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by Daniel Hathaway

CityMusic-Schubert-RehearsalCityMusic Cleveland will present four programs during 2014-2015 in multiple venues around metropolitan Cleveland, three of them conducted by the chamber orchestra’s artistic director and composer Avner Dorman, one by CWRU’s Peter Bennett.

Dorman will be featured as a composer in concerts from October 15 through October 19, when his Saxophone Concerto will be played by Timothy McAllister in performances in Lakewood, Cleveland, Willoughby Hills and University Heights, along with Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”) and Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”).

The late Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez’s Misa Criolla (1964) will be at the center of the second series of concerts. Incorporating South American folk instruments, the piece will be sung by the choir of Sagrada Familia Church on Cleveland’s west side in performances in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Willoughby Hills and Lakewood from December 3-7 conducted by Peter Bennett. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CityMusic-Schubert-Rehearsal

Quire Cleveland joined CityMusic Cleveland for a brisk, expressive performance of a gorgeous late Schubert work led by CityMusic music director Avner Dorman at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights on Wednesday, May 14. This was the opening concert of five that the two ensembles will present around the metropolitan area this week. (Rehearsal pictured above.)

Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat, written during the last month’s of the composer’s life, rarely gets heard these days. That’s a great pity. Though ill, Schubert found alluring and often surprising ways to set ancient liturgical texts, and applied his recent lessons in counterpoint to some of the most inventive fugues since J.S. Bach’s. The E-flat mass offers a long sequence of gorgeous melodies, innovative textures, arresting harmonies and enthralling conversations between chorus and orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

DORMAN-Avner2“I always knew that Bach was my favorite composer,” said CityMusic artistic director Avner Dorman, “but these days I think it’s Schubert. That’s how much I like this piece!”

The work Dorman was referring to in a recent telephone conversation is Franz Schubert’s Mass in E-flat, written in 1828, the last summer of the composer’s life, on commission from the choirmaster of the Alserkirche in Alsergrund, a suburb just north of Vienna’s Innere Stadt. That church was the venue for Beethoven’s funeral the year before (Schubert served as a torch-bearer).

Alas, the composer didn’t live long enough to hear the last of his six masses performed; its premiere ultimately took place in October of 1829 under the direction of his brother, Ferdinand. This week, Avner Dorman will lead CityMusic and Quire Cleveland in five performances of the E-flat Mass around the metropolitan area, beginning on Wednesday, May 14. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CMC-ShanahanJames Feddeck conducted CityMusic Cleveland in the second of five themed concerts devoted to the topic of refugees on Thursday, March 13 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ohio City, a program that began with an arresting solo cello work by Chinary Ung, moved on to an imaginative new percussion concerto by CIM-trained composer Dan Visconti featuring Shane Shanahan, and culminated in a thrilling performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony.

After demonstrating some of the special effects in the piece, cellist James Jaffee led off the evening with an intense, committed performance of Ung’s 1980 Khse Buon (Four Strings), a 15-minute work that the Cambodian composer wrote during his difficult transition from the troubles in his homeland to life in the United States. Playing from the conductor’s platform in front of the already seated orchestra, Jaffee produced an amazing range of sounds from growling bass figures to high, whistling harmonics, and from sudden, startling fortissimos to disappearing whispers. A fusion of eastern and western traditions, Khse Buon manages to sound strange and familiar at the same time. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

VISCONTI-DanEach season, CityMusic Cleveland dedicates one of its programs to highlighting a social issue that impacts Greater Cleveland. Past programs have addressed such topics as bullying and genocide. For this year’s project, CityMusic has chosen to explore a population of Cleveland that is invisible to many — the world of Cleveland’s refugees. CityMusic principal oboist and VP for Community Engagement Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew says the goal of the project is twofold: to increase awareness of Cleveland’s refugees, and to highlight the positive cultural and economic contributions refugees make to the city.

