Previews & Features
Brett Mitchell will make official debut at Blossom with Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra
by Daniel Hautzinger
Cleveland Orchestra assistant conductor Brett Mitchell has had an eventful summer. He just got married and moved into a new house, and last weekend he made his debut at the Blossom Music Center, stepping in for Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra (TCO) after Skrowaczewski cancelled shortly before the concert because of illness. And on July 26, Mitchell returns to Blossom for what he thought would be his debut there, conducting the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra in a prelude concert at 7:00.
That concert will be followed at 8:00 by John Storgårds conducting TCO in Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with Stephen Hough. Finally, the jam-packed night will end with the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, who are students at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival, and TCO in a side-by-side performance of Sibelius’s Second Symphony led by Storgårds.
Things have come full circle for Mitchell, whose first time working with TCO “was back in the summer of 2009, when they hired me to be a cover conductor for a couple of their guest conductors at Blossom,” he said last week over the phone while on the way to lunch in between rehearsals. Last fall he became assistant conductor of the orchestra. >>read on
Hats, Liszt, and garlic: a conversation with pianist Stephen Hough
By Daniel Hautzinger
Interviewing Stephen Hough is a daunting task. Besides being one of the most successful, talented, and intelligent pianists of his generation, he composes, is a visiting professor at Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music, writes wide-ranging regular blog posts for The Telegraph and articles for other publications, has published a book, The Bible as Prayer, writes poetry, and has given a solo exhibition of his paintings in London. Where do you even start?
Luckily Hough is an amiable, disarming conversationalist, exuding the air of a well-mannered English gentleman. (At one point, he enthused over a hat store in Chicago, recommending it as “a wonderful place, well worth seeing.”) He is extraordinarily genial, both in the sense of being friendly and displaying genius. And he is an engaging musician, who will perform Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with John Storgårds conducting The Cleveland Orchestra on July 26 at Blossom Music Center.
Liszt is a fitting match for Hough, since both are technically gifted pianists, composers, writers and Roman Catholics. >>read on
Oberlin Cooper Piano Competition: top winners announced after Severance Hall finals
Cleveland – July 26. Following the final round of the Oberlin Cooper Piano Competition with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday evening, Dean Andrea Kalyn of the Oberlin Conservatory introduced the judges and thanked numerous individuals who had made the competition possible. Then, competition sponsors Thomas and Evon Cooper announced the decision of the judges and awarded the three top prizes.
First place and a cash prize of $10,000 went to Tony Yike Yang of Toronto, who appeared last on the program with Tchaikovsky’s first concerto. Zitong Wang of Inner Mongolia, China, won second place and $6,000 for her performance of Prokofiev’s third concerto. And Sae Yoon Chon of Seoul, South Korea, received the third place award of $3,000, having opened the evening with Beethoven’s fifth concerto.The finals were broadcast live by WCLV, 104.9 FM and via the internet on wclv.com. (Photo: Roger Mastroianni)
Feature: Cleveland Orchestra — an interview with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
by Daniel Hathaway
Note: Last Sunday, July 20, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was scheduled to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. He cancelled due to illness late in the week and was replaced by Brett Mitchell. Because our interview with Skrowaczewski took place only last Wednesday, we are reprinting the interview as a feature in this week's edition.
In 1957, Polish conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was one of the local hosts for The Cleveland Orchestra’s first European tour — an event which established the ensemble’s international reputation. It was also an important moment for Skrowaczewski, whose first meeting with George Szell in Warsaw launched his own career in the United States.
“It was just after I won first prize in Rome,” Skrowaczewski said in a telephone conversation from his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata. “That was important in Europe because it was the first international competition after the war, so it had a certain value. Szell knew it, and he knew a little of my composition, Symphony for Strings, which he thought was very well written. He asked if I would mind to play it with his orchestra in Cleveland next year. The arrangements were very simple.” >>read on
Young pianists gather in Oberlin for Cooper International Piano Competition
By Daniel Hathaway and Daniel Hautzinger
The idea of playing finger-tangling pieces on the piano in front of distinguished piano professors and performers for a prize would have most people curled up in a corner asking for mercy, but not fifteen year-old Evelyn Mo.
“The competitions are actually one of my favorite parts of playing piano,” she said over the phone. “I think that they make the whole thing more rewarding and worthwhile, and it’s an exhilarating experience while you’re playing. I just take a few deep breaths, go through the pieces in my mind, relax, and play.”
Mo will join 28 other thirteen to eighteen year-old pianists in Oberlin for the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition, with participants hailing from nine countries. The competition runs from July 17-26, with cash prizes awarded to the top six competitors. The final round features the top three competitors performing a concerto with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on July 25. Those three participants also receive a full scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory. >>read on
Report from the Road:
Amherst Early Music Festival, New London, CT
by Nicholas Jones
If you worry about the future of serious music in America – as many of us do – you might try attending one of the dozens of summer festivals around the country. If you like listening to great music in a relaxed setting – and especially if you enjoy playing it as well — you may find your worries lifted and your ears delighted.
