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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
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Erin R. Freeman, director of the Richmond Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic choruses and director of choral activities at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been selected as the next artistic director of Wintergreen Performing Arts, which presents a summer music festival and other performances at the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County.

Freeman succeeds Larry Alan Smith, who will step down as of Oct. 1 to return to composing and pursue other musical activities. Smith has been Wintergreen Performing Arts’ artistic and executive director since 2006.

Freeman “brings a level of energy, a breadth of musical experience and a love of performing arts that will surely enrich the audience experience for all of us,” Tom Steele, president of Wintergreen Performing Arts’ board, said in a prepared statement.

In addition to the music festival, Freeman will take charge of the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy instructional program, and help organize other performing-arts events at the resort year-round.

Wintergreen Performing Arts, founded in 1995, has staged its four-week summer music festival since 1997. The 2015 festival runs from July 6 to Aug. 2.

For details, visit www.wintergreenperformingarts.org
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The Castleton Festival, the summer music festival launched by the late conductor Lorin Maazel at his estate in Rappahannock County in the northwestern Virginia highlands, will add jazz education and programming next summer, with the launching of a new Jazz at Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Academy.

The academy, planning for which began earlier this year when Maazel met with Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, will offer rigorous instruction from members of the New York-based jazz orchestra for 42 high-school-age students (grades 9-12) from around the world.

“It has long been our vision for Castleton to evolve for the shared joy and benefit of young performers and Virginia’s arts community, so it is a special honor to share the Castleton spirit with young people focused on jazz through the work of Wynton Marsalis, an artist whom my husband regarded with such an admiration and affection,” Dietlinde Turban Maazel, the conductor’s widow and successor as artistic director of the Castleton Festival, said a prepared statement. “When we heard [Marsalis] was looking for a location for his summer program, we knew it had to be at Castleton.”

The jazz academy will extend by two weeks the 2015 season of the Castleton Festival. Its opera, orchestral and chamber-music performances will run from June 27 to July 19; jazz concerts will be presented through Aug. 2.

Programming for the 2015 season will be announced early next year.

For more information about the festival, visit its website: www.castletonfestival.org
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The Metropolitan Opera has reached a tentative deal with the unions representing its orchestral musicians, choristers and stage managers, averting a threatened lockout by management that would have endangered the coming season.

The New York Times’ Michael Cooper reports:

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Licia Albanese, one of the most celebrated 20th-century interpreters of Cio-Cio San, the heroine of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” has died at the age of 105. Albanese was mainstay in that and other Puccini roles at the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1966, during which she performed more than 400 times.

She also was famed for singing Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata,” a role she essayed a record 90 times at the Met.

In 1974, she and her husband, Joseph A. Gimma, founded the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, which assists young singers.

After the old Metropolitan Opera House was torn down in 1966, “Miss Albanese could be seen on some fine days standing amid the rubble, dressed, as if in mourning weeds, in her Butterfly kimono,” Margalit Fox writes in an obituary for The New York Times:

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Frans Brüggen, the Dutch flutist-recorder player and conductor who was one of the singular figures in the historically informed, period-instruments movement, has died at 79 after years of poor health.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Brüggen was a leading revivalist of the recorder in baroque repertory, and a frequent collaborator with the likes of Gustav Leonhardt and Nikolaus Harnoncourt in pioneering recordings of early music.

In 1981, Brüggen co-founded the Orchestra of the 18th Century, and led the ensemble in numerous performances and memorable recordings, notably of the Haydn and Beethoven symphonies and choral and orchestral works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

An obituary in The Guardian:

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Aug. 14
noon-4 p.m. EDT
1600-2000 UTC
1700-2100 GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Mendelssohn: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Overture
Orchestre de Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi France)

Past Masters:
Haydn: Quartet in D major, Op. 20, No. 4
Pro Arte Quartet (Classica d’Oro)
(recorded 1935)

Peter Schickele:
“A Year in the Catskills”
Blair Woodwind Quintet (Naxos)

Rachmaninoff: “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”
Bella Davidovich, piano
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Neeme Järvi (Philips)

Poulenc: “Les Biches”
Ambrosian Singers; Philharmonia Orchestra/Georges Prêtre (EMI Classics)

Liszt: “Les Années de Pèlerinage: la Suisse” – “Vallée d’Obermann”
Carole Carniel, piano
(1840 Érard)

Beethoven: Sonata in A major, Op. 69
Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Emanuel Ax, piano
(Sony Classical)

Dvorák: Romance in F minor, Op. 11
Josef Suk, violin
Czech Philharmonic/Václav Neumann (Supraphon)

Mozart: Symphony No. 23 in D major, K. 181
Geneva Chamber Orchestra/David Greilsammer
(Sony Classical)

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5
in D major
London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn (RCA Victor)

Past Masters:
J.S. Bach: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”
(arranged by Myra Hess)
Myra Hess, piano (EMI Classics)
(recorded 1957)
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Aug. 10, Bon Air Presbyterian Church

Want to make even a sophisticated music lover flunk a blindfold test? Play Giuseppe Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor, and ask the identity of the composer. Subjected to the test myself, I would probably guess Bedrich Smetana or some more obscure mid- to late-romantic Slav. The piece bears little or no resemblance to the operatic Verdi, although several of its themes were lifted from his operas.

