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Clarke Bustard
The Virginia Classical Music Blog
1287 Entries

My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of the Richmond Symphony Metro Collection concert, featuring cellist Neal Cary, at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland:

4 months ago | |
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My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of pianist Yefim Bronfman playing sonatas by Prokofiev at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center:

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A program in memory of Gilbert Kaplan, the financier and journalist turned Mahler scholar, who died on New Year’s Day.

Captivated by a 1965 performance of Mahler’s epic Second Symphony (“Resurrection”) led by Leopold Stokowski, Kaplan decided that the only way he could could understand this music and his response to it was to conduct it himself. He embarked on an intensive study of conducting technique, subsequently acquired the autograph score, the composer’s baton and other artifacts, and made the Mahler Second his life’s work.

The program concludes with Kaplan’s remarkable 1987 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra. That performance is preceded by Mahler’s 1905 piano rolls of two of his songs and works by Brahms, Wagner, Schubert and Richard Strauss.

Jan. 14
10 a.m.-1 p.m. EST
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Brahms: “A German Requiem” –
VI: “Denn wir haben hier keine bleibende Statt”
Thomas Quasthoff, baritone
Berlin Radio Choir
Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle (EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Richard Strauss: “Death and Transfiguration”
Philadelphia Orchestra/
Leopold Stokowski
(RCA Victor)
(recorded 1934)

Wagner: “Tristan und Isolde” – Prelude & Liebestod
Jessye Norman, soprano
London Philharmonic/
Klaus Tennstedt
(EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (“Unfinished”)
Berlin Philharmonic/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Audite)
(recorded 1953)

Past Masters:
“Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” – “Ging heut’ morgens aus übers Feld”
“Des Knaben Wunderhorn” – “Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald”
Gustav Mahler, piano
(Conifer Classics)
(1905 piano roll)

Mahler: Symphony No. 2
in C minor (“Resurrection”)
Benita Valente, soprano
Maureen Forrester, contralto
London Symphony Chorus
Ardwyn Singers
BBC Welsh Chorus
Cardiff Polyphonic Choir
The Dyfed Choir
London Symphony Orchestra/Gilbert Kaplan (Conifer Classics)
4 months ago | |
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Virginia Opera will stage its first productions of “The Seven Deadly Sins” by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht and “Der Freischütz” by Carl Maria von Weber, as well as launching a five-year Puccini cycle, next season.

The company’s 2016-17 season will begin with “The Seven Deadly Sins,” on a double bill with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci,” Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 and 4 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House, Oct. 8 and 9 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax, and Oct. 14 and 16 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Arts Center (formerly Richmond CenterStage).

Adam Turner, resident conductor of Virginia Opera and the first recipient of the Kurt Weill-Julius Rudel Conducting Fellowship, will lead the Weill-Leoncavallo double bill, with stage direction by Keturah Stickann. Ute Gfrerer, in her US operatic stage debut, will star in “The Seven Deadly Sins.” The cast of “Pagliacci” will be led by Kelly Kaduce and Michael Chioldi.

“The Seven Deadly Sins” will be sung in English, “Pagliacci” in Italian, both with projected captions.

The company’s second production of the ’16-’17 season will be Gioachino Rossini’s greatest hit, “The Barber of Seville,” first produced in 1816. Performances are slated for Nov. 11, 13 and 15 in Norfolk, Nov. 18 and 20 in Richmond, and Dec. 3 and 4 in Fairfax.

Will Liverman, a Virginia Beach native, will star as the barber Figaro, in a cast also featuring Megan Marino and Andrew Owens. The production, in Italian with English captions, will be conducted by John Baril, music director of Colorado’s Central City Opera, and directed by Michael Shell.

“Der Freischütz,” staged as “The Magic Marksman” in an English translation with captions, will star Issachah Savage, winner of the 2014 Seattle Wagner Competition and rated as one of the leading young Heldentenors of opera in the US. The cast also will include Katherine Polit and Jake Gardner.

Turner will conduct and Stephen Lawless will direct the Weber, presented on Jan. 27, 29 and 31 in Norfolk, Feb. 4 and 5 in Fairfax, and Feb. 17 and 19 in Richmond.

