By Daniel Hathaway
. A wealth of performances from lyric theater to chamber music to Bach’s complete Brandenburgs & the opening of the Blossom season
. Remembering Bang on a Can All Stars bassist Robert Black
. Almanac: three dates in music history featuring Salonen, Henze, Brunelle, W.F. Bach, Satie, Gluck, Rousseau, Brewster, Weinrich & Fennell
HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND:
Ohio Light Opera has four of its six shows playing in repertoire: this weekend, No, No, Nanette! (pictured, Saturday at 2), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Friday & Sunday at 2), and Camelot (Saturday at 7:30).
ChamberFest Cleveland’s Friday’s concert at Dunham Tavern, Words Misunderstood, will feature György Ligeti’s Poème symphonique (for 100 metronomes), and Saturday’s Mixon Hall performance picks up the festival theme, Lightness of Being, with Helmut Lachenmann’s Pression, and works by Mozart and Mendelssohn, both concerts at 7:30.
Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists is still in its early, online stages with four contestants from its junior and senior divisions competing virtually each day at 7:30 from Friday through Sunday.
Concluding its 50th(?) trip around the sun, Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute will feature its faculty in a performance of all six of J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos on Saturday at 8 in Warner Concert Hall (tickets at the door). And on Sunday, BPI students will take the state of Kulas Recital Hall for a 1:00-5:00 marathon chamber music concert (free), and the BPI student orchestra and chorus, led by Joe Gascho & Lucas Harris will present Purcell’s Welcome To All the Pleasures in Warner Concert Hall.
Blossom Music Center opens for the summer on Saturday with an 8pm concert by The Cleveland Orchestra & Blossom Festival Chorus, Susanna Mälkki conducting, featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony along with William Grant Still’s Mother and Child, and Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.
The Blossom Festival Band celebrates Independence Day weekend on Sunday with “Salute to America.” Loras John Schissel, conducts patriotic marches, Broadway favorites, an Armed Forces Salute, and more, followed by fireworks, of course.
Other Independence Day Weekend events include a Lunchtime Carillon Concert and Live Stream by Sheryl Modlin on the McGaffin bells in University Circle on Friday at 12:15, a 2pm concert by Cleveland Clinic Concert Band on Saturday at 2 in the Eastman Reading Garden at the Cleveland Main Library, downtown, and the first summer garden party thrown by Stars in the Classics, which will celebrate American and Immigrant Composers at a private residence in Orange Village on Sunday at 4.”
R.I.P. Robert Black, 67
A virtuoso bassist who collaborated with prominent composers, including Philip Glass and John Cage, and was a founding member of the influential Bang on a Can All-Stars ensemble, Robert Black died on Thursday at his home in Hartford, Conn. He was 67. Read a story by William Robin in the New York Times here.
The storks — or the maternity wards — weren’t very busy on June 30 in music history, but they did deliver one of our era’s most celebrated composer-conductors. Esa Pekka Salonen was born on this date in 1958 in Helsinki, Finland. Originally a horn player who anticipated a career as a composer and took up conducting merely to ensure that his music would be performed, Salonen was suddenly thrust onto the podium in 1983 to replace an ailing Michael Tilson Thomas in Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra. His career later took him — with various side excursions — to the directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and most recently, of the San Francisco Symphony. San Francisco Classical Voice previewed the plans for his first season there in yesterday’s edition.
Salonen’s birthday is a good occasion to consider why Finland, a country with a population of 5.5 million people, has produced so many classical musicians. A list of prominent conductors alone includes Paavo Berglund, Mikko Franck, Klaus Mäkelä, Susanna Mälkki, Oli Mustonen, Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, John Storgårds, and Osmo Vänskä.
An article in Gramophone suggests that the secret of Finnish conductors’ success on the podium lies in the fact that most of them mastered instruments and played chamber music before taking up the baton. John Storgårds referred to a recent summer chamber music festival whose organizers booked only Finnish conductors. They rehearsed every day for a week.
