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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
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Because of the snowstorm, all University of Richmond classes and events for the evening of Feb. 16, including a recital by organist Bruce Stevens, have been canceled. Stevens has rescheduled his program, at Cannon Memorial Chapel on the UR campus, to 3 p.m. March 1. Admission is free.

A jazz concert by saxophonist Al Regni and pianist Allen Farnham at Virginia Commonwealth University also has been canceled, as VCU announced its closure on the evening of Feb. 16 and all day Feb. 17.

Other performances in coming days are likely to be canceled or postponed because of the weather, especially in central and western Virginia, where the heaviest snowfall is expected, followed by extremely cold temperatures until the weekend.
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I was unable to attend the Richmond Symphony’s
Feb. 14 Duke Ellington program. It was quite a performance, to judge from Markus Schmidt’s review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

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During this year’s sesquicentennial of Jean Sibelius’ birth, there will be a lot of discussions about the composer and his often elusive music.

Few talks will be more intelligent or insightful than the Finnish musicologist Vesa Sirén’s conversation with Simon Rattle, chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. (Rattle and the orchestra have just concluded concert cycles of Sibelius’ seven symphonies and Violin Concerto, staged in Berlin and London.)

The interview is posted on the website of the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat:

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Lorin Maazel, the conductor and Castleton Festival founder who died last July, and his widow and festival co-founder, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, are recipients of this year’s Outstanding Virginian award, given by the Virginia General Assembly.

Mrs. Maazel accepted the award on Feb. 10 in presentations on the floors of the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

The Maazels were recognized for establishing the Castleton Festival at Castleton Farms, their estate in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Virginia.

Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel “have brought many of the finest musicians in the world to Virginia for the enjoyment of its citizens, and have created a music festival in Virginia that trains thousands of young people in a variety of musical disciplines,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain said in making the Senate presentation. Gov. Terry McAuliffe lauded the couple’s “significant contribution to the cultural fabric of Virginia.” 

When the Maazels were approached about the award, “we suggested that this year would be appropriate, because it would be Lorin’s 85th year,” Mrs. Maazel said in an interview earlier this week. “As it turned out, this is the first time the award has given to someone posthumously.”

Founded in 2009 after Lorin Maazel finished his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Castleton Festival stages opera, orchestral, chamber and other performances each summer. It draws more than 250 young professional singers, instrumentalists and practitioners of theatrical stagecrafts to work with established artists.

It has become one of Virginia’s prime summer cultural events. The festival is also the largest private employer in rural Rappahannock County.

Lorin Maazel, who in a career of more than 70 years had performed with most of the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies, started the Castleton Festival as a way of “giving back” to his profession. As well as being its artistic leader, he was the festival’s chief teacher, involved himself deeply in its management and financed much of it himself.

When he died in the middle of last year’s festival, “we had to regroup completely – start, really, from scratch,” Dietlinde Maazel said. The festival board “approached me to step up as executive and artistic director,” she said. “There were necessarily personnel changes in the administration and board, and the board stepped up financial support rapidly” to make up for the loss of her husband’s income.

Rafael Payare, a former Castleton conducting fellow and winner of the 2012 Malko Conducting Competition, was named the festival’s principal conductor. He will be joined in the 2015 festival by Fabio Luisi, principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and Salvatore Percacciolo, who as part of Castleton’s 2014 conductors’ seminar program took over music direction of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” when Lorin Maazel’s declining health forced him to step aside.

Early last year, Maazel and Wynton Marsalis, the jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader, agreed to add a jazz component to Castleton’s training and performance programs. Marsalis will perform this summer with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and join seven members of the orchestra in working with 42 participants selected by audition from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Duke Ellington program for jazz musicians at secondary school level (grades 9-12).

“Wynton had been looking for a proper summer home for the program,” Mrs. Maazel said. “Lots of festivals, understandably, were sort of throwing themselves at him; but he wanted something that would be more than a sidelight to a festival’s regular offerings. What he saw at Castleton was what he had been looking for.”

In her new leading role, Dietlinde Maazel will be drawing on her various professional experiences. Although she is most widely known as a stage and film actress, “I also trained as a violinist,” she noted. “And I teach a Lieder [art-song] program at Rutgers University.” All those art forms will figure in Castleton’s programming.

“We also will shifting our focus slightly from [being] a producing entity and to being more an education and [professional] training program,” she said.

The 2015 Castleton Festival, running from July 2 to Aug. 2, will feature the premiere of Derrick Wang’s “Scalia/Ginsburg,” a comic one-act on the opera-loving Supreme Court justices, paired with Ravel’s one-act comedy “L’heure espagnole” (“The Spanish Hour”), both directed by Maria Tucci, as well as productions of Gounod’s opera “Romeo et Juliette” and Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” the latter directed by Mrs. Maazel.

