From Bill's Desk

A note on McCarter's Music for 2019-2020: Celebrating New and Familiar Faces 

After presenting concerts in New York and Princeton for almost fifty years, you might think, “Is there anyone he hasn’t heard?” The answer is you bet, it happens all the time, and discovering a new artist – which does not necessarily mean a “new face” – is one of the things that keeps me going.

Our upcoming music series for 2019-2020 has several examples, starting with pianist Igor Levit, whom the Princeton University Concerts first introduced to Princeton audiences in 2016. The chemistry and connection was both apparent and immediate, and I am determined that you should hear him too. At 31, Levit is no longer a secret; everyone else has caught on by now – I was just a latecomer – but his all-Beethoven recital at McCarter next May will allow us all to catch up. And if I needed more convincing, Levit’s CD, Life, sets a new standard for a pianist stretching his wings. He defines eclecticism, running the gamut from Bach and Busoni, to Wagner, to even the jazz immortal, Bill Evans.

Handel’s operas have almost become staples of the operatic repertoire, like Mahler’s symphonies for orchestras (for which we can thank Leonard Bernstein). Many of them serve as showcases for the rising crop of superstar countertenors. The era of vocal pioneers like Russell Oberlin and Alfred Deller seems like ancient history, but these days, countertenors are all the rage, and are even all over YouTube, where the break-dancing Polish singer Jakub Orlinski has become a social media sensation. But the forerunner of the new countertenor era and still its unofficial champion is Anthony Roth Costanzo, who began his career as a Princeton undergraduate (class of ’04) and will play Akhnaten in the Met’s new production of the Philip Glass opera, which opens in November. What does this have to do with Handel and McCarter? Because Costanzo returns to Princeton next May with The English Concert in a concert performance of Handel’s opera Rodelinda, in which he will be joined by yet another member of the countertenor aristocracy, Iestyn Davies – all under the baton of Harry Bicket, who is to Handel’s operas as Dudamel is to almost everything.

Two of our faces for 19-20 should be familiar and with good reason, since both occupy the pantheon of their respective instruments. The violinist Christian Tetzlaff has been a regular visitor since 2002, both with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and with his longtime musical partner, Lars Vogt. You may think his program (Beethoven, the Franck sonata, Shostakovich) is “been there, heard that,” but Tetzlaff disdains performance tradition, which is why he is everyone’s violinist of choice these days – including mine. Joining him on the pantheon platform will be pianist Yuja Wang, who has long since taken the concert world by storm – both musically and also with her flair for fashion. (Yes, it is Yuja in her iconic red dress that adorns all those ads for Steinway pianos.) Her McCarter debut in 2013 is a memory I am looking forward to re-living. It doesn’t really matter what she plays, it is always electrifying… but we can tell you that it will be Debussy, Schoenberg and Brahms.

Is there a gold standard in the world of a cappella voices? To be sure, there are perennial McCarter favorites like The King’s Singers and Chanticleer, but one name leads all the rest when it comes to Renaissance sacred vocal music: The Tallis Scholars. Absent from our stage since 2011, they return to Richardson Auditorium in a program designed for the holiday season entitled Reflections. It’s a “who’s who” of composers, ranging from Poulenc and Allegri to Messiaen, Byrd, and of course, Tallis, culminating in Victoria’s Magnificat for Double Choir. As a former singer myself and a fan of our own Princeton Singers, I’m especially delighted that they have agreed to co-sponsor this event with McCarter to welcome their English colleagues.

And for once, the last is not the least – in fact, it’s the most – 90 members of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. You say, you didn’t know Ukraine had symphony orchestras? Well, they do indeed, and this one, based in Kyiv, is that nation’s best – the Ukrainian rival to Russia’s Kirov.  Their program, conducted by Volodymyr Sirenko, could not be more Russian – in fact, it’s all Tchaikovsky: the Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin, the Piano Concerto No.1 (with soloist Olga Kern), and the Symphony No. 6, “Pathetique.”

Sounds exciting? It is, but to learn more, you’ll just have to come and listen.

W.W. Lockwood, Jr.  


Christian Tetzlaff, violin & Lars Vogt, piano

A renowned artistic partnership in a program of sonatas by Beethoven, Franck, and Shostakovich.



National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine

Volodymyr Sirenko, conductor
Olga Kern, piano

Ukraine’s major orchestra from Kyiv brings a blockbuster program of two Tchaikovsky masterworks: the Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Olga Kern and the Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique).



The Tallis Scholars

Peter Phillips, director
Reflections: A Program for the Holiday Season

The world’s leading exponents of a cappella Renaissance sacred music in Reflections, a special program for the holiday season. Co-presented with The Princeton Singers.



Yuja Wang, piano

This dazzling and electrifying keyboard superstar returns with a program of Debussy, Schoenberg, and Brahms.


TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2020

Handel’s Rodelinda with The English Concert

Harry Bicket, conductor
Featuring soloists Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies,
and Anthony Roth Costanzo

Handel’s baroque opera masterpiece with an all-star cast of vocalists including soprano Lucy Crowe and countertenors Anthony Roth Costanzo and Iestyn Davies.



Igor Levit, piano

Music’s newest keyboard sensation in an all-Beethoven program, including Sonatas No. 9, 10, 11, and 29 (the Hammerklavier).