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by Robert Rollin

CHANG-AngelinLast Sunday afternoon the Suburban Symphony presented an interesting “All Russian Program” at the University School Shaker Campus’s Conway Hall, an acoustically effective six hundred seat auditorium. The highlight was an excellent performance of the rarely heard Shostakovich Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, Opus 35 with Angelin Chang as piano soloist. Chang chairs the Keyboard Department at Cleveland State University. The unusual instrumentation made for a transparent orchestral texture that combined well with Chang’s wonderful musical exuberance and skill.

Shostakovich wrote this humorous and witty piece at age twenty-seven, premiering the piano part himself, accompanied by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. The Concerto precipitated the composer’s first difficulties with Stalin that were to trouble him for many years, though the piece’s tongue-in-cheek character, similar to that of his Tahiti Trot, composed four years earlier, makes Stalin’s distaste all the more incomprehensible.

Chang’s alert and intense performance of the opening Allegretto fairly sparkled and seemed to sweep up the orchestra in her wake. Read the rest of this entry »

 by Daniel Hathaway

Martin Kesslerkesslerphoto will conduct the Suburban Symphony Orchestra in a special Severance Hall concert on Sunday, November 18 at 4:00 pm based around Robert S. Cohen and Herschel Garfein’s Alzheimer’s Stories. The performance is a benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cleveland and the University Hospitals Neurological Institute. How Cohen and Garfein’s piece came to be written and how it came to be performed in Cleveland are interesting narratives of their own.

An anonymous member of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley Chorale made a donation in 2007 toward commissioning a piece dealing with Alzheimer’s disease in honor of his parents, who had both died of that irreversible neurological condition. A blog was set up in cooperation with Garfein (the librettist for Elmer Gantry and Rosenkranz and Guildenstern are Dead) to collect stories from chorus and community members who had dealt with the disease. The work was premiered in October, 2009 at the Weis Center at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, along with works by Cohen’s teacher, Ron Nelson, and was recorded for radio and television by PBS. (Read the libretto and listen to excerpts here). Read the rest of this entry »

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