Richmond-bred harpist showcased in Boston

In an interview on the website Ozy, Charles Overton, one of this country’s few black harpists, discusses his artistic and career trajectory, from a fifth-grader in the Richmond schools to studies at the Berklee College of Music to a showcase performance in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “Encore BSO Recitals” series:

http://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/a-black-harpist-makes-classical-music-for-the-moment/398248/

(via http://artsjournal.com)

Virginia Opera cancels stage productions

Virginia Opera has canceled stage productions planned for its current season due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our dedication to following the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of our patrons and artists overwhelms our immense desire to perform,” Kriha Dye, Virginia Opera’s president and CEO, said in announcing the cancellation, adding that the company plans to “stay connected to the communities we serve, digitally in the schools, virtually for everyone, and in safe environments.”

“We now turn to providing new opportunities for much-needed work in our industry,” said Adam Turner, Virginia Opera’s artistic director. “This includes building on the success of our fall artist ‘Stayin’ Alive’ residency, with a second initiative geared towards providing more outdoor performances and digital content beginning in spring 2021. We were able to reach a whole new audience this fall by taking opera out of the Opera House and to the streets.”

Turner announced in an e-mail that an unidentified donor will match donations up to $100,000 to support the company, The Virginian-Pilot’s Amy Poulter reports.

The company is contacting season ticket-holders, offering options including refunds, conversion to subscriptions for the 2021-22 season and conversion of the value of tickets to donations.

For more information, call (866) 673-7282 or visit http://vaopera.org

Review: Chamber Music Society

Brandon Patrick George, flute
John Marcel Williams, guitar
James Wilson, cello
recorded Oct. 25, The Valentine

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia’s first online concert, titled “Positive Thinking,” presented three permutations of duo performance, ranging in style from the romantic to the neoclassical, by musicians audibly conversant across that range.

The largest work on the program, “L’Histoire du Tango” by the Argentinian tango master Ástor Piazzolla, was played in its original version for flute and guitar – a seemingly curious choice of instruments, in that the flute is by nature a more angular and, at fast tempos, less lyrical or sensual voice for a dance form rooted in sensuality. However curious the instrumentation may sound to modern listeners, it’s historically authentic: Flute and guitar were the original tango instruments in late-19th century Buenos Aires.

Piazzolla’s four-movement “Story of the Tango” is ordered chronologically, from “Bordello” (1900) to “Café” (1930) to “Night Club” (1960) to “Modern-Day Concert.” The outer movements are animated and melodically and rhythmically busy, the inner sections more songful and soulful.

Flutist Brandon Patrick George made the most of the lyrical heart of the piece while exploiting the virtuosic opportunities of the fast sections. Guitarist John Marcel Williams amplified the rhythmic aspects of the music and added needed shading to the bright colors of the flute.

Guitarist Williams and cellist James Wilson (artistic director of the Chamber Music Society) visited a rarely explored corner of musical history, Viennese music for guitar, which thrived in the late-18th and 19th centuries, in Bernhard Romberg’s “Divertimento an Austrian Themes,” a piece that, after a florid cello introduction, weaves Ländler and waltz themes through variations and combinations.

Flutist George and cellist Wilson played up the spooky, borderline-nightmarish atmospherics of the brief Toccata-Nocturne of Guillaume Connesson, a prolific contemporary French composer. The duo treated Connesson’s terse, neoclassical essay to a performance that was assertive and precise yet highly expressive.

Video quality of these performances is clear and unfussy, with a nice combination of distant and closeup shots. Audio suffers a bit from the hollow acoustic of a large, empty room.

