What a Hall
Carnegie’s new space aims for flexibility and intimacy.
There’s a new room in town. After decades as a movie theater and a $72 million reconstruction, Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall—Carnegie Hall’s midsize room, where the building’s first concert took place 112 years ago—opens next week. “Great music comes in many forms” is a phrase artistic director Robert Harth uses often, and Zankel is highly flexible: The stage can be shifted from the end of the room to the center, or removed altogether.
John Adams starts his composer-in-residence run, and opens the hall, with a concert of twentieth-century works, followed the same night by Cuban jazzman Omar Sosa and rap artist Brutha Los. Meredith Monk, Afro-pop star Youssou N’Dour, and Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble Intercontemporain all appear soon after, as do more typical Carnegie artists like Yo-Yo Ma and the Orion String Quartet. Opening-festival tickets are priced low; most are about $25. Alicia Zuckerman
Details: Zankel Hall; Opens September 12.
At Columbia’s Miller Theatre, George Steel books new music for a new crowd.
George Steel might just have the answer to the question How can classical music draw young audiences? The free-thinking fellow who runs Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, Steel has turned it into a new-music hotspot where jeans are acceptable and clapping between movements is okay. (Fans include Ned Rorem and Phil Lesh.) For the hall’s fifteenth year, he’s booked fifteen “Composer Portraits,” each devoted to an original voice of the past century: The Eos Orchestra will play Peter Lieberson pieces mixing Stravinsky with Tibetan Buddhism, and Henry Threadgill will conduct his own work. Steel is also known for playing with context, and he’s scheduled Edgard Varèse’s setting of a Mayan prayer alongside a Carl Ruggles transcendentalist work and a new piece by John Zorn. “Now that we’re established,” says Steel, “we’re gonna get dangerous.” Alicia Zuckerman
Details: Miller Theatre Season begins September 19.
He’s cute as a button and a huge piano star at barely 21. Is Lang Lang the real deal? Yes, yes.
The typical college-age kid with otherworldly keyboard proficiency usually spends his days playing Grand Theft Auto. But Lang Lang’s keyboard is on a Steinway, not a Sony Vaio, and his game is Chopin and Liszt. “The stage for me feels like home,” says the 21-year-old piano virtuoso (whose name rhymes with gong). “I always believed that I can be a great pianist, and hopefully that’s still true."
Lang began performing as a 5-year-old in China and retains a huge amount of childlike energy. While playing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Mostly Mozart Festival this summer, he whipped his head one way to flash the orchestra a smile, then back to beam at the audience, radiating pure joy and never losing his connection to the music. A year out of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, he’s just wrapped up what he calls a “life’s dream” of a summer-playing with the major orchestras of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Cleveland in a two-month span.
For his Carnegie Hall recital debut, he turned to his mentors to help him choose the repertoire. Gary Graffman, Daniel Barenboim, and André Watts helped him settle on Schumann, Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, and a premiere by the Chinese composer Tan Dun. (His father plays the erhu, a Chinese bowed fiddle, and they perform duets now and then.) When Lang was 19, Teen magazine named him one of twenty teens who will change the world. “Of course,” he says, “if pop stars could also promote a little bit of classical music, it would be nice-if Britney Spears said, Hey! We like classical music!” He’s got talent, optimism, and a contract with Deutsche Grammophon-and only one problem. “I mean, piano literature-there’s no end to it,” he laments. “Six lives is not enough.” Alicia Zuckerman
Details: Lang Lang, November 7 (Carnegie Hall).
A piano maestro takes her last New York bows.
Alicia De Larrocha was known only by piano buffs when she came to Hunter College for a recital in 1966. Everything changed after that, and not a season has passed without concerts and recordings, not only of her signature Spanish works but also the core Classical and Romantic repertory. Now it’s time to say good-bye, and De Larrocha plays here for the final time next month, joining the Philharmonic for Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D and De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain.
De Larrocha belies her fragile looks with a magisterial tone coupled with pristine clarity and swirling colors. You can hear it all on the retrospective just released by Decca—seven CDs that contain some of the most nuanced and enriching pianism on disc. -- Peter G. Davis
Details: Alicia De Laroccha, October 15–18 (Avery Fisher Hall).
The Best of The Rest
New York Philharmonic
Lorin Maazel conducts mostly Verdi for opening night, plus Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 (September 17). The Hilliard Ensemble vocal chamber group joins the orchestra for the world premiere of Symphony No. 3, L.A. composer Stephen Hartke’s work about ground zero (September 18–20 and September 23). For the 200th birthday of Hector Berlioz, Maazel conducts Roméo et Juliette (October 2–4); Sir Colin Davis conducts vocal selections with mezzo-soprano Monica Groop (November 13–15). And there’ll be a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos (begins October 21). Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center.
New York Festival of Song
Season opens with “The New York Poets,” work by Harvard schoolmates William Bolcom, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson, Ricky Ian Gordon, and others (October 15), and continues with an exploration of black and Jewish vaudeville, from Eubie Blake to Irving Berlin. November 12, Merkin Hall.
Leif Ove Andsnes
Much-acclaimed Norwegian pianist’s recital includes works by Schumann and Schubert. October 26, Avery Fisher Hall.
“The New Yorkers”
A three-concert series that celebrates and reflects on our city, with new music by Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and David Lang (the Bang on a Can music collective), text by Lou Reed, cartoon projections by artist Ben Katchor, decayed film footage of New York buildings by Bill Morrison, and the work of urban video artist Doug Aitken. Also includes a landmark seventies video by William Wegman. October 22, 24, and 25, Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Tokyo String Quartet
Beginning a three-year residency at the Y, the ensemble performs works by Schubert, Janácek, and Dvorák in a program called “Schubert’s Bohemian Roots.” October 25, 92nd Street Y.
“When Morty Met John . . .”
Five concerts over two days celebrate Morton Feldman and John Cage, pioneers of avant-garde composition. Performers include heavyweight new-music singer Joan La Barbara, pianists Margaret Leng Tan and Marilyn Nonken, and Miller Theatre’s George Steel, who’ll perform Cage’s complete Music for Carillon. October 25 and 26 at Zankel Hall (Carnegie Hall), Miller Theatre, and St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue.
The New York premiere of its multimedia “Visual Music” concert features music by Steve Reich, John Zorn, and Conlon Nancarrow, plus video, lighting, and sculptures that morph into instruments. November 16, Zankel Hall.