For one semester, Princeton University’s Music 219, an opera performance class in the music department, put its small class through the paces of preparing operatic excerpts for public performance. The students and faculty selected the music to be prepared, and the class culminated last Saturday night in an evening of operatic selections accompanied by an orchestra. more
The musical holiday season would not be complete without Handel’s Messiah, which can always be heard in the Princeton area at this time of the year. In this 275th anniversary of the work’s composition, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented their annual Princeton performance of this popular work last Friday night to a full house at Richardson Auditorium. Joined by four vocal soloists and the Montclair State University Singers, a chamber-sized NJSO performed a quick-moving Messiah that featured an innovative and creative interpretation by guest conductor George Manahan. more
As Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt explained in his concert remarks, at first glance the four works performed this past weekend by the orchestra would seem unrelated to one another. Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky, combined with Princeton University composer Juri Seo, sounded like a set of pieces without a common thread, but conductor Pratt and the musicians of the orchestra found a way to allow four diverse works to speak to one another as well as the audience. Friday night’s University Orchestra performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented last Thursday night) featured tight ensemble playing, elegant instrumental solo work, and a display of both compositional creativity and keyboard virtuosity from a composer who premiered her own concerto. more
“Art demands of us that we do not stand still.” So commented Ludwig van Beethoven on his own late string quartets. No one can argue that the world is far from standing still, and the cycle of Beethoven string quartets presented this year by the Takács String Quartet at Princeton University may represent more than just music. Beethoven composed his repertory of 16 string quartets during some of the most tumultuous decades in world history, and the Takács performance of all the composer’s quartets over six concerts both shows promise for consistency in high-quality music and demonstrates the evolution of the string quartet as a musical form. more
In its season opener at Richardson Auditorium this past weekend, Princeton Pro Musica returned to its roots in the great choral masses of music history. Pro Musica Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau centered Sunday afternoon’s concert on one of the more dramatic masses of Franz Joseph Haydn, combined with smaller choral works similarly grounded with Classical melodies and clear-cut structures. Dr. Brandau combined the 100-voice Pro Musica with a Classically-sized orchestra and the established Polydora Ensemble, whose members doubled as soloists for the Haydn mass. more
The Princeton University Orchestra opened its 2016-17 season this past weekend with a performance of music both rooted in the theater and revolutionary in its innovation. Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt described Saturday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Sunday afternoon) as two 20th-century works “sandwiched” around a composer Mr. Pratt defined as the cornerstone of 19th-century orchestral invention, but the three works performed could be viewed as programmatic — telling stories of theater and life in general. With a very full stage of players to open the season, Mr. Pratt also shared the conducting podium in the second half of the program with Ruth Ochs, no stranger to heavy-duty symphonic works herself. more
With the appointment of Xian Zhang as music director, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) is entering a new era of musical accomplishment. Ms. Zhang will make her Princeton debut later this month, and this past Friday night, the NJSO invited an old friend back to the podium. Former Associate Conductor Gemma New led the orchestra in a concert paying tribute to her homeland and including an audience favorite from the piano concerto repertory. more
There is always an air of freshness at the start of a new musical season — the night air is crisp with the coming of autumn and audiences are eager with anticipation of what the new season will bring. Princeton Symphony Orchestra began its 2016-17 season a bit early this year with a concert last Thursday night which was definitely a breath of fresh air — and an approach to Antonio Vivaldi which Princeton audiences likely have not heard before. more
The Princeton University Summer Concerts series has thrived on presenting instrumental chamber ensembles and, to close this summer’s season, added to its offerings by bringing a refined and polished vocal ensemble to Princeton. The German vocal quintet Calmus performed a program based on the works of William Shakespeare last Wednesday night at Richardson Auditorium to one of the best houses the series has seen this summer. more
For the past three years, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with Princeton University to present a week-long Composition Institute sponsored by the Edward T. Cone Foundation. Last week, four emerging composers, selected from an international applicant pool of university composition students and composers in the early stages of their careers, worked on the details and refinements of their pieces, aided by the players of the NJSO, Institute conductor David Robertson, and Institute Director and composer Steven Mackey. The week culminated in a performance by the NJSO Saturday night in Richardson Auditorium. more
In musical performance, the term “trio” refers to any combination of three instruments, often two stringed instruments and a keyboard. Prima Trio, which performed last Tuesday night on the Princeton Summer Chamber Concerts series, has put their own twist on this tradition by combining piano and clarinet with either violin or viola. Gulia Gurevich has expanded the range of Prima Trio by playing both violin and viola, joining clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan and pianist Anastasia Dedik. Each of these players comes from a unique part of the world, and brought their multicultural backgrounds and solid training to Richardson Auditorium for last Tuesday night’s performance. The members of Prima Trio honed their craft at Oberlin Conservatory and through 12 years of playing together and touring, their performance moved from traditional to contemporary, with much of the program drawn from the 20th century.
