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Oberlin-Cooper-2014-LogoOberlin – July 23. Following the concerto round last evening, the judges announced the six finalists in the 2014 Cooper International Competition who will advance to the Recital Round on Wednesday evening, July 23 at 7:00 pm in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Following the program, the judges will announce the three contestants who will play concertos with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday evening at Severance Hall. The performance will be carried live on WCLV, 104.9 FM and, and a video stream will be available here.

Here is the Recital Finals program for Wednesday evening (performance order to be announced):

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by Daniel Hathaway

Ravel-CD-KondonassisWhat does an artist want you to experience when you listen to her CD? Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is very clear about that in the liner notes for her latest recording. She wants you to be transported to “somewhere you’ve never been, but of which you might have dreamed.”

That somewhere is the special world of Maurice Ravel, charmingly miniaturized in the Oberlin Music release, Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a world Kondonassis first discovered through an LP of his music as a child in Oklahoma.

Joined by her fellow Oberlin Conservatory faculty members Alexa Still, flute and Richard Hawkins, clarinet; Oberlin alumni Ellie Dehn, soprano and Spencer Myer, piano; and Oberlin’s most recent ensemble in residence, the Jupiter String Quartet, Kondonassis explores four of Ravel’s exotic chamber works in performances vividly captured by recording engineer Paul Eachus. Sessions were held in Oberlin’s shining new Clonick Hall studio, expertly co-produced and edited by Erica Brenner. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin


Milt Hinton with Cab Calloway

This weekend, double bass students aged 13 to 21 will travel to the Oberlin Conservatory to be part of the Inaugural Milton J. Hinton Institute for Studio Bass. The weeklong institute provides the young players with the opportunity to study with renowned teachers in all musical genres including classical, early music, jazz, slap, Latin, and electric. A special feature of the inaugural institute will be a day-long celebration of Hinton’s long and distinguished career on Thursday, June 12.

The Institute is part of a new relationship between Oberlin and the Hinton estate which assures that the legacy of “The Dean of Jazz bassists” will be kept alive well into the future. Oberlin’s partnership with the Hinton estate was facilitated by Oberlin Professor of Jazz Studies and Double Bass Peter Dominguez and Special Collections Librarian Jeremy Smith.

The roots of Dominguez’s relationship with Hinton go back to 1979. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Jupiter-SQOn Thursday, March 20 at 8:00 pm in Kulas Recital Hall, the Jupiter Quartet will perform the final concert of the group’s two-year residency at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The program includes quartets by Beethoven and Bartók.

Over the last two academic years, the Jupiters, Meg Frievogel and Nelson Lee, violins, Liz Frievogel, viola and Daniel McDonough, cello, have served at Oberlin as Quartet in Residence. They have come to Oberlin three weeks each year to teach lessons, coach chamber music, and perform. “It’s been wonderful and we’re all a little bit sad that it’s coming to an end,” Daniel McDonough said in a recent telephone conversation. “The students are such a joy to work with. They’re so inquisitive, bright and curious, so it’s really been a lot of fun.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

FRITH-FredFred Frith is unique among improvisers in his ability to draw so effortlessly on such a wide variety of styles,” Oberlin Conservatory Assistant Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Peter Swendsen said during a recent telephone conversation. “His styles range from the purely sonic abstract worlds that we might think of as electro-acoustic, to things that draw extensively on popular forms, on jazz, on music for film and dance. His comfort zone is everything and everywhere.”

This week Northeast Ohio audiences will have two opportunities to hear the acclaimed songwriter, composer, improviser and multi-instrumentalist when Fred Frith performs concerts on Wednesday, February 26 at 8:00 pm in Fairchild Chapel (Bosworth Hall) at Oberlin College and Friday, February 28 at 7:30 pm as part of the CMA Concerts at Transformer Station series.

Swendsen, who studied with Frith while doing graduate work at Mills College, remembers him as a wonderful teacher who was very supportive. Read the rest of this entry »

Kalyn-AndreaAndrea Kalyn has been named Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, an appointment formally approved by the Oberlin Board of Trustees on February 11.

Kayln has served as an associate dean since 2005 and interim dean since David H. Stull’s departure last July. She becomes the 13th permanent chief administrator in the conservatory’s 149-year history.