Patrons who have already purchased tickets may access the stream. The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia is currently working to archive this and future online concerts. Details: (804) 304-6312; http://cmscva.org

December calendar

The Richmond Symphony’s brass musicians, led by Chia-Hsuan Lin and joined by narrator Anthony Smith, will perform in “Let It Snow! The Brass Edition” at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center. Tickets: $10-$82 (limited seating); access to online stream: $20. . . . George Manahan conducts the orchestra, with violinist Daisuke Yamamoto and harpsichordist Daniel Stipe as featured soloists, in “A Baroque Holiday,” including the “Winter” Concerto from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052, and works by Handel and Corelli, at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Carpenter Theatre. Tickets: $10-$82 (limited seating); access to online stream: $20. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Commonwealth Catholic Charities presents an at-home edition of its annual Holiday Festival Concert, “Home for the Holidays,” with the Richmond Symphony and choirs from parishes across Virginia performing Christmas carols and other seasonal music, at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7. Access to online stream: $50. Details: http://www.cccofva.org/event-details/holiday-festival-of-music-home-for-the-holidays

The Richmond Choral Society, Markus Compton directing, will post a “Christmas Postcard” concert beginning at 4 p.m. Dec. 13 on the society’s website, http://richmondchoralsociety.org The program, including “A Christmas Blessing” by the Irish composer Philip W.J. Stopford, was recorded remotely by the choristers in October and early November, with the voices combined technologically. Pianist Keith Tan and organist Christopher Martin will play new seasonal instrumental pieces, also recorded remotely. The program may be viewed free of charge.

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia presents “Positive Thinking,” with flutist Brandon Patrick George, guitarist John Marcel Williams and cellist James Wilson playing Bernhard Romberg’s “Divertimento on Austrian Themes,” Guillaume Connesson’s Toccata-Nocturne and Astor Piazzolla’s “L’Histoire du Tango,” streaming from Nov. 30; and “Reading Shakespeare,” with actor Brandon Carter and cellist James Wilson in readings from Shakespeare’s monologues and sonnets and Ned Rorem’s “After Reading Shakespeare,” streaming from Dec. 31. Access to streams: $15, plus $2.55 processing fee. Details: (804) 304-6312; http://cmscva.org

Camilla Wicks (1928-2020)

Camilla Wicks, one of the first prominent female violin virtuosos, celebrated for her performances of the Sibelius and Beethoven concertos, has died.

Wicks, a California-born prodigy who enrolled at New York’s Juilliard School when she was 10 and by her late teens was performing throughout the US and Europe, played with major conductors and orchestras in the 1940s and ’50s.

She married in 1951 and began rearing a family, leading to her withdrawal from most concert work in 1958. She subsequently taught at a succession of music schools in the US and Norway (homeland of her father), performing intermittently. She retired from her last teaching post, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, in 2005.

An obituary by The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/camilla-wicks-died/2020/11/27/8957decc-30ce-11eb-bae0-50bb17126614_story.html

Sibelius is said to have considered Wicks’ performance of his Violin Concerto to be the best he had heard. Here’s her 1952 recording, with Sixten Ehrling conducting the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stockholm:

Igudesman: ‘Take this virus seriously’

On Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog, Alexey Igudesman, the violinist of the classical comedy duo Igudesman & Joo, describes his experience of contracting and recovering from the coronavirus – a “mild version” but frightening nonetheless: “What the disease does to you psychologically is extremely worrying. The panic and self isolation can cause lack of sleep and terrifying depression – these issues are rarely mentioned. These symptoms cannot simply be turned off. . . .

“If someone you know has Covid, please be there for them psychologically, even if you cannot be there in person. And if you get it yourself, remember that having the fear and panic can be part of this treacherous virus, and that it will pass, just like the other symptoms:”

http://slippedisc.com/2020/11/i-need-to-talk-about-the-emotional-aftermath-of-covid-19/

Virtual concertgoing (7)

After a hiatus of several months, another set of live performances archived on YouTube, this set featuring orchestral works:

Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (“Eroica”) and Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, with András Schiff as soloist, played without an audience on Nov. 15 at the Berlin State Opera House (the performance begins at 27:55):


Vasily Petrenko conducting the Oslo Philharmonic in Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor in a 2019 performance at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg:


Edward Gardner conducting the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Chorus in Holst’s “The Planets,” a 2016 performance at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall:


Manfred Honeck conducting the WDR Sinfonie Orchester of Cologne in a 2019 performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor:


Dima Slobodeniouk conducting Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia in a 2018 performance of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 (“Inextinguishable”):

Kevin John Edusei conducting Chineke! a British-based orchestra primarily composed of black and Asian musicians, in “Black Legacies,” in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “African Suite,” Florence Beatrice Price’s Piano Concerto in one movement, with Jeneba Kanneh-Mason as soloist, the premiere of “Remnants” by James B. Wilson and Yomi Sode, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor:

Chamber Music Society 2020-21

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia will present a series of online streamed winter concerts, and plans to resume live performances in the spring.

