Previews & Features
CityMusic Cleveland to premiere Dan Visconti's Roots to Branches
by Mike Telin
Each season, CityMusic Cleveland dedicates one of its programs to highlighting a social issue that impacts Greater Cleveland. Past programs have addressed such topics as bullying and genocide. For this year’s project, CityMusic has chosen to explore a population of Cleveland that is invisible to many — the world of Cleveland’s refugees. CityMusic principal oboist and VP for Community Engagement Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew says the goal of the project is twofold: to increase awareness of Cleveland’s refugees, and to highlight the positive cultural and economic contributions refugees make to the city.
A highlight of the project will take place on Wednesday, March 12 in Fairmount Presbyterian Church, when CityMusic under the direction of James Feddeck presents the premiere of Dan Visconti’s percussion concerto, Roots to Branches. The work was commissioned by CityMusic especially for this project and features Grammy-winning percussionist Shane Shanahan and narrator Ali Alhaddad. The program also includes Chinary Ung’s Khse Buon for solo cello with James Jaffee as soloist, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.” Performances continue through Sunday at area churches. >>read on
Akron Symphony to mount full production of A Midsummer Night's Dream on March 8
by Mike Telin
“It’s a big production with a lot of artistic components. And it’s unique in that the play is extremely famous and so is the orchestral score,” said Akron Symphony Music Director Christopher Wilkins. “Almost everybody in the world would recognize the Wedding March. They may not know where it comes from but it is universally recognized.”
On Saturday, March 8 beginning at 8:00 pm in EJ Thomas Hall, Christopher Wilkins will lead the Akron Symphony, Summit Children’s Choir, Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet and Akron Symphony Shakespeare Players in a fully-staged production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with music by Felix Mendelssohn.
In a recent telephone conversation Wilkins said he finds Mendelssohn’s music to be awe-inspiring. He also pointed out that Mendelssohn knew every word of the play (in German). While he was growing up it was common for the Mendelssohn family to stage many plays at their home. “They would invite guests to what they called Tableaux Vivants during which they would reproduce a historical theme or painting and people would come dressed as characters. Members of the family would write poetry. They had a little orchestra and Felix would write music. So when he wrote the overture at the age of 17 in the family garden, it’s pretty clear he already knew the play inside and out. >>read on
CityMusic Cleveland to Celebrate Cleveland's Refugees in March concerts
by Donald Rosenberg
Special to ClevelandClassical
CityMusic Cleveland savors the opportunity to share classical music with listeners who may have no other access to the arts. The professional chamber orchestra does so by giving free concerts throughout Northeast Ohio.
Once a year, CityMusic devotes a program to a social issue that heightens community awareness. In recent seasons, the ensemble has explored genocide and bullying.
This year’s project, “Fleeing,” focuses on refugees who have journeyed to Cleveland to begin new lives after years of displacement and suffering. CityMusic is bringing attention to the topic through a series of concerts in March, some of which will include performances by refugees.
To celebrate refugees in Cleveland, CityMusic has commissioned a percussion concerto featuring instruments from many countries. The piece will have its world premiere at concerts March 12 through 16 at churches in Cleveland, Lakewood and Willoughby Hills led by James Feddeck, former assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. >>read on
Rudolf Buchbinder returns to Severance Hall this weekend
by Mike Telin
This week at Severance Hall, Franz Welser-Möst will lead The Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra Chorus & Children’s Chorus in concerts featuring Sibelius's Lemminkäinen's Return (Legends) Wigglesworth’s Locke's Theatre and Britten’s Spring Symphony. Soloists include Kate Royal, soprano, Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano and John Tessier, tenor.
The concerts also include Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and mark the return of famed Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder to Severance Hall for the first time since 1998. We spoke to the fascinating pianist by telephone at his home in Vienna. We talked about a few of his hobbies like collecting movie DVDs and scores of Beethoven, and his recent release of the five Beethoven concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic on DVD/Blu-ray as well as his secret to a well balanced life. We began by asking him why he thinks Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody is so wildly popular?
