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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
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The Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program concert, postponed Sunday, Dec. 8, because of the weather, has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. today, Dec. 10, at the Singleton Arts Center of Virginia Commonwealth University, Park Avenue at Harrison Street.

The concert includes performances by the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, Youth Chamber Orchestra, Camerata and Sinfonia.

Admission is free.
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* Researchers Adrian Hille and Jürgen Schupp, of the German Institute for Economic Research, find that “adolescents with music training have better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious. These effects do not differ by socio-economic status. Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.”

The abstract of their study:

http://www.psmag.com/blogs/news-blog/evidence-music-lessons-boost-kids-emotional-intellectual-development-70862/

* A study by a Boston research team, Marie Forgeard, Ellen Winner, Andrea Norton and Gottfried Schlaug, finds that children who receive at least three years of musical-instrument training excel in “auditory discrimination abilities and fine motor skills” and “vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills.”

Their full article:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003566

(Note that these studies address the effects of hands-on musical training, not the “Mozart effect,” i.e., that merely listening to classical music allegedly makes children smarter.)

* Mary Beth Cooper surveys other studies showing, among other things, that “classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert[ed] and at ease,” while “opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle;” and that drivers listening to music they don’t like or don’t know are safer than those who drive to familiar music or no music:

http://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain

(via http://www.myauditions.com/news/index.php)
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Slate’s Chris Klimek reports, alarmingly, that the Robertson clan of “Duck Dynasty” has put out a Christmas album, and otherwise bemoans the sorry state of Christmas-themed pop music:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2013/12/new_christmas_songs_from_kelly_clarkson_and_mary_j_blige_won_t_become_holiday.html

This does not qualify as new news.
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Richmond Symphony
soloists, Richmond Symphony Chorus
Erin R. Freeman conducting
Dec. 6, Richmond CenterStage

This year’s Richmond Symphony performance of Handel’s “Messiah” was the closest to complete – omitting only five brief numbers in Part 2 – that I can recall. It was also one of the most dramatically charged in recent memory.

Erin R. Freeman, the orchestra’s choral director and outgoing associate conductor – she takes over the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus next season – obtained highly dynamic, truly theatrical treatments of many of the oratorio’s choruses, notably the sequence at the beginning of Part 2 that frames the alto air “He was despised,” and set markedly brisk tempos for many airs and choruses.

Aside from the soprano air “Rejoice greatly” in Part 1, which sounded rushed, speedy paces added fleetness to melodies, more emphatic expression to texts and greater contrast with the slower or more lyrical adjoining numbers.

The chorus “He trusted in God” and the bass air “Why do the nations so furiously rage,” both in Part 2, came across with real fury. The chorus “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,” in Part 1, which can sound rather ceremonial, here was a joyful outburst.

The chief beneficiary of the additional numbers was the Richmond-bred tenor William Ferguson, a regular in these Christmas-season performances, who in some years has played little more than a cameo role with just two airs and a recitative.

Ferguson sang and acted to especially potent effect in “All they that see Him” and “Behold and see if there be any sorrow,” the numbers framing “He trusted in God” in Part 2.

Soprano Michelle Areyzaga was in fine voice in “Come unto Him, all ye that labor” in Part 1 and “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” opening Part 3, and got a welcome additional showcase in “If God be for us,” the air preceding the final choral sequence, “Worthy is the Lamb”-“Amen.”

Mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen’s near-contralto was heard to best effect in “He was despised.”

Bass Sumner Thompson made aural and expressive feasts of his big numbers, “Why do the nations” and “The trumpet shall sound,” the latter a fine duet with trumpeter Rolla Durham.

The Richmond Symphony Chorus, its singers mixed rather than divided into sections, sang with energy, expressiveness and generally excellent diction, but with a few lapses in ensemble, mostly in attacks.

