Classical’s Pretty Modern at Poisson Rouge; Ethel’s Truckstop Is Delicious

The most exciting story of the fall classical season is the much anticipated opening of (Le) Poisson Rouge in the old Village Gate space on Bleecker Street. O.K., LPR isn’t all classical. But that’s the point: Owners David Handler and Justin Kantor, musicians and composers trained at the Manhattan School of Music, have created a lounge setting for classical and new music: A low stage keeps the musicians close to the audience, and a noisy bar off to the side keeps the scene buzzing during performances. Lincoln Center it ain’t.

LPR is about mixing—classical and pop, visual art and music. Don’t be surprised to hear the Stooges and Built to Spill between sets of minimalist piano and an electronic reinterpretation of the Rite of Spring. Get the full effect when LPR presents its first gallery show, of works by Chuck Close and Devorah Sperver inspired by the music of Philip Glass (Sept. 24-Dec. 8).

The Wordless Music series, whose simple but brilliant formula of pairing classical and pop acts on the same bill has led to consistently sold-out shows, has found a part-time home at LPR, where it will host the Bang on a Can All-Stars’ premiere of Terry Riley’s Autodreamographical Tales. Mr. Riley combines recordings of his spoken dream-narratives with a variety of recorded sounds (Nov. 8).

Bang on a Can’s record label, Cantaloupe Music, will release a series of downloadable EPs of Michael Gordon’s Popopera, written for Holland’s Emio Greco dance company, who perform with electric guitars. Mr. Gordon, the co-founder of Bang on a Can, whose composing credits include a collaboration with Julius Knipl cartoonist Ben Katchor, wrote the multi-guitar piece specially for Emio Greco, who, charmingly enough, don’t actually know how to play.

Since 2007, new-music quartet ETHEL, who really can play, have been road-tripping across the country, immersing themselves in regional American music. BAM’s Next Wave Festival hosts their homecoming for a five-night stand of ETHEL’s Truckstop: The Beginning. The quartet will be joined by a conjunto accordian player, a Native American flutist from New Mexico, a Hawaiian slack-key guitarist and a bluegrass banjo player to perform compositions influenced by the vernacular musical styles they encountered along the way (Oct. 14-18).

Uptown, catch another genius of eclecticism at Carnegie Hall: the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, joined by soprano Dawn Upshaw, will stage a concert performance of Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears), a Flamenco-inflected one-act opera based on the story of the death of poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was executed by Fascist soldiers during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 (Dec. 7). Stick around for the following week’s celebration at Carnegie of the 100th birthday of composer Elliott Carter. Daniel Barenboim will join the James Levine-led Boston Symphony Orchestra to premier Mr. Carter’s Interventions. (Dec. 11) Even further uptown, Columbia’s Miller Theater will feature the work of another eminence of modern composing, 92-year-old Milton Babbitt. The Zukofsky Quartet will play his complete string quartets (Nov. 5).

And let’s not forget classical classical: Pull up a very comfortable chair for the beginning of Austrian pianist Till Fellner’s trek through all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a cycle of performances scheduled over the next three years, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Dec. 5, March 6, May 8).

Finally, keep your ears open to the continuing wave of discussion about the future of classical music generated by Alex Ross’ The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, set for an October paperback release. Joe Queenan, for example, makes a passionately honest plea in The Guardian ( for modern composers to stop writing music that audiences find … difficult: “It is not the composers’ fault that they wrote uncompromising music that was a direct response to the violence and stupidity of the twentieth century,” Mr. Queenan writes. “[A]nd it’s not my fault that I would rather listen to Bach.” Harrumph!

Classical’s Pretty Modern at Poisson Rouge; Ethel’s Truckstop Is Delicious