Born in Canada, Kalyn studied piano at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD from the Eastman School of Music, all in musicology.

by Mike Telin

CavaniQuartetWhy is it that we so often take for granted the musical greatness that exists in our own town? Case in point: the Cavani Quartet.

Appointed quartet-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1988, the Cavanis are the only ensemble to have twice received the Guarneri String Quartet Award for Artistic Excellence (2005 and 2011). In addition to their numerous recital appearances at CIM they are also committed to taking the great string quartet literature out of the recital hall and into the neighborhoods. An example is the Beethoven & Brotherhood Project – during which the Cavanis played the complete quartets of Beethoven, one at a time, in sixteen public libraries throughout the Cleveland area.

As educators, the Quartet developed CIM’s Intensive Quartet Seminar, the Apprentice Quartet Program and The Art of Engagement for student ensembles devoted to the serious study of chamber music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Wasmuth-SQFor much of its existence, chamber music was performed in private homes for small gatherings of friends. A recital by the Wasmuth Quartet on January 14 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Stull Recital Hall had the feeling of those earlier soirees, an intimate and cozy evening. The concert was part of Oberlin’s month-long String Quartet Intensive and Festival.

Stull is small as performance spaces go, with no raised stage. For the Wasmuth’s concert, standees crowded the back and extra seating surrounded the performers on three sides, putting some audience members nearly within arm’s reach of the musicians. Such a close setting also grants an unusual acoustic: resonance is lost, but every detail cuts through. That exposure could be a nightmare for a performer, but the Wasmuths easily adjusted to the venue.

And good thing they did: the sprightly lines of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 50 No. 6 (“The Frog”) were lithe in their hands, every note clear and bright. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Kulas-OberlinViennese” is often a byword for “light.” It conjures images of bourgeois gentlemen nibbling cream-filled pastries while being entertained by effortless waltzes like “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” The second concert in Oberlin Conservatory’s String Quartet Intensive and Festival, “A Viennese Evening” on Jan. 10 in Kulas Recital Hall, was thus a charming and pleasant affair.

The program began with an oddity, Ferdinand Rebay’s Quartet in d minor for guitar and string trio. Rebay (1880-1953) spent most of his life in Vienna and died in obscurity after being blacklisted by the Nazis, as violist and organizer of the Festival Michael Strauss explained during intermission. Rebay is so unknown that Friday night was the U.S. premiere of the work. Strauss was joined by three other Oberlin faculty members for the piece: violinist David Bowlin, cellist Darrett Adkins, and guitarist Stephen Aron, who suggested the performance.

Guitar is rare in chamber music. Rebay, perhaps understanding its lack of projection, mostly uses the guitar in the d minor quartet to flesh out the harmony or to add rhythmic excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

ZHULLA-AretaDuring the month of January, Oberlin Conservatory is hosting a String Quartet Intensive and Festival, during which student quartets receive coachings from guest artists and faculty members while rehearsing diligently. Those guest musicians, joined by faculty, are also giving recitals throughout the month so that students may experience and learn from their artistry in a concert setting. On January 7, faculty pianist James Howsmon joined the young Greek violinist Areta Zhulla in Kulas Recital Hall for the festival’s inaugural concert.

The highlight of the night was Mozart’s Violin Sonata in e minor. Howsmon and Zhulla poignantly rendered the bare opening statement of the first theme, setting a mood of solemn pathos. The heartbroken melody of the second movement was wrenching, decorated by the most distinctive feature of Zhulla’s playing: her wonderful vibrato. Howsmon’s crystalline accompaniments provided stark relief for the emotive theme. When the music turns to major in the middle section, it is like a retreat into a comforting memory. But the solace does not last, as the pain of the present rushes back to end the piece. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Jupiter-SQFor Michael Strauss, Oberlin’s associate professor viola and chamber music, “Winter Term is all about trying new things, things that are of interest to students that they may not get to immerse themselves in during a regular semester.”

