Fall Classical

Two Venues Are Ready to Spark a New Power Surge This Season

Let's consider the third, six-years-young life of Columbia University's Miller Theatre and its parallel called Zankel Hall, being reborn this Friday, September 12. Both are reincarnations, and, while Miller has firmly established its new life, Zankel is on the threshold of one.

Miller was once a clunky, hollowed-out cube of a concert hall at Broadway and 116th Street. By the 1950s, it regularly offered Spartan discomfort to students and music professionals eager to applaud new music by their teachers and friends and sneer at those composers' rivals. Fifteen years ago, the place was gutted, reshaped, raked, given comfortable seats, more even acoustics, better sightlines, and a new name—the Kathryn Bache Miller Theater. And in 1997, in came a new executive director, George Steel, a musician with a wide view of program possibilities for audiences, especially youngish ones open to all competence regardless of the zip codes on the scores. (Remember Uptown, Downtown, Midtown and Out-of-town?)

Zankel, the new space under Carnegie Hall, is named for its substantial financial backers, Arthur Zankel and his wife, Judy. In Carnegie's earliest years (the 1890s), it was a midsized recital venue that over the decades became a drama school, then vacant, then an Off-Broadway theater, a movie house, vacant again, and now once more a midsized but adjustable-capacity recital and chamber-music hall with up-to-date educational facilities. The whole enterprise was pushed by Carnegie's late executive and artistic director, Judith Arron, and late president, Isaac Stern.

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Miller and Zankel are equivalent in size. Miller holds an audience of 688, while Zankel's changeable capacity reaches up to 644. A look at this season's schedules for both halls tells you the rest. Both places share in an ongoing, annual John Cage-Morton Feldman retrospective. Steel has another of his wide-ranging series of lively one-composer concerts and a colorful assortment of pre-classical work. Zankel's range runs from Boulez, Adams, and Viennese masters from three centuries to fresh areas of world music and several sorts of pop. Will this Miller-Zankel axis see a new power surge?


'ALCINA'
September 13, 18, and 24 at 7:30, September 21 and 26 at 8
NEW YORK STATE THEATER, LINCOLN CENTER, COLUMBUS AVENUE AND 63RD STREET, 212.496.0600

New York City Opera presents a new staging by Francesca Zambello of Handel's great music-drama about magic running wild. The brilliant Christine Goerke, Katharine Goeldner, Lauren Skuce, and Jennifer Dudley head the cast, and the expert Daniel Beckwith conducts.


ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN
September 17-18
ZANKEL HALL, SEVENTH AVENUE AND 56TH STREET, 212.247.7800

Pierre Boulez, founder of this top-class instrumental group, presides on the first night over his own pieces, including the landmark "Marteau sans maitre." The second night offers Debussy's En blanc et noir, Bartók's sizzling Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and Boulez's shimmering "Incises."


MET CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
September 21
ZANKEL HALL, SEVENTH AVENUE AND 56TH STREET
October 19
WEILL RECITAL HALL, 154 WEST 57TH STREET,BOTH 212.247.7800

At the first concert, James Levine and members of the Metropolitan Opera's great orchestra play chamber music by Mozart and Brahms and back up fine tenor Matthew Polenzani in Ellliott Carter's Robert Lowell cycle, In Sleep,In Thunder, and soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge in Webern songs. Four Sundays later, Levine accompanies soprano Marjorie Elinor Dix and tenor Gregory Turay in Schubert songs and Elizabeth Bishop cycles by Carter and John Harbison. There are also Schubert and Verdi string quartets.


'PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE'
October 20
CARNEGIE HALL, 57TH STREET AND SEVENTH AVENUE, 212.247.7800

Bernard Haitink conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a peerless cast in Debussy's spellbinding operatic enigma. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Simon Keenlyside sing the self-destructive lovers, and who could ask for anything more?


'EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN'
October 24 at 8
MILLER THEATRE, BROADWAY AND 116TH STREET, 212.854.7799

Four insightful singers from the New York Festival of Song, plus pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier, perform once again Ned Rorem's intensely humane, concert-length song-cycle. It's the day after Rorem's 80th birthday, and similar celebrations abound during this period. The cycle, with its youthful resilience, marks a shining peak of contemporary song. Discussion with Rorem at 7.


'WHEN MORTY MET JOHN . . . '
October 25 and October 26
ZANKEL HALL, SEVENTH AVENUE AND 56TH STREET,212.247.7800
October 26
MILLER THEATRE, BROADWAY AND 116TH STREET, 212.854.7799
October 26
OUTSIDE ST. THOMAS CHURCH, FIFTH AVENUE AND 53RD STREET

The Cage-Feldman legacy is in superior hands this weekend. Saturday at 3, Margaret Leng Tan plays Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano. At 6, the Flux Quartet, with or without catheters, travels through Feldman's six-hour, no-pauses String Quartet No. 2. (He once asked if the world really needed another 20-minute piece.) Sunday at 2:30, the fearless pianist, Marilyn Nonken, tackles Feldman's 90-minute Triadic Memories. Sunday at 5:15, George Steel rings all of Cage's carillon music. (Just stay on the sidewalks and listen.) At 7:30, Joan La Barbara and others wind things up with Cage pieces for voice and multiple pianos.


LEON FLEISHER
October 31
CARNEGIE HALL, 57TH STREET AND SEVENTH AVENUE, 212.247.7800

After years of physiological confinement to left-hand playing, this master pianist's heavyweight recital employs all 10 fingers, at least some of the time. The music is Roger Sessions's From My Diary, Leon Kirchner's For the Left Hand, Brahms's Waltzes op. 39, transcriptions of Bach by Egon Petri and Brahms, and Schubert's vast final sonata.


MITSUKO UCHIDA AND COLLEAGUES
November 15, 17, and 21
ZANKEL HALL, SEVENTH AVENUE AND 56TH STREET
November 24
CARNEGIE HALL, 57TH STREET AND SEVENTH AVENUE, ALL 212.247.7800

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