Previews & Features
Leon Fleisher returns to Severance Hall, this time as guest conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra
by Mike Telin
George Szell made his first appearance as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra on October 17, 1946, opening the ensemble's twenty-ninth season with Weber's Oberon Overture, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Strauss's Don Juan and Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.
One week later, on October 24 and 26, Szell welcomed his first soloist to the stage when 18-year-old Leon Fleisher played the Schumann concerto with the orchestra on a program that included Brahms's second symphony, Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture and Britten's Three Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.
On October 25, Plain Dealer critic Herbert Elwell wrote, "The second symphony program of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell last night at Severance Hall was another stimulating evening of vigorous and enjoyable music making to which the young American pianist, Leon Fleisher made a splendid contribution by his brilliant playing of the Schumann Concerto."
Elwell went on to say, "No pianist could have been supplied with a more expressive or closely woven instrumental backdrop than that provide by Szell and it often seemed as though piano and orchestra were so intimately inter-related as to be one."
That opening concert marked the beginning of what has become the longest relationship of any visiting artist with The Cleveland Orchestra. This weekend, on December 5, 6 and 7, Leon Fleischer returns to Severance Hall —this time as conductor — to lead the orchestra in Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and in Beethoven's second and third piano concertos. Pianist Jonathan Biss has agreed to replace Mitsuko Uchida, who has withdrawn due to a minor thumb injury. >>read on
Apollo's Fire to stage five performances of Sacrum Mysterium — A Celtic Christmas
by Mike Telin
Since it premiered in December of 2011, Apollo's Fire's Sacrum Mysterium – A Celtic Christmas, has become a holiday favorite of area audiences. From Tuesday, December 3 through December 8 at locations through Northeast Ohio, Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire will present five performances of their acclaimed production that celebrates Celtic artistic traditions, interweaving Renaissance choral music with ancient pagan carols, folk dances and joyous fiddle tunes.
A colorful band of bagpipes, flutes, strings, and Celtic harp will join Apollo’s Singers. The performances also mark the return of three of Apollo’s Fire's favorite guest artists — Canadian soprano Meredith Hall, British baroque guitarist and step dancer Steve Player and hammered dulcimer virtuoso Tina Bergmann. >>read on
Cleveland Chamber Music Society — a conversation with Daedalus Quartet violinist Matilda Kaul
by Mike Telin
“It’s a small world,” says violinist Matilda Kaul, recalling how she came to join the Daedalus Quartet. “Min and I were both students of Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music so we knew each other from there. And the person I replaced was also a student of Don’s, so we were all friends.”
On Tuesday, December 3rd beginning at 7:30 pm in Plymouth Church, the Cleveland Chamber Music Society presents the Daedalus Quartet, Min-Young Kim & Matilda Kaul, violins, Jessica Thompson, viola and Thomas Kraines, cello, in a concert featuring the music of Mendelssohn, Schulhoff and Britten. Rabbi Roger Klein will give a pre-concert lecture beginning at 6:30 pm.
Praised by The New Yorker as “a fresh and vital young participant in what is a golden age of American string quartets,” Kaul says that she and her Daedalus colleagues look forward to being in Cleveland and performing their program. >>read on
CityMusic brings Vienna to Cleveland in five December performances
by Mike Telin
For anyone who loves a great waltz, CityMusic Cleveland has a program tailor-made just for you. Beginning on December 4 and running through December 8, CityMusic continues its tenth anniversary season with five concerts that celebrate that Viennese ballroom specialty.
The free concerts, presented in churches in Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, Willoughby Hills, Cleveland's Slavic Village and Elyria, will feature soprano Stacey Mastrian in the music of the Strauss family and Franz Lehar. The program will also include the trumpet concerto of another Viennese composer, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, with Cleveland Orchestra second trumpet player Jack Sutte as soloist.
The performances mark the return of guest conductor Stefan Willich to the CityMusic podium. >>read on
CMA "Mother and Child" Series — Questions for State Symphony Capella director Valery Polyansky
by Mike Telin
“I don’t think you will have enough space in your publication to feature all my thoughts about 'the Chorus, or the music'. Music is everything I breathe; it is everything I feel; and it is everything I work for,” Valery Polyansky wrote in a recent e-mail. “I am very fortunate that through the Choir, and the choral repertoire I can express my feelings and moods, as well as the richness of words, and the power of harmony! We are very much looking forward to returning to Cleveland during the Christmas time of the year.”
On Wednesday, December 4 beginning at 9:00 pm in the Cleveland Museum of Art's Ames Family Atrium, Valery Polyansky will lead the State Symphony Capella of Russia in a concert featuring Russian liturgical music, choruses and folk songs. David J. Rothenberg, associate professor of music at Case Western Reserve University, will discuss Marian music and ties to the museum’s collection at 7:30 p.m. in Gartner Auditorium. The concert is part of CMA’s Performing Arts "Mother and Child" Series.
