KenCen's New Season
The Kennedy Center's annual season announcement is its own form of performance art. Michael Kaiser stands up and reads his way through the highlights of the entire season, discipline by discipline: a veritable Homeric catalogue of names that take on, as the minutes pass, a kind of reassuring cadence of their own.
The news today was good. The main interest, at least for me, lay in Christoph Eschenbach's inaugural NSO season, and happily, there's a lot to like. The season has a personal stamp: it features pieces by composers Eschenbach has championed, and performances by artists who have long-standing relationships with him (Renee Fleming, Lang Lang, Christian Tetzlaff, Radu Lupu, and more). He's leading 10 of the 24 weeks himself, offering a cross-section of his own interests, from Mahler to new music (it was, he said in the press release, his idea to commission Peter Lieberson to write a piece for the Kennedy Center's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's inauguration) to piano performance. He's the soloist in the Beethoven 1st concerto; the season includes all five of the Beethoven piano concerti, the violin concerto, and the triple concerto with three NSO soloists.
(My official report, with more details, appears in the Washington Post.
I'll put in the link as soon as it goes up.)
(read more after the jump)
Some of the season's features happen to coincide with my own personal interests. I'm all over any season that focuses on orchestral song (we're getting "Four Last Songs" with Renee Fleming on the opening gala followed by "Kindertotenlieder" with Nathalie Stutzmann, Zemlinsky's "Lyric Symphony" with Twyla Robinson and Matthias Goerne, Golijov's "She Was Here" (actually orchestrations of Schubert songs) with Dawn Upshaw, Pintscher's "Herodiade-Fragmente," and, possibly in the category, Bernstein's "Kaddish" symphony). And I was so delighted to see Messiaen's "Turangalila-Symphonie" on the program that I hardly cared whether or not it was too obvious a choice as a contribution to the Kennedy Center's annual entry in the cultural-tourism sweepstakes: this year, the festival is called "Maximum India." (Eschenbach is also conducting Anoushka Shankar in a sitar concerto.)
Chamber music is writ large at the Kennedy Center this year, too, though I have concerns about whether the series title "Chamber Music Across America" is likely to sell many tickets. (I still fantasize about finding a more appealing term for "chamber music," one that might signal to classical music newbies that this is exactly the kind of music most likely to appeal to them.) The series is basically an amalgam of the Fortas Chamber Music programs and the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, both given a little extra oomph. The distinctive twist was the idea of pairing ensembles -- the Juilliard Quartet and the Afiara Quartet, the Orion Quartet and Windscape, the Emerson Quartet and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio -- to play together in different combinations on the three main concerts. A problem with the Fortas concerts is that there aren't enough of them to feel as if they were really a curated series: it feels more like a lot of good concerts put together.
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