by Cait Winston
Today marks the beginning of the Re:Sound New and Experimental Music Festival, a celebration of contemporary music hosted by the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project. Re:Sound can be viewed online free of charge from June 3-30. Access code to the festival can be found here, and artist lineup can be found here.
Today also kicks off ‘A Little Night Music: Jazz, Classical and More,’ a weekly concert series hosted by the Cleveland History Center. This week’s performance will feature trumpeter Dominick Farinacci and the Jamey Haddad Trio, live at the Cleveland History Center at 6:30, and general admission tickets can be purchased for $25.
From 5:30-6:30, the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society will be streaming their Student Showcase, which features performances by Guitar@Home Academy students. To attend this online event, register for a Zoom link here.
At 7:00, The Cleveland Orchestra will stream the 12th episode of their live streamed concert series, In Focus. The performance is a reflection on both the grieving of loss and germination of hope that accompanies the later stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. This program features two works by American composer Aaron Jay Kernis: first, the world premiere of a piece composed specifically for members of The Cleveland Orchestra, Elegy…for those we lost, and second, his string piece Musica Celestis. The program will close with Josef Suk’s Serenade for Strings, Op 6. Subscribe to the In Focus concert series here.
IN THE NEWS:
The Cleveland International Piano Competition has announced that for personal reasons, Matti Raekallio has stepped down as Jury Chairman and will be replaced by Margarita Shevchenko. Pianist Jeremy Denk has been added as a juror.
The Local 4 Music Fund of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians has announced the launch of a new concert series. She Scores highlights historically underrepresented female-identifying (with a focus on regional) living composers. This concert series will be presented by a diverse group of performers in three virtual concerts June 25th-27th, in collaboration with the Cleveland Composers Guild. Click here for more information
Today, music lovers everywhere celebrate the life of the great American composer Florence Price, who passed on this day in 1953, at age 66.
After graduating as the valedictorian of her high school in Little Rock, Price studied composition and counterpoint at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where she also earned an Artist Diploma in organ performance and a Teaching Certificate in piano.
Price earned national recognition as a composer in 1932 when she won the Wanamaker competition with her Symphony in E minor, a piece inspired by Dvořák’s 9th symphony and the creation of a distinctly American sound. Price became the first Black woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major American orchestra when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered this piece in 1933.
Price gained further renown when contralto Marian Anderson performed her arrangement of My soul’s been anchored in de Lord, and her setting of Langston Hughes’ poem, Songs to the Dark Virgin. Price’s oeuvre includes orchestral and chamber works, art songs, and solo pieces, as well as violin and piano concertos. She also wrote commercial pop music and played the theater organ for silent films.
While Price’s music was both extremely well received by critics and widely programmed in her lifetime, many of her more than 300 compositions remain unpublished. This is emblematic of a history of marginalization of female and BIPOC artists in the classical music industry.
Price’s compositional style draws from Romantic aesthetics and often uses compositional idioms from Black spirituals. Her Songs to the Dark Virgin was praised by the Chicago Daily News as being “one of the greatest immediate successes ever won by an American song.” She continued to teach and write music for the remainder of her life. Watch the NEC Concert Choir perform Price’s art song “The Moon Bridge.”
French composer Georges Bizet, best known for his opera Carmen, also died on this day in 1875 at age 36.
Bizet was raised in Paris by a musical family — one of his earliest teachers was his mother, who taught him to read music and play the piano. From the ages of 9-19, Bizet was enrolled in the Conservatoire de Paris, where he was trained as a pianist and composer, and received prestigious first-place prizes in solfege and piano competitions. Bizet’s early works include piano pieces, songs, and — impressively — a full-scale symphony and complete opera written by the time he was 17. When he was 19, Bizet’s cantata Clovis et Clotilde won him the coveted first place prize in the Prix de Rome, and he was rewarded with a full scholarship period in Rome.
Although it premiered just months before the composer’s death and at first did not receive much critical attention, Carmen has become one of the most best-known operatic works of all time, with melodies from the “Toreador Song” and “Habanera” that are as instantly hummable as the “dun-dun-dun-duuun” of Beethoven’s 5th. Carmen is quintessentially Romantic not only because of its rich orchestration and fascination with the use of musical ‘exoticism,’ but also because of the moral complexity and nuance of its characters.
While it may be appropriate to mourn the tragically short length of Bizet’s life, the same as Mozart’s, music lovers can take this opportunity to celebrate the richness that this composer added to French Romantic music. Watch the Orchestre Nationale de Lille perform Clovis et Clotilde here.
Today also marks the passing of Spanish classical guitar legend Andres Segovia, who died in 1987 at the age of 94.
Throughout his life, Segovia helped to elevate the guitar from a largely overlooked instrument to a staple of the classical music genre. His life’s goals were to cultivate a substantial repertory and an engaged audience for guitar music. In his own words, “I was determined to win the guitar a respected place in the great music schools along with the piano, the violin and other concert instruments.” To this end, Segovia researched the history of classical guitar performance, transcribed over 150 pieces, and commissioned composers to write concertos and other solo works for classical guitar.
Segovia’s performance career began with a debut in Granada at the age of 16, where he impressed audiences with his virtuosity and technique based on 19th-century stylings. He then went on to perform in tours across North and South America and Europe, and gave thousands of recitals until the year of his death. On continuing to perform so late in life, Segovia said “I will have an eternity to rest.” Watch Segovia’s 1976 concert at the Alhambra here.