I just returned from a week at the Amherst Early Music Festival at Connecticut College, where a couple of hundred participants met to play across the vast range of early music, from 13th-century chant to 18th-century opera. On this tree-lined campus perched above Long Island Sound, we performed for each other and for our teachers, surviving the anxieties of the stage and enjoying the applause of our colleagues. >>read on
Kent/Blossom Music Festival: Conversations with Students
By Daniel Hautzinger
Ann Yeh wouldn’t be applying to graduate school for cello performance if it weren’t for Kent/Blossom Music Festival (KBMF). Now in her second year at the festival and entering her senior year at Vanderbilt University studying with Felix Wang, Yeh said that after “the incredible experience I had last time I thought that maybe I could make it as a musician.”
Such career-changing influence is what every educational festival and its faculty hope to achieve. And KBMF students find this festival particularly effective. “My experience so far has been extremely enjoyable and productive,” enthused violinist Gabe Napoli, currently studying at Northwestern University. “My peers are all amazingly talented and it’s so much fun to make music with them. The instructors are both inspiring role models and great coaches. It’s a privilege to learn from them.” >>read on
Kent/Blossom Music Festival Culminates in Side-by-Side Concert with The Cleveland Orchestra
by Daniel Hautzinger
Learning and putting together Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is a scramble against time. The piece features complicated rhythms (sometimes notated without time signatures), infinitely long phrases, and complicated layering of parts. György Ligeti’s Horn Trio and Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony are similarly difficult works. But students at Kent/Blossom Music Festival (KBMF) are assigned to learn them in two weeks for performance.
“Two weeks is just enough time,” said Keith Robinson, artistic coordinator of Kent/Blossom, professor of cello at Kent State and KBMF, and cellist in the Miami String Quartet, who gave a recital as part of the festival. “You want something that will challenge them for two whole weeks.”
“From our standpoint it’s very important that the students develop their own musicianship and mold their own performances,” said Charles Latshaw, director of the festival. “So to a large extent, we set them loose on the pieces. >>read on
Cooper International Piano Competition Recital Finals (July 23)
by Daniel Hautzinger
On July 23 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, six young pianists vied to win a chance to play a concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra and for cash prizes as part of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition. The competitors were already assured a monetary reward, having survived three elimination rounds that culled an original field of 28 young musicians ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen.
The pianists were required to perform a 30 minute solo recital for this latest round, which was broadcast live on WCLV. At the end of the night, the judges advanced Sae Yoon Chon of Seoul, South Korea, Zitong Wang of Inner Mongolia China, and Tony Yike Yang of Toronto. Those three will perform with The Cleveland Orchestra on July 24 at Severance Hall for the final round of the competition, where the $10,000 first prize will be decided. >>read on
My Fair Lady at Ohio Light Opera (July 22)
by Kelly Ferjutz
Special to ClevelandClassical
“The majesty and grandeur of the English language,” as Henry Higgins put it to Eliza Doolittle, is on glorious display in My Fair Lady, currently on the boards at Ohio Light Opera in Wooster. In a word, this production is magnificent. I’d say perfect, but someone would be sure to quibble. But still, it must be more difficult to produce a stellar version of what is arguably the ‘world’s most popular musical’ than to do a fabulous version of something that no one has ever seen or heard until that very moment. (One can easily confirm this popularity by the number of audience members singing or humming along, under their breath, so to speak, right along with the performers.)
Director Jacob Allen studied this script for several months, while gathering ideas from his technical crew. >>read on
Oberlin Cooper Piano Competition: ten pianists play full concertos (July 22)
by Daniel Hathaway with Daniel Hautzinger & Mike Telin
The ten young pianists who advanced to the Concerto Round in the Oberlin Cooper Piano Competition on Tuesday ranged in age from 13-18 and hailed from five countries. The contestants played complete concertos in Warner Concert Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory with a second pianist providing the orchestral accompaniment. The performances gave a taste of what the audience can expect on Friday evening at Severance Hall when three finalists perform with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra.
The repertory included concertos by Beethoven (Nos. 2 and 5), Rachmaninoff (Nos. 2 and 3), Chopin (Nos. 1 and 2), Prokofiev (No. 3) and Tchaikovsky (No. 2). The most popular work — and the only piece the judges and audience heard more than once — was Chopin’s first concerto, which received three performances. >>read on
Tracy Silverman, electric violinist, at the Beachland Ballroom (July 21)
by Daniel Hautzinger
Tracy Silverman became one of the first adopters of the electric violin in the eighties when he built a six-string, amplified instrument of his own. He faces the challenge of pitching himself to a potentially diverse audience.
