It would be hard to imagine a musical institution with a wider artistic reach than that of Carnegie Hall. Its three venues‹Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall, and the newly opened Zankel Hall‹invite performances that are almost limitless in range and style, and in combination they present wonderfully adventurous explorations of sounds old and new. "Carnegie Hall is the world's stage," said the late Executive and Artistic Director Robert Harth, without exaggeration. The programs in store for the 2004-2005 season, which opens on October 6 with a gala all-Strauss concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach, demonstrate the basis of the planning for all three halls: "The common denominators of our programming," Harth said, "are great music and great artists."
In the course of the season a number of particularly significant events will come to the fore. James Levine will make his first appearances as music director of his "new" ensemble, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in three concerts spread throughout the season. (He will also lead three concerts each with the MET Orchestra and the MET Chamber Ensemble.) Pierre Boulez's 80th birthday will be marked in January by the London Symphony Orchestra and in May by the Chicago Symphony; Boulez himself will conduct an all-Bartók program on May 14 with Chicago music director Daniel Barenboim as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the next evening Barenboim will lead the orchestra in Boulez's Notations. It will be, you might say, a family affair.
In February, Carnegie Hall will present ÔFlamenco!, a festival featuring flamenco legend Enrique Morente in a rare double-bill with his daughter Estrella Morente, as well as concerts by Carmen Linares, guitarists José María Gallardo and Cañizares, and singer/songwriter Mayte Martín. Other world music artists to appear next season will include Malian singer Rokia Traoré, the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, the Soweto Gospel Choir, Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura, Venezuelan folk artist Simón Díaz, and Orchestra Baobab from Senegal.
Jazz and music theater concerts in the upcoming season include the four-concert The Shape of Jazz series in Zankel Hall, featuring Abdullah Ibrahim, the Michael Brecker Quindectet, vocalist Lizz Wright, and the Greg Osby Four; Opening Doors, an anthology of works by Stephen Sondheim; a centennial celebration of the music of Harold Arlen; and the ongoing JVC Jazz Festival in Stern Auditorium.
Carnegie Hall has long made a point of scheduling multiple appearances that allow a single artist or ensemble the time and space to focus on an area of special interest. Pianist András Schiff will be doing just that in three October concerts devoted almost exclusively to Janácek, with a smattering of Smetana and Dvorák rounding out the Czech framework; two of the concerts will be with colleagues in Zankel Hall, the third will be a solo recital in Stern Auditorium. Along similar lines, the Emerson String Quartet moves into Zankel next spring for a complete cycle of Mendelssohn's string quartets with the Sextet and Octet added for good measure, abetted by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Also new this year is Baroque Unlimited, a three-concert, period-instrument series.
In-depth programming of this kind reaches its greatest intensity with Carnegie Hall's acclaimed Perspectives concerts, which offer invited artists carte blanche to pursue their particular artistic dream. The musicians pursuing theirs next season will be soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
Upshaw will collaborate with an old friend and colleague, composer John Harbison, continuing the workshop begun this season for young composers and singers presented by the Weill Music Institute. "John discusses creating music for the voice," Upshaw explains, "and I work on the vocal aspect." The workshop culminates in a concert on October 10. The soprano herself will appear as soloist in concerts with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Levine's MET Chamber Ensemble, in recital with pianist Richard Goode, and in a program she describes as "extremely difficult to put together," a staged presentation of György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments with violinist Geoff Nuttall (January 10, 12, and 13). It will be directed by another old friend, Peter Sellars, whom Upshaw calls "a life-changing force for me‹I feel inspired and invigorated by my work with Peter." The Fragments, which she describes as short and stark, will receive a "very personal and intimate presentation."
Andsnes‹at 33 the youngest Perspectives artist to date‹will appear on seven occasions between mid-October and mid-May. "I want to work with artists who have been especially important to me over the years," he says, "and I like to combine old and new music." He'll join tenor Ian Bostridge in Schubert's Winterreise, team up with violinist Christian Tetzlaff, perform with Michael Tilson Thomas's San Francisco Symphony, and indulge his penchant for what he calls "wild programming that reflects my chamber music festival in Risor, Norway." Among the presumably wild choices are chamber works by Kurtág and Matthias Ronnefeld, with a Bach keyboard concerto squarely in their midst. "I like that kind of programming counterpoint," he says. "New and old benefit from being put into a context of that kind."
Tilson Thomas's Perspectives events in December are devoted to Stravinsky, a composer whom he has revered since childhood. "I was 11 years old when I first saw him conduct," says Tilson Thomas, "and I went to every concert of his thereafter. In the Los Angeles Monday Evening Concerts series I did some playing under his direction. He's been a powerful recurring theme in my life." Among the Zankel Hall highlights: Le Sacre du printemps in Stravinsky's version for two pianos, with Tilson Thomas and Vladimir Feltsman, as well as a Making Music concert, featuring Tilson Thomas's own compositions. The conductor's March concerts with the San Francisco Symphony will include his Poems of Emily Dickinson with soprano Barbara Bonney, and in April he salutes his grandparents, celebrated figures in New York Jewish theatrical circles, in a program titled "Remembrances of Thomashefsky's Yiddish Theater."
John Adams, holder of the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall, will continue to curate adventurous Zankel Hall programs in a November weekend festival that includes the Paul Dresher Ensemble, Kayhan Kalhor, and the Gamelan Galak Tika. And in March there is to be a celebration of Adams's own music; a March 21 Making Music program will be devoted entirely to his works, and two days later he'll conduct the American Composers Orchestra in a performance of his Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz.
"Business as usual" at Carnegie Hall means, as always, business at a rarified level of music making. And a bird's-eye view of just a few of next season's other participants makes the point. Following its opening night gala, The Philadelphia Orchestra will return for four more performances, concluding in April. The St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov will arrive for three concerts in October, the Cleveland under Franz Welser-Möst for four in February, the Vienna Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons for three in March, the Kirov under Valery Gergiev for three in April, and the Chicago with Barenboim and Boulez for three in May.
On a more intimate scale, solo recitals and quartet concerts beg for attention: Maurizio Pollini (October 17), Richard Goode (February 20), Alfred Brendel (March 24), duos Martha Argerich-Nelson Freire (March 30) and Evgeny Kissin-James Levine (May 1) among pianists; Gil Shaham (November 15) and Midori (December 7) among violinists; Susanne Mentzer (February 3), Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (May 8), and Renée Fleming (May 15) among vocalists; and string quartets in abundance, including Arditti on December 4 and Kronos on February 5.
And the season's grand finale: a concert performance of South Pacific on June 9.
Shirley Fleming is a music critic for the New York Post and New York correspondent for MusicalAmerica.com.