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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 Daniel Hathaway

Tiberghien-CedricThe most fascinating paragraph in the program booklet for last Saturday’s Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom was in the sidebar summing up salient facts about Camille Saint-Saëns’s second piano concerto: “The Cleveland Orchestra first presented this work in November 1919, with a piano playing from a mechanical roll recorded by Harold Bauer.”

That was a marketing ploy by the Aeolian Piano Company which evidently helped fund a nice chunk of the orchestra’s second season, while nearly driving conductor Nikolai Sokoloff to distraction. Happily, on July 27, 2013 there was nothing whatsoever mechanical about French pianist Cédric Tiberghien’s thrilling progress through the piece in tandem with French conductor Stéphane Devène, which was at times expansive and lyrical, and at others positively seismic.

The first movement became a vast cadenza with dramatic orchestral punctuation that Tiberghien seemed to be creating on the spot — like a ruminative improvisation by an organist (a role Saint-Saëns filled for 19 years at L’église de la Madeleine). Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

FEDDECK-James2The weather couldn’t have been any better for last Sunday evening’s concert at Blossom Music Center and the musical fare was just as delightful as The Cleveland Orchestra under assistant conductor James Feddeck (replacing the originally scheduled Robert Porco) presented a concert featuring The Blossom Festival Chorus, three stellar operatic vocalists and clarinet soloist Franklin Cohen.

John Williams wrote his Liberty Fanfare to commemorate the 1986 centenary of New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty. This short, exuberant piece opened the program, setting an optimistic mood with bold playing by the brass, soaring melodies by the strings and rhythmic impetus by the percussion. Feddeck conducted this, as well as the second offering by Williams, a suite of three pieces from the recent Spielberg film Lincoln, with a keen sense of mood and dramatic understanding. The orchestra responded superbly to his every gesture and nuance as the scenes unfolded. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

FEDDECK-James2After four weeks of immersing themselves in the wonderful world of chamber music, this week the participants at the Kent/Blossom School will turn their focus to orchestral music. On Saturday, July 27 beginning at 7:00 pm, the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of James Feddeck, will perform Debussy’s Clair de lune and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F major.

I think the opportunity to study at a summer festival like the Kent/Blossom School presents a unique intensive period of real saturation into one’s study,” James Feddeck told us by telephone. “So the opportunity to take a few weeks — relocate and have an intense experience is of enormous benefit. And in this case the students at the festival have a great deal of contact with Cleveland Orchestra members.”

Following the 7:00 pm concert by the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, the students will have a side-by-side experience with The Cleveland Orchestra in a performance of Ravel’s La Valse. The 8:00 pm concert also features the Overture to Les Francs-juges of Berlioz, the Piano Concerto No. 2 of Saint-Saëns and Debussy’s La Mer. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Miami-SQ-Spencer-MyerIt’s bigger than ever, and we’re really excited about it,” exclaimed Danna Sundet, who along with cellist Keith Robinson, is one of the co-artistic directors of the Kent/Blossom Festival. This year’s festival officially begins on June 26 with a concert featuring the Miami String Quartet and pianist Spencer Myer in Ludwig Recital Hall on the Kent State University Campus. “We’re releasing our first-ever Kent/Blossom CD at a gala party afterward,” Sundet said during a conference call. Robinson jumped in with more news. “We’re also having our first Kulas Guest Artist, clarinetist David Shifrin, who used to play in The Cleveland Orchestra before he went on to fame and fortune with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.”

Those concerts are only two of the seventeen events Kent/Blossom will offer between now and July 27. There will be six performances by Cleveland Orchestra members and friends (who make up the faculty for the chamber music-oriented summer festival which began when the Blossom Music Center opened in 1968), and six concerts by students — three at the end of each of the two-week chamber music sessions. At the end of the festival following an orchestral week, the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra will play Ravel’s La Valse in a side-by-side concert with The Cleveland Orchestra on July 27 preceded by its own set under the baton of James Feddeck, who will lead the student ensemble in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Debussy’s Clair de lune. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

AUSTIN-PattyThe evening shimmered, both musically and visually as the Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin took to the Severance Hall Stage in The Music of Ella and Ellington with The Cleveland Orchestra conducted by James Feddeck on Saturday, May 18. Miss Austin made an elegant entrance in a bejeweled silver grey gown which fit right in with Severance Hall’s luxuriously opulent decor. “Look at that ceiling, did you ever see anything quite as beautiful?… my house would look so great with that ceiling,” she said with an upward gaze. Her stage manner and banter immediately endeared her to the audience. And her voice was in particularly fine form, distinctively rich and colorful, ranging from the seductive and smoky to the vibrantly clear.

