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Lincoln in Cleveland
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Bach: Sonata in C Major for flute and continuo (BVW 1033)
Piazzolla: Adios Nonino
Assad: Three Balkan Pieces
Takrmitsu: Towards The Sea
Thomas: Out of Africa
Sor: Variations on "O Cara Armonia" from Mozart's The Magic Flute
Piazolla: Oblivion (encore)
Eugenia Moliner, flute; Dennis Azabagic, guitar. At Plymouth Church UCC, Shaker Heights.

Winter has most definitely arrived in Northeast Ohio, making the warm and simple feeling evoked by the first piece on the program -- J.S. Bach's Sonata in C -- of listening the the piece while sitting in front of a medieval castle's roaring fireplace. Interestingly, the couple noted that the authorship is somewhat questioned based on departures from Bach's typical stylem including ending on a Menuet movement.

An emotional farewell to father (Adios Nonino) took the second slot on the program with an interesting "squeaky" technique and sound from the guitar. Initially chipper, it concluded on a combination of somber and soaring tones. Ms. Moliner commented that it was an emotionally difficult piece to play based on the recent loss of her father.

Incidentally, the couple's -- yes, they are married -- onstage banter and needling added an extra texture and enjoyment to the concert.

The third "piece" on the program was actually a collection of three Balkan pieces -- the first, Kalajdzijsko Oro (traditional Macedonian) provided a fluttering flute punctuated by a guitar -- almost as if a soaring bird was punctuated by updrafts of wind. The second, also traditional Macedonian, Ajde slusajm slusaj  was soothing and relaxing, and the third, traditional Bulgarian, Ratchenitsa was more upbeat and carried a very different sound than the first two pieces.

Following intermission, Toward the Sea, commissioned by Greenpeace for its Save the Whale Campaign was captivating in its use of both the alto flute and its use of not only music but periods of silence to mimmic the sounds and communication of whales -- the imagery was unmistakable,

Out of Africa, also a thematic piece -- who's five movements covered the span of a single day in Africa, from the Call at Sunrise, Morning Dance to the mid-day Zenith, and the evening and night Evening Dance and Cradle Song was soothing and engaging with a clear arc in the tone from the bright morning to the slowing evenings. Both amusingly (and somewhat diffracting) the piece also covered the arc of consciousness of a very visible Hawken student -- with large yawns in the "morning", falling horizontal with one knee in the air at the zenith, and finally achieving a completely horizontal position through the evening and conclusion of the piece (and published program)

The last piece on the published program, variations on O Cara Armonia from Mozart's The Magic Flute was lively but not particularly evocative of particular emotion or imagery.

The Next Cleveland Classical Guitar Society International Series concert Gaelle (France) on February 28th.

Tags: Johann Sebastian Bach ; Astor Piazzolla ; Fernando Sor ; Eugenia Moliner (Flute) ; Denis Azabagic (Guitar) ; Cleveland Classical Guitar Society ; Flute ; Guitar ; Sonata ; Tango ; Variations ; 20th Century ; Baroque ; Romantic ;
3 years ago |
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Part: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
Elgar: Cello Concerto (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Unannounced encore for solo cello (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Adams: Harmonielehre
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

"Meh." Leaving at intermission, I found myself so completely uninspired that I contemplated skipping text for this entry. The first half of the program was well played but entirely too depressing and funereal in tone only slightly captivating and not at all inspiring.

Combined with word that a beloved orchestra staffer has resigning (no, not Gary Hanson) in addition to another recently announced departure, and a lingering day-long headache, I saw no point in--let alone being in the proper mood for-- sticking around for Adams. The minor traffic jam in the parking garage suggests I was not alone in reaching that conclusion.

3 years ago |
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Bardin: Sonatine en Trio (1982)
Leonin: Viderund omnes
Hovhaness: Fantasy No. 1 (1967)
Flothius: Sonatine (1946)
Hidas: Triga (1992)
Bassett: Trio for Brass Instruments (1953)
Needham: Mobiles (2013)
Frackenphol: Brass Trio (1966)
Jack Sutte; trumpet, Jesse McCormick, french horn; Rick Stout, trombone, with poetry readings by Kathleen Cerveny. At the home of Mark and Sue Hollingsworth, Shaker Heights

If The Cleveland Orchestra is the five-star fine dining of Classical music in Cleveland, Heights Arts is the gourmet food truck -- serving up delicacies for smaller audiences in slightly less predictable and more nomadic fashion. Indeed, aside from the fantastic music performed by amazing musicians, I like the experience if seeing inside some of the beautiful and unique homes on the East side -- and today's concert in the beautiful Hollingsworth residence was no exception.

