Back in 1976, violinist Olga Bloom had the offbeat notion of mooring an inactive coffee barge at Fulton Ferry Landing, near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, and converting it into a floating chamber-music space. (The story can be read here.) Thirty-plus years later, Bargemusic remains one of New York's busiest, liveliest concert halls: for years, it has presented a steady stream of concerts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. The experience of gently rocking while you listen can be slightly disconcerting at first, but the setting is intimate and the sound is remarkable.
Music directors have come and gone over the years; the man providing the crazy energy lately is another violinist, Mark Peskanov. Young players are seen more frequently, such as chamber ensemble the Knights, filled with adventurous musicians like Yo-Yo Ma cohorts Johnny Gandelsmann and Colin and Eric Jacobsen, as well as renegade pop star Christina Courtin. Seasoned performers such as pianist Randall Hodgkinson, New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and the Fine Arts Quartet drop by regularly.
This weekend's offerings are especially intriguing. Performing Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29 is a group called the Kremeratini Quartet. The program on Saturday features violinist Dzeraldas Bidva, violist Ula Ulijona, cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite and pianist Andrius Zlabys, playing Gubaidulina's Reflexions on Bach for String Quartet, Schnittke's Piano Quintet and Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15. On Sunday afternoon, vibraphonist Andrei Pushkarev replaces Zlabys; the Gubaidulina and Beethoven items are repeated on a program that also includes Astor Piazzolla's Tango Sensation for vibraphone and quartet, as well as Pushkarev's solo improvisations on two-voice inventions by Bach.
Sharp eyes will notice that despite the presence of string quartets on both programs, the Kremeratini Quartet features only one violinist. Filling the other chair is a "very special surprise violinist." And if the group's name and repertoire don't make that player's identity perfectly obvious, note that those other three string players are also members of this group, which Allan Kozinn reviewed in today's New York Times. The last time Zlabys and Pushkarev performed here in the company of a prominent violinist was also reviewed by Kozinn, here. Tickets are priced at $50 (students $25), but you could pay considerably more to see these artists play elsewhere and not be half as close to the music.
There's also something worth noting about tomorrow night's appearance by the East Coast Chamber Orchestra: it's the last Thursday-night chamber music concert to be presented by Bargemusic. From May onward, programming starts on Wednesday nights. Initially, Thursdays will be quiet, but what I just learned today is that Bargemusic will launch a new jazz series in June. This is a great idea, a means by which to get new people on the boat without sacrificing any of its staple offerings.
The series begins on June 7 with a performance by the great swing-jazz pianist and composer Dick Hyman, who celebrates his 80th birthday with a concert this Saturday night at the 92nd Street Y. The handful of bookings announced so far, posted by Jim Eigo at All About Jazz, suggests that the series may lean toward mainstream modes of jazz. Which is not to say "conservative," since one of those bookings is genius trumpeter-composer Randy Sandke, who brings an intimate trio with guitarist Howard Alden and bassist Nicki Parrott aboard on June 28.
Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade (SST)
Maria McKee - You Gotta Sin to Get Saved (Geffen), High Dive (Viewfinder) and Late December (Cooking Vinyl)
George Frideric Handel - Giulio Cesare - Marijana Mijanovič, Magdelena Kožená, Anne Sofie von Otter, Charlotte Hellekant, Bejun Mehta, Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski (Archiv)
Paul Hindemith - Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 11, No. 1 - Ulf Wallin, Roland Pöntinen (Bis)
Richard Strauss - Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 18 - Ruggiero Ricci, Ferenc Rados (Hungaroton)
Ludwig van Beethoven - Violin Sonata No. 5, "Spring" - Joseph Szigeti, Claudio Arrau (Vanguard)
Einojuhani Rautavaara - Symphony No. 1; Adagio Celeste; Book of Visions - National Orchestra of Belgium/Mikko Franck (Ondine)
Benjamin Britten - Piano Concerto; Violin Concerto; Cello Symphony; Sinfonia da Requiem; Cantata Misericordium; Prelude and Fugue for Strings; Simple Symphony; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; The Prince of the Pagodas; Diversions for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra; Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo; The Holy Sonnets of John Donne; Songs and Proverbs of William Blake; Winter Words; Tit for Tat; Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Les Illuminations; Nocturne - Sviatoslav Richter; Julius Katchen; Mark Lubotsky; Mstislav Rostropovich; Peter Pears; John Shirley-Quirk; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; London Symphony Chorus; English Chamber Orchestra; New Philharmonia Orchestra; London Symphony Orchestra; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Benjamin Britten (Decca)