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Clarke Bustard
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Remembering Christopher Hogwood, the British harpsichordist, conductor and musicologist who died on Sept. 24. His recordings of Mozart and Haydn with the Academy of Ancient Music in the 1970s and ’80s ushered the period-instruments, historically informed performance movement beyond the Renaissance and baroque into the classical period. We’ll also hear Hogwood leading the two modern-instruments ensembles with which he was most closely associated: the Basel Chamber Orchestra in Stravinsky and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Martinu.

Oct. 2
noon-2 p.m. EDT
1600-1800 UTC /GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Handel: “Messiah” – “The trumpet shall sound”
David Thomas, bass; Michael Laird, trumpet
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood (L’Oiseau Lyre)

Stravinsky: “Pulcinella” Suite
Basel Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood (Arte Nova)

Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G major (“Surprise”)
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood (L’Oiseau Lyre)

Martinu: Sinfonietta (“La Jolla”)
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood (London)

Mozart: Mass in C major, K. 317 (“Coronation”)
with “Epistle” Sonata in C major, K. 278
Emma Kirkby, soprano; Catherine Robbin, contralto; John Mark Ainsley, tenor; Michael George, bass
Winchester Cathedral Choir; Winchester College Quiristers
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
(L’Oiseau Lyre)

Mozart: Adagio in E major, K. 261
Simon Standage, violin
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood (L’Oiseau Lyre)
3 months ago | |
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Alexander Paley & Pei-Wen Chen, piano
Rebecca Zimmerman, cello
Charles West, clarinet
Sept. 27-28, St. Luke Lutheran Church

This year’s Paley Music Festival concluded with another near-marathon performance, this time of Beethoven and Brahms: two sonatas for cello and piano and two trios for clarinet, cello and piano – altogether, nearly three hours of music. As with the opening-night concert, a near-capacity audience turned out, but with a good deal of attrition during intermission.

The Richmond-bred cellist Rebecca Zimmerman, now based in Chicago, joined clarinetist Charles West and Paley in the Sept. 28 finale. Zimmerman’s instrument, which has rich bass tone but much less presence in its high register, was not ideally combined with the bright-sounding Cristofori piano that Paley played. The cellist also proved to be less assertive a player than Paley (not many performers match him on that score).

In Beethoven’s Sonata in A major, Op. 69, and Brahms’ Sonata in F major, Op. 99, their most complementary work came in the slow movements, especially the adagio cantabile of the Beethoven, in which both Zimmerman and Paley captured the music’s wistful lyricism. Their treatment of the Brahms adagio, while lyrical and nuanced, did not quite live up to the composer’s modifier, affettuoso.

Zimmerman’s full-bodied bass lines enhanced both Beethoven’s Trio in E flat major, Op. 38, and Brahms’ Trio in A minor, Op. 114. West’s technique was faultless in both works; his slightly reticent expressiveness in the Brahms suited this music’s unique character – intimate and soulful, but at a certain emotional distance. Paley moderated his projection nicely in the Brahms trio.

The threesome played with liveliness and engagement in the Beethoven, a six-movement work that is a hybrid of the classical-period serenade and the weightier but more concise chamber works for which this composer is better-known.

The program of Sept. 27 was given over entirely to Arnold Schoenberg’s piano-four hands transcription of the overture and key arias and ensembles from Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville,” played by Paley and his spouse, Pei-Wen Chen.

Most four-hands scores of the 19th and early 20th centuries (this one dates from 1903) were made for amateur pianists to play at home. It’s hard to imagine this one appealing to that clientele. Most of it requires not just professional, but virtuosic, technical ability, and it’s so speedy and note-heavy that two players at the same keyboard seem to risk elbowing each other to the point of bruising. (Four-hands piano as rugby – another novel idea from Schoenberg?)

A larger problem, from a public-performance standpoint, is that most of the tunes are played in the high register, with just a few melody lines in ensemble numbers given to the lower keys. So it’s as if the opera is sung almost entirely by sopranos and mezzos. And, of course, without words.

The no-words issue was only partially addressed by a synopsis printed in the program book and brief summaries of the action spoken between numbers by Paley.

