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PreViews & Features

Hornist Jeff Nelsen to open Kent/Blossom faculty series on July 1

by Daniel Hathaway

NELSEN-JeffWith an eclectic program that reflects his unbelievably varied background and range of activities, Canadian-born horn player Jeff Nelsen will be featured in the opening concert of this year’s Kent/Blossom Festival on Wednesday, July 1 at 7:30 pm in Ludwig Recital Hall on the Kent State University campus. Nelsen will share the stage with his wife, mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen, and pianist Elizabeth DeMio.

When I spoke with Nelsen by telephone with his biography in my hand, I confessed that I had no idea where to start in asking about his life and career. “Let’s start with the pig farming and move on!” he said. “Dad grew up on the farm in Alberta and got a grant to study voice in Toronto, where he met my mom. After singing opera and Broadway, they moved back to the farm, had my two older sisters and me, and kept singing.” [Read More…]

ChamberFest Cleveland: Anna Polonsky & Orion Weiss play separately and together

by Daniel Hathaway

Weiss-and-PolonskyPianists Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss share a marriage as well as busy performing careers. Mirroring the way their lives play out, Polonsky and Weiss will play duo-piano, join in a concert of music for one-piano-four-hands, and perform with other musicians during ChamberFest Cleveland’s fourth season. We spoke to them separately by telephone (they were in different cities at the time) to ask about their appearances.

Cleveland-born Orion Weiss is involved in multiple ChamberFest assignments. “It’s like a twelve-course meal with many different dishes,” he said. “I’ll be playing Thomas Adès’s Darknesse Visible; a concert with Alexi Kenney at the Cleveland Public Library; the Mozart E-flat piano quartet; George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening with Roman Rabinovich; the little g-minor Rachmaninoff trio; Gershwin’s An American in Paris with Anna; then the four-hand concert.” [Read More…]

ChamberFest Cleveland: a conversation with bassoonist Fernando Traba

by Mike Telin

TRABA-FernandoOn Wednesday, July 1 at 7:00 pm, ChamberFest will pull out all the stops when it caps off its season with a concert at the Blackstone Pipe Organ Residence in Bratenahl. The concert, titled “Stars and Stripes,” will feature Todd Wilson on the home’s custom-built organ in a performance of Ives’s Variations on a National Hymn, “America.” The prize-winning Echo Saxophone Quartet will play Terry Riley’s Tread on the Trail, and the concert will conclude with Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 3, Op. 97. At 6:15 pm, festival speaker Joel Smirnoff will present a prelude talk, and a picnic on the lawn will follow the performance.

At the suggestion of bassoonist Fernando Traba, the concert will also include Ned Rorem’s rarely-performed Winter Pages for clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello, and piano. “Frank Cohen asked me to let him know if I hear any great piece that hasn’t been played at the Festival,” Traba recalled during a recent telephone conversation. “I often visit YouTube and Spotify to try to find pieces that I don’t know. I came across a performance of this one, and it immediately struck me that it should be played at ChamberFest. I sent Frank the link, and he got back to me saying that he had actually played the piece shortly after it was premiered. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know a lot about Ned Rorem. He is 91 years old now, and he’s mainly known as a composer of art songs.”

[Read More…]

ChamberFest 2015: A conversation with Matthew Tracy of the Echo Saxophone Quartet

by Jeremy Reynolds

Echo-Sax-Quartet“This is exactly the type of performance opportunity that we’re interested in doing as a quartet — we’re taking it extremely seriously,” said Mathew Tracy (pictured second from the left), soprano saxophone player in the Echo Quartet. On Wednesday, July 1 at 7:00 pm, in the Blackstone Pipe Organ Residence, the quartet — comprising Tracy, Kyle Landry (alto), Casey Grev (tenor), and Eric Troiano (baritone) — will open ChamberFest Cleveland’s final 2015 concert with Terry Riley’s Tread on the Trail. The program, titled “Stars and Stripes” in honor of its proximity to July 4, will feature works by American composers Charles Ives and Ned Rorem and American-inspired music by Antonín Dvořák. We reached Tracy by phone to ask how the quartet became involved with ChamberFest and to discuss Riley’s music.

“This is our first year playing in ChamberFest,” said Tracy. “We were contacted by Diana Cohen about four months ago, asking if we wanted to be a part of the festival. [Read More…]

BPI Perspectives: A conversation With Webb Wiggins

by Jeremy Reynolds

WIGGINS-WebbThe Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin Conservatory has touched many lives since its inception in 1971. Not the least of these is current faculty member Webb Wiggins (Associate Professor of Harpsichord at Oberlin Conservatory), who teaches harpsichord and organ during the program. We recently reached Wiggins by telephone at his home in Oberlin, where he described the transformative effect BPI had on his life.

Jeremy Reynolds: I understand that BPI was a revelatory experience for you. When did you first begin your affiliation with the institute?

Webb Wiggins: In the late 1970s. I came in as a student — a keyboardist — and that was where I had my first experience performing as a harpsichordist. It was really life changing! So I went home and decided “this is my life.” [Read More…]

BPI Perspectives: a conversation with Marilyn McDonald

by Jeremy Reynolds

Violinist Marilyn McDMcDONALD-Marilynonald enjoys a diverse career teaching and performing music from the Baroque period to contemporary works. A recipient of the “Excellence in Teaching” award at Oberlin Conservatory, she has worked with students from all over the world who now occupy positions in quartets and symphonies around the nation. I recently spoke with the veteran faculty member of the Baroque Performance Institute via telephone to talk about BPI’s violin program.

Jeremy Reynolds: I see that BPI is celebrating its 44th season this year. Congratulations. How long have you taught at BPI, how has it changed over the years?

Marilyn McDonald: I’ve been there from the beginning. First of all, you should understand that this was the very first early music festival in the United States. The whole field was in an embryonic stage in the 70s, and there were very few professional Baroque period performers. So there was a larger percentage of amateurs, and we pride ourselves at BPI that we love to include those amateurs. But, over the years, the institute has slowly become more and more professional. [Read More…]

Credo’s Brandenburg Project: a conversation with Peter Slowik

by Jeremy Reynolds

maxresdefaultAs summer music festivals go, Credo doesn’t quite mesh with most people’s idea of music camp. Founded in 1999 in Woodstock, Illinois by Peter Slowik and Karen Armbrust, Credo’s combines an intensive study of music and performance with the ideal of Christian love to promote a holistic learning experience for students ages thirteen to twenty-three. Fostering personal growth in addition to musicianship is the aim here, and this is perhaps best summarized in Credo’s mission statement, “Develop the Gift, Acknowledge the Source, Respond with Service.”

Now, sixteen years later, Credo hosts annual string and piano programs in Oberlin, Chicago, and, for the last two years, in Sydney, Australia. The Oberlin festival will run from Sunday, June 28 through Saturday, July 18, and it will feature regular student and faculty chamber music performances. (For details, see the Credo calendar). From July 20 to 25, the next stage of Credo’s summer programming will spotlight the first-ever Credo Flute symposium alongside the traditional Prelude Chicago for ages eleven to eighteen. [Read More…]

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