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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
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Janna Hymes, music director of the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, has been named music director of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, an Indiana ensemble of professional and volunteer musicians. She was among 130 applicants for the job.

Hymes, who has led the Williamsburg orchestra since 2004, also is music director of the Maine Pro Musica Orchestra, which she founded in 2008. She formerly was music director of the Maine Grand Opera, associate conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and resident conductor of the Charlotte Symphony.

As she takes over in Canton, Hymes will continue in her Williamsburg and Maine posts. Last year she renewed her contract in Williamsburg through the 2018-19 season, the orchestra’s 35th. A number of the Williamsburg Symphony’s musicians also are members of the Richmond Symphony.
4 months ago |
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My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of the Richmond Symphony’s final Masterworks series concert of the season, a program of Brahms, Elgar and John Knowles Paine with cellist Gary Hoffman as guest soloist:

http://www.richmond.com/entertainment/music/music-review-in-masterworks-finale-richmond-symphony-gives-the-brahms/article_c822596a-1745-5b9a-b238-590d61719001.html
4 months ago |
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During the University of Richmond’s summer break, WDCE-FM has some spare air, two hours of which I propose to fill with a different take on classical radio programming – some contemporary or “alt-classical” pieces, some early music, some folk and traditional music, some music that defies classification. This evening we’ll see how it works. After that . . .
stay tuned.

May 14
7-9 p.m. EDT
2300-0100 GMT/UTC
WDCE-FM, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
http://www.wdce.org

A. Marcus Cagle: “Soar Away”
Word of Mouth Chorus
(Nonesuch)

Caroline Shaw:
“Partita for 8 Voices”
Roomful of Teeth
(New Amsterdam)

Elder Duncan Dumas: “White”
Word of Mouth Chorus
(Nonesuch)

anon.:“My heartly service”
Custer LaRue, vocalist
Baltimore Consort
(Dorian)

Bryce Dessner:
“Murder Ballades”
eighth blackbird
(Çedille)

Tomaso Antonio Vitali: Chaconne in G minor
Jessica Lee, violin
Reiko Uchida, piano
(Azica)

Antonio Bertali: Sonata à 3
Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/
Jan Willem de Vriend
(Challenge Classics)

Arcangelo Corelli:
Sonata in D minor,
Op. 5, No. 12 (“Follia”)
– Adagio
“Folia Variations” for solo harp
2 improvisations
on the Folia bass
Stephen Stubbs,
baroque guitar & chittarone
Milos Valent, violin
Erin Headley, viola da gamba
Maxine Eilander, harp
(ECM)

traditional:
“My Johnny Was a Shoemaker”
“Westron Wynde”
“Scarborough Fair”
John Renbourn, guitar
Don Harper, viola
Tony Roberts, flute
(Transatlantic)

Moondog (Louis Hardin): “Gygg”
Moondog & ensemble
(Roof Records)
4 months ago |
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One of the standard-issue explanations for the decline/impending doom of classical music is that in recent generations attention spans and tolerance for complexity have been in decline, and have fallen off the cliff among young people (not to mention, ahem, some adults) in the 140-character age of social media.

Alan Davey, controller (i.e., general manager) of BBC3, the network’s classical radio service, begs to differ:

“Young people’s brains aren’t experiencing a backward evolution. Their ability to articulate points of rhythm, melody and the flow of words in musical genres they have made or developed themselves prove that, as human beings, our urge for musical expression and facility lies deep. Young people are not afraid of things that need to be worked through. Complexity, curiosity and adventure is the new counter-culture,” Davey writes for The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/may/08/dont-apologise-for-classical-music-complexity-alan-davey-radio-3

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

After three years working among college students at WDCE-FM, the University of Richmond’s radio station, and sampling what this admittedly high-end slice of the under-25 population listens to, I agree with Davey, but with reservations and qualifiers – some of which he implicitly acknowledges in the examples he uses to support his argument.

Young people are not alienated by classical music – the very young, in fact, are as receptive to it as to any other music, as their tastes have not been overly affected by peer pressure and commercial signals.

Many young adults, I’ve found, have a good deal of curiosity about this genre, but their curiosity doesn’t lead them along the traditional music-appreciation path. Many start with a contemporary composer, contemporary specialty ensemble or rock musician influenced by classical music, and listen their way “backward” into the standard repertory – Reich to Bach, not the other way around.

As with most aspects of contemporary culture, context and branding counts for as much as content – arguably more. This is why so many classical musicians and presenters are staging concerts in nightclubs, brew-pubs and other settings in which younger audiences feel more at home than they would sitting silently in the dark in a concert hall. And performers are tailoring what and how they perform to these new venues.

For years I’ve observed, here and elsewhere, that there’s really no telling anymore what people listen to. The old indices of listener preference – sales charts of recordings, ratings of radio stations, what record companies choose to release and promote – are increasingly irrelevant when more and more people program “their” music via services such as Spotify and websites such as YouTube, whose range of musical choices is more or less unlimited and often not neatly segmented by format.

