Letter V
Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
915 Entries

After reading numerous accounts of classical music being used to prevent youths – or “yoots,” as Joe Pesci’s character terms them in “My Cousin Vinny” – from hanging out in public places, violinist Gil Shaham has produced “Music to Drive Away Loiterers,” a compilation of pieces from the catalogue of his record label, Canary Classics.

The collection, including the Sicilienne of Fauré, Pablo de Sarasate’s “Navarra,” the march from Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges,” the finale of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and 10 other sure-fire yoot repellents, will be released – when else? – on April 1.
4 months ago | |
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March 27
1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
www.wdce.org

Wagner: “Rienzi” Overture
MET Orchestra/James Levine (Deutsche Grammophon)

Elgar: Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82
Karen Johnson, violin; Joanne Kong, piano (Brioso)

Beethoven: “Choral Fantasy”
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Swiss Chamber Choir, Tonhalle Orchestra, Zürich/David Zinman (Arte Nova)

Past Masters:
Saint-Saëns: “Introduction and Rondo capriccioso”
David Oistrakh, violin
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (RCA Victor)
(recorded 1955)

Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga: String Quartet No. 2 in A major
Guarneri Quartet (Newton Classics)

Mozart: Serenade in C minor, K. 388
Harmonie of l’Orchestre des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi France)
4 months ago | |
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March 24, St. Christopher’s School

The Oberon Quartet had planned to play the Bagatelles of Mason Bates about a month ago, when the Richmond-bred composer was revisiting his old school, St. Christopher’s, and having his Violin Concerto played by Anne Akiko Meyers and the Richmond Symphony. A snowstorm intervened, and the Oberon performance had to be rescheduled.

The ensemble, which maintains a residency at St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s schools, paired Bates’ work with the familiar String Quartet of Maurice Ravel. Violinists Alana Pritchard Carithers and Susy Yim and violist Molly Sharp were joined by cellist Ryan Lannan, with whom they play in the Richmond Symphony. The group’s regular cellist, Bill Comita, was absent because of a family emergency.

Performing in St. Christopher’s recently opened Playhouse, a room about the size of a 19th-century salon, the Oberon produced a vivid, ripe collective sonority – perhaps a bit much for the subtler, more sonically rarified sections of the Ravel, but just right for Bates’ extroverted Ballades.

In a video preview of the piece, the 37-year-old composer described the first of the three ballades, “Rough Math,” as “some of the most head-banging music I’ve written.” Not so much in volume or aggressiveness (the usual implications of “head-banging”), it turned out, as in rhythmic activity and a certain jaggedness produced by irregular (or, as Bates put it, “lopsided”) rhythms.

The basic pulse of “Rough Math” and the two subsequent bagatelles, “On a Wire: Mating Dance” and “Scrapyard Exotica” (played in reverse order from that in the score), alternate between one or more strings and electronic effects (from Todd Matthews, manning a laptop computer) created by manipulating recorded fiddle sounds (of the Del Sol Quartet, which introduced the piece in 2012).

“Rough Math” and “Scrapyard Exotica” maintain, for all their rhythmic intricacies, fairly consistent grooves; “On a Wire” sounds more free-form, both rhythmically and in its voicings.

The Oberon negoitiated Bates’ Bagatelles ably with a palpable sense of adventurousness.

Some of the same qualities came through in the Ravel quartet, especially in the pizzicato of the work’s second movement, which sounded more spontaneous and chancy (also, more roughly textured) than in the usual interpretation, and in the finale, which came across as less agité, more energetically festive.
4 months ago | |
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March 19, University of Richmond

The new-music sextet eighth blackbird – with a substitute percussionist, Doug Perkins, filling in for an ailing Matthew Duvall – presented “Still in Motion,” a vaguely ominous potpourri of recent works, to close out its performances in the 10th season of its residency at the University of Richmond.

The dark tones of “Murder Ballades” by Bryce Dessner (better known as guitarist of the rock band The National), the sextet “Old Kings in Exile” (2011) by Brett Dean and “Last Exit,” a piece by the ’birds’ flutist, Tim Munro, were offset by the productively zany “whirligig,” a four-hands piano work by the ensemble’s pianist, Lisa Kaplan, and by a post-concert “Musicircus” featuring the ’birds and UR faculty and student musicians in an hour-long homage to the all-bets-are-off/noise-is-good aesthetic of John Cage.