Payare and Luigi will conduct two orchestra concerts, and the jazz program participants will present four concerts in addition to the Marsalis-Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performance.

For a complete Castleton 2015 schedule, visit the festival’s website: www.castletonfestival.org
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Feb. 12
11 a.m.-2 p.m. EST
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

J.S. Bach: Concerto in F major, BWV 971 (“Italian”)
András Schiff, piano (Omega)

Rameau: “Nouvelles Suites de Pièces pour Clavecin”
(Book 3) – Suite in G major
Alexander Paley, piano
(La Música)

Past Masters:
Scarlatti: Sonata in A minor, K. 54
Vladimir Horowitz, piano (Sony Classical)
(recorded 1964)

Debussy: “Danses sacrée et profane”
Nancy Allen, harp
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra/
Gerard Schwarz
(EMI Angel)

Past Masters:
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
in D major
Wolfgang Schneiderhan, violin
Berlin Philharmonic/
Eugen Jochum
(Deutsche Grammophon)
(recorded 1962)

Mohammed Fairouz: “Audenesque”
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Ensemble LPR/
Evan Rogister
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Amy Beach: Theme and Variations,
Op. 80
Eugenia Zuckerman, flute
Shanghai Quartet (Delos)

Richard Strauss:
“Four Last Songs”
Karita Mattila, soprano
Berlin Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado
(Deutsche Grammophon)
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The classical winners of 2015 Grammy Awards collected their prizes and exited the proceedings before the telecast began. (Musn’t scare the children or risk the ratings.) Most mass media will ignore them or consign them to the fine print. Here’s the honor roll:

• Orchestral Work: John Luther Adams: “Become Ocean”Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Ludovic Morlot (Canteloupe)

• Orchestral Performance: John Adams: “City Noir”St. Louis Symphony Orchestra/David Robertson (Nonesuch)

[John Adams and John Luther Adams are not the same composer.]

• Opera Performance: Marc-Antoine Charpentier: “La descente d’Orphée aux enfers”Boston Early Music Festival Vocal and Instrumental ensembles/Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs (cpo)

• Choral Performance: “The Sacred Spirit of Russia”Conspirare/Craig Hella Johnson (Harmonia Mundi)

• Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: “In 27 Pieces – the Hillary Hahn Encores”Hilary Hahn, violin; Cory Smythe, piano (Deutsche Grammophon)

• Classical Instrumental Solo: “Play”Jason Vieaux, guitar (Azica)

• Classical Vocal Solo: “Douce France”Anne Sophie von Otter, mezzo-soprano; et al. (Naïve)

• Classical Compendium: Harry Partch: “Plectra and Percussion Dances”Partch (Bridge)

• Best Engineered Album: Michael Bishop, for Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 4, “Dona nobis pacem,” “The Lark Ascending”Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano; et al. (ASO Media)

• Classical Producer of the Year: Judith Sherman, for nine recordings
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Virginia Opera
Ari Pelto conducting
Feb. 6, Richmond Center Stage

Regieoper – “director’s opera” – strikes again in Virginia Opera’s current production of Richard Strauss’ “Salome,” although on this occasion more with a tack hammer than a bludgeon.

Stage director Stephen Lawless moves this story from the lifetime of Jesus to a bomb-scarred Middle Eastern palace in the present or recent past. The director’s premise, as stated in his program note, is that “the events in this piece could only happen in a world where people have nothing left to lose,” and that “the chaos and destruction of current events match the milieu of [Oscar] Wilde’s original [play] and Strauss’ opera.”

Whether the inhabitants of Palestine in the reigns of the Roman Emperor Augustus and his local vassal, the Tetrarch Herod, had nothing left to lose is a question we’d best leave to theologians. Lawless’ change of time frame creates some incongruities, notably in the costumes of the Jews and Nazarenes attending a banquet at Herod’s court.

As to the milieu of Wilde and Strauss, that would be Western Europe in the Belle Epoque of the late-19th and early 20th centuries, when the people who could afford to attend Wilde’s play, and, later, Strauss’ opera, had a great deal to lose, and were reminded of it regularly by terrorist bombings and assassinations, revolutionary polemics and brushfire wars that threatened to metastacize into great-power confrontations – all very resonant in our time, although I doubt many would consider our epoque quite as belle as the pre-World War I years.

Wilde, Strauss and other creative figures of the time were upsetters of the established order, challenging the manners and mores of polite society. “Salome” was one of the era’s most noteworthy artistic scandals. In its early years, the opera was banned in Vienna, partially censored in London, and withdrawn after one performance in New York.

Its eroticism, by today’s standards, barely rates a PG. In many recent stagings, Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” has concluded with the singer or (more commonly) dancer nude or in a flesh-toned body suit. Virginia Opera stays in G-rated territory: The dance is performed by Salome and six dancers in matching costumes, with few veils shed and no one left unclothed.

