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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June 22, 2016

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

June 15, 2016

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

May 25, 2016

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

April 27, 2016

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

April 20, 2016

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

April 6, 2016

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

March 16, 2016

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

March 9, 2016

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

February 24, 2016

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