More Than ‘Mostly Mozart’

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The New York Sun

The classical-music summer in New York is dominated by Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, which will begin on July 28. Think of that – a famous Mozart festival in a mammoth Mozart year (the 250th anniversary of his birth). Overload City, as the first President Bush might say.

But there is plenty of music in New York apart from Mostly Mozart, and I will suggest a few highlights.

The Philharmonic has some summertime concerts, in Avery Fisher Hall. The conductor is Bramwell Tovey, a genial Brit who talks a lot. But he talks charmingly, and he is always an audience favorite. On July 5 and 6 – right after our national celebration – Mr. Tovey and the Philharmonic will do an all-American concert (titled, cutely, “Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue”). The program will include Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein, of course. But also a fine contemporary composer, Aaron Jay Kernis.

The Metropolitan Opera is in action, but in the parks: Central Park, Marine Park in Brooklyn, Cunningham Park in Queens, among others. From August 22 to September 2, the Met will present two of Verdi’s greatest hits – “La Traviata” and “Rigoletto.” Free!

The Lincoln Center Festival is putting on an opera by Elliot Goldenthal, “Grendel” (July 11-16). This, we are told, is “a darkly comic retelling of the Beowulf legend seen from the monster’s point of view in a spectacular staging by Julie Taymor.” Her productions do indeed tend to be spectacular. In the cast are two notable singers: the mezzo Denyce Graves and the wondrous tenor Richard Croft (brother of the baritone Dwayne).

The Mannes College of Music will hold its International Keyboard Institute and Festival from July 16 to July 30. On that opening date, founder and director Jerome Rose will give a recital, all-Chopin. Later, on July 21, we will hear from Leslie Howard – no, not the oldtime British actor, but a splendidly virtuosic Australian pianist who seldom performs in this city. The next night, we will have 90-year-old Earl Wild. (If you heard his recital in Carnegie Hall last November, you know he can still play – and how.)

The festival will close on July 30, with a recital by Marc-Andre Hamelin. He is a pyrotechnician, but he’s playing one of the most sublime and profound works in all the piano literature: Schubert’s Sonata in B flat, Op. posth. We’ll see.

The Mostly Mozart Festival promises several delights. On August 1 and 2, music director Louis Langree will conduct Mozart’s “Coronation”Mass.He has a sterling quartet of soloists, including the British mezzo Sarah Connolly, the American tenor Matthew Polenzani, and the Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea. (I really shouldn’t leave out the soprano: Hei-Kyung Hong, often an impressive Mozartean.) Then, on August 4 and 5, the intense Finn Osmo Vanska comes in to guest-conduct. On August 6, we will hear the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, with his chamber group, the Kremerata Baltica. On this program are three Mozart violin concertos.

The marvelous German pianist Christian Zacharias – who’s an especially marvelous Mozart player – will give a recital on August 10 (Mozart and Ravel). On the next two nights, he will conduct the festival orchestra, including in a Mozart concerto (which he himself will play, of course). Also on that program is some singing – which will be done by El* -na Garanca y , the young, brilliant Latvian mezzo-soprano (speaking of Latvia). Ms. Garanca y , a star in Europe, will be making her American debut.

Something different will be onstage from August 17 to August 19 – when Mark Morris’s group dances to three Mozart works (a sonata and two concertos). I can’t be optimistic, but who knows? I can certainly be optimistic about the Emerson String Quartet with Leon Fleisher, on August 24. The great pianist will play Mozart’s Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414 (in the string-quartet arrangement, of course).

There are always festivals farther afield.The Bard Music Festival, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.,will focus on Liszt (“Liszt and His World”). Caramoor, in Katonah, N.Y., features the awesome Polish contralto Ewa Podles in Rossini’s “Tancredi.” Glimmerglass, in Cooperstown, N.Y., has a nice lineup of operas, including a new one by Stephen Hartke. And you could always go to the Berkshires, in Massachusetts, to take in the Tanglewood Festival.

But the hot, cementy city – as we have seen – has its own musical attractions.

The New York Sun

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