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We invited our readers to submit outstanding performances of the 2009-2010 season (September through June). Here are the submissions we received.

I’d like to nominate Akron Baroque for Cleveland Classical’s Best of the Season highlights.  I’m so proud of the growth of this little orchestra in such a short period of time.  Not only has our audience quadrupled since Akron Baroque’s birth in 2006, but this May’s concert introduced our new Akron Baroque Chamber Chorus to an overwhelmingly  warm community response.  It’s truly the realization of a dream.

Amy Barlowe – June 2


Akron Symphony: Mahler 9 at Severance Hall.

Akron Symphony: Opera Exerpts November 2009 at E.J. Thomas Hall

Richard A. Dee – June 2 Read the rest of this entry »

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With over 1,500 concerts to choose from, it’s not easy to make a short list of performances that really stood out head and shoulders above the others — most of which were of very high quality themselves. So here’s a medium-short list: twenty-five outstanding performances I covered for ClevelandClassical.com with a few quotes from concert reports about each event. I’ll put them in chronological order. If you have a highlight to nominate that’s not on this list, please leave a comment below!

Chanticleer’s High School Choral Festival in Akron (October 7). In conjunction with the male chorus’ appearance on the Tuesday Musical Series, the singers coached six local choirs all day and joined them for an evening concert culminatng in a 250-voice massed choir. “This was an impressively organized day that must have made a lasting impression on all participants. It left us feeling quite happy about the future of choral music. It’s in good hands in the Akron area!”

Organist Olivier Latry (Notre-Dame, Paris) at Holy Trinity, Akron (October 9). “This was everything an organ concert should be – astonishing yet completely tasteful playing, great repertory and sometimes just plain fun”.

The Rose Ensemble at St. Stanislaus in ‘Il Poverello: the life and deeds of St. Francis of Assisi’ (October 11).  “In an era accustomed to sensory overload, when stage productions are hard put to compete with the technological wizardry available to film makers, it’s refreshing to spend a couple of hours in a vivid world created simply through the interaction of words and music.”

Jennifer Koh on the Oberlin Artist Recital Series (October 29): “…as close to perfect violin playing as one is likely to hear. Jennifer Koh drew a capacity audience into the special world of solo violin music on Thursday evening with her gracious stage presence, gorgeous tone, flawless intonation, right on interpretations and virtuosity deployed only in service to the music. One left Finney Chapel knowing that this had not been an everyday experience”. Read the rest of this entry »

I think my favorite for the season is a very recent Cleveland Orchestra concert, May 23, that had the Beethoven “Eroica” Symphony and ‘Coriolan Overture’, and the Berg ‘Lulu’ suite.  They sounded better and more cohesive than I’ve heard them in ages (which is saying a lot considering the kind of precision that the Cleveland Orchestra has even on less-than-great nights), and Franz had something inspiring to communicate in both of the major pieces on the program.

The other, totally different, program that I don’t recall ClevelandClassical covering was the performance of Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ on Good Friday evening at Trinity Cathedral. That old warhorse would not seem to have the makings of something memorable, but it was a tasteful, loving and ultimately quite touching performance.  (I don’t necessarily want to hear it again soon, but it was good to hear Stainer’s work treated respectfully.)

When we at ClevelandClassical.com first discussed writing about our “standouts” of the 2009-2010 concert season, I thought it was a great idea. What could possibly be difficult about this task? However when I really began to think about the 65 concerts that I attended between September 2009 and the first week of June 2010, the simple task quickly became daunting. For me, there are so many reasons for one to enjoy, or not to enjoy a concert. These reasons accompanied by the fact that each organization and or ensemble have their own missions guiding how they choose to fill a role in Northeast Ohio’s vibrant classical music scene, too often led me to feel that I was comparing apples to oranges. Therefore I have chosen to write about my own “standouts” in two distinct sections. First, is an overview of concerts that I feel deserve a big hand of applause, and second, my own picks of complete performances by an artist or ensemble that for one reason or another are still engraved in my musical memory.

I begin by giving hearty congratulations to James Feddek and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, Liza Grossman and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, Christopher James Lees and the Akron Youth Symphony, and Joanne Erwin and the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the performances of these young musicians. They are our future performers and more importantly our future audiences. These ensembles also have a lot to say musically. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Welsh is assistant director for music at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Here are his highlights from the series at the Museum last season.