Rudolf Buchbinder: First of all for me, this piece is one of the greatest variation compositions. You have the Goldberg, the Diabelli, and Paganini by Rachmaninoff. It’s a really great piece. It was one of the first piano concertos I studied at age 14 and the amazing thing is all of the Russian conductors that I work with all want to play Rachmaninoff with me. Not Beethoven or Brahms. >>read on
A/B Duo to visit Kent State and Oberlin
by Mike Telin
Creating your niche in today’s crowded chamber music world is not an easy task. However with talent, hard work and a bit of creative ingenuity many young chamber music ensembles are finding their place in that world and winning over skeptical presenters and audiences.
On Monday, March 10 at Kent State University and Thursday, March 13 at the Oberlin Conservatory, the bi-coastal A/B Duo, comprised of percussionist Christopher G. Jones (Rochester, NY) and flutist Meerenai Shim (Campbell, CA), will present concerts that feature a variety of fun, intense and thought-provoking new works, most of which have been written for A/B Duo. The concerts will include Matthew Joseph Payne’s Echoloquacious for flute, percussion and Gameboy/LSDJ, Ivan Trevino’s Things We Dream About for flute, bass flute, vibraphone and drums, Carolyn O’Brien’s Nocturne for contrabass flute and djembe and the premiere of Zack Browning’s Sol Moon Rocker for flute and vibraphone. >>read on
Tuesday Musical to present A Far Cry with Matt Haimovitz on March 11
by Mike Telin
Cellist Matt Haimovitz will be the featured soloist with the Boston-based chamber orchestra, A Far Cry, on the Tuesday Musical Series at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron on March 11 at 7:30 pm.
Haimovitz, who made his debut at the age of 13 with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, and his first recording four years later with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony, first appeared on the Tuesday Musical series in 1991. A Far Cry, a self-conducted ensemble, was founded in 2007 by "The Criers," a collective of 17 young professional musicians who intended to develop an innovative, rotating leadership both on and off stage.
The Akron concert will include two works by Luigi Boccherini, his Quintet in C, subtitled "Night Music on the Streets of Madrid," and his Cello Concerto in C. Haimovitz will also be featured in the first performance of Luna Pearl Woolf's arrangement of Bloch's Prayer from Jewish Life, and the orchestra will complete the program with Elgar's Introduction and Allegro and Janáček's Idyll. >>read on
The Cleveland Orchestra has released a behind-the-scenes video of its upcoming digitally-animated opera, The Cunning Little Vixen. This production is being made specifically for Cleveland. The video showcases the production team led by Director Yuval Sharon with animation by Bill Barminski & Christopher Louie. This is the first of a four part series that will lead up to the Cleveland Orchestra performances on May 17, 20, 22 & 24.
The Cunning Little Vixen, to be conducted by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, continues an emphasis on operatic and choral repertoire for The Cleveland Orchestra. Soprano Martina Janková will return to perform the title role. The cast also includes bass-baritone Alan Held and mezzo-sopranos Jennifer Johnson Cano and Julie Boulianne. Click here to watch the video.
Contrapunctus debuts at Trinity with "The Life and Times of Mary, Queen of Scots" (March 2)
by Daniel Hathaway
The chamber choir formerly known as Cantores made its debut under the new name of Contrapunctus at Trinity Cathedral on Sunday afternoon, March 2, with an historically themed concert, "The Life and Times of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1587."
Led by its new artistic director, English countertenor David Acres, the 19 singers expertly presented 15 exquisite church motets by English, Scottish, Spanish and Italian composers of the Renaissance, embedded into a lengthy, printed narrative of Mary's life with color images and supplemented by a few brief excerpts from her own writings delivered by actor Denise Larkin.
Performing music within its historical context with the help of images and spoken words can result in a rich experience for the listener when several streams run together to form a larger river. >>read on
A Celebration of English Opera at CIM (Feb. 27)
by Mike Telin
The Cleveland Institute of Music Opera Theatre’s most recent production, “A Celebration of English Opera,” either left you scratching your head or re-energized, depending on your sensibilities. Performed in Kulas Hall from February 26 through March 1 the “Celebration” consisted of two one-act operas, the rarely heard Ralph Vaughan Williams Riders to the Sea and the second, a staple of the Baroque opera repertoire, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
In his director’s notes David Bamberger pointed out that both operas center on a powerful woman and in each case, that woman self-identifies through a man – in one case a mother, in another as a lover. And in each opera the woman loses the man to rival forces that she can neither control nor totally understand. But without a doubt, the pairing of these two titles made for a fun, enjoyable and thought-provoking evening. >>read on
Oberlin Artist Recital Series — Pianist George Li (March 2)
by Allen Huszti, Guest Contributor
Since 1878, Oberlin College's Artist Recital Series has presented performances by some of the world's finest musicians. On Saturday evening, March 1, the audience in Finney Chapel had the special opportunity to hear a recital by an artist just beginning his career. George Li was 14 when he won first-prize in Oberlin's inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition in 2010. Now 18 and a joint student at Harvard and the New England Conservatory, Li has since won the prestigious Young Concert Artists auditions.
