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Tag: classical music

Classical Pianist Ruth Slenczynska Releases a Thoughtfully Lyrical New Album With a Record-Breaking Backstory

Pianist Ruth Slenczynska’s new album My Life in Music – streaming at Spotify – is an attractive and individualistic mix of standard repertoire and a handful of surprises.

She opens with a thoughtfully opulent take of Rachmaninoff’s Daisies, from his Romances, Op. 18 and follows with his Prelude No.5 in G major with its dancing, glittery righthand clusters. She plays Samuel Barber’s Nocturne (Homage to John Field) with a considered, brooding simmer. She gives a deadpan steadiness but also a determined grit to a considerably different, ragtime-tinged Barber tune, Let’s Sit It Out and Wait, from his suite Fresh From West Chester.

Slenczynska opts for a balletesque grace in Chopin’s Grande Valse Brillante in Eb, op. 18, eschewing the floridness so many other pianists give it, an approach that works equally well a little later in Grieg’s Wedding Day in Trodhaugen. And in her hands, her tenderly yet playfully articulated version of Chopin’s famous Berceuse is a revelation: those echo effects are irresistible. As is her generous use of space in an unselfconsciously unhurried interpretation of Debussy’s The Girl With the Flaxen Hair.

The other Chopin pieces here have similarly distinctive insights. There’s a lowlit Etude No. 3 in E Major, and a cheery, strolling Prelude in G Major, Op. 18. The longest and most energetic work here is the Fantaisie in F Minor: Slenczynska slows much of it down practically to dirge speed and volume, an effect which is both comedic and enlightening, as she picks up a remarkable amount of detail and dramatic contrast. She closes the album with a methodically articulated version of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C# minor, BWV 849.

Now for the punchline: Slenczynska is 97 years old. It is astonishing how undiminished both her chops and her ideas are.

She made her stage debut at four, her European debut at five. Every major pianist of the 1930s including Sergei Rachmaninoff was eager to coach her. She is his last living student; she treasures the Faberge egg necklace he gave her. She would go on to record ten albums and tour the world, earning a reputation as a very colorful, entertaining performer. This new album is her first in sixty years, undoubtedly a record-breaking achievement. Let’s hope she got at least a two-album deal out of it.

The London Symphony Orchestra Return With an Epically Efficient Double Live Stravinsky Album

The London Symphony Orchestra‘s live recording of Vaughan Williams’ Fourth and Sixth Symphonies topped the list of the best albums of 2021 here, across all styles of music. Released at a moment when it was not clear whether they would ever play again, these harrowing, impassioned, often violent performances captured the state of the world in the months following the fateful events of March 2020 better than any other record last year.

So how beautiful is it to know that the orchestra are back together, performing again and releasing more live albums from their seemingly inexhaustible archives? Their latest is an epic double live album from two September, 2017 dates at the Barbican featuring Simon Rattle conducting Stravinsky’s three iconic ballet scores: The Firebird, Petrouchka and the Rite of Spring. While the 1961 Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky studio recordings by what was essentially a pickup orchestra of A-list New York musicians remains this blog’s favorite, this one – streaming at Spotify – is distinctive and individualistic, and rewarding for many different reasons.

The Firebird is pillowy and on the brisk side. A dance troupe would get quite the workout spiraling across the stage to this. From the almost imperceptible fade up, Rattle makes it clear that this defining work of what would become noir cinematic music is first and foremost a nocturne. The pulse is stiletto-precise, especially in the few minutes leading up to the lush, starry capture scene. The exchanges between Olivier Stankiewicz’s oboe and Bryn Lewis’ harp are ghostly and fleeting, as are the high woodwinds in the scene with the princess and the golden apple. And yet, Stankiewicz’s approach is strikingly blunt in the famous interlude barely a minute later.

As Rattle saw it that night, the devil in the even more famous diabolical dance seems to be a mathematician, although those numbers are pixelated rather than crunched. That the orchestra manage to keep such a meticulous balance at this speed is breathtaking, although this version is several steps short of the blunderbuss attack Leonard Bernstein would follow in its most explosive moments.

The second work (spelled “Petrushka” if you’re looking to pull it up as a stand-alone piece) has welcome bluster in places, although Rattle also goes for lushness and precision more than febrile intensity: for all we know, a ballet company really could be pirouetting and leaping in front of them. The “Russian dance” is far more scintillating than rustic, but the scene after in the protagonist’s cell is as cinematic and majestically frantic as you could want. Mutedly striding mystery, clamoring brass, portentous low strings and devious winds all shine in this very high-definition portrait.

An enigmatic, mysterious sensibility lingers in the rare calmer moments of The Rite of Spring, an uncommon, welcome touch. There’s Slavic ruggedness but also a steely precision: f you want a fullscale bacchanal, sink your teeth into the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s live recording from 2015 – whoomp!

This is all about clarity and distinctive voices: hostages are seized, but with nimble choreography. Likewise, the series of string swells and pulsing low brass are revelatory late in the first movement, such that it is. Rattle’s attention to detail brings out unexpected humor in the occasional quirky curlicue or offbeat percussion riff: there are innumerable levels of meaning that may be new to a lot of listeners

The London Symphony Orchestra’s next symphonic performance is May 8 at 7 PM at the Barbican in London with Dima Slobodeniouk conducting Sofia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium and Sibelius’ Symphony No 2. Baiba Skride is the violin soloist; you can get in for £18. The orchestra also offer what they call a “wildcard” option for last-minute rush tickets for even less in case the concert isn’t sold out.

A Poignant, Rapturous, Gorgeous Armenian Classical Album by the Aznavoorian Duo

The most rapturously poignant album of the year so far is Gems From Armenia, by the Aznavoorian Duo, streaming at Spotify. Sisters Ani and Marta Aznavoorian – cello and piano, respectively – draw on their heritage for a lyrical playlist of material that spans from the 19th century to the present. It underscores the disproportionately rich influence this tiny nation’s music continues to make around the globe.

They open with a steady, spare, pensive theme, Chinar Es by foundational Romantic-era composer and musicologist Komitas. As she often does throughout the album, Ani plays in the high midrange, with a stark vibrato that sometimes evokes a kamancheh spike fiddle. A second Komitas tune, Tsirani Tsar comes across as a more nocturnal variation, lowlit by Marta’s distantly starry piano. The third, Garoun A, is a gorgeous solo piano work, more mysteriously modern and practically furtive in places. The duo continue with a balletesque grace in the fourth, Al Ailux, both hypnotic and pulsingly rhythmic.