A chamber-scale orchestral contingent – 22 strings, two oboes, plus continuo of organ, harpsichord and bassoon, with two trumpets and timpani in “Hallelujah” and the final choruses – played stylishly and in good balance with the large chorus.

The rationale the symphony has given over the years for performing “Messiah” with substantial cuts has been that listeners would find the complete oratorio too long.

The large audience attending this performance showed none of the tell-tale signs of restlessness. Chances are, the roaring ovation at the end would not have been diminished if the five missing numbers, adding about 8 minutes, were performed as well.

Maybe next year.
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Classical performances in and around Richmond, with selected events elsewhere in Virginia and the Washington area. Program information, provided by presenters, is updated as details become available. Adult single-ticket prices are listed; senior, student/youth, group and other discounts may be offered.

SCOUTING REPORT

* In the spirit of the season . . . It’s all good.


Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Pro Musica Hebraica:
Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet
Erin Keefe, violin
Charles Yang, violin
Cindy Wu, viola
Nicholas Canellakis, cello
Timothy Lovelace, piano
Weinberg-Bellison: “Bobe-mayses” (“Grandmother’s Tales”)
Zeitlin: “Hasidic Dance”
Engel-Bellison: “Taksim”
Gardner: “Hebraic Fantasy”
Bellison: “In the Field”/“Song of a Jewish Shepherd”
Yedida: “World Dance” from “Three Pieces for Clarinet and Piano”
Kilenyi: “Ve-kol ma’aminim” (“And All Who Believe”)
Weinberg: “Pedotsur,” Op. 23
Zhurbin: “Zogekhts”
Zhurbin: “Freylakhs”
Tarras-Zhurbin: “Zeydns tants” (“Grandfather’s Dance”)
Tarras-Zhurbin: “Sirba” in B-flat major
$38 (waiting list)
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 2 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Chamber Ensembles
program TBA
free
(804) 289-8980
www.modlin.richmond.edu

Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.)
Vlahcevic Concert Hall, Singleton Arts Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Park Avenue at Harrison Street, Richmond
Commonwealth Singers
VCU Women’s Choir
Rebecca Tyree directing
Choral Arts Society
Jay BeVille directing
Rautavaara: “Suite de Lorca”
Bach: “Lobet den Herrn”
Vivaldi: Gloria
$7
(804) 828-6776
http://arts.vcu.edu/music/

Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Young Concert Artists:
Ji-Yong, piano
Bach-Busoni: Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C major, BWV 564
Brahms: Intermezzi, Op. 118, Nos. 1-2
Ligeti: Etude No. 13 (“Devil's Staircase”)
Schubert: Impromptu in B-flat major, Op. 142, No. 3
Schumann: “Kinderszenen,” Op. 15
Bach-Busoni: Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004
$35
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kordzaia conducting
Erica Yamamoto, piano
Jenni Swegan, soprano
program TBA
free
(804) 289-8980
www.modlin.richmond.edu

Dec. 4 (2:30 & 7:30 p.m.)
American Theatre, 125 E. Mellen St., Hampton
Cantus
Peter Rothstein: “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” (musical arr. Erick Lithke & Timothy C. Takach)
$20-$40
(757) 722-2787
www.hamptonarts.net

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Vocal Arts DC:
Brandon Cedel, bass-baritone
Brian Zeger, piano
songs TBA by Brahms, Copland
$50
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra
conductor TBA
Rota: “La Strada” Suite
Puccini: Intermezzo from “Manon Lescaut”
Verdi: “Ballabili” from “Macbeth”
Rossini: “The Barber of Seville” Overture
Donizetti: “Regnava nel silenzio” from “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Donizetti: “Un furtiva legrima” from “The Elixir of Love”
Verdi: “Nabucco” Overture
Verdi: “Signor, ne principe...” from “Rigoletto”
Verdi: Act 1 Prelude, “Parigo, o cara” from “La Traviata”
Verdi: “I Vespri siciliani” Overture
$10-$29
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 5 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 6 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Christoph Eschenbach conducting
Mozart: “The Magic Flute” Overture
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4
Nurit Bar-Josef, violin
Brahms: Symphony No. 1
$10-$85
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 5 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Fortas Chamber Music Series:
Cantus
Peter Rothstein: “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” (musical arr. Erick Lithke & Timothy C. Takach)
$49 (waiting list)
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets
Richmond Symphony
Erin R. Freeman conducting
Handel: “Messiah”
Michelle Arayzaga, soprano
Kendall Gladen, mezzo-soprano
William Ferguson, tenor
Sumner Thompson, bass
Richmond Symphony Chorus
$20-$45
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
www.richmondsymphony.com