A highlight of the project will take place on Wednesday, March 12 in Fairmount Presbyterian Church, when CityMusic under the direction of James Feddeck presents the premiere of Dan Visconti’s percussion concerto, Roots to Branches. The work was commissioned by CityMusic especially for this project and features Grammy-winning percussionist Shane Shanahan and narrator Ali Alhaddad. The program also includes Chinary Ung’s Khse Buon for solo cello with James Jaffee as soloist, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.” Performances continue through Sunday at area churches. Read the rest of this entry »

by Donald Rosenberg
Special to ClevelandClassical

RefugeesCityMusic Cleveland savors the opportunity to share classical music with listeners who may have no other access to the arts. The professional chamber orchestra does so by giving free concerts throughout Northeast Ohio.

Once a year, CityMusic devotes a program to a social issue that heightens community awareness. In recent seasons, the ensemble has explored genocide and bullying.

This year’s project, “Fleeing,” focuses on refugees who have journeyed to Cleveland to begin new lives after years of displacement and suffering. CityMusic is bringing attention to the topic through a series of concerts in March, some of which will include performances by refugees.

To celebrate refugees in Cleveland, CityMusic has commissioned a percussion concerto featuring instruments from many countries. The piece will have its world premiere at concerts March 12 through 16 at churches in Cleveland, Lakewood and Willoughby Hills led by James Feddeck, former assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

RefugeesCityMusic Cleveland will present the first three free public concerts titled Journeys of Hope on Sunday, March 2 beginning at 2:00 pm at the Lakewood Public Library. The concerts are part of CityMusic’s Roots to Branches – Music Celebrating Refugees project. This is the first in a series of four articles.

We actually started the project because of a conversation Eugenia Strauss had with Father Bob Begin from St. Coleman’s Church,” said CityMusic Principal oboist and VP for Community Engagement Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew.

Through the help of the Refugee Services Collaborative with whom Mayhew, Strauss and CityMusic board member Sawsan Alhaddad started working with early on in the project, they discovered that every year 70,000 refugees come to the United States with over 500 settling in Cleveland, primarily from Bhutan/Nepal, Burma, Somalia, and Iraq.

Some come from once-prosperous but now war-torn countries, and many highly educated people find themselves working in unskilled jobs in a place where their credentials and experience are meaningless. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

Willich-StefanConductor Stefan Willich, President of the Hanns Eisler Music Conservatory in Berlin and the Founder and Conductor of the World Doctors Orchestra, led CityMusic Cleveland in an entertaining program entitled Music from the Viennese Waltz Kings at Fairmount Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, December 4.

The first of five consecutive concerts performed in Cleveland area churches, it opened the second series of the orchestra’s 10th anniversary season, and featured soloists Stacey Mastrian, soprano and Jack Sutte, trumpet. Mastrian is the 2013 winner of the Resphi prize and is a versatile artist whose repertoire spans from the Renaissance to the present. Sutte joined The Cleveland Orchestra as second trumpet in 1999, having previously played principal trumpet in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Norway.

The Overture to Die Fledermaus (The Bat) by Johann Strauss, II is one of the most familiar and beloved of curtain-openers. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

DORMAN-Avner2CityMusic Cleveland celebrated the beginning of its tenth season with the debut of its new music director, Avner Dorman, on Wednesday evening, October 23 at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Dorman skillfully led the 40-piece chamber orchestra in nuanced and nearly flawless performances of his own Concerto Grosso, Vivaldi’s Concerto for two oboes and two clarinets, Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, and the first of five different Mozart concertos with guest violinist Rachel Barton Pine.

Dorman noted both in written and oral notes that he intended to show off the talents of members of the orchestra as much as possible in his first concert, and that principally meant the ensemble’s wind section, whose excellence runs both deep and wide. The Vivaldi concerto boasted pairs of soloists — oboists Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew and Daniel Rios and clarinetists Daniel Gilbert and Ellen Breakfield Glick — who matched each other’s elegant tone perfectly, yet each pair provided cheerful sonic contrasts as oboes tossed phrases off to clarinets. As always, Vivaldi was infinitely resourceful within his time-honored formulas, and he snuck in a strangely arresting rhythmic pattern at the beginning of the last Allegro. Harpsichordist Peter Bennett added stylish decorations to the keyboard accompaniment. Read the rest of this entry »

DORMAN-AvnerCity Music Cleveland kicks off its 10th anniversary on Wednesday October 23rd at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights with the first of five concerts at locations in and around Cleveland featuring the music of Dorman, Vivaldi and Schubert. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine returns to the City Music stage to perform a different Mozart concerto at each of the five performances.

