by Daniel Hathaway
IN THIS EDITION:
. Hybrid concerts from Trinity Cathedral and the Maltz
. Guitar Festival and Stroud Competition go live at CIM
. One composer to be remembered, another best forgotten.
Two series continue today. At Noon, Trinity Cathedral lights more of the 200 candles on Belgian composer César Franck’s birthday gateau, with performances of his Organ Chorale No. 3 by Nicole Keller and Prélude, Fugue et Variation by Josh Kraybill on the recently installed Skinner organ, as well as perhaps his best-known chamber work, the Violin Sonata, to be played by Andrew Sords and Elizabeth DeMio.
Tonight at 7:30 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center, PianoCleveland hosts pianist Jonathan Biss (pictured) in “The Mind of Beethoven,” an episode in its Listening Series that will zero in on the composer’s often puzzling late sonatas.
Those concerts are available both in-person and online (and on-demand after they first appear). Details in our Concert Listings.
Les Délices has announced that its entire 2021-2022 five-concert series is now available for rental from Marquee-TV. Go here to access the series or individual episodes, including “Song of Orpheus,” “Winds of Change,” “The Highland Lassie,” “Of Gods & Heroes,” and “The White Cat.”
Artistic director Armin Kelly has announced that the 22nd annual Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival will return live to the Cleveland Institute of Music from June 2nd to June 5th. “This year’s festival will feature duo concerts by the Davin/Levin Duo (USA, guitar and harp), the Patterson/Sutton Duo (USA, guitar and cello), Duo Melis (Spain and Greece, two guitars), and Duo Damiana (USA, guitar and flute).”
Solo performances will be given by Drew Henderson (Canada) and Petra Poláčková (Czech Republic). Learn more here.
Kelly adds that for the first time, the Semi-Final and Final Rounds of the James Stroud National Classical Guitar Youth Competition will take place live at CIM as part of the Festival. “Fourteen very gifted and accomplished competitors will be joining us from all around the USA.” More information here.
American composer William Grant Still was born in Mississippi on this date in 1895 (some sources give the year as 1898). The full extent of Still’s oeuvre has yet to be explored by conductors and performers, including his numerous operas.
Why? Differing responses by the public and the critics to his 1949 work, Troubled Island, with a libretto begun by Langston Hughes, suggest that racism played a part in the fate of a work that received 22 curtain calls at its premiere by New York City Opera but was panned or ignored by the press. Listen to the entire work, conducted here by Laszlo Halasz, and read the comments, which include notes on the opera.
On the other hand, Still’s works were received with enthusiasm when the composer wasn’t mentioned. Case in point: his “rousing and amiable” Festive Overture, which won first prize among 39 anonymously submitted pieces in a 1944 competition sponsored by the Cincinnati Symphony. Click here to watch a performance by John McLaughlin Williams and the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra.
In a nice coincidence, on this date in 1963, University of Miami Opera gave the first performance of Still’s opera Highway 1, U.S.A. (originally titled A Southern Interlude). Click here (part one) and here (part two) to listen to the 2005 premiere recording by the St. Olaf Orchestra and Vocal Essence led by Philip Brunelle.
Lest we be accused of only noting high-minded anniversaries in this Almanac, let’s raise a glass to American songwriter Septimus Winner, born in Philadelphia on this date in 1827, the seventh child of a luthier (hence the name Septimus). In an interesting reversal of the way things usually work, he wrote some of his popular ballads under the nom de plume of Alice Hawthorne. Taking its time, the Songwriters Hall of Fame finally inducted him into its pantheon in 1970.
You’ll wonder, if you haven’t already, who wrote such immortal Civil War era songs as Listen to the Mockingbird, which sold some 20 million copies of sheet music, or the exceedingly popular Oh Where, oh Where Ish Mine Little Dog Gone, set to the German folk tune “In Lauterbach hab’ ich mein’ Strumpf verlor’n.” His Ten Little Injuns, originally published in 1864, became a standard in minstrel shows after it was re-texted (though not by Winner) with an even more unfortunate racial reference. Now, having done our archival duty, we’ll let him fade into oblivion.