by Daniel Hathaway

WuHan-Setzer-FinckelThe famous piano trio with no name of its own, consisting of pianist Wu Han, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel, will launch the sixty-fifth season of the Cleveland Chamber Music Society at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30. The program will include Beethoven’s Trio in G, op. 1, no. 2, Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 in e, op. 67 & Mendelssohn’s Trio in c, op. 66. A 6:30 pm pre-concert lecture will feature WCLV’s Robert Conrad in a talk entitled “Not Your Father’s Radio Station.”

Interesting relationships connect the three performers. Wu Han and David Finckel are husband and wife as well as partners who run the Music from Menlo chamber music series in California and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. And until the end of the 2012-2013 season, Finckel and Philip Setzer had played together in the Emerson String Quartet since 1976. Finckel has since set out on his own to pursue other projects, among them, continuing to perform with the Lincoln Center group, which will bring him back to Cleveland for a concert on the CCMS Series on January 13. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Adams-John-LutherThis weekend the Cleveland Museum of Art Performing Arts series will begin its new season with two events featuring the music of 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams.

On Saturday, September 20 beginning at 7:00 pm in Historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ohio City, The Alaskan-based composer will discuss Veils and Vesper, two distinct but related electronic soundscapes that create an immersive listening experience over a period of six hours. The evening includes a “sneak preview” of the work followed by a meet-and-greet reception. The event is free and all are welcome. Audiences can experience Veils and Vesper on Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00 noon to 6:00pm beginning on Friday, September 26. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CHO-JinjooCleveland based violinist Jinjoo Cho has been named one of six contestants to be advanced to the final round of the 9th Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

Cho, who is currently in her second year of Professional Studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, on Wednesday, September 17, with the East Coast Chamber Orchestra. On Friday, September 19, she will perform Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 with the Indianapolis Symphony. Both performances are under the direction of Joel Smirnoff.

Final rounds begin at 8:00 pm eastern time. Click here for live broadcast information. Click here for live streaming.

by Daniel Hathaway

SuterFormer Washington Cathedral organist Erik Wm. Suter will play a recital on the Holtkamp organ in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights on Saturday, September 20 at 5:00 pm. The big question is whether he’ll fly himself to Cleveland.

When Suter was growing up in Chicago, two things fascinated him, and the first one wasn’t music. “I took my first airplane ride when I was three,” he said in a recent telephone conversation. “For better or worse, they let me come up to the cockpit and I was hooked. I really wanted to be a pilot — who doesn’t when he’s a kid!”

The organ came later. “My dad was a Lutheran pastor, so I was exposed to organ playing every week. I found the instrument more technically fascinating than musical — I’m drawn to complexity — and originally I was more interested in building organs than in playing them. Then I started taking lessons at the age of 13 and fell in love with the repertoire.”

Suter revisited his interest in organ building while studying organ performance at Oberlin with Haskell Thompson from 1991-1995, where he came into contact with Oberlin’s organ technician. “Hal Gobert hired me for a few summers at his shop in Toronto. I think it makes you a better organist if you fully understand what goes on inside.” Read the rest of this entry »

ASO-Sep-13-Rehearsal

by Daniel Hathaway

Akron Symphony music director Christopher Wilkins enjoys putting together themed programs that go well beyond what other orchestras put out to the public. On Saturday evening in E.J. Thomas Hall, with the help of Francis Scott Key, Dudley Buck, Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Ives (via William Schuman), Michael Gandolfi, the Akron Symphony Chorus, One City Choir and Miller South Choir, Wilkins and the orchestra brought the spirit of 1814 vividly back to life through a canny choice of repertory.

Read the rest of this entry »

PiratesCast

by Daniel Hathaway

Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Savoy Operas” most often get performed by amateur theatrical companies, or, if you’re lucky, by professional musical theater troupes. Those productions can be charming and entertaining enough, but when you put such delightful works into the hands of experienced opera singer-actors and a skillful director, something quite extraordinary can happen.

