by Daniel Hathaway
This was a busy weekend in history for the stork, who on January 23 delivered Italian composer Muzio Clementi in 1752, American composers John Luther Adams in 1952, and Mason Bates in 1977, followed on January 24 by Frederick the Great in 1712, and American composers Norman Dello Joio in New York in 1913 and Leon Kirchner in Brooklyn in 1919. Not to mention WCLV commentator, Cleveland Orchestra program annotator, and composer Klaus George Roy in 1924, who sent out itsy-bitsy compositions every year as Christmas cards.
The Fates were also busy, cutting the thread on January 23 of Irish composer John Field in 1837, and American harpsichordist Igor Kipnis in 2002, and of five American notables on January 24: composer Edward MacDowell in 1908, bass Paul Robeson in 1976, and composer Samuel Barber in 1981, followed on January 24 by American choral director and conductor Robert Shaw in 1999.
Let’s dig deeper into two of the figures who have had close connections with The Cleveland Orchestra.
Set the stage for Barber with this Camera Three interview from the composer’s New York apartment, marking his 67th birthday with a variety of musical selections including Dover Beach.
Conductor Artur Rodzinky (pictured above, Barber on the left) invited the 26-year-old composer to Cleveland in January of 1937 for the American premiere of his Symphony in One Movement (Symphony No. 1). Marin Alsop chose that work for her debut with the Orchestra in December of 2011, which sent ClevelandClassical.com executive editor Mike Telin into the Musical Arts Association archives at Severance Hall to see how Barber’s visit went and how local critics had written about the work on its first outing. Read that article here.
Nearly three decades later, George Szell led Barber’s Piano Concerto with the Orchestra and soloist John Browning at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Listen to a live recording here (or follow the performance along with a score of the piano part here.)
Last December, as part of the Cleveland Orchestra’s Pandemic-inspired Music Medicine partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, musicians joined baritone Thomas Meglioranza in Barber’s Dover Beach. Watch that performance from the Alley Cat Oyster Bar on the East Bank of the Flats here.
Born in California, Robert Shaw got his start after graduating from Pomona College in 1938, when bandleader Fred Waring (and inventor of the blender that bears his name) hired him to train a glee club to perform with his band.
Shaw went on to found the racially integrated Collegiate Chorale in New York in 1938. He came to the attention of Toscanini ten years later when he prepared Beethoven’s Ninth for a performance by the NBC Symphony, and continued preparing choruses for the exacting Italian conductor until 1954. He founded the Chorale that bore his name in 1948.
Shaw joined the conducting staff of The Cleveland Orchestra in the late 1950s and worked with George Szell for eleven seasons, founding the all-amateur Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.
Among the videos documenting Shaw’s time in Cleveland is this clip of a chorus rehearsal for the Berlioz Requiem. Shaw was famous for his interactions with his singers, to whom he sent inspirational letters. During his time in Cleveland, he also served as music director at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Shaker Heights.
Shaw moved on to conduct the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus, who performed one of his signature works, Brahms’ A German Requiem in 1992. Telarc founder Bob Woods relates a few Shaw-in-Atlanta stories here.
But the most definitive source of information about Robert Shaw is a website devoted to his career, speeches, aphorisms, and other material, including scans of his marked scores. It includes a link to the PBS documentary film Robert Shaw: Man of Many Voices, which WVIZ Passport holders can view at no extra charge.
ON THE WEB AND AIRWAVES THIS WEEKEND:
On Saturday at 7:00 pm, CityMusic Cleveland repeats the in-person chamber music program it gave on Friday, this time as an online event from the Maltz Performing Arts Center. “A Women’s Sampler” includes Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint, Ethel Smyth’s String Quintet, Op. 1, and Amy Beach’s Piano Quintet.
Northeast Ohio fans of the Jupiter String Quartet can enjoy the pre-recorded program they made for the Austin Chamber Music Center Saturday night at 9:00 pm. It features Michi Wiancko’s To Unpathed Waters, Uncharted Shores, and Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E-flat, Op. 12. A donation will get you in the digital door.
Antonio Pompa-Baldi and Emanuela Friscioni open the new, all-online season of the Tri-C Classical Piano Series on Sunday at 2:00 pm, when they’ll stream a free, pre-recorded program of Schubert, Debussy, and the first performance of Luca Moscardi’s Suite, Op. 13 from the comfort of their home to the comfort of yours.
Cleveland Cello Society springs to life with its annual Scholarship Winners Recital, this year streamed from the Bop Stop on Sunday at 2:00 pm. Seven young cellists who made it to the top of the Collegiate, Senior, and Junior divisions of the annual competition will showcase their talents in a free program (but donations are welcome).
And WCLV’s Cleveland Orchestra on the Radio on Sunday at 4:00 pm features an archive performance of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s ‘Faust,’ a work that the composer labored over for a number of years and actually composed in reverse order — beginning with the amazing Chorus Mysticus finale and ending with the overture. During that time, he became increasingly unstable mentally, so in addition to setting scenes from one of the iconic texts of German Romanticism, the work documents Schumann’s emotional status in retrograde order.
Check our Concert Listings for details.