Thanks for letting me indulge in some delightful recollections of our last season, it was another exciting and diverse year of music. Here are a handful of personal highlights, in chronological order:

Garth Knox performing solo and duo (with cellist Lauren Radnofsky) on viola and viola d’amore, blending very old with very new – from Marin Marais to Salvatore Sciarrino. [8 November 2009 @ Plymouth Church of Shaker Square]

NYC-based composer/sound artist Marina Rosenfeld led her Sheer Frost Orchestra, an ensemble of 15 floor-bound electric guitars, as part of the CIA student exhibition in the museum and the special event called “After Hours” (and the electro-duo Eats Tapes were great, too.) [13 November 2009 @ CMA]

On the heels of the successful debut of his opera “A House in Bali,” about Colin McPhee, composer/performer Evan Ziporyn brought his Gamelan Galak Tika to town for a fascinating east-meets-west program. [8 January 2010 @ Cleveland Museum of Natural History] Read the rest of this entry »

by Laura Genemans

This past Saturday, the Akron Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Christopher Wilkins and the Akron Symphony Chorus under the direction of Maestro Hugh Ferguson Floyd in no uncertain terms established its excellence and value in this area as an exceptional musical force.

Verdi’s La forza del destino: Overture opened the program and established the tonal three notes representing the forces of destiny.  Thanks to the excellent pre-concert talk by Maestro Wilkins you knew what to listen for.  Without words, the orchestra created pictures with the entrance of the strings followed by the lyrical “gypsy-like” melody from the clarinet and flute. The continual movement between the strings (celli and viola) and winds wove the story taking you to your inevitable destiny – concluding with the low brass.  The music carried you due to the way the ensemble followed each other letting the Maestro lead – never releasing that thread of interest and tension.

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Jamey Haddadby Mike Telin

Jamey Haddad is in charge of programming world music for the second half of the Cleveland Orchestra’s new five-concert series ‘Fridays @ 7.’ We caught up with Jamey in New York while playing gigs for the Rock Hall Festivities, and asked him about his thoughts on why audience building initiatives such as the Fridays @ 7 are needed.

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Alisa Weilersteinby Mike Telin

We spoke to Alisa Weilerstein about many things, including the dual role she will have this week when she performs the Dvorak Cello Concerto and later joins Jamey Haddad, Dylan Moffitt, Keita Ogawa and Michael Ward-Bergeman in the World Music portion of the evening on the Fridays @ 7 series on November 20. We also talked about her passion for Russian literature, her upcoming live television performance of the Elgar Concerto with Daniel Barenboim, and her work as spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

We began by asking her about her participation in Classical Music Day at the White House, and her feelings about the significance of the event that had occurred the previous day.

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“Music on Tap” at Trinity Lutheran Church, Cleveland, on October 10. ClevelandClassical.com’s editor and publisher, Daniel Hathaway at the historic Beckerath organ. Held the second Saturday of the month, “Music on Tap” includes informal organ concerts, West Side Market bratwursts for sale and free beer samples from Great Lakes Brewing Co. Proceeds benefit the organ restoration fund.

Trinity’s Beckerath organ is a historical landmark. Built by Rudolph von Beckerath in 1956, it is the first large modern pipe organ in North America built on historic Baroque principles.

The next “Music on Tap” is Saturday, November 14 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm. Organists Nathan Carterette (1:00 pm) Brian Wentzel (1:45 pm) and Graham Schultz (2:30 pm) will perform.  2031 West 30th Street (at Lorain).

Photos: Sam Hubish

Carl Topilow will conduct the CIM Orchestra and Miami timba band Tiempo Libre in Ricardo Lorenz’s ‘Rumba Sinfónica’ on Saturday, October 24 at 8:30 in Severance Hall as part of the CIM Women’s Committee’s annual benefit. Tiempo Libre plays a set of their own after intermission. We reached composer Ricardo Lorenz and pianist and Tiempo Libre music director Jorge Gomez by conference call to talk about the genesis of a work for symphony orchestra and Cuban band.

Daniel Hathaway: I wanted to talk a little bit about the performance next Saturday at Severance Hall. How did this project get started in the first place?

Ricardo GomezRicardo Lorenz (left): Well, it was a cosmic meeting in of all places, Bloomington, Indiana.

DH: At Indiana University?

Ricardo: Yes. I was teaching there for a couple of years and Jorge came to do master classes. What really caught my imagination is when I saw him doing rumba with music students. I had this idea running in my head, but it had to be put together with somebody like Jorge who brings together his classical background and his jazz and Cuban background.

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GILBERT-AdamCiaramella, the Renaissance Wind Band, is in town this week for a masterclass and concert at Case. We reached shawm player Adam Gilbert in Los Angeles to ask about his career as a specialist in early wind instruments.

Mike Telin: What I first want to know, you are a shawm player. How does one go about becoming a shawm player?