Last weekend, Opera Per Tutti joined forces with the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra to present three performances of William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Seymour Sullivan’s 1879 operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, that took the work to an entirely new level.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CASSIDY-RobertThough pianist Robert Cassidy, formerly on the faculties of The Music Settlement and Cleveland State University, decamped last spring for California to join his wife at the Music Academy of the West, he remains committed to Northeast Ohio as pianist with the Almeda Trio and plans to travel to Cleveland for concerts with that Music Settlement-based ensemble.

On Friday evening, September 5, Cassidy returned to the area to play a solo recital at First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights, enroute to solo appearances at the Church of St. Mary The Virgin in New York and the Peterskirche in Vienna. His local performance boded well for his subsequent recitals. He presented a thoughtful, well-balanced program, playing with elegance and a keen sense of style. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Zsolt BognarWhat could be more delightful than two sparkling early Beethoven works featuring a riveting young pianist and a fine chamber orchestra, all wrapped up in a 75-minute concert format and presented without intermission? That was the recipe for success as the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra opened its latest season on Saturday evening, September 6 at the Breen Center in Ohio City. The program consisted of Beethoven’s first symphony and first piano concerto, with Cleveland pianist Zsolt Bognár at the Steinway and music director Carlton Woods on the podium.

Early it may be, but Beethoven’s first essay in the symphony is full of surprises (it begins in the composer’s best bad-boy style on a dominant seventh chord) and equally full of pitfalls both for orchestra and conductor. Blue Water played with cohesive sound and tight ensemble through the whole piece, and its violin section tossed off tricky transitions like the lead-in to the fourth movement allegro with consummate ease. Only the element of surprise went missing from some of the composer’s twists and turns. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Bombardment-Fort-McHenryTwo hundred years to the day from the eventful night in Chesapeake Bay when the Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key watched the British Royal Navy’s bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and penned the poem that begins, “O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,” the Akron Symphony will mark the birth of the United State’s eventual National Anthem with a program of music by Dudley Buck, Beethoven, Charles Ives and Michael Gandolfi on Saturday, September 13 at 8:00 in E.J. Thomas Hall at the University of Akron.

Though Quire Cleveland pointed up some of the history of The Star-Spangled Banner in its “American Choral Gems” programs last April (treating the audiences to all four verses of Key’s expressive poetry), hardly anyone gives the anthem a second thought after standing for its ritual performance at the beginning of sporting events. As Akron Symphony music director Christopher Wilkins admitted in a telephone conversation, “it had never occurred to me to get all that excited about The Star-Spangled Banner other than just having regretted some of its militaristic words and the fact that the tune was written by an Englishman, anyway.”

That all changed when Wilkins talked with composer Michael Gandolfi, who was involved in writing his Chesapeake, Summer of 1814. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Pirates-posterWhen Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance premiered in New York on December 31, 1879, the two-act comic opera was immediately popular with audiences and critics alike. Today Pirates remains one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most-performed operas. This weekend, Opera Per Tutti will present three performances of the amusing pirate story at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre on Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, September 14 at 2:00 pm. Steven Eva will conduct the Chagrin Studio Orchestra in this fully-staged production.

Given the popularity of Pirates of Penzance, how does a stage director add his or her own artistic stamp to the work? “That’s a good question,” Opera Per Tutti artistic director Scott Skiba said during a recent telephone call. “I don’t know if I have a stamp to put on it. I just want audiences to become immersed in the work and not be aware of the director. There is a lot of slapstick and there are a lot of funny gags, but they are all driven by the characters and their relationships with one another. I think Pirates is absolutely brilliant. Audiences don’t have to get the political humor from Gilbert & Sullivan’s time in order to understand the opera.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Zierer-PianoWhen Oberlin faculty violinist Marilyn McDonald and pianist David Breitman play Beethoven sonatas in the Conservatory’s Kulas Recital Hall on Saturday, September 13 at 4:30 pm, they’ll be joined by the latest addition to Oberlin’s impressive collection of historic keyboard instruments. An Anton Zierer fortepiano built in Vienna in 1829 came to live in Oberlin last summer and has kept Robert Murphy, the conservatory’s curator of fortepianos, busy getting it settled into a new environment.