Dec. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Jepson Theatre, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
Salzburg Marionette Theatre
Mozart: “The Magic Flute”
$22
(804) 289-8980
www.modlin.richmond.edu

Dec. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Vlahcevic Concert Hall, Singleton Arts Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Park Avenue at Harrison Street, Richmond
VCU Jazz Orchestra II
VCU Guitar Ensemble & Community Guitar Ensemble
VCU Trumpet Ensemble
VCU Vocal Chamber Ensemble
VCU Symphonic Wind Ensemble
VCU Percussion Ensemble
Lisa Edwards-Burrs, soprano
Holiday Gala
program TBA
$10; proceeds benefit Hospital Hospitality House
(804) 828-6776
http://arts.vcu.edu/music/

Dec. 6 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
UVa Chapel, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Virginia Women’s Chorus
Britten: “Ceremony of Carols”
Christmas carols TBA
$15
(434) 924-3376
www.music.virginia.edu

Dec. 6 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Dec. 14 (8 p.m.)
University Baptist Church, 1223 W. Main St., Charlottesville
Virginia Glee Club
Frank Albinder directing
Annual Christmas Concert
program TBA
$15
(434) 924-3376
www.music.virginia.edu

Dec. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Salem Civic Center, 1001 Roanoke Boulevard
Roanoke Symphony
David Stewart Wiley conducting
Roanoke Symphony Chorus
Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir
Joy Lynn Matthews-Jacobs, soprano
“Holiday Pops Anniversary”
program TBA
$29-$75
(540) 343-9127
www.rso.com

Dec. 6 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 7 (2 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Virginia Opera
Mark Russell Smith conducting
Mozart: “The Magic Flute”
Kenneth Plenk (Tamino)
Nadine Sierra (Pamina)
Heather Buck (Queen of the Night)
Kenneth Kellogg (Sarastro)
David Pershall (Papageno)
Ryan Connelly (Monostatos)
Amanda Opuszinski (Papagena)
Natalie Polito (First Lady)
Courtney Miller (Second Lady)
Sarah Williams (Third Lady)
Michael Shell, stage director
in English, English captions
$44-$98
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
www.vaopera.org

Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 8 (3 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets
Richmond Symphony Pops
Erin R. Freeman conducting
Lisa Edward-Burrs, soprano
Joy Children’s Choir of St. Paul’s Baptist Church
“Let It Snow!”
program TBA
$25-$76
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
www.richmondsymphony.com

Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 8 (3:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra
Michael Slon conducting
University Singers
Family Holiday Concerts
program TBA
$10-$40
(434) 924-3376
www.music.virginia.edu

Dec. 7 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Jonathan Carney, violin & leader
Vivaldi: “The Four Seasons”
Piazzolla: “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”
$31-$94
(877) 276-1444 (Baltimore Symphony box office)
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 8 (4 p.m.)
Landmark Theater, Main and Laurel streets, Richmond
Richmond Department of Recreation and Parks:
Menotti: “Amahl and the Night Visitors”
Diana Covington Greer, music director
Matthew Barbieri (Amahl)
Bekah Hughes Davis (The Mother)
J. David Clatterbuck (King Kaspar)
Raymond Elmore (King Balthazar)
Ben Miller (King Melchior)
Stanley Fountain (The Page)
George C. Macklin Jr., stage director
in English
free (general admission; doors open at 3:30 p.m.)
(804) 646-1031
www.richmond.gov/content/parks/index.aspx