What was unusual were the instruments -- a trio of brass players taking the name "Factory Seconds" in homage to their roles as the second for their instruments in The Cleveland Orchestra. I was a little nervous going in to today's program that brass, let alone a trio of brass, would overwhelm the small spaces and intimate audiences of the typical Heights Arts concert. That fear was misplaced.

I found that I enjoyed the first half of the program slightly more than the second half with Bardin's Sonatine en Trio, the opening piece on the program, setting an excellent mood with the spirited but playful marchesque first movement, the subdued evening walk of a second movement and the lively third movement.

The second an third pieces on the program were offered as a sandwich with a piece of poetry in the middle -- while I enjoyed Viderunt Omnes, said to be the beginning of Western music, I think I spent too much mentally time trying to connect Fantasy No. 1 to that piece and the poetry to enjoy it musically.

Flothius's Sonatine's four movements blended into a single fluid work and right around the time I had decided I was enjoying the quick pace of the first movement (which at the beginning I related to a festive almost circus-like feeling) I realized the piece had ended. Finishing out the first half of the program, Hidas' Triga offered a slightly more burnished fanfare.

The program following intermission, though notable for featuring all living American composers didn't capture my interest in the same way or to the same degree -- I had a hard time formulating a reaction to Bassett's Trio for Brass Instruments. Needham's Mobiles Started out with a subdued, dreamy nighttime walk on a quiet alley, met and crossed a busy thoroughfare, before returning to the shadows.

3 years ago |
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Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Respighi: Trittico Botticelliano for chamber orchestra
Deak: Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra "The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow" (Kenneth Johnston, Charles Morey, violins; Kirsten Docter, viola; Bryan Dumm, cello; Robert Conrad, narrator) Carlton R. Woods, director.
At Plymouth Church, UCC, Shaker Heights

Late Fall has certainly arrived in Northeast Ohio and while I was out of town Thursday and Friday, after spending a lazy day under warm covers Rachel and I headed to Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights to hear BlueWater Chamber Orchestra's Halloween-appropriate program. BlueWater, as a chamber orchestra, is an example of what makes greater Cleveland a great place to live with the wealth of musical talent in a slightly more compact and intimate format than the full-blown orchestra.

While the third work on the program, a concerto based on the short story The Headless Horesman of Sleepy Hollow" was initially what I thought was most intriguing, in execution the first two were the strongest showings.

Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is always enjoyable to hear and tonight's performance was particularly enjoyable thanks to an energetic delivery and the additional color brought by the addition of a harp -- while subtle it added a sparkle that made the afternoon of the faun that much easier to imagine.

Through the second piece on the program brought the audience Respighi's reactions, in musical form, to three works by Botticelli in Florence's Uffizi gallery via Trittico Botticelliano for chamber orchestra. The first, Primavera, was an energetic almost marching delivery that reminded me of a conversation in music with an interesting rhythm and more interesting texture. Second, L'adorazione dei Magi was a little bit more subdued and if I had to ascribe a specific feeling to it, "slightly middle-eastern"; the final movement, La Nascita di Venere was more of a meandering walk on a tepid fall day with a passionate delivery by the orchestra.

The concert concluded with Deak's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra "The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow", narrated by Robert Conrad of WCLV, a piece I was really looking forward to hearing, especially with Mr. Woods's introductions for the soloists (Ichabod was represented by the two violinists on account of his "complex personality", Katrina represented by the viola "in a frisky kind of way", and the cello was "just strange") -- and Mr. Conrad's distinctive voice built for narration -- but the balance seemed a little lacking and I found myself struggling to hear Mr. Conrad's narration over the orchestra at times which distracted me from simply enjoying  the piece. Despite that challenge, the piece was enjoyable with overlapping textures a fun and lively "barn dance" and musicians clearly having fun with the performance.


