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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
1356 Entries

My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of violist Molly Sharp and pianist Charles Staples, performing in the Richmond Symphony Summer Series at Dominion Arts Center:

2 months ago | |
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Marni Nixon, the famed Hollywood “ghost” voice whose singing was dubbed into the soundtracks of film musicals for stars such as Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” has died
at 86.

Nixon, whose film work financed her voice studies, performed extensively in classical repertory. One of her early engagements, in 1947, was as the soprano soloist in Orff’s “Carmina burana” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leopold Stokowski conducting. She subsequently built a reputation for interpreting the vocal works of modern and contemporary composers.

Later in life, Nixon sang her former ghost roles on concert tours and in theatrical productions, notably a 1964 run of “My Fair Lady” in New York.

An obituary by The New York Times’ Margalit Fox:

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Gregg Smith, whose Gregg Smith Singers, organized in 1955, were among the first fully professional choruses in the US, has died at 84.

Smith was a leading advocate of modern and contemporary choral music, long associated with Igor Stravinsky, as well as American vocal music from Colonial times to the present. Smith added to that literature copiously, composing hundreds of pieces.

An obituary by William Grimes for The New York Times:

3 months ago | |
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The late Marjorie S. Fisher, who with her husband, Max, and other relatives gave the Detroit Symphony Orchestra more than $25 million over the years – the city’s symphony hall is named for them – added another $390,000 in her will: $5,000 for each of the 78 members of the orchestra.

The orchestra’s president, Anne Parsons, “said she has never heard of a donor bequest quite like Fisher’s,” Mark Stryker reports in the Detroit Free Press:


Actually, there is a precedent – sort of. In 2001, an anonymous donor gave the Richmond Symphony about $1.5 million to finance retirement buyouts for senior musicians. Twenty-four symphony players – one-third of the orchestra’s roster, including the concertmaster and several other principals – accepted the offer.

One of the successors to those departed Richmond principals, clarinetist Ralph Skiano, who left Richmond in 2014 to become the Detroit Symphony’s principal clarinetist, is one of the beneficiaries of Fisher’s parting gift.
3 months ago | |
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Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra Pops will accompany a video montage of Washington’s favorite mini-series, Neflix’s “House of Cards,” at 8 p.m. July 14 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Jeff Beal will conduct the orchestra in an 80-minute arrangement of the soundtrack music that he composed for the series.

Tickets are $19-$64.

Details: (800) 444-1324; http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/NQHOC
3 months ago | |
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Return engagements for the Takács Quartet, pianist Jeremy Denk and composer-pianist Philip Glass, and the local debut of the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, performing with the University of Richmond student ensemble Schola Cantorum, highlight classical offerings in the 2016-17 season of UR’s Modlin Arts Center.

The Takács will play an all-Beethoven program. Joined by four other pianists, including
Lisa Kaplan of eighth blackbird, UR’s resident new-music ensemble, Glass will present his complete etudes for piano in one of the events celebrating the composer’s 80th birthday year. Denk’s program will be announced later.

In its single ticketed UR appearance in 2016-17,
eighth blackbird will perform with singer-songwriter
Will Oldham at the Virginia Museum
of Fine Arts.
The sextet, in residence at UR since 2004, also will participate in the university’s Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival, a two-day event in the fall that is open without admission charge.

The Shanghai Quartet, a fixture of Modlin Center programming since the complex opened in 1996 (and of classical music in Richmond since the foursome launched a UR residency in 1989), will return to play works of Chinese and Chinese-American composers with Wu Han, the reigning virtuoso of the pipa,
the Chinese lute.

Also returning is the Catalyst Quartet, joining the Sphinx Virtuosi in a program surveying works by modern and contemporary Latino composers. Both ensembles are affiliated with the Sphinx Organization, which promotes inclusion of racial and ethnic minority musicians in classical performance. (UR President Ronald Crutcher is a member of the organization’s national advisory board.)