It’s instructive to read the comments on any given classical selection on YouTube. Like as not, they’ll range from “the definitive recording of this piece is from Sviatoslav Richter’s 1957 Prague recital” to
“THIS SONG ROCKS!!”

The younger you are, the more likely you are to be a grazing listener, sampling all kinds of music – including, yes, classical music.
4 months ago |
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The Richmond Symphony is one of 21 US orchestras to receive grants from the American Orchestras’ Future Fund, awarded by the League of American Orchestras with support from the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation.

The two-year grants to large and medium-sized orchestras mostly support educational programs and innovative efforts to attract new audiences and perform outside traditional concert spaces and formats.

The Richmond Symphony was awarded an $80,000 grant to support community outreach and audience-building initiatives, including its Big Tent outdoor concerts and VIBE after-school music program. The orchestra’s grant application also cited its Rush Hour casual mini-concerts at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Casual Fridays talks and performances at Dominion Arts Center.

The orchestras receiving funds “were chosen for their ability to influence a positive future for the art form. They are making significant and exciting investments in organizational learning and innovation,” Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, said in a statement announcing the grants.

David Fisk, the Richmond Symphony’s executive director, credited supporters of the initiatives for which it received the grant, including the City of Richmond, Richmond Public Schools, Hardywood, Bon Secours and other business, foundation and individual donors.

The $4.5 million American Orchestras’ Future Fund will make a second round of two-year grants next year.
4 months ago |
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May 10
noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
http://www.wdce.org

Sibelius: “Finlandia”
YL Male Voice Choir
Minnesota Orchestra/
Osmo Vänskä
(BIS)

Dvorák:
Serenade for strings
in E major, Op. 22
Appassionata/
Daniel Myssyk
(Fidelio)

Schumann:
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92
Jan Lisiecki, piano
Orchestra dell’Accademia
Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/
Antonio Pappano
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Stravinsky:
“Symphonies of
Wind Instruments”
Berlin Philharmonic/
Pierre Boulez
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Mozart:
Serenade in B flat major,
K. 361 (“Gran Partita”)
Zefiro
(Naïve)

Past Masters:
Schubert:
Sonata in A minor,
D. 821 (“Arpeggione”)
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Benjamin Britten, piano
(recorded 1968)
(Decca)

Napoléon Henri Reber: Symphony No. 4 in G major
Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/
Jeremie Rohrer
(Ambroisie/Naïve)
4 months ago |
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The Emerson String Quartet will open a pared-down season of four offerings in Virginia Commonwealth University’s 2017-18 Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concerts.

The Emerson, marking its 40th anniversary this year, will perform on Oct. 14.

Other artists booked for the coming season are Leon Fleischer, the eminent American pianist who will be celebrating his 90th birthday next year, and his wife and piano-duo partner, Katherine Jacobson, performing at VCU on Jan. 28; the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, appearing on Feb. 17 during its final US tour; and pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, whose trio marks its 40th anniversary in 2017, closing the 2017-18 Rennolds series on March 17.

Programs will be announced later.

All concerts will begin at 8 p.m. Saturdays, except for the Fleisher-Jacobson recital at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, in Vlahcevic Concert Hall of VCU’s Singleton Arts Center, Park Avenue at Harrison Street in Richmond’s Fan District.

Subscription ticket packages are $110 for adults, $90 for seniors, VCU employees and members of the VCU Alumni Association. Single tickets will be $35 for adults, $32 for seniors, VCU employees and Alumni Association members.

For ticket orders or more information, call the VCU Music Department box office at (804) 828-6776 or
e-mail musictix@vcu.edu
4 months ago |
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May 6, Virginia Commonwealth University

The finest string quartet I’ve heard in years played the most challenging of Beethoven’s quartets with near-perfect technique and extraordinary intensity in the season finale of VCU’s Rennolds Chamber Concerts.

The Miró Quartet – violinists Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violist John Largess and cellist Joshua Gindele – played Beethoven’s Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131, with a degree of concentration and expressive force that a listener would be lucky to experience once in a lifetime. This was the fifth time I’ve heard the piece performed live; none of the other four came remotely close to this.

What was so special about it?

Technically, the four musicians produced a faultless balance of distinct but thoroughly complementary voices – essential in a work often driven by interplay among solo instruments.

This balance was achieved in part by a nowadays-unconventional placement of instruments: violinists facing each other in front, with the cellist behind the first violin and the violist behind the second violin. This clarified Beethoven’s exchanges between violins, and also gave unusual weight to the full ensemble, as the cello and viola were projecting toward the audience rather than toward the violins, as they would in the usual seating of a string quartet.

It sounded as if the musicians were playing a matched set of instruments. They weren’t, but they were playing with matched ears regarding tone production – rich but not plush, tightly focused in pitch, rather woodsy even at the most brilliant – that proved ideal for the Beethoven, music of epic conception, highly complex construction and, ideally, a measure of sonic grit. (That grit is what eludes most ensembles in the late Beethoven quartets.)