The fifth, Krunk is not a drinking song but an achingly beautiful love ballad and a launching pad for some of Ani’s most incisive, soaringly lyrical work here. The best-known in a long line of great Armenian composers, Aram Khachaturian is represented first by the emotive miniature Ivan Sings and then his lively, pointillistic tribute to his hometown of Yerevan.

Marta plays Arno Babajanian’s Elegy with restraint but also close attention to ornamentation that mimics the microtones of Armenian folk music. Ani returns for his Aria and Dance, a fondly reflective ballad and variations.

The duo make their way methodically from a stern, tightly clustering intensity through more sparsely lyrical passages in the first movement of Avet Terterian’s Sonata for Cello and Piano. They let the allusive chromatics and poignancy speak for itself, understatedly, in the second movement and romp with a triumphant, acerbic glitter through the conclusion.

The two bring out High Romantic passion in Serouj Kradjian‘s arrangement of the traditional ballad Sari Siroun Yar and follow with Alexander Arutiunian’s Impromptu, a dynamic mashup of a levantine dance and Rachmaninovian lustre.

Vache Sharafyan’s Petrified Dance, an elegy for Armenian soldiers, is the most subdued and vividly sepulchral work on the program. The sisters conclude with the world-premiere of Peter Boyer’s Mount Ararat, climbing from a portentous cello melody to a syncopated gallop up the slope, with stunning, chromatically bristling breaks to view the scenery. This unselfconsciously beautiful collection deserves a second volume. For that matter, the Aznavoorians could have a franchise here if they felt like it.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For May and June 2022

More concert listings this month than last: hardly critical mass, but live music in this city is becoming a thing again. Hopefully this is a trend: if all goes well, there will be many additions to this calendar throughout the month.

Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar.

Mondays at the Django it’s all Mingus, whether with the Mingus Orchestra, Big Band or Mingus Dynasty: as jazz goes, it’s arguably the most exhilarating show of the week, every week. The first-rate players always rise to the level of the material. Sets 7:30/9:30 PM, $25 and worth it.

5/6, 5/13 and 5/20 at 7:30 PM, and  5/12 at 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser leads his band at the Django. Jukebox jazz in a JD Allen vein but not as dark and more straight-ahead/groove-oriented: as postbop party music goes, nobody’s writing better than this guy right now, $25

5/1, 8ish offhandedly chilling angst-rock/psychedelic songwriter Grace Bergere followed by Heavy Feather and the Magic Word – who do a good, shambly baby Supergrass imitation – at Our Wicked Lady, “$13.60” meaning $14 at the door

5/2-6, half past noon veteran, melodic 1950s era jazz pianist Bertha Hope plays the house electric model at Bryant Park

5/2, 7:30/9 PM reliably adrenalizing saxophonist Seamus Blake leads a quartet followed at 10:30 by  expansive postbop pianist Miki Yamanaka and her group at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. Blake is back here the next night, 5/3; Yamanaka is back on the 23rd.

5/2, 8 PM an intriguing avant jazz sax-and-guitar duo: Charlotte Greve and Simon Jermyn Duo at Seeds

5/3, 6 PM Avenida B play oldschool Lower East Side-style salsa at Bryant Park

5/3, 6:30 PM guitarist Federico Balducci leads an improvisational trio with bassist Brian Kastan and drummer Mike Pride followed at 7:30 by Alix Tuccp solo on bass trombone at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/3, 7 PM eclectically rustic newgrass shredders We Banjo 3 at City Winery, $26 adm avail.

5/4. 5:30 PM Venezuelan piano jazz with the Gabriel Chakarji Group at Multi-Use Room A in Pelham Fritz Recreation Center at Marcus Garvey Park, free

5/4, 6 PM the Antoinette Montague Experience play oldtimey swing jazz at Bryant Park

5/4. 7 PM intriguingly brooding Turkish jazz pianist Bilge Gunaydin at the big room at the Rockwood, $15

5/4. 7:30 PM chanteuse Anais Reno fronts the lyrically energetic Pete Malinverni Trio at the Django, $25

5/4, 8 PM Jambalaya brass band NOTUS march into Drom, $10 adv tix rec

5/5, 6 PM Mariachi Real de Mexico who are as playfully rustic as they are regal at Bryant Park\

5/5, 7:30/9 PM intimate trumpet and piano sounds from Dominick Farinacci and Dan Tepfer at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/5. 11 PM ferociously dynamic, tuneful,female-fronted power trio Castle Black at Otto’s

5/6, 7 PM fearlessly powerful, outside-the-box South African jazz siren Melanie Scholtz at the downstairs room at the Rockwood,$15

5/7, 7 PM Liftoff Brass Band play New Orleans-style tunes outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/7. 7:30 PM Abhik Mukherjee on sitar and Dibyarka Chatterjee on tabla at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music, $25

5/7, 8 PM a cool surf twinbill at Otto’s with the Chillers and Blue Wave Theory

5/7. 10:30/midnight  feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band and then the jam session at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back on 5/21

5/7, 11 PM trippy, fun psychedelic disco unit Cosmonaut Radio at the big room at the Rockwood, $10

5/8, 1 PM clever saxophonist Paul Shapiro’s Ribs & Brisket Review plays the “music of Mrs. Maisel” at City Winery $25

5/8, 1:30 PM intense retro 60s influenced Nubian funk band Alsarah & the Nubatones and high voltage Mexican folk-punk band the Villalobos Brothers at the bandshell in Forest Park, Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive in Queens, J to 111th St

5/8, 5 PM charming/slashing noir cabaret/circus rock duo Frenchy & the Punk outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/9-13, half past noon noir-inspired pianist Todd Robbins plays speakeasy jazz and blues at Bryant Park

5/10, 6:30 PM an improvisational triplebill:  Symbiotique with guitarist Michael Eaton, Seth Andrew Davis, Cheryl Pyle and Kule Quass followed at 7:30 by violinist/singer Kate Birch with guitarist Tal Yahalom and then at 8:30 PM guitarist Chris Pitsiokos and Kevin Murray at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/11, 7:30 PM lyrical, sweeping pianist/accordionist Ben Rosenblum leads his septet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/11, 8 PM  funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re also here on 5/24

5/12, 6 PM music of the Americas: Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela with classical guitar duo Nilko Andreas and LaMar NYC at Bryant Park

5/12, 6:45 PM not a music event but fascinating for the scientifically-minded – a titanically smart lineup with the world’s most widely published cardiologist, Dr. Peter McCullough, holocaust survivor and brilliant historian Vera Sharav and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti lead a panel discussion on where we go from here, at 1437 President St (Kingston/Albany), Midwood, Brooklyn, 2 to Nostand Ave, also livestreamed. Put together by the reliably acerbic and insightful Brucha Weisberger and her team

