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by Mike Telin
After one listen it was pretty easy to come up with at least one hundred reasons to get a copy of Trumpet Genesis, the latest recording project by Northeast Ohio trumpeter and arranger Josh Rzepka. Consisting of six tracks and a total play time of roughly 39 minutes, this album leaves you wanting, wishing, hoping for more — in large part to the all-star lineup Rzepka has assembled for the project. Musically speaking, every track of Trumpet Genesis is a lesson in ensemble playing with plenty of great solo work adding just the right spices to each and every tune — all of which were either written or made famous by a trumpeter.
In the well-written notes (a bit hard to read, especially for my middle aged eyes), Rzepka says that the inspiration for the album came from the desire to record some tracks with his mentor and Oberlin Conservatory teacher Kenny Davis. After approaching Tri-C’s Crooked River Grove Records about a project that would include Davis, his friend and mentor, pianist Jackie Warren and himself, the project “took off” from there. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Every two years since 1980, performers and fans of early music have flocked to Boston for a rich festival of pre-Romantic music. The 2013 edition of the Boston Early Music Festival, subtitled “Youth: Genius and Folly” ran from June 9-16. The annual meeting of the Music Critics Association of North America was scheduled to coincide with several days of the Festival, but I came a few days earlier to catch some events in the Festival Fringe that showcased early music talent with connections to Northeast Ohio.
Case Western Reserve University, its partner, CIM, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music have long been centers of activity in the Historically Informed Performance (HIP) movement, and faculty and student performers brought a wealth of expertise and excellent musicianship to Boston last week.
Oberlin musicians who perform under the banner of The Bach Project drew a sizeable audience to the Church of the Covenant in Back Bay on Tuesday afternoon, June 11 for a concert comprising all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “authentic” flute sonatas. Read the rest of this entry »
by Robert Rollin
The Cleveland Chamber Symphony conducted by Stephen Smith resumed its Verb Ballets collaboration last Thursday evening, June 13, in Baldwin Wallace University’s Gamble Auditorium. The concert, titled “Music that Dares to Explore,” presented four interesting and relatively new pieces, one of which was a world premiere. Two of the performances involved the Verb Ballets.
The most ingratiating piece was BW composer-in residence, Clint Needham’s Urban Sprawl. The only piece utilizing the full ensemble complement, Urban Sprawl is, in the words of the composer, “a funky, jazzy, kitschy, and hopefully fun ode to suburban life.” Needham got the idea for the piece when he and his wife were house hunting and viewed the insides of strange houses with crazy wallpaper, hideous paint colors, abortive do-it-yourself projects, and oddball tobacco smells. He wrote his piece visualizing the inhabitants dancing a quirky new dance he called the “Urban Sprawl.”
The raucous, yet transparently-bright textures using intervals and harmonies evoking Copland’s Americana works, proved a fertile mine for the six Verb Ballets dancers’ talents. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Church of the Covenant music director Jonathan William Moyer capped off the dedication festivities for the Covenant’s new Richards, Fowkes & Co. North German-style organ on Sunday, June 10, with magisterial performances of music that neatly outlined the Liturgical Year in the space of an hour.
After an overture-like piece by George Muffat, Moyer’s program began in Advent and concluded with Pentecost, visiting the festivals of Christmas, Epiphany and Easter and the penitential season of Lent (and Holy Week) along the way, featuring settings of seasonal hymns by Nicolaus Bruhns, Dieterich Buxtehude, Heinrich Scheidemann and Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as a bucolic Noël by Jean-François Dandrieu and plainchant elaborations by three generations of Spanish composers — Juan Bermudo, Sebastian Aguilera de Heredia and Juan Cabanilles. Bach’s “Great” d-minor toccata and fugue finished the year with a postlude-like flourish. Read the rest of this entry »
by Alexandra A. Vago
From glen to glen, the bagpipes shepherded guests to the Baroque Barn in Hunting Valley on Thursday, June 6, for the first of several performances of Apollo’s Fire’s charmingly rustic program, “My Father was a Matchmaker: Tunes & Tales of Love from Old Ireland” with Irish storyteller Tomáseen Foley. The weather, as if on cue from Mother Nature, was misty, cloudy, and a wee bit chilly – but the perfect setting for tunes and tales of love from Old Ireland.
While one might have longed for a pint of Guinness and a warm hearth, William Coulter (guitar/guest musical director) masterfully led the musicians and audience to a remote parish in Ireland, where we met a true Irish culture-bearer, Tomáseen Foley. The evening was an intimate glimpse into the Céilí, an informal social gathering that includes song, dance, poetry and storytelling.
