by Daniel Hathaway

GOMYO-Karen“A Taste of Spain” at Blossom on Saturday July 19 featured The Cleveland Orchestra and guest conductor Bramwell Tovey in Iberian-inspired music by two Frenchmen and one authentic Spaniard who went into self-exile in Argentina after Franco won the Spanish civil war. Sunny as the music was, the weather in Cuyahoga Falls was damp and chilly: in his jovial remarks at the beginning of the second half, Tovey welcomed the audience to what indeed felt like a Spanish winter.

Tovey’s own selections from the two suites that Georges Bizet’s friends fashioned from the music from Carmen opened the program with familiar scene-setting tunes and arias sans singers. The March of the Toréadors; Prélude and Aragonaise; Intermezzo; Dragons d’Alcala; Habanera and Danse Bohème were all treated to colorful, characterful performances, with splendid solo work by oboist Jeffrey Rathbun, flutist Marisela Seger, and wonderful section solos from the bassoons. If the percussion got a bit frisky in the last selection, that only added to the excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

MITCHELL-BrettLast Sunday evening was meant to mark the historic return of the 90-year-old, Polish-born conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to Blossom after a hiatus of thirty-two years. It was historic alright, but for another reason. Skrowaczewski, who first conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in 1958 at George Szell’s invitation, was sidelined by an illness and assistant conductor Brett Mitchell was tapped late in the week to replace him. Mitchell did himself proud leading scores by Weber, Mozart and Shostakovich on a night that will no doubt be inscribed in the annals of Assistant Conductors’ Big Opportunities.

Summer concerts don’t generally come with abundant rehearsals, so Mitchell and the orchestra probably had very little time together to scope out this repertory. The big mountain to scale was Shostakovitch’s fifth symphony, a work Skrowaczewski had conducted in his Cleveland Orchestra debut more than five decades earlier (when spies from the then Minneapolis Symphony were in the audience on the lookout for a new music director). Under the circumstances, the results Mitchell and the orchestra achieved on Sunday were amazing. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

MITCHELL-BrettCleveland Orchestra assistant conductor Brett Mitchell has had an eventful summer. He just got married and moved into a new house, and last weekend he made his debut at the Blossom Music Center, stepping in for Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra (TCO) after Skrowaczewski cancelled shortly before the concert because of illness. And on July 26, Mitchell returns to Blossom for what he thought would be his debut there, conducting the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra in a prelude concert at 7:00.

That concert will be followed at 8:00 by John Storgårds conducting TCO in Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with Stephen Hough. Finally, the jam-packed night will end with the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, who are students at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival, and TCO in a side-by-side performance of Sibelius’s Second Symphony led by Storgårds.

Things have come full circle for Mitchell, whose first time working with TCO “was back in the summer of 2009, when they hired me to be a cover conductor for a couple of their guest conductors at Blossom,” he said last week over the phone while on the way to lunch in between rehearsals. So a debut at Blossom is fitting. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Overhead

Joy, wonderment, thanksgiving, love. These are the feelings Haydn sought to express toward the Divine in The Creation, but they apply equally well to the work itself. Haydn’s bliss and awe in the face of nature, his gratitude for the world, and the love between Adam and Eve are embodied so perfectly in music that an audience can’t help but be overwhelmed by them as well. It’s impossible to come away from a performance of The Creation without a happy heart.

This was certainly true on July 19th in Severance Hall, when John Nelson conducted the Credo Festival Orchestra and Chorus in a rousing performance of The Creation with soprano Lisette Oropesa, tenor John Tessier and bass Adam Lau. Read the rest of this entry »

By J.D. Goddard

Kosower&OhAn evening of Brahms at any venue, with any combination of instruments, is always a deeply moving experience for those who love Romantic music. And so it was Wednesday evening, July 16 at Kent State’s Ludwig Recital Hall when Cleveland Orchestra principal cello Mark Kosower and pianist Jee-Won Oh presented three Brahms sonatas as part of the Kent/Blossom Music Festival Faculty Recital Series. This was an evening of deep emotion as these two excellent performers fused their exceptional talents into an exquisite program. Read the rest of this entry »

Oberlin – July 22

Oberlin-Cooper-2014-LogoThe Oberlin Cooper International Piano Competition has announced the ten contestants who have advanced to today’s concerto round. The two sessions begin at 1:30 pm and 7:00 pm and will be streamed live from Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory. ClevelandClassical will attend and report on both sessions. The six pianists who will advance to the recital round on Wednesday evening will be announced following the second concerto round. Here is Tuesday’s schedule:

1:30 PM
SAE YOON CHON with Elena Zyl: Beethoven Concerto No. 5
MIN JUN LEE with Elena Zyl: Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2
NICOLA LOSITA with Colette Valentine: Chopin Concerto No. 1
ZITONG WANG with Elena Zyl: Prokofiev Concerto No. 3
ALLISON TO with Colette Valentine: Chopin Concerto No. 1