The concerts also mark the debut of conductor/composer Avner Dorman as City Music’s new music director. Mike Telin had the opportunity to speak to Avner Dorman when he was in the area for a performance of his cello concerto with the Youngstown Symphony. He asked Aver Dorman about this week’s concerts and what it takes to juggle an active career as a composer and conductor.

Podcast produced by Erica Brenner. Musical excerpts: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, from CityMusic Cleveland’s performance on December 10, 2011; Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, from CityMusic Cleveland’s performance on October 14, 2006, both used with permission from CityMusic Cleveland. Dorman’s Concerto Grosso, from Avner Dorman’s CD: Concertos for Mandolin, Piccolo, Piano and Concerto Grosso.

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by Daniel Hathaway

DORMAN-AvnerCityMusic Cleveland has started a tradition of sponsoring a week’s worth of Intergenerational Concerts at the end of its season. This year’s cycle included four morning performances (opening with a limited access concert at the Juvenile Detention Center) and two evening concerts conducted by David Alan Miller. The morning events began with Rossini’s Thieving Magpie overture and continued with Avner Dorman’s Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu, based on the children’s book of the same name by Ephraim Sidon, featuring percussionists Haruka Fujii and Luke Rinderknecht. The two evening performances at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus and St. Noel, Willoughby Hills added Schumann’s fourth symphony.

I caught the Thursday morning performance at Fairmount Temple Auditorium, which got off to a bit of a late start waiting for school buses to arrive. When everybody was in place, the audience was as intergenerational as one could expect at 10:00 am: students, their teachers and aides and a number of older attendees — people whose commitments and schedules allow them to come to a true “matinee.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

DORMAN-AvnerEach season CityMusic Cleveland presents a series of intergenerational concerts devoted to music and educational activities that address the social concerns that stem from bullying as well as creating opportunities for discussions about conflict resolution. In 2011 CityMusic presented Margaret Brouwer’s Daniel and the Snakeman, and in 2012 the children’s opera Brundibár highlighted the orchestra’s Persistence of Creativity Series.

Beginning on Tuesday, April 16th, and running through Saturday, April 20th (see our concert listings pages for locations and times) CityMusic will present Avner Dorman’s Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu under the direction of guest conductor David Alan Miller.The work features percussionists Luke Rinderknecht and Haruka Fuji. The concerts also include Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie Overture and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 (Schumann for evening performances only)

Israeli composer Avner Dorman has quickly risen to become one of the leading composers of his generation. His unique approach to rhythm and timbre has attracted some of the world’s most notable conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Christoph Eschenbach, Riccardo Chailly, David Robertson, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop, and Justin Brown. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

Perhaps you’veGilbert-Daniel noticed: this is an orchestral concert without a conductor. That gives the performance a ‘chamber music’ quality, with the musicians working together as partners rather than looking to a single leader. So it’s appropriate that the ‘concerto’ on the program is really a piece of chamber music.”

The preceding description of this particular performance of Weber’s Clarinet Quintet (performed in an expanded chamber orchestra arrangement) in CityMusic Cleveland’s program notes for their March 6 concert could apply to the entire program, which also included symphonies by Mozart and Haydn. Soloist on this occasion was Daniel Gilbert, CityMusic Cleveland’s principal clarinet since 2010 and previously second clarinet in The Cleveland Orchestra (1995-2007). For the past eight years, opening night of CityMusic Cleveland’s string of concerts on consecutive nights throughout the area has been at Fairmount Presbyterian Church. This setting proved to be acoustically very satisfactory as the sound of the ensemble was extremely rich and resonant. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

It’s alwaysGilbert-Daniel good for orchestras to try something new or to do something just a little bit differently than it has been done in the past. On Wednesday evening, March 6 at 7:30 pm at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, CityMusic Cleveland presents the first of five performances at various venues around the area. But for this set of concerts, the orchestra is going it alone. “When you don’t have a conductor you are on your own, so you need to dive in and [be part of the creative process]. In a way it becomes much more personal,” says CityMusic principal clarinetist Daniel Gilbert.

