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Club Free Time Blog

Summer = Festivals


Gail Wein
July 08, 2018

Summer is synonymous with festivals and outdoor concerts. This season, longtime favorite festivals bring us programs worth leaving the beach for.

A mainstay of the summer in New York City, going on for over a half-century, is Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, July 12-August 12. Highlights include Festival Orchestra performances and late night intimate concerts with glittering views of the skyline in the Rose Studio. Don’t miss the prelude recitals, which begin an hour prior to the orchestra performances – short programs showcasing complementary chamber works by top-notch performers.

A program I am especially keen on at Mostly Mozart, on July 24 and 25, features the Festival Orchestra with pianist Emanuel Ax playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 453, alongside Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Bernstein’s Candide. You’ll also get to hear an instrument that is rarely seen on the concert stage: the glass harmonica, played by Friedrich Heinrich Kern and Philipp Marguerre. Kern and Marguerre get another turn at this unusual instrument at the pre-concert recitals on those two evenings. And on July 25, you’re in for a late-night treat when Emanuel Ax and the glass harmonica virtuosos take their talents to the Rose Studio. I have to admit that the idea of a prelude recital, followed by an orchestra concert and then an intimate late-night performance, all on the same evening, really thrills me. I’m also looking forward to the Mark Morris Dance Group (August 9-12), fabulous modern dance works with live music by Brahms and Schubert performed by pianist Inon Barnatan, Ariel Quartet and a bevy of top-notch singers including Thomas Cooley and Jennifer Zetlan.

Across town at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, the International Keyboard Institute and Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary season with its typically excellent roster of pianists, with performances every single night from July 15 to July 29. Some of my favorites are Steven Mayer (July 21), Vladimir Feltsman (July 22) and Alon Goldstein with the Fine Arts Quartet on July 19.

In August, a brand-new music festival comes our way – Classical Bridge – which brings us concerts every evening from August 4-10. The opening concert looks especially interesting, chamber works by Mendelssohn, Kreisler and Prokofiev with violinist Ivry Gitlis, pianist Klara Min, and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, to name a few.

Another fairly new festival, this one for contemporary music lovers, is TIME SPANS. Five concerts August 14-18 at the DiMenna Center feature performances by notable new music performing artists Talea Ensemble, JACK Quartet, Alarm Will Sound and more.

Carnegie Hall is pretty quiet this time of year, except for the exuberant sounds of the exceptionally talented teens who make up the National Youth Orchestra. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the group in works by Sibelius and Gershwin and a world premiere by Ted Hearne on July 19. And on August 27, the brilliant pianist Taka Kigawa brings some intriguing sounds to an otherwise quiet late-summer evening at Le Poisson Rouge.

What summertime list of concerts would be complete without a mention of some free outdoor gigs by such high-quality groups as A Far Cry on July 10, The Knights on July 17, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s on July 31.

Stay cool and enjoy the music!


Outdoors, Indoors, All Around the Town


by Gail Wein
June 01, 2018

It’s summertime in New York, and that means an onslaught of outdoor activities.

The densest concentration of outdoor concerts, by far, is on June 21, when Make Music New York brings over 1000 free performances (not a typo) to spots in all five boroughs. You can plot out a schedule for yourself with info from MMNY’s website, or just pick an area, wander around and spontaneously discover live music of a vast variety of genres for yourself. Free.

There’s also a slew of free concerts in parks across the city, all summer long. Highlights include the New York Philharmonic on June 12, 13, 14 and 15, recitals by up-and-coming singers from the Metropolitan Opera on June 11, 13, 27 and 29, New York City Opera performing an hour-long rendition of Madame Butterfly on June 13. Two more notable outdoor orchestra concerts are Ensemble LPR in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the nightclub Le Poisson Rouge on June 12, and the venerable Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on June 26.

Indoors, an annual series rich with musical offerings is Chelsea Music Festival. This year (June 8 -16) the festival focuses on the music and legacy of JS Bach on the 333 anniversary of his birth, and features a marathon concert of the master’s works lasting 333 minutes on June 9. Other programs feature music by Aaron Jay Kernis (the festival’s composer-in-residence) among others, with performances by the cellist Matt Haimovitz, Barkada Saxophone Quartet, and many other artists. Tickets on sale at the festival’s website.

Orchestra of St. Luke’s has finished its concert regular season, but continues making chamber music in its Facets of Brahms Festival June 5 – 24 at Merkin Concert Hall, Morgan Library and Museum, and Brooklyn Museum. Tickets via OSL’s website.

On Sunday mornings, Gather NYC hosts concerts, coffee and conversation at Subculture. Percussionist Shane Shanahan performs on June 3 and cellist Mike Block on June 10. Tickets via Subculture’s website.

Plenty more where that came from. I’ll look forward to seeing you at concerts all around town!


Intimate Venues, Rare Programs


by Gail Wein
May 01, 2018

In this column, I usually highlight events at the major concert presenters, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic. These spots have the biggest concentration of A-List, Can’t Miss performers. But first, today, some recommendations for lesser-known artists and out-of-the way venues.

The Orion String Quartet celebrates its 30th anniversary with a gift to us: all of Beethoven’s string quartets, performed over six concerts. Remaining dates are May 2, 3, 7 and 14. Admission is free.

The Jupiter Chamber Players are an-all-too-well-kept secret. Their season of two dozen concerts at Good Shephard Presbyterian Church features solid performances, excellent programs and great players. They’ll wind up this season with Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms performed by a roster that includes the violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Christine Lamprea.

The Flea Theater recently moved to a new location in Tribeca. In addition to edgy off-off Broadway productions, the venue presents some unusual concert offerings. The early music group ARTEK combines the two art forms in “Artemisia”, a one-woman show that features live Baroque music, on May 15, 17, 19 and 20. ARTEK also gives two more traditional concerts there on May 16 and 18.

One of the longest-running series in New York is the People’s Symphony. It’s one of the most economical, too. People’s Symphony winds up its 118th season with Dover String Quartet on May 5 and Brahms all-star sextet on May 12, both at Washington Irving High School. One of the longest-running new music marathons (okay, that’s a bit of a niche category, but, still…30 years), the Bang on a Can Marathon brings us 10 hours of continuous live performances on May 13. Admission is free.

And now, as promised, some big-venue highlights:
In May, Carnegie Hall presents Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (May 4 and 5), Les Violons du Roy (May 5), pianists Emanuel Ax (May 10) and Yuja Wang (May 17), and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (May 17 and 30).

Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series brings to the stage the London Symphony Orchestra with conductor Simon Rattle (May 4, 6 and 7), cellist Sol Gabetta (May 12) and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (May 19).

A couple of highlights of the New York Philharmonic’s 175th season in May include two programs led by the conductor Semyon Bychkov: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (May 17, 18, 19, and 22) and Luciano Berio’s groundbreaking Sinfonia (with the vocal group Roomful of Teeth) paired with Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony (May 24, 25 and 26).

Well? What are you waiting for? Get out there and hear some live music!


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