Brilliance, and Endless Brahms

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As I always say, the New York concert season ought to be good — because this is New York, after all. Whom can’t they attract? And the 2006–2007 season bids fair to be very good. I will give my sense of the highlights, through Christmas. Let’s begin in Carnegie Hall, temple of music. They open on October 4 with the Cleveland Orchestra, its music director Franz Welser-Möst, and two starry soloists: the bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff and the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. That ought to be good, just as opening night of Carnegie Hall should be. (Frankly, every night at Carnegie Hall should be good.) On October 12, one of the world’s greatest singers — Dorothea Röschmann — will give a recital, accompanied by one of our best accompanists, Graham Johnson. The next day, Carnegie kicks off an extended celebration of the composer Steve Reich, whose 70th birthday we are honoring.

On October 19, one of our wisest and most commanding musicians will give a piano recital: Leon Fleisher. On November 1, another exceptionally smart musician will play: the violinist Gidon Kremer. And he will appear with a major pianist, Krystian Zimerman. They are playing all three Brahms violin sonatas. How many recitals did we have last season made up of the three Brahms sonatas? Thirty? This completeness craze is absolutely ridiculous. Those sonatas weren’t meant to be played bang-bang-bang.

Anyway …

On November 3, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra will come in, under the conductor Mariss Jansons, for a three-concert stand. The guest soloists are Karita Mattila, soprano; Mr. Kremer; and Lang Lang, the pianistic phenom. Not bad. In the midst of this, the Bronfman-Shaham-Mørk trio will play a concert. I’m talking about the pianist Yefim Bronfman, the violinist Gil Shaham, and the cellist Truls Mørk. Star-composed chamber ensembles aren’t supposed to be good, but this one is. Their concert is November 5.

On November 11, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under James Levine, will play a concert of Bartók’s opera “Bluebeard’s Castle” and the Brahms First Symphony. The two singers in the opera are hard to match: Anne Sofie von Otter and Albert Dohmen. On December 7, the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe will give a recital, accompanied by Warren Jones. I can almost guarantee that this will be one to remember. The next night, Pierre Boulez will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 7. That may well be memorable too.

And December 21, Renée Fleming will give a Christmas concert with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. How bad can that be?

Turn now to the opera — beginning with the Met. Its season opens on September 25, when James Levine leads Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” If you’ve heard that Puccini is for saps — you’ve been badly misled.The next night, the company will begin a run of “La gioconda,” by Ponchielli. The cast includes two of the greatest singers in captivity: Olga Borodina and Violeta Urmana. Starting the 28th, we have Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” conducted by Mr. Levine, and featuring the aforementioned Ms. Röschmann. Ben Heppner will be in the title role. How will he fare? I don’t know, but I have the jitters about that one.

Starting November 10, we see a new production of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” and it stars two technical dazzlers: the tenor Juan Diego Flórez and the soprano Diana Damrau. Starting November 30, Mr. Levine leads Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” The singers? Patricia Racette, Ms. Borodina, Johan Botha, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, René Pape, and Samuel Ramey. It hardly gets starrier than that. But that doesn’t mean the performances will be excellent. Music is mysterious that way.

City Opera is, as we speak, doing “Semele,” Handel’s superb opera, and the cast boasts two outstanding women: the soprano Elizabeth Futral and the mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux. On September 24, City Opera will begin “Die tote Stadt,” Korngold’s striking, masterly work. I mention it only because one should see this opera when one can; it comes down the pike too seldom.

And I’ll tell you about a real rarity: “Dom Sébastien,” Donizetti’s last opera. Opera Orchestra of New York is doing it, at Carnegie Hall, on November 7. Starring in it will be the stupendous Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova. If she is on, we will cheer our heads off. If she’s not — it’ll still be all right.

At the New York Philharmonic, music director Lorin Maazel is beginning his fifth season. Starting on September 20 — this very night — he will lead a series dominated by Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Doing the soprano work in the final movement will be Heidi Grant Murphy.She sings that music consummately — as she does Mozart’s “Exsultate jubilate,” which is also on the program. Next week, Mr. Maazel will lead an all-Shostakovich program, which includes the Fifth Symphony. And the week after that he will lead a program that includes Ravel’s little masterpiece of an opera “L’Enfant et les sortilèges.”

In the series starting November 30, one of his guests will be Leon Fleisher, who will play Mozart and Hindemith.Also, Mr. Maazel will conduct the Final Scene from Strauss’s “Salome,”with Nancy Gustafson, soprano. (I have always referred to that piece as “the mad Liebestod.”)

And, starting December 20, we have two worthy “holiday concerts,” as the Philharmonic puts it. (Christmas, as you know, is verboten.) At Riverside Church, Handel’s “Messiah” will be conducted by Harry Bicket, and the soloists will include Stephanie Blythe. Back at Avery Fisher Hall, Bernard Labadie will lead a Baroque program. He is the founder and conductor of the excellent Violons du Roy, and his Philharmonic program will include a Handel organ concerto. We hear far too little of the organ in concert halls — far too little.

At the Juilliard School, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will lead the student orchestra in a concert October 5. Opportunities to hear Mr. Skrowaczewski, born in 1923, are few. And the program will feature some of his own music — a skill I didn’t know Mr. Skrowaczewski had. At the Metropolitan Museum, the pianist Ivo Pogorelich is scheduled to play a recital, October 26. I say “scheduled to” because Mr. Pogorelich is perhaps the most notorious canceler in all of music.He makes Martha Argerich look like an old reliable. And, also at the museum, Chanticleer will kick off its Christmas concerts December 3.

On November 5 and 7, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will offer a concert that will allow you to hear David Shifrin play one of the Brahms clarinet sonatas. That should be gratifying. On the same program, the pianist Gary Graffman will appear, playing Korngold and Leon Kirchner. That should be gratifying, too.

How about Great Performers at Lincoln Center? Do they have great performers? Yes. Starting on October 7, Bernard Haitink will lead the London Symphony Orchestra in the complete Beethoven symphonies. If you are tired of them, you are tired of life, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson. On October 23, Valery Gergiev resumes his cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies, which he began last spring. His orchestra will be the Kirov.On November 19, the marvelous Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozená will give a recital. And, speaking of marvelous mezzos: On December 10, Angelika Kirchschlager will give a recital.

As I said, all this ought to be good. If it’s not — well, I guess concert halls aren’t big on refunds, are they?

The New York Sun

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