Adam Gilbert: That’s a really good question. It’s changed in the last bunch of years, I think. I came to shawm because I was a recorder player. Long story. I played recorder as a kid because I wanted a clarinet – to be like Benny Goodman. That was pretty geeky in the first place, but then after I started playing clarinet I realized I wanted to play recorder, and that’s how I got involved in early music. And that was because I actually saw a concert of my hometown college collegium.

MT: And where was that?

AG: Columbia, South Carolina. I was thirteen, and that was the moment that I discovered Renaissance dances and was really excited by it. I went to New York to go to music school in January of 1981 and when I was there I was told, it’s great, you can study recorder, but my teacher said, I’ve got a gig for you if you can play a little bagpipes and shawm.  A lot of people of my generation got into it from playing a lot of Renaissance instruments but nowadays you see a lot more modern oboists or baroque oboists going back and playing the earlier instruments because they’ve already had that specialty of playing double reeds.

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SRAMEK-JordanMinnesota’s Twin Cities’ early music group, The Rose Ensemble, brings a new touring show to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon. ‘Il Poverello’ features music written in honor of Francis of Assisi. We chatted about the new production with founder and artistic director Jordan Sramek at the ensemble’s offices in St. Paul last Monday.

Daniel Hathaway: Jordan, The Rose Ensemble was just here last Spring on CWRU’s Chapel, Court & Countryside series. Might a stop in Cleveland become a yearly event for you?

Jordan Sramek: We have certain cities around the US where we perform regularly and Cleveland is becoming one of them — and that’s exciting. It’s good for a group like ours to take productions on the road. This one is in stark contrast to the last Cleveland program, which was largely middle eastern music. This show is very specific to the life of St. Francis.

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85-year-old piano legend Menaham Pressler will preside over a master class on Saturday morning, October 10, and play a Mozart Concerto with the Canton Symphony under Gerhardt Zimmerman that night at 8, all thanks to Canton’s executive director Steve Wogaman, who was a doctoral student of Pressler’s at Indiana University.

Wogaman noted that “Pressler has a command of the physiology of piano playing without equal. The really amazing thing is that he teaches a sensibility for the deep understanding behind every single note. He misses nothing! We were lucky to snap him up the moment the Beaux Arts Trio disbanded and before he signed with Columbia Artists Management. I suggested that he play a certain Mozart concerto. He said ‘that sounds great, but if you have a really fine oboist, we can do No. 17’. Canton does in Terry Orcutt, and so we will!”

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LATRY-OlivierOlivier Latry, one of the Titular Organists of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris, and one of the most celebrated recitalists in the business will play an engaging recital on the Berghaus organ in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Akron on Friday, October 9, at 8 pm, opening this year’s edition of the distinguished series run by Barbara MacGregor and James Storry.

The program — made up entirely of dance music from several centuries — will culminate in an improvisation on a submitted theme, a specialty of French organists, who tend to improvise much of the music they provide when they play for masses. Latry’s playlist includes Suzann van Soldt’s Sept Danses, Buxtehude’s Passacaglia, J.S. Bach’s Fugue in G (Gigue) & Passacaglia et thema fugatum, Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance, de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance, Karg-Elert’s Valse mignonne, Vierne’s Fantômes (Pièces de fantaisie) and Saint-Saëns’ Dance macabre.

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ClevelandClassical.com notes with sadness the passing of pianist Alicia de Larrocha. An exceptional musician, we enjoyed hearing her live on many occasions. Her recordings of Catalonian composers Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz are among our personal library favorites.

This New York Times article from 1995 provides a snapshot of the diminutive pianist with the big talent : AT HOME WITH: Alicia de Larrocha; A Pianissimo Star

If you have a personal remembrance of Alicia, we invite you to share. Her passing is a great loss to the classical music world.

The word on the street is that American Orchestras are hurting. In 2009 both endowments and audiences have shrunk. This fall we’ve seen the Cleveland Orchestra announce a new residency with the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and an innovative Friday concert series aimed at a younger crowd. Both moves are intended to reach new audiences and generate new revenue.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Anne Midgette explores another audience-boosting tactic — the new, celebrity, conductor. Without doubt, the biggest hype of the season surrounds the arrival of Gustavo Dudamel in Los Angeles. Also this fall, the New York Philharmonic has welcomed maestro Alan Gilbert. It is still too early to tell whether new blood has increased the audience in these cities, but they have reason to be hopeful. Midgette points to Pittsburgh (Manfred Honeck) and Dallas (Jaap van Zweden) as recent examples of orchestras reenergized by new music directors.