Murphy began working with his mentor, 1963 Oberlin graduate Edward Swenson, in his Trumansburg, NY restoration shop when he was 14, and has logged “close to a hundred” historical restorations or work on historical replicas. “At any one time,” Murphy recalled, “Swenson might have had a Graf fortepiano next to a Steinway next to a Baldwin upright, with a virginal off in the corner, and he was working on all of them at the same time.”

Sometimes benign neglect works in the favor of technicians who are charged with restoring historic instruments. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

BOGNAR-ZsoltUnder its music director Carlton Woods, Blue Water Chamber Orchestra will play two “firsts” in its season opener at the Breen Center in Ohio City on Saturday, September 6 at 7:30 pm. Not premieres, mind you, but rather the Number One entries in Ludwig van Beethoven’s opus list in the categories of symphonies and piano concertos.

It’s also turning out to be something of a first for Cleveland pianist Zsolt Bognár, who will be the soloist in Beethoven’s First Concerto. Though he has performed in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Munich, Brussels, Vienna, and in Tokyo, he hasn’t really appeared all that much in Northeast Ohio. “I think this is my first, full public performance in Cleveland since 2007 when I played my master’s graduation recital,” he told me in a telephone conversation. That performance took place at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied for over a decade with Sergei Babayan. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Fourth-WallThere’s a famous one-liner popularized by Groucho Marx: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” On August 27 in Kendal at Oberlin’s Heiser Auditorium, The Fourth Wall hybrid arts ensemble brilliantly brought the absurdity of the joke to life during a thrilling, high-energy performance of their one-hour variety show, “Fruit Flies Like a Banana.”

All jokes aside, The Fourth Wall (Hilary Abigana, flute, Neil Parsons, bass trombone and Greg Jukes, percussion) are excellent musicians who have a uncanny ability for intelligently combining a variety of musical styles with the spoken word and just enough off-the-wall (no pun intended) choreography to keep things interesting and thoroughly entertaining.

Inspired by “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” a show by the Chicago theater company The Neo-Futurists, in which thirty plays are performed in an hour, “Fruit Flies Like a Banana” features twenty pieces performed in sixty minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CityMusic-Schubert-RehearsalCityMusic Cleveland will present four programs during 2014-2015 in multiple venues around metropolitan Cleveland, three of them conducted by the chamber orchestra’s artistic director and composer Avner Dorman, one by CWRU’s Peter Bennett.

Dorman will be featured as a composer in concerts from October 15 through October 19, when his Saxophone Concerto will be played by Timothy McAllister in performances in Lakewood, Cleveland, Willoughby Hills and University Heights, along with Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”) and Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”).

The late Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez’s Misa Criolla (1964) will be at the center of the second series of concerts. Incorporating South American folk instruments, the piece will be sung by the choir of Sagrada Familia Church on Cleveland’s west side in performances in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Willoughby Hills and Lakewood from December 3-7 conducted by Peter Bennett. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

ZENATY-IvanRecitals and chamber music concerts by faculty members at Northeast Ohio conservatories, colleges and universities add to the rich menu of classical music in the region. Usually free, these events begin coming onto the calendar in September. Here’s a quick look at the first performances of the fall.