“Murder Ballades,” written last year for eighth blackbird, recasts a set of traditional ballads about what Dessner calls “romantically charged killings” (“Pretty Polly” and “Brushy Fork” are the most familiar) in a style that could be called neoclassical ragtime, filtered through the sonic and rhythmic prism of the 1920s works of Igor Stravinsky and the composers of France’s Les Six, and garnished with a couple of references-in-passing to the da-da-da-dum “fate” motif of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Given the work’s plentiful syncopation and Anglo-American ballads as source material, you might expect echoes of bluegrass; but Dessner somehow avoids that, creating instead an interplay between “old-time” string-band harmonics and tonal hues and the jittery angularity of modernism.

Despite the murder theme – the composer says the piece was inspired in part by the Aurora and Newtown killing sprees – the haunting “Dark Hollow” is the only section that sounds truly bleak or frightening. (At least to me: Having been immersed in this kind of fatalistic folk music since childhood, I may scare less easily than folks from other places.)

The sextet by Dean, a onetime Berlin Philharmonic violist who has become perhaps the most prominent contemporary composer from Australia, occupies a darker and dreamier space. Its muted prelude and and more complex and expressive epilogue bracket a “double trio,” contrasting strings and winds, and providing quite a showcase of technique for flutist Munro and clarinetist Matthew J. Maccaferri. The central section’s frenzied pace and intricate, jagged voicings at times suggest a fireflies’ sabbath, at other times fairies dancing on broken glass.

Munro’s “Last Exit,” inspired by the poem of that name by the Australian Sam Wagan Watson, evokes what the flutist calls the “dark, dirty, dangerous” environment of Brisbane in the 1970s. (More recently, he noted, the coastal city has become “Miami down under.”) Scored for solo flute(s) with recorded manipulations of flute sounds (some barely recognizable as such), the piece is full of wind-and-water effects and is nocturnal in character, painting a mind’s-ear picture of a waterfront scene in an updated version of film noir.

Kaplan’s “whirligig,” written last year for a four-hands piano date with composer Nico Muhly, was played on this occasion by eight hands, Kaplan’s and those of violinist Yvonne Lam, percussionist Perkins and cellist Nicholas Photinos, each taking a turn in its three sections. Slapstick pervades the piece – its physical premise is the “invasion of each other’s space” by pianists scrunched together on a bench, crossing hands and otherwise “getting in the way.” Its style is predominantly a kind of prismatic boogie-woogie in the outer sections, with a subtler, more delicate central section. It’s fun to hear, and more fun to watch.

The ’birds rounded out the program with “Duo for Heart and Breath” (2012) by the Canadian Richard Parry, another composer coming out of indie-rock (he plays in the band Arcade Fire). The work can be heard as being quite literal – the violinist plays long notes while breathing audibly into a microphone, while the pianist (wearing a stethoscope) elaborates on a two-note, lub-dub motif. The collective effect of these sounds, however, is more ambiguous and stimulating to the imagination.
4 months ago | |
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Jeremy Denk, the cerebrally quirky pianist who is almost as well-known for his “Think Denk” blog (http://jeremydenk.net/blog/) and other writings as for his music-making, is on a recognition roll.

He has just received the Avery Fisher Prize (several years after scoring a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, aka “genius grant”). His recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” seems destined to be the year’s biggest classical hit. He is the newly named “artistic partner” of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. And, as the new artistic director of the prestigious Ojai (CA) Music Festival, he will introduce with co-creator Steven Stucky “The Classical Style,” a comic opera (very) loosely based on Charles Rosen’s classic music-theory text.

Denk, who has performed in Richmond five times in the past decade (twice with the Richmond Symphony, once with the Shanghai Quartet and twice in solo recitals), followed up a 2007 appearance with “Liason,” a blog post – http://jeremydenk.net/blog/2007/10/29/liaison/ – celebrating his artist-liason person/driver-confessor, the now-legendary Prabir, and the city’s bar scene, anticipating by five or six years Richmond’s ascent on assorted hipster indices.

