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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 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

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 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 Daniel Hathaway

PAND-LogoPAND — Performers and Artists for Nuclear Disarmament — was formed in 1984 during the height of the U.S.-Soviet arms race, which threatened, even in the case of a limited nuclear war, to destroy human civilization and much of life on the Earth.

“Today,” the organization states, “our goal is to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Our willingness to devote our time, talents and reputations to achieve this springs from our belief that art can contribute not only to aesthetics, but to ethics; not only to beauty, but to peace.”

The local chapter of PAND, which is part of Cleveland Peace Action, annually presents a concert in early August to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year, which marks the 69th anniversary of an event that changed the course of human history, members of The Cleveland Orchestra and friends will perform at Nighttown, 12387 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights, on August 6 at 7:30 pm. Read the rest of this entry »

B-WBachFestivalBigThe 82nd Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival takes place this weekend in Gamble Auditorium of the BW Conservatory in Berea and marks the last festival to be directed by Dwight Oltman, who retires at the end of the academic year. See the concert listings for details and note that the St. John Passion is already sold out.

Here is the short schedule:

Friday, April 25
1:00-3:00 pm Riemenschneider Bach Institute Open House
4:00 pm Solo Baroque works performed by Conservatory Alumni
8:00 pm Motet Choir and Festival Chamber Orchestra
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Cantata BWV 1 and Magnificat
Saturday, April 26
11:00 am Lecture by Catherine Turocy
2:00 pm Lecture by Eric Chafe
4:00 pm Musica Pacifica with the New York Baroque Dance Company
8:00 pm Festival Choir and Chamber Orchestra: Bach’s St. John Passion

Les-Delices-galleryAt its fifth anniversary benefit concert on April 12, Les Délices artistic director Debra Nagy announced that the ensemble, which specializes in French baroque music, would present four pairs of concerts next season with a bonus performance in September.

Venues to be announced.

September 13 – Caractères de la danse (Rebel, Hotteterre, Herveloix de Caix & Boismortier).

October 25 & 26 – The Musketeers (oboes, baroque guitar, theorbo & percussion in music of Louis XIV’s oboe band, Les Mousquetaires).

January 18 & 19 – Fourteenth-century Avant-garde (with Boston’s Blue Heron, Scott Metcalfe, director).

March 7-8 – Cantiques Spirituels – Music for Lent (Couperin’s Lamentations of Jeremiah with soprano Nola Richardson).

April 25-26 – The Angel & The Devil (Emily Walhout & Josh Lee recreate the musical personalities of Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray in music by Couperin, Marais and others).


The second of four videos just released by The Cleveland Orchestra in advance of its forthcoming presentations of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen introduces the cast of musicians and visual artists who are creating this made-for-Cleveland opera production. Click here to watch the video.

by Daniel Hathaway

Albert&MomAfter the Blitz, England needed some comedy, and Benjamin Britten stepped up to provide a good dose of it with his 1946 chamber opera, Albert Herring, which premiered at Glyndebourne in 1947.

Populated with characters who might have stepped right out of Miss Marple’s village of St. Mary Mead, Britten’s three-acter was adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant and translated from France to Suffolk.

The village is in a tizzy because no candidates for May Queen measure up to the formidable Lady Billow’s exacting moral standards. As a compromise, the village committee decides to switch to a May King and nominates Albert Herring, son of a widowed greengrocer whose apron strings have kept him so tightly bound that he’s oblivious of temptation. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

MASAOKA-MiyaIt’s difficult to know where to begin a conversation with Miya Masaoka. It isn’t because there is a shortage of interesting topics to discuss. On the contrary, Masaoka has built a fascinating career that combines Western experimental improvisation with the tradition of her instrument of choice, the koto.

Since founding the San Francisco Gagaku Society, Masaoka has introduced new ways of thinking about and performing on the koto which include improvisation and expanding the instrument through the use of computers, lasers, live sampling, and real time processing. As a composer, Masaoka’s compositions often include the sound and movement of insects, as well as the physiological responses of plants, the human brain, and her own body.

On Sunday, February 16 beginning at 7:30 pm, you can hear Miya Masaoka in performance as part of the CMA Concerts at Transformer Station series. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Cho-&-KimWhat I love about him is that even during a first reading of a piece we already have the gestures,” says violinist Jinjoo Cho about her frequent collaborator, pianist HyunSoo Kim. “We may not have all the notes under the fingers but we are musically on the same page from the very beginning.” Perhaps it’s that certain musical chemistry that has made Cho and Kim audience favorites throughout the Cleveland area.