Since its inception 49 years ago, Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts has presented many fine string quartets. All-female quartets have been few and far between, and ensembles which can mesmerize an audience as well as the Aizuri Quartet are even rarer. The Summer Chamber Concerts opening event last Thursday night featuring the Aizuri Quartet brought a nearly full house to Richardson Auditorium to hear excellence in chamber music performance.
This season Princeton Festival has undertaken one of the most complex and challenging operas in the repertory with Benjamin Britten’s dark but poetic Peter Grimes. Like the World War II years in which the opera was composed, Peter Grimes has many levels, reaching back to 19th century morality while drawing on fears and suspicions still prevalent today. The date of the opera’s premiere, in London’s first few post-war months, makes the genesis of this work even more remarkable. more
Princeton Festival has placed a special emphasis on the music of 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten this year. The cornerstone opera of the Festival’s 2016 season is Britten’s Peter Grimes, and this past Friday night, Concordia Chamber Players offered some of Britten’s more charming works for voice and instruments as the festival concluded its first week. more
Princeton Pro Musica closed its 2015-16 season with a concert of Americana this past weekend. In this election year, Pro Musica Music Director Ryan James Brandau chose to program Sunday afternoon’s performance at Richardson Auditorium in the hope that the spirit of American classical music might effectively ground people amidst the political flurry. With a sampling of 20th and 21st-century choral works, the 100-voice Pro Musica ended their season in uplifting fashion. more
Each year, the Stuart B. Mindlin Memorial Concerts at Princeton University have brought together the University Orchestra with other ensembles and guest soloists. This year, conductor Michael Pratt and the orchestra chose to go it alone, presenting two major symphonic works which not only showed off the ensemble’s collective sound, but also gave many of the student musicians the chance to play elegant solos. more
Johann Sebastian Bach never heard a complete performance of his now classic Mass in B Minor in his lifetime, but over the past 150 years, this five-part work has become a staple of the choral repertory. Loaded with instrumentally-conceived choral coloratura and exacting counterpoint, the Mass in B Minor is considered a pinnacle of choral performance toward which choruses aspire. The Princeton University Glee Club undertook this vocal and instrumental challenge last Sunday evening with a historically informed and clean performance in Richardson Auditorium. Conductor Gabriel Crouch led the 80-voice Glee Club, chamber orchestra, and four vocal soloists in a performance which was lean, sensitive to the text, and strong to the very last note. more
The Richardson Chamber Players closed its 2015-16 season with a concert of French musical bonbons at Richardson Auditorium, featuring a number of Princeton University music department faculty and students. Continuing a mission of presenting music one rarely hears live, Director Michael Pratt programmed a performance of chamber music from the early part of the 20th century which might have been heard in Parisian salons and concert halls. more
This season, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director, Rossen Milanov, have dedicated programming to the creativity of women, and this past Sunday afternoon’s performance at Richardson Auditorium featured one of the more creative artists on the music scene today. Composer Caroline Shaw, who doubled as violinist soloist in her own Lo for Violin and Orchestra, crossed many genres of music as both composer and performer. These multiple genres of music thoroughly permeated her three-movement work, which was effectively played by the Princeton Symphony. With movements delineated by tempo markings rather than titles, Lo seemed to be semi-autobiographical, showing bits and pieces of many composers whom Ms. Shaw has credited with influencing her own creativity. more
Each year, the Princeton University Orchestra holds a concerto competition, allowing student performers to select their own repertoire and challenge themselves for a chance to perform with the orchestra. Some students might play it safe and choose music of the old masters, but not this year’s winners. Soprano Solène Le Van, violinist Jessie Chen, and pianist Evan Chow selected works of the 20th and 21st centuries, showing musical diversity and a deep range of curiosity. Led by conductor Michael Pratt, the University Orchestra presented these three winners this past weekend in Richardson Auditorium. more