Dec. 8 (4 p.m.)
Trinity Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Parham Road, Richmond
Richmond Choral Society
Markus J. Compton directing
Christopher Martin, organ
Keith Tan, piano
harpist & oboist TBA
“Christmas with the Richmond Choral Society”
program TBA
$20
(804) 353-9582
www.richmondchoralsociety.org

Dec. 8 (4 p.m.)
Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road, Richmond
“Messiah” sing-along
Anne Carr Regan conducting
Karen Floyd Savage, soprano
Ellen Broen, mezzo-soprano
Jeff Prillaman, tenor
Chase Peake, bass
scores available at door
donation requested
rehearsal at 1 p.m. Dec. 7
(804) 272-7514
www.bonairpc.org

Dec. 8 (5 & 8 p.m.)
Cannon Memorial Chapel, University of Richmond
UR Schola Cantorum & Women’s Chorale
Jeffrey Riehl & David Pedersen directing
“Festival of Lessons and Carols”
free
(804) 289-8980
www.modlin.richmond.edu

Dec. 8 (2:30 p.m.)
American Theatre, 125 E. Mellen St., Hampton
Virginia Symphony Holiday Brass
program TBA
$25-$30
(757) 722-2787
www.virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 9 (7 p.m.)
James Center Atrium, 901 E. Cary St., Richmond
Richmond Philharmonic
Peter Wilson conducting
Holiday pops concert
program TBA
free
(804) 673-7400
www.richmondphilharmonic.org

Dec. 10 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
“Messiah” Sing-In
Donald Loach conducting
soloists TBA
$10; proceeds benefit UVa choral ensembles
(434) 924-3376
www.music.virginia.edu

Dec. 12 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 13 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 14 (1:30 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra Pops
Steven Reineke conducting
Brian Stokes Mitchell, guest star
“Happy Holdays!”
program TBA
$20-$85
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 12 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
conductor TBA
Cirque Musica
“Holiday Cirque”
program TBA
$31-$86
(877) 276-1444 (Baltimore Symphony box office)
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 13 (7 p.m.)
Trinity Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Parham Road, Richmond
Dec. 15 (5 p.m.)
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Monument Avenue at Staples Mill Road, Richmond
James River Singers
David Pedersen directing
Christopher Martin, organ
“A Festival of Carols: a Celebration of Seasonal Choral Favorites”
program TBA
$15
(804) 233-9220
www.jamesriversingers.org

Dec. 13 (7:30 p.m.)
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 520 N. Boulevard, Richmond
Dec. 15 (3 p.m.)
Grace Baptist Church, 4200 Dover Road, Richmond
Dec. 22 (2 p.m.)
Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church, 201 Henry St., Ashland
Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale
David Sinden directing
Laura Candler White, organist-pianist
orchestra
harpist, soloists TBA
Saint-Saëns: “Christmas Oratorio”
works TBA by Britten, Vaughan Williams, others
$10; $15 at door
(800) 838-3006
www.cvamc.org

Dec. 13 (8 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Vienna Choir Boys
Manolo Cagnin directing
works by Victoria, Orff, Praetorius, Johann Strauss II, others; holiday music TBA
$25-$50
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
www.cfa.gmu.edu

Dec. 14 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
Richmond Boys Choir
Christmas program TBA
free
(804) 646-7223
www.richmondpubliclibrary.org

Dec. 14 (7 p.m.)
Chesterfield Towne Centre, Huguenot Road at Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian
Dec. 15 (3 p.m.)
Virginia Center Commons, 10101 Brook Road
(U.S. 1), Glen Allen
Central Virginia Wind Symphony
Mike Goldberg directing
“ 'Twas the Night Before Christmas”
Jeff Prillaman, narrator
holiday music TBA
free
(804) 342-8797
www.thewindsymphony.com

