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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 »

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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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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.

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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 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

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 »

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 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 »

by James Flood

WEISS-OrionFriday marked the second installment of the Cleveland Orchestra’s very new Summers @ Severence series with an all-Beethoven program under the baton of Jahja Ling. The evening included light food and drink before and after the 7:00 pm performance, with dance music piped through both the hallways and the terrace afterward to add to the more casual ambiance.

Apparently to lighten the evening, the program itself was downsized a little from the Orchestra’s typical offering, placing Beethoven’s modestly-sized 4th Symphony between the four-minute “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus” and the 20-minute “Choral Fantasy” and excluding an intermission.

The opening overture boasted crisp, clean and energized 16th notes in the strings, generating a quick burst of excitement that was the perfect start for a summer evening at Severance Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

By Guytano Parks

kaufman-richard-by-eric-stonerA near–capacity crowd filled the pavilion and lawn at Blossom Music Center on Sunday evening when The Cleveland Orchestra presented Hollywood Under The Stars.  Conducted by Richard Kaufman, in his 24th year as principal pops conductor with Orange County’s Pacific Symphony, the concert  included music by some of the most respected and revered film composers of our time.

“Hooray for Hollywood” appropriately opened the program in an invigorating and colorful arrangement by John Williams. Kaufman’s direct, no–nonsense conducting served this syncopated and accented score well, for toe–tapping and hum–along music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Koh-Laredo-2x4-CDFor Two x Four, her ninth recording on the Cedile Chicago label (formerly The Chicago Classical Recording Foundation), Chicago native and Oberlin College grad Jennifer Koh joins Jaime Laredo, her former mentor at Curtis (now on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music) in four works for two solo violins and string orchestra.

The orchestra is the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble, conducted by Vinay Parameswaran. Two of the pieces, Anna Clyne’s Prince of Clouds and David Ludwig’s Seasons Lost were specially commissioned for this recording project and completed in 2012.

The album begins with a vigorous performance of perhaps the most famous double violin concerto of them all, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in d, BWV 1043. Laredo takes the first solo part, but the two violinists are so sensitive to each other’s tone and style that it’s often difficult to tell who’s who. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Terrace

The Cleveland Orchestra’s new concert series, Summers@Severance, offers a one-hour-or-so performance by the orchestra on three Friday evenings at 7:00 pm, bracketed by a party with drinks and small plates served on the Front Terrace. The concept seems to have caught on quickly, and judging from the number of audience members snapping cell phone pictures of the Severance Hall interior, brought many first-time listeners to hear the Orchestra on opening night, August 1. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Khristenko-Fantasies-CDUkrainian-born pianist Stanislav Khristenko won the most recent Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2013, sealing his victory with a magisterial performance of Brahms’s first concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall.

Khristenko’s new recording on the Steinway & Sons label — a venture launched in October of 2010 — captures him in a different musical mood, but one that still expresses itself partly through the music of Brahms. Fantasies, recorded in February of this year, concludes with the Fantasien, op. 116, a set of capriccios and intermezzos that distill a lifetime of Brahms’s harmonic and rhythmic innovations into seven relatively small works. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

BROUWER-CD-ShatteredOn her latest recording, Shattered, released on the Naxos Label, composer Margaret Brouwer has compiled four beautifully constructed and emotionally captivating compositions. Each work reflects her personal and continuing musical journey to come to terms with the first decade of the turbulent twenty-first century. However what makes Shattered so appealing is that you do not need to know of Brouwer’s inner conflicts in order to immerse yourself in her alluring music. She has a talent for taking the simplest melody and through her expansive array of compositional techniques, develop it into a polished musical gem. And even when employing a twelve-tone row, Brouwer never ventures into the realm of compositional gimmickry. Every note she writes has musical purpose.

