Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 12:28 PM

Andris Nelsons will be the new music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra announced Thursday. The appointment of Nelsons, at 34, follows the trend of many U.S. orchestras in hiring relative youngsters. He will be music director-designate in the coming (2013-14) season, and succeeds James Levine, who was music director from 2004 to 2011. Latvian-born, Nelsons has been music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since 2008. His rapport with the BSO is not long-established; he first led the group in 2011.

Nelsons will take on the title music director in the 2014-15 season for an initial five year commitment, leading 8-10 weeks of programs during the 2014-15 season in Symphony Hall; he will lead 12 weeks of programs each subsequent year of the five-year contract, a spokeswoman said.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:38 AM

All of classical music is looking to freshen the concert format - flash opera, rush-hour performances, pop-up serenades. Philadelphia, with its row-home urban fabric, might look at this format, written about by the New York Times. The author caught a window concert in Brooklyn Heights. The piano was turned with the back toward an open window, and chairs for listeners were set up just outside. Read about it here.

Of course, it works only for ensembles of a certain size. For a marching band - say, a Turkish marching band - you really need to close the street, which is exactly what's happening Wednesday between 5 and 7 p.m. at South and Passyunk. Thirty-three members of the Turkish Mehter band, based in Bursa, will be performing on traditional instruments: the kös (a giant timpani), nakare (a small kettledrum), davul (a bass drum), zil (cymbals), kaba zurna (a bass zurna), boru (a relative of the trumpet), and cevgen (a stick with small concealed bells).

POSTED: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 6:26 AM

The Curtis Institute of Music has built a roomy new stage, and it is accessible to nearly anyone who can type

Performances by Curtis students, faculty and alumni are being loaded onto the site, making available for free videos of ebullient Mendelssohn string quintets, contemplative Piazzolla guitar works, popular Rossini arias and other pieces.

Eventually, the site will offer dozens of recorded performances taking place at the school and in Verizon Hall, as well as selective live streaming.

POSTED: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 5:34 PM

Please Touch Museum president and CEO Laura Foster is stepping down. Foster, leader of the museum for five years, said Tuesday it was a good time for her to move on.

“I want to do some new things,” she said. “I want to spend time with my new grandchild. Twenty-two years is a long time,” she said, referring to her start at the museum initially as director of development and marketing.

Foster’s contract is up in November. How much longer she will stay has not been determined, said board chairperson Sally W. Stetson.

POSTED: Monday, May 13, 2013, 1:58 PM

Even before his first elegant keyboard gesture, Peter Nero got a standing ovation.

“Can we try that again, please?” asked Nero ironically, drawing a big laugh from his admirers.

But seriously, no — it won’t happen again. Sunday’s concert was his last as music director in Verizon Hall. The sign above the stage said it all: I the lights that spelled out “Peter Nero and the Philly Pops,” the bulbs making up “and the” were burnt out, like unintentional supertitles signaling the now-severed relationship between the maestro and the group he led since 1979.

POSTED: Friday, May 10, 2013, 11:35 AM
Lang Lang and Simon Rattle play a an encore after performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center. (Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer)

If a night at the orchestra were a pure investment-return transaction, Lang Lang certainly gave Thursday’s audience its money’s worth. It’s when the actual music entered the equation that things got a little dicey.

You had to look past a lot to hear it. At the front of Verizon Hall stage, with Simon Rattle leading the Philadelphia Orchestra, the pianist air-conducted or air-trilled with an idle hand when Beethoven failed to give him enough to do, mugged all manner of facial expressions, and kept leaning out to look at the audience, as if to ask: Do you like this? They did. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a spontaneous audience roar quite like the one that greeted the encore. Lang Lang and Rattle did Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance, Opus 46, No. 1 seated together at the keyboard, piano four-hand. Rattle joked that he had decided to keep his day job, but he was being modest. They gilded the piece with great lift and animation. This act might have legs.

Let me just take the pledge right up high: I fully support Lang Lang’s right to be Lang Lang. What a wonderful thing it is that this personality, for which Philadelphia bears partial responsibility (he is a Curtis Institute graduate), is as individualistic as it is. I also respect the non-believers in the audience — of whom there were at least a few — who prefer their Beethoven less addled. The Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor was subject to arbitrary accents in the first movement, jarringly extreme dynamics in the third, and an exquisite portrayal of serenity in the second. Rattle’s trademark observation of very quiet pianissimos set a mood that went unviolated in that section. He kept the strings lean and the textures permeable, which allowed Lang Lang’s tone to ring. A little farther out on the spectrum, the pianist recalls violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose transgressions of taste in some places come in a package that also brings frightfully human insights. Lang Lang’s exploits are more arbitrary (why the third-movement violence?), and yet his presence in the hierarchy of top soloists remains felicitous.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 2:21 PM

If you are looking forward to Mitsuko Uchida's Wednesday night recital with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, you'd better have tickets already. The pianist's concert at the Kimmel is sold out, and PCMS has a waiting list of more than 100 names looking for up to 175 tickets.

"We very often have waiting lists (even as many as 50+ names), but this is the longest in recent memory," said box office manager Bradford Kochel.

The Inquirer review is now here.

POSTED: Sunday, March 31, 2013, 3:45 PM
Phil Ramone in New York in 1997. (Getty Images)

There is lots today about Phil Ramone, the music producer who died Saturday, and his work with the Paul Simons and Billy Joels of the music industry. But not mentioned is his history in Philadelphia with a different genre. Read about his extremely successful outing with the Curtis Institute of Music orchestra here.

About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

Reach Peter at

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
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