Timothy Andres, 19, is a young double-threat musician to keep your eyes and ears on.
About to begin his sophomore year at Yale, Andres is both a knockout pianist and a composer of substance. We encountered him first in June during a tribute to the distinguished piano pedagogue Dorothy Taubman in New York City's CAMI Hall. Andres came in to play Charles Ives's bristling "Concord" Sonata, and he gave an all-embracing performance of this comprehensive music -- accurate, blazing, philosophical and poetic, funny, and touching. It also had all those elements of American and Ivesian rambunctiousness so notably absent from the widely heralded recent performances and recording by the great French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, which is remarkable in entirely different ways.
In the small audience was The New Yorker's Alex Ross, drawn to the occasion by his interest in Andres's compositions. In a recent article, Ross described his adventures at recent concerts of music by the youngest generation of composers in the New York area; to Ross, Andres was one of the two worth the most attention.
Andres recently sent in a CD of his music, including a spirited one-movement piano concerto (think Prokofiev's First), a major half-hour piano sonata, some ingeniously strenuous duets for two violins (think Bartok; one movement is called "with thinly veiled bipolar disorder"); a brass quintet; a woodwind trio; and a short, charming encore, "Tango (Lopsided)." In his music, you can hear a lot of composers and other music Andres likes, from Liszt to Ravel and Rachmaninoff, and from Copland to Gershwin, with Ives near the center. But Andres is not a collage artist; from these diverse sources emerges something personal and urgent, full of feeling, even conflicting feelings; the tender and the caustic are never far away from each other. And everything is truly composed; he has ideas and develops them, spinning them across forms.
These pieces hardly begin to represent the range of the music Andres has composed so far. The list of works on his website includes a 40-minute symphony, for example. He has not yet been a prominent local presence, although he spent a summer at Boston University's summer institute at Tanglewood and appeared on the public radio program "From the Top"; one of his mentors is Boston/New England Conservatory composer Michael Gandolfi. You can hear sound samples of Andres the composer and Andres the pianist on his website, www.andres.com/timo; for $10 you can also order his CD there. How his career will develop is still an open question -- whether he will concentrate on the piano or on composition, or try to keep both going -- but whatever happens is not going to be boring.
"Midsummer Night" stars: A space crunch last week meant that the Tanglewood Music Center's production of Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was reviewed without mention of anyone in the cast. But it was a fine ensemble effort with some star-quality individual performances. Former New England Conservatory soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird was glamorously luminescent in Tytania's coloratura; Boston countertenor Jason Abrams was spookily malevolent as Oberon; and Emmanuel Music's Charles Blandy proved deft character-actor as Flute -- his voice is really beginning to open up.
Other outstanding performers included a flavorsome mezzo-soprano, Erika Rauer (Helena), a vivid and intelligent bass-baritone, Charles Temkey (Bottom), and what sounds like a romantic tenor-in-the-making, Randall Bills (Lysander).
A new Wagnerian diva: The operatic world is always on the lookout for new talent, and no talent seems to come along less often than heroic voices with the potential to sing the principal roles in the music dramas of Wagner. Actually, the talent does appear regularly, but more often than not it fails to develop properly.
A recent concert by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra under Kurt Masur brought the American debut of the Swedish soprano Annalena Persson. Only two years out of school, Persson has won a Wagner competition at Bayreuth and has already sung Sieglinde in "Die Walkuere" in a concert performance. She is scheduled to sing Isolde in Stockholm and at the Welsh National Opera. And she sang Isolde's "Liebestod" with Masur at Tanglewood.
The voice is young, strong, healthy, and not yet fully or evenly developed; Persson is still singing notes, not phrases. Her diction is lucid and purposeful. She has been well-coached but is not yet in a position to make a personal statement about what she sings. Tall and striking, she looks more like the proud Irish princess Isolde is supposed to be than a bulky Wagnerian soprano. How her voice and career will develop is unclear, but she puts you on her side. Masur has not conducted much opera, but he led a powerful and cogent performance of the "Prelude and Liebestod," lustrously played by the young orchestra that also excelled in Mendelssohn's "Scotch" Symphony, which Masur conducted with sensitivity and brio.