5/12, 7 PM Afro-Cuban percussion legend Pedrito Martinez leads his rumbling, jazz-tinged salsa project at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/12, 10:30/midnight  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads his quintet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door/ He’s back on the 26th

5/12, 11 PM  high-voltage, violin-driven art-rock/metal band Stratospheerius at Shrine

5/13, noon oldschool Cuban streetcorner salsa with Joaquin Pozo y la Clave Suena at Poe Park, 2640 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, B/D to Grand Concourse

5/13, 7 PM the Bootheel Boss Gobblers play western swing and Americana outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/13, 7 PM the 18th annual Hank-o-Rama with an allstar band playing Hank Williams classics. Including but not limited to the Lonesome Prairie Dogs, Lenny Kaye on pedal steel, host Alex Battles, with guest stars Tammy Faye Starlite, Cliff Westfall, Sean Kershaw, Jordan McLean, Lil’ Mo Monica Passin and others at the Cutting Room, $20 adv tix rec

5/14. 11 AM (in the morning) oldschool purist 50s jazz guitar sounds with the John Cooksey Quartet at the Smith houses rec center, 80 Catherine St in Chinatown, walk south from Canal St.

5/14, 1 PM West African jazz beats with Jomion & the Uklos Band at Highland Park in Brooklyn, F to Jamaica

5/14 staggered brass band sets around Brooklyn Bridge Park starting at 2 PM with the L Train Brass Band  at Pier 6; at 2:30 – Sugartone Brass Band at the Visitors Center; 3:10 – Ad Hoc Brass Band playing second line stuff at Pier 4 Beach; 3:15-4:25 – Ad Hoc Brass Band at Pier 4 Beach; 4:25-4:30 – Ad Hoc Brass Band second line to Pier 3 Lawnl 4:30-5:10 – Stoop Kidz Brass Band at Pier 3 Lawn; 5:10-5:50 – Extra Syrup Horns at Pier 3 Plaza

5/14, 7:30/9:30 PM drummer Sylvia Cuenca leads a beast of a band with Brian Lynch on trumpet, Craig Handy on sax and Dave Kikoski on piano at Smalls,$25

5/14, 8 PM soaring oldtime front-porch harmony band the Calamity Janes followed by urban country legend Alex Battles at the small room at the Rockwood. In the big room moody retro new waver Alfonso Velez plays at 7 for $14; in the downstairs room at 9 amazing Middle Eastern-tinged psychedelic instrumentalists Sandcatchers play for $10

5/14, 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back here on 5/28

5/15, noon-4 PM the Biophony Festival with various configurations of Metropolis Ensemble-adjacent chamber music groups playing new environmentally-themed works by a vast cast of composers including Charlotte Greve, Claire Dickson and Maria Grand at various locations throughout the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, $18/$12 stud/srs, kids under 12 free.

5/15, noon the annual Greek Jewish Festival opens with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society, the Noga Group featuring oud sorcerer Avram Pengas, captivating bellydancer Layla Isis, psychedelic oud-rocker Scott Wilson & Efendi and the stark, haunting Pontic Firebird (best bandname ever, right?) outdoors at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, 280 Broome St (Allen/Eldridge), Chinatown, B/D to Grand St

5/15, 7 PM Portuguese fado-jazz singer Sofia Ribeiro plays the album release show for her new one at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/15, 7 PM often haunting, tuneful, improvisational art-rock pianist Gabriel Zucker at the Red Hook Record Store on Van Brunt before you hit Pioneer; F train to Carroll, exit front of the downtown train, take First Place to when it becomes Summit, go over the footbridge, hang a u-turn at the base of the bridge, continue on Summit to the playground triangle and hang a left. It’s about 15 minutes from the train.

5/16, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra string quartet performs works by French composers including Debussy and Ravel at Bryant Park

5/16, 7:30 PM perennially vital vocal jazz legend Sheila Jordan with cinematic pianist Alan Broadbent at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door

5/17, 5:30 PM the ASO Percussion Ensemble“combines Afro-Cuban Batá drumming and poetry with the sounds of contemporary chamber percussion, featuring Imani Winds’ oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz in compositions by percussionist and composer Javier Diaz” at Bryant Park

5/17, 7:30 PM Romany guitarist Pedro Cortes’ Flamenco Ensemble at the Django, $25

5/17, 9:30 PM fearlessly comedic all-female brass crew the eGALitarian Brass at Drom, $10 adv tix rex

5/18, 10:30 PM haunting Elliott Smith-esque rockers No-No Boy play their song cycle about Japanese Americans in US prison camps during WWII at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, ‘$12

5/19, 6 PM  eclectic pan-latin and Middle Eastern-inflected acoustic songwriter Miriam Elhajli at Pier 3 Greenway Terrace toward the south tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park

5/19, 10:30 PN charismatic, adventurous postbop/avant garde trombonist/crooner Frank Lacy leads a quartet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

5/20-21, 7 PM an outrageously cool/weird noisefest at 508 Smith St, in Red Hook just across the canal, $30. Acts include “flaming harp, a fire-shooting brass band. baritone sax and motorcycle double-quartet, a balloon choir and a 500,000 watt tesla coil”

5/20, 7:30 PM the Spanish Harlem Orchestra play the album release show for their blazing new salsa jazz record at Drom, $30 adv tix rtec

5/20, 9 PM Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – at Shillelagh Tavern, 47-22 30th Ave, Astoria, N/R to 46th St

5/20, 10:30 PM  badass bassist and jazz composer Endea Owens and the Cookout at the Django. $25

5/21, 3 PM an afternoon-long free music festival with short sets by Jeff Rodriguez. goofy ukulele songstress Seann Cantatore, hip-hop artists Jam Young, King ECH, and Too Dapper, scruffily psychedelic female-fronted indie band Loosie, Sara No H and Rao at the laundromat at 50-14 Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, 7 to 52nd St. It’s a clothing drive, bring stuff you don’t need, donations gratefully accepted. Free soap, free cookies while they last

5/21, 6:30 PM moody Greek-flavored jazz duo Christos Rafalides – vibraphone and Giovanni Mirabassi – piano followed by ubiquitously tuneful Spanish bassist Manel Fortia and his band and then poignant, captivating Greek singer Eleni Arapoglou and her Mediterranean band at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/21, 7 PM the colorful Yu Nishiyama Big Band at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/21, 8 PM sitar and tabla – Radhakrishna T – a student of Ravi Shankar -. and Jorge Ramiro at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music $25

5/21, 9 ish drony thrash band the Expollutants followed by intriguing retro 80s rockers Substitute – like GBH with a chorus pedal – and then the fiercely pro-immigrant, all-female Frida Kills at Our Wicked Lady, $14