The quartet, written in 1872 as Verdi was marooned in a Naples hotel while rehearsals for “Aïda” were delayed by a singer’s illness, is the only significant instrumental work by the composer to have survived; but it remained a rarity until last year’s Verdi bicentennial. I’ve heard it played no less than three times in the past 18 months.

The latest performance, by violinists Catherine Cary and Susy Yim, violist Stephen Schmidt and cellist Neal Cary in the Richmond Chamber Players’ second Interlude series concert of this season, was in some ways the most convincing. The ensemble sounded warm and highly expressive – cellist Cary especially so in his solo in the trio of the third movement; and treated the most impressive part of the piece, the fugal scherzo opening the final movement, to a detailed and finely balanced reading.

Similar qualities came through in the “Rustiques” Wind Trio by Joseph Canteloube, the French composer best-known as the arranger-orchestrator of “Songs of the Auvergne.” Like the song cycle, the trio is rooted in French folk music; but its more animated sections recall in insouciant neo-classical Parisian style of Les Six in the 1920s.

Oboist Gustav Highstein, clarinetist Jared Davis and bassoonist Michael Gordon played the Canteloube, which Davis termed a “French morsel,” with affectionate treatment of its lyrical themes – Gordon melodized in the central rêverie to fine effect – and a gratifying tartness in its more urbane, modernist harmonies.

Davis, the new principal clarinetist of the Richmond Symphony, also was featured in an Adagio in D flat major for clarinet and string quartet that has been credited to the young Richard Wagner, but was probably the work of Heinrich Baermann, an influential German clarinetist of the early 19th century. The clarinetist treated this short air to a mellow reading of great tonal refinement.

Cellist Cary and pianist John Walter opened the program with its only even vaguely familiar entry, the “Twelve Variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ from Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ ” by the young Beethoven. The piano is the dominant voice of the duo in most of the variations, and Walter played with a tone of animated whimsy well-suited to Papageno, the love-struck comic character who sings the aria in “The Magic Flute.” Cary seconded Walter stylistically in his more limited contributions to the set.

The Richmond Chamber Players’ Interlude series continues with concerts at 3 p.m. Aug. 17 and 24 at Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road. Tickets: 20. Details: (804) 217-7205; www.richmondchamberplayers.org
2 months ago | |
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Ralph Skiano, the Richmond Symphony’s principal clarinetist since 2002, has joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as its principal clarinetist.

Jared Davis, who has been assistant principal and E flat clarinetist of the Richmond Symphony since 2004, succeeds Skiano in the first chair.

Skiano, a native of Alexandria and graduate of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, has performed as a soloist several times with the Richmond Symphony, as well as playing as guest soloist with other orchestras.

He has been active in chamber music in the mid-Atlantic region, performing with the Richmond-based Atlantic Chamber Ensemble and the Washington-based Fessenden Chamber Ensemble. He also served as principal clarinet of the Des Moines Opera, and performed in a number of summer music festivals.

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Writing for The New York Times Magazine, Monte Reel profiles the world’s most prodigious record collector, Zero Freitas, a Brazilian businessman who, Reel writes, is “driven to get his hands on all the records in the world.”

Freitas has amassed a collection of several million vinyl discs – he’s not sure of the exact number – and continues to acquire them in batches of dozens, hundreds and thousands, much more than his cataloguing staff can keep up with:

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Charles West, clarinet
Yin Zheng & Xi Zhang, piano
Aug. 7, Richmond CenterStage

Clarinetist Charles West and pianist Yin Zheng are colleagues in the Virginia Commonwealth University music department and regular collaborators in chamber performances. Their performance of Brahms’ Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, in the latest Summer at CenterStage recital reflected their familiarity with each other’s musicianship.

Unfortunately, the reading was brisk, almost to the point of sounding brusque. Stylishness and efficiency too often trumped depth of expression. Balances also proved uneven, with one or the other instrument suddenly surging into the foreground, then receding.

The acoustics of Richmond CenterStage’s Gottwald Playhouse may have been a factor. Wind instruments have a tendency to glare in the space; big chords and heavy accents on the piano similarly sound oversized.

Zheng’s performance of Brahms’ Op. 118 set of six piano pieces had some comparable sonic issues, especially at high volume and intensity – as in, for example, the opening of the Ballade in G minor. Her playing in the great Intermezzo in A major and the Romance in F major, pieces of less extroverted expression, made a better impression.

Some of her phrasing and handling of dynamics came close to being too mannered, but never quite crossed the line. Her subtle colorations in the concluding Intermezzo in E flat minor made one wonder how she would treat impressionistic scores – Ravel, say, or the Études-tableaux of Rachmaninoff.

The Chinese pianist Xi Zhang joined Zheng in three of the better-known Slavonic dances of Dvorák, Op. 46, Nos. 2 and 8 and Op. 72, No. 2, in the original piano four-hands versions. Their performances were bright, energetic and colorful, although generally primary colored.

Summer at CenterStage’s Aug. 14 program, by violinist Jocelyn Vorenberg and pianist David Fisk, is sold out, although some seats may become available. That, and programs on Aug. 21 and 28, begin at 6:30 p.m. in Gottwald Playhouse of Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $20. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); www.richmondsymphony.com
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