April Flowers

This April is going to be a great month to get out and about and into concert venues, with a mix of old and new that is probably more exciting than any other time this year. There’s also the unusual as well . . .

April 1Helmut Lachenmann; This last of this season’s excellent Composer Portraits series will feature the composer appearing and performing in celebration of his 75th birthday. Lachenmann makes some of the most involving contemporary music around, working with the basic sounds of instruments and amplification, and his music has a direct and powerful appeal especially to anyone who is moved by experimental rock and jazz. You can watch him perform Weigenmusik here and read the program notes here.

April 2 Opera on Tap, at Barbès; It’s opera in an intimate setting, with alcohol. What else do you need to know?

April 3Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope and William Britelle’s Television Landscape; at the Bell House in Brooklyn, debuts and premieres from each; Snider has a hybrid classical/folk/post-rock song cycle, and Britelle is debuting his new concept album, an extravagant exploration of fragments of cultural memory. I’m eagerly anticipating this show.

April 5 – Dave Tompkins, How To Wreck a Nice Beach; he will be appearing at Book Court, 163 Court Street in Brooklyn, presenting a fairly good sized history of the Vocoder. This is for geeks of a certain kind . . . like me.

April 7 – World premieres from Robert Sirota, Louis Karchin, Laurie San Martin, New York premieres from Richard Festinger and Fabio Grasso; Merkin Concert Hall. Sirota’s Assimilations headlines this great variety of new music. The piece explores issues of ethnic heritage and assimilation in the United States. The all-star Washington Square Ensemble plays.

April 9-10 – The Freddie Redd Sextet, appearing at Smalls. A welcome appearance from one of the greatest hard-bop musicians, always cool, funky and lyrical.

April 11First public concert at the new site for the Issue Project Room, 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn. This is a real event, not just that the new space is being inaugurated, but via Ne(x)tworks playing Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2, which has a duration of around six hours, and the performance is free! It all starts at 11:00am, so get to bed early the night before, and if you can’t stay for the whole performance (which isn’t expected), hear the live webcast on Q2.

April 13Bach Reformed at Barbès; I highly recommend this duo, their CD is marvelous and in a small setting it’s a wonderful experience to hear them express Bach as if it was bluegrass.

April 15-18Don Byron at Jazz Standard. Byron is bringing three groups into this residency, the New Gospel Quintet, the Ivey-Divey Trio, with Jason Moran, and a new group, Swiftboat, described as “a collective journey into ‘straight ahead’ jazz.” Expect it all to be great.

April 16 & 17CONTACT! The second concert this year in the New York Philharmonic’s new New Music series. Alan Gilbert will conduct, Thomas Hampson will sing, and the program includes a new works from Nico Muhly, Sean Shepherd and Matthias Pintscher. It’s a different venue each day, Symphony Space and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first concert proved what an exciting series this is, and the international and cross-generations flavor is really welcome.

April 25Gil Morgenstern; the final concert in the Reflections series at the Rubin Museum, music presented with sympathetic ideas about literature and the arts. The program of great music – Biber’s Mystery Sonatas, Poulenc and a work by Bruce Saylor – is augmented by readings from Carl Sagan, Lorca and Dante.

April 29Joan La Barbara and Ne(x)tworks at Roulette; the great singer and experimental composer is going to be performing excerpts from her new work, Angels, Demons and other Muses, inspired by Joseph Cornell, Virginia Woolf and Poe. Expect something delicate and mysteriously powerful. The program also features a work by flutist Yael Acher-Modiano.

Update: April 30Krysztof Penderecki conducts his own works at Carnegie Hall, with the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale and soloists Syoko Aki and William Purvis.  This is a special event, a major contemporary composer making a rare performing visit.  The program includes a new horn concerto, the compelling modern Romanticism of his Symphony No. 4 and the famous Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.

Those are individual events, but this month there are also three major festivals either running or beginning:

April 9, April 14-18Louis Andriessen is the composer in residence at Carnegie Hall this year and has been an important contemporary composer and an enormous influence on the current generation of young American composers. His work is being explored through a series of concerts and events. It opens April 9 a concert from the American Composers Orchestra, presenting his work and the effects of his legacy on artists like Missy Mazzoli. The following week is dense with music; performances Andriessen has curated, including the wonderful and unclassifiable Iva Bittová with tap dancer Morris Chestnut, the US premier performance of the composer’s opera La Commedia, Andriessen himself improvising with the great Evan Parker, a weekend of concerts and a chamber music performance/discussion with the composer at Le Poisson Rouge. It actually all wraps up on May 10, when John Adams leads the Ensemble ACJW in an exciting program of his own Son of Chamber Symphony, the Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Winds and Andriessen’s best-known work, De Staat.

April 19-22MATA Festival 2010; the important, annual showcase of new music by young composers, at Le Poisson Rouge. The Argento Ensemble, the Calder Quartet, Lisa Moore, L’Arsenale and others play works from Matthew Wright, Christopher McIntyre, Lisa Coons, Tristan Perich, Missy Mazzoli, Alexander Sigman and many others. Opening and closing events are free, and a surprising guest, an unnamed famous improviser who I think might have the initials EP will be appearing at the opening.

April 21-May 8 – Valery Gergiev leads the New York Philharmonic in The Russian Stravinsky. The Rite of Spring, of course, but not until the end. The last titan, one of the greatest artists, Stravinsky single-handedly ended one epoch of music and then created a new one. It’s hard to think of a work of his that isn’t a masterpiece in some way, and these great musicians are going to be playing his amazing, ritualistic Les Noces, the Symphony of Psalms, the incredible Violin Concerto, the Symphony in C, the great Symphony in Three Movements, a tremendous concert of the exquisitely beautiful ballet score Orpheus and the powerful opera Oedipus Rex, and the Firebird, Petrushka and the Rite. There’s even more music, but this is already hard to believe. Every concert will be dazzling and intense. See as many as you can.

In new recordings, April has CDs dropping from Nels Cline (review to come), Lee Konitz, Ben Goldberg, Brooklyn Rider, a new recording of Vision De L’Amen, and from Naxos intriguing recordings of Gesualdo Madrigals, George Rochberg Piano Music and the Mahler Symphonies.  Update:  And before you think I’m square, there’s a new Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings recording out April 6 which you are compelled to buy.