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Opera Circle in a Preview of Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, on September 26, 2009 at the Cleveland Bridge Project. Amy Scheetz (Romeo), Dorota Sobieska (Giulietta) and Ray Liddle (Lorenzo), accompanied by music director and pianist Jacek Sobieski and violinist Wanda Sobieska. This opera will be presented with chorus and orchestra on November 6 and 8 at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus, Cleveland.

Nigel Redden, director of Lincoln Center Festival, and Gary Hanson, executive director of The Cleveland Orchestra, announced on Tuesday afternoon a new multi-year residency for the Orchestra at the Lincoln Center Festival to begin in 2011 and continue in 2013 and 2015.

From July 13-17, 2011, Franz Welser-Möst will conduct four concerts juxtaposing Bruckner’s Symphonies 5, 7, 8 and 9 with works by John Adams, and will also give a master class on Bruckner at the Juilliard School.

The 2013 and 2015 residencies will include fully staged productions from the Vienna State Opera with Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra in the pit of the David H. Koch Theater (Welser-Möst will become General Music Director of the VSO in 2010, in the same year as Dominique Meyer, currently of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysees in Paris becomes Intendant). The second and third residencies will also include concert performances and possibly ballet.

On the web:

The New York Times: Cleveland Orchestra Gets Its Toe in New York

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cleveland Orchestra to be part of Lincoln Center Festival

The Harlem String Quartet

The Harlem String Quartet

After reading Daniel Hathaway’s concert report, you’ll kick yourself for missing Sphinx Chamber Orchestra, Harlem Quartet & Elena Urioste on the Tuesday Musical Series last Tuesday in Akron.  Never fear Northeast Ohioans! The tour returns to Oberlin College this Sunday, September 20 at 3:00 pm.

Has musicianship gone the way of twitter, instant messaging, sound bites? In this day and age, is an audience’s attention held by a performance punctuated with exaggerated emotionalism? In a scathing review of pianist Lang Lang’s August 30 performance of Chopin’s F minor piano concerto with the Dresden Staatskapelle in Lucerne, Michael Kimmelman suggests Mr. Lang’s playing has everything to do with our high-speed information age mind-set.

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Writing in the Telegraph, Ivan Hewett considers the longevity and popularity of the “Last Night of the Proms.” The exuberant Last Night performance, always memorable for the audience’s funny hats, noisemakers, and singalong choruses of “Rule Britannia” and “Land of Hope and Glory,” is a spectacle, and as is the case with most spectacles, some find it downright embarrassing.

Hewett observes that recent Prom Directors, in an effort to moderate the overt nationalism of the evening

…have adopted something like the American policy of ‘containment’ in the Cold War. They acknowledge a ‘sphere of influence’ for the fun and jingoist songs, but they try to box it in and if possible shrink it. They’ve made the serious first half longer, and have slipped serious things into the second half. But the audience gets its revenge. Their silly hats and klaxons create a kind of Last Night  Miasma which takes over everything.

So why does the Last Night persist? What might the future hold? The article is here.

On Saturday, September 12, WCLV will broadcast the famous “Last Night of the Proms” live beginning at 2:00 pm.

What’s wrong with piano competitions? Michael Johnson, writing for Facts & Arts, thinks there are too many, they limit artistic development, and, perhaps most damning, the judging process is terribly flawed.

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Another reason to love Northeast Ohio: world class musicians in performance — for free! Monday’s “back to school” issue of ClevelandClassical.com has the scoop on over 50 free concerts and recitals by Northeast Ohio music school faculty this fall.

“Northeastern Ohio is second to none in terms of the quality of artist faculty concert series at all of its musical institutions — there is literally something for everybody. And there is absolutely no better transformative experience than a great live concert!” —Cavani Quartet violinist Annie Fullard

It all starts this weekend. On Friday Cleveland Orchestra clarinetist Daniel McKelway and his Baldwin-Wallace  colleagues Louise Zeitlin, (viola), Sungeun Kim and Robert Mayerovitch (piano) play Schumann and Brahms;  and on Saturday at BW duo pianists Mary Dobrea-Grindhal and Nicole Keller  perform Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Poulenc.

In the August 17th edition of ClevelandClassical.com…

Ballet has been a rare commodity in Cleveland since Cleveland Ballet closed shop in 2000. Dance had been a staple at Blossom from the opening of the Cleveland Orchestra’s summer music center in 1968 until it suddenly disappeared from the menu after 1988. But this Saturday and Sunday, the art form returns with high-profile — and high-energy — performances of five works by the celebrated Joffrey Ballet.

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Timothy Robson
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas

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