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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 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 Guytano Parks

TANG-Jieming2BlueWater Chamber Orchestra, conducted by founder and Artistic Director Carlton R. Woods presented an enlightening and entertaining program of works by John Corigliano, Carl Maria von Weber, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Peter Maxwell Davies on Saturday evening at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. The featured soloists were Amitai Vardi, principal clarinet of BWCO, and fifteen year-old St. Ignatius High School sophomore Jieming Tang, violin, who made his orchestral debut on this occasion.

Opening the program was Corigliano’s Voyages for Strings, an instrumental version of an a cappella choral work that was a setting of Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au voyage. Plymouth Church proved to be the ideal space for this sensual music — beautifully played with wondrous blend and balance — to breathe and soar. Points of resolution were heavenly as the players mused and ambled through Corigliano’s sometimes ambiguous harmonic territory.

Jieming Tang impressed with his lovely, lyrical playing of Beethoven’s Romance No. 2, Op. 50. Projecting clearly and effortlessly above the orchestra at all times, his tone was sweet and clear in the upper register and deep and rich in the lower. Beethoven’s well-crafted piece benefitted from Mr. Tang’s expressive delivery of every detail, and Woods and the orchestra gave him fine and graceful support. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

COHEN-DianaApparently eager to be the first ensemble out of the gate at the beginning of the new concert year, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra opened its fourth season at the Breen Center on Saturday evening with a renewed commitment to musicians raised, trained or living in Cleveland and offered a couple of endearing innovations in concert presentation.

The excellent concert featured Samuel Barber’s violin concerto with Cleveland-born Diana Cohen in the solo role. It also turned the time-honored order of overture-concerto-symphony a bit inside-out, and was played without intermission. The performance also began at 7:30 — early for a Saturday night performance — and ended by 8:45 when the evening was still young for an unhurried post-performance meal.

Cohen, who currently serves as concertmaster for Canada’s Calgary Symphony, has recently deepened her ongoing Cleveland connections by founding ChamberFest Cleveland with her father, Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen. Those who have heard her play so eloquently during the first two seasons of that series had the opportunity to experience her artistry as a concerto player at the end of Saturday evening’s program, a role in which she proved to be equally impressive. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

TheEaglen-Jane Wesendonck Lieder are beautiful and I just love to sing these songs any chance I get,” exclaims renowned dramatic soprano Jane Eaglen. “I learned them with my teacher when I first went to college at eighteen, and I have performed them many, many times, and every time I do I find something new and different about them.” On Saturday, March 2 beginning at 7:30 pm in Plymouth Church, Jane Eaglen will perform Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with Blue Water Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Carlton Woods. The concert, titled Jane & Ludwig, also includes Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Symphony No. 8.

The five songs that comprise the Wesendonck Lieder, Der Engel (The Angel), Stehe still! (Stand still!), Im Treibhaus (In the Greenhouse), Schmerzen (Sorrows) and Träume (Dreams) were composed while Wagner was working on his opera Tristan und Isolde. “Of course he was trying things out for Tristan when he was writing them, so I suppose it was a bit of writing the songs before the opera.” In fact Wagner sub-titled two of the songs Träume and Treibhaus, as studies for Tristan und Isolde. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Hathaway
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Mike Telin
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