Monday, January 24, 2011

Cold Comfort: Hot pianist's Port performance

Yeah, I know, I know: You hoped that you would be able to swoop in at the last minute and snatch up a couple of tickets for Natalie Zhu’s  “The Romantic Piano” concert, which, one hopes, perhaps vainly, will take the winter’s chill out of our bones. Fat chance of that, or getting a ticket to this show, for that matter. The pianist, of course, is a monster, a Philadelphia-based musician who has walked away with every award worth having, who toured for nearly a decade with renowned violinist Hilary Hahn, whose playing has been described as nothing short of emotional and pianistic pyrotechnics. The program will include Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major and some preludes by the late-to-the-Romantic party Rachmaninoff, including Opus 3, No. 2, the “Bells of Moscow,” but the emotional core of the program is Liszt’s transformative B minor Sonata, one of the titanic pieces in the piano repertoire, famous both for its passion and the terrible technical demands it makes. Apparently the Mozart Fantasia, (D minor, K. 397) has been dropped. A pity. It’s an interesting piece, a little gem with unusual rhythms and constantly changing tempos. And seeing her perform at the The Carriage House, a lovely space with amazing acoustics, well, folks should be leaving that intimate space feeling pretty jazzed.

But it’s sold out, the tickets going pretty quickly, without much of anything in the way of press notice. No doubt, that’s music to the ears of organizers of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, which is sponsoring the show, but means heartbreak to anyone who put off buying tickets to a more “convenient” time.  You snooze, you lose, you know? Maybe you can get in on the arm of someone else if you’re resourceful, but, probably the best thing you can do now, after licking your wounds, is get yourself over to the NCMF web and get yourself on the mailing list. They already have the schedule for the summer festival, the festival’s tenth, which will include a return of the popular Baroque concert, a violin and harpsichord recital featuring Dongsuk Shin of Ensemble Rebel and baritone Jeremy Galyon, a rising star who also sings with the Metropolitan Opera. The festival will also feature works of the great Samuel Barber, including the Adagio for Strings (part of his string quartet). They’ll also have a specially commissioned piece by Kile Smith with text by famous people from the Port’s past — Lord Timothy Dexter, William Lloyd Garrison and, we hear, some other not quite so obvious. The centerpiece of the festival will be Beethoven’s late string quartet in C# minor, Opus 131.

It’s not until Aug. 13, the festival. That seems like a long way off, but haven’t you learned your lesson — you don’t want to be left out in the cold. If you want a taste of what you’re missing, try here for samples from “Images,” Zhu’s new album. Or click here to get an idea what she sounds like with Hahn. 

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