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Evgeny Kissin's Spotlight Series recital, and the Music of Moondog

Welcome to Fanfare — our guide to live classical music in the Philadelphia area. Subscribe now to get Fanfare delivered right to your inbox every Sunday. If you have feedback or an upcoming event to share, let us know!


Spotlight: Evgeny Kissin — Wednesday, Verizon Hall

It’s hard to believe that pianist Evgeny Kissin — one of the young superstars of the 1980s — is now 52 years old. In a 2023 interview with Christian Thompson at the Verbier Festival, Kissin recalled his collaborations with some of classical music’s most celebrated artists, including Renée Fleming, Natalia Gutman, Isaac Stern, and Mstislav Rostropovich. He also commented on his preference for live recordings. “I feel much more inspired when I have an audience, sitting there and listening to me — much more than when I am surrounded by the four walls of a recording studio and the microphones.”

In this recital, a dream menu for piano aficionados, Kissin will start with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 27, followed by two Chopin gems (the Nocturne in F-sharp minor and Fantaisie in F minor) and Brahms’ Four Ballades. He ends the evening with Prokofiev’s formidable Piano Sonata No. 2.

May 15 at 8 p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $51-$136; tickets and information.

Courtesy of the artist

Marc Neikrug’s A Song by Mahler — Wednesday, Perelman Theater

For the final Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert of the season, composer Marc Neikrug fills the Perelman Theater with A Song by Mahler an evening-length work inspired by “Liebst du um Schönheit” (“If You Love for the Sake of Beauty”) from Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. The composer explores a singer who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and her husband, who is also her pianist, and Neikrug has attracted a stellar group of interpreters, including soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, baritone Ryan Bradford, David Shifrin on clarinet, and the FLUX Quartet. The production’s director is Doug Fitch, acclaimed for his stagings of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen for the New York Philharmonic. (WRTI's own Mike Bolton will deliver a pre-concert talk, "Music Theater in the Recital Hall,"  at 6:30 p.m.)

May 15, 7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $30-$65; tickets and information.

Salonen conducts Daphnis et Chloe — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Verizon Hall

Ravel’s sprawling, shimmering Daphnis et Chloe is like an Impressionist painting come to life. In the second of his two weekends with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the ensemble in the complete ballet, with the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir in the ravishing wordless choral portions. Also on the program is one of Salonen’s own compositions, Sinfonia concertante, with soloist Olivier Latry, one of the organists who regularly performs at Notre-Dame in Paris. And as a not-inconsiderable bonus, the evening opens with Lumière et Pesanteur (2009) by the late Kaija Saariaho. Inspired by Salonen’s work with her oratorio, La Passion de Simone, she carved out this excerpt, which is dedicated to the conductor.

May 16 at 7:30 p.m., May 17 at 2 p.m., and May 18 at 8 p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $25-$129; tickets and information.

Variant 6 — Friday at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting Skyspace, Saturday at University Lutheran Church

What can music from 500, even 1,000 years ago teach us today? And conversely, what do works from today’s composers tell us when they sit alongside those from the past? Find out when one of Philadelphia’s finest vocal groups, Variant 6, presents Un Bel Sol, a program that explores “the timeless theme of the natural world and its influence on the human condition.” Curated by the group’s artistic director Rebecca Myers, the exotic line-up juxtaposes rarely heard Medieval and Renaissance works — from Hildegard Von Bingen, Clément Janequin, Thomas Vautor, Jacques Arcadelt, Sulpitia Cesis, and Claude Le Jeune — with 20th and 21st-century offerings from Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen (1932-2016), Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996), and Minneapolis-based composer Edie Hill (b. 1962). Given the prowess of this estimable ensemble, either of the venues below should make a fascinating evening.

May 17 at 7 p.m., Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting Skyspace, 20 East Mermaid Lane, $15 to $35; tickets and information

May 18 at 8 p.m., University Lutheran Church, 3637 Chestnut Street, $15 to $35; tickets and information.

Music of Moondog — Friday, The Rotunda

Sometimes the word “outsider” gets tossed around casually, but for Moondog (1916-1999) the word is an apt, fierce affirmation. Presented by Philadelphia’s indispensable Bowerbird, five members of Arcana New Music Ensemble will perform some of his compositions, including “Bird’s Lament,” his tribute to Charlie Parker.

Born Louis Thomas Hardin, Jr., he moved to New York City in 1943, adopted the moniker “Moondog” in honor of a former pet, and later became a caped, Viking-helmeted presence on the streets of Manhattan. Combining both jazz and classical elements, his works attracted the notice of Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, Igor Stravinsky, and conductor Artur Rodzinski. His obituary in The New York Times ended with an excerpt from a 1989 interview that provides a succinct summation of his career: “I still love horned helmets and swords and spears. I like to feel that I'm loyal to my past. I wouldn't want to be on the street anymore. But you know, that led to a lot of things.''

May 17 at 8 p.m., The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street, pay-what-you-wish; tickets and information.

Bruce Hodges writes about classical music for The Strad, and has contributed articles to Lincoln Center, Playbill, New Music Box, London’s Southbank Centre, Strings, and Overtones, the magazine of the Curtis Institute of Music. His is a former columnist for The Juilliard Journal, and former North American editor for Seen and Heard International. He currently lives in Philadelphia.