May 17, 2017

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) closed its 2016-17 Princeton series on Friday night with the best of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as an old musical friend featured in a Romantic Sibelius violin concerto. NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang led the ensemble and violin soloist Jennifer Koh in a concert at Richardson Auditorium including music of Mozart, Sibelius, and Schubert.

Ms. Koh is an old friend to Princeton audiences; she has performed a number of times with area ensembles. Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor, Opus 47 is an expansive symphonic work, and even after its 1905 revision by the composer, still demands the highest in technical facility from the soloist. more

May 10, 2017

Programmatic coincidences do not happen often in Princeton; there is so much music out there that local ensembles usually do not program the same works for the same season. Such a coincidence occurred this past weekend when Princeton Symphony Orchestra performed the same Paul Hindemith piece as the Princeton University Orchestra did last weekend. Audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear the same work twice, compare performances, and perhaps hear something new the second time around. Princeton Symphony Orchestra closed its classical series this past Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium with a concert entitled “Metamorphosis,” that not only could refer to the Hindemith work performed, but also the orchestra’s journey from the beginning of the 2016-17 season until now — a season jam-packed with concerts, educational programs, and community outreach activities. PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov led the ensemble in a performance that was both rooted in impressionistic musical style and full of precision and elegance of playing. more

May 3, 2017

As temperatures warm up and spring buds make their presence known, one thing is musically clear in the Princeton community — the Princeton University Orchestra will show its best in the annual Stuart B. Mindlin Memorial Concerts. The student musicians of the orchestra were not born when these commemorative performances were first established, and the Mindlin children are all grown and on to amazing careers of their own, but one thing has never changed over the past close to 30 years — the University Orchestra has taken on the most challenging works in the repertory to end its concert year in a musical blaze of glory. This past weekend’s final performances of the orchestra’s 2016-17 season featured two towering composers of the 20th century in Paul Hindemith, who spent a good part of his career in the United States, and Gustav Mahler, who never fails to disappoint those looking to hear the most complex and dramatic of orchestral writing.  more

April 26, 2017

For its annual concert commemorating founder and long-time conductor Walter L. Nollner, the Princeton University Glee Club reached high into the professional choral arena to lead the ensemble’s closing performance of the season. British conductor and composer James Burton, recently appointed choral director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the orchestra’s resident Tanglewood Festival Chorus, led the Glee Club on Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium in a concert featuring works of Francis Poulenc and Ralph Vaughan Williams, an opportunity made possible by the spring sabbatical of University Director of Choral Activities Gabriel Crouch. While Mr. Crouch has been on sabbatical, the Glee Club has been ably directed by Renata Berlin, assistant director of choirs at the University and conductor of the William Trego Singers. Sunday afternoon’s performance showed the strength of the Glee Club as an organization and its consistent quality under different conductors. more

April 12, 2017

At the time Gaetano Donizetti composed Lucia di Lammermoor, opera was a major form of entertainment in Italy. Composers were masters of melodies, and people expected to hear heroic tenors, virtuosic sopranos, and great Romantic love stories. Lucia di Lammermoor did not disappoint in its original Naples premiere, and this past weekend’s production by Boheme Opera NJ captured the opera’s musical flavor, combined with a hi-tech set design that Donizetti could never have imagined.  more

March 22, 2017

Taking Princeton’s mind off the recent spring snowstorm, the Takács String Quartet returned to Richardson Auditorium this past week to close its Complete Beethoven string quartet cycle.  Last Wednesday night’s concert (the closing performance of the series was Thursday night) featured violinists Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violist Geraldine Walther and cellist András Fejér in three string quartets showing both the classical structure and style of the genre and how Beethoven stretched the boundaries of the string quartet form. more

March 15, 2017

University orchestras frequently sponsor student concerto competitions, with resulting performances of single movements of a winning concerto or a standard work from the Baroque or Classical periods. Not the Princeton University Orchestra — the 2017 Concerto Competition winners presented this past weekend played some of the most difficult music in the concerto repertory. Hornist Nivanthi Karunaratne and pianists Kevin Chien and Seho Young chose complete and substantial works from the 19th and 20th centuries for their performance with the University orchestra. Led by conductor Michael Pratt in a performance last Friday night at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Saturday night), these remarkable soloists demonstrated performance abilities and composure way beyond their years.  more

March 8, 2017

In the most recent performance last week presented by Princeton University Concerts, it was fitting that the music of Franz Schubert, who played in a family string quartet ensemble, was performed by a mostly family quartet of musicians. The Salzburg-based Hagen String Quartet is comprised of three siblings — violinist Lukas, violist Veronika, and cellist Clemens Hagen — with the quartet completed by violinist Rainer Schmidt. The Hagen Quartet came to Richardson Auditorium last Thursday night to perform Schubert, Shostakovich, and Dvořák, showing the nearly full house that maybe there is something to sibling intuition and musical clairvoyance.  more

March 1, 2017

For a number of years, Princeton Singers has enjoyed a successful collaborative relationship with the Princeton University Art Museum, performing a cappella sacred choral music surrounded by the iconic paintings and statues of the Museum’s Medieval chapel. This past Saturday night, the 16 voice professional vocal ensemble presented a double-header — a concert of unaccompanied works centered on the theme “As the Lily Among the Thorns,” performed twice during the evening to two different audiences. Artistic Director and Conductor Steven Sametz well researched the eight pieces from five centuries to find the “Lily” in the music, composers, or circumstances in which the work was written. more

February 22, 2017

England is known for things green — spacious meadows, rolling hills — all part of “England’s green and pleasant land.” On a February Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make any gardener’s heart race with anticipation, the Richardson Chamber Players presented an instrumental and vocal concert devoted to England’s lush and opulent early 20th-century musical tradition. With an expanded ensemble including talented students, the Chamber Players musically reminded the audience at Richardson Auditorium that spring may not be that far off. more

February 15, 2017

With picturesque towns and medieval castles, the Baltic nation of Estonia is known to many as a stop on a Baltic sea cruise; much of the classical world is unaware of the rich Estonian choral tradition dating back to the 12th century. In and out of Russian control from the early 1700s, Estonia most recently came into its own politically in 1991 and since that time, the worldwide choral community has been eager to devour the unique music of Estonia’s composers. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with its own 35-year high-level performance history, brought this long-standing musical tradition to the Princeton University Chapel last week. more

February 1, 2017

When planning a season of performance, it is impossible to predict how news events will impact music in the coming year, or vice versa. At the end of a tumultuous weekend of national affairs, Princeton Symphony Orchestra presented a concert which could not have been more appropriate — music of a composer born in Belarus, a composer rooted in Middle Eastern musical heritage, music of an individual working in a repressive artistic climate, and a performer who has made a life mission excelling in a genre rooted in Eastern Europe. If there were ever an instance of music to reflect and inform a troubled time, Princeton Symphony’s concert Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium was it.  more

January 25, 2017

The Takács String Quartet returned to Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University last Wednesday night for the third of the ensemble’s six-part journey through the string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven. Throughout the fall and early winter, Princeton University Concerts has built ancillary educational events around these performances, and as in the previous concerts, the Takács Quartet played to a nearly full house. Also as with other performances in this series, seating in the house was limited to downstairs and onstage, creating a more intimate atmosphere. more

January 18, 2017

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

December 21, 2016

 

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

December 14, 2016

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

November 23, 2016

“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

November 2, 2016

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

October 26, 2016

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

October 12, 2016

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

September 21, 2016

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

August 3, 2016

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

July 20, 2016

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

July 6, 2016

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.
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June 29, 2016

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.
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