5/22. noon new-music marching band Asphalt Orchestra play world premieres by Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jeffrey Brooks, and Kendall K. Williams, with special guest steel pan street band Pan in Motion. They will also perform a new arrangement by Tomeka Reid and Ken Thomson’s arrangement of Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads at Bryant Park

5/22, 5 PM elegantly lyrical Slavic jazz guitarist Martina Fiserova at the small room at the Rockwood,

5/22. 7:30 PM Canary Islands flamenco-jazz violinist Tania Mesa and band followed by Tunisian bassist Marwan Allam leading a quartet with Yacine Boulares on sax, wow, at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/22, 7:30/9 PM clever, purist B3 jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga leads a trio at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/23-24, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra: Jazz Ensemble – not an oxymoron – with Alexa Tarantino on sax play Nat Kiug Cole and Ellington tunes at Bryant Parka

5/25, 7 PM bizarre segue, good twinbill: psychedelic electric jazz keyboardist Sean Wayland followed by Americana banjo songwriter  Hilary Hawke  at the small room at the Rockwood

5/25. 7:30 PM the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, the irrepressible Champian Fulton  followed at 10:30 (separate $25 adm) by purist jazz chanteuse Samara Joy and her octet at the Django

5/26, 7:30 PM New Bojaira play flamenco jazz  at Drom, $20 adv tix rec Followed at 9:30 (separate $15 adv adm) by pyrotechnic clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski’s ferociously kinetic NY Gypsy All-Stars

5/26, 7:30/9 PM darkly eclectic pianist and Cecile McLorin Salvant collaborator Sullivan Fortner leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door d

5/26, 8 PM agelessly slashing, tuneful janglerock/powerpop icon Willie Nile at City Winery $20

5/27, 6:30 PM American Wild Ensemble, a septet of winds, strings, and percussion, will perform music inspired by Olmsted-designed parks including Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park. The program includes newly commissioned works by composers Oliver Caplan, Nell Shaw Cohen, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Libby Meyer, Ayumi Okada, Justin Ralls, Christina Rusnak, and Ryan Suleiman on the lawn at Ft Tryon Park. The program repeats on 5/28 at noon at the Prospect Park boathouse, Their Boston show last month playing this material was off the hook.

5/27-28, 7:30/9 PM legendary lyrical jazz pianist Bill Mays leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 at the door

5/28, 6:30 PM a rare chance to see popular Nordic drummer/bandleader Kresten Osgood with trumpeter Herb Robertson and tuba player Marcus Rojas at Downtown Music Gallery

5/28, 8 PM 10-piece chamber orchestra CACEnsemble and the Wendy Osserman Dance Company perform violinist/singer Concetta Abbate’s hauntingly improvisational new suite Laminaria: “fairytale meets noir meets classical music, the story of an underwater shadow ghost emerging from a kelp forest. Laminaria (the Latin word for kelp) is used medicinally to induce labor in women and serves as a metaphor for rebirth, transformation and loss,” at the Park Church Coop, 129 Russell St., Greenpoint, $20, G to Nassau Ave

5/29. 7:30/9 PM charmingly retro Americana jazz chanteuse Sasha Dobson leads a quartet with Peter Bernstein on guitar at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/31, 6:30 PM a cool improvisational trio: guitarist Jessica Ackerley, saxophonist Erin Rogers and drummer Henry Mermer followed by trumpeter Darren Johnston and drummer Ches Smith at Downtown Music Gallery

5/31, 8 PM first-wave dreampop legend and Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh at City Winery, $20

5/31, 10:30 PM  rustic Cuban country music band Los Hacheros play electric island grooves at the Django

6/8. 7 PM MasterVoices and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with Shereen Pimentel, soprano and Tariq Al-Sabir, tenor perform works by Mendelssohn, Josquin, Barber and others at Waterline Square Park on Riverside Dr (60/61)

6/11, 7:30 PM the Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra followed by veteran dancehall reggae singer Maxi Priest at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/14, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights  play a historically brilliant program: new orchestral arrangements of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, “Kreutzer Sonata” and Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”, at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

6/14. 8 PM the NY Philharmonic plays Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Bomsori Kim as soloist, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, and works by young composers in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The program repeats on the Great Lawn in Central Park on 6/15, in Cunningham Park, Queens on 6/16 and Prospect Park on 6/17

6/24, 7:30 PM oldschool Colombian gangsta sounds with La Cumbiamba eNeYé followed by Colombian vallenato crooner Fonseca at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/25, 4 PM firebrand Guinean feminist rocker Natu Camara followed by Guinean acrobatic troupe Cirque Kalabanté at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/28. 7:30 PM the Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky play works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/12, 7:30 PM  A Far Cry  play an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Dvorak, Beethoven and Karl Doty at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/14, 7:30 PM imaginative indie classical choir Roomful of Teeth followed by a live interview with avant garde legends the Kronos Quartet at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/16, 8:30 PM slinky soul-influenced psychedelic band Chicano Batman at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/26, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights & Lara St. John, violin soloist play Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony plus works by Avner Dorman at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/2, 7:30 PM  lush, majestic string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Adolphus Hailstork, Maureen Nelson and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D 810, ‘Death and the Maiden’ at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

A Colorful Environmentalist Playlist From Yolanda Kondonassis

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is a force of nature. The author of The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp has wide-ranging and impeccable taste in repertoire, from Satie to Hovhaness and just about all points in between. Her new solo album Five Minutes For Earth – streaming at Spotify – is a sparkling, dynamically rich collection of new works inspired by nature and the need to preserve our world from manmade disasters. Most of these pieces are on the short side, commissioned from an eclectic mix of well-known and up-and-coming composers.

The first number, Takuma Itoh’s Kohola Sings, traces the migration of humpbacked whales through the desolate depths, to a convivial, intricately woven crescendo. Kondonassis begins Michael Daugherty‘s Hear the Dust Blow, an Oklahoma Dust Bowl tableau. with gentle guitar-like voicings in a ballad without words that dissipates in cascades and frenetic flurries.

With its careful cadences and occasional enigmatic close harmonies, Aaron Jay Kernis‘ On Hearing Nightbirds at Dusk seems to focus more on the dusk than the birds. Kondonassis gets to revel in her instrument’s wide expanse throughout the elegant trajectories and sudden bursts in Chen Yi‘s Dark Mountains.

There’s muted mystery as Maximo Diego Pujol’s Milonga para mi Tierra unfolds, to a graceful tango. Reena Ismail‘s Inconvenient Wounds balances murk and sudden smoky smudges against a delicate lattice, a striking cautionary tale. Gary Schocker’s Memory of Trees shares a dichotomy, in this case between the catchy baroque melody at the center, and more unsettled passages.

