by Daniel Hathaway
The chamber ensemble Wit’s Folly will play a program titled Passing the Baton: Joseph Haydn and his Musical Successors on Saturday at The Brownhoist in Cleveland and on Sunday at Hudson Library and Historical Society, both at 2 pm.
Baldwin Wallace Opera continues its run of Taking Up Serpents (pictured), with an eclectic score by Kamala Sankaram and libretto by Jerre Dye inspired by his roots in the Deep South, on Saturday at 3 & 8 pm and Sunday at 3, all at the Kleist Center for Arts & Drama in Berea.
On Saturday at 8 at Severance Music Center, Cleveland Pops Orchestra and Classical Mystery Tour present A Tribute to the Beatles featuring music from the early days through the solo years.
And on Sunday at 4, organist Daniel Colaner plays a recital at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Hts.
Visit our Concert Listings for details.
The Canton Symphony writes that the Orchestra has reached the halfway point to its $250,000 goal in the Gerhardt Zimmermann Memorial Campaign, having raised $127,000 in gifts and multi-year pledges since last July to honor its former music director. That total includes a $100,000 gift from the estate of the late William P. Blair that will be matched by all pledges made before June 30. Read more here.
February 3 — by Jarrett Hoffman
Readers of the arts section in The New York Times have probably come across the “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love (insert genre here)” series, where writers and artists recommend short selections to get you hooked on various kinds of music. It started with classical in general, and has gone on to cover the piano, violin, cello, flute, sopranos, opera, Baroque music, Mozart, Beethoven, and 21st-century composers.
One iteration, here, is all about string quartets. The list includes Haydn, Beethoven (appearing three times), Schubert, Fanny Mendelssohn, Smetana, Debussy, Ravel (twice), Bartók, Shostakovich, Leroy Jenkins, Terry Riley, Tony Conrad, Reza Vali, Sabrina Schroeder, and Paul Wiancko.
As with so much in the world, a summary like that one I just wrote is handy, but there’s no substitute for engaging with the thing itself. On that note, two of my favorite discoveries this morning: Wiancko’s Lift (“The first three minutes here squeeze life into slow, gliding harmonies that are interrupted by a straight-out party,” writes cellist Andrew Yee) and Schroeder’s UNDERROOM for amplified quartet and live electronics (“It transports me to a place of primal intensity and beauty,” writes violinist Christopher Otto).
One beautiful selection on the more traditional side of that list is the third movement from Fanny Mendelssohn’s E-flat-major Quartet (a “gem of a musical fairy tale” that shows “how versatile the string quartet can be in the hands of a skilled poet,” writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim of the Times.)
Pivoting from Fanny, let’s touch on the Sixth Quartet by her brother Felix Mendelssohn, who was born on February 3 in 1809, and who dedicated that work to her after her passing at age 42 of complications following a stroke. (He would die of the same cause six months later.)
One takeaway from the piece is the frantic and distressed feeling that can be heard through much of it. Here’s one memorable performance of it to watch again, from the hands of violinists Alexi Kenney and Nathan Meltzer, violist Hsin-Yun Huang, and cellist Nicholas Canellakis on a program by ChamberFest Cleveland in June of 2019.
Two other important composers who were born on February 3 in history did not gravitate towards the string quartet — very inconveniently for my attempt at a neat summary of this day in history. Luigi Dallapiccola, the first Italian composer to adopt twelve-tone technique, brought his emotionally expressive approach to that style largely to the realm of vocal music. His best-known work is probably the one-act opera Il prigioniero (“The Prisoner”), a chilling piece of music written in response to Fascism. Watch a performance here from the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
And French composer Jehan Alain is most famous for his organ music. Last June, on the 80th anniversary of the composer’s untimely passing, Daniel Hathaway honored Alain by offering two recommendations: his Trois Danses (which were played by Vincent Dubois during an appearance at the Cleveland Museum of Art) and a selection of his unjustly neglected choral music (here performed by the Camerata Saint-Louis and the Ensemble Vocal Sequenza 9.3).
February 4 — by Mike Telin:
On this day in 1912 celebrated conductor Erich Leinsdorf entered the world in Vienna. His long association with The Cleveland Orchestra included a brief tenure as Music Director from 1943 to 1946. Click here to listen to a January 12, 1984 Severance Hall performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
February 4, 2001 saw the death of Romanian born, Greek-French composer and architect Iannis Xenakis in Paris. A musical experimentalist, his 1953-54 Metastaseis for orchestra, includes an independent part for every musician. As an author, his theoretical writings include Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition, and as an architect, he designed the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58 in Brussels.
Xenakis was responsible for significant works for percussion including Psappha (1975), Persephassa (1969), and Pléïades (1979), the latter two having been premiered by the venerable ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg. Click here to listen to a recording of Pléïades performed by that ensemble and here to listen to an interview with the composer. In 2011, as part of their North American tour, (I happened to have been the tour manager) Les Percussions de Strasbourg performed Persephassa and Pléïades at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Read the New York Times review here.
On a personal note, I remember when Xenakis came to Oberlin for a residency in November of 1981. As a member of the Contemporary Music Ensemble, I had the privilege of working with the composer, who introduced me to the concept of “playing ugly.” I cannot remember the title of the piece, but I do remember it having a wicked bassoon part that spent a good deal of time in the instrument’s highest register. I was frustrated — and so was he.
Finally during a rehearsal break Xenakis came to me and asked “Why are you trying to make it sound beautiful? It’s supposed to be ugly.” That advice pretty much solved the problem. It was during that same residency that the Oberlin Percussion Group gave the U.S. premiere of Pléïades — and my fascination with music for percussion ensemble and my love for contemporary music was born.