Mr. Foley regaled us with tales of Tade, one of his father’s matchmaking subjects, and a sentimental love story of W. B. Yeats and Maud Gonner. The program was woven together as skillfully as the most intricate, interlaced Celtic knot. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway, James Flood & Mike Telin
Though packed with lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and master classes, Classical Guitar Weekend, sponsored by Guitars International, centers around a series of solo recitals by international artists. This year’s fetival — the thirteenth — featured Cleveland’s own Jason Vieaux, assisted by three instrumentalists from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the debut of Korean guitarist Jiyeon Kim, the American artist Colin Davin, the Belgian guitarist Raphaëlla Smits in her fourth appearance at the festival, and British-born artist Jonathan Leathwood. The five players offered the Mixon Hall audiences a wide range of repertory to ponder and enjoy.
Representing the host of Classical Guitar Weekend, Cleveland Institute of Music guitar professor Jason Vieaux sometimes caps off the weekend’s activities, but this time was the headliner for Thursday evening’s opening concert. After playing a sweet and beautifully layered performance of Fernando Sor’s Bagatellle, op. 44, no. 3, Vieaux told the audience that he had decided to revisit repertory he had played over the years at Classical Guitar Weekend, after working on some of the pieces on the program with students and recalling how much he liked them. Read the rest of this entry »
by Guytano Parks
The Cleveland Orchestra concluded its 2012/13 Severance Hall subscription series this weekend with a bang. Riding the wave of success from last week’s “At Home” neighborhood residency program in the Gordon Square Arts District on Cleveland’s West Side, The Happy Dog and its co-owner, Sean Watterson went in with University Circle Inc. and the Orchestra to provide bus service to Severance Hall with a reduced ticket price for the final Fridays @ 7 concert in addition to the festive @fterparty.
Friday evening’s patrons who didn’t ride the bus (it left at 6:00 p.m.) were encouraged to attend the 6:00 p.m. pre-concert st@rters in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall event, a lively sampling of Bobby Selvaggio’s unique saxophone artistry featuring the Bobby Selvaggio Quartet and Strings. Then came the hour-long Fridays @ 7 concert by The Cleveland Orchestra with guest conductor Manfred Honeck. The @fterparty brought the night to a high-energy close with a return to the roots of funk by the 11-piece music collective Mokaad. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Telin
This past weekend The Cleveland Orchestra concluded its 2012-13 Severance Hall season with a series of concerts that featured the music of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Martinsson under the direction of Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck, who was making his highly anticipated Cleveland Orchestra debut. Honeck, who serves as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony and principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, has earned a reputation for his ability to bring new life to the standard repertoire. In an interview with this publication Honeck, said that “…having the audience feel like they are hearing a world premiere of a piece is very important to me.” On Thursday, May 23, Manfred Honeck achieved his goal in every way as he and the outstanding Cleveland Orchestra gave an emotionally gripping performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.
From the beginning you were aware that this was not going to be another run-of-the-mill performance of an old warhorse as the opening lines in the clarinets seemingly grew out of the stage floor. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Lev Aronson was a Latvian cellist who managed during the Nazi regime to survive slave labor, the confiscation of his instruments and internment in the concentration camp at Stutthof. After being rescued by the Soviets, he was re-imprisoned, miraculously escaped and made his way to the American Zone. After the War, he became principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony and, as a celebrated teacher, profoundly influenced a number of young cellists including Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirchbaum and Brian Thornton. He died in 1988 (The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson, a book about his life by Frances Brent, was published in 2009).
Thornton, a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, has launched a project to honor Lev Aronson’s legacy with an annual festival at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, set to launch on June 10, a CD to be released today, May 29, and a forthcoming series of concerts in temples and synagogues.
The CD, Kol Nidrei & Beyond: Lev’s Story is an evocative, living memorial to a great cellist told through wordless songs: original music by Max Bruch (his setting of Kol Nidrei), Sergei Rachmaninoff (Vocalise) and Ernest Bloch (Prayer from Jewish Life, No. 1), Yuriy Leonovich’s Fantasie on Themes from Dvorak’s ‘Rusalka’, four of Aronson’s arrangements (a Hassidic dance, Ansky’s Mipnei ma, Bloch’s Abodah and Lavry’s Kinereth), and Patrick Zimmerli’s five-movement Sonata “Kol Nidrei” for solo cello which Thornton commissioned especially for the project. Spencer Myer is the excellent pianist. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
John, son of Louis from the town of Palestrina, essentially became the official composer of the Church of Rome when he was appointed as master of the papal choir (Cappella Giulia) at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1551 and had come to represent the culmination and perfection of Renaissance polyphony by the time he died in 1594. He wrote as many masses as Haydn wrote symphonies, as well as hundreds of motets, offertories and hymns for use in the Roman Rite.