On Sunday, February 9 beginning at 3:00 pm, Arts Renaissance Tremont presents Jinjoo Cho and HyunSoo Kim in a concert featuring the music of Debussy, Janáček, Tower and Prokofiev at Pilgrim Church in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Jinjoo Cho earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music. And she has had considerable success on the competition circuit, including First Prize and Orchestra Award winner of the Buenos Aires International Violin Competition and First Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award winner of the Montréal International Musical Competition. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

BRITTEN-BenjaminOn November 22, a far happier occasion to remember than the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of JFK was the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten — and far more appropriate to St. Cecilia’s Day, the patron saint of musicians. A smattering of area tributes to the greatest British composer since Henry Purcell have been planned during 2013, but Trinity Cathedral under Todd Wilson has clearly taken the lead with celebrations of Britten’s music fueling two Brownbag concerts and a gala concert last Friday evening featuring three of his most celebrated vocal and choral works.

Wilson’s choral forces — Trinity Chamber Singers and the Trinity Cathedral Choir — sang the Hymn to St. Cecilia and the festival cantata, Rejoice in the Lamb, respectively, and countertenor John McElliott and tenor JR Fralick teamed with Wilson in the second of Britten’s Five Canticles, Abraham and Isaac.

The key to Britten’s renown as a vocal composer is his choice of excellent texts to set and his dead-on intuition about how to fit music to words. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Mastrian-StaceyFor anyone who loves a great waltz, CityMusic Cleveland has a program tailor-made just for you. Beginning on December 4 and running through December 8, CityMusic continues its tenth anniversary season with five concerts that celebrate that Viennese ballroom specialty.

The free concerts, presented in churches in Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, Willoughby Hills, Cleveland’s Slavic Village and Elyria, will feature soprano Stacey Mastrian in the music of the Strauss family and Franz Lehar. The program will also include the trumpet concerto of another Viennese composer, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, with Cleveland Orchestra second trumpet player Jack Sutte as soloist.

The performances mark the return of guest conductor Stefan Willich to the CityMusic podium. Willich, who is President of the Hanns Eisler Music Conservatory in Berlin and the Founder and Conductor of the World Doctors Orchestra, will lead CityMusic in performances of Johann Strauss Junior’s Overture to Die Fledermaus, The Blue Danube and Tritsch Tratsch Polka, Josef Strauss’ Aus der Ferne Polka (From a Distance) and Johann Strauss Senior’s Radetzky March.

Stacey Mastrian will join Willich and the orchestra in performances of the arias O habet Acht from The Gypsy Baron and Schwipslied from Night in Venice by Johann Strauss Jr. and Lehar’s Vilja Lied from The Merry Widow and Meine Lippen Sie Kussen So Heiss from Giuditta.

Visit the CityMusic Web site for locations and start times.

Published on November 26, 2013

Click here for a printable version of this article.

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by Daniel Hathaway

BeethovenShostakovichFranz Welser-Möst returned to the Severance Hall stage on Thursday evening to lead The Cleveland Orchestra in the first of three concerts on consecutive evenings that paired symphonies by Beethoven and Shostakovich under the banner of the orchestra’s “Fate and Freedom Festival.”

In a pre-concert chat in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall with director of artistic planning Mark Williams, Welser-Möst noted that he had been looking for a new way to program a Vienna Musikverein Beethoven cycle and credited the Takács Quartet with the idea of pairing Beethoven and Shostakovich on the same program. (The orchestra will repeat this three-concert cycle in the Austrian capital from November 20-22.)

Whether you care to go deeply into the philosophical and political similarities and contrasts between the two composers, as Welser-Möst did in his program book essay, or simply enjoy hearing a pair of their symphonies in close succession, there was a lot to stimulate the mind and the ear last weekend. Thursday evening’s short performance coupled Beethoven’s third symphony with Shostakovich’s sixth — each written during the composers’ thirty-third year. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Hrusa-Jakub-by-Petra-KlackovaThis weekend, Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša returns to Northeast Ohio to lead The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall and Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall in performances featuring the music of Haydn, Dvořák, and Janáček.

Although the program was to have included Dvořák’s violin concerto, yesterday the orchestra announced: “With deep regret, and on the advice of his physician, William Preucil is unable to perform as soloist this week with the Orchestra due to a pinched nerve.”

I will miss Bill because I was looking forward to working with him immensely,” Jakub Hrůša told us this afternoon by telephone. “But the most important thing is for him to recover.”

