Inside This Issue

PreViews & Features

Kent/Blossom Faculty Concert (July 6): a conversation with pianist Spencer Myer

by Mike Telin

MYER-Spencer“I have kind of a history of playing big programs with them,” pianist Spencer Myer said, recalling his past collaborations with the Miami String Quartet at Kent/Blossom. “The first year we played one of the Dvořák Piano Quintets, and the Mendelssohn C minor Piano Trio, so that was a big concert. Then one year we played both the Brahms and Schumann piano quintets, but this concert just might take the cake.”

On Monday, July 6 at 7:30 pm in Ludwig Recital Hall at Kent State University, Spencer Myer and the Miami String Quartet will present a Kent/Blossom Faculty Concert that will feature Ernest Chausson’s Piano Quartet in A, Op. 30, and Béla Bartók’s Piano Quintet. The concert will also include Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet No. 5 in f. [Read More…]

Music by Nature in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: an interview with flutist Jane Berkner

by Jarrett Hoffman


This July, the Music by Nature series invites audiences to Cuyahoga Valley National Park for two concerts by very different groups. On Sunday, July 12, the Cuyahoga Valley Chamber Players will perform “Summer Winds,” a program of three works for woodwind quintet. Two weeks later, on Sunday, July 26, “A Romantic Summer’s Eve” will feature the Chamber Players in an assortment of works for flute, guitar, viola, and cello. Both concerts are at 6:30 pm at Happy Days Lodge. Audiences are invited to bring a picnic beginning at 5:00 pm and to join the musicians for a post-concert dessert reception. Tickets can be purchased here.

We spoke about Music by Nature with flutist Jane Berkner, interim flute professor at the University of Akron. Berkner has also served on the faculties of Ashland and Muskingum Universities, and she is director of Arts and Enrichment for the Conservancy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

[Read More…]

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…]

Read all previews