Dec. 14 (8 p.m.)
Chrysler Hall, 215 St. Paul’s Boulevard, Norfolk
Dec. 15 (7:30 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony
Robert Shoup conducting
Amanda Batcher, soprano
Virginia Symphony Chorus
Virginia Children’s Chorus
other performers TBA
“Holiday Pops”
program TBA
$22-$90
(757) 892-6366
www.virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 14 (2 & 4:30 p.m.)
Paramount Theater, 215 E. Main St., Charlottesville
Ash Lawn Opera
Kate Tamarkin conducting
Menotti: “Amahl and the Night Visitors”
Georgia Castleman (Amahl)
Brandy Lynn Johnson (The Mother)
Benjamin Bunsold (King Kaspar)
Efrain Solis (King Melchior)
Kenneth Kellog (King Balthazar)
VaShawn McIlwain (The Page)
Andrea Dorf McGray, stage director
in English
$27-$45
(434) 979-1333
www.theparamount.net

Dec. 14 (2 & 7:30 p.m.)
Dec. 15 (2 p.m.)
Dec. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Dec. 21 (2 & 7:30 p.m.)
Dec. 22 (2 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Washington National Opera
Kimberly Grigsby conducting
Jeanine Tesori & J.D. McClatchy: “The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me” (premiere)
Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program cast TBA
Francesca Zambello, stage director
in English
$44-$64
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 14 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 15 (3 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
National Philharmonic
Stan Engebretson conducting
Handel: “Messiah”
Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano
Magdalena Wór, mezzo-soprano
Roberto Petillo, tenor
Kevin Deas, bass
National Philharmonic Chorale
$28-$84
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 15 (4 p.m.)
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., Richmond
Greater Richmond Children’s Choir
Hope Armstrong Erb directing
“Festival of Holidays”
program TBA
$11
(804) 201-1894
www.grcchoir.org

Dec. 15 (4 p.m.)
Hylton Arts Center, George Mason University, Manassas
Vienna Choir Boys
Manolo Cagnin directing
works by Victoria, Orff, Praetorius, Johann Strauss II, others; holiday music TBA
$34-$50
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
www.hyltoncenter.org

Dec. 15 (5 p.m.)
Dec. 21 (1 p.m.)
Dec. 22 (7 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
The Washington Chorus
Julian Wachner directing
“A Candlelight Christmas”
program TBA
$15-$70
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 16 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 21 (4 p.m.)
Dec. 24 (1 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Choral Arts Society of Washington
Scott Tucker directing
Children’s Chorus of Washington
Joan Gregoryk directing
“An Enchanted Christmas”
program TBA
$15-$75
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 18 (8 p.m.)
Phi Beta Kappa Hall, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg
Dec. 19 (8 p.m.)
Regent University Theater, Virginia Beach
Dec. 20 (8 p.m.)
First Baptist Church, 12716 Warwick Boulevard, Newport News
Dec. 21 (8 p.m.)
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk
Virginia Symphony
JoAnn Falletta conducting
Handel: “Messiah”
Amy Van Roekel, soprano
Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano
David Sadlier, tenor
Lester Lynch, baritone
Virginia Symphony Chorus
$22-$105
(757) 892-6366
www.virginiasymphony.org

Dec. 19 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 20 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 21 (8 p.m.)
Dec. 22 (1 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Rossen Milanov conducting
Handel: “Messiah”
Leah Crocetto, soprano
Elizabeth DeShong, mezzo-soprano
Russell Thomas, tenor
Iain Paterson, bass-baritone
Choral Arts Society of Washington
$10-$85
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 19 (7:30 p.m.)
Dec. 23 (7:30 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
The Washington Chorus
Julian Wachner directing
Robinson Singers
Michael Horanski directing
“A Candlelight Christmas”
program TBA
$15-$62
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 21 (2:30 & 7:30 p.m.)
Paramount Theater, 215 E. Main St., Charlottesville
Oratorio Society of Virginia
Michael Slon directing
Albemarle High School Patriot Singers
Jennifer Layman Morris directing
Burley Middle School Bearettes Young Women's Chorus
Craig Jennings directing
“Christmas at the Paramount”
program TBA
$25-$49
(434) 979-1333
www.theparamount.net