7:00 PM
EVREN OZEL with Colette Valentine: Chopin Concerto No. 2
RACHEL BREEN with Elena Zyl: Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3
YOULAN JI with Xin Li: Beethoven Concerto No. 2
GYU TAE HA with Elena Zyl: Chopin Concerto No. 1
TONY YIKE YANG with Colette Valentine: Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1

 

By Daniel Hautzinger

Project-Trio-Instrumental-CDIt’s not easy to be unique. In music especially, it seems like every good band name has already been taken, every genre tried (witch house anyone?), and every ensemble “sound” already stamped by someone else. Even so, I don’t know of another group like PROJECT Trio, which consists of a cellist, double bassist, and beat-boxing flutist, all classically trained, who play jazz, classical, Latin, and a combination of those and other genres.

But idiosyncratic instrumentation and style don’t remove an artist from other influences. Instrumental, PROJECT Trio’s latest recording for their label Harmonyville Records, contains buoyant and groove-based songs that often seem to reference other artists or genres, but played on flute, cello, and bass.

Despite the hodgepodge of styles on Instrumental, many of the tracks share a pleasing effervescence. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin, Daniel Hautzinger & Daniel Hathaway

Photo: Mathias Reed Visuals

Photo: Mathias Reed Visuals

On Tuesday, July 15, we went to the BottleHouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights to hear Steuart Pincombe’s program “Bach and Beer,” which presented outstanding performances of Bach’s first three cello suites in the welcoming atmosphere of a neighborhood tavern. The experience inspired a conversation between Mike Telin, Daniel Hautzinger and Daniel Hathaway, both about the evening and the increasingly popular movement of performing classical music in alternative venues, especially neighborhood gathering places.

Mike Telin: “For the BottleHouse Brewery’s first time hosting this type of event, I think the space worked pretty well. The stage area was great and I loved the way they set up chairs around it, so that if you did want to have more of a traditional concert experience you could. You were able to come when you wanted and leave when you needed to without interrupting things. But they did need to be faster at the bar.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SkrowaczeswkiNote: Last Sunday, July 20, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was scheduled to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. He cancelled due to illness late in the week and was replaced by the orchestra’s assistant conductor, Brett Mitchell. We spoke to Maestro Skrowaczewski on the Wednesday before his Blossom concert and are reprinting the concert preview as a feature.

In 1957, Polish conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was one of the local hosts for The Cleveland Orchestra’s first European tour — an event which established the ensemble’s international reputation. It was also an important moment for Skrowaczewski, whose first meeting with George Szell in Warsaw launched his own career in the United States.

“It was just after I won first prize in Rome,” Skrowaczewski said in a telephone conversation from his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata. “That was important in Europe because it was the first international competition after the war, so it had a certain value. Szell knew it, and he knew a little of my composition, Symphony for Strings, which he thought was very well written. He asked if I would mind to play it with his orchestra in Cleveland next year. The arrangements were very simple.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

SILVERMAN-Tracy“It’s all about staying in touch with contemporary culture,” the multifaceted electric violinist Tracy Silverman said during a recent telephone conversation from his Nashville studio. On Monday, July 21 at 8:00 pm at the Beachland Ballroom, Silverman will perform a solo concert on his six-string electric violin featuring music by Santana, George Gershwin, Stevie Wonder, John Adams, J.S. Bach, Jimi Hendrix, Terry Riley, Nico Muhly and Kenji Bunch as well as his own compositions.

Musically speaking, Tracy Silverman defies musical boundaries. A graduate of the Juilliard School and former first violinist of the Turtle Island String Quartet, Silverman has been a champion of the 6-string electric violin since 1980.

“One of the things I’m focused on is the advancement of the instrument and part of my mission is to develop new repertoire for the instrument.” Silverman’s mission seems to be paying off. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

Takei-GeorgeScience Fiction proved to be a winning theme this past Sunday evening as throngs of avid and enthusiastic fans of the genre packed the Blossom Music Center pavilion and filled the lawn to hear The Cleveland Orchestra’s Sci–Fi Spectacular. Jack Everly, one of North America’s leading symphonic pops conductors, was at the helm on this occasion, with none other than George Takei as narrator, beloved for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek. Soprano Kristen Plumley and members of the Blossom Festival Chorus joined the Orchestra in music by John Williams, John Barry, Michael Giacchino and Bernard Herrmann.