We had Osmo [Vänskä] there playing clarinet, Jukka-Pekka Saraste on violin, Okko [Kamu] on violin, myself [Storgårds] on violin, Susanna Mälkki played cello, Hannu Lintu played cello, Sakari Oramo played viola, Pietari Inkinen was on violin and then we had Leif [Segerstam] on the piano.
So that’s a chamber ensemble made up of, respectively, the chief conductors of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestras (plus BBC Symphony Orchestra chief-designate), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and, for good measure, the Helsinki Philharmonic’s conductor laureate (who also doubles as the Sibelius Institute’s professor of conducting). Not a bad line up.
To mark Salonen’s birthday, watch a video of his remarks on the 100th anniversary of Finland, hear Jennifer Koh play his solo violin piece, Lachen Verlernt, and watch a performance of his Cello Concerto featuring Truls Mørk, with Klaus Mäkelä and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Today marks the anniversaries of two births (German composer Hans Werner Henze in 1926 and American conductor Philip Brunelle in 1943), two deaths (German composer Wilhelm Friedemann Bach in 1784 and French composer Erik Satie in 1925) and one founding (the Music Division of the Library of Congress in 1897).
Henze, gay and an avowed Marxist, was influenced by the theater, serialism, Italian and Arabic music, and jazz. The 1968 Hamburg premiere of Das Floß der Medusa, a requiem for Che Guavara, sparked a riot and the arrest of his librettist. Listen to his “oratorio volgare e militare” in a 2017 performance here.
Brunelle, probably best known for his choral work with Vocal Essense on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, gave a series of chats about composers from the piano in the Guild Hall of Minneapolis’ Plymouth Church. In episode No. 70, he discusses African American composer Hall Johnson, who wrote “choral music that sounds like a symphony orchestra.” Watch here.
Austrian-German composer Christophe Willibald Von Gluck was born on July 2, 1714 in the Upper Palatinate, Swiss-French composer and critic Jean-Jacques Rousseau died in Ermenonville in 1778 at the age of 66, and French pianist and teacher Charles-Louis Hanon was born in Renescure in 1819.
For better or worse, Hanon is well-known among pianists for The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises, highly regarded by such keyboard luminaries as Sergei Rachmaninoff, and considered harmful by other pedagogues. Rumor has it that some schools have staged Hanon Marathons, which seems like one of the bad ideas of all time.
Three interesting 20th-century American figures were born on July 2: American composer William Herbert Brewster (1897 in Somerville, Tennessee), organist Carl Weinrich (1904 in Paterson, New Jersey), and conductor Frederick Fennell (1914 in Cleveland).
Brewster was an influential African American Baptist minister, but is best known for his 200-some published gospel songs, of which two were the first black gospel records to sell a million copies — Move On Up A Little Higher (with Mahalia Jackson in 1948), and Surely God is Able (by The Ward Singers in 1950). Brewster also wrote more than fifteen “Gospel Music Dramas,” of which From Auction Block to Glory was the first such work to feature original compositions. Among Brewster’s fans: a young Elvis Presley, who attended his services and tuned in to his radio broadcasts.
Weinrich, who was equally committed to Baroque and contemporary music, directed the chapel music at Princeton from 1943-1973 and also taught at Westminster Choir College, Wellesley, Vassar, and Columbia. Click here to listen to him playing J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia et theme fugatum on the organ of Vårfrukyrka in Skänninge, Sweden.
And Fennell, who returned to his home town after teaching for years at the Eastman School of Music, where he created the Eastman Wind Ensemble, should be well known to Clevelanders, but if not, check out our earlier diary entry, and enjoy an historic Telarc recording by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (a.k.a. the winds, brass and percussion of The Cleveland Orchestra). They perform Holst’s Suite No. 1 In E-Flat, Handel’s Suite No. 2 In F, Music For The Royal Fireworks, and J.S. Bach’s Fantasia In G.