The New York Times’ Michael Cooper chronicles Denk’s recent coups:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/arts/music/pianist-jeremy-denk-to-receive-avery-fisher-prize.html?ref=music
4 months ago | |
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March 20
1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
www.wdce.org

Hamish MacCunn: “The Land of the Mountain and the Flood”
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Grant Llewellyn (Argo)

Past Masters:
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor (“Scottish”)
London Symphony Orchestra/Peter Maag (Decca)
(recorded 1960)

traditional: “Oh, the broom”
(original ballad and versions by John Playford and Gay & Pepusch [from “The Beggar’s Opera”])
Patrizia Kwella, soprano; Paul Elliott, tenor
The Broadside Band/Jeremy Barlow (Harmonia Mundi France)

Alexander Reinagle: “Occasional Overture” in D major (1794)
(reconstructed by Bertil van Boer)
Sinfonia Finlandia, Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois (Naxos)

traditional: “A Scots Rant,” “A Trip to Killburn”
Baltimore Consort (Dorian)

Songs by Robert Burns:
“Auld Rob Morris” (arranged by Haydn)
“Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn” (arranged by Haydn)
“The bonny wee thing” (arranged by Haydn & Beethoven)
“Duncan Gray” (arranged by Beethoven)
“The lovely Lass o’Inverness” (arranged by Beethoven)
Lorna Anderson, soprano; Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano; Harry Nicoll, tenor; Alan Watt, baritone
Scottish Early Music Consort/Warwick Edwards (Chandos Chaconne)

Beethoven: “Air and Variations on ‘O Kenmure’s on and awa, Willie’ ”
Utako Ikeda, flute; John Kitchen, fortepiano (Chandos Chaconne)

Malcolm Arnold: “Four Scottish Dances,” Op. 59
London Philharmonic/Malcolm Arnold (Phoenix)

Robert Burns: “Auld Lang Syne”(arranged by Leopold Anton Kozeluch)
Lorna Anderson, soprano; Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano; Harry Nicoll, tenor; Alan Watt, baritone
Scottish Early Music Consort/Warwick Edwards (Chandos Chaconne)

Stephen Foster: “Hard Times Come Again No More”
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Molly Mason, Mark Rust & Garrison Keillor, vocal harmonies
Jay Ungar, violin; Molly Mason, guitar; Tony Trishka, banjo; David Alpher, piano (Angel)
4 months ago | |
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The WDCE highbrows go Celtic: Tuesday Classics with Mark Lederway presents music from and about Ireland. On Thursday, Letter V Classical Radio evokes Scotland . . .

Tuesday Classics
March 18
noon-4 p.m. EDT
1600-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
www.wdce.org

Hamilton Harty: “Variations on a Dublin Air”
Ralph Holmes, violin
Ulster Orchestra/Bryden Thomson (Chandos)

Harty: “The Fair Day” from “An Irish Symphony”
National Orchestra of Ireland/Proinnsias O’Duinn (Naxos)

Harty: “In Ireland”
National Orchestra of Ireland/Proinnsias O’Duinn (Naxos)

Walter Beckett: String Quartet No. 1 (1980)
Vanbrugh Quartet (Chandos)

John Kinsella: Symphony No. 7
RTE National Symphony Orchestra/Gavin Maloney (RTE Lyric)

Gerard Victory: “Three Irish Pictures”
RTE Sinfonietta/Proinnsias O’Duinn (Marco Polo)

A.F. Potter: “Rhapsody under a High Sky” (1951)
RTE Sinfonietta/Proinnsias O’Duinn (Marco Polo)

Victor Herbert: “Irish Rhapsody”
Slovak Radio Symphony, Bratislava/Keith Brion (Naxos)

Arthur Sullivan: Symphony in E major (“Irish”)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Charles Groves (EMI Classics)

John Field: “Irish Dance (‘Go to the Devil’),” “Nouvelle Fantasie” in G major, “Fantasy on a Russian Air (‘In the Garden’)”
Miceál O’Rourke, piano (Chandos)

Charles Villiers Stanford: “Song of the Sou’wester” from “Songs of the Fleet”
Gerald Finley, baritone
BBC National Chorus and Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox (Chandos)

Stanford: “Irish Rhapsody” No. 3, Op. 137
Rafael Wallfisch, cello
Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Chandos)

* * *

Letter V Classical Radio
March 20
1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
www.wdce.org

Hamish MacCunn: “The Land of the Mountain and the Flood”
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Grant Llewellyn (Argo)

Past Masters:
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor (“Scottish”)
London Symphony Orchestra/Peter Maag (Decca)
(recorded 1960)

traditional: “Oh, the broom”
(original ballad and versions by John Playford and Gay & Pepusch [from “The Beggar’s Opera”])
Patrizia Kwella, soprano; Paul Elliott, tenor
The Broadside Band/Jeremy Barlow (Harmonia Mundi France)