Margaret Brouwer’s immense prowess as a composer is in full evidence in her Quintet for Clarinet in A and String Quartet (2005), which is masterfully performed by the Maia String Quartet – Tricia Park and Zoran Jakovic, violins, Elizabeth Oakes, viola, Hannah Holman, cello and clarinetist Daniel Silver. In her informative liner notes, Brouwer describes the work as “a musical experiment to see whether the overlaying of different cultural influences can add to and enhance each other.” For example, during the opening movement she inventively layers musical quotes from Christian hymns with an imitation of the Muslim Call to Prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

3-Finalists

Out of an initial field of 28 competitors in the Thomas and Evon Cooper Oberlin International Piano Competition, three young pianists, having survived semi-final, concerto final and recital final rounds at the Oberlin Conservatory earlier in the week, won the opportunity to appear on the stage of Severance Hall on Friday evening, July 25 to play concertos with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra.

The impressive audience that turned out to hear Sae Yoon Chon, Zitong Wang and Tony Yike Yang in concertos by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky was full of young people — largely made up of friends, relatives and colleagues of the Cooper participants, no doubt. Palpable energy was in the air, and each of the three finalists was greeted with whoops and cheers both before and after they played. Read the rest of this entry »

by J.D. Goddard

TLK2

The Ohio Light Opera premiere of The Little King. (Photo by Matt Dilyard)

On Wednesday, July 23, in the College of Wooster’s Freedlander Hall, Ohio Light Opera presented the opening performance of its seventh and final work of the summer season, Emmerich Kálmán’s The Little King (Der kleine König) with libretto by Karl von Bakonyi, Franz Martos and Robert Bodanzky. This was OLO’s premiere performance of the rarely performed 1912 work and its eleventh Kálmán operetta.

The convoluted plot deals with a boyish monarch who falls in love with a famous visiting opera singer. She also happens to be the daughter of a revolutionary plotting his assassination. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Stephen HoughThe environment in which you hear music has a potent influence on a concert experience. Obviously, the acoustics and size of a hall impact the sound, but physical surroundings can also intrude upon the music or affect the way you perceive a work. This is especially true at outdoor venues like Blossom Music Center, where nature decided to take a role in the music on July 26, when the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, pianist Stephen Hough, and conductors Brett Mitchell and John Storgårds presented a three-part concert there.

The elements made their most obvious appearance during Liszt’s First Piano Concerto, which Hough brilliantly performed with Storgårds and The Cleveland Orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Silverman@Beachland2Tracy Silverman became one of the first adopters of the electric violin in the eighties when he built a six-string, amplified instrument of his own. He faces the challenge of pitching himself to a potentially diverse audience.

When a musician sets off on a path away from established musical conventions, he takes a great risk. Possible fans may avoid the trailblazer because of difficulty in labeling him, and innovation is often unsuccessful or distasteful to most people. Classical music listeners might shun Silverman because they assume electric means raucous, while rock aficionados might assume Silverman’s Juilliard training and work with classical composers means long pieces that they don’t like.

Yet Silverman is a talented player, with attributes and music that could appeal to fans across the spectrum, as he demonstrated on July 21 at the Beachland Ballroom in Collinwood. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kelly Ferjutz, Special to ClevelandClassical

MFL1-(Matt-Dilyard)

“The majesty and grandeur of the English language,” as Henry Higgins put it to Eliza Doolittle, is on glorious display in My Fair Lady, currently on the boards at Ohio Light Opera in Wooster. In a word, this production is magnificent. I’d say perfect, but someone would be sure to quibble. But still, it must be more difficult to produce a stellar version of what is arguably the ‘world’s most popular musical’ than to do a fabulous version of something that no one has ever seen or heard until that very moment. (One can easily confirm this popularity by the number of audience members singing or humming along, under their breath, so to speak, right along with the performers.) Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

L-R: Sae Yoon Chon, Zitong Wang, Tony Yike Yang

L-R: Sae Yoon Chon, Zitong Wang, Tony Yike Yang

On July 23 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, six young pianists vied to win a chance to play a concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra and for cash prizes as part of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition. The competitors were already assured a monetary reward, having survived three elimination rounds that culled an original field of 28 young musicians ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen.

The pianists were required to perform a 30 minute solo recital for this latest round, which was broadcast live on WCLV. At the end of the night, the judges advanced Sae Yoon Chon of Seoul, South Korea, Zitong Wang of Inner Mongolia China, and Tony Yike Yang of Toronto. Those three will perform with The Cleveland Orchestra on July 24 at Severance Hall for the final round of the competition, where the $10,000 first prize will be decided. Read the rest of this entry »

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
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