As Earth Dreams, by Keith Fitch is not a portrait of troubled sleep, although its starry milieu is definitely restless. Jocelyn Chambers packs a lot of catchy, broodingly strolling riffage into her miniature Melting Point. In The Demise of the Shepard Glacier. Philip Maneval balances spacious phrases and steady rivulets to illustrate the slow disappearance of the Montana ice formation.

Kondonassis follows a brisk series of eighth-note passages and feathery interludes in Patrick Harlin‘s Time Lapse. Green, by Zhou Long is a spare and allusively Asian-tinged piece originally written for pipa and wood flute. Nathaniel Heyder‘s Earthview portrays a descent to earth through the atmosphere, an imperiled planet coming into clearer focus via insistent anchor notes and eerie, Messiaenic tonalities.

The album’s most verdantly minimalist number, complete with wry woodland sounds, is Meditation at Perkiomen Creek, a Pennsylvania tableau by Daniel Dorff. The final composition is Stephen Hartke‘s Fault Line, with its stabbing phantasmagoria and close-harmonied disquiet: it’s a strong closer.

Happily. greenwashing doesn’t seem to factor into Kondonassis’ agenda. She’s not endorsing any sinister schemes like the abolition of home or motor vehicle ownership, or the imposition of personal carbon allowances or Chinese communist-style social credit scores. She just loves the outdoors – which, in the context of 2022, is a welcome and genuinely radical concept.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For April and May 2022

Slowly, venues are wising up to the fact that crowds aren’t going to put up with restrictions. Right now it’s mostly jazz clubs who are leading the way, but this calendar continues to grow, slowly: if you’re thinking of going out, you might even want to bookmark this page as there will be additions throughout the month and hopefully beyond.

Mondays at the Django it’s all Mingus, whether with the Mingus Orchestra, Big Band or Mingus Dynasty: as jazz goes, it’s arguably the most exhilarating show of the week, every week. The first-rate players always rise to the level of the material. Sets 7:30/9:30 PM, $25 and worth it.

Thursdays at 7 PM Afro-Cuban percussion legend Pedrito Martinez leads his rumbling, jazz-tinged salsa project at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/1 and 4/22 at 7 PM, 4/7 at 10, and 4/16 at 7 PM tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser leads his band at the Django. Jukebox jazz in a JD Allen vein but not as dark and more straight-ahead/groove-oriented: as postbop party music goes, nobody’s writing better than this guy right now, $25

4/1-2, 7:30/9 PM Orbits 4 with pianist Rachel Z, Steve Wilson on alto sax, Jonathan Toscano on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums, wow, at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

4/1, 8 PM ubiquitous, moodily lyrical, politically savvy Irish folk-rocker Niall Connolly at the small room at the Rockwood

4/1, 10 PM tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/2, 7 PM  ambient guitarist and Bowie collaborator Gerry Leonard a.k.a. Spooky Ghost at the basement room at the Rockwood, $15

4/2. 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard leads at quartet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back here on 4/16

4/2, 7:30 PM Club d’Elf with John Medeski play ramshackle gnawa-funk at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/3, 7:15 PM a benefit for Ukrainian refugees on the roof at Our Wicked Lady with short sets by pensive jazz-folk singer Lou Apollon, performance artist Charlotte Righetti, and psychedelic Greek surf rockers the Byzantones, cover is in the neighborhood of $25

4/5, 6:30 PM Nick Panoutsos solo on bass followed by the improvisational sax-drums duo of Colin Fisher and Kyle Hutchins at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/6, 7 PM the reliably innovative S.E.M Ensemble perform works for ensembles including string quartet, double bass, percussion, and marimba by Morton Feldman, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Lucier,Petr Kotik, Ana Sokolovic, and Jordan Dykstra, and a premiere by Daniel O’Connor at Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Place (Joralemon/State), downtown Brooklyn, any train to Borough Hall

4/6, 8 PM Melissa Gordon of Melissa & the Mannequins, one of the best purist janglerock songwriters in NYC, at the small room at the Rockwood

4/7. 9ish drony, jangly female-fronted post-Velvets duo Shadow Monster at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/8, 7 PM haunting folk noir/Americana songwriter Emily Frembgen at the basement room at the Rockwood, $10

4/7, 7 PM vibraphone monster Simon Moullier at the Django, $25. This guy is all about adrenaline – those mallets fly fast and furious.

4/7, 7 PM  tenor saxophonist Tim Ries‘ nonet the Universal Spirits Ensemble = not to be confused with his other band the Rolling Stones – at Drom, $25

4/8, half past noon a celebration of Scottish bagpipe music with Gleadhraich frontman Craig Weir, the Highland Divas and Noisemaker at Bryant Park

4/8, 7 PM haunting folk noir/Americana songwriter Emily Frembgen at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $10

4/9 starting at 10:30 in the morning Scottish pipe-and-drum bands including the Theater School of Scotland’s band at Bryant Park

4/9, 7 PM trumpeter Alex Norris leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. Followed at 10 (separate $25 admission) by bassist Boris Kozlov’s “Electric Mingus Project” with Johnathan Blake on drums which could be truly electiic, or a disaster.

4/9, 10:30 PM feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

4/10, half past noon Scottish bagpipe acts including Whiskey Kiss, New York Brogue and others at Bryant Park

4/10, 7 PM Chontadelia play a wildly energetic marimba-driven take on coastal Colombian folk tunes at Drom, $20

4/10, 7 PM darkly torchy southwestern gothic/Europolitan songwriter/guitarist Miwa Gemini a at the basement room at the Rockwood, $10

4/10, 7:30/9 PM soulful pan-Latin jazz chanteuse Claudia Acuña  leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door

4/11, 7 PM funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re also here on 4/26 at 8

4/12, 6:30 PM dueling baritone saxes with Jamison Williams and Danny Kamins at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/13, 8:30 PM a bluegrass summit with Michael Daves and Andy Statman at the big room at the Rockwood, $20

4/13, 9ish drifting, female-fronted dreampop band Punchlove at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/14, 7 PM lyrical pianist David Kikoski leads a trio with Boris Kozlov on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. Followed at 10 (separate $25 adm) by trombonist Conrad Herwig‘s latin/Mingus septet, Herwig is back the next night, 4/15 at 7.

