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by Daniel Hathaway

QuireCircleWebOn Friday evening, September 26 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ross W. Duffin led the 22 professional singers of Quire Cleveland in a splendid survey of music by fifteenth and sixteenth-century composers who were born in the region we now call Belgium.

In other hands, the program, titled “The Flower of Flanders: Masterpieces of Renaissance Polyphony,” might have been like sitting through a fact-filled lecture in a music history course. In Duffins’s case, it turned out to be more like visiting a beautifully-curated, special exhibit in an art museum, perhaps one where the sixteen “pictures” on the walls, like something out of Harry Potter, came alive and sang to you as you approached them, each revealing the distinct personalities of their creators as well as the surprising range of their individual musical styles. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Octavio-Más-Arocas_#4818833There’ll be a festive fanfare when Spanish-born conductor Octavio Más-Arocas conducts his first concert with the Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra on Friday, September 26, but that new piece by Kevin C. Thompson is only the first of several curtain-raisers BW’s new orchestral maestro has planned in a continuing series he calls “The Symphony Orchestra Fanfare Project.”

Más-Arocas comes to Berea with an impressive dossier, including conducting posts at Interlochen Arts Academy and the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music. Among his other credits, he has served as assistant to Kurt Masur with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. In a telephone conversation, he told us that he’s looking forward to working with his new musicians. “Baldwin Wallace has a very good group of students, very talented and hard-workers. This is an exciting period at the University with many changes. It’s the right moment to be here.”

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by Daniel Hautzinger
courtesy of Oberlin News Center

HESS-CarolAs fascism and other forms of dictatorship engulfed Europe in the 1930s and ’40s, the United States began to fear that the whole world would be consumed by such regimes. To prevent totalitarianism’s spread to Latin America, the federal government enacted a “Good Neighbor” policy, in which the U.S. encouraged solidarity between the Americas.
One aspect of that policy was a cultural-exchange program that sent North American composers to Latin America and vice versa. “It had fantastic musical consequences,” says Director of Oberlin Orchestras Raphael Jiménez, citing Latin-inspired works created by Aaron Copland and friendships that blossomed between U.S. composers and their Latin counterparts such as Alberto Ginastera and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Jiménez and the Oberlin Orchestra will celebrate that spirit of musical solidarity on Saturday, September 27, with an 8 p.m. concert in Finney Chapel showcasing composers of the Americas.
Prior to the performance, Carol Hess, a music professor at the University of California, Davis, will present a talk about the Good Neighbor policy and the state of Latin American classical music in the U.S. Part of Oberlin’s Richard Murphy Musicology Colloquium series, Hess’ talk will take place at 4 p.m. in Stull Recital Hall. >>read on

by Daniel Hathaway

RYAN-JonathanAmerican organist Jonathan Ryan will open this season’s organ series on the E.M. Skinner instrument in Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium on Sunday, September 28 at 4:00 pm.

Ryan, who is currently assistant music director at Christ Episcopal Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, began his professional studies with Todd Wilson at the Cleveland Institute of Music before moving on to graduate studies at Eastman.

We spoke to the organist as he was preparing for his recital on the Late Summer Organ Festival at the Fraumünster in Zürich. Ryan, whose lineage is partially Swiss, was asked to perform a program totally devoted to American music, something one rarely comes across, especially in Europe. “I’m enjoying that challenge,” he said in a telephone conversation as he listed his repertory choices, which included music by the late Chicago composer Leo Sowerby, Dudley Buck (“his Last Rose of Summer, which turns out to be a well-known tune in Europe”) and five of Calvin Hampton’s Dances. “I had to learn some new repertoire for Zürich,” he noted

Ryan’s choices for Switzerland were also made with the Fraumünster organs in mind. “Stambaugh is an entirely different style of instrument,” he said, which led him to some interesting decisions. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Calder-QuartetAs their first “official” duty as Quartet-in-Residence at the Oberlin Conservatory, The Calder Quartet will present the inaugural concert of the 2014-15 Oberlin Artist Recital Series in Finney Chapel on Tuesday, September 30 beginning at 8:00 pm. The quartet will perform works by Adès, Janáček and Schubert.