If you look at the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra it’s very similar in its structure to CityMusic. You have a core group of musicians who regularly work together and pool their musical concepts to create the product on their own.” This set of programs includes Mozart’s Symphony No. 26, Haydn’s Symphony No. 86. F and Weber’s Clarinet Quintet in the string orchestra version, featuring Gilbert as soloist.  Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CityMusic Cleveland’sCityMusicFairmountPews free sets of orchestral concerts — each given in multiple locations around town — have proven to be so popular that Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights began filling up forty-five minutes before curtain time on Wednesday evening, December 12. Anybody who arrived shortly before the downbeat and expected to find a place in the pews was out of luck. Extra chairs in the church’s narthex permitted overflow listeners to hear the concert through opened windows.

The crowd on Wednesday evening came out to hear an overture and a concerto by Mozart and a symphony by Mendelssohn, with a holiday add-on of spirituals and “Holiday Songs” sung by the Mount Zion Choir. The excellent soloist was principal oboist Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew. Guest conductor for the evening was Stefan Willich, whose day job is Professor of Medicine in Berlin, but who moonlights as conductor of the World Doctors Orchestra, an ensemble of a hundred physicians from twenty countries who gather twice a year to play benefit concerts — the ensemble made its U.S. debut in Severance Hall in February, 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

If you’remayhew_rebecca a lover of Mozart wind concertos it difficult to imagine a time when the composer’s Oboe Concerto in C was not part of the standard repertoire. However, for well over one hundred years Mozart’s beloved concerto was assumed lost. Beginning on Wednesday, December 12th and running through Sunday, December 16, CityMusic Cleveland principal oboist Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew will perform Mozart’s Oboe Concerto under the direction of guest conductor Stefan Willich. The concerto also includes Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 “Italian”. The Mt. Zion Choir will also join CityMusic Cleveland for selections of festive seasonal music.

Mozart composed his oboe concerto during the summer of 1777, and a short time later reworked the score, which became the composer’s Flute Concerto in D, a work that was continuously performed during the period the oboe score was lost. It was not until 1920 that Mozart scholar Bernhard Paumgartner found a manuscript of an oboe concerto that was similar to Mozart’s flute concerto, but still the oboe concerto remained unpublished until 1948.  Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Chee-YunCityMusic Cleveland opens its 2010-2011 season next Tuesday the 28th of September with six concerts devoted to the music of Beethoven under the direction of director James Gaffigan, who returns after a year’s absence.

These concerts also mark the CityMusic debut of the exuberant violinist Chee-Yun, who told us in a phone interview, “I think I have an ‘I am a student forever’ attitude”. Her love for learning and experiencing new things in life came across as we discussed her initial reluctance to perform Beethoven’s monumental concerto, as well as how teaching has made her a better performer. We also chatted about her guest appearance on the hit sit-com, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, a video of Piazzolla’s Oblivion that some viewers found to be a bit provocative for their tastes, and her upcoming debut with Chris Botti at New York’s legendary Jazz Club, The Blue Note.

Mike Telin: Have you worked with James Gaffigan before?

CY: No, this is my first time, but he is the main reason that my manager and I jumped at the opportunity to play with CityMusic. And the Beethoven is a piece that I want to play more, so this is a really good opportunity for me.

MT: I found an interview that you did for “All Things Strings” 10 years ago, and in it you said that you were not all that crazy about the concerto. What has changed in the past ten years?

Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Joel Smirnoff, CIM president, makes his Ohio conducting debut with CityMusic Cleveland

On a dark and windy night, with dire predictions of a major winter storm on its way (didn’t quite happen), what better refuge than a warm, brightly lit church and a free concert of some of Mozart’s most charming small orchestra music? Several hundred people thought so, packing Fairmount Presbyterian Church from narthex to chancel for Joel Smirnoff’s Ohio conducting debut with CityMusic Cleveland.

After a greeting from Fairmount pastor Louise Westfall, who led a charming, color coded tour through the deciduous program booklet’s coupons, surveys, concert handbills and donation forms, soloists Nathan Olson and Jessica Oudin came on with Maestro Smirnoff to give us the Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, K.364.

Read the rest of this entry »

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