Feddeck and the orchestra opened the concert with a vigorous and exciting account of Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story. Biting brass and driving rhythms were energized by the percussion section while lush strings and colorful woodwinds imparted character and atmosphere to one of musical theatre’s most beloved scores. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

MOSES-HannahOver 1,300 students have been members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra during the past twenty-seven seasons, representing a remarkable group of talented young people. For some, their interest in music has carried them forward into careers as educators and performers. For others, music continues as an important part of their lives and careers in business, the arts, and community service.”

So read the printed program from the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra’s final concert of the season at Severance Hall. It describes in advance the thirty-nine graduating seniors who were congratulated with individual descriptions of the next step in their musical journeys. Among them is Hannah Moses, winner of the orchestra’s 2013 concerto competition and soloist in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor.

Miss Moses, a member of COYO since 2007, is a senior in CIM’s Young Artist Program studying with Richard Weiss of The Cleveland Orchestra. Winner of many scholarship and concerto competitions, she will continue her studies at CIM, majoring in cello performance. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin & Daniel Hathaway


Go West, young man, go West,” was the much quoted advice probably misattributed to Horace Greeley, and for many during the Westward Expansion, the ultimate destination was California.

Last week, in their second collaboration in Gartner Auditorium, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s VIVA! & Gala Performing Arts Series presented “California Masterworks”, a two-concert series that drew on six seminal works by Henry Cowell, Dane Rudhyar, Lou Harrison, John Adams, James Tenney and Terry Riley to create a retrospective of music created by Californians — either born or raised there (Cowell, Harrison and Riley) or moved there to spend extended periods of time (Adams, Rudhyar and Tenney) but all of whom are linked by “common threads — different threads”, “bumping the classical tradition slightly off its axis” and offering “not so much a glimpse of the fringe as of the future,” as the Museum’s Tom Welch wrote in his extensive introduction in the program book. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Feddeck-informalOn Sunday, May 12 beginning at 7:00 pm in Severance Hall, James Feddeck conducts the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestrain his final Severance Hall appearance as the ensemble’s music director.The program includes Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, Karol Szymanowski’s Etude for Orchestra, and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration. The concert also features Antonín Dvořák’sCello Concerto with COYO concerto competition winner Hannah Moses.

Since his appointment in March of 2009, James Feddeck has firmly established COYO as one of the finest youth orchestras in North America. Under his direction the orchestra has consistently given performances of the quality that many cities would be happy to have in their own professional ensembles. Although there are many highlights that mark his tenure, taking his players on their first international tour to Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna and Salzburg, Austria in June 2012 is especially noteworthy.

Always a gentleman in conversation, James Feddeck clearly has a passion for working with young musicians. And one can’t help but be drawn in by the enthusiasm, dedication — and above all, caring nature that he has for his young players. We reached him by telephone and began by asking him why he chose the repertoire that he did for the concert. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Gordon-Square-BannerDetails are now in place for the inaugural neighborhood residency of The Cleveland Orchestra, which will find the Orchestra and members of Severance Hall ensembles engaging the community in numerous activities ranging from performances to a soccer match in the Gordon Square Arts District on Cleveland’s West Side from May 11 through May 17.

The full Orchestra will play a free evening concert (now sold out) and a morning educational concert at St. Colman Church under assistant conductor James Feddeck. A special City Club forum will discuss the impact of arts and culture on neighborhood development.

Other performances include a variety of Cleveland Orchestra soloists and ensembles performing in Gordon Square cafés, wine bars, a health campus, galleries and food stores as well as in La Sagrada Familia Church and Cleveland Public Theatre.

Ensemble HD, made up of Cleveland Orchestra musicians, will join Classical Revolution at the Happy Dog to celebrate the release of its vinyl recording, Ensemble HD Live at the Happy Dog.