The society’s virtual concerts:

“Positive Thinking,” with flutist Brandon Patrick George, guitarist John Marcel Williams and cellist James Wilson playing Bernhard Romberg’s “Divertimento on Austrian Themes,” Guillaume Connesson’s Toccata-Nocturne and Astor Piazzolla’s “L’Histoire du tango,” streaming from Nov. 30.

“Reading Shakespeare,” with actor Brandon Carter and cellist James Wilson in readings from Shakespeare’s monologues and sonnets and Ned Rorem’s “After Reading Shakespeare,” streaming from Dec. 10.

“Keep Dreaming,” with flutist Mary Boodell, violist Melissa Reardon and harpist Sivan Magen playing works by Rameau, Saint-Saëns and Chiayu Hsu, streaming from a date to be announced in March.

Access to the streams are $15 per program, plus a $2.55 processing fee.

Live programs scheduled for the spring:

“Let Go,” with poet Roscoe Burnems, baroque violinist Christina Day Martinson, baroque cellist James Wilson and harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt in verses by Burnems, a national poetry slam winner, interspersed with the “Rosary Sonatas” of the German early baroque composer Heinrich Biber, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. March 28 at the Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St. Live tickets: $30 (adult), $5 (student); recorded stream access: $15, plus $2.55 processing fee.

“Self-reliance,” with violinists Adrian Pintea and Suliman Tekalli, violist Celia Hatton, cellist James Wilson, clarinetist David Lemelin and bassoonist Thomas Schneider in a free concert of solo works to be announced, May 1 in the Gellman Room of the Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets.

“Reach Out,” with violinists Adrian Pintea and Suliman Tekalli, violist Celia Hatton, cellist James Wilson, clarinetist David Lemelin, bassoonist Thomas Schneider and French horn player Adedeji Ogunfolu in Schubert’s Octet in F major and Shuying Li’s “The Eight Immortals and the Sea,” 2 and 4 p.m. May 2 at Art Works, 320 Hull St. Tickets: $30 (adult), $5 (student).

“Believe,” with violinists Johnny Gandelsman, Christina Day Martinson and Jessie Montgomery, violist Dana Kelley and cellist James Wilson in Ben Johnston’s Quartet No. 4 (“Amazing Grace”), Carlos Simon’s “Elegy – Cry from the Grave” and the ”Heilige Dankesang” (“Holy Song of Thanksgiving”) from Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, in a free concert at 2 p.m. June 12 in the Gellman Room of the Richmond Public Library.

“Weather the Storm,” with violinists Johnny Gandelsman, Christina Day Martinson and Jessie Montgomery, violist Dana Kelley, cellist James Wilson, double-bassist Jonathan Colbert, traverso flutist Mary Boodell and harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt in Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and a new commissioned work by Kevin Alexander Day, 2 and 4 p.m. June 13 at Atlas 42 at Innsbrook, 4032 Cox Road. Tickets: $30 (adult), $5 (student).

For more information on the Chamber Music Society’s season, call (804) 304-6312 or visit http://cmscva.org

Performance at less distance?

A newly released study from the German state of Bavaria, summarized on Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog, suggests that wind players can safely perform at reduced distances – 1.5 meters, or about 5 feet – without dispersing potentially infectious aerosol droplets.

“Just the reduction of the lateral distances between the wind instruments would enable us to perform a much larger repertoire again,” says Nikolaus Pont, manager of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra:

http://slippedisc.com/2020/11/munich-study-shows-winds-and-trumpet-need-less-distance/