Classical Encounters

Classical Encounters

Ah, Carnegie Hall. There are few concert venues like it. Since 1891, the institution has attracted the highest of high culture acts to New York City. Sitting in the opulent Main Hall, one can palpably sense the historic majesty of the space: It's hard not to imagine oneself a monocle-touting trade mogul or an aristocratic missus decked out in her jewel-adorned ball gown, Galilean binoculars in hand. 

And that's exactly how I felt the evening of May 9, as the conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, walked onstage to begin an overwhelmingly beautiful performance. Their program began with Rachmaninoff's Caprice bohémien, Op.12—slow and dramatic with an explosive and spritely finale—and Isle of the Dead—haunting and placid. Next came a true gem: Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins, a ballet chanté (sung ballet) featuring the spot-on vocals of Storm Large. With the full orchestra behind her, she told the story of a young nymph from the wilds of Louisiana who craved adventure in urban America. As the girl travels, and the audience listens, she struggles, dances for money, longs for love, finds it, looses it, and finally ends up right back where she came from—with each of the seven scenes of the piece embodying one of the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride, for those of you unfamiliar with the Book of Proverbs). The music was moving and powerful, but Large's performance was spell-binding. She truly became the lost girl in Weill's masterpiece, showing a packed house the full spectrum of her soul's feeling (and a few racy burlesque moves, it's worth noting). Ravel's La valse—beginning softly before gracefully rising to a violin-led Waltz soundserved as the finale. (Excerpts from the performance can be viewed here.) The standing ovation lasted for five long minutes. It was all waving red hankerchiefs (what I gathered to be symbols of Detroit pride) and tearful bows. While the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has come and gone, Carnegie Hall has an impressive Spring lineup. Some of this month's highlights: The New York City Chamber Orchestra Masterworks Festival Chorus (May 18, 8 p.m.), Kathryn Findlen, Mezzo-Soprano, with Richard Masters, Piano (May 20, 8 p.m.), Musical Treasures from Bulgaria (May 21, 8 p.m.), Chamber Music Charleston (May 22, 8 p.m.), New England Symphonic Ensemble (May 25, 8 p.m.) and Music of Hawaii (May 30, 8 p.m.).

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