The festival’s first season at St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church was successful in drawing crowds (mid-point attrition notwithstanding), also in showcasing the church sanctuary’s excellent acoustic, which I find comparable to that of Camp Concert Hall at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center. String players, especially, should take note of a fine venue that has not been widely used to date.
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Alexander Paley, piano
Sept. 26, St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church

In concert, Alexander Paley sometimes brings to mind some unstoppable natural phenomenon – a tsunami, maybe. Fortunately, there are no known cases of people unfiguratively being swept away and drowned by music.

The only potential casualty of Paley’s performances of two long keyboard suites by Jean-Philippe Rameau and the 24 études of the Op. 10 and Op. 25 sets by Frédéric Chopin would have been the pianist himself. Paley came out of it apparently unscathed; after nearly three hours of high-intensity performing, he was soon back at the keyboard for an impromptu coaching session with some of the young piano students invited to sit in the front pews for the second half of the concert.

Opening night of the 17th annual Paley Festival was the most intimate session of music-making since the first festival was staged in a downtown Richmond bookstore. In the sanctuary of St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, most listeners were seated within 15 feet of the pianist. The brightness of the room’s acoustic and the church’s Cristofori piano lent even more presence to the performance.

Rameau and Chopin, composers of markedly different musical eras and sensibilities, proved to be quite complementary voices, at least in Paley’s hands.

He treated the baroque dances of Rameau’s suites in A minor and G minor, from “Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin” (1726-27), rather like miniature tone poems – in one instance, the allemande opening the A minor Suite, like a pre-echo of the modern Parisian chanson.

This music was written, of course, for the harpsichord; and this piano’s tonal character, especially the “twang” of bass notes at high volume, at times recalled the sound of the antique, plucked-string keyboard. Paley also was scrupulous in his treatment of French baroque ornamentation, moderating tempos so that Rameau’s flourishes sounded clearly and without crowding. These were, nevertheless, unashamedly pianistic performances – thoroughly convincing and deeply absorbing ones at that.

And not entirely as obscure as listeners might have expected: In the middle of the Suite in G minor, what should appear but a brilliant little number, “La Poule” (“The Hen”), that Ottorino Respighi used (titled, in Italian, “La Gallina”) in his orchestral suite “Gli Uccelli” (“The Birds”). Paley’s pecking effects were even more vivid than Respighi’s.

The Chopin études, which range expressively from thunderous to dreamy in mood, and from densely solid to prismatically wispy in texture, might have been written for a pianist of Paley’s technique and temperament. Each set seemed to burst forth under his hands – he barely paused for breath between numbers – with extraordinary urgency and unbridled spirit.

“He plays Chopin like a god,” one listener said. Almost literally so in the more emphatic études, such as the first and last of Op. 10. There, and elsewhere, it was as if “let there be light” were pronounced in musical tone.

The Paley Music Festival continues with Alexander Paley and Pei-Wen Chen playing Schoenberg’s piano four-hands transcription of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 and Paley, cellist Rebecca Zimmerman and clarinetist Charles West playing sonatas and trios of Beethoven and Brahms at 3 p.m. Sept. 28, both at St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7757 Chippenham Parkway. Admission by donation. Details: (804) 665-9516; www.paleyfestival.info
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Christopher Hogwood, one of the leading figures in period-instruments and historcally informed orchestral performance, has died at 73.

Hogwood, a Cambridge University-educated harpsichordist, played in the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in the 1960s. In 1967, he and David Munrow co-founded the Early Music Consort. Hogwood founded Britain’s Academy of Ancient Music in 1973 and led the ensemble until 2006.

He served as artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston (1986-2001) and music director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (1988-92) and Mostly Mozart Festival of London’s Barbican Centre (1983-85). He also was principal guest conductor of the Basel Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland.

Hogwood held academic posts at Cambridge; the Royal Academy of Music; King’s College, London; Gresham College, London; and Harvard and Cornell universities in the U.S.

His activities as a musicologist included serving as chairman of the ongoing new edition of the complete works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Hogwood was a prolific recording artist, once dubbed the “Karajan of early music.” Perhaps the best-known of his more than 200 recordings with the Academy of Ancient Music were their pioneering period-instruments cycle of the Mozart symphonies and acclaimed accounts of Handel’s “Messiah” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” In later recordings with modern-instruments orchestras, he essayed modern repertory ranging from Stravinsky and Martinu to Barber and Copland.

