by Daniel Hathaway
IN THIS EDITION:
. Concerts and more concerts
. Stroud Classical Guitar Competition names young semifinalists (pictured), Music Settlement announces summer camps
. Almanac: royal dedications and the “Brandenburg Concertos,” Béla Bartók topics, forensic clues from Beethoven’s hair
HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND:
Here’s a selection of performances from this weekend’s packed schedule. For a complete list and details visit our Concert Listings page.
On Friday at 7 pm, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Cleveland Cello Society will present i Cellisti! 2023, featuring Cleveland Orchestra principal Mark Kosower in solo works by Hans Werner Henze and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and in a rarely-heard ensemble transcription of the Lalo Cello Concerto for six cellos. Read a preview article here. Tickets available online.
Same day, same hour, the Cleveland Museum of Art will host a collaborative performance featuring Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), the experimental poet and visual artist Lonnie Holley, the poet and singer-songwriter Lee Bains, and the soulful Cleveland collective “Mourning [A] BLKstar.” Free but reservations are required.
On Saturday at 8 at Severance Music Center, the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will present an Elton John & Billy Joel Tribute performed by Jeans n’ Classics. Tickets are available online.
Sunday at 3 pm, Heights Arts Close Encounters series welcomes Stephen Tavani and Yun-Ting Lee (violins), William Bender (viola) & Dane Johansen (cello) in music by Mozart, Stravinsky, and Britten at Herrick Mews Carriage House in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are available online.
Then at 3:30, guest conductor Dean Buck will lead the Heights Chamber Orchestra in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha Overture, Debussy’s Première rhapsodie (with Jaye Benjamin, clarinet), and Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’ at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Free.
Also at 3:30 pm, M.U.S.i.C. (Musical Upcoming Stars in the Classics) will present a Festival of Music from Latin and South America featuring works by Ernesto Lecuona, Alberto Ginastera, Astor Piazzolla, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Radamés Gnattali, Ernesto Lecuona, Paquito D’Rivera, and a new work by Julián Fueyo. Church of the Western Reserve. Read a preview article here. Tickets available online.
IN THE NEWS:
The James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition has named the 15 young performers (pictured above) who will compete in its final round on June 2 during the Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival. Click here for more information.
Registration for The Music Settlement’s 2023 summer camps is now open. The camps offer a variety of creative experiences for kids, teens and adults. Through music and the arts, TMS provides campers opportunities to discover new talents and interests, build confidence, explore self-expression, while improving skills and techniques. Morning and full-day options are available at the University Circle and Ohio City campuses. Inclusion and supportive options may be available to assist campers with disabilities. Financial aid and hardship assistance is available to those who qualify. Click here for more information.
ALMANAC FOR MARCH 24-26:
(March 24 by Jarrett Hoffman)
On this date in 1721, J.S. Bach dedicated his Six Concerts à plusieurs instruments to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt. That set of concerti grossi (yes, I also hate myself for using the plural that way) have since become known as the Brandenburg Concertos, hailed as some of the greatest works of the Baroque era.
With a performance in 1719, Bach had impressed the music-loving Christian Ludwig, who then commissioned several works. But when the margrave received the Brandenburgs in 1721, he was looking at music that had not all been composed in the prior two years — some of these concertos may have dated as far back as a decade or more, selected and revised for the occasion.
Did the margrave know this? We can’t be sure. But we do know that the compensation was not lucrative: Bach went unpaid.
Royal dedications from centuries gone by can be hilarious, obsequious to the max. (Modern-day suck-ups, get back to work.) In this case, it’s fun to imagine that Bach may have been compensating for delivering leftovers, even really good ones. Either way, here’s the first sentence alone from the composer’s March 24 dedication, translated from the French:
As I had the good fortune a few years ago to be heard by Your Royal Highness, at Your Highness’s commands, and as I noticed then that Your Highness took some pleasure in the little talents which Heaven has given me for Music, and as in taking Leave of Your Royal Highness, Your Highness deigned to honour me with the command to send Your Highness some pieces of my Composition: I have in accordance with Your Highness’s most gracious orders taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present Concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection with the rigour of that discriminating and sensitive taste, which everyone knows Him to have for musical works, but rather to take into benign Consideration the profound respect and the most humble obedience which I thus attempt to show Him.
(March 25 by Mike Telin:)
On March 25, 1881 composer, pianist, ethnomusicologist, and teacher Béla Viktor János Bartók was born in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary, now Sânnicolau Mare, Romania.
Bartók began studying piano with his mother, and at age nine started composing dance pieces. From 1899 to 1903, he studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. It was there that he met Zoltán Kodály and the two became lifelong friends and colleagues — they both shared an interest in folk music.
In 1908 Bartók and Kodály traveled into the farthest regions of the country to collect folk tunes, but what they discovered was that the Maygar folk melodies popularized by Franz Liszt they had previously thought of as Gypsy music were based on a pentatonic scale similar to that found in Asian folk melodies.
Although one doesn’t need to be an expert on all of this to enjoy Bartók’s music, here are a couple important things to remember:
- Bartók cataloged more than 9,600 melodies of Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovakian origin.
- Bartók incorporated these melodies into his compositions, often quoting them note for note.
- Bartók’s musical style is a mixture of folk music, classicism, and modernism.
If you’re so inclined, click here to listen to Thomas Little (AKA The Classical Nerd) explain all you need to know about the composer in seven and a half minutes.
If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, click here to watch A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts’ beautiful documentary about the composer.
If you want to know more about the theory behind Bartók’s musical practices, click here to watch Axis Theory make the complicated simple — it really is quite fun.
On a personal note, my introduction to Bartók’s music came early in my teens when my junior high school band director gifted me an LP of George Szell conducting The Cleveland Orchestra in a performance of the Concerto for Orchestra. From then on I was seriously hooked.
Click here to listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky give the Broadcast premiere of the piece (with its original ending) on December 30, 1944.
If you’re looking for something special to do on that first date, click here to enjoy Bluebeard’s Castle (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).
Click here to listen to Pierre Boulez and the Philharmonia Orchestra play The Miraculous Mandarin (you can follow along with the score).
Click here to get a bird’s-eye view of the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion.
And finally, click here for a performance of the Sixth Quartet played by the Hungarian String Quartet (again, you can follow along with the score).
(March 26 by Daniel Hathaway:)
Ludwig van Beethoven left this earth on March 26, 1827 at the age of 56.
“As he lay in bed, wracked with abdominal pain and jaundiced, grieving friends and acquaintances came to visit. And some asked a favor: Could they clip a lock of his hair for remembrance?
“The parade of mourners continued after Beethoven’s death at age 56, even after doctors performed a gruesome craniotomy, looking at the folds in Beethoven’s brain and removing his ear bones in a vain attempt to understand why the revered composer lost his hearing.
“Within three days of Beethoven’s death, not a single strand of hair was left on his head.
“Ever since, a cottage industry has aimed to understand Beethoven’s illnesses and the cause of his death.
“Now, an analysis of strands of his hair has upended long held beliefs about his health. The report provides an explanation for his debilitating ailments and even his death, while also raising new questions about his genealogical origins and hinting at a dark family secret.”
Read Gina Kolata’s article, DNA From Beethoven’s Hair Unlocks Medical and Family Secrets in the New York Times here.