Performances Reviews

Axiom – Clearing Musical Hurdles With Poise and Flair reviews this recent performance.

You might wonder, then, why Axiom — a bright, versatile young ensemble formed by students at the Juilliard School in 2005 — chose four toothy examples of latter-day modernism for its season-opening concert at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on Monday night. The program, conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky, included Mario Davidovsky’s “Flashbacks,” Harrison Birtwistle’s “Secret Theater” and “Three Settings of Celan,” and — the relative pop hit of the bunch — Gyorgy Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto.

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Ligeti’s riot through history

György Ligeti
Image via Wikipedia

A UK production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre is reviewed.

It takes all of about five seconds before you realise that Hungarian composer György Ligeti‘s Le Grand Macabre is an opera of the unexpected. The piece starts with a prelude – a conventional enough idea, except that instead of being played by the orchestra, it’s scored for 12 car horns, performed by the hands and feet of three percussionists. It’s a surreal coup de musique that starts Le Grand Macabre on its absurdist journey, in which you meet a perennially pissed antihero called Piet the Pot, a sado- masochistic astronomer, a pair of sex- obsessed lovers, a layabout prince, and a couple of preening, pernicious politicians. All of them are subject to the whims of Nekrotzar, the despotic Grand Macabre himself, who has come to visit annihilation on the people of Breughelland, “the entirely run-down but nevertheless carefree and thriving principality” in which the opera is set. Nekrotzar doesn’t succeed, however, as Piet gets him drunk, and instead of commanding the minions of hell to raze Breughelland to the ground, he misses his own apocalypse and falls off a rocking horse.

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S.E.M. Ensemble in May

New York’s S.E.M. Ensemble has announced a show:

The Orchestra of the S.E.M Ensemble, FLUX Quartet and Ostravská banda join forces at Alice Tully Hall, May 6 at 8pm

Premieres by Christian Wolff, Salvatore Sciarrino and Petr Kotik

Works by Elliott Carter and György Ligeti

Featuring Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle and Czech violinist Hana Kotková in their Alice Tully Hall debuts
New York, NY, March 24, 2009 – The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, founded and directed by Petr Kotik, joins forces with the FLUX Quartet and the international chamber orchestra Ostravská banda for an evening of adventurous music at the newly re-opened Alice Tully Hall, Wednesday, May 6th, 2009. Featured works include three new pieces by self-taught composers: the premiere of Christian Wolff’s Trio for Robert Ashley (2009), performed by members of the Flux Quartet; the American premiere of Sicilian-born composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s Vento D’ombra (2005), performed by The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble; and the premiere of Petr Kotik’s String Quartet No. 1, Erinnerungen an Jan (2007-09), performed by the Flux Quartet. The program also features renowned Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle in Elliott Carter’s Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra (2003), and award-winning Czech violinist Hana Kotková in György Ligeti’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1990-92) – both making their debuts at Alice Tully Hall. Petr Kotik conducts The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble as well as Ostravská banda.

The second half of the program will highlight Ostravská banda (OB) in its second NY appearance. A unique international chamber orchestra comprised of some of the best young musicians from Europe and the United States, OB was founded in 2005 as the orchestra-in-residence of the acclaimed new music institute and festival, Ostrava Days (www., in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Pianist, Vandewalle, who garnered an international reputation for his remarkable interpretation of contemporary American piano repertoire – “putting many American classical musicians to shame” (American Record Guide) – will be the soloist in Elliott Carter’s Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra.

The concert will culminate with György Ligeti’s highly innovative and incredibly virtuosic Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, performed by Kotková. A frequent soloist with major European orchestras and a former member of the Smetana Trio, Kotková has been hailed by critics as continuing the great Czech violin tradition. Described as “folksong for the homeless” (Paul Griffiths), Ligeti’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra contains a wealth of melodies from Carpathian and the South Eastern part of Europe, Ligeti’s ancestral home. Raised in this part of the world and having played folk music with her family since the age of four, Kotková is a uniquely apt interpreter of Ligeti’s Concerto.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 8:00pm

WHERE: Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, 1941 Broadway at 65th Street, New York

WHO: The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble
FLUX Quartet
Ostravská banda
Hana Kotková Violin
Daan Vandewalle, Piano
Petr Kotik, Conductor

Christian Wolff: Trio for Robert Ashley (premiere)
Salvatore Sciarrino: Vento D’ombra (American premiere)
Petr Kotik: String Quartet No.1 Erinnerungen an Jan (premiere)
Elliott Carter: Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra
György Ligeti: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

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Stockhausen, Ligeti, Cage and Berio at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Image by sheilaellen via Flickr

This modern classical performance is reviewed.

Tuesday night the L.A. Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series brought works by three acknowledged masters of post-WWII avant-garde music (and one fantastic runner up) to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Most of these pieces were older than your dad, and their influence on all the greats of modern music, including everybody from Philip Glass to Radiohead to Brian Eno to the Beatles, is an established fact. Yet hearing these composers in the squeaky-clean Disney Hall felt like seeing a whore in church.

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