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by Carlyn Kessler, Special Contributor

TCO-Mahalls-1On Friday night, May 23, a quartet of Cleveland Orchestra musicians — Isabel Trautwein and Katherine Bormann, violins, Sonja Braaten Molloy, viola, and Tanya Ell, cello — performed at Mahall’s, a combination restaurant, bar, and vintage bowling alley with a friendly, Brooklyn-esque atmosphere.

Seated in the open concert venue, audience members of all ages enjoyed the quartet’s repertoire ranging from Brandenburg concertos to Mozart and even crowd-pleasing Beatles arrangements of Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby. The atmosphere was that of a casual summer concert — the room was filled with chairs, but passersby also enjoyed the music from the outside, leaning over the rails to catch a glimpse of the packed venue.

The four intrumentalists would intersperse their “sets” with comments, focusing on themes such as vibrato or repetition, with “pop quizzes.” (Watch a video clip here.) Read the rest of this entry »


by Guytano Parks

Omni-QuartetLorain County Community College’s Signature Series of 2013-14 ended on a brilliant note with a performance by the Omni Quartet on Monday evening, April 7. The quartet was established five years ago and is comprised of violinists Amy Lee and Alicia Koelz, violist Joanna Patterson Zakany and cellist Tanya Ell, all members of The Cleveland Orchestra. Their program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 2 in a, op. 13 and Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15 in a, op. 132.

Tanya Ell’s brief introductory commentary offered enlightening comparisons between the two works, and the musicians played excerpts to illustrate the similarities and influences, revealing Mendelssohn’s deep reverence for Beethoven and his fascination with the late a minor quartet. The title of his song Ist es wahr? (Is it true?, op. 9, no. 1) is written into the score and it forms the motif of the opening Adagio, appearing in all four movements. Similarly, Beethoven wrote the title of his song Muss es sein? (Must it be?) into the score of op, 132.

The Omni Quartet’s performance of Mendelssohn’s a minor Quartet (written during his teen years) was a model of perfection, teeming with flawless intonation, impeccable ensemble and interpretive taste and intelligence. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-30-AdamsFor the last of the eight concerts in its expanded second season, ChamberFest Cleveland moved from traditional concert halls (and a new art gallery) to our local urban version of a rustic summer New England venue, the Dunham Tavern’s barn on Euclid Avenue in midtown. The structure, built in 2000, replaced an 1840 horse and crop storage barn that was leveled by a fire in 1963. Though it looks rather modern and utilitarian from the outside, its wooden beams frame an interior space with warm acoustical properties.

There’s barely room to swing a viola there, much less accommodate a grand piano, so Mirrors was devoted to music by Purcell, Britten and Mendelssohn for three, four and five string players who stood (except for the cellists) to save room, optimize sight lines and broadcast the music over the heads of the capacity audience, who were packed into the space on folding chairs. The seating was uncomfortable and the temperature a bit on the warm side, but the afternoon was otherwise completely delightful, with the bonus of free ice cream outside afterward. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-29ChamberFest Cleveland continued to pack ’em in on Friday evening at CIM’s Mixon Hall, when an enthusiastic, capacity crowd gathered for a program entitled Riot [Like It’s 1913]. It wasn’t 1913 until the second half and even then the closest thing to a popular uprising was an immediate standing ovation, but the work that generated the theme of the evening was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Not the big one, but the composer’s rehearsal version for two pianos (played by Orion Weiss and Matan Porat), spiffed up for the occasion with percussion parts arranged by Scott Christian and Alexander Cohen (who played them) and Diana Cohen (who rooted from the audience).

Stravinsky’s orchestration is rich with color and vibrant with rhythm. The two-piano version necessarily sheds a lot of symphonic hues (something that’s obvious from the opening bars, when that strained high bassoon solo gets translated to the keyboard), but the visceral quality of the composer’s groundbreaking rhythms only becomes enhanced on the piano. Add to that five timpani, bass drum, cymbals, gongs and other instruments culled from the orchestral batterie, and the effect is super-thrilling. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Omni-QuartetNote: this concert was cancelled due to weather conditions and has been rescheduled with revised repertory for Tuesday, July 23 (see the concert listings for details).

We continue our coverage of the Kent/Blossom Music Festival with an enlightening conversation with violinist and faculty member Jung-Min Amy Lee. Lee joined The Cleveland Orchestra as associate concertmaster in March 2008 and has served on the Kent/Blossom Faculty since that same summer.

On Wednesday, July 10 beginning at 7:30 pm in Ludwig Recital Hall, Amy Lee (left in photo) will join her Cleveland Orchestra colleagues and Omni Quartet members violinist Alicia Koelz, violist Joanna Patterson, and cellist Tanya Ell for a performance of Bartok’s 3rd String Quartet and Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello. The program also includes Ligeti’s Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano featuring Cleveland Orchestra principal horn Richard King and pianist Randall Fusco.

For Amy Lee, teaching is all about the passing down of traditions. “I think the real beauty of [teaching] is that you take the traditions from the past, preserve them and hopefully better them, and hand them down to the younger generation.” Beginning in the fall, Lee will have the opportunity to pass down musical traditions more when she becomes part of a new faculty ensemble at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University. Read the rest of this entry »

Photograph by Roger Mastroianni

by Mike Telin

On Sunday, November 29, the Cleveland Orchestra presented the first of three events in its new ‘Musically Speaking’ series, an initiative designed to bring Severance Hall audiences closer to the music and the musicians.

The afternoons begin with a 40-minute chamber music concert in Reinberger Hall, followed by a 3:00 multimedia exploration of the orchestral work of the day (this afternoon, Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony) using a narrator, actors, projected visuals and live excerpts played by the orchestra. After intermission, the work is played in its entirety, followed by a question and answer period.

The central format of the first two ‘Musically Speaking’ events  derives from the Chicago Symphony’s ‘Beyond the Score’ series, which, as in this case, is franchised to other orchestral organizations. I experienced the CSO’s version of the Dvorak afternoon at the League of American Orchestras conference in Chicago last summer, so it was interesting to be able to compare the two throughout the afternoon.

Read the rest of this entry »

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