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by Daniel Hathaway

EJ-Thomas-exteriorThere were no speeches on Saturday evening when Christopher Wilkins and the Akron Symphony celebrated the fortieth anniversary of E.J. Thomas Hall, just plenty of rich orchestral sound, cleverly designed to make a dry acoustical space ring with festive sonority.

Canny programming added to the celebratory nature of the evening. Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture (led by UA’s Guy Victor Bordo) contributed a sense of gravitas to a joint observance between the ASO and the University of Akron, and UA composer Nikola Resanovic’s infectious clarinet concerto provided bubbles for the anniversary toast. Richard Strauss’s brilliant orchestral tone poem (and monumental tribute to himself), Ein Heldenleben, gave the orchestra an opportunity to show itself off, something it did unabashedly and to brilliant effect.

One big factor in pulling this celebration off so successfully was Wilkins’s decision to fill out the string sections for the occasion, and to elevate winds and brass on a series of risers to better equalize balances and projection. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Mike Telin

EJ-Thomas-exteriorWhen the Edwin J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall opened at the University of Akron in October 1973, the multi-use space received rave reviews from critics. The 2,955 seat auditorium also became home to the Akron Symphony. On Saturday, October 12 beginning at 8:00 pm, Music Director Christopher Wilkins will lead the ASO in a concert that celebrates the Hall’s 40th anniversary. The program features Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture conducted by Guy Victor Bordo, Nikola Resanovic’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (Collateral Damage) with Kristina Belisle Jones as soloist, and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

As is the case with many of the world’s concert halls, E.J. Thomas has presented acoustical challenges for the symphony. But as Wilkins points out, “the positives of E.J. Thomas are easy to enumerate. It’s a very comfortable space for the audience and I think it’s an interesting piece of architecture. Also the physical location is ideal because it’s right on the line between the University campus and downtown and as the campus has moved toward downtown that whole area is so active.”

Wilkins says he chose Ein Heldenleben not so much because it was autobiographical for Strauss but rather it was a musical story of an artist’s life. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

 

When cellistSilk-Road-Ensemble Yo-Yo Ma decided in 1998 to launch a collaborative enterprise to promote artistic exchanges between cultures, he named it The Silk Road Project after the 4,000-some miles of ancient trade routes that for two millennia linked parts of Asia with Europe and encouraged the trading of art, knowledge, philosophy and religion — as well as silk and other commercial goods.

 

Two years later, The Silk Road Project spawned The Silk Road Ensemble, a collective of some sixty performers and composers from more than twenty countries. Fifteen musicians from eight of those countries, including Yo-Yo Ma, are currently on tour to six cities in the United States, and will perform on the Tuesday Musical Association Series at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron on Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 pm. We spoke with three of them, pipa (Chinese lute) player Yang Wei, violinist Johnny Gandelsman and gaita (Galician bagpipes) player Christina Pato (who will also play piano) to ask how they first became involved in the Silk Road Ensemble and to glean some of their insights into what makes it tick. Read the rest of this entry »

 by Daniel Hathaway

 

ArtCrossley-Mercer-Recital song fans had a tough choice between two fine baritones last Sunday afternoon. Thomas Hampson’s recital on the Tuesday Musical Series, rescheduled from last Fall, went up at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron at 2:30. And Edwin Crossley-Mercer was to make his United States recital debut courtesy of the Baldwin Wallace Art Song Festival in Gamble Auditorium in Berea at 4:00. Alas, even the Star Trek transporter couldn’t get you to both performances.

 

Those who flipped the coin in Crossley-Mercer’s favor were in for a memorable afternoon of singing by a splendid up-and-coming French singer enhanced by the superb artistry of Russian pianist Semjon Skigin. In songs by Beethoven, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Fauré, Debussy and Poulenc, Crossley-Mercer and Skigin showed a good-sized audience how eloquent one singer and one pianist can be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Hathaway
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Mike Telin
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