Dec. 21 (4 & 8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
The Irish Tenors
“Premiere Irish Holiday Celebration Tour”
program TBA
$36-$78
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 22 (4 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Washington Symphonic Brass
program TBA
$28-$50
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 23 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
“Messiah” sing-along
Barry Hemphill conducting
soloists TBA
orchestra
free; tickets required (distribution beginning at 6 p.m. in Hall of Nations)
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org

Dec. 29 (3 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Strauss Symphony Orchestra of America
Christian Schulz conducting
Monika Rebholz, soprano
Brian Cheney, tenor
Europaballett-St. Pölten
International Champion Ballroom Dancers
“Salute to Vienna”
program TBA
$49-$89
(301) 581-5100
www.strathmore.org

Dec. 30 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Fortas Chamber Music Series:
The Last Stand Quartet
André Braugher & Reiko Aylesworth, actors
Rob Clare, director
“An Evening of Shakespeare in Words and Music”
program TBA
$38
(800) 444-1324
www.kennedy-center.org
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Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the Chicago Symphony in a performance of the Ninth Symphony of Gustav Mahler – a work whose deathly quiet finale is infamously vulnerable to extramusical noises – copes with a bronchial audience by tossing cough drops from the stage, reports Lawrence A. Johnson of Chicago Classical Review:

http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/2013/11/tilson-thomas-throws-out-the-first-lozenge-for-noisy-cso-audience/

(Thanks to Bill Comita for passing this along.)
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Virginia Opera
Mark Russell Smith conducting
Nov. 22, Richmond CenterStage

Directors staging Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” should always ask themselves the WWESD question: What would Emanuel Schickaneder do?

Schickaneder, the impresario of a popular Viennese music hall, wrote the text for Mozart’s fanciful “song-play,” and created the character of Papageno, the bird-catcher and comic lead of the show. He liked his humor broad and a bit bawdy, and otherwise knew to keep his audience constantly engaged.

I think Schickaneder would have approved of Michael Shell’s stage direction of the current Virginia Opera production of “The Magic Flute.” It’s sung and spoken in the audience’s language, a vernacular American translation by Kit Hesketh-Harvey. It’s peppered with pop-culture references, from the exclamation “Dude!” to bits of Gladys Knight & The Pips choreography, but lightly enough not to distract from the story or alter its never-never-land locale. That never-landishness is helped immensely by Driscoll Otto’s lighting effects.

The show’s principals are generally well-cast. Heather Buck is a hair-raising Queen of the Night. Matthew Plenk and Nadine Sierra have the tone, looks and seeming naïveté for the romantic leads of Tamino and Pamina.

David Pearshall doesn’t come across as doltish enough for Papageno, but he brings a fine voice and high energy to the role. Kenneth Kellogg’s Sarastro is commanding, but the role sounds to lie lower than his ideal range, at least to judge from under-projected low notes in the first of two Richmond performances.

The supporting cast is unusually strong. Amanda Opuszynski is an effervescent Papagena. Natalie Polito, Courtney Miller and Sarah Williams, as the three ladies-in-waiting to the Queen, have great fun with their parts. Anna Maples, Fran Coleman and Kristen Choi, as the three spirits (traditionally boys), look to have even more fun, scooting around on skateboards, a tricycle and other kids’ conveyances. Even the villainous slavemaster Monostatos, Ryan Connelly, romps through his role.

Virginia Opera’s chorus gets into the act more than usual, although the women in their flowing cloaks get most of the animation. The men, in the priestly vestments, mostly stand around.