Oberlin Conservatory faculty members David Bowlin, Gregory Fulkerson and Marilyn McDonald, violins, Peter Slowik and Michael Strauss, violas, Darrett Adkins and Catharina Meints, cellos, and Monique Duphil, piano, will play Mozart’s String Quintet in c minor, K. 406, and Brahms’s Piano Quintet in f minor, op. 34 in Kulas Recital Hall at the Conservatory on Thursday, September 4 at 8:00. The free concert will be streamed via Oberlin’s “Listen Live” service. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

WelserMostBlossomAs the normally-resident birds gave way to the end-of-summer locusts, The Cleveland Orchestra bade farewell to Blossom on Sunday evening in a season closer that also served as a send-off for the ensemble’s forthcoming European tour. Like Friday evening’s Summers @ Severance performance, the repertoire was a condensed version of what audiences in London, Lucerne, Berlin, Linz, Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam will enjoy in thirteen performances from September 7-22: works by Johannes Brahms and Jörg Widmann, the orchestra’s former Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow (an entire concert in Berlin’s Philharmonie on September 11 will be devoted to Widmann’s music).

Widmann’s Con brio: Concert Overture began Sunday evening’s concert on many witty notes. Commissioned by conductor Mariss Jansons to headline a concert of Beethoven’s seventh and eighth symphonies and scored for those orchestral forces, the overture was first performed by The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall performances led by Christoph von Dohnányi in January of 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

by Timothy Robson

Smith & Welser-MostAs a prelude to its three-week European tour, Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra previewed some of their tour repertoire in the third of the 2014 Summers @ Severance concerts on Friday, August 29. This was no summertime “orchestra-lite” concert, but featured two demanding and arresting works by Jörg Widmann, the orchestra’s former Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow, as well as that monument of the orchestral repertoire, Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68. Severance Hall was well filled with a very diverse audience of Cleveland Orchestra fans.

Jörg Widmann’s music brilliantly combines skillful use of orchestration with modernist compositional techniques, at the same time retaining just enough references to recognizable musical styles to make his music appealing to a wide audience. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

A packed house and lawn at Blossom on August 24 (photo by Roger Mastroianni)

A packed house and lawn at Blossom on August 24 (photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On Sunday evening August 24, the Cleveland Orchestra, with guest conductor and Philadelphia Pops Orchestra director, Michael Krajewski, celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America. Classical Mystery Tour, a group that transcribed and performed note for note over two dozen well-known Beatles songs, made the concert truly exciting.

The four musicians played accurate versions of many songs originally created in the studio with orchestral arrangements, but never fully played live during the original group’s performing days. Producer/arranger George Martin helped create many of these intricate works in consultation with The Beatles. Read the rest of this entry »

Antonov-AvgusteBulgarian-born pianist Avguste Antonov, now based in Dallas, who specializes in the performance of works by living composers, will present a concert at Youngstown’s Holy Apostles Church (formerly Ss. Peter and Paul) on Sunday, August 31 at 4:00 pm, and a noonday recital at the Youngstown’s Butler Institute of American Art (Beecher Court) on Wednesday, September 3.

Repertory from Antonov’s new CD on the New York Hartshorn Recordings label will be featured on his August 31 recital. Youngstown composers account for three-fifths of that project, including professor emeritus Robert Rollin’s Blue Fantasy, Richard Zacharias’s Romance for piano solo, and Samantha Hogan’s Cumulus Humilis for piano solo. Other composers are Matthew Saunders and Sy Brandon. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

JoshFranzThis Friday evening at Severance Hall and Sunday evening at Blossom, music director Franz Welser-Möst will give audiences a taste of the repertory The Cleveland Orchestra will play in thirteen concerts in seven European cities between September 7 and September 22.

On Friday, August 29 at 7:00 pm, to end the new Summers at Severance series, Welser-Möst will lead Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and Jörg Widmann’s Lied and Flûte en suite with principal flute Joshua Smith as soloist (pictured above). The flute concerto was written for Smith, who premiered it at Severance Hall in 2011, and will play it six times during the September tour.

On Sunday, August 31 at 7:00 pm in the Orchestra’s Blossom European Tour Send-Off, Welser-Möst will conduct two more Brahms symphonies, Nos. 3 and 4, and another work by Widmann, the concert overture entitled Con brio.

