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by Daniel Hautzinger

Kulas-OberlinViennese” is often a byword for “light.” It conjures images of bourgeois gentlemen nibbling cream-filled pastries while being entertained by effortless waltzes like “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” The second concert in Oberlin Conservatory’s String Quartet Intensive and Festival, “A Viennese Evening” on Jan. 10 in Kulas Recital Hall, was thus a charming and pleasant affair.

The program began with an oddity, Ferdinand Rebay’s Quartet in d minor for guitar and string trio. Rebay (1880-1953) spent most of his life in Vienna and died in obscurity after being blacklisted by the Nazis, as violist and organizer of the Festival Michael Strauss explained during intermission. Rebay is so unknown that Friday night was the U.S. premiere of the work. Strauss was joined by three other Oberlin faculty members for the piece: violinist David Bowlin, cellist Darrett Adkins, and guitarist Stephen Aron, who suggested the performance.

Guitar is rare in chamber music. Rebay, perhaps understanding its lack of projection, mostly uses the guitar in the d minor quartet to flesh out the harmony or to add rhythmic excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Timothy Robson

Schiffer-&-BrinkmannOne of the best things about Apollo’s Fire’s programs is that director Jeannette Sorrell and her musicians plan programs that are entertaining. They are scholarly, but not pedantic; instructive, but not condescending; and the expert musicians give every appearance of enjoying the act of performance, with awareness of their fellow musicians.

Such was the case again on Friday night, November 15, at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights, for the first of four performances of “Tangos and Fandangos,” an exploration of the Mediterranean musical styles from 18th century Spain that crossed the Atlantic and evolved into those sexy South American dances, the fandango and the tango. The full house responded enthusiastically to this unfamiliar music by Santiago de Murcia, Luigi Boccherini, Carl Friedrich Abel, and Apollo’s Fire regular René Schiffer (writing under the nom de plume René Duchiffre).

Baroque guitarists Simon Martyn-Ellis and William Simms opened the concert with 18th century Spanish composer and guitarist Santiago de Murcia’s Fandango (c.1730). The performers entered from opposite sides of the stage, bowed to each other and commenced a musical “duel,” trading phrases in increasing virtuosic variations above the descending bass line that is the hallmark of the fandango. The tension increased until the music dramatically stopped without warning. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin-BPI-OrchestraWe could have chosen all Transylvanian music,” quipped artistic director Kenneth Slowik during the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute faculty concert in Warner Concert Hall last Friday evening, “but we decided to go for quality: Austria.” This year’s BPI theme focused on music by composers who lived and worked in lands touched by the Danube River, with special attention to the exotic string music of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. In addition to his Battalia, student and faculty ensembles regaled a large and appreciative audience with music by Georg Muffat, Emperor Leopold I, Johann Joseph Fux and the young Joseph Haydn.

Though most of the repertory on Friday evening fell into the “not often played nor heard” category, Biber’s battle piece had the distinction of appearing on two area concert programs last week (it was also on the menu for ChamberFest Cleveland at Mixon Hall on Wednesday evening). This short and entertaining Baroque tone poem from 1673 depicts a motley and dissolute group of soldiers who get drunk and sing different songs at the same time, go into battle then lament their fallen fellows. An ensemble of three violins, four violas, two cellos, theorbo and harpsichord led by principal violinist Julie Andrijeski created cacophony worthy of Charles Ives and plausible battle sounds with dramatic snap pizzicatos. Read the rest of this entry »

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