Strauss is in charge of organizing one of those New Things, Oberlin’s first Winter Term String Quartet Intensive and Festival, which runs from January 7 through January 29. The idea is to give student quartets and other groups a taste of the dynamics of a professional chamber ensemble as well as to allow faculty members to coach groups they wouldn’t ordinarily have time for in their normal studio schedules.

“Three quartets signed up, one of which is trying to make a go of quartet playing and two of which are new, although they did come together during the first semester,” Strauss said. “We also have a couple of chamber groups that are involved in the project, including an established piano trio. I wanted a mix of people who enjoyed playing together with people who wanted to be part of creating something from the beginning.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

SUBOTNICK-MortonWhen one thinks of trailblazers in electronic music, the name Morton Subotnick will be near, if not at the top of most people’s lists. On Thursday, November 14 beginning at 8:00 pm, MOCA presents Morton Subotnick in a concert titled From Silver Apples of the Moon to A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: LUCY.

The concert is Subotnick’s only performance in the region and is presented in collaboration with the department of Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Using synthesizers designed by Don Buchla, the music for this concert is both retrospective and forward-looking. “It’s a piece that looks back on two of his previous works which are quoted in the title,” says Chris Auerbach-Brown, Media Program Manager at MOCA. “It’s almost like a remix where he takes sounds from those pieces and rehashes them and comes up with something new.” Subotnick will use a new hybrid digital-Buchla “instrument” loaded with prepared samples from all previous works and new patches specifically created for the current season of performances. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

eighth-blackbirdDeemed by the New York Times as “a hotbed of contemporary-classical players” and a “rural experimental haven,” the Oberlin Conservatory of Music has a history of cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship in its students. “Oberlin gives students the opportunity to experiment,” says Tim Weiss, director of Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble. “Undergraduates don’t really think about the limited number of ways one has to enter the music industry, they are only thinking about music as an art form. It’s very pure and they have no fears about entering the industry so I think that students are better equipped to be entrepreneurs because of their involvement in experimentation.”

On Friday, October 4 at 8:00 pm in Warner Concert Hall, Tim Weiss will lead the Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME) in a concert featuring guest artists and three-time Grammy-winning eighth blackbird, a group originally formed at Oberlin. The program includes music by composer-in-residence Benjamin Broening, Kaija Saariaho, Lisa Kaplan, Derek Bermel, and David Lang. The concert also features the premieres of pieces by Oberlin Technology in Music and Related Arts (T.I.M.A.R.A.) professors Tom Lopez and Peter Swendsen

Weiss, who reluctantly takes credit for forming eighth blackbird, says that he first put them together as a chamber group. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Hawkeye-TrioThe Hawkeye Trio, a newly-hatched chamber ensemble made up of Oberlin Conservatory faculty members Michael Isaac Strauss, Richard Hawkins and James Howsmon, played its inaugural concert in Kulas Hall at the conservatory on Wednesday evening, September 25.

Three fine chamber musicians who play viola, clarinet and piano and want to concertize together need to do some research. That’s not a standard configuration of instruments. What repertory exists — like Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio (not included on Wednesday’s program) — was usually written for domestic use by friends and family.

Case in point: Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces, op. 83, were composed for Bruch’s clarinetist son, Max. The Hawkeye elected to play two sets of four pieces each at the beginning and end of their program, leading off with Nos. 8, 6, 5 and 7 and finishing with the first four, in order. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

STRAUSS-MichaelEven before the Labor Day weekend, many of Northeast Ohio’s universities, colleges and conservatories were already up and running. Because students have only just moved in, concerts at the beginning of the term usually feature faculty recitals and performances by visiting ensembles, and there are several of them scheduled for the early days of September.

The first faculty event at the Oberlin Conservatory this fall will feature violist Michael Strauss (left) and his colleagues Alexa Still, flute, and pianists Monique Duphil and James Howsmon in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata, op. 147, Maurice Duruflé’s 1928 Prélude, Récitatif, et Variations for Flute, Viola, and Piano, Op. 3, and Paul Hindemith’s Viola Sonata, op. 11, no. 4, in a free concert in Kulas Recital Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory on Saturday, September 7 at 8.

The staff discussed who would perform the first recital of the semester”, Strauss told us by phone. “I said, yeah, I can do that. I’m sure that many of the faculty would have been fine with the slot, it’s just that no one had made the move.”