4/14, a good punk and punk-adjacent quadruplebill: 8 PM ish catchy female-fronted powerpop/punk band the Rizzos, the louder and more snide Duke of Vandals, the fiercely pro-immigrant Frida Kill and kinetic no-wavers Weeping Icon at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/14, 10:30 PM  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads his quintet at Smalls, $25

4/15, 10 PM cantante MV Caldera sings her high-voltage blend of calypso and tambor at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/16, 7 PM trumpeter Philip Harper leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/17, 7 PM a low-register subset of intricately orchestrated psycho mambo crew Gato Locoat the big room at the Rockwood, $10

4/19, 6:30 PM: a killer free jazz twinbill with trumpeter Thomas Heberer, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Joe Hertenstein followed at 7:30 by singers Joan Sue and Isabel Crespo with bassists Nick Dunston and Henry Fraser at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/21, 7 PM Mike LeDonne takes a relatively rare turn on piano  at the Django followed at 10 (separate $25 adm) by purist postbop guitarist Mark Whitfield

4/21, 7 PM pianist Simon Mulligan and cellist Dan Barrett lead a chamber ensemble playing new works at by Catherine Neville, Paul Aljian, Simona Smirnova, David Mecionis, Madelyn Byrne, Eric Heilner, Patricia Leonard, Christopher Sahar, and Anton Rovner’s Mysterious Star, a song cycle on poems by Edgar Allan Poe at the Church of the Transfiguration, 1 E 29th St. $20

4/21, 9ish heavy psych/hard funk trio King Crash at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/22, 9ish darkly drifting keyboardist/chanteuse Lizzie Loveless and catchy Americana/pop songstress Denitia at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/22, midnight Elefantkiller – fearless, venomous, politically spot-on New York punks who deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Dead Kennedys – at Otto’s

4/23, from noon to 5 PM reggae soundsystens Soul Supreme, Nexxt Level, Super Force, Federation Sound, and Empress Breeze live and in-person at the VP Records store, 170-19 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica, Queens, A to 169th St. Video Music Box legend Ralph McDaniels will also be there doing his thing with special guests including Kool DJ Red Alert and other figures from hip-hop’s golden age.

4/23, 7 PM  iconic low register reedman Scott Robinsonn leads a quartet with Miki Yamanaka on piano celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. melodic rising star bassist Endea Owens & the Cookout follow on the bill at 10 (separate $25 adm)

4/24, 7:30/9 PM  the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, the irrepressible Champian Fulton at Mezzrow, $25

4/24, 9ish hard-hitting stoner boogie band Slomo Sapiens at Our Wicked Lady, $14

4/25, 7 PM noir guitar legend Jim Campilongo  at the big room at the Rockwood $15. Downstairs funky Milwaukee new wavers the Violet Hour play at the same time for $10, take your pick

4/26, 6:30 PM a free jazz twinbill: saxophonist Ayumi Ishito with Damien Olson and Nebula the Velvet Queen on theremin, followed by Aaron Edgcomb on percussion, Priya Carlberg on vocals and David Leon on sax at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/26, 7 PM catchy female-fronted punk band the Neighborhood Brats at Our Wicked Lady, $15

4/26. 10 PM  rustic Cuban country music band Los Hacheros play ancient island grooves at the Django, $25

4/27, 7:30/9 PM imaginative, tuneful bassist Joris Teepe with Leo Genovest on piano and Matt Wilson on drums at Mezzrow, $25

4/28, 7 PM lyrical latin-inflected pianist Helen Sung leads a quartet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/28, 7 PM Cuban groovmeister Carlitos Padron & Rumberos Del Callejon play oldschool salsa dura at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/28, 7:30/9 PM colorful,  eclectic, paradigm-shifting B3 jazz organist Brian Charette leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25

4/28, 8 PM intense, charismatic oldschool soul belter Sami Stevens at the small room at the Rockwood

4/28, 9 PM ferocious, smartly lyrical soul-rockers No Ice at Our Wicked Lady, $14. Avoid the Nazi opening band The Road to Ruin at all costs: how did they get on the bill?

4/29, 8ish reliably slashing noiserockers Bugs in the Dark at Our Wicked Lady, $14

4/29, 10 PM at Otto’s, a tuneful, oldschool style punk bill: the OC Rippers, a promising new band who remind you of the Dead Boys, at 11 San Diego’s solid, tuneful Slaughter Boys and the more postpunk/hardcoreish No-Heads headlining.

4/29, 10 PM energetic purist tenor saxophonist Craig Handy & Second Line Smith at the Django, $25

4/30. starting at 2 PM in reverse order at Otto’s, an eclectic benefit for the citizens of Ukraine, all donations to benefit Razom for Ukraine, beginning with the acoustic acts and moving on to the bands: headliners Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – preceded by long-running, wickedly jangly, tuneful Americana rockers the Sloe Guns, Stephanie Marie and Friends, Krispy DeRato, Gary Edward Kiyan, Raising Daughters, Xavier Moll, Lo, Sean Listro, Kassaye Selassie, Adam Najemian, Jason Inyoung Lee, Max Lombardo, Harrison Dolan, and others.

4/30, 3 PM the Bang on a Can avant garde organization returns to NYC with a multi-ensemble mini-marathon outdoors at 300 Ashland Place just downhill from BAM. Among them: epic ranchera/bolero brass crew Banda de los Muertos  at 3  and at 7 Kendall K. Williams‘ steel pan orchestra\

4/30, 7 PM are you hungry for orchestral music but locked out of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall? Here’s a great evening of symphonic sounds with the Modus Opera Orchestra playing works by Rossini, Bach, Morricone, a world premiere by Guido López-Gavilán, plus Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 at St. Mary’s Church, 1008 49th Ave, Long Island City, just up the block from the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 train, $25

4/30. 7 PM mighty Brazilian drumline street band BatalaNYC celebrate 10 years of banging around thunderously at Drom, $12 adv tix rec

4/30, 9 PM ferocious two-guitar oldschool powerpop band Ratstar at the Delancey, $10

4/30. 10:30 PM downtown jazz guitar icon Elliott Sharp leads a trio at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $20

5/3, 6:30 PM guitarist Federico Balducci leads an improvisational trio with bassist Brian Kastan and drummer Mike Pride followed at 7:30 by Alix Tucci solo on bass trombone at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/4, 8 PM Jambalaya brass band NOTUS march into Drom, $10 adv tix rec

5/10, 6:30 PM Symbiotique with guitarist Michael Eaton, Seth Andrew Davis, Cheryl Pyle and Kule Quass followed at 7:30 by violinist/singer Kate Birch with guitarist Tal Yahalom and then at 8:30 PM guitarist Chris Pitsiokos and Kevin Murray at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/15, noon the annual Greek Jewish Festival opens with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society, the Noga Group featuring oud sorcerer Avram Pengas, captivating bellydancer Layla Isis, psychedelic oud-rocker Scott Wilson & Efendi and the stark, haunting Pontic Firebird (best bandname ever, right?) outdoors at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, 280 Broome St (Allen/Eldridge), Chinatown, B/D to Grand St\