An obituary by Barry Millington in The Guardian:

4 months ago | |
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A special program, with studio guests: pianist Alexander Paley and his spouse and piano four-hands partner, Pei-Wen Chen. They will be joined by cellist Rebecca Zimmerman and clarinetist Charles West in the 17th annual edition of Paley’s Richmond festival, Sept. 26-28 at a new location, St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7757 Chippenham Parkway.

During the show, we’ll survey the festival’s history, discuss the music to be featured this year, and hear some of the pianists’ live and studio recordings – including a sample from a soon-to-be-released disc of suites by the 18th-century French master Jean-Philippe Rameau, played by Paley on piano.

Sept. 25
noon-2 p.m. EDT
1600-1800 UTC
1700-1900 GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Chopin: Sonata in B minor, Op. 58 – scherzo
Alexander Paley, piano (Blüthner)

Chopin: Étude in F major, Op. 25, No. 3
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano (Decca)

Rameau: Suite in G minor (“l’Egyptinne”) – excerpt
Alexander Paley, piano (Harmonia Mundi France)

Dvorák: “From the Bohemian Forest” – “Silent Woods”
Alexander Paley &
Pei-Wen Chen, piano four-hands
(2004 Paley Festival, live recording)

Rossini: “The Barber of Seville” Overture
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon)

Past Masters:
Rachmaninoff: Symphony
No. 3 in A minor
Philadelphia Orchestra/
Sergei Rachmaninoff
(Dutton Laboratories)
(recorded 1939)

Prokofiev: “Romeo and Juliet” – excerpts
Alexander Paley, piano (Blüthner/Hänssler Classic)
4 months ago | |
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Sept. 22, University of Richmond

The new-music sextet eighth blackbird has presented some formidable challenges to ears and sensibilities in its decade in residence at the University of Richmond. “Pattycake,” the program launching its 11th UR season, proved to be not exactly easy listening, but a good deal easier than usual for the non-specialist to absorb.

The program was anchored by two pieces about rhythm, freed from overlays of melody and harmony. Sean Griffin’s “Pattycake” (2007) tasks four performers with a physically complex take on the children’s hand-clapping game. Tom Johnson’s “Counting Duets” play numbers games, garnished with some tricks of dynamism and a bit of ballroom dance. Both were great fun to watch and hear. I suspect they were exhausting for the artists to prepare, but they seemed spontaneous and almost effortless in performance.

Johnson’s pieces kept unlikely company, being interspersed with four études by György Ligeti in arrangements by two members of the ’birds, flutist Tim Munro and pianist Lisa Kaplan. Kaplan’s treatments of the rhythmically driven “Fanfares” and “Entrelacs” (études Nos. 4 and 12, respectively) fit more comfortably alongside the Johnson duets. Munro’s enlargements of the intricately colored and deeply moody “En Suspens” and “Automne à Varsovie” (études Nos. 11 and 6), ingenious as they are, departed too far in tone and mood from Johnson’s droll rhythmic exercises.

An even less likely combination of pieces, which the ’birds call “Songs of Love and Loss,” combine “Duo for Heart and Breath” (2012) by Richard Reed Parry of the Montreal rock band Arcade Fire and Kaplan’s arrangement of Bon Iver’s “Babys” with Munro’s instrumental arrangements of 17th-century vocal pieces by Claudio Monteverdi and Carlo Gesualdo.

Parry’s duo, whose tempo is determined by pianist Kaplan’s heartbeat (she wore a stethoscope) and violinist Yvonne Lam’s breath rate, was in this performance a mellow and deliberately paced minimalist prelude. Lam played her violin with no vibrato; in the following Monteverdi, she played viola with ample vibrato – a reversal of historical and modern performance practices.

An even more radical reversal in this set: The early music is “hard” and the contemporary music is “easy” (relatively, anyway).

The Gesualdo arrangement underlined the eccentricity of this composer with bell-like and sliding/winding-down effects. Kaplan’s “Babys” arrangement – building on the insistent and gnarly groove of Bon Iver’s instrumental introduction to the song – returned to the steady state of Parry’s piece, with an intense, lyrical climax from cellist Nicholas Photinos.