Now in his second year as associate professor of viola and chamber music, Strauss admits that opening with Shostakovich’s last work is a little risky. “It’s quite a dark piece and it is a big test in keeping your wits about you. I started looking at music that would fit and I thought of going heavy and then lightening up.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Top Three

On Thursday of this week twenty-four aspiring violinists between the ages of thirteen and eighteen will arrive at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music all hoping to be one of only three finalists who will have the opportunity to perform a full concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall on Friday, July 26.

In 2010, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music joined with the Cleveland Orchestra to offer the first Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, an important new international competition for young musicians (the competition alternates annually between piano and violin). In addition to getting a chance to perform with The Cleveland Orchestra, contestants are also vying for cash prizes of $10,000 for the first-place winner, $6,000 for second place, and $3,000 for third place winner, fourth, fifth, and sixth prizes of $1,000, and the Audience Prize of $500.

Reading the resumes of these twenty-four young players, it’s difficult to call them young — perhaps in age but not in accomplishments. All have been highly successful in competitions in their home regions, nationally and internationally. All have performed in master classes with some of the world’s most noted teachers and performers. And, as a result, many perform regularly with orchestras as well as performing chamber music and solo recitals. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

LYNN-MichaelI call this Life 2.0 or ‘Michael is back!’” exclaimed Oberlin Conservatory Baroque Flute and Recorder Professor Michael Lynn during his miraculous recovery from debilitating liver disease following an organ transplant at the Cleveland Clinic earlier this year.

Lynn, who has taught at Oberlin for 36 years and served as its associate dean for technology and facilities and curator of musical instruments, received a diagnosis of liver disease eight years ago and was placed on a transplant waiting list. Because his “numbers” were so good at that point, his wait would turn out to be a long one. But after he developed encephalopathy and diabetes and had to take a medical leave from Oberlin, the situation soon became critical.

Last October 2nd he got “the call” and suddenly found himself the recipient of a donor liver. Things quickly went straight uphill for him. “The good stuff happened very quickly after the transplant”, he told us on his cell phone from his back yard in Oberlin. “The liver disease had the ‘side effect’ of sending toxins — mainly ammonia — to my brain and that caused all sorts of problems including not being able to perform for almost four years. What was amazing is that I could already tell in the hospital that I was going to be able to play again because my brain knew how and my coordination was coming back. When I got back home I was pretty beat up, but I immediately started noodling around on the recorder and that showed me I could play just fine. Since then I’ve played four concerts and it was totally easy.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TAKACS-DEMAINEOberlin piano professor Peter Takács was just finishing his decade-long project of recording all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas when he met Detroit Symphony principal cellist Robert DeMaine at the Charleston (SC) Chamber Festival. “We had one of those meetings of the minds which is not that common, but when it happens, it’s very, very nice. After I finished my solo sonata project I was trying to ponder what to do next. I could have rested and said, ‘OK, I’m done’, or I could have said, ‘Let’s do something completely different’. But I decided to stick with The Big Guy (Beethoven) and I thought about Robert because we had such a good time together.”

Takács emailed DeMaine, who was enthusiastic about preparing a series of paired recitals featuring Beethoven’s five cello sonatas and three sets of variations for cello and piano, all in two programs.

Takács has been there before, having performed the cycle three and a half years ago with Oberlin faculty cellist Darrett Adkins, but that pair of concerts took place on the same day. Read the rest of this entry »

STULL-DavidDavid H. Stull, who was appointed dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2004 (after four years as associate dean) will become the next president of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in July. An Oberlin graduate, he worked at Lawrence University’s conservatory of music and at the Juilliard School before returning to his alma mater. Stull presided over many new initiatives at Oberlin including the new Kohl Building to house Jazz Studies, the Cooper International Competition, the Creativity & Leadership Project, Music in America, the creation of an Oberlin record label, national and international tours of the Oberlin Orchestra, and the Rubin Institute for Musical Criticism, helping generate some $40 million in donations for construction, project and program support. On behalf of Oberlin Conservatory, Stull accepted the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2010.