John Williams’s rousing “Main Title” from Star Wars opened the program. Everly conducted with authority, yet he also communicated his ideas with subtle tilts of the head and dance-like motions. The orchestra responded to every gesture with polish and pizzazz. The brass and woodwinds played brilliantly, and the contrasting eerie and mystical sections were effectively played by the strings, harps and bells. The driving percussion kept things marching forward with great excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

GOMYO-KarenClassical music under the stars continues this weekend at Blossom Music Center when conductor Bramwell Tovey leads The Cleveland Orchestra in a performance that includes Bizet’s Suite from Carmen and deFalla’s The Three-Cornered Hat. The concert, which begins on Saturday, July 19 at 8:00 pm, also marks the return of violinist Karen Gomyo to the Blossom stage for a performance of Saint-Saëns’s Violin Concerto no. 3.

Upon answering the phone in Switzerland, the extremely gracious Karen Gomyo immediately thanked me for calling her in Europe. No problem I tell her, I’m calling her on Skype. Gomyo uses our brief opening conversation to talk about all that is wonderful with modern technology, and how easy it makes our lives, as the perfect lead-in to talking about the Saint-Saëns concerto. “It’s funny because I read somewhere that Pablo Sarasate, just knocked on Saint-Saëns’s door and asked him for a concerto. That is unthinkable these days because, like you said, we have all these modes of communication. But I guess back in that time you could really just show up in person.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

OrchestraClasswithNJ

An Amherst Early Music Festival student orchestra rehearsal (author playing violin, top right)

If you worry about the future of serious music in America – as many of us do – you might try attending one of the dozens of summer festivals around the country. If you like listening to great music in a relaxed setting – and especially if you enjoy playing it as well — you may find your worries lifted and your ears delighted. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hathaway and Daniel Hautzinger

Mo-EvelynThe idea of playing finger-tangling pieces on the piano in front of distinguished piano professors and performers for a prize would have most people curled up in a corner asking for mercy, but not fifteen year-old Evelyn Mo.

“The competitions are actually one of my favorite parts of playing piano,” she said over the phone. “I think that they make the whole thing more rewarding and worthwhile, and it’s an exhilarating experience while you’re playing. I just take a few deep breaths, go through the pieces in my mind, relax, and play.”

Mo will join 28 other thirteen to eighteen year-old pianists in Oberlin for the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition, with participants hailing from nine countries. The competition runs from July 17-26, with cash prizes awarded to the top six competitors. Read the rest of this entry »

By Mike Telin and Daniel Hautzinger

Gordon-&-Singers-CompanyeA colorful mélange of sounds fills the Cuyahoga Valley National Park during summer. There are the obvious tweets of birds and rustlings of wildlife, but less natural sounds can be heard in the park as well. Strains of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky or the stadium rock of The Kings of Leon may waft over from the Blossom Music Center in the southern part of the park. If you wander farther north a Beatles song in an a cappella arrangement may catch your ear, or a choral version of a beloved movie theme might draw you closer.

That’s because on July 20 at 6:30PM, the Akron-based choral group Singers Companye will present a concert entitled “Sounds Familiar?” at the Happy Days Welcome Lodge in the National Park, as part of the Music By Nature series held there over summer. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

K_B-Weiss-coachingAnn Yeh wouldn’t be applying to graduate school for cello performance if it weren’t for Kent/Blossom Music Festival (KBMF). Now in her second year at the festival and entering her senior year at Vanderbilt University studying with Felix Wang, Yeh said that after “the incredible experience I had last time I thought that maybe I could make it as a musician.”

Such career-changing influence is what every educational festival and its faculty hope to achieve. And KBMF students find this festival particularly effective. “My experience so far has been extremely enjoyable and productive,” enthused violinist Gabe Napoli, currently studying at Northwestern University. “My peers are all amazingly talented and it’s so much fun to make music with them. The instructors are both inspiring role models and great coaches. It’s a privilege to learn from them.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Ravel-CD-KondonassisWhat does an artist want you to experience when you listen to her CD? Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is very clear about that in the liner notes for her latest recording. She wants you to be transported to “somewhere you’ve never been, but of which you might have dreamed.”

That somewhere is the special world of Maurice Ravel, charmingly miniaturized in the Oberlin Music release, Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a world Kondonassis first discovered through an LP of his music as a child in Oklahoma.