Quire Cleveland gave a large audience just a taste of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s vast trove of liturgical music on Saturday evening, May 25 at Historic St. Peter’s Church in downtown Cleveland when guest conductor Jameson Marvin conducted the 22 professional singers in what is probably Palestrina’s most famous mass setting, its movements interspersed with six motets, five of them on Marian texts. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Telin
Since 2001, the Contemporary Youth Orchestra under the direction of its always-creative founder and music director Liza Grossman, have presented an end-of-season Rock the Orchestra concert. Past concerts have given CYO members the chance to work with some of the greats from the world of Rock including the likes of Graham Nash, Jon Anderson, Pat Benatar, Donnie Iris and Jefferson Starship. On Friday, May 17 in Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium, legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins joined forces with CYO in an electrifying concert titled Psychotic Bump School.
But this concert amounted to far more than a celebrated artist playing his or her beloved tunes backed up by an orchestra; this performance was all about the collaborative nature of music. Collins, the CYO, the 57-member Campus International School Bootsy Choir under the direction of Janice Fields Pohl, and his own band — Keith Cheatham, guitar, “Monster” Mike Cobb, bass, Ken “BAM” Smith, drums, Zac Adams, Candice Cheatham and Lauren Mallory, vocals — plus some cool dance steps by Patti Collins, all added up to one gigantic music-making and dancing machine. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Though the title of the program (“Plaintive Notes”) and the graphic on the flyers and posters (an eye weeping into a pool) may have suggested a mournful selection of repertory, the well-sung concert that Good Company presented at Lakewood Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon, May 19, was equally decked out with delightful, light-hearted pieces. Artistic director Karen Weaver conducted the 28-member chorus with the assistance of the Amethyst String Trio and Patrick Wickliffe, who played organ, harpsichord and piano (and offered a brief organ prelude as well). The short program was the perfect length for a warm Spring afternoon.
The concert began on a somber note with John Rutter’s De Profundis from the Requiem. Rutter can channel a number of different romantic composers, and on this occasion, Herbert Howells came to mind more than once in the movement’s quietly ecstatic choral lines. Good Company sang them expressively with fine blend and balance. Cellist Linda Atherton contributed a grippingly resonant cello solo. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
The troops were out in force for Cleveland POPS’ thirteenth annual Armed Forces Salute at Severance Hall on Friday, May 17 — not the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who were honored in a medley of official songs, but in addition to the orchestra and its new Cleveland POPS Chorus, the evening featured a Joint Veterans Honor Guard, the Gates Keystone Club Police Pipes and Drums, the Mutual Gifts Gospel Choir (employees of Medical Mutual, who sponsored the evening) and a celebrity narrator, former Cavs star Austin Carr, aka “Mr. Cavalier.” All these participants were masterfully deployed and led by POPS conductor Carl Topilow, chorus master William Zurkey and gospel choir leader Jimmy L. Wilcher, Jr. in an evening of rousing patriotic and military-inspired music that brought the spirit of the Fourth of July indoors a few weeks early.
After a ceremonial entry by the honor guard, pipes and drums and a gospely version of the national anthem by the Mutual Gifts choir, those seventeen singers remained onstage for Kevin Bond’s God be praised with orchestral backup arranged by the POPS’s tubist, J.c. Sherman. Read the rest of this entry »
by Guytano Parks
The evening shimmered, both musically and visually as the Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin took to the Severance Hall Stage in The Music of Ella and Ellington with The Cleveland Orchestra conducted by James Feddeck on Saturday, May 18. Miss Austin made an elegant entrance in a bejeweled silver grey gown which fit right in with Severance Hall’s luxuriously opulent decor. “Look at that ceiling, did you ever see anything quite as beautiful?… my house would look so great with that ceiling,” she said with an upward gaze. Her stage manner and banter immediately endeared her to the audience. And her voice was in particularly fine form, distinctively rich and colorful, ranging from the seductive and smoky to the vibrantly clear.
Feddeck and the orchestra opened the concert with a vigorous and exciting account of Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story. Biting brass and driving rhythms were energized by the percussion section while lush strings and colorful woodwinds imparted character and atmosphere to one of musical theatre’s most beloved scores. Read the rest of this entry »
by Guytano Parks
“Over 1,300 students have been members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra during the past twenty-seven seasons, representing a remarkable group of talented young people. For some, their interest in music has carried them forward into careers as educators and performers. For others, music continues as an important part of their lives and careers in business, the arts, and community service.”
