Reviews from The New York Times and The New Yorker, among others, and the WQXR broadcast of James Conlon and the Cincinnati May Festival

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Reviews from The New York Times and The New Yorker, among others, and the WQXR broadcast of James Conlon and the Cincinnati May Festival 

On May 9, in his 35th season as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival, James Conlon led the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the fourth and final installment of the Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall, conducting the New York premiere of Robert Nathaniel Dett’s 1937 oratorio, The Ordering of Moses, preceded by a performance of John Adams’ 1980 choral symphony Harmonium.

Anthony Tommasini from The New York Times said that Mr. Conlon, “the dynamic music director of this renowned choral festival,” led “an exhilarating account” of Harmonium and “an inspired performance” of the “affecting” oratorio by R. Nathaniel Dett. The rest of the review, part of a review of the Pittsburgh Symphony at Spring for Music, is available here: http://nyti.ms/1qSVeEw.

In The New Yorker’s review of Spring for Music, Alex Ross called The Ordering of Moses “a startling, potent piece” and a “major discovery of Spring for Music this year.” During the “visionary” closing section of the oratorio, “Sing Ye to Jehovah,” Mr. Ross commented that “[James] Conlon and his Cincinnati forces … conveyed the moment with precision and fervor.” The full review can be read here: http://bit.ly/1jElhtV.

In a preview of the Carnegie concert on the WQXR blog, Brian Wise wrote, “Conlon, who has promoted composers suppressed by the Nazis, sees this [performance of music by Mr. Dett, a black composer] as an extension of that rescue mission.” Mr. Conlon continued by saying, “If any of us artists hear music that has a value and for whatever reason is not played, I’d rather do that than the umpteenth performance of Beethoven or Tchaikovsky,” adding that there’s nothing wrong with those composers. “This was an ideal opportunity to do that in the context of Spring for Music.” The rest of the preview is available here: http://bit.ly/1lDndQj.

One motivation behind this “rescue mission” was the fact that the NBC radio broadcast of The Ordering of Music’sworld premiere performance at the 1937 Cincinnati May Festival was abruptly interrupted before the piece had ended, coupled with the suspicion that the interruption was the result of complaints received from listeners who took issue with the prominent airing of a black composer’s music.

The WQXR live broadcast, with commentary and interviews conducted by Naomi Lewin and Elliott Forrest, of Mr. Conlon and the Cincinnati May Festival’s Spring for Music performance is available here for a limited time: http://bit.ly/1nczuBQ. Through the link, you can also hear the clip of the NBC radio announcer interrupting the 1937 broadcast and see photos and tweets of Cincinnati fans at Spring for Music 2014.

Following the Carnegie concert, Mr. Conlon and the May Festival performers returned to Cincinnati for the second weekend of the 2014 May Festival season: two performances of a program pairing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral”, with Tchaikovsky’s “Ode to Joy” Cantata, and a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand”. The Cincinnati Enquirer said, “Leading without a score, [James] Conlon led the [Beethoven] symphony’s movements in a seamless arc, balancing passages of pastoral warmth against those of heaven-rending power.” Regarding the Mahler Symphony, the Enquirer continued, “[James] Conlon made sense of its massive scope, vividly conveying both the mystery and the grandeur of Mahler’s music.” The full review can be read here: http://cin.ci/1lX8LE1.

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James Conlon reflects on classical music’s economic realities—and what can be done—on his Musical America blog

James Conlon’s latest post on A Rich Possession, his blog on Musical America, brings attention to “The Elephant in the Audience,” which is that “many music lovers are not willing or able to pay today’s prices” but are more than willing to attend concerts, whether of familiar or unfamiliar classical music, if tickets are affordable. At a time when many are concerned about the future of classical music, particularly in conjunction with the painful retirement of Spring for Music this year due to financial challenges, Mr. Conlon argues that the lack of private funding, and not the lack of interest in classical music, is the principal cause behind the frequent instances of concerts with empty seats. Mr. Conlon elaborates here, in his full blog post: http://bit.ly/1jutg8a.

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Ravinia Music Director James Conlon leads the CSO in three operas-in-concert and five classical concerts with guest soloists that include Joshua Bell, Denis Matsuev, and Jonathan Biss

Ravinia Music Director James Conlon will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in their six-week, twenty-concert summer residency at the 2014 Ravinia Festival. The 2014 season features three operas-in-concert led by Mr. Conlon: Richard Strauss’ Salome, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth with soprano Patricia Racette in her role debut as Salome, and two Mozart operas, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Mr. Conlon, the CSO, the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and soloists will perform Salome on Saturday, August 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Don Giovanni on Thursday, August 14 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 16 at 1:00 p.m.; and The Marriage of Figaro on Friday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m.

The highlights of Mr. Conlon’s classical performances with the CSO in the Ravinia Park Pavilion include an all-Beethoven program featuring pianist Jonathan Biss on Thursday July 24 at 8:00 p.m.; the annual gala concert with violinist Joshua Bell performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto, among other works, on Saturday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m.; and an all-Tchaikovsky program featuring pianist Denis Matsuev on Sunday, July 27 at 5:00 p.m.

On Tuesday, July 22 at 8:00 p.m., Mr. Conlon conducts soloists from the CSO in works for chamber orchestra by Wagner, Eisler, Hindemith, and Korngold. The following week, on Tuesday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m., he is joined by Grammy-winning Latin jazz pianist Chucho Valdés for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in a program of overtures and dances by Nicolai, Schulhoff, Mendelssohn, Weber, and both Johann Strauss Jr. and Sr.

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Follow James Conlon on Twitter and Facebook

Get personal updates from James Conlon on Twitter (@JamesJConlon) or ‘like’ his Facebook page. You can also find press updates and his performance schedule on his website (www.jamesconlon.com).

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