by Daniel Hathaway
HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND:
Although it may look like a mistake in the Concert Listings, CityMusic Cleveland and No Exit are indeed performing the same programs on Saturday as they did on Friday, but in different venues — CityMusic at the Maltz Performing Arts Center, and No Exit at Heights Arts, both at 7 pm.
Indoors on Sunday at 3 at Youngstown’s DeYor Center, the Dana Ensemble opens its second season with William Walton’s Façade (lampooned in the photo), and Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale — two iconic 20th-century theater works, and at the same hour, pianist Jeffrey Siegel returns for another season of his long-running “Keyboard Conversations” series, but now presented at the Maltz PAC.
Unfortunately for two planned al fresco events, rain is in the forecast for Sunday afternoon. MusiCLE Yours has just informed us that the “Porchester Concert” at the Cozad-Bates House (Underground Railroad Museum) has been moved one week later to Sunday, October 10 at 3.
Rain may dampen the spirits but won’t stop the bells of the McGaffin Carillon from ringing out over University Circle. The 4pm “Healing Bells” guest concert by Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra will go on as scheduled, and can be enjoyed under an umbrella, from your car, or via live stream. Read more about the program here.
Attempts to use technology to complete unfinished classical music works usually prove to be misguided and futile, but a recent experiment using artificial intelligence to bring Beethoven’s tenth symphony to life piqued our interest because of the involvement of pianist Robert Levin, who has applied his own impressive human intelligence to improvising cadenzas in the style of Mozart and Beethoven. Click here to read “How a Team of Musicologists and Computer Scientists Completed Beethoven’s Unfinished 10th Symphony” in The Conversation.
With reference to the Boston Pops and the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette classical music critic Jeremy Reynolds considers how orchestral pops programming has evolved since 1885, when symphony orchestras in Boston began venturing outside standard symphonic repertoire.
He writes, “The classical canon has grown at tortoise speed, while rock, hip-hop and other genres have proliferated faster than rabbits — a trend that has continued to accelerate in the digital age. Orchestral pops programming now ranges from film scores, cartoon medleys and video game music to rap artists and jazz and circus acts. It’s whatever fusion of orchestral music and flavor-of-the-day entertainment the ensemble selects.”
Click here to read “America’s classical pops tradition is evolving, and PSO’s Byron Stripling has a new vision for it.”
This week, classical music media are reporting the deaths of Opera composer Carlysle Floyd, 95, on September 30 in Tallahassee, Florida, and of concert violinist James Buswell, 74, in Boston (no date given). Read obituaries here for Floyd in Opera News, and here for Buswell in The Strad.
Two prominent Black composers appear in this weekend’s honors list: R. Nathaniel Dett, who died on tour in Battle Creek, Michigan on October 2, 1943, and Zenobia Powell Perry, born in Boley, Oklahoma on October 3, 1908.
One year ago, we wrote the following about Dett in the Diary.
Born in Drummondville, Ontario (now part of Niagara Falls), Dett moved across the border with his family at the age of 11, was the first Black student to graduate from the Oberlin Conservatory’s 5-year degree program, and studied composition during the summers at Harvard with Arthur Foote.
Dett reflected the opinions of Antonín Dvořák when he wrote, in 1918
We have this wonderful store of folk music—the melodies of an enslaved people … But this store will be of no value unless we utilize it, unless we treat it in such manner that it can be presented in choral form, in lyric and operatic works, in concertos and suites and salon music—unless our musical architects take the rough timber of Negro themes and fashion from it music which will prove that we, too, have national feelings and characteristics, as have the European peoples whose forms we have zealously followed for so long.
Dett’s popular Juba Dance is included on the Oberlin Stage Left episode Linking Legacies, played by pianist Dianna White-Gould, and his Don’t Be Weary, Traveler, which won Harvard’s Francis Boot Award, was sung by Quire Cleveland at Historic St. Peter Church in April, 2014. And click here to listen to Canada’s Nathaniel Dett Chorale perform his popular spiritual, Listen to the Lambs.
Perhaps Dett’s most ambitious work is his 1937 oratorio, The Ordering of Moses, premiered at Cincinnati’s May Festival in 1937. James Conlon, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the May Festival Chorus revisited the work in 2016. Listen here.
American composer Zenobia Powell Perry, born on October 3, 1908, studied privately with Dett in Rochester in the early 1930s, and later at Tuskegee with William L. Dawson. She graduated in 1938 and went on to participate in a Black teacher training program headed by Eleanor Roosevelt, who later became her mentor. Perry began composing in earnest in her 40s, and after holding several positions at historically Black institutions, joined the faculty of Ohio’s Central State University where she taught from 1955 to 1982. Her opera, Tawawa House, received its premiere in 1987 and was revived in 2014. Among the ensembles who have performed her works are the Cleveland Chamber Symphony and the Detroit Symphony.
Click here to sample Perry’s art songs and chamber music from a CD that offers 31 of her compositions.
Finally, add to this list the birth of George Alexander Russell on October 2, 1880. The first Frick Professor of Music at Princeton, he upgraded the repertoire of the University Glee Club and delivered non-credit lectures in music appreciation which became among the most popular courses in the curriculum. As an organist, he also became curator of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Organ and attracted such European recitalists as Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne, and Nadia Boulanger to play what was then the largest organ in the world in Wanamaker’s downtown department store (now Macy’s).
His partnership with the organ concert promoter Bernard LaBerge lives on to the present — after several personnel changes — in the form of the Cleveland management firm Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc., now run by John McElliott.