3 years ago |
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Bach: Cantata No. 199, BVW 199 (Yulia Van Doren, soprano)
Brahms: Song of Destiny [Schichsalslied], Op. 54 (Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") in D major, Op. 107
James Gaffigan, Conductor.

[I should note that next Saturday, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra is offering a promising concert at Plymouth Church including Robert Conrad narrating a string interpretation of  Washington Irving’s story “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow”]

While it was quite disappointing to hear not only Hillary Hahn had withdrawn from this weekends performances but that, in the words of another patron "they really  couldn't find another violinist!?! In Cleveland?" I have to say I enjoyed the replacement.

While someone who knows me well remarked "I wasn't expecting to see you-- there's more singing than you usually care for" and I, honestly, wasn't expecting to like Bach's Cantata No. 199, Ms. Van Doren and the predominantly string chamber orchestra delivered a well-balanced passionate piece that was delightful to listen to.

Likewise, while it seems a waste of the Chorus for only 15 minutes the initially meditative turning explosive Sing of Destiny had me bolt upright with attention. Mr. Gaffigan's expressive conducting, particularly in the third movement with hair flying despite very sharp conducting was the theatrical cherry on the top -- and the delta between the restrained and respectful first and second sections and the fierce and bold third was delicious.

Following intermission Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 was the piece I had most looked forward to on tonight's program -- and while it was as enjoyable to listen to as the other pieces on the program, something felt not quite right, or the piece didn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the program -- I couldn't put my finger on it.

3 years ago |
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Pintscher: Idyll (for orchestra) (World Premiere performances)
Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grand Polonaise brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22 (for piano and orchestra) (Lang Lang, piano)
Strauss: Burleske (for piano and orchestra) (Lang Lang, piano)
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.
Ok, so on one hand I was very excited to return to Severance for a new season, on the other hand that excitement was tempered -- almost quenched -- by the news that Mr. Welser-Most's contract was renewed. I was really hoping for a change, and the news out of Austria had gotten my hopes up.
Anyway, this afternoon's concert opened with a half hour of tedium in the form of Matthias Pintscher's Idyll. While not as jarring and painful as most "new" classical at 25 minutes plus it was entirely too long and uninteresting -- sure there were parts that had a tenuous hold of my attention, early on a section reminded me of playful nymphs; later the atmosphere approaching a murder scene in a classic film, but on the whole I would have preferred to do without.
Lang Lang brought Chopin's Andante spianato & Grand Polonaise brilliante to life beginning with a sound I would liken to a delightfully fluffy and delicious pastry for the ears to wash out the foul taste of the prior composition -- although the orchestra was a bit stiff under Welser-Most's baton, it was certainly preferable to the Pintscher. 
Following intermission was like an entirely new concert and could have been cleaved from the first half for a much more enjoyable program on its own. Chopin's Burleske, once again with the piano part played by Lang Lang was sparkling with a bold orchestra embracing in a familiar dance with the piano, while towards the end of the piece brought arguments from the orchestra that puncutated otherwise flowing music. 
Finally the program closed with Strauss's Till Eulenspeigel's Merry Pranks was enjoyable in a fun and lyrical way but I didn't find it particularly memorable
3 years ago |
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It's no secret that I loved -- and greatly miss -- the customer focused nature of Continental Airlines and loathe the open hostility that "pre merger" United Airlines (pmUA) employees openly display towards their customers, particularly at Chicago's O''Hare ("ex-Cons", on the other hand are still a pleasure to encounter -- when you can find them).

Such utter incompetence on the part of United Airlines staff in Chicago last year (before the two maintenance-related emergency landings, and three days of a four day trip to Richmond without my luggage among other complete service failures) lead me to miss a connection on my way back home to Cleveland.

Arriving at our connecting gate at precisely the same moment -- coming from a different flight, but also missing the connection due to causes within United's control -- was an artist.

While we were waiting for United to figure out how to get us both to Cleveland we chatted, and I started with my typical "What brings you to Cleveland?" The answer surprised me -- she was an artist heading to Cleveland because her work was on display at both the Cleveland Museum of Art and MoCA Cleveland. It turned out I was chatting with Janet Cardiff, and her work on display at CMA was Forty Part Motet, one of the most unique and stirring installations I've encountered, and certainly one you would have to hear to understand.