At home, The Cleveland Orchestra and up to 2,400 patrons at a time enjoy the visual and acoustic splendor of Severance Hall, opened in 1931 and renovated in 2000. On the tour, the Orchestra will play in some of the world’s other great concert halls. Here’s an overview of where the music will be heard. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CIPC-Four-BowsThe laureates of most international piano competitions vanish into the ether once the medals are bestowed and prizes awarded. Not so with the Cleveland International Piano Competition, whose leadership has sought new ways to keep its prizewinners in the local public eye and ear.

On Saturday afternoon, August 23, CIPC organized a reunion of its four top winners from 2013, one year and two weeks after the final round when they played concertos in Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra. Last year they faced off as competitors, but on Sunday in Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art, they paired up collaboratively to play J.S. Bach double keyboard concertos with Apollo’s Fire and, in the second half of the 4:00 pm concert, swapped partners to play two-piano works by Mozart, Milhaud and Rachmaninoff. A gala dinner for patrons followed the performance in the museum’s Atrium. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Western Reserve Chorale: Mozart's Requiem at CSU, March, 2014

Western Reserve Chorale: Mozart’s Requiem at CSU, March, 2014

For its twenty-third season, the Western Reserve Chorale, a group of amateur and professional singers under the direction of David Gilson, has scheduled three programs which include an Ohio premiere and the second edition of “For Love of Shakespeare.” The ensemble rehearses on Tuesday evenings at Grace Lutheran Church in Cleveland Heights beginning in September, and welcomes new singers (contact Joanne Poderis at 216.791.0061).

The season will begin with a holiday concert on Sunday, December 7 at 7:00 pm at Grace Lutheran featuring the late British composer Geoffrey Bush’s Christmas Cantata as well as seasonal favorites. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

GRAMS-AndrewOn Saturday evening August 23, the Cleveland Orchestra, Blossom Festival Chorus and Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus presented an exceptional concert under talented young conductor Andrew Grams. Grams served as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra, and as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, from 2004-2007. He has guest conducted many of the world’s great orchestras, and showed excellent ensemble control and remarkable interpretive skills all evening.

The highlight was a marvelous performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (1936) scored for soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, children’s choir, chorus and large orchestra, mixing words from both Latin and old German. The text comes from a significant collection of 12th century Latin and old German secular poems recorded in manuscript in an abbey near Munich, where German monks preserved it for future generations. Johann Andreas Schmeller published the first edition in 1847. The first performance in 1937 was a staged version, though the large majority of subsequent performances were in concert format. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kelly Ferjutz, Special to ClevelandClassical

HALLS-Matthew2Mother Nature was apparently clued in – and ready – for the Saturday evening concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Center on August 9. During the first half of the program, the birds and the frogs and the crickets started warming up. By the time the Orchestra took the stage for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the sounds of nature were ready! And then came Supermoon! It really was spectacular. Those music lovers on the lawn had a better glimpse of it, perhaps, but once we were out in the parking lot, there it was in all its huge, luminous splendor. The weather was simply perfect for enjoying the moon and the music!

Of course, that’s because the Orchestra, with guest conductor Matthew Halls, was luminous enough in itself to have lit up the skies like daylight. The evening’s program – and homage to Mozart — began with the overture to his opera Idomeneo. Mr. Halls drew lovely sounds from the musicians in front of him with his decisive movements and graceful hand motions. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

HALLS-MatthewOn Saturday evening, August 9, the Blossom Festival presented an exemplary Cleveland Orchestra Mozart concert under the gifted young British conductor, Matthew Halls, making his debut with the group. The Oxford-educated musician first became known as a keyboard player and conductor of early music. Since then he has come to prominence as Director of the Oregon Bach Festival and through appearances with major professional orchestras and opera companies in Europe, Australia, and North America.

The entire concert was a delight, thanks to the orchestra’s wonderful talent and to Halls’s remarkably colorful dynamics and sensitive control of tempi. Notwithstanding his youthfulness, Halls showed mature and outstanding interpretive skills, lending grace and beauty to the entire concert. Read the rest of this entry »

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