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Arts & Culture
Steve Metcalf has been writing about the musical life of this region, and the wider world, for more than 30 years. For 21 of those years, he was the full-time staff music critic of The Hartford Courant. During that period, via the L.A. Times/Washington Post news service, his reviews, profiles and feature stories appeared in 400 newspapers worldwide.He is also the former assistant dean and director of instrumental music at The Hartt School, where he founded and curated the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series. He is currently Director of the Presidents' College at the University of Hartford. Steve is also keyboardist emeritus of the needlessly loud rock band Duke and the Esoterics.Reach him at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.

The New Season: Itzhak, Andris, and Others

Akira Kinoshita
Itzhak Perlman.

The new arts season is just now starting to unfold. I thought it might be useful if I looked out over the next couple of months and tried to point out some of the more notable musical events I see on the horizon. 

This is not a comprehensive listing. It is an informal and selective roundup, and given how fragmented things are, I will probably do one of these roundups every so often. For those presenters who like to read meanings into things, and I realize that's most of you, the events listed below are in no particular order.


Unless I’m misremembering (always a possibility these days), it’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a solo recital in the Bushnell’s main hall, the Mortensen. But if there’s any classical instrumentalist who stands a fighting chance of  filling that 2,800 seat room, it would be the man who will play there October 30, violinist Itzhak Perlman. The violinist will be joined by pianist Rohan De Silva.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Perlman will be 70 on his next birthday. You have to figure that in the not too distant future, he will decide to hang up the bow altogether, and just concentrate on conducting and teaching. In other words, if you have never witnessed the Perlman phenomenon, or if you want to show your children or grandchildren one of the great musical figures of our time, you might want to take this opportunity. The recital benefits the educational and outreach programs of both the Bushnell and the Hartford Symphony. 


If you pay even the slightest attention to the music scene around here, you already know that the incomparable choral conductor Rick Coffey stepped down from his post as the leader of Concora last spring. I think it’s fair to say that he had earned this right, having founded the all-professional group in 1974 and led it for the ensuing 40 years.

This fall, the  ensemble will publicly audition, in concert, three candidates to succeed Rick. The three are: David Hodgkins (October 26); Christopher Shepard (November 23), and Richard Giarusso (December 14). The concerts are all at First Congregational Church in New Britain. 

Jorgensen Auditorium, UConn at Storrs

Credit takacsquartet.com
Takacs Quartet in performance.

Jorgensen’s customary wide-ranging lineup is especially wide-ranging this year. For our purposes, I would call attention to two items:

On October 14, the great Takacs String Quartet will appear, joined by Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin. For many seasons, the Takacs – formed in Hungary but now based in Boulder, Colorado -- has been among the top handful of quartets in the world, and in recent years Hamelin has certainly attained a similar status among pianists. The program will include the Debussy String Quartet, which I have come to believe is the most popular quartet in the Western world.

The other cool Jorgensen thing that caught my eye is that an episode of the public radio program From the Top, which showcases student musicians from all over the country, will be taped before a live audience at the auditorium on November 1. The program’s genial pianist/host Christopher O’Riley will preside.

The Hartt School, University of Hartford

Credit davidhouston.net
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

A lot of things are going on. For one, I am especially looking forward to the historic Richard Rodgers/Lary Hart/George Balanchine dance-rich 1936 musical, “On Your Toes.” The score features “There’s a Small Hotel,”’ as well as the jazzy, now classic ballet, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.” Edward Cumming conducts; October 22 to 26 in Lincoln Theater.

Also, try very hard to catch Handel’s majestic oratorio “Jephtha,” to be presented in one performance only – November 8 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hartford. Edward Bolkovac conducts; the performance will use the new critical edition by Hartt faculty member Ken Nott.

The Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series opens its sixth season at Hartt October 16 with a performance by the high-octane JACK Quartet. More about that next week.

Yale School of Music

Credit Steve Riskind
Richard Goode on piano.

They say the recital series is dead, but the news apparently hasn’t reached Yale. The School of Music’s storied Horowitz Piano Series continues, with all events in Morse Recital Hall. This year’s roster begins with Richard Goode playing the last solo piano works of Beethoven. Other artists this season include Peter Serkin, Boris Berman, Robert Blocker, and Peter Frankl.

Connecticut Concert Opera

This durable and always-enterprising company, led by artistic director Doris Lang Kosloff, will offer a rare double bill: American composer Thomas Pasatieri’s “Signor Deluso,” coupled with Puccini’s comic classic, “Gianni Schicchi,” October 31 and November 2 at the Hoffman Auditorium at University of St. Joseph. Remember, folks, this company makes a point of hiring live professional musicians, most of them drawn from the ranks of the HSO.

Charter Oak Cultural Center 

It’s hard to heap a sufficient amount of praise onto this ambitious,  and frequently courageous, presenter of performing arts. Under the leadership of the inexhaustible Rabbi Donna Berman, the cultural center has become a home to many of the region’s most forward-looking artists and ensembles. Just to offer two musical examples:

The brilliant and category-defying composer/singer/spiritual philosopher Kate Callahan, along with her six-piece band Echo Joy, will be featured October 4.

The Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra will perform on October 11 in a concert whose centerpiece is Martin Bresnick’s mini-opera, “Der Signal.” It's based on a Yiddish story about a railroad watchman who selflessly finds a way to prevent a train disaster. The performance is a collaboration with Puppetsweat Theater and Hartford Opera Theater.

Credit Marco Borggreve
Conductor Andris Nelsons, new music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

From Latvia With Baton

The wheels turn slowly in the major league symphony orchestra world, but they do turn. It was almost a year and a half ago that the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that Latvian-born Andris Nelsons (yes, the second “s” is correct) would be its next music director. Saturday night, September 27, the 35-year-old conductor will finally make his official debut in that position with a mostly-operatic, heavily Wagnerian concert at Symphony Hall.

Hopes are high. Let’s acknowledge that the James Levine experiment didn’t really quite work, somehow, mostly but not exclusively because of issues surrounding Levine’s health. Nelsons seems to be cut from a more pliable cloth, and his stamina (if we overlook an incident 15 months ago in which he was knocked cold by a slammed door in Germany), doesn’t seem as if it will be an issue.

So to you, maestro, we say: Veiksmi! Lai tev veicas! (Good luck and good fortune!) And also, since you are a newcomer to Boston, please know that the Red Sox are not always as aizgrabjoss (pathetic) as they were this year!

Steve Metcalf was The Hartford Courant’s fulltime classical music critic and reporter for over 20 years, beginning in 1982. He is currently the curator of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at The Hartt School. He can be reached at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.

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