Other activities include a Capitol Theatre screening of part of the Orchestra’s Bruckner Fourth Symphony Performance at St. Florian Abbey and that neighborhood soccer game, which will involve seventeen Orchestra musicians and staff and young people from the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

TCO-at-CMA-MastroianniOn Wednesday, May 1st and Friday, May 3rd in Gartner Auditorium, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Art will come together for their second collaboration, California Masterworks.

How did the two organizations come to the idea? “That’s a good question,” says Cleveland Orchestra Assistant Conductor James Feddeck. “After the enormous success of our first ever collaboration in 2011 we all began to talk about what the next collaboration would look like so I think the question is why California? That is what we are hoping to uncover during the week.”

So why California? Following a number of discussions, the two organizations determined that they should do something that embraced American music and the American spirit, but it wasn’t until Feddeck and Tom Welsh, the museum’s Director of City Stages, began to think about the composers they wanted to highlight that they discovered a common thread between them. “We found this interesting connection in that they were all influenced by their West Coast inspiration. I’m not sure that we are presenting a conclusion with these two concerts but what we are doing is presenting the music, the story and this common thread.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

WALTERS-RobertPatrons who packed the four sold-out houses last weekend at Severance Hall came to hear Carl Orff’s spirited medieval cantata Carmina Burana, but they were also treated to the bonus of an elegant curtain-raiser in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in A for oboe d’amore and strings with Robert Walters on the solo line.

Bach — that great recycler — turned several wind concertos from his days as court composer at Köthen into harpsichord concertos for his coffee house concerts with the Leipzig University Collegium Musicum between 1729 and 1741. Though the originals have been lost, they can be reconstructed by clever musicologists, as an uncredited arranger did for BWV 1055.

James Feddeck, stepping in for Franz Welser-Möst last weekend, led a string section pared down to eight first violins, six seconds, five violas, four cellos and two double basses, creating an admirable balance between soloist and orchestra Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

COYO-FEDDECK-MastroianniIt is no secret that Tchaikovsky was frequently plagued with self-doubt, and while writing his Fifth Symphony the composer was also struggling to make sense out of the cards that fate had dealt him in life. On Sunday, March 10 at Severance Hall, one was never in doubt that The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) under the direction of James Feddeck was in anything but complete command of this monumental work. From the opening “fate” theme played exquisitely by the clarinets, to the finale triumphal march, the performance was electrifying.

Feddeck’s straightforward approach to the symphony was a breath of fresh air, as far too often Tchaikovsky’s passionate music suffers from over-indulgent interpretations from the podium. Throughout, Feddeck drew a full, rich sound from his musicians who played with confidence and rhythmic accuracy. The lyrical horn solo in the 2nd movement was brilliantly played by Leo Steinkerchner and bassoonist Stuart Englehart performed with aplomb during the waltz. Bravos also go out to flutist Elise Campbell, oboist Mary O’Keefe, clarinetist Alexandria Ballinger and to the entire brass section for jobs well done. In short, this was a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5 to remember. Read the rest of this entry »

 by Daniel Hathaway

ForFeddeck-at-organ many decades, regular organ concerts were part of the weekly routine at the Cleveland Museum of Art, both when the 1920 E.M. Skinner instrument could be heard throughout the building from its position in the loggia of the Garden Court and then after the organ, completely rebuilt by the Holtkamp company, came to live in the new Gartner Auditorium in 1971.

In 2010, after spending five years in mothballs during the Gartner renovation, the organ played out once again in a rededication recital by David Higgs, but except for a special recital by former musical arts curator Karel Paukert a month later and a young artist competition sponsored by the American Guild of Organists last Spring, the instrument has been more often seen than heard. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

pink-martiniPortland’s “Little Orchestra,” Pink Martini, made a big impression when they first appeared with The Cleveland Orchestra in March of 2010. The ensemble, anchored by the inimitable pianist Thomas Lauderdale and the charismatic vocalist China Forbes (back after a successful operation on her vocal chords) returned to spread a lot of sophisticated holiday cheer last night at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra as its distinguished backup band. The delectable program, stylishly conducted by James Feddeck (and to be repeated on Wednesday evening), was enhanced by two special guests with Portland roots: NPR commentator Ari Shapiro and clarinetist Norman Leyden, whose performances added special personality to some of the nearly twenty songs — music both for the season and for all seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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