Virginia Opera’s ’16-’17 season concludes with Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, “Turandot,” staged on March 17, 19 and 21 in Norfolk, March 25 and 26 in Fairfax, and March 31 and April 2 in Richmond. Kelly Kae Hogan will sing the title role, and Roger Honeywell will co-star as Calaf, voice of the popular aria “Nessun dorma.”

“Turandot,” sung in Italian with English captions, will be conducted by John DeMain and directed by Lillian Groag.

For information on ticket subscriptions for the Norfolk and Richmond seasons, call (866) 673-7282 or visit http://www.vaopera.org

Fairfax subscriptions will go on sale this spring.
4 months ago | |
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Kitty Kallen, the singer who took “Little Things Mean a Lot” to the top of the pop charts in 1954, has died at 94.

The song was one of the two biggest hits for the Richmond songwriting duo of composer Carl Stutz and lyricist Edith Lindeman. The other was “Red Headed Stranger,” around which singer Willie Nelson devised a best-selling album in 1975.

A Kallen obituary by The Washington Post’s Adam Bernstein:

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Pierre Boulez, a leader of the post-World War II compositional avant-garde who (in)famously declared, “Schoenberg is dead,” only to become a leading advocate of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Debussy, Messiaen and other modern composers in a long, stellar career as a conductor, has died at 90.

While some of his compositions, such as “Répons,” “Marteau Sans Maître,” “Pli Selon Pli” and his Second and Third piano sonatas, are rated as masterpieces of postwar art-music, Boulez was far more widely known as a conductor and organizer of musical enterprises.

He prevailed upon the French government to found the Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM) and its resident Ensemble Intercontemporain, and subsequently to build the City of Music complex that houses the Paris Conservatoire.

Although Boulez had led orchestras and other ensembles since the 1940s, he came into his own as a conductor in the ’70s. He served as music advisor to the Cleveland Orchestra (1970-72) following the death of George Szell, and succeeded Leonard Bernstein as music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1971. During an often stormy six-year tenure in New York, he founded the “Rug Concerts,” a prototype of the informal concert series now staged by many classical-music ensembles.

He also was chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971-75), served for many years as principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and performed with other major orchestras.

In 1976, the centenary of Richard Wagner’s death, Boulez conducted the “Ring” cycle at Bayreuth, in a provocative production by Patrice Chéreau that was telecast and circulated on audio and video recordings. Boulez and Chéreau also collaborated in the first staging of the completed version of Alban Berg’s “Lulu” in 1979.

Boulez recorded many of the canonical works of 20th-century music with the New York Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra for Columbia (now Sony Classical) in the 1970s, and later with the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and other ensembles for Deutsche Grammophon. His audio and video discography also includes some music of 18th- and 19th-century composers, notably Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Bruckner.

An obituary by Paul Griffiths for The New York Times:


An obituary by Tim Page for The Washington Post:


An obituary by Mark Brown in The Guardian:

4 months ago | |
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A new year, a new crop of musical anniversaries to mark: The 150th birthdays of Erik Satie and Ferrucio Busoni; the centenaries of the deaths of Enrique Granados, George Butterworth (both casualties of World War I) and Max Reger; and 50th, 100th, 150th and 200th anniversaries of works by composers ranging from Rossini and Schubert to Shostakovich and Ligeti.

Jan. 7
1-5 p.m. EST
1800-2200 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

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

Past Masters:
Dohnányi: “Variations on a Nursery Song”
Erno Dohnányi, piano
London Symphony Orchestra/
Lawrance Collingwood
(EMI Classics)
(recorded 1931)

Debussy: Sonata for flute, viola and harp
Mathieu Dufour, flute
Gérard Caussé, viola
Isabelle Moretti, harp (Harmonia Mundi)

Ligeti: “Lux aeterna”
North German Radio Choir/Helmut Franz (Deutsche Grammophon)

“A Shropshire Lad”
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/
Grant Llewellyn (Argo)

Reger: “Four Tone Poems
after Arnold Böcklin”
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Neeme Järvi (Chandos)

Granados: “Goyescas,” Book 2 – “Love and Death”
Jean-François Heisser, piano (Apex)

Past Masters:
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 in G minor
(“Winter Dreams”)
I: Allegro tranquillo
London Symphony Orchestra/
Igor Markevitch
(Newton Classics)
(recorded 1966)