So read the printed program from the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra’s final concert of the season at Severance Hall. It describes in advance the thirty-nine graduating seniors who were congratulated with individual descriptions of the next step in their musical journeys. Among them is Hannah Moses, winner of the orchestra’s 2013 concerto competition and soloist in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor.
Miss Moses, a member of COYO since 2007, is a senior in CIM’s Young Artist Program studying with Richard Weiss of The Cleveland Orchestra. Winner of many scholarship and concerto competitions, she will continue her studies at CIM, majoring in cello performance. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Short symphonies by Michael Haydn, his older brother Joseph Haydn, and J.S. Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian Bach, were the Rococo entries on the final concert of Akron Baroque Chamber Orchestra’s season on Thursday, May 16 under the direction of Guy Victor Bordo, but the 17-member professional ensemble, founded by Amy Barlowe, also recalled its central mission with a Vivaldi concerto starring the violin-bass duo of Amber and Maximilian Dimoff. (Amber is a member of Akron Baroque; her husband is principal bass of The Cleveland Orchestra).
Presented in the fine acoustical ambiance of the sanctuary of First Congregational Church with its elegant, wrap-around balcony, the 90-minute concert followed solidly in the tradition the ensemble has established: attractive and accessible music masterfully played on modern instruments with a nod to historical performance practice but without any self-conscious fussiness. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Only six months after receiving a liver transplant at Cleveland Clinic, Michael Lynn gathered a group of friends to present a benefit concert for the program that gave him a new life and restored his career as a performer on the recorder and baroque flute. “A Baroque Musical Conversation” drew a good-sized audience to Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Saturday evening, May 11 for masterful performances of concerted music by Telemann and Handel as well as cameo solo performances of works by Louis Couperin, Handel and Marais.
Lynn, who is professor of baroque flute and recorder and curator of musical instruments at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, was forced to give up performing four years ago due to his illness. His near-miraculous recovery was immediately evident in the opening selection, the Vivace from Telemann’s Concerto in D for two flutes, violin and cello, where he was joined by flutist Kathie Stewart, violinist Julie Andrijeski and cellist René Schiffer, with Jeannette Sorrell at the harpsichord and a backup orchestra of Miho Hashizumi and Rachel Iba, violins, Cynthia Black, viola, and Sue Yelanjian, contrabass. All the performers, who donated their services, have been longtime colleagues in professional period instrument ensembles in the region. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Telin
Today, May 15, 2013 is here and so marks the official release of the highly anticipated recording Ensemble HD – Live at The Happy Dog. So much has happened since June 23, 2010 when Cleveland Orchestra principal flutist Joshua Smith and Happy Dog proprietor Sean Watterson decided to take the plunge by bringing live “classical” music to a venue more known for presenting local rock and polka bands. But what this album celebrates most is the shared vision and philosophy of creating something that would put a new face on classical music which Smith and Watterson brought to a reality.
In the album’s informative liner notes, Charles Michener insightfully writes
“Yet, perhaps what ails classical music has less to do with the audience, the nature of the music or the people who play it, then it does with the places and the manner in which it is usually played.” Michener suggests, “What if one could experience Beethoven and Bartok in a setting other then a shrine-like auditorium…? What if the players arrived not in formal evening dress but as people who look and act just like the rest of us? What if you could enjoy Beethoven and Bartok in a casual public watering hole on an ordinary urban street while chatting with your companion, ordering food and drink, and even glancing occasionally at a TV monitor where an NBA or NFL game is in progress.” Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
Though The Ensemble from Federated Church in Chagrin Falls was the ultimate winner of the 2013 Jubilation! Elizabeth Stuart Church Choir Festival jointly sponsored by WCLV, 104.9 FM and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, all six choirs took home a cash prize and a plaque as well as the invaluable experience of appearing with each other in a warmly supportive festival. The well-attended finals were held at St. John’s Cathedral on May 9 and 10 and judged by Robert Page, Frank Bianchi and Peter Jarjisian.
On Thursday evening, the Festival Choir of Gesu Parish in University Heights (27 singers) drew the opening slot. Directed by Joseph Metzinger with instrumental assistance from pianist Julia Russ and violinist James Thompson, the ensemble sang a range of music from repurposed Handel choruses to African Chants, a famous Sistine Chapel motet and a Mozart mass movement. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
The first weekend of the third year of Dutch conductor Ton Koopman’s productive residency with The Cleveland Orchestra gave Severance Hall audiences a new perspective on three Viennese classical works by Mozart and Haydn, introduced a French baroque descriptive piece by a composer the orchestra has never tackled before, and brought a true novelty to light: a late eighteenth century showpiece starring timpanist Paul Yancich.