by Daniel Hathaway

Fresh fromSHRADER-Alek critically acclaimed performances at the Met and Hamburg Opera, tenor Alek Shrader will return to the Oberlin Conservatory, where he graduated in 2007, for a recital with pianist Keun-A Lee on Friday, March 1 at 8:00 pm in Warner Concert Hall. That performance coincidentally ushers in ten days’ worth of performances by esteemed singers: soprano Jane Eaglen sings Wagner with the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra on Saturday, March 2, baritones Thomas Hampson and Edwin Crossley-Mercer go head to head in separate recitals at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron and Baldwin Wallace in Berea on Sunday afternoon, March 3, and soprano Christine Brewer sings on the Mixon Masters Series at CIM on Thursday, March 7, followed by soprano Deborah Voigt on the Oberlin Artist Recital Series on Sunday, March 10.

We last spoke to Alek Shrader in 2009, when he sang Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville with the now-defunct Opera Cleveland (download that article here). “Since then, I’ve worked a lot in Europe”, Shrader told us by telephone, “in Munich and Bordeaux — the majority of my European gigs have been there — and I’ve also worked a few other places: in France in Lille and Toulouse, in England at Glyndebourne, in Germany in Hamburg. But the thing I really consider the high point has been my return to the United States when I sang in Chicago, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and then in New York with the Met. I made my Met debut last season in The Tempest by Thomas Adès. I’ve hit most of the major houses, and that was always the goal for my career — to work in the States.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Alison Kozol

Alison Kozol participated in the Oberlin Winter Term class in Digital Musical Journalism co-sponsored by and team-taught by CC correspondent and Oberlin English professor Nicholas Jones and CC staffers Mike Telin and Daniel Hathaway. Here, Ms. Kozol writes about the Thursday, February 3 opening performance of one of the two Winter Term operas, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

A massive, beautiful paper-mache tree stood by itself in the corner of Finney Chapel’s stage last night as one of the few props used in Oberlin College’s production of The Turn of The Screw. The set design was sparse, but, like the tree, the cast and orchestra used minimalism to their advantage. Relying more on polished technique than ornamentation, The Turn of the Screw captivated its small audience by creating an eerie atmosphere that accurately captured the spirit of the story.

Such an eerie atmosphere is necessary for an opera like The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of Henry James’ novella of the same name. The story follows the unnamed Governess throughout her experience with the Bly mansion, a sprawling home teeming with ghosts, and Sara Casey, a fifth-year at Oberlin, did the character justice. Her transition from cheerful to weary to terrified set the tone for the entire performance, and her voice was flawless as it mimicked her tumultuous mood. Perhaps the most spell-binding moments, however, were when she was most flabbergasted by the supernatural around her and instead of singing, whimpered her disbelief. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin Winners

An earlier group of winners

This Thursday afternoon, more than forty young pianists from seven countries will arrive in Oberlin to compete in a new and much enhanced version of the Oberlin International Piano Competition. Launched in 1995 by Oberlin Conservatory piano professor Robert Shannon, that competition for 13-18 year old pianists continued annually through 2008, when Warner Concert Hall was closed for renovations.

Reborn in 2010 as the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, the contest will now alternate each year between pianists and violinists, with pianists up in 2010 and violinists in 2011. Cash prizes of more than $20,000 and Oberlin scholarships will be distributed among the winners, and the first prize winner will have the opportunity to perform with professional orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai. And in another big leap forward for its inaugural year, the Competition has made arrangements for the three finalists to play their concertos in Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra under Jahja Ling.

We spoke with Robert Shannon by phone in his office at the Oberlin Conservatory to ask how this all came about.

“Before 1995, we had had a summer piano festival that had no age requirements and no focus at all. You’d come and you’d take some lessons, and you’d go to a lecture or two. We had lawyers from San Francisco who had never played the piano before! We wanted to upgrade this, and establish an age group of 13-18 — which is of course the group of people we either want to get excited about Oberlin or recruit from. There are many youth competitions now, but in 1995 that wasn’t really true. We thought we could combine having a competition with more educational programs so people would come here for a about a week and nobody would really lose because they could all learn something while they were here. That’s always been my dream”.
Read the rest of this entry »

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