Joined by her fellow Oberlin Conservatory faculty members Alexa Still, flute and Richard Hawkins, clarinet; Oberlin alumni Ellie Dehn, soprano and Spencer Myer, piano; and Oberlin’s most recent ensemble in residence, the Jupiter String Quartet, Kondonassis explores four of Ravel’s exotic chamber works in performances vividly captured by recording engineer Paul Eachus. Sessions were held in Oberlin’s shining new Clonick Hall studio, expertly co-produced and edited by Erica Brenner. Read the rest of this entry »

By Timothy Robson

FISCHOn paper the program announced for the Cleveland Orchestra’s concert at Blossom on Sunday, July 12, did not look like anything special. It was composed of three repertoire standards: Wagner’s overture to The Flying Dutchman; Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64; and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7 in A major, op. 92. But the evening’s two guest artists, Israeli conductor Asher Fisch and German violinist Isabelle Faust, both making their Cleveland Orchestra debuts, took a fresh look at these works, and delivered performances rich in detail and clarity of sound. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Clapp-(Peter-Schaaf,-The-Strad)Constructing memorial concerts is a tricky affair. They have to strike a balance between mourning and celebration, incorporating personal stories and meaningful pieces without becoming maudlin. On July 11 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, the faculty of Credo Music successfully navigated these pitfalls for a moving tribute to their friend and fellow faculty member, violinist Stephen Clapp.

Oberlin, under the auspices of Credo, was the perfect venue to honor Clapp’s memory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1961, returned to teach there from 1978-1994, founded the Oberlin Trio, was acting dean of the conservatory in 1985, and was presented with an honorary doctorate in 2011. He served on the faculty of Credo Music from its genesis, fifteen years ago. Beyond Oberlin, Clapp taught at Juilliard from 1987-2007, as well as serving as its dean from 1994-2007. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

John-Nelson_BWConductor John Nelson has had a long career. Born in Costa Rica to American parents in 1941, he has been Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and the Orchestre de chamber de Paris, has become a renowned opera conductor and interpreter of large Romantic and sacred choral works, won a Grammy for his recording of Handel’s Semele, and helped found Soli Deo Gloria, an organization which commissions sacred choral music from such respected composers as Christopher Rouse and Augusta Read Thomas.

On July 19 at 7:00 at Severance Hall, Nelson will lead the Credo Festival Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Haydn’s late oratorio The Creation, which was inspired by Haydn’s visits to England where he heard Handel’s oratorios. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Lee-ZakanyDances are usually joyous, but on July 9 at Kent State University’s Ludwig Recital Hall violinist Jung-Min Amy Lee gave a recital that explored the somber side of the dance in repertoire ranging from Bach to Esa-Pekka Salonen. Read the rest of this entry »

Bowlin-FarringtonClevelandClassical’s Young Writer Fellow, Daniel Hautzinger, has wrapped up ChamberFest Cleveland’s third season in an article for the national website of the Music Critics Association of North America. Read his piece, “Cleveland ChamberFest in 3rd year has convivial vibe” on Classical Voice North America.

by Mike Telin

Mumford-CDWith a catalogue of works as robust as that of celebrated American composer Jeffrey Mumford, the task of selecting a group of compositions to be featured on a recording could be quite daunting. Happily, on his recently released two CD set titled though a stillness brightening on the Albany Records label, Mumford has painstakingly chosen ten selections that highlight his prowess as a composer.

In his introduction to the CD, writer Christian Carey notes that “Jeffrey Mumford’s music is filled with counterpoint. Whether written for large ensembles or intimate chamber forces, it features a counterpoint of melodic lines – and a counterpoint of ideas… Through the use of a wide range of dynamics and articulations, they embody a number of moods.” Carey’s words perfectly describe the ten works featured on this recording – colorfully nuanced, layered musical motives are abundant. Read the rest of this entry »

By J.D. Goddard

Pirates-PosterOn Tuesday, July 1, the house was full and the audience bustled with excitement for Ohio Light Opera’s opening performance of Pirates of Penzance in Freedlander Hall on the campus of Wooster college. The customary standing and singing of “God save the Queen” set the tone for the afternoon’s English fare.  As the curtain raised we were immediately swept into the action, a rocky seashore on the coast of Cornwall, town of Penzance.

The Pirates of Penzance tells the story of Frederic, a young apprentice who was mistakenly indentured to a band of pirates in his youth. At the end of his servitude, Frederic decides to leave the pirates and devote his life to their extermination.  He meets a bevy of beautiful maidens, instantly falling in love with one of them, Mabel. Unfortunately, the pirates reappear and take the maidens captive, leading to a series of increasingly ridiculous plot twists. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Hudson-LibraryPerformance experience is obviously invaluable for young musicians, but playing at a conservatory in front of peers and professors who know the piece intimately can be intimidating. As such, an audience out just to enjoy free music on a pleasant Sunday afternoon is well-appreciated. Hence Kent/Blossom Music Festival’s well-attended student recital at the airy Hudson Library on July 6. (There were a total of four student concerts last weekend, the other three in Ludwig Hall at Kent State University).

The students have two weeks to learn a piece mostly on their own, with occasional coachings from festival faculty members. The ensemble communication was impressive on Sunday in such circumstances, and each groups’ blend was enhanced by the library rotunda’s softening acoustics. Read the rest of this entry »

STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Daniel Hautzinger
young writer fellow

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Guytano Parks
Timothy Robson
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Jacob Street
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas

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