The first half of the recital included works by Beethoven and Schoenberg, the foremost composers of what we now call the First and Second Viennese Schools. Arnold Schoenberg's, Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke (Six Little Piano Pieces), op. 19, opened the program. >>read on
Blue Water Chamber Orchestra at Plymouth Church (March 1)
by J.D. Goddard
On Saturday evening, March 1 at Plymouth Church UCC, conductor Carlton Woods and the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra strings presented a program of works by Elgar, Barber and Tchaikovsky joined by wind soloists Sean Gabriel, flute, Neil Mueller, trumpet, and Martin Neubert, oboe. The program was performed without intermission.
Woods opened the program with Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, op. 47 for solo string quartet and strings, showcasing Blue Water violinists Kenneth Johnston and Emily Cornelius, violist Laura Shuster, and cellist Kent Collier.
The opening statement from the strings immediately grabbed one’s attention with its dramatic clarity before melting into magnificent sonorities that played the quartet off against the full string compliment. >>read on
Opera Circle — La traviata at Bohemian National Hall (February 28)
by Daniel Hathaway
For the second title of its eighteenth season, Opera Circle mounted an impressive production of Verdi's La traviata in the handsome old-world ballroom of Bohemian National Hall on February 28 and March 2. I saw the opening night performance.
Traviata was staged in collaboration with Robert Cronquist and the semi-professional Cleveland Women's Orchestra, who occupied a "pit" curtained off in front of the stage.
Opera Circle is a fearless company that operates as an extended family affair with high artistic aspirations. When everything clicks, its productions rise above the sum of their parts. Traviata enjoyed a trouble-free opening night on Friday with an attractive cast of well-matched singers and fine production values. The stage direction was shared between Cronquist and Dorota Sobieska (who is executive director of the company and as its prima donna, also sang the lead role of Violetta). >>read on
Akron Symphony — "Akron Virtuosos" (February 22)
by Daniel Hathaway
Symphony orchestras sometimes showcase internal talent rather than laying on touring soloists. On February 22, the Akron Symphony turned the spotlight on several of its own "virtuosos": its estimable horn section, its principal cellist and its assistant conductor all got their moment to shine before the ASO widened the beam to illuminate the whole ensemble in a brilliant concerto for orchestra.
Music director Christopher Wilkins began the evening with a brief prolegomena, then introduced his assistant, Levi Hammer, who led a stirring performance of Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Galanta from memory. Based on gypsy melodies collected in the Hungarian village of Galanta, the piece gave a few virtuosi in the orchestra their own cameo appearances: clarinetist Kristina Belisle Jones was splendid in two spiraling cadenzas and flute, piccolo and oboe contributed handsome lyrical passages. >>read on
Duo Amal on Cleveland International Piano Competition Series at Reinberger Hall (Feb. 22)
by Mike Telin
The career trajectories of piano competition laureates can be a fascinating thing to follow: where will life take them? On Saturday, February 22 in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall at Severance Hall, the Second Prize Winner at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition, Yaron Kohlberg, who along with duo piano partner Bishara Haroni make up Duo Amal, presented a performance that was both technically and musically brilliant. Like concentric circles, from the first note to the last, this dynamic duo played from a common center: articulations, phrasings, tonal colors, crescendos and decrescendos were perfectly matched.
Protégés of Zubin Mehta, Haroni and Kohlberg initially came together as a duo piano team for a peace concert at the Oslo House in Norway in 2011. In a recent interview, Kohlberg said the musical connection between himself and Haroni was “so strong” they felt they needed to continue the musical partnership. And shortly thereafter Duo Amal – Amal being the Arabic word for “hope” — was formed. >>read on
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