The Salome of this production, Kelly Cae Hogan, boasts a potent dramatic soprano voice and the ability to sustain it at high intensity for long stretches of music, as this role requires. Her characterization, however, is joltingly schizophrenic.

In the early going, her Salome is a bratty teenager retaining some little-princess pre-teen mannerisms. Once Salome becomes smitten by Jochanaan (John the Baptist), held captive by Herod, she becomes rather coarsely vixenish and, after he scornfully rejects her, quite vividly unhinged. Hogan is at her best, both vocally and dramatically, in making a true mad scene of Salome’s soliloquy with the severed head of Jochanaan (the price she exacts from an unwilling Herod before she will dance for him).

Michael Chioldi is a stoic Jochanaan with stentorian tones perfectly suited to the character’s sternly judgmental pronouncements and ominous prophecies.

Alan Woodrow, as Herod, and Samuel Levine, as Narraboth, the guards’ captain who is dangerously infatuated with Salome, essay their psychological traumas more consistently, at fever-pitch, with vocalizations to match. Katharine Goeldner, as Herodias, Herod’s consort and Salome’s mother, doesn’t convey the fierceness her role calls for – she comes across as appropriately jaded but curiously detached, even bored.

The supporting singers and dancers make fine contributions – Llangston Radford’s especially so as the stoic butler – and conductor Ari Pelto draws a richly sonorous, at times spookily characterful performance from the orchestra, drawn from the Virginia Symphony.

Further performances of Virginia Opera’s “Salome” will be staged at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Carpenter Theatre of Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets, and at 8 p.m. Feb. 124 and 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Center for the Arts of George Mason University in Fairfax. Richmond tickets: $15.25-$105.93; (800) 514-3849 (ETIX). Fairfax tickets: $44-$98; (888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com). Details: www.vaopera.org
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Alan Gilbert, the 47-year-old New Yorker who has led the New York Philharmonic since 2009, will relinquish his post as music director in 2017.

Gilbert tells The New York Times that remaining with the philharmonic until 2021, when the orchestra is due to return to Lincoln Center after a two-year absence due to the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, is “just longer than I want to stay around. It’s actually that simple.”

The Times’ Michael Cooper reports on Gilbert’s resignation:

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The recording industry, for all its dependence on the predictable and pursuit of the lowest common denominator, also has nurtured a few visionaries and inspired experimenters. John Hammond, for example: This Columbia Records talent scout and producer who introduced a mass audience to jazz and blues in the 1940s and, decades later, to Bruce Springsteen. Or Teresa Sterne, whose bargain-priced Nonesuch recordings in the 1960s and ’70s enabled listeners to explore little-known classical music and even less-known music from the non-Western world.

The most prominent recording visionary of our time is Manfred Eicher, the German double-bassist turned record producer whose ECM labels (the acronym stands for “Editions of Contemporary Music”) over the last 40 years have introduced listeners to all sorts of music they hadn’t known or even imagined. A short list would include the long-form piano improvisations of Keith Jarrett, intoxicating hybrids of jazz and Bach and other pre-classical composers, and the works of Arvo Pärt, perhaps the most widely resonant composer of contemporary art-music.

Eicher discusses what guides him in his musical explorations, in an interview with Stuart Isacoff published by The Wall Street Journal:


(via www.artsjournal.com)
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Musical migrations: The young Mozart visits Italy, in search of patronage and to perfect his craft. . . . Three New Englanders make their bids in the big city, New York. . . . Three Europeans flee persecution and war to settle in Britain and the United States.

Feb. 5
11 a.m.-2 p.m. EST
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Mozart: Symphony No. 13 in F major, K. 112
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood (L’Oiseau Lyre)

Myslivecek: Violin Concerto in G major (“Pastoral”)
Shizuka Ishikawa, violin
Dvorák Chamber Orchestra/Libor Pešek (Supraphon)

Mozart: “Exsultate, jubilate,” K. 165
Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano
Vienna Chamber Orchestra/György Fischer (Decca)

Past Masters:
Ives: “Central Park in the Dark”
New York Philharmonic/Seiji Ozawa & Maurice Peress (Sony Classical)
(recorded 1962)

“On the Waterfront” Suite
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop (Naxos)

Nico Muhly: Cello Concerto
Zuill Bailey, cello
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Jun Märkl (Steinway & Sons)

Past Masters:
Bernstein: “On the Town: Three Dance Episodes”
New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein
(Sony Classical)
(recorded 1963)

Berthold Goldschmidt: “Ciaconna sinfonica”
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle (London)

Martinu: Symphony No. 1
Czech Philharmonic/Václav Neumann (Supraphon)

Weill: “One Touch of Venus” –
“I’m a Stranger Here Myself”
“Speak Low”
Ute Lemper, vocalist
RIAS Berlin Chamber Ensemble/John Mauceri (London)
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