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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 Guytano Parks

Miami-SQ-Spencer-MyerThe Kent/Blossom Music Festival 2013 Concert Series opened its 46th Season with a pair of concerts featuring guest pianist Spencer Myer: on Wednesday, June 26 with the Miami String Quartet and on Saturday, June 29 with David Shifrin, clarinet and first Kulas Guest Artist. Both performances were well attended with enthusiastic, near-capacity audiences in Kent State University’s Ludwig Recital Hall.

In residence at KSU’s Glauser School of Music since 2004, the Miami String Quartet — Benny Kim and Cathy Meng Robinson, violin; Scott Lee, viola and Keith Robinson, cello — began with a profound performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in f, Op. 95 “Serioso” which was notable for its contrasts between the rhythmically aggressive and the lyrical. A remarkable degree of tonal variety and color was achieved by each member of the quartet, adding much to their expressive delivery. The players dug into the opening Allegro con brio movement with a great sense of balance and control, making the most of Beethoven’s subito shifts in dynamics and mood and punctuating accents. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Shifrin-DavidClarinetist David Shifrin holds the distinction of being one of only two wind players to have been awarded the Avery Fisher Prize since the award’s inception in 1974. As a recitalist, Shifrin has performed in distinguished venues throughout the world, and as a chamber musician he has collaborated with the Guarneri, Tokyo, and Emerson String Quartets, Wynton Marsalis, Emanuel Ax and André Watts. Shifrin has been an artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 1989, and served as its artistic director from 1992 to 2004. As a teacher he has served on the faculties of the Juilliard School, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He currently teaches at the Yale School of Music, a position he has held since 1987.

In addition to his Avery Fisher Prize, Shifrin has also received a Solo Recitalists’ Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the 1998 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Music Academy of the West. At the outset of his career, he won the top prize at both the Munich and the Geneva International Competitions. Most importantly, David Shifrin was a student at the Kent/Blossom Festival in 1970 and served on the festival’s faculty from 1974 to 1976. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

ARONSON-LevLev Aronson was a Latvian cellist who managed during the Nazi regime to survive slave labor, the confiscation of his instruments and internment in the concentration camp at Stutthof. After being rescued by the Soviets, he was re-imprisoned, miraculously escaped and made his way to the American Zone. After the War, he became principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony and, as a celebrated teacher, profoundly influenced a number of young cellists including Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirchbaum and Brian Thornton. He died in 1988 (The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson, a book about his life by Frances Brent, was published in 2009).

Thornton, a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, has launched a project to honor Lev Aronson’s legacy with an annual festival at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, set to launch on June 10, a CD to be released today, May 29, and a forthcoming series of concerts in temples and synagogues.

The CD, Kol Nidrei & Beyond: Lev’s Story is an evocative, living memorial to a great cellist told through wordless songs: original music by Max Bruch (his setting of Kol Nidrei), Sergei Rachmaninoff (Vocalise) and Ernest Bloch (Prayer from Jewish Life, No. 1), Yuriy Leonovich’s Fantasie on Themes from Dvorak’s ‘Rusalka’, four of Aronson’s arrangements (a Hassidic dance, Ansky’s Mipnei ma, Bloch’s Abodah and Lavry’s Kinereth), and Patrick Zimmerli’s five-movement Sonata “Kol Nidrei” for solo cello which Thornton commissioned especially for the project. Spencer Myer is the excellent pianist. Read the rest of this entry »

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