Conductor Mark Russell Smith, returning to town for his first performances since relinquishing music direction of the Richmond Symphony four years ago, obtains brightly sonorous and warmly lyrical playing from the pit orchestra, composed of members of the Virginia Symphony – musically crowning a charming production.

The final Richmond performance of Virginia Opera’s production of “The Magic Flute” begins at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 24 at the Carpenter Theatre of Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $18-$104. Details: (866) 673-7282; www.vaopera.org

The production will be staged at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 and 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Center for the Arts, George Mason University in Fairfax. Tickets: $44-$98. Details: (888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com); www.vaopera.org
4 months ago | |
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with Peter Serkin, piano
Nov. 15, University of Richmond

The Shanghai Quartet has worked with many of the finest pianists in chamber music over the years. With a few of them, the music-making audibly has been a labor of love. To judge from his performance with the quartet at the University of Richmond, Peter Serkin sounds to be one of those few.

For most in the near-capacity crowd in the Modlin Arts Center’s Camp Concert Hall, the evening’s highlight was Dvorák’s Piano Quintet in A major, which Serkin and the Shanghai treated to an unusually expressive reading.

It was almost Dvorák-as-Schumann, with ample use of rubato, high contrast of tempos and tempers, and extra sweetness in the big lyrical tunes. The earthiness and rhythmic snap of Czech folk song and dance were effectively sublimated. The result, to my ears, was quite beautiful, at times quite exciting, but not quite Dvorák.

The pianist and quartet also reprised the “Dance Capriccio” of the Chinese-born Bright Sheng, which they premiered last year in Detroit.

Of all the Chinese composers who’ve emerged in the past generation, Sheng is perhaps the most “western” in his style, which recalls traditional folk material within the framework of Stravinskian neoclassicism, and in his instrumental voicings. His more recent music rarely asks players to impersonate traditional Chinese instruments, although they often create that effect collectively.

The “Dance Capriccio” is one of the more effective showcases of Sheng’s cultural synthesis. Almost a Chinese-accented analogue to European folk-dance settings (of, say, Dvorák or Kodály), the piece sustains its energy, atmosphere and generally good cheer over its fairly brief length, and calls for virtuosity that is neither garish nor gratuitous.

The Shanghai opened the program with the String Quartet in E minor of Giuseppe Verdi, a marginal piece of the Italian composer’s repertory that is being played a lot in this 200th anniversary year. The Verdi quartet doesn’t sound like it was dashed off in three days while he was stuck in a Naples hotel (which it was) with some refinements made later; but he didn’t waste any memorable melodies or instrumental effects on the piece.

The quartet – violinist Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras – gave the Verdi an appropriately warm, romantic reading. Tzavaras’ songful cello solo in the trio section of the third movement was an added treat.
5 months ago | |
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Allan Blank, the Richmond-based composer and retired music professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has died at 87.

After his retirement from VCU, Blank continued to compose prolifically. Many of his chamber and vocal works were given first or early performances here, most recently a Piano Quartet introduced in August by the Richmond Chamber Players.

An obituary by Ellen Robertson for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

http://www.timesdispatch.com/obituaries/featured/allan-blank-composer-and-retired-vcu-professor-dies-at/article_0b46f7df-4cac-5489-ab6c-ca43df7cffd4.html

ADDENDUM: A memorial service for Allan Blank will be held from 9-11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 at Woody Funeral Chapel, 1020 Huguenot Road.
5 months ago | |
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John Tavener, the English composer whose conversion to Russian Orthodoxy in 1977 led him to adopt a style not unlike that of East Europeans writing under the influence of old Slavic and Orthodox liturgical music, has died at 69.

An obituary by Allan Kozinn for The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/13/arts/music/john-tavener-dies-at-69-composer-with-eye-on-god.html?hpw&rref=obituaries
5 months ago | |
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