The Calders, Benjamin Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, violins, Jonathan Moerschel, viola and Eric Byers, cello, will open the program with a work by one of the group’s favorite composers, Thomas Adès’s Arcadiana (1994) “We’ve been playing his music for a long time as well as working with him for seven years,” violinist Andrew Bulbrook said during a telephone conversation. “In fact we’re currently in the midst of editing a recording of his Piano Quintet, with Tom as the pianist. His quartet, The Four Quarters, which will be a world premiere recording, is also on the CD. Additionally, we have re-recorded Arcadiani from our first CD for this release. It’s a nice culmination of everything that we as a quartet have been working on with him.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Vieaux-Jason“This week’s concert is going to be really great,” classical guitarist Jason Vieaux exclaimed during a recent telephone conversation. On Saturday, September 27, beginning at 7:30 pm in Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society will begin its International Series. And in keeping with tradition, the series will kick off with a free Showcase Concert.

Francois Fowler (Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University) will open the program with two of his own compositions, Meditation (2010) and Wavelength Sonata (2013). Robert Gruca will continue the program with music from the baroque era with David Russell’s arrangement of Jean-Baptiste Loeillet’s Suite No. 1. Jason Vieaux, (Cleveland and Curtis Institutes of Music) will conclude the evening with music by Metheny, Jobim, Tarrega and Merlin.

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by Daniel Hathaway

Setzer-PhilipWe took advantage of a last-minute opportunity to chat on the phone with violinist Philip Setzer of the Han-Setzer-Finckel Trio on the morning before the ensemble’s performance on the Cleveland Chamber Music Society series on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30 pm at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights.

Setzer, a Cleveland native (both of whose parents played in The Cleveland Orchestra, and who also is a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet), had just emerged from serving for seventeen days on the jury of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (won by long-time Cleveland Institute of Music student Jinjoo Cho) and had spent Monday evening coaching members of Sharon Robinson’s Intensive Piano Trio Program at the Institute.

Daniel Hathaway: Women seem to have been the big winners in the recent Indianapolis Competition.

Philip Setzer: You know, that’s just the way it worked out this year — there were five Korean women and one American woman. It’s all done on a point system. We don’t discuss things among the jury. The level was generally high, but there were a lot of young, gifted Korean women. It’s extraordinary what’s coming out of the teaching program there. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

SAKATA-TomokiLast Saturday night the Youngtown Symphony opened its season with an excellent concert of Romantic audience favorites. The evening’s highlight was a scintillating performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43 by the gifted Japanese pianist Tomoki Sakata. Sakata was a finalist and the youngest competitor at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Rhapsody, among Rachmaninoff’s most popular works, utilizes as its theme the final movement of virtuoso violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini’s 24 Capriccios, Op. 1 for solo violin. Rachmaninoff composed twenty-four variations and produced an imaginative composition that groups them in three parts analogous to the three-movement structure of a piano concerto. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SuterDuring his tenure as organist of Washington National Cathedral, Erik Wm. Suter introduced the organ to thousands of tourists in weekly recitals, astutely planning his programs to immediately grab the attention of listeners who might never have attended an organ recital before, then moving on to show the palette of colors a large pipe organ could produce and the range of musical styles it could handle.

The good-sized audience at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights last Saturday afternoon at 5 pm certainly weren’t tourists and probably not first-timers, but Suter’s sure sense of programming, canny registration and brilliant playing were all in evidence. His program covered a lot of musical territory in just over an hour and fully explored the resources of the church’s 1952 Holtkamp organ.

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Montage

by Jarrett Hoffman

A live gerbil as compositional material—it’s the most recent suggestion for a “secret musical ingredient” on the Iron Composer competition’s Facebook page, and contest director Joe Drew, for one, is open to it. “People say stuff, and they think it’s too crazy, but I could see a scenario where that would work,” said Drew over telephone as we talked about the upcoming 8th installment of Iron Composer, a project of Analog Arts. The competition will take place September 26 and will culminate in a free public concert at 8:00 that evening at the Great Lakes Science Center on Erieside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. Emceed by Mark Satola of WCLV, the concert will also be broadcast live on the station (104.9 FM) and on wclv.com.

If you’re not familiar with Iron Composer, the Iron Chef-inspired composing contest unveils an instrumentation and a secret ingredient in the morning, then gives five composers just five hours to craft compositions around those specifications. After receiving thirty minutes of rehearsal each, the pieces are performed that same night and judged based on a set of criteria including their use of the secret ingredient and their originality. This year’s winner will come away with $500 in cash as well as a $500 commission by Blue Water Chamber Orchestra for a new work to be performed during their 2014-15 season.

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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.

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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 »

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