This brings me to today -- I'm back in Vancouver for the week, mixing business with pleasure and spent the day wandering around downtown. Without question I love this city on nearly the same level as I love London* -- both cities have a vibe that I don't pick up in the states --  and I hadn't planned in visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery again on this trip.

But fate intervened. My wanderings through downtown I walked past the entrance to the Art Gallery and I decided to head in. Thanks to having my CMA Donor card on me, the visit was free (excluding the hundred bucks I managed to spend in the gift shop). And the next few hours just kind of slipped by.

The lower floors, occupied by the Douglas Coupland everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (closing today) had  pieces that piqued my interest -- including a Lego suburbia -- on a whole it failed to really move me... But as I moved up the building I found myself immersed in an entire floor of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's work via the exhibition Lost in the Memory Palace.

The below video does a far better job of explaining the exhibition than I ever could -- but it's worth noting that I was particularly captivating that the Experiment in F# Minor -- where the shadows of attendees trigger musical sounds -- in effect "playing the table". I was completely transfixed by the Opera for a Small Room -- a twenty minute looped presentation where (for the first time in as far as my recollection will allow me) I stood in the same place for the entire twenty minute loop without feeling the urge to move on.

The Killing Machine was a somewhat horrifying piece that I found to be one of the more thought provoking of my recent encounters -- revolving more or less on capital punishment -- and amplified by the fact that it takes a conscious act on the part of the viewer (pushing the "big red  button") to start the machine.


[*- However it is seeming extraordinarily unlikely I will have a work-related reason to visit London. If anyone knows anyone that needs Crestron programming done in the UK... hit me up ;)]
4 years ago |
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Stravinsky: Suite from Pulcinella
Haydn: Violin Concerto in C major, H.Villa:1 (Peter Otto, violin)
Mendelssohn: Scherzo and Nocturne from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 ("Italian") in A major, Op. 60.
Jeffrey Kahane, Conductor)
I actually really wanted to attend last Sunday's concert, however, having dropped Rachel off at the airport to begin her internship at the Library of Congress on Saturday only to return to the airport on Sunday to send myself to Minnesota.... The scheduling didn't quite work out. Actually looking at the remainder of the Blossom season only on e Saturday and none of the Sunday concerts is even a scheduling possibility, leaving the very real prospect that this may be my last visit to Blossom for the 2014 season.
And, based upon the first half if it is to be my last, it will certainly be the best I've attended this season. While Stravinsky is known for his riotous--not to mention cutting edge--The Right of Spring, the suite from Pulcinella was equally pleasing but substantially more nostalgic and circumspect -- music that while good, and knowing its good, is trying to pass without drawing too much attention to itself.
Peter Otto's performance in Haydn's violin concerto had a similar restrained air. Once I was able to tune out the harpsichord (what can I say...I am no fan of its twang) I just let my mind go soft and before I knew it the piece was complete.
Following intermission the two selections from a Midsummer Night's Dream -- the Scherzo and Nocturne  passed by quickly covering the span of about five minutes in total. The scherzo was light and airy, while the Nocturne was more somber but clearly shared some of the same musical DNA as the Wedding March, also originally from this piece. 
The program closed out with Mendelssohn's Italian symphony and it's famous opening theme; unfortunately, I didn't really find myself engaged beyond that opening and repetitive theme.
Tags: Franz Joseph Haydn ; Felix Mendelssohn ; Igor Stravinsky ; Peter Otto (Violin) ; Jeffrey Kahane ; The Cleveland Orchestra ; The Cleveland Orchestra ; Blossom Music Center ; Violin ; Concerto ; 20th Century ; Classical ; Romantic ; Blossom Festival ;
4 years ago |
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Arr. Every and Barton: Overture: Broadway Divas
Wildhorn and Bricusse: This Is The Moment from Jekyll and Hyde (Crawford)
Bernstein and Sondheim: Maria from West Side Story (Keegan)
Arr. Barker: Love Duet Medley (Bianco, Crawford, Keegan)
Wilson and Hayman: Seventy-Six Trombones from The Music Man (Orchestra)
Schwartz: Defying Gravity from Wicked (Bianco)
Arr. Everly: Leading Men Medley (Crawford, Keegan)
Bernstein, arr. Peress: Overture to West Side Story (Orchestra)
Kinder and Ebb arr. Gibson: Chicago Medley (Orchestra)
Hansard and Irglova arr. Everly: Falling Slowly from Once (Bianco, Crawford)
Webber and Hart: The Music of the Night from the Phantom of the Opera (Keegan)
Schoenberg, Boubill, Natel, Kretzmer arr. Barker: Selections from Les Miserables (Bianco, Crawford, Keegan, Remke, Chorus)
Jack Everly, conductor; The Men of the Blossom Festival Chorus, Robert Porco, director; Christina Bianco; Ben Crawford; Ted Keegan; Ron Remke)
It was like Jekyll and Hyde this evening trying to get from Cleveland Heights to Blossom-- leaving my house I had the windshield wipers going fast and had to dodge a number of closed roads, but approaching blossom the skies cleared and the jacket in was wearing seemed positively foolish.
The first half of tonight's concert was similar -- while it was clear our orchestra wasn't being particularly challenged there were parts of the concert that were eminently enjoyable to listen to (the selection from Chess in the Leading Men Medley; most but not the entirety of Defying Gravity from Wicked) there were other parts that were nearly painful (such as the nasaly-to-New Jersey moments of Ms. Bianco's early parts of the Love Duet Medley), and on balance was largely meh -- the uninspired and overly burnished vocal performances generally outnumbering the captivating and inspiring.
As I posted the above from my phone during intermission, I sincerely hoped that the second half of the program would salvage the evening. Unfortunately -- having made it home safely -- I have to say it did not. While I despise Chicago the musical -- it's a contributing factor to the why I haven't returned to Playhouse Square in a few years -- the medley from Chicago combined with The Music From the Nightas highlights, though I have to say my favorite selection was the excerpt from Chess in the Leading Men Medley. 
For those highlights though, you have to subtract selections from Les Miserables which were full of vocal over reach, and the Ms. Bianco's Divas Impressions which beyond the initial and moderately tolerable Julie Andrews bit was pure agony that could not end quickly enough and killed whatever good will I had toward the program. 
If this were at Severance Hall, I'd give it a "Meh" overall, but given the effort to get to Blossom and the price premium (~$40) attached to this concert over over typical Blossom pricing... I can't even rate it as high as a "Meh". 

