by Daniel Hathaway
WCLV’s Lunchtime with The Cleveland Orchestra reliably offers the music of Johannes Brahms on weekdays at noon, and on his birthday today, the playlist includes an overture and selections from A German Requiem, his First Piano Concerto, and his Second Symphony.
Locally, at 7 pm tonight, the Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra plays a pre-recorded concert including a Bach harpsichord concerto with Nicole Keller, and Oberlin’s Sacred Heart Concert series presents a live, in-person concert by violist Chris Gokelman with pianist Immanuel Mykyta-Chomsky (you can also watch online).
And follow the tendrils of the worldwide web to keep in touch with some of Cleveland’s favorite soloists and ensembles: So Percussion from the University of Washington, violinist Francesca dePasquale from Philadelphia, the Pavel Haas Quartet from Duke University, and Alisa Weilerstein from Washington Performing Arts. Details in our Concert Listings.
Ohio Light Opera has announced an abbreviated season in Wooster this summer. Because of the pandemic, audiences aren’t permitted in Freedlander Theatre, so performances of The Fantasticks and Trial by Jury will be presented in outdoor venues, and The Daring of Diane and Rare and Well Done will be streamed from the company’s empty theater. Click here to read more and here to view the complete schedule.
On this date in 1747, Johann Sebastian Bach met the Prussian king Frederick II in Potsdam while visiting his son, Carl Phillip Emanuel, and accepted the flute-playing monarch’s challenge of improvising a three-voice Ricercar on a theme that Frederick supplied. Back home in Leipzig, Bach the father turned that royal theme into A Musical Offering, a suite that included Ricercare for three and six voices, twelve canons — a number of them expressed as musical puzzles to be solved — and a trio sonata featuring Frederick’s instrument, the flute.
Click here to hear the entire collection conducted by Jordi Savall, with harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï, and here to listen to the Trio Sonata played by Cleveland Orchestra principal flute Joshua Smith, violinist Allison Edberg, gambist Ann Marie Morgan, and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour.
A version of the polyphonically dense six-voice Ricercar arranged by Anton Webern has been recorded by Christoph von Dohnányi and The Cleveland Orchestra, and Arseniy Gusuv tackled the piece on his semifinal round of Piano Cleveland’s Virtu(al)oso competition earlier this year. Watch that here.
Also on May 7, Italian composer Antonio Salieri died in Vienna in 1825. Highly regarded in his day, he counted Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Nepomuk Hummel among his students, and wrote many popular operas.
Though not perhaps the brightest musical light in 18th-century Vienna, Salieri has been the victim of a disinformation campaign begun by Russian author Alexander Pushkin with his 1831 “little tragedy,” Mozart and Salieri. Written to illustrate the sin of envy, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov made the story into an opera in which Mozart is poisoned by his mentor, and Peter Shaffer gave extra mileage to the tale in his 1979 play Amadeus. (Peter Schickele lampooned it in 1982 in P.D.Q. Bach’s Little Nightmare Music — excerpt here).
The music of Johannes Brahms, born on this date in 1833, is ubiquitous, but some pieces more than others. For his birthday today, let’s consider him in the same light as J.S. Bach — as a master contrapuntalist. His Geistliches Lied, Opus 30, is written as a double canon at the 9th — sopranos and tenors and altos and basses are paired and sing the same material one bar and nine pitches apart — yet the resulting music is unmistakably Brahmsian. Click here to hear the piece in its original form for chorus and organ, and here to compare it to Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s orchestration. In both cases, the composer has written one of the most striking “Amens” in Romantic music.
The music of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, born on May 7, 1840, also scarcely needs a plug, but we’ll celebrate with two significant recordings by The Cleveland Orchestra. His 1812 Overture, soon to appear (inexplicably) on July 4th concerts, was featured on the first commercial recording by The Cleveland Orchestra, captured in New York on January 23, 1924 under Nikolai Sokoloff. And his Serenade for Strings (composed at the same time as the 1812) was the first piece that members of the Orchestra recorded during an experimental return to Severance Hall on July 15, 2020.
Finally, just a tip of the hat to Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge, who died on this date in 2002, with two of his works. His 1953 Concierto Breve was recorded by Alicia de Larrocha with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid in 1999, and his opera El Gato con Botas (Puss in Boots), previewed at Cleveland’s Ohi in 2010 for a New York production, can be enjoyed here.
Montsalvastge’s Fantasia for Harp and Guitar is featured on Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaiux’s 2015 Azica recording Together. Their CIM students Grace Roepke and Maryam Hajialigol recorded the first movement in Mixon Hall in November, 2017.