5/20, 9 PM Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – at Shillelagh Tavern, 47-22 30th Ave, Astoria, N/R to 46th St

It might seem premature to include concerts as far away as this summer, but these are outdoors. so even if the dying Kathy Hochul regime tries to bring the lockdown back from the dead, these will probably go on as planned:

6/14, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights  play a historically brilliant program: new orchestral arrangements of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, “Kreutzer Sonata” and Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”, at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

6/28. 7:30 PM the Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky play works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/12, 7:30 PM  A Far Cry  play an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Dvorak, Beethoven and Karl Doty at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/26, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights & Lara St. John, violin soloist play Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony plus works by Avner Dorman at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/2, 7:30 PM  lush, majestic string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Adolphus Hailstork, Maureen Nelson and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D 810, ‘Death and the Maiden’ at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

A Darkly Memorable Duo Album by Saxophonist Thomas Giles and Pianist Liana Pailodze Harron

Under ordinary circumstances, an album titled Mysteries of the Macabre would be most likely to be found here during the annual, October-long Halloween celebration of all things dark and creepy. But these last several months have been all that. And it wouldn’t be fair to make you wait til this fall to hear saxophonist Thomas Giles and pianist Liana Pailodze Harron‘s album, streaming at Spotify. It’s a powerful and vivid reflection of our time.

Both artists dedicate themselves to popularizing the work of new and obscure artists: they make a good team. The album comprises four medium-length pieces, which are in general more haunting than outright macabre. The first work is Poeme for Saxophone and Piano, a partita by Asiya Korepanova. Giles enters on alto sax with just short of a shriek, then follows a steady, subtly dynamic series of allusively grim chromatic variations, employing a crystalline, oboe-like tone punctuated by foghorn trills. Harron doesn’t get to join the disquieted parade until the end. The obvious influence is Messiaen, a composer the duo will explore shortly.

They intertwine in a similarly somber, skeletal stroll in the next part, Harron fueling a turbulent drive and liquidly articulated cascades. Giles’ spacious, uneasily soaring minimalism finally lures Harron in to rise and fall, in an increasingly agitated theme. Korepanova may be best known as a pyrotechnic concert pianist, but this speaks mightily to her prowess as a composer.

Messiaen’s Theme et Variations is next, the two following a similarly determined if more muted path, Harron’s meticulous, icepick attack balanced by Giles’ floating legato, through the composer’s eerily chiming tonalities and an unexpectedly jaunty if enigmatic dance. Giles’ rise to a shivery, theremin-like timbre right before the piece winds down is breathtakng.

The two revel in the Gyorgi Ligeti piece from which the album takes its title, through initial poltergeist flickers, scrambling phantasmagoria, a dazzling display of circular breathing, from Giles, and some playful spoken word.

The concluding work is Jay Schwartz‘s Music for Saxophone and Piano. Giles parses spare, somber motives over just the hint of resonance from inside the piano, serving as an artful echo. From there Harron develops a bounding melody line as Giles’ tectonic sheets bend, weave and flurry. Rising and falling from a muted pavane to tense doppler sax and a grim quasi-boogie in the low lefthand, the musicians reach an ending that will take you by surprise. It’s a fitting conclusion to this darkly beguiling album.

A Celebration of Ukrainian Classical Music at a Pivotal Moment in History

In wartime, extremes always prevail in the public imagination. The fact is that the people of Ukraine had absolutely nothing to do with Vladimir Zelensky’s reckless provocation of the bellicose dictator next door, or the proliferation of American-built germ warfare labs which the Russians claim to have bombed into the stone age. Russian propaganda is no more trustworthy than MSNBC, so we don’t know if or to what degree their claim is true. At this moment in history, it seems like basic common sense to advocate for a rapid end to hostilities, not only for the sake of Ukraine’s diverse populations, but for all of us, considering what great musical contributions the country has given the world over the centuries.

One Ukrainian musician who’s given us great beauty lately is violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. Her latest album Poems and Rhapsodies with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under Volodymyr Sirenko is streaming at Spotify. It’s a mix of standard repertoire along with some fascinating rarities from her home turf.

She joins forces with cellist Sophie Shao in a lush, rapturous, tersely lyrical take of Saint-Saëns’ La muse et le poète to open the record. Ivakhiv’s elegant, downwardly stairstepping interlude draws sober reflection from Shao and pillowy ambience from the orchestra. From there Ivakhiv parses the dreamy atmosphere with a spun-steel precision, Shao holding down her role as brooding foil.

The drifting, enveloping ambience continues with Chausson’s Poème symphonique, Ivakhiv cutting through acerbically in this showcase for both her lower register and dynamics, Sirenko deftly exercising restraint until the magnificently determined peak before the end.

The centerpiece is a nimbly evocative take of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Sirenko opts for mystery and dancing precision as Ivakhiv mines the subtly enigmatic corners of the piece: this is a remarkably restless interpretation. Them again, that perception might be colored by having listened to the composer’s harrowing Symphony No. 6 on loop for much of last year: it’s no less relevant now.

The first of the rarities here is Anatol Kos-Anatolsky’s Poem for Violin and Orchestra in D Minor, a moody, captivatingly Romantic kaleidoscope of Carpathian-tinged violin riffage, with moments of blustery brass and persistently wary lustre. It ought to be better known: Ivakhiv deserves props for unearthing it.

Kenneth Fuchs‘ American Rhapsody (Romance for Violin and Orchestra), a Robert Motherwell-inspired tone poem, has panoramic sweep and interweave between orchestral voices and Ivakhiv’s alternately stark and soaring lines. The ensemble close the album with another Ukrainian gem, Myroslav Skoryk’s Carpathian Rhapsody, making Bach and then phantasmagorical hi-de-ho jazz out of an ancient-sounding chromatic folk theme, All this underscores the need to preserve the culture that incubated this music

Springtime Blossoms in Boston With a Concert of Vivid World Premieres

Last night at the Multicultural Art Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Juventas New Music Ensemble played eight verdant world premieres celebrating the Frederick Law Olmsted bicentennial. In a spot-on example of post-March 2020 programming, the bill was titled Lungs of the City. It was a breath of fresh air on many levels.

A subset of the ensemble – which comprised flutist Wei Zhao, clarinetist Wolcott Humphrey, horn player Anne Howarth, violinist Ryan Shannon, cellist Minjin Chung, violist Lu Yu and percussionist Thomas Schmidt – went off script to open with a sober arrangement the Ukrainian national anthem. With the stark cello introduction, it seemed like more of an elegy than a celebration of solidarity. Such are the times we live in.