To be precise, only half of The Cleveland Orchestra was playing on the East side of East Boulevard on Saturday evening, May 4 — the rest of the musicians had been involved all week with the two-concert series “California Masterworks” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. For Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 in E-flat, the Severance stage was set up for a period-sized ensemble of fifteen violins, six violas, four cellos and four basses, and pairs of oboes and horns. Read the rest of this entry »
by Daniel Hathaway
For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Chamber Music Society has honored the Omer Quartet with a Young Artists Showcase concert at First Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights. Violinists Mason Yu and Erica Tursi, violist Joe LoCicero and cellist Alex Cox, all graduating seniors at the Cleveland Institute of Music (pictured here in Mixon Hall), where they have participated in CIM’s Intensive String Quartet Seminar, have spent the season playing outreach concerts in elementary schools with coaching from Annie Fullard of the Cavani Quartet and Peter Salaff of CIM. The Omer Quartet entertained a mid-sized and slightly older audience on Sunday evening, May 5, with two unconventional works by Leoš Janáček and Felix Mendelssohn.
A year ago, the Omer played Mendelssohn’s last-composed chamber work for the occasion; this time they went back to the beginning and offered the 18-year-old composer’s first work for string quartet, op. 13 in a minor. Read the rest of this entry »
by Timothy Robson
In a day of music and celebration on Sunday, May 12, the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland’s University Circle formally unveiled and dedicated its brilliant new organ, the Newberry Organ, built by Richards, Fowkes & Company of Ooltewah, Tennessee. The new organ was tested to its limits in a festival service in the morning featuring multi-choir works with Baroque-style instruments, and three other organs (two small Dutch portative organs as well as the church’s large mid-20th-century American Classic organ), followed by a concert in the afternoon by Oberlin Conservatory organ faculty head James David Christie, with a repeat of the multi-choral works from the morning. In between the two major events, the church’s director of music, Jonathan Moyer, gave a lecture on the new organ.
The new two-manual and pedal organ, which sits in a renovated rear organ gallery, is modeled on organs of 17th-century Holland and northern Germany. Its pitch and tuning enable the organist to simulate the sounds that would have been heard by the composers of the time, the late Renaissance and Baroque periods. Read the rest of this entry »
by Nicholas Jones
Like most 18th-century composers, Handel wrote much of his music for special occasions, rather than for its own sake. But in the hands of such a master, many of his occasional compositions have transcended the functions for which they were written.
Such is the case for three Handel works performed by the Cleveland Orchestra Thursday. All of them were written for British royal occasions, but you don’t need to be a Brit to appreciate them. Under the guidance of baroque specialist Ton Koopman, the orchestra brought out both the radiance and depth of Handel’s music. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Telin & Daniel Hathaway
“Go West, young man, go West,” was the much quoted advice probably misattributed to Horace Greeley, and for many during the Westward Expansion, the ultimate destination was California.
Last week, in their second collaboration in Gartner Auditorium, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s VIVA! & Gala Performing Arts Series presented “California Masterworks”, a two-concert series that drew on six seminal works by Henry Cowell, Dane Rudhyar, Lou Harrison, John Adams, James Tenney and Terry Riley to create a retrospective of music created by Californians — either born or raised there (Cowell, Harrison and Riley) or moved there to spend extended periods of time (Adams, Rudhyar and Tenney) but all of whom are linked by “common threads — different threads”, “bumping the classical tradition slightly off its axis” and offering “not so much a glimpse of the fringe as of the future,” as the Museum’s Tom Welch wrote in his extensive introduction in the program book. Read the rest of this entry »
by Mike Telin
It’s difficult to be the sibling of an over-achieving, award-winning brother or sister. No matter how hard one tries it is nearly impossible to garner the same amount of attention from adults that is bestowed on them. The same could be said about the string family: the trio, it seems, is always in the shadow of its more famous sibling the quartet. On Monday, May 6 at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, Trio Nord — Sonja Braaten Molloy, violin, Lembi Veskimets viola, and Martha Baldwin, cello — sent a clear message to the capacity audience: the string trio deserves more attention!
The concert, presented by the Rocky River Chamber Music Society, opened with the Prelude and Fugue No. 6 in F minor, K. 404a by Mozart. The brief yet immediately likeable piece combines an original prelude and a transcription of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Fugue No. 8. Trio Nord conveyed the work’s charm beautifully, performing with nuanced elegance during the prelude and rhythmic precision during the fugue. Read the rest of this entry »