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by Mike Telin

Monk-MeredithComposer, singer, director/choreographer and creator of new opera, music-theater works, films and installations, Meredith Monk is a pioneer in what is now called extended vocal technique and interdisciplinary performance. Over the last five decades, she has been hailed as “a magician of the voice” and “one of America’s coolest composers.”

On Friday, February 21 beginning at 8:00 pm the legendary Meredith Monk brings her unique brand of artistry to the Cleveland Institute of Music as part of the Mixon Hall Masters Series. The concert features Monk’s Songs from the Hill, Volcano Songs, and Music for Voice and Piano (1972-2006) including Gotham Lullaby, Travelling, Madwoman’s Vision, Choosing Companions and The Tale.

During her celebrated career, Monk has received numerous honors including the MacArthur “Genius” Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Obies and two Bessie awards. She holds honorary Doctorates from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory. In 2012 she was named Musical America’s Composer of the Year and one of NPR’s 50 Great Voices and received New Music USA’s 2013 Founders Award, a 2011 Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts and a 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hathaway

MONTERO-GabrielaProfessional organists carry the skill of improvisation around as an essential item in their tool belts because, like tailors, they routinely have to customize the musical fabric of church services. French organists especially have honed their abilities to the point where they can craft whole symphonies on demand, often on amusingly inappropriate tunes submitted by presenters or audience members — like college fight songs.

Pianists don’t often do this kind of thing in public, which made Venezuelan-born pianist Gabriela Montero’s appearance on the Mixon Masters Series at the Cleveland Institute of Music on January 23 such a remarkable event. On a series devoted this year to the composer / performer, Montero dedicated the second half of her program to six masterful and stylistically varied improvisations on themes or concepts suggested by audience members (she ended up playing seven). Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

MONTERO-GabrielaGive a baby a toy piano and she’ll almost inevitably attack its keyboard with a fist. Not Gabriela Montero. When the Venezuelan-born pianist was seven months old, she used her fingers to caress the keys of the gift her grandmother had just given her.

That auspicious beginning led to piano lessons and, when she was eight, her concerto debut with José Antonio Abreu’s original National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, when she played Haydn’s D Major Concerto.

Montero will visit Cleveland to perform on the Mixon Hall Masters Series at the Cleveland Institute of Music on Thursday, January 23 at 8:00 pm, when she will play Brahms’s Three Intermezzos, op. 117, Schumann’s Fantasy in C, op. 17, and a series of classical improvisations on themes suggested by the audience. The concert is part of this season’s “Return of the Composer Virtuoso” series.

A talent for improvisation was among Montero’s earliest self discoveries. The pianist, who was not available for an interview, has written, “I have been improvising since my hands first touched the keyboard, but for many years I kept this aspect of my playing secret. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Auerbach-MH1-MastroianniMoving in a new direction this season, the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Mixon Masters Series is celebrating composers who are also skilled performers. Russian-born pianist and composer Lera Auerbach played the first “Return of the Composer/Virtuoso” concert on Tuesday, September 17, offering a good-sized audience her 24 Preludes for Piano, op. 41, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an exhibition.

Auerbach, who grew up in the Ural mountains on the borders of Siberia, then trained at Juilliard, is an artistic polymath. She writes poetry and prose, paints, and composes prolifically. Prolifically and obsessively, judging from her three sets of 24 preludes, first for piano, subsequently for violin and piano and cello and piano. She couldn’t get that project out of her mind.

Auerbach prefaced her performance of the solo piano preludes with her own description of the pieces, which last about 45 minutes. They are “throwaway ideas” of “fragile beauty” that “disappear quickly”. She liked the idea of arranging a series of evanescent miniatures into a grand form — a plan she also followed with the other two sets. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

AUERBACH-LeraThe Cleveland Institute of Music will take a different approach to its Mixon Masters Series this season. “Return of the Composer/Virtuoso” will bring performing composers to the Mixon stage in 2013-2014, beginning with Russian-born composer-pianist Lera Auerbach on Tuesday, September 17 at 8:00 pm. Auerbach will perform her 24 Preludes and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on her Cleveland debut recital.

The preludes are personally important to her. “I have always loved cycles of 24 preludes”, Auerbach said in a telephone conversation from Berlin. “I have studied and played many of them like Chopin, Scriabin and of course Bach. I always knew that one day I would be writing my own 24 preludes but I didn’t anticipate what would happen. I had such a great time writing the piece. It gave me a canvas to explore — there are so many possibilities. It was such a fantastic journey to take that when I finished writing the 24 preludes for piano I just couldn’t stop! I couldn’t believe it was over and there were no more preludes to write.”

As it turned out, Auerbach didn’t quit after those 24 but immediately began writing another two dozen for violin and piano. “But after I finished those I was still hungry for more so I decided to keep on going and I wrote 24 for cello and piano.” Read the rest of this entry »

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