Cello Concerto No. 2
Heinrich Schiff, cello
Bavarian Radio
Symphony Orchestra/
Maxim Shostakovich (Decca)

Rachmaninoff: “Études-tableaux,” Op. 39, Nos. 2-3
Sviatoslav Richter, piano (Regis)

Satie: “Trois Gymnopédies”
Satie: “Sonatine bureaucratique”
Satie: “Avant-dernières pensées” 
Aldo Ciccolini, piano
(EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Schubert: Symphony
No. 4 in C minor (“Tragic”)
Vienna Philharmonic/
István Kertész
(recorded 1970)

Past Masters:
J.S. Bach: Partita in D minor, BWV 1004 – Chaconne
(transcribed by Ferrucio Busoni)
Ferrucio Busoni, piano (Dal Segno)
(1914 piano roll)
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Gianandrea Noseda, music director of the Teatro Regio Torino opera company in Turin and principal guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic, will take over direction of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach.

Noseda, currently conducting Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will lead two NSO programs next season as music director-designate, and begin his tenure as music director in the 2017-18 season. His initial contract with the orchestra runs through 2020-21.

A 51-year-old native of Milan, Noseda served as chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester from 2002 to 2011 and principal guest conductor of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2007. He is a prolific recording artist, notably of the “Musica Italiana” series of works by Italian composers for Chandos Records. He was named Conductor of the Year for 2015 by Musical America.

In his most recent date with the National Symphony last November, “we felt a mutual respect and commitment to music-making that is the foundation of a successful artistic partnership from the start of our initial rehearsal,” Noseda said in a statement released by the Kennedy Center, under whose organizational umbrella the NSO operates.

Since that engagement, the orchestra’s players have been telling members of the conductor search committee, “Get this guy,” bass trombonist Matthew Guilford, one of the five musician representatives on the committee, told The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette:

4 months ago | |
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Gilbert Kaplan, the financier and publisher who became the leading authority on Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony (No. 2) – and the world’s best-known amateur conductor – has died at 74.

Kaplan, founder and publisher of the magazine Institutional Investor, developed an obsession with the Mahler Second after hearing Leopold Stokowski conduct the work in a 1965 concert.

The Mahler Second “made a personal connection, more than any music I had ever heard. I couldn’t explain it. I still can’t,” Kaplan told me in a 1996 interview, published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “[T]he way to unlock the mystery of why this music affected me in such a profound way, and to try to express it as I felt it and understood it,” he decided, “was to try to conduct it myself.”

He studied conducting, acquired Mahler’s autograph score, prevailed upon the publisher to correct numerous errors in what was then the standard printed score, and began conducting orchestras in the work. In time, many leading ensembles engaged Kaplan to lead the Mahler Second – he rarely conducted any other music – and prominent conductors sought his advice and consulted his writings on Mahler.

Kaplan led two recordings of the Mahler Second and a third of the piece in a chamber orchestration To my ears, his first recording, made with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1987, remains the best account on disc. (Not currently in print, it can be found on the used-disc market.)

An obituary in The Telegraph (UK):


Kaplan “truly embodied all the positive aspects of the misused term, ‘Amateur.’ We all learned so much from his scholarship as well as understanding how one person can change the way we think,” conductor Leonard Slatkin writes in comments appended to Norman Lebrecht’s death notice on his Slipped Disc blog:


A BBC documentary on Kaplan and the Mahler Second, centering on the 1987 recording sessions in Cardiff, Wales:

4 months ago | |
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Bits of ivory – on the tips of violin bows, bells of bassoons, and components or decorative features of other instruments, from drums to bagpipes – can create bureaucratic and logistical nightmares for musicians on tour, who face seizure or quarantine of their instruments when they travel to and from the US and European countries that enforce a ban on importation of ivory in hopes of stemming the slaughter of elephants for their tusks.

Other rare or endangered substances used in making instruments can raise red flags in the customs shed, too.

Preparing for a tour of Europe, the National Symphony Orchestra has had to catalogue and secure permits for “the 46 bows its members are taking with ivory tips, the 16 bows with white oyster, which, although not a banned substance, must still be declared, and the 21 bows with water-monitor-lizard skin on the grip,” Cynthia Steele, the orchestra’s manager, tells The Washington Post’s T.R. Goldman:

4 months ago | |
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