Dvořák’s violin concerto has now been replaced with the composer’s symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel. “I think it was a most natural decision, apart from replacing the soloist — which nobody wanted, me included.” Hrůša does think it was a very good idea to replace the concerto with one of the composer’s orchestral works. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CHEN-RaySometimes everything works together for the good. On Sunday evening, perfect weather, a gifted young soloist, an engaging program and an energized conductor all conspired to create a memorable evening at Blossom. The soloist was violinist Ray Chen, his vehicle was Vivaldi’s popular quartet of concertos, The Seasons (teamed up with Rossini’s irresistible La gazza ladra overture and Mendelssohn’s scenic Scottish symphony), and the podium was commanded by an old Blossom friend, the estimable Jahja Ling. A large crowd assembled on the lawn and the pavilion was two-thirds full.

Though Chen, who is Australian, playfully suggested beforehand that he might start with Winter and play The Seasons in Down Under order, he began with Spring, as is customary, immediately creating synergy with concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee and principal second violinist Stephen Rose in a delightful series of bird calls. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

werther_banner_360Last Friday evening’s Nightingale Opera Theatre production of Jules Massenet’s opera, Werther, was a delight. Above all it was meticulously prepared. Music Director John Simmons’ piano rendition was so exceptionally flawless that the orchestra was not missed. His expression was constant, and his balance of contrapuntal sections with and without the singers was meticulous.

Equally important was that tempos, climaxes and other details were so well ingrained that the pace was swift and effective. All cast members and even the children’s chorus kept things moving and did not not let the plot’s overwhelming sadness overcome the dramatic flow. The Solon Center for the Arts has an intimate, but well-equipped, stage that helped make scene changes seamless. The fine acoustics made the English translation easily intelligible.

Massenet imbued the opera with a wonderful musical tapestry that Simmons and the cast took great pains to delineate. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

DAVIS-MelissaMany performing organizations lay low in August. Others are just gearing up for late summer seasons. Nightingale Opera Theatre is in the final stages of rehearsals for its production of Massenet’s Werther at the Solon Center for the Arts on August 2 and 4, and the Hudson Chamber Players have three Sunday afternoon concerts in the works for August 4, 11 and 18 in Hudson and Cleveland. Both organizations are new on the scene in Northeast Ohio, and reflect the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to be bubbling up all over in today’s classical music world.

Melissa Davis (left) created Nightingale Opera Theatre just last summer with a production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene at the Akron Art Museum. “There’re just not a whole lot of opportunities in this area for opera singers, especially sopranos. I wanted to start something and I guess I was just crazy enough to do it!”, Davis told us in a phone conversation. She chose Street Scene because its large cast allowed more than just a few singers and students to participate. “The Akron Art Museum was a bit too small for the show but we managed to make it work. It was a very intimate experience for the audience.”

Davis and her company followed up in March with two one-act shows, also staged at the Akron museum. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-30-AdamsFor the last of the eight concerts in its expanded second season, ChamberFest Cleveland moved from traditional concert halls (and a new art gallery) to our local urban version of a rustic summer New England venue, the Dunham Tavern’s barn on Euclid Avenue in midtown. The structure, built in 2000, replaced an 1840 horse and crop storage barn that was leveled by a fire in 1963. Though it looks rather modern and utilitarian from the outside, its wooden beams frame an interior space with warm acoustical properties.

There’s barely room to swing a viola there, much less accommodate a grand piano, so Mirrors was devoted to music by Purcell, Britten and Mendelssohn for three, four and five string players who stood (except for the cellists) to save room, optimize sight lines and broadcast the music over the heads of the capacity audience, who were packed into the space on folding chairs. The seating was uncomfortable and the temperature a bit on the warm side, but the afternoon was otherwise completely delightful, with the bonus of free ice cream outside afterward. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CFC-June-28a-AdamsAlthough the 2013 ChamberFest Cleveland theme is [It’s] About Time, a secondary theme could easily be Variety is the Spice of Life. On Friday, June 28 at Harkness Chapel the superb ChamberFest musicians presented a thoroughly engaging program full of musical variety from start to finish titled A Tempo.

The technically commanding and musically sensitive cellist Robert deMaine began the evening with a high energy performance of Alberto Ginastera’s Pampeana No. 2, Rhapsody for cello and piano. The brief work depicting the Argentine pampas or treeless plains gave deMaine ample room to demonstrate his soulful side as well as his virtuosic prowess. Pianist Matan Porat was a keen collaborator, performing with rhythmic precision.

Porat, together with violinist Yehonatan Berick and cellist Julie Albers, were of one musical mind during their captivating performance of Ravel’s Trio in A minor. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Miller-TobieIf you have been thinking that you wish you could find a concert featuring the hurdy-gurdy, this is your lucky weekend. And leave it to the always creative Les Délices to provide you with that weekend. On Saturday, April 20, beginning at 8 pm in William Busta Gallery and Sunday, April 21, beginning at 4 pm in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church, Les Délices presents Four Seasons. The concerts feature master hurdy-gurdy player Tobie Miller in performances of Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos Printemps/Spring and l’Automne/Fall in eighteenth century arrangements for hurdy-gurdy and chamber ensemble by Nicholas Chedeville. The concerts also include music of Charles Buterne and Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.

Tobie Miller grew up in a family of classical musicians. After studies in Early Music Performance at McGill University, she moved to Basel to pursue postgraduate studies at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Miller was the recipient of a further grant from the Canada Council in 2011-2012 for her work on the baroque hurdy-gurdy and transcriptions of J.S. Bach’s solo cello and violin repertoire for that instrument. Currently dividing her time between Basel and Montreal, Miller continues to perform and record with many ensembles on both continents. We reached Tobie Miller by telephone and began by asking her how she first came to the hurdy-gurdy. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TakacsQuartetThe Takács String Quartet, originally formed in Budapest in 1975 and since 1986 in residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will return to the Cleveland Chamber Music Society series on Tuesday, March 19 at 7:30 at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights.

Pianist Garrick Ohlssohn will be the special guest for Brahms’s Piano Quintet in f, op. 34. Also on the program are Brahms’s Quartet in a, op. 51, no. 2 and Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat, op. 76, no. 4.

Compared to other long-standing groups, the membership of the Takács Quartet has been remarkably stable over its 38-year history. British violinist Edward Dusinberre took over the driver’s seat in 1993 and another British musician, Roger Tapping, replaced the original violist in 1994. Tapping was succeeded in 2005 by Geraldine Walther, who left her post as principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony to join the quartet. We spoke with Walther by phone in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

SolarisDuring the past fifty years, The Cleveland Composers Guild, (CCG) one of the nation’s oldest new music organizations, has established an impressive record of supporting contemporary music. On Sunday, March 17 at 3:00 pm in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, CCG joins forces with the renowned Solaris Wind Quintet in a concert featuring works by CCG members.

In recent years the Guild has collaborated with the Cleveland Ballet, the Poets’ and Writers’ League of Greater Cleveland (now called The Lit), the Rocky River Chamber Music Society, and the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society. “One of several groups that was under consideration to approach about showcasing compositions by guild members’ music was Solaris,” says Cleveland Composers Guild president David Gooding. “In fact they were very high on our list so we contacted them, and they were interested.”

Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Johnson-KarenHow do we pick our programs? We just find pieces we really like, and we figure if we like them the audience will like them,” says flutist Karen Johnson about her program with pianist Carlos Rodriguez on the Signature Series at Lorain County Community College on Monday, March 18 beginning at 7:30 pm. “I’ve been playing with Carlos for fifteen years. And during that time we’ve played many different programs, but in the past couple of years we’ve been playing a lot of American music. And a lot of music by composers that we haven’t played in a while that we really like.”

Johnson says that she and Rodriguez have found that even contemporary pieces can be accessible to the audience if the artist likes the piece. “We like to talk to the audience and get them engaged in the music.” Monday’s concert includes Lukas Foss’s Three American Pieces, Joseph Schwantner’s Black Anemones, Robert Muczynski’s Sonata, Jeffrey Mumford’s an evolving romance, Manuel Ponce’s Intermezzo, Alberto Ginastera’s Malambo and Astor Piazzolla’s Café 1930 and Bordel 1900 from L’Histoire du Tango. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

WHITEHEAD-GideonOn Sunday, March 17 at 3:00 pm, classical guitarist Gideon Whitehead returns to Northeast Ohio for a performance at the Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Mr. Whitehead’s performance is part of The Cleveland Classical Guitar Society’s Local Artists and Rising Stars Series and is presented in conjunction with Music by Nature. The program features works by Weiss, Rudnev, Korchmar, Lansky, Koshkin and Barrios Mangoré.

Gideon Whitehead began playing the guitar at age 14 in his native Michigan. Mr. Whitehead has had much success at competitions including top prizes at the 2011 James Stroud Guitar Competition and at the 2010 and 2011 University of Louisville International Guitar Competition. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in guitar performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and is currently pursuing and Artist Diploma at the Curtis Institute of Music.

We reached Gideon Whitehead by telephone in Philadelphia. Read the rest of this entry »

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