The Modlin Center’s 20th anniversary season also will feature “A Celebration of Women in Dance,” in which dancer Wendy Whelan and dancer-choreographer Brian Brooks perform with Brooklyn Rider, the string quartet specializing in contemporary music. The production is co-commissioned by the Modlin Center with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, The Joyce Theater and the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

Among free concerts presented by the UR Music Department are a duo recital by cellist Ronald Crutcher and pianist Joanne Kong, solo recitals by pianists Paul Hanson and Richard Becker and organist Bruce Stevens, a program by the UR Schola Cantorum and Women’s Chorale commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály, and a performance by the Richmond Piano Trio, in which pianist Kong is joined by Richmond Symphony concertmaster Daisuke Yamamoto and Neal Cary, principal cellist of the orchestra.

Other attractions in the 2016-17 Modlin Center season include the Martha Graham Dance Company, jazz song stylist Dianne Reeves, singer-songwriters Josh Ritter and Richard Thompson, L.A. Theatre Works in Abby Mann’s “Judgment at Nuremburg,” comedian Paula Poundstone, the Japanese drum and dance troupe KODO, and the Irish folk band The Gloaming.

Subscribers to four or more events receive a 20 percent discount on ticket prices.

For the full roster of the Modlin 2016-17 season, visit http://modlin.richmond.edu

To obtain a season brochure and ticket information, call the center’s box office at (804) 289-8980.

* * * 

Ticketed classical programs (all at 7:30 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall unless listed otherwise), with adult single-ticket prices:

Oct. 16 – Sphinx Virtuosi with Catalyst Quartet. “Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos.” Piazzolla: “Libertango,” “La Muerte del Ange;” Williams: “Primera Suite Argentina;” Alvarez: “Metro Chaberanzo;” Espejo: “Prelude Iberique;” Villa-Lobos: “Bachianas Brasileras” No. 5; Golijov: “Last Round;” Ginastera: Concerto, Op. 33, for strings. $38.

Nov. 10 – Roomful of Teeth with UR Schola Cantorum. Merrill Garbus: “Quizassa;” Eric Dudley: “Suonare;” Caroline Shaw: Partita for 8 voices; other works TBA. $38.

Jan. 21 – Jeremy Denk piano. Program TBA. $40.

Feb. 4 – Philip Glass, Maki Namekawa, Aaron Diehl, Timo Andres, Lisa Kaplan, piano. Glass: complete piano etudes. $50.

Feb. 19 – Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man, pipa.
Yi-Wen Jiang: “China Song” (selections); Zhou Long: “Song of the Ch’in;” Zhao Lin: “Red Lantern;” Tan Dun: Concerto for pipa and string quartet. $36.

March 15-16 (Jepson Theatre) – Wendy Whelan, dancer; Brian Brooks, dancer-choreographer; Brooklyn Rider. Choreography of works by John Luther Adams, Tyondai Braxton, Philip Glass, Evan Ziporyn, Colin Jacobsen. $40.

March 29 (Cheek Theatre, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) – eighth blackbird with Will Oldham, singer-songwriter. Frederic Rzewski: Come Together;” David Lang: “learn to fly;” Oldham: songs TBA. $28.

April 20 – Takács Quartet. Beethoven: Quartet in B flat major, Op. 18, No. 6; Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 (“Razumovsky”); Quartet in A minor, Op. 135. $38.

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Free classical concerts presented by the UR Music Department (all at 7:30 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall unless listed otherwise):

Sept. 14 – Richmond Piano Trio (Daisuke Yamamoto, violin; Neal Cary, cello; Joanne Kong, piano). Works TBA by Beethoven, Boccherini, Ravel.

Oct. 26 – Paul Hanson, piano. Works TBA by Debussy, Messiaen, Boulez.

Oct. 30 (3 p.m.) – UR Schola Cantorum &
Women’s Chorale, Jeffrey Riehl & David Pedersen directing. Program TBA.

