CreditJennifer Taylor for The New York Times
Our critics and reporters offer a glimpse of what’s moved and delighted them on YouTube. Read the rest of our classical music coverage here.
AT 45 SECONDS
Subtlety and Nuance
No one can deny that the Russian pianist Denis Matsuev has formidable technique. And with his tall, muscular build he brings tremendous power to his playing. If only he would occasionally hold back some of that power. On Tuesday at Carnegie Hall he performed Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, perhaps the most difficult concerto in the repertory, with the Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Mr. Matsuev’s performance, a pyrotechnic display, was marred by much metallic-toned, percussive pummeling. His younger Russian colleague Daniil Trifonov, who the next night played his own piano concerto with the orchestra, demonstrated how virtuosity can be enhanced by subtlety and nuance. Mr. Trifonov has performed that Prokofiev concerto thrillingly. Here’s a video excerpt from him playing that work’s brief, perpetual-motion Scherzo in 2016 with the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Trifonov dispatches the music’s breathless runs with crispness, clarity and wondrous lightness, even during a sotto voce passage. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
AT 8 MINUTES 23 SECONDS
Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto is so difficult that even the composer, a virtuoso, struggled to get through its premiere in 1913. The cadenza — more than three restless minutes of runs, tone clusters and devilishly wide-ranging arpeggios — is one of the most thrilling in the piano repertoire. The Mariinsky Orchestra, under the baton of Valery Gergiev, has performed the piece in New York twice recently: with Alexander Toradze at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016, and with Denis Matsuev at Carnegie Hall this week. Both were dissatisfying for different reasons. Mr. Toradze’s interpretation was spacious but severely under tempo, while Mr. Matsuev’s was dazzlingly fast, to the detriment of Prokofiev’s lyricism hiding under score’s chaotic surface. In this video of Yuja Wang playing the concerto with Paavo Järvi and the Berlin Philharmonic, you can hear the cadenza at its best: artfully pyrotechnic, suspenseful and awe-inspiring. JOSHUA BARONE
At 14 minutes 10 seconds
No words sum up the arduousness of political struggle like the ones Gertrude Stein gave to Susan B. Anthony in the final aria of her opera with Virgil Thomson, “The Mother of Us All”: “Going forward may be the same as going backward.” “Life is strife,” this operatic Anthony says, and as sung by Michaela Martens in an antic, poignant production staged by R.B. Schlather in Hudson, N.Y., it was hard to tell if those words were meant to leave us with hope or despair, or to hover between the two. ZACHARY WOOLFE
AT 1 MINUTE 1 SECOND
The soprano Barbara Hannigan, in a recent interview with us about her album “Crazy Girl Crazy,” said that one of the tracks, Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza III,” has “an unhinged quality.” The piece, for solo voice, is often unintelligible in a way that is both feral and utterly virtuosic. But the text is relatively simple: “Give me a few words for a woman/to sing a truth allowing us/to build a house without worrying before night comes.” Over the course of nine minutes, the words are distilled to modular parts that Berio interpolates with nonmusical vocal behavior, often in emotional extremes. Take, for example, a passage in which Ms. Hannigan sings word fragments (“very tense” is the direction in the score), followed by an upward run delivered as “nervous laughter.” In Ms. Hannigan’s hands, Berio’s music comes off as unhinged, sure, but also as a fascinating exploration of a woman’s relationship to her voice. JOSHUA BARONE
AT 15 SECONDS
Caroline Shaw’s “To the Hands,” a chamber work for choir and strings in response to Buxtehude’s 17th-century “Membra Jesu Nostri,” contains a movement in which the singers simply speak figures for people displaced around the world. (“Sometimes data is the cruelest and most honest poetry,” Ms. Shaw wrote in her notes for the piece.) The movement, “Litany of the Displaced,” begins with a violin playing arpeggios that feel like a musical comfort zone: order and harmony. But every so often and just in passing, the arpeggio slips into unsettling dissonance. In an interview, Ms. Shaw called those moments a “gentle smearing.” They’re also a powerful way to subtly guide our perception as listeners, keeping us on edge and hyperaware of the disturbing numbers in the text. JOSHUA BARONE
At 14 seconds
Under One Roof
David First has worked as an influential punk guitarist and pioneer in the world of drone composition. On Tuesday, he brought a chamber group, the Western Enisphere, to Roulette in Brooklyn. During a nearly two-hour set, instrumentalists played slowly unfolding modes over electronic, just-intonation harmonies. There was plenty of psychoacoustic mystery afoot: The music could sound static, until you realized that a microtonal shift had occurred. For added contrast, there were jarring turns, such as a potent, punk-like movement toward the end of the set. Midway through, Mr. First picked up a harmonica for an extended solo that carried traces of Americana and blues. As it happens, Mr. First recently released a vibrant solo-harmonica album that covers some similar ground. But the Western Enisphere seems distinct in his varied repertoire in that the band allows him to bring his many compositional interests into the same venue. SETH COLTER WALLS
At 45 seconds
The excellent young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is magisterial — both in his phrasing, which has confidence without arrogance, and in his touch, which can edge a bit toward the uniformly crisp, even curt, as if always staring at you with wide-open eyes. At the 92nd Street Y on Wednesday, a Bach suite, Debussy’s “Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune” and Berg’s Piano Sonata all had presence and narrative thrust but less nuance; Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit” was a coolly incisive dazzle. Playing Brahms’s Op. 119 pieces (interspersed with Brett Dean homages), his Intermezzo in C had brassy grandeur, but I wanted a more troubled mixture of assertiveness and dreaminess, as in these 30 or 40 seconds with Sviatoslav Richter. ZACHARY WOOLFE
AT 1 SECOND
From Mahler to ABBA
As part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, the conductor Thomas Dausgaard led the excellent Swedish Chamber Orchestra, four fine vocal soloists and the impressive Swedish Radio Choir in Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.” This late work is wondrous, majestic and continually inventive, yet curious. You can almost hear Beethoven trying to overwhelm you, attempting to write the ultimate solemn choral work. I’ve never heard a more convincing performance by Mr. Dausgaard. All the participants excelled, especially the choir, an adventurous ensemble that has explored all kinds, ranging from a choral arrangement of a profound Mahler song to (I kid you not) an Abba medley, from some years back. Have a listen: Every moment is delightful. ANTHONY TOMMASINI
We’re With Stupid
The problem is not the Russians — it’s us. A huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction.
Senate Tax Debate Devolves Into Angry Shouting Match
- As midnight approached in a daylong debate, Senators Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, sparred over whether the bill favored the rich.
- The exchange highlights the degree to which Democrats have found themselves outboxed in the most sweeping tax rewrite in generations.
New U.S. Plan: Don’t Let North Korean Missiles Fly Very Far
- The U.S. once relied on West Coast defense systems to shoot down long-range warheads fired toward the American mainland.
- An emergency request to Congress hints at an accelerated effort to develop more sophisticated cyberweapon and drone defenses.
What’s Putting Americans in the Top 1 Percent
Dispelling misconceptions about what’s driving income inequality in the U.S.
The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students
Our tax burden could increase by tens of thousands of dollars, based on money we don’t even make.
South Korean doctors found a North Korean defector’s intestines riddled with parasitic worms.
South Korean doctors operating on an injured North Korean soldier found parasitic worms crawling in his dietary tract, a symptom of poor hygiene and nutrition.