The first piece on the program was The Forest and the Architect, by Christina Rusnak. The Portland, Oregon tableau began with elegantly cheerful passages spotted with moments of more somber reflection, moody clarinet over a gently emphatic march and a visceral sense of relief. Burred woodwind timbres and a dancing, enigmatic, circular theme quickly gave way to a lush pastorale and then a dance kicked off by woody flute tones. A terse interweave with lower pitches developed to mingle with the initial theme: this music breathed, deeply.

Ryan Suleiman‘s still, meditative Piece of Mind was inspired by Olmsted’s Brookline home workshop, as well as the Japanese concept of a park coexisting with nature rather than being imposed on its milieu. Subtly breathtaking long tones and circular breathing from the wind players were first punctuated by momentary sprouts in the ether, then the group slowly unfolded a calm series of harmonies. Like a muezzin, Chung’s cello sounded a bracing trill before the whole group returned to calmly shifting tectonic sheets.

That work’s minimalism was echoed more playfully by Libby Meyer‘s diptych Beauty of the Fields. Butterfly weed was brought to life by minutely oscillating overtones from Schmidt’s vibraphone behind a minimalistically balmy flute theme sailing on the breeze. With echoey percussion through a buzzy haze, evocations of muted insect activity and birdsong, her portrait of milkweed just might have involved somebody plucking a ripe stalk and blowing it on an unsuspecting neighbor.

Ayumi Okada‘s tantalizingly brief partita Golden Hour Walk at Fort Tryon Park traced the Washington Heights composer’s 2021 winter solstice stroll through her favorite spots there just as the sun was about to go down over the Hudson. It was characteristically evocative, beginning as a wistful pavane and growing more animated, with Carl Nielsen-esque echo phrases bouncing from voice to voice. Baroque inflections, elegantly intertwined horn and flute, and colorfully squirrelly pizzicato rose to a lushness that contrasted with shivery strings and silken flute lines. The final sunset theme became a gently wafting, Dvorakian singalong.

Composer Justin Ralls related that prior to creating parks, Olmsted worked as an undercover journalist chronicling the horrors of slavery in the American south, and that those experiences informed the democratic aspect of his designs. Ralls’ Olmsted 200: Theme and Variations reflected the bustle of the landscape assembled around Seattle’s Lincoln Reservoir. Somewhat akin to Peer Gynt taking a stroll in the garden, the group’s long tones coalesced from echoes of a familiar, sunny morning theme to a rather triumphant, steady, circular pulse fueled by the highs. Tight polyrhythmic counterpoint receded to a reflective, echoing quiet signaled by Schmidt’s lingering vibes.

The most unselfconsciously catchy piece on the bill was Michael-Thomas Foumai’s Indian-flavored mini-suite Olmsted Gardens. Anticipatory sprouts of melody pushed up, to a cheery carnatic flute theme followed by a deliciously coy, suspenseful interlude with film noir bongos, furtive individual voicings having devious fun in the shadows. The group took it out with an anthemic return to the initial dance.

Also on the bill were an unhurried, warmly crescendoing Oliver Caplan ballad without words, and a similarly fond summer pageant by Nell Shaw Cohen bookended around a cautious dance.

Those who missed the concert can catch the video of the entire performance here. Juventas New Music Ensemble’s next scheduled concert is June 5 at 6 PM at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. Tickets are $18, ages 4-12 get in for $12.

Raphaël Pannier Puts Out a Gorgeously Edgy, Genre-Defying Album

Miguel Zenon was a synergistic choice as musical director for drummer Raphaël Pannier‘s latest album, Fuane, streaming at Bandcamp. Pannier has just as much fun pushing the boundaries of classical music as he does with jazz. While Zenon may be best known for his Puerto Rican jazz roots, he’s also recorded bracing, paradigm-shifting, Bartokian works for alto sax and string quartet. François Moutin joins them on bass, with Aaron Goldberg handling piano on the more straightforwardly jazz-oriented numbers, handing off to Giorgi Mikadze on the more classically-flavored tracks. It’s not every day you hear a drummer on an Olivier Messien composition – although it’s a fair bet that the composer would approve.

They open with an aptly desolate, expansive take of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman. Zenon floats mournfully over Goldberg’s judiciously glittering chords as Pannier and Moutin flicker and flutter, drawing the sax down into the morass. The impressionistic lustre in Goldbedrg’s solo is a side of him we too seldom get to see on record, Zenon scampering and wailing to angst-fueled heights, then making way for Moutin’s furtive concluding dash.

Moutain stays out front for his scrambling chords and wryly dancing lines in Midtown Blues: more comedic moments ensue in what seems to be a spot-on portrait of self-important Manhattan lunch-hour madness. The quartet expand on variations on a distinctly uneasy, Middle Eastern-tinged theme in Lullaby, a deliciously pointillistic, insistent Zenon solo at the center.

Mikadze takes over piano in Pannier’s trio arrangement of Messiaen’s Le Baiser de l’Enfant Jésus, one of the final segments of his Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus suite. Zenon wafts tenderly and descends gently as the piano shifts between a warmly emphatic intensity and the composer’s signature icy, otherworldly tonalities, Pannier subtly coloring in the center.

Pannier and Goldberg bookend Wayne Shorter’s ESP with a clenched-teeth menace; in between, Zenon takes a terse, airy approach at a distance from the underlying phantasmagoria, Goldberg sprinting far from the shadows. Mikadze returns for a a reinvention of Ravel’s Forlane, Zenon switched out for Moutin. With its eerie marionettish theme and flamenco allusions, it’s a good counterpart to the Messiaen piece, Pannier setting loose waves of epic grandeur and then moments of puckish humor.

The group return to Pannier originals with Fauna, moving from uneasy, kinetically loopy phrases to a rhythmically tricky, bittersweet ballad at escape velocity, Goldberg at his lyrical peak with his ripples and cascades, Moutin spinning around frantically at the center: it’s a showstopper and the best song on the album..

They ramp up the nocturnal mood in the fugal exchanges and glittering soca party vibe of Capricho de Raphael, by Brazilian bandolinist Hamilton de Holanda. Mikadze takes over piano again on the concluding diptych, Monkey Puzzle Tree, with its carnivalesque stairstepping, Zenon a dancing pierrot in between disquieting, energetic rises and falls. They take it out on a jaunty, dancing note.

Pannier’s next gig as a leader on his home turf in France is April 23 at the Jazz in Noyon Festival. And Goldberg is playing with edgy violinist Zach Brock and bassist Matt Penman at Mezzrow on March 23, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Cover is $25 cash at the door.