Alexander Reinagle: “Occasional Overture” in D major (1794)
(reconstructed by Bertil van Boer)
Sinfonia Finlandia, Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois (Naxos)

traditional: “A Scots Rant,” “A Trip to Killburn”
Baltimore Consort (Dorian)

Songs by Robert Burns:
“Auld Rob Morris” (arranged by Haydn)
“Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn” (arranged by Haydn)
“The bonny wee thing” (arranged by Haydn & Beethoven)
“Duncan Gray” (arranged by Beethoven)
“The lovely Lass o’Inverness” (arranged by Beethoven)
Lorna Anderson, soprano; Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano; Harry Nicoll, tenor; Alan Watt, baritone
Scottish Early Music Consort/Warwick Edwards (Chandos Chaconne)

Beethoven: “Air and Variations on ‘O Kenmure’s on and awa, Willie’ ”
Utako Ikeda, flute; John Kitchen, fortepiano (Chandos Chaconne)

Malcolm Arnold: “Four Scottish Dances,” Op. 59
London Philharmonic/Malcolm Arnold (Phoenix)

Robert Burns: “Auld Lang Syne”(arranged by Leopold Anton Kozeluch)
Lorna Anderson, soprano; Christine Cairns, mezzo-soprano; Harry Nicoll, tenor; Alan Watt, baritone
Scottish Early Music Consort/Warwick Edwards (Chandos Chaconne)

Stephen Foster: “Hard Times Come Again No More”
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Molly Mason, Mark Rust & Garrison Keillor, vocal harmonies
Jay Ungar, violin; Molly Mason, guitar; Tony Trishka, banjo; David Alpher, piano (Angel)
4 months ago | |
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Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, the veteran Spanish conductor, nearly collapses toward the end of a concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, but hangs on to complete Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.”

No word yet on what exactly happened, but the NSO says the 80-year-old Frühbeck intends to lead tonight’s concert as scheduled, Philip Kennicott reports in The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/conductor-rafael-fruhbeck-de-burgos-finishes-concert-despite-apparent-health-issue/2014/03/14/a14670d4-abec-11e3-98f6-8e3c562f9996_story.html?hpid=z4

UPDATE (March 18): Norman Lebrecht reports that NSO Assistant Conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl stepped in on March 15 for Frühbeck, who showed symptoms of pneumonia:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/03/sticken-spanish-conductor-may-have-pneumonia.html

4 months ago | |
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University of Richmond students are on spring break, so I get to do a long show . . .

March 13
noon-4 p.m. EDT
1600-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
www.wdce.org

Kodály: “Dances of Galánta”
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi (Chandos)

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414
Fazil Say, piano
Zürich Chamber Orchestra/Howard Griffiths (Naïve)

Jan Dismas Zelenka: Trio Sonata No. 4 in G minor
Maurice Bourgue & Heinz Holliger, oboes; Klaus Thunemann, bassoon; Klaus Stoll, double-bass; Jonathan Rubin, lute; Christiane Jacottet, harpsichord (ECM)

Past Masters:
Beethoven: “Coriolan” Overture
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten (BBC Music)
(recorded 1966)

Bruch: Serenade, Op. 75
Salvatore Accardo, violin
Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/Kurt Masur (Philips)

Glinka: Spanish Overture No. 1 (“Jota aragonesa”)
BBC Philharmonic/Vasily Sinaisky (Chandos)

Ravel: “Shéhérazade”
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa (Philips)

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3
Terence Judd, piano
Moscow Philharmonic/Alexander Lazarev (Chandos)

Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”
New Queen’s Hall Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth (Argo)

Debussy: “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”
Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez (Deutsche Grammophon)

Benjamin Broening: “like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment”
eighth blackbird (Bridge)

Gottschalk: “A Night in the Tropics”
Hot Springs Festival Symphony Orchestra/Richard Rosenberg(Naxos)

Brahms: Viola Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1
Roberto Díaz, viola; Jeremy Denk, piano (Naxos)
4 months ago | |
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Neil Atkinson, a journalist whose beat is soccer (football, he would say), gets blown away by Vasily Petrenko, the Liverpool Philharmonic and Edward Elgar:

http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2014/03/petrenkos-elgar-5314-review/

Parker Perry, an Ohio college student, is not blown away by a Cleveland Orchestra concert:

http://www.twinsburgbulletin.com/entertainment/2014/03/07/orchestra-may-face-uphill-battle-attracting-youth

(via ArtsJournal, www.artsjournal.com)
4 months ago | |
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