Choral music can be a tough sell, and sometimes it takes a star to bring new audiences into the fold. The Princeton University Glee Club has been a “star” in its own right, and the “Glee Club Presents” series, begun in 2013, has packed venues on and around campus with audiences eager to hear the chorus collaborate with international performers. The University Glee Club presented the fifth concert in this series this past weekend, filling Richardson Auditorium for a joint performance with the renowned vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Fresh on the heels of the Glee Club’s tour to South Africa, Saturday night’s concert showed the chorus reaching well into its own diversity, as well as the international performing arena. more
In recent years, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra has expanded its offerings to include both a Chamber and Pops series, among others. The Pops series has been in place for more than a decade, attracting new audience members and giving the musicians a chance to explore a different genre of repertoire. This past Saturday night, the Princeton Symphony treated the audience at Richardson Auditorium to some of the “greatest hits” from the movies — just in time for Academy Awards month. more
Since his arrival as conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra six years ago, Jacques Lacombe has sought out unique partnerships, including two previous collaborations with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. On the Princeton leg of his “farewell tour” before leaving the NJSO to take the helm of the Bonn Opera Company in Germany, Mr. Lacombe and the NJSO presented a concert with many levels of collaboration — among ensembles, artists, and artistic disciplines.
Friday night’s concert in Richardson Auditorium brought together the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and Montclair State University Prima Voce women’s chorus for a semi-staged production of Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although labeled “incidental music,” which the composer provided for an 1843 performance of Shakespeare’s play, Mendelssohn’s score has long stood on its own as a crowd-pleaser and as accompaniment to dance productions. more
There might be as many ways to perform Handel’s oratorio Messiah as there are to cook a holiday turkey — how many “sides” and “dressings” there are to the performance is at the discretion of the conductor from a myriad of choices in historical versions, soloists, phrasing, tempi, and ornamentation. December Messiah performances in Princeton are usually the domain of local choruses, but last weekend conductor Jacques Lacombe brought the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra NJSO) to Richardson Auditorium for a presentation of Handel’s immortal choral/orchestral work.
It was clear from the outset of the performance that Mr. Lacombe was very familiar with the work, exploring unique ideas in instrumentation and selection of arias. For Friday night’s concert, Mr. Lacombe looked back to the 1743 London performances of the piece, with an orchestra resembling Handel’s original ensemble. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra onstage included chamber-sized contingents of strings, as well as a pair of trumpets and oboes, a single bassoon, timpani, and both harpsichord and portative organ. Conducting without a baton, Mr. Lacombe began the opening “Overture” with decisive double-dotted rhythms, yet found grace and elegance with small sweeps in the lean string playing. more
The Princeton University Orchestra sent its members home for the holidays with a concert of music ranging from chipper and lively to toweringly rich. Friday night’s performance of the University Orchestra at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented Thursday night) combined the vibrant brass of 16th-century Giovanni Gabrieli with the melodic lyricism of Franz Schubert, topped off with the symphonic complexity of Gustav Mahler.
Conductor Michael Pratt began the concert Friday night with a nod to the season with a selection from Gabrieli’s extensive antiphonal brass choir repertory. Three brass quartets stood around the Richardson balcony, while Mr. Pratt directed traffic from the stage. Each choir was scored slightly differently, with the opening center choir showing off crisp trumpets on the rhythms of Gabrieli’s Canzon a 12. The horns, trombones, and tubas of the other two brass choirs supported the sound well as the antiphonal music soared around the hall. more