Due to language barriers, Maestro Polyansky graciously agreed to answer questions through a translator via e-mail. >>read on
Contemporary Youth Orchestra begins its nineteenth season on December 7
by Mike Telin
“Yes, it’s hard to believe, but this is our nineteenth season and it’s the first year that CYO is older then its members,” says Contemporary Youth Orchestra founder and music director Liza Grossman. On Saturday, December 7 beginning at 7:00 pm in Waetjen Auditorium, Cleveland State University, CYO under the direction of Liza Grossman will present a concert featuring the music of John Adams, Frank Martin, Igor Stravinsky and Astor Piazzolla featuring musical guests The Oblivion Project.
The concert also includes a special performance by twenty-six young musicians of the El Sistema University Circle program in a side-by-side performance of Brian Balmage’s Burst. Grossman says that collaborating with El Sistema began actually began a couple of years ago when the program's founder and Cleveland Orchestra violinist Isabel Trautwein began attending CYO concerts. “I am fascinated by and in awe of her commitment to bringing this kind of education to Cleveland. She even brings her kids to CYO rehearsals in hope of inspiring them," Grossman said. "What a wonderful opportunity for us to share and inspire the El Sistema kids and the CYO members.” >>read on
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture announces 2014 Project Support Grants on November 18
by Mike Telin
Since 2007, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) has invested more than $97 million in 237 local organizations presenting arts and cultural activities in Cuyahoga County. On Monday, November 18 at the Jennings Center for Older Adults, CAC’s Board of Trustees announced that it would invest $1,891,902 in grants in 139 arts and culture organizations in Cuyahoga County next year through its 2014 Project Support grant program. CAC’s Project Support program funds Cuyahoga County-based projects that promote public access and encourage the breadth of arts and cultural programming in the community.
“I want to congratulate each of the organizations Cuyahoga Arts & Culture is funding in 2014, and we look forward to partnering with them in the coming months to benefit the community,” said Karen Gahl-Mills, CAC’s executive director. Approved by Cuyahoga County voters in 2006, CAC’s vision for its first ten years of public funding for arts and culture is to help build stronger, more resilient organizations, create vibrant and energetic neighborhoods infused with culture, and establish Cuyahoga County as a hub of creative activity and a destination for artists. “On behalf of all county residents, CAC is funding more arts and culture programs for more people in more places than ever before,” Gahl-Mills added.
The diversity of groups and projects that were approved for funding at Monday’s meeting is impressive, a true showcase of the cultural richness and diversity of Cuyahoga County. >>read on
CIM Winter Chamber Music Festival began November 22 with Cavani Quartet
by Mike Telin
In the end, the point of learning a piece of music is to perform it for an audience. “The audience is part of the chamber music equation – and we need the audience because, in a way, they are the other member of the group,” says Cavani String Quartet violinist and Cleveland Institute of Music faculty member Annie Fullard.
On November 22 in Mixon Hall, Fullard was joined by her Cavani colleagues Mari Sato, violin, Kirsten Docter, viola and Merry Peckham, cello, for the opening concert of CIM’s 2013 Winter Chamber Music Festival. The concert, titled "Influences and Inspirations I," featured Bartók’s Quartet No. 2, Op. 17, Mozart’s Quartet in A, K. 464 & Debussy’s Quartet in g, Op. 10.
Fullard says that end-of-semester chamber music marathons were part of CIM when the Cavanis became the school's quartet-in-residence in 1988, and with the creation of CIM’s Intensive Quartet Seminar the following year, even more performances were added to the school's already robust end-of-semester concert schedule. >>read on
Cleveland Orchestra with Marin Alsop and pianist David Fray (Nov. 30)
by Daniel Hathaway
Two of the three works that Baltimore Symphony music director Marin Alsop brought along for her guest appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra last week were strongly related through birth.
Both Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra and Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3 were written at the behest of Serge Koussevitsky, the Barber a suggestion, the Copland an actual commission in memory of the conductor's wife. Both date from the World War II years when American composers were writing confidently in their own independent voices.
As American composers, Barber and Copland were natural choices for Thanksgiving weekend concerts. The third work, Schumann's piano concerto featuring French pianist David Fray, seemed at first to make an odd middle panel of this triptych, but ultimately served as a refreshing entremet between two heavily-scored works that could not escape echoing the thunder and heroism of a nation at war. >>read on
Three Concerts at the Transformer Station
by Mike Telin
Lets face it, not all music is best heard from a soft seat inside a recital hall with 500 to 1,000 of your closest friends. In fact, some music cries out to be heard in an intimate space where the audience and the performer are only a few feet if not inches from one another – we want to see the performer's fingers navigate up and down the finger board of their instrument, their facial expressions that accent the comedy and seriousness in their music.