Interpretively, the Miró grasped the complexities and their context in the narrative of this music. Op. 131 is in seven movements, played straight through, with a couple of pregnant pauses; it should sound and feel like an outpouring of overlapping ideas striving toward a single emphatic end. That’s how it came across in this extraordinary performance.

The program’s opening selection, Haydn’s Quartet in D major, Op. 20, No. 4, was an excellent prelude to the Beethoven. Haydn, who invented the classical string quartet, normally produced elegantly tuneful, carefully formatted constructs, not without the quirky touches that enliven his symphonies but with more subtle or tightly controlled quirks.

This early(ish) quartet, from a set of six written in 1772, departs from Haydn’s usual format, most famously in the Hungarian dance that takes the place of the usual third-movement minuet, but more notably in an adagio that sends a minor-key theme through a sequence of elaborations, each led by a single instrument that one-ups its predecessor in expressive intensity. The cumulative effect of this movement pre-echoes what Beethoven made of the somber tune that haunts Op. 131.

The Miró’s treatment of that adagio nicely balanced Haydneseque style with Beethovenian portent.

As a contrasting centerpiece, the group played five of the dozen miniatures that Dvorák arranged for string quartet from “Cypresses,” an early song cycle. (Violist Largess helpfully filled in the unrequited love story behind the work in introductory remarks, and the lyrics of the five songs were printed in the program book, for those whose poetic tolerance extends to mid-19th century romantic yearning-amid-nature verse – mercifully, not necessary for appreciation of the music.)

The Miró found the right tone of voice for the naïve lyricism of the young Dvorák, leavened by the more sophisticated instrumental writing of the mature composer.
4 months ago |
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The Richmond Symphony Chorus will hold auditions for new members from 6:30-9:30 p.m. May 30 and June 26 at Epiphany Lutheran Church, Monument Avenue at Horsepen Road.

The chorus, directed by Erin Freeman, rehearses weekly on Tuesday evenings from late August through early May at Dominion Arts Center, with additional rehearsals during performance weeks.

In the 2017-18 season, the Symphony Chorus will perform in Mozart’s Mass in C minor in November, Handel’s “Messiah” and the “Let It Snow!” pops concerts in December, Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” and selections from Undine Smith Moore’s “Scenes from the Life of a Martyr” in February, and a new work by Mason Bates in May. The Bates work also is scheduled to be recorded after the concert.

For information on the audition process and access to preparation materials, call (804) 788-4717 or visit http://www.rschorus.com/auditions
4 months ago |
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Virginia Opera will stage its first productions of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Samson and Delilah” and Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in its 2017-18 season.

The company will continue its survey of Giacomo Puccini’s operas with a production of his only American-themed work, “The Girl of the Golden West.” The season concludes with Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

Rachele Gilmore, a soprano has performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, will make her Virginia Opera debut as Lucia. Others in principal roles include Derek Taylor as Samson, Katharine Goeldner as Delilah, Jill Gardner as Minnie in “The Girl of the Golden West,” Heather Buck as Tytania and Matthew Burns as Bottom, both in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Adam Turner, Virginia Opera’s resident conductor, will lead the Saint-Saëns and Britten, with Andrew Bisantz conducting the Puccini and Ari Pelto conducting the Donizetti.

Productions are staged at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Arts Center in Richmond and the Center for the Arts of George Mason University in Fairfax.

Subscription ticket prices are $64.56-$372.72 in Norfolk, $66.36-$359.80 in Richmond. Subscription prices and information for Fairfax will be announced later.

For more information, call (866) 673-7282 or visit http://vaopera.org

Performance dates, venues and casting:

Sept. 29, Oct. 1 and 3 (Norfolk)
Oct. 7 and 8 (Fairfax)
Oct. 13 and 15 (Richmond)
Saint-Saëns: “Samson and Delilah”
Adam Turner conducting
Derek Taylor (Samson)
Katharine Goeldner (Delilah)
Michael Chioldi (High Priest)
Paul Curran, stage director
in French, English captions

Nov. 10, 12 and 14 (Norfolk)
Nov. 17 and 19 (Richmond)
Dec. 2 and 3 (Fairfax)
Puccini: “The Girl of the Golden West”
Andrew Bisantz conducting
Jill Gardner (Minnie)
Roger Honeywell (Ramerrez, alias Dick Johnson)
Lillian Groag, stage director
in Italian, English captions

Feb. 9, 11 and 13 (Norfolk)
Feb. 17 and 18 (Fairfax)
Feb. 23 and 25 (Richmond)
Britten: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Adam Turner conducting
Heather Buck (Tytania)
Matthew Burns (Bottom)
David Blalock (Lysander)
Michael Shell, stage director
in English, English captions

March 23, 25 and 27 (Norfolk)
April 7 and 8 (Fairfax)
April 13 and 15 (Richmond) 
Donizetti: “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Ari Pelto conducting
Rachele Gilmore (Lucia)
Joseph Dennis (Edgardo)
Kyle Lang, stage director
in Italian, English captions
4 months ago |
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