Roll Over Beethoven


The spring flood will be an uncommonly high-quality one. Aside from individual standout performances, there’s an accumulation of thematic series that go far above mere PR formulas. Carnegie Hall, for example, follows through on the idea of its late executive director, Judith Arron, by inviting certain eminent musicians to build programs around their special repertory interests that involve like-minded colleagues. Maurizio Pollini winds up his campaign, and Peter Serkin begins his, both in the wake of Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim. Lincoln Center comes up with a mostly rare Czech series, and both organizations are pushing under-exposed facets of Stravinsky. And if all this, or the more standard stuff in town, doesn’t turn you on, look up what’s happening on any given night at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, where the music is mostly new-ish and often surprising.


March 2-4

Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, 247-7800

For the first time in New York, the ultra-progressive and increasingly versatile and world-beating conductor leads the Vienna Philharmonic, up to now the most conservative of great orchestras. The opening night, a typical Boulez bill, brings Bartók, Webern, Stravinsky, and Debussy. March 3 has customary (in other hands) Wagner and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, the latter notoriously atypical for Boulez. Next day’s matinee boasts Mahler’s vast Symphony No. 3, a specialty of this conductor.


March 6-19

The probing pianist’s New York sojourn includes several chamber concerts, mostly at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue, 996-1100). Of particular note is a March 6 Mozart-Kurtag-Ligeti-Sciarrino program with string and wind players and a March 10 chamber-music session covering Webern, Maderna, Bussotti, Sciarrino, and Brahms. On March 14, we get ancient Greek chants, Debussy, and lots of Berio (vocal and instrumental) and Monteverdi (madrigals). Pollini also plays a huge piano recital at Carnegie on March 19, including Brahms, Webern, Stockhausen, and the Beethoven “Diabelli” Variations.


March 8-10

Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, 247-7800

On March 8, Daniel Barenboim does two of his special composers, playing Mozart’s “Coronation” Piano Concerto, with Wanda Landowska’s cadenzas (which he adores), and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. Next night he conducts Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Berlioz’s Nuits d’Été, as sung by Cecilia Bartoli. March 10 offers Aurora by the orchestra’s brilliant young resident composer, Augusta Read Thomas, and Mahler’s often spooky Seventh Symphony. A non-orchestral bonus comes March 11 (same hall) when Barenboim as pianist accompanies a Bartoli recital.


March 18

Weill Recital Hall, 154 West 57th Street, 247-7800

Carnegie Hall’s composer retrospective series salutes Foss by having him talk and programming some of his chamber pieces, including the truly great Time Cycle, with James Levine conducting soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and some superb Met musicians.


March 19

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street, 362-6000

The Met does Prokofiev’s most sizzlingly “modern” opera for the first time, with Valery Gergiev conducting some exciting Russian principal singers. Further performances: March 23, 27, 31 (matinee), April 4, 7.


March 20

Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, 247-7800

The athletic, virtuoso drummers once again threaten to blast out the walls, or at least de-wax your ears.


March 29

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street, 362-6000

This year’s ultimate Wagner experience has James Levine conducting his fabulous orchestra, plus a cast headed by Plácido Domingo. Also on April 2, 7 (matinee), 10, 13.


April 9

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street, 362-6000

The 20th century’s greatest opera is back with the company that does it best. James Levine conducts the late John Dexter’s rich production, and the charismatic Christine Schäfer makes her Met debut in the title role. Also on April 12, 16, 21 (matinee), 24.


April 29, May 6

Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, 247-7800

On the first afternoon, James Levine conducts the Verdi Requiem with a stunning vocal quartet: Renée Fleming, Olga Borodina, Marcello Giordani, and René Pape. The second afternoon brings Schoenberg’s post-Wagnerian extravaganza, Gurrelieder, with Ben Heppner, Deborah Voigt, and Violeta Urmana as the compelling leads.