Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri April 1 & Tues April 5


What can I say? After welcoming the season in with three brilliant versions of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps over the last three weeks and now, finishing up with Stravinsky’s own 1960 recording—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Carnegie Hall time—after doing a lot of close listening to all these versions, I have to ask myself: is there really anything of value that Messrs. Bernstein, Boulez, Svetlanov or any number of others can add to what the composer himself brought to the music? His performance used to sound a little hard and tight to me, constricted compared to Bernstein and the other showpiece versions that followed, but I don’t hear that anymore, while on the other hand is the somewhat saturnine Boulez really more detailed than the composer himself bringing out what he put in? Neither does Stravinsky’s performance lack any voltage of excitement. It’s got everything, along with a degree of authenticity no one else can supply. Listen in if you like, and see if you agree. In any case, the Sacre is great emough so that no performance can exhaust its possibilities. It’s the center of this virtually all-Stravinsky show—it opens with well-known Ornette Coleman and Charlie Parker quotes from the Sacre, and there’s also a Parker masterpiece in the midshow featuring what may be a Stravinsky variation—preceded by Bernstein’s exhilarating Petroushka, the ballet composed immediately before the Sacre, which may be Stravinsky’s most emotionally direct and open music, ever. The Sacre, though, remains his Citizen Kane, the work no one will let him live down, the work because of which he’s tasked with never having gone for broke again, for being brilliant and heartless and not sharing his soul with us throughout his neoclassical period—his late works are another story: taking up Schoenbergian dodecaphonics gave him an amazing boost of fresh greatness. We don’t go there this week, but we do have two major middle-period works: the deeply committed Symphony of Psalms—Shostakovich, for one, thought it the greatest work of the century’s greatest composer—in a stunning, maybe definitive performance led by John Eliot Gardiner, and the 1931 Violin Concerto played to a fare-thee-well by a great young Hillary Hahn. If you’re up for two hours of glittering genius-level dazzlement, this is the place.

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