Thanks to a new series presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art at the Transformer Station, both new music lovers and the new music curious have a place to go to enjoy performances that feature composed and improvised music by some of the most accomplished artists working in contemporary music. I recently attended three CMA performers at the Transformer Station. >>read on
Canton Symphony Orchestra — Making Ives Palatable, Grieg Rhapsodic, Elgar Triumphant (November 24)
by Tom Wachunas
The November 24 Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Masterworks series concert at Umstattdt Performing Arts Hall was billed as “Friends and Family.” While that designation was largely relevant to the second-half performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations – 14 short musical portraits of the composer’s friends – it was also no doubt a nod to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, traditionally a time of lavish family gatherings. Hence, the evening began with Charles Ives’ Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day, the final movement of his 1913 Holidays Symphony (alternately called A New England Holiday Symphony).
This work could hardly be called a warm, festive mood-setter. In fact, it’s downright listener-unfriendly unless you’ve acquired some appreciation of Ives’ aesthetic explorations in polytonality, polyrhythms and other departures from traditional symphonic form. >>read on
Tri-C Classical Piano Series — Antonio Pompa-Baldi at the Cleveland Museum of Art (November 24)
by Guytano Parks
Pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi performed a recital on Sunday afternoon as part of Tri-C's Classical Piano Recital Series at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Billed as a tribute to the greatest piano virtuoso of all time, Franz Liszt, and described in the program as a "truly compelling combination of emotional fire and finger acrobatics," Pompa-Baldi indeed delivered, performing works dedicated to Liszt by Sergei Lyapunov, Frederic Chopin and Roberto Piana in addition to two of Liszt's own compositions.
In traditional-sounding harmonic language with colorful tinges of bitonality, Lyapunov's Transcendental Etude Op. 11, No. 12 "Elegy in Memory of Franz Liszt" opened the program deliberately and dramatically, much like a Hungarian rhapsody. >>read on
Cleveland Classical Guitar Society — Carlos Perez at Plymouth (November 23)
by Daniel Hathaway
As part of the 2013-2014 International Series presented by the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, Chilean guitarist Carlos Perez charmed a good-sized audience at Plymouth Church on Saturday evening with two short sets of Romantic-era music, half by Spanish composers and half by their Latin American cousins whose forebears had emigrated to Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Actually, one of those Spanish composers got on a boat as well. Antonio Jiménez Manjón, whose Dos Mazurkas and Aire Vasco opened the program, took up residence at some point in Buenos Aires. Blind since he was 13, Manjón produced some sprightly, cheerful music, judging by Una Flor and Lírica, and some technically demanding works as well, if the "Basque Air" is any indication. Perez played the sentimental Mazurkas with humor and color and tossed off the fleet divisions in the Basque variations with ease and flair. >>read on
Happy Birthday, Benjamin Britten at Trinity Cathedral (November 22)
by Daniel Hathaway
On November 22, a far happier occasion to remember than the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of JFK was the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten — and far more appropriate to St. Cecilia's Day, the patron saint of musicians. A smattering of area tributes to the greatest British composer since Henry Purcell have been planned during 2013, but Trinity Cathedral under Todd Wilson has clearly taken the lead with celebrations of Britten's music fueling two Brownbag concerts and a gala concert last Friday evening featuring three of his most celebrated vocal and choral works.
Wilson's choral forces — Trinity Chamber Singers and the Trinity Cathedral Choir — sang the Hymn to St. Cecilia and the festival cantata, Rejoice in the Lamb, respectively, and countertenor John McElliott and tenor JR Fralick teamed with Wilson in the second of Britten's Five Canticles, Abraham and Isaac. >>read on
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma fills two concert halls at Oberlin College (November 20)
by Daniel Hathaway
Not only did international superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma sell out Finney Chapel for his appearance on the Oberlin Artist Recital Series Wednesday evening, he packed them into Warner Concert Hall as well, where an overflow crowd witnessed his masterful recital via simulcast.
Ma, who last appeared at Oberlin before its current students were born, put together an unusual but engaging program that reflected some of his wide-ranging musical tastes. He also managed to serve up dessert before the main course — who doesn't like that to happen once in a while — and only one item on his playlist was originally written for the cello. I heard the recital in Finney Chapel.
Saving two substantial works for the second half, Ma and his superb, longtime and apparently clairvoyant collaborator, pianist Kathryn Stott, launched the evening with delightful readings of Stravinsky's Suite Italienne… >>read on
Organist Thomas Trotter in Elegant Recital at St. John's Cathedral (November 19)
by Timothy Robson
Thomas Trotter, for the past thirty years the Birmingham (England) City Organist, appeared at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland on Tuesday evening, November 19, for a recital sponsored jointly by St. John's Cathedral, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and the Cleveland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. It was an elegant and satisfying concert from beginning to end.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the invention of electronic recording devices, cities in Europe—especially in England—and the United States built large pipe organs in public auditoriums. These city-funded facilities were for the purposes of the musical education and entertainment of the citizens, especially in places where there was no symphony orchestra. >>read on
No Exit — Music of the Raymond Scott Quintette at Drinko Hall, CSU (November 18)
Daniel Hathaway, founder & editor
Mike Telin, executive editor
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin