, who will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, is the first American pianist to win a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famed triumph in Moscow in 1958. Jorge Mester hails Robert “a genius.”

Peter Illych Tchaikovsky’s emotional Symphony No. 6 is also on the program. Mester conducts the work on the heels of his last appearance which included Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. The maestro says the latter work was influenced by Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture begins the broadcast. Read Daniel Gilliam’s review of this Louisville Orchestra performance here.

Review: Emerson String Quartet at Comstock Hall

Emerson String Quartet credit Lisa Mazzucco

(Photo credit: Lisa Mazzucco)

The celebrated Emerson String Quartet returned to Louisville on Sunday for their second performance in as many years, this time as part of the Chamber Music Society of Louisville’s concert series at Comstock Hall (their last performance was with the Louisville Orchestra).

The first two movements of Mozart’s Quartet in G major, K. 387, provided a lukewarm first impression, with intonation issues between the violins playing unison or an octave apart. The off-beat accents in the Menuetto were a bit forced and too punctuated. Mozart’s operatic third movement gave Philip Setzer a chance to shape sublime phrases with elegance. A vigorous final movement gave the composer the last laugh with a fake ending causing fairly hefty applause too early, requiring Mr. Setzer to tell the audience that the music was not over, after which the final few bars were played. You could almost hear Tom Hulce’s Amadeus cackling.

Central to the program in structure and length was the challenging and engrossing Lyric Suite by Alban Berg. As one of the second-Viennese composers mentored by Arnold Schoenberg, Berg’s use of the often clinical twelve-tone system is generally more melodic and approachable. Here in this dense and mystical score, Emerson was most comfortable with each player afforded textures rich and sparse, sparkling and gritty.

Beethoven’s Quartet in E-flat, Op. 74, from 1809 sits squarely among some of his most lauded works, including the third and fifth symphonies, the violin concerto, Fidelio and the “Waldstein” piano sonata. But unlike these emotionally weighty companions, the “Harp” quartet is, generally, lighter. Emerson’s delivery was passionate, if a little heavy. Violinist Eugene Drucker’s dexterity through a flurry of notes during the coda of the first movement was brilliant. Violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist Paul Watkins found moments to make their sound bloom in the final set of variations.

For an encore, Emerson played a Fantasia by Henry Purcell originally for a viol consort. Their playing wasn’t imitative of viols, but just sensitive enough for clarity. In some ways the Purcell sounded more like the Beethoven than the Beethoven.

If the concert seemed plodding, it wasn’t from the musicians performance, but the long pauses between every movement. Most seemed necessary for tuning – the hall was warm and stuffy, which could have been the culprit – but there was little connective tissue between movements. Unfortunately, these breaks added up making for a first half that had little momentum and energy.

The final concert of the Chamber Music Society of Louisville is Thursday at 7:30pm featuring Brooklyn Rider at the Clifton Center.

Classical 90.5 Presents: Lara Downes at Decca

lara downes

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday, acclaimed pianist Lara Downes will play a show highlighting her new album A Billie Holiday Songbook, on April 15th, 9pm at Decca Restaurant.

Downes grew up listening to Holiday’s recordings with her father, who was born and raised in Harlem only blocks from the iconic jazz clubs where Lady Day was a star presence in the 1930s and ’40s. Downes acknowledges that Holiday’s singing has been a lifelong influence. “As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music,” she says. “To make something that is completely your own – maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful. To take a chance. To quote this album’s final song: “But beautiful to take a chance, and if you fall, you fall. And I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind at all.”

Check out this preview of the concert. And also join her for Lunchtime Classics on April 15th at noon.

Louisville Ballet Closes Season With “A New World”

Robert Curran candid Kateryna Sellers creditRenata Pavam

(Robert Curran with Kateryna Sellers. Photo credit Renata Pavam)

The Louisville Ballet presents the closing production of its 2014-15 season, a mixed program entitled “A New World,” Friday and Saturday evening at the Brown Theatre.

It’s the first time that Louisville audiences will see work selected by artistic director Robert Curran, who took over from longtime artistic director Bruce Simpson last summer.

The program is comprised of three separate works, each noteworthy in their own way. The first, Serge Lifar’s “Suite en Blanc,” with music by French composer Edouard Lalo, will be performed for only the third time in the U.S. since its creation in 1943.

George Balanchine’s “Square Dance,” with music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli, will be performed with new scenic design by Louisville artist Letitia Quesenberry and new costumes from New York-based designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. Louisville Ballet received special permission from the Balanchine Trust, which oversees all performances of Balanchine’s work, to update the visual aspects of the piece.

The third piece is a world premiere by Australian choreographer Lucas Jervies, “What Light is to Our Eyes,” with music by American composer Sebastian Chang. Curran is a former dancer with Australian Ballet and has previously collaborated with Jervies.

Text by Tara Anderson

Here’s a preview of Quesenberry’s new art for “Square Dance”