A Surprise Samson: The Week in Classical Music

A Surprise Samson: The Week in Classical Music


It was clear from the start that the Samson, Aleksandrs Antonenko, was struggling; after intermission, the Met announced that he was ill with a cold, and would be replaced by Gregory Kunde.

It’s not easy to jump into the middle of a performance, but Mr. Kunde did it with stylish ease. Now 65(!), he’s moved on from specializing in bel canto earlier in his career to the heroic roles of Verdi and Puccini. But he’s hardly ever sung at the Met. Hopefully that changes now.

His success brought me back to an already classic recording of Rossini’s “Armida” made from 1993 performances in Italy. Here’s Mr. Kunde combining memorably with Renée Fleming:

And Christine Goerke spoke with Michael Cooper about taking on Brünnhilde at the Met, where she was once in the young artists program. “I think if you talk to anyone who’s ever been a young artist in any house, it’s always hard to come back and feel like a grown-up,” she said. “I’m going to be 50, and I still feel like I’m 24.”

Enjoy the weekend! ZACHARY WOOLFE


The night after Beatrice Rana’s New York debut, on the same stage (Zankel Hall), the fun was doubled in a fascinating program of exciting works for two pianos, performed by the formidable Kirill Gerstein, who can play anything, and Thomas Adès, an eminent composer who is also accomplished pianist.

Recently they were with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the premiere of Mr. Adès’s Piano Concerto, written for Mr. Gerstein. (They bring that work to Carnegie Hall on Wednesday.) At Zankel, they began with Debussy’s “En Blanc et Noir,” a late work, from 1915, which in this starkly beautiful and steely performance seemed not far removed from the shock-and-awe radicalism of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” (1913).

Turning to Stravinsky, they played Shostakovich’s rarely-heard arrangement of the “Symphony of Psalms.” With the chorus part (a setting of psalm texts) divided between the pianos — and without the distraction, so to speak, of the score’s dark, percussive orchestral sonorities — the modernist daring of Stravinsky’s harmonic language came through stunningly. The program also included Mr. Adès’s stream-of-consciousness Concert Paraphrase from his opera “Powder Her Face,” and ended with an account of Ravel’s “La Valse” that had this showpiece sounding dangerous. Don’t believe me? Here they are playing it in Paris in 2016. ANTHONY TOMMASINI



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