Photinos also took on David Little’s “and the sky was still there” (2010) for cello and electronics, written for the violinist and electronica artist Todd Reynolds. The piece sets sections of an account by Amber Ferenz of her experiences as a closeted lesbian in the “don’t ask/don’t tell”-vintage U.S. Army to a sonically eventful and complex soundtrack. In this performance, amplified electronics overbalanced the cello (amplification is frequently troublesome in UR’s acoustically bright Camp Concert Hall), and parts of the narration were lost in the mix.

Rounding out the program, another chamber work with pop origins: “Number Nine” (2013) by Gabriella Smith, a thickly textured tone poem that rises out of, and eventually returns to, an instrumentalization of the rhythms and pitches of “number nine,” as it was vocalized and repeated before the song “Revolution 9” on The Beatles’ “White Album” of 1968.

“I also incorporated many other ‘Revolution 9’ references, weaving their collage fragments into ‘Number Nine’s’ continuously evolving arc,” the composer writes in a program note. The collage is so dense and the fragments so fragmentary that few listeners would feel able to hum along.

On first hearing, “Number Nine” struck me as a Platonic shadow (as in Plato’s allegory of the cave: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave) of the high-concept progressive rock song, complete with drum solo (which Matt Duvall mercifully dispatched in much less than a period-authentic 20 minutes). A pretty accurate shadow, I’d say – maybe even preferable to the real thing, at least for those of us who overdosed on the real thing 40 years ago.
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As popular music has become “more a nostalgic, preservative practice rather than one anticipating and demanding change, classical music comes to fresh, forward-looking life,” longtime British rock critic Paul Morley writes in an essay for The Observer. Morley describes his migration to the classics as “a move to where the provocative, thrilling and transformative ideas are, mainly because modern pop and rock has become the status quo” . . .


His playlist: Mozart’s “Masonic Funeral Music,” Debussy’s Cello Sonata, Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza V,” Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, Webern’s “Slow Movement” and Earle Brown’s “Times Five.” The earliest of them, the Mozart, dates from 1785; the latest, the Berio, from 1966; and there’s nothing from the 19th century.

Plenty of thrills and transformations yet to come, it seems.

(via www.artsjournal.com)
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Sept. 21, St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church

The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, the collective composed of musicians from the Richmond Symphony, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond and the College of William and Mary, likes to build its programs on themes. In this case, it chose a fruitful one: “Metamorphosis.”

Oboist Shawn Welk, the chief discusser of this program, noted that music is full of examples of one thing – a tune, figuration, rhythm or other element – evolving into something else. The 11-member ensemble chose several of the most obvious vehicles for musical metamorphosis, the theme and variations, garnished with a variety of other forms in which the process literally or figuratively occurs.

The most familiar of the T&Vs was the slow movement of Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, nicknamed the “Trout” after the art-song whose tune is the subject of variations in the movement. Soprano Antonio FD Vassar and pianist Maria Yefimova began with the song, after which Yefimova, violinist Alana Carithers, violist Stephen Schmidt, cellist Jason McComb and double-bassist Kelly Ali gave a graceful and sonorous performance of the movement.

It reinforced the point of the program, but it also whetted the appetite for the rest of the quintet. The same was true of the T&V andante from Jean Françaix’s Wind Quintet No. 1. That’s the risk you run when playing excerpts.

Usually, anyway: The piece that Welk chose to open the program, “Pan” from Benjamin Britten’s “Six Metamorphoses after Ovid” for solo oboe, stood nicely on its own. Yefimova’s surprisingly lyrical treatment of Philip Glass’ “Metamorphosis One,” from a full work that goes on for something like three hours (!), probably did not make many listeners yearn to hear the rest. (It did make me wonder whether the pianist might be a fan of “Downtown Abbey,” whose main theme is strikingly similar to this bit of Glass.)

Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” which metamorphosed in the composer’s hands from a six-movement work for solo piano to a four-movement orchestration, was played in a further variant, the orchestrated four movements arranged for wind quintet by Mason Jones, principal French horn player of the Philadelphia Orchestra during the Eugene Ormandy era.