When a musician sets off on a path away from established musical conventions, he takes a great risk. Possible fans may avoid the trailblazer because of difficulty in labeling him, and innovation is often unsuccessful or distasteful to most people. Classical music listeners might shun Silverman because they assume electric means raucous, while rock aficionados might assume Silverman’s Juilliard training and work with classical composers means long pieces that they don’t like.
Yet Silverman is a talented player, with attributes and music that could appeal to fans across the spectrum, as he demonstrated on July 21 at the Beachland Ballroom in Collinwood. >>read on
Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom — Mitchell in for Skrowaczewski, with
pianist Francesco Piemontesi (July 20)
by Daniel Hathaway
Last Sunday evening was meant to mark the historic return of the 90-year-old, Polish-born conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to Blossom after a hiatus of thirty-two years. It was historic alright, but for another reason. Skrowaczewski, who first conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in 1958 at George Szell’s invitation, was sidelined by an illness and assistant conductor Brett Mitchell was tapped late in the week to replace him. Mitchell did himself proud leading scores by Weber, Mozart and Shostakovich on a night that will no doubt be inscribed in the annals of Assistant Conductors’ Big Opportunities.
Summer concerts don’t generally come with abundant rehearsals, so Mitchell and the orchestra probably had very little time together to scope out this repertory. >>read on
Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom — Bramwell Tovey and “A Taste of Spain,” featuring violinist Karen Gomyo (July 19)
by Daniel Hathaway
“A Taste of Spain” at Blossom on Saturday July 19 featured The Cleveland Orchestra and guest conductor Bramwell Tovey in Iberian-inspired music by two Frenchmen and one authentic Spaniard who went into self-exile in Argentina after Franco won the Spanish civil war. Sunny as the music was, the weather in Cuyahoga Falls was damp and chilly: in his jovial remarks at the beginning of the second half, Tovey welcomed the audience to what indeed felt like a Spanish winter.
Tovey’s own selections from the two suites that Georges Bizet’s friends fashioned from the music from Carmen opened the program with familiar scene-setting tunes and arias sans singers. >>read on
Kent/Blossom Faculty Recital: Mark Kosower and Jee-Won Oh (July 16)
by J.D. Goddard
An evening of Brahms at any venue, with any combination of instruments, is always a deeply moving experience for those who love Romantic music. And so it was Wednesday evening, July 16 at Kent State’s Ludwig Recital Hall when Cleveland Orchestra principal cello Mark Kosower and pianist Jee-Won Oh presented three Brahms sonatas as part of the Kent/Blossom Music Festival Faculty Recital Series. This was an evening of deep emotion as these two excellent performers fused their exceptional talents into an exquisite program.
Kosower and Oh began the program with the First Cello Sonata in e minor, op. 38. The opening Allegro non troppo was filled with deep, pensive motifs intermingled with beautifully lyric lines replete with melodious thirds and sixths. >>read on
CD Review: Project Trio — Instrumental
By Daniel Hautzinger
It’s not easy to be unique. In music especially, it seems like every good band name has already been taken, every genre tried (witch house anyone?), and every ensemble “sound” already stamped by someone else. Even so, I don’t know of another group like PROJECT Trio, which consists of a cellist, double bassist, and beat-boxing flutist, all classically trained, who play jazz, classical, Latin, and a combination of those and other genres.
But idiosyncratic instrumentation and style don’t remove an artist from other influences. Instrumental, PROJECT Trio’s latest recording for their label Harmonyville Records, contains buoyant and groove-based songs that often seem to reference other artists or genres, but played on flute, cello, and bass. >>read on.
Cleveland Orchestra Celebrity Series to include three classic films next season
"At the Movies" is the title of a Cleveland Orchestra Celebrity Series mini-series that will feature three classic films with live music in 2014-2015.
Organist Todd Wilson will improvise a score to the 1925 horror film Phantom of the Opera on October 28 at 7:30 pm.
The Cleveland Orchestra will be featured in the live soundtrack to "Disney Fantasia: Live in Concert" on December 11 at 7:30 pm and in Bernard Hermann's score to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 detective thriller, Vertigo on February 13 at 8. The Disney evening includes selections from Walt Disney's original Fantasia of 1940 and Disney Fantasia 2000. Brett Mitchell will conduct both evenings.
West Shore Chorale auditions August 19
The West Shore Chorale is seeking new members for its 2014-15 season. Membership is open to all singers with a strong interest in performing classical choral music. The Chorale, an 80 member chorus, will perform four concerts in October, December, March and May. Rehearsals are on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at Rocky River Memorial Hall. Auditions will be held Tuesday evening, August 19 at the same location. To reserve an audition time, call 216-373-7773. For more information on the audition process & upcoming performances, click here.
Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra seeks principal second violinist
The Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Liva, conductor, announces auditions for a principal second violinist for its 77th season. To schedule an appointment, email of call Lisa Wilson at 440.289.0818.
Three-way Discussion — Bach and Beer with Steuart Pincombe at BottleHouse Brewery (July 15)
by Mike Telin, Daniel Hautzinger & Daniel Hathaway
On Tuesday, July 15, we went to the BottleHouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights to hear Steuart Pincombe’s program “Bach and Beer,” which presented outstanding performances of Bach’s first three cello suites in the welcoming atmosphere of a neighborhood tavern. The experience inspired a conversation between Mike Telin, Daniel Hautzinger and Daniel Hathaway, both about the evening and the increasingly popular movement of performing classical music in alternative venues, especially neighborhood gathering places.
Mike Telin: “For the BottleHouse Brewery’s first time hosting this type of event, I think the space worked pretty well. The stage area was great and I loved the way they set up chairs around it, so that if you did want to have more of a traditional concert experience you could. >>read on
CD Review: Ravel — Intimate Masterpieces with Yolanda Kondonassis (Oberlin Music)
by Daniel Hathaway
What does an artist want you to experience when you listen to her CD? Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is very clear about that in the liner notes for her latest recording. She wants you to be transported to “somewhere you’ve never been, but of which you might have dreamed.”
That somewhere is the special world of Maurice Ravel, charmingly miniaturized in the Oberlin Music release, Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a world Kondonassis first discovered through an LP of his music as a child in Oklahoma.
Joined by her fellow Oberlin Conservatory faculty members Alexa Still, flute and Richard Hawkins, clarinet; Oberlin alumni Ellie Dehn, soprano and Spencer Myer, piano; and Oberlin’s most recent ensemble in residence, the Jupiter String Quartet, Kondonassis explores four of Ravel’s exotic chamber works in performances vividly captured by recording engineer Paul Eachus. >>read on
Cleveland Orchestra Sci-Fi Spectacular at Blossom (July 13)
by Guytano Parks
Science Fiction proved to be a winning theme this past Sunday evening as throngs of avid and enthusiastic fans of the genre packed the Blossom Music Center pavilion and filled the lawn to hear The Cleveland Orchestra’s Sci–Fi Spectacular. Jack Everly, one of North America’s leading symphonic pops conductors, was at the helm on this occasion, with none other than George Takei as narrator, beloved for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek. Soprano Kristen Plumley and members of the Blossom Festival Chorus joined the Orchestra in music by John Williams, John Barry, Michael Giacchino and Bernard Herrmann.
John Williams’s rousing “Main Title” from Star Wars opened the program. Everly conducted with authority, yet he also communicated his ideas with subtle tilts of the head and dance-like motions. The orchestra responded to every gesture with polish and pizzazz. >>read on
Successful debuts by Asher Fisch and Isabelle Faust highlight Cleveland Orchestra Blossom concert (July 12)
By Timothy Robson
On paper the program announced for the Cleveland Orchestra’s concert at Blossom on Sunday, July 12, did not look like anything special. It was composed of three repertoire standards: Wagner’s overture to The Flying Dutchman; Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64; and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7 in A major, op. 92. But the evening’s two guest artists, Israeli conductor Asher Fisch and German violinist Isabelle Faust, both making their Cleveland Orchestra debuts, took a fresh look at these works, and delivered performances rich in detail and clarity of sound.
Richard Wagner composed the libretto and score to The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegender Holländer) from 1841-1843 while he and his wife Minna were living in Paris, having fled Wagner’s debtors in Riga, Russia (now Latvia). Wagner composed the opera in one long act, without intermission, although he later revised the work slightly to create three acts, bowing to audience expectations. >>read on
Credo Faculty Recital in memory of Stephen Clapp (July 11)
by Daniel Hautzinger
Constructing memorial concerts is a tricky affair. They have to strike a balance between mourning and celebration, incorporating personal stories and meaningful pieces without becoming maudlin. On July 11 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, the faculty of Credo Music successfully navigated these pitfalls for a moving tribute to their friend and fellow faculty member, violinist Stephen Clapp.
Oberlin, under the auspices of Credo, was the perfect venue to honor Clapp’s memory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1961, returned to teach there from 1978-1994, founded the Oberlin Trio, was acting dean of the conservatory in 1985, and was presented with an honorary doctorate in 2011. He served on the faculty of Credo Music from its genesis, fifteen years ago. Beyond Oberlin, Clapp taught at Juilliard from 1987-2007, as well as serving as its dean from 1994-2007. >>read on
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