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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

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 Guytano Parks

JOHNSTON-KenBlue Water Chamber Orchestra concluded its 2013/2014 season on Saturday evening at Plymouth Church in Shaker Hts. with a concert billed as “Iron Composer and Iron Violinist”. Conducted by Carlton R. Woods, the program featured BWCO concertmaster Kenneth Johnston as soloist in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and included Two Pieces for Small Orchestra by Delius and Around the Blue-S by 2013 Iron Composer Competition winner Jakub Polaczyk.

Iron Composer is an instant composition contest held at Baldwin Wallace. Five composers are invited to compete in person. On the morning of the event, the finalists are assigned an instrumentation and a secret musical ingredient. They have just five hours to write a piece of music that incorporates those two elements. Their work is then performed and judged on a public concert that same evening. Blue Water Chamber Orchestra and the Iron Composer Competition have a collaborative venture in which works by competition winners are given a performance on its regular concert series. Read the rest of this entry »

by J.D. Goddard

Bluewater-BarberOn Saturday evening, March 1 at Plymouth Church UCC, conductor Carlton Woods and the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra strings presented a program of works by Elgar, Barber and Tchaikovsky joined by wind soloists Sean Gabriel, flute, Neil Mueller, trumpet, and Martin Neubert, oboe. The program was performed without intermission.

Woods opened the program with Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, op. 47 for solo string quartet and strings, showcasing Blue Water violinists Kenneth Johnston and Emily Cornelius, violist Laura Shuster, and cellist Kent Collier.

The opening statement from the strings immediately grabbed one’s attention with its dramatic clarity before melting into magnificent sonorities that played the quartet off against the full string compliment. Rallentandos, rubatos and ritards were abundant and splendidly romantic in style. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Bluewater-BarberOn Saturday, March 1 beginning at 7:30 in Plymouth Church, Blue Water Chamber Orchestra continues its fourth season with a concert titled “Lake Winds Bring Spring Strings”. The concert, performed without intermission, includes Barber’s Capricorn Concerto featuring orchestra principals Sean Gabriel, flute, Martin Neubert, oboe and Neil Mueller, trumpet.
BWOC Artistic Director Carlton Woods will also lead performances of Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Elgar’s Introduction & Allegro and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. A pre-concert Meet & Greet for children 12 and under begins at 6:45 pm.
During a recent telephone conversation Carlton Woods gave us his insights into Saturday’s intriguing program.

Carlton Woods: Well, the Capricorn came about because Neil is somewhat of a champion of the piece and he’s never had the opportunity to do it. Read the rest of this entry »

by J.D. Goddard


On SaturdayEaglen-Jane evening, March 2 at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, conductor Carlton Woods and the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra presented a program entitled “Jane and Ludwig.” (i.e. Wagnerian soprano Jane Eaglen and composer Ludwig van Beethoven), a somewhat misleading title because Ms. Eaglen was performing Wagner and not Beethoven.


The orchestra opened with a crisp and efficient “teaser,” Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, which immediately set the tone for the evening’s fare.


The Egmont Overture was a commissioned work intended as incidental music for Goethe’s play of the same name. The Overture has survived as an independent concert piece and is now mostly performed without the rest of the incidental music. Read the rest of this entry »

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