Not suprisingly, Jones’ arrangement has an unusually prominent horn part, played here to strong effect by James Ferree. He and his colleagues – flutist Jennifer Lawson, oboist Welk, clarinetist Jared Davis and bassoonist Martin Gordon – paced Ravel’s fast movements a little too briskly for my taste; but their treatment of the central fugue and minuet sections of the Ravel, as well as the earlier Françaix, resonated nicely.

Cellist McComb and pianist Yefimova proved highly sensitized to the idioms of Anton Webern in his Mahleresque “Langsam” (slow) movement, written at the turn of the 20th century, and his “Drei kleine Stücke” (“Three Little Pieces”) of 1914, couched in his austere and telegraphic mature style. McComb directed the audience’s attention to the role of silence in Webern’s later music, but that element may not have registered as coughs and other extra-musical noises broke the silences.

The program ended on more upbeat and tuneful notes, as pianist Yefimova, flutist Lawson, oboist Welk and clarinetist Davis played Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs,” a blending of musical source matter that sounds more complementary than cultural geographers might expect.
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Steven Smith conducting
with Joshua Bell, violin
Sept. 20, Richmond CenterStage

If Joshua Bell has kept count of the number of times he has played Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, he hasn’t shared the tally. A lot, for sure – enough for the Bruch to be widely known as his signature concert piece.

Bell played it again with Steven Smith and the Richmond Symphony to open the orchestra’s 2014-15 season. The violinist played with evident affection for this music, and with a seeming inclination toward what musicians of the 18th century called affectus – a calculated projection of mood and emotion.

From the first long, low note on the fiddle to the brilliant conclusion, Bell’s performance was highly expressive. Hardly a phrase went by without some touch-up, usually but not always rendered subtly. His signature tone, combining richness and brilliance, was present in abundance, especially in the central adagio of the concerto. His instrument, a 1713 Stradivarius formerly owned by Bronislaw Huberman, is one of the finest violins in existence, and its owner knows how to get the most out of it.

Bell nowadays is both a solo violinist and conductor, in his third year as music director of Britain’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; so it was interesting to see how he interacted with the orchestra in this performance. Attentively – he often faced the accompanying musicians when he wasn’t playing – but without any overt moves toward directing them. Their conductor, Steven Smith, had the performance well in hand, and shared Bell’s emphasis on expressivity.

Smith anticipated it, in fact, in the music that preceded Bell’s appearance, “Vltava” (“The Moldau”), the best-known piece from Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic cycle “Ma Vlast” (“My Fatherland”) and perhaps the most evocative “water music” of the romantic era. Smith and the symphony’s strings and winds expertly navigated Smetana’s swells and eddies, with the orchestra’s French horns adding richly atmospheric touches.

The concert, which drew a capacity crowd, concluded with two popular orchestral showpieces by Ottorino Respighi, “The Fountains of Rome” and “The Pines of Rome.” Respighi is one of the figures without whom the Hollywood film score as we know it simply wouldn’t exist; many of the splashier coloristic effects of film music are inherited directly from these two pieces.

Smith and the symphony splashed spectacularly – the raucous “Triton Fountain at Morn” and the militant conclusion of “The Pines of the Appian Way” were some of the loudest performances the orchestra has delivered in years; but they also handled atmospherics and representational touches with sensitivity as well as vividness.

The brass players and percussionists audibly relished their showcases, playing with great sonority as well as impact. Wind players, including flutist Mary Boodell, clarinetist Jared Davis and oboist Shawn Welk, contributed excellent solos, as did trumpeter Rolla Durham in an offstage passage.

Stationing trumpeters and trombonists at three points in the balcony enhanced the room-filling sound of the "Appian Way" finale.
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Sept. 18
noon-2 p.m. EDT
1600-1800 UTC
1700-1900 GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Sarasate: “Serenata andaluza”
Julia Fischer, violin; Milana Chernyavska, piano (Decca)

Suk: Serenade for strings
Appassionata/Daniel Myssyk (Fidelio)

Beethoven: Sonata in C minor, Op. 10, No. 1
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano (Bis)

Debussy: Sonata for flute, viola and harp
Philippe Bernold, flute; Gérard Caussé, viola; Isabelle Moretti, harp
(Harmonia Mundi France)

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major,
K. 450
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano & director
Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Warner Classics)

Past Masters:
Richard Strauss: “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks”
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell (Sony Classical)
(recorded 1957)
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