4 years ago |
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Bizet: Suite from Carmen
Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 (Karen Gomyo, violin)
De Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat (complete ballet music) (Emily Fons, mezzo-soprano)
Bramwell Tovey, conductor.
Between work obligations (with the related travel) and a desire to just have a lackadaisical summer I'm being note selective in my Blossom attendance this summer... And on my drive down from Cleveland Heights I found myself wondering about this choice -- with light drizzle for the drive and me donning a jacket at Blossom for the first time I can recall.
The first half of the program was quite interesting -- opening with a suite of six selections from Bizet's Carmen, the familiar March of the Toreadors launched things with an impressive tempo, and the harp and flute leading into the strings for the Intermezzo was intoxicatingly relaxing. The Habanera, another well known selection, had a certain air of mystery, and the Dance Boheme had a folksy rustic dance air before picking up tempo.
I had a hard time getting into the second piece on the program, Saint-Saens's third violin concerto. While delicate and relaxing, I didn't find the piece engaging, and the change in mood of the third movement was jarring. My initial impression was that it would be a great piece for a warm summer evening - bout not a tepid one.
Mr. Tovey provided a wonderfully humorous introduction to De Falla's The Three Cornered Hat. I'm finding I particularly enjoy music intended for dance for its fluid movement and (usually) clear musical story and this was no exception with about 35 minutes of more or less continuous music with a range of mostly humorous and enjoyable music. 
About three readers will appreciate that pleasant coincidence that Mr. Tovey is the music director of the Vancouver (Canada) Symphony -- and this week I confirmed that I'll be returning to the beautiful city of Vancouver late summer or early fall for a project. Once dates get pinned down, I shall have to see if he's conducting on his home turf while I'm in town. 
4 years ago |
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