Nov. 4-5 (various times) Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival. eighth blackbird; other performers TBA. programs TBA.

Nov. 13 – UR Wind Ensemble, David Niethamer & Julie Giroux directing. Gordon Jacobs: “William Byrd Suite;” Giroux: works TBA; other works TBA.

Nov. 28 – UR Chamber Ensemble. Program TBA.

Nov. 30 – UR Symphony, Alexander Kordzaia conducting. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor (first movement) (Grace Chang, piano); Gounod: “Romeo et Juliette” – “Je veux vivre” (Victoria Provost, soprano); Sibelius: “Finlandia;” Mozart: “Cosí fan tutte” Overture.

Dec. 4 (5 and 8 p.m., Cannon Memorial Chapel) – 
UR Schola Cantorum & Women’s Chorale, Jeffrey Riehl & David Pedersen directing. 43rd annual Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Feb. 5 (3 p.m.) – Richard Becker, piano. Works TBA by Chopin, Becker, others.

March 19 (3 p.m.) – Richard Becker & Doris Wylee-Becker, pianos. Program TBA.

March 22 – Ronald Crutcher, cello; Joanne Kong, piano. Schumann: “Fantasiestücke;” Brahms: Sonata in E minor, Op. 38; Debussy: Cello Sonata; Alvin Singleton: “Argoru II.”

March 27 – UR Wind Ensemble, David Niethamer directing. Program TBA.

April 3 (Cannon Memorial Chapel) – Bruce Stevens, organ. Program TBA.

April 5 – UR Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Kordzaia conducting. Allen Wittig: “In Tribute;” Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (“Organ”) (organist TBA).

April 9 (3 p.m.) – UR Schola Cantorum & Women’s Chorale, Jeffrey Riehl & David Pedersen directing. Kodály: works TBA; other works TBA.

April 17 – UR Chamber Ensemble. Program TBA.
3 months ago | |
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Steinway, the venerable piano maker whose sales have been sluggish since the economic crash of
2008-09, looks to China to revive its fortunes.

Tapping burgeoning interest in the piano among the Chinese, the firm saw its sales there rise “more than 15 percent a year over the last decade, far outpacing the single-digit growth of the United States and Europe. China is now Steinway’s largest market for pianos outside the United States, representing about one-third of global sales,” Javier C. Hernández reports in The New York Times:

3 months ago | |
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My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of cellist Ronald Crutcher and pianist Joanne Kong, performing in the opening concert of the Richmond Symphony Summer Series at Dominion Arts Center:

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Carly Carioli, writing for the Boston Globe, recalls Igor Stravinsky’s World War II-vintage arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a modest re-harmonization that the composer thought would make the anthem easier to sing but was denounced by some as “subversive.”

At a 1944 concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Carioli writes, police “were apparently ready to arrest Stravinsky on the spot if the conductor attempted to perform his version of the anthem. ‘Let him change it just once,’ one reporter quoted [Radical Squad Captain Thomas J.] Harvey as saying, ‘and we’ll grab him.’ ”


(via http://www.artsjournal.com)

Stravinsky’s version of the anthem is still rarely performed. The only times I’ve heard it live were at several Richmond Symphony concerts in the 1980s.

A performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting:


Contrast the troubled history of Stravinsky’s “Star-Spangled Banner” with that of Benjamin Britten’s 1961 arrangement of “God Save the Queen,” the British national anthem, lauded by Queen Elizabeth II:

3 months ago | |
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Ronald Crutcher, who doubles as a cellist and academic administrator – for the past year, president of the University of Richmond – prepares for his local public debut as a performer, playing Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor and Glazunov’s Élégie with pianist Joanne Kong in the opening program of the Richmond Symphony Summer Series at Dominion Arts Center.

The originally scheduled July 7 date quickly sold out, so
a July 6 performance was added. That, too, promptly sold out. “That’s never happened to me before,” Crutcher tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Zachary Reid:

3 months ago | |
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