Letter V Classical Radio May 29

Memorial Day is popularly celebrated as the start of the summer season; but the original purpose of the holiday was to remember Americans who served and died in our wars. In this program, music to mark the day as it was meant to be observed.

1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Thomas Wiggins: “The Battle of Manassas”
John Davis, piano
(Newport Classics)

Ives: “Three Places in New England” –
I: “The ‘St. Gaudens’ in Boston Common (Col. Shaw and his Colored Regiment)”

Cleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi

Vaughan Williams: “Dona nobis pacem”
Michelle Areyzaga, soprano
Kevin Deas, bass-baritone
Richmond Symphony Chorus
Richmond Symphony/Steven Smith

(Reference Recordings)

Barber: Symphony No. 2
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

Martinů: Symphony No. 3
Czech Philharmonic/Václav Neumann

Review: Richmond Symphony

I am medically advised to avoid crowded public events, and so cannot attend concerts. The Richmond Symphony is making video streams of its mainstage concerts available to ticket-holders. The stream of this program became accessible on May 25.

Lidiya Yankovskaya conducting
May 20-21, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

The Richmond Symphony’s final mainstage program of the season was a showcase of orchestral tone color. The program’s highlight, inevitably, was Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition;” but a first half of American works – John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” Florence Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” and “Amer’ican” by James Lee III – enlarged the coloristic palette and offered some unexpected parallels and echoes.

With guest conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, the Russian-born American music director of Chicago Opera Theater, and a number of guest and substitute players, the orchestra audibly had sweated the details of wind solos and ensembles, string articulation and often tricky balances and exchanges among sections. This paid off to special effect in subtler or more atmospheric sections of “Pictures” and Lee’s tone poem.

“Pictures” was receiving a belated 100th-birthday salute: Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s 1874 piano suite was commissioned by the Russian conductor and new-music advocate Serge Koussevitzky, and introduced in his Concerts Koussevitzky series in Paris in October 1922. While Ravel’s timbral language here is as much his own as in works such as “Daphnis et Chloé” and “La valse,” the Russian qualities of Mussorgsky’s music comes through clearly, especially in Ravel’s weighty string and brass writing.

Yankovskaya and the orchestra realized both composers’ styles and soundscapes in a performance rich in both tonal and expressive detail and in massed sonority. The symphony’s woodwind and brass players – notably trumpeter Samuel Huss, bassoonist Thomas Schneider and alto saxophonist Dusty Dowdy – were in fine form, and the orchestra’s strings maintained balance with the relatively oversized complements of winds, brass and percussion.

An unexpected echo of the Russo-French sound of early 20th-century Paris came in Lee’s “Amer’ican,” music of a Black American composer introduced in 2021. Lee has described his piece as a “21st century response to [Antonín] Dvořák’s charge to American composers to incorporate the music of Native and Negro American music melodies.”

Melodically, “Amer’ican” follows that trajectory, with intermittent quotations from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony (No. 9 in E minor). Lee’s sound textures and employment of tone color, especially in wind writing, often echo the more atmospheric, quasi-mystical sections of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le sacre du printemps” (“The Rite of Spring”), music of very different aesthetic and folk traditions. That contrast enriches the piece sonically and stylistically.

Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America,” written in 1932, is a more straightforward response to Dvořák’s charge, deeply informed, like most of her music, by spirituals (especially mournful or contemplative ones) and African-derived juba (or Giouba, aka “hambone”) dance rhythms. In three parts, played without pause, Price’s tone poem is a sonic representation of African slaves’ transportation to America, their “resignation and faith” during enslavement and “adaptation, a fusion of [their] native and acquired impulses.”

Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” a popular curtain-raiser since its premiere in 1986, is a percussively propulsive, vividly colorful example of the composer’s early, quasi-minimalist style.

Yankovskaya and the symphony gave sonically and stylistically idiomatic treatments to all three American works, making their most lasting impression in Lee’s “Amer’ican.”

The stream of this program remains accessible until June 30. Access: $30. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://richmondsymphony.com

Clark to lead Dallas Symphony Chorus

Anthony Blake Clark, who has served this season as interim director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus, has been appointed director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus.

A graduate of the University of Birmingham in Britain and a doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Clark currently is director of Baltimore Choral Arts and Bach Vespers of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York. He formerly was director of choral activities at the George Washington University in DC.

He takes over his Dallas post in the fall.

Clark will lead the Richmond Symphony Chorus, with organist Daniel Stipe, in Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” Psalm settings by Ernani Aguiar and Howard Goodall, and works by Handel, Mendelssohn, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani and William Bradley Roberts, at 7:30 p.m. May 25 at Second Baptist Church, River and Gaskins roads. Tickets are $25.

For more information, call (800) 514-3849 (ETIX) or visit http://richmondsymphony.com

VCU Rennolds Chamber Concerts 2023-24

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concerts will present four programs by international artists in its 2023-24 season.

The series opens at 3 p.m. Sept. 10 with the Hermitage Piano Trio, the Russian-born, US-based ensemble of pianist Ilya Kazantsev, violinist Misha Keylin and cellist Sergey Antonov, lauded for their performances and recordings of Rachmaninoff and other Russian repertory as well as classic to contemporary works from European and American composers. Their program will be announced later.

The second Rennolds program, at 3 p.m. Oct. 15, features the Isidore String Quartet – violinists Adrian Steele and Phoenix Avalon, violist Devin Moore and cellist Joshua McClendon – winners of the 2022 Banff International String Quartet Competition and a 2023 Avery Fisher Career Grant. Their program will be announced later.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Wind Ensemble, drawn from the celebrated British chamber orchestra, will play works by Mozart, Beethoven and others in a Rennolds concert at 3 p.m. Feb. 18.

The series concludes with a recital at 7 p.m. March 24 by violinist Diana Adamyan, the Armenian-born, German-based first-prize winner of the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for young artists and the 2020 Khachaturian Violin Competition. Her accompanist and program will be announced later.

All concerts will be staged in Vlahcevic Concert Hall of VCU’s Singleton Arts Center, Park Avenue at Harrison Street in Richmond’s Fan District.

Ticket subscriptions for the four programs are $100, which include complementary valet parking.

For more information, call the VCU Music Department at (804) 828-2787 or visit http://www.arts.vcu.edu/academics/departments/music/concerts-and-events/rennolds-series/

Letter V Classical Radio May 22

An all-keyboard program, featuring selections from new recordings by three of the most gifted and imaginative keyboard artists at work today – harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, multi-instrumentalist (harpsichord, fortepiano, early and modern pianos) Alexander Melnikov and pianist Seong-Jin Cho – plus a classic Brahms performance by pianist Emil Gilels.

1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

J.S. Bach: “Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue” in D minor, BWV 903
Alexander Melnikov, harpsichord
(Harmonia Mundi)

Mozart: Fantasia in D minor, K. 397
Jean Rondeau, harpsichord

Mendelssohn: Fantasia in F sharp minor, Op. 28
Alexander Melnikov, fortepiano
(Harmonia Mundi)

Chopin: Fantasia in F minor, Op. 49
Alexander Melnikov, piano
(Harmonia Mundi)

Johann Joseph Fux: Ciaccona in D major
Jean Rondeau, harpsichord

Handel: Suite in E major, HWV 430 (“The Harmonious Blacksmith”)
Seong-Jin Cho, piano
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major
Emil Gilels, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner

Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra 2023-24

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Michael Butterman, will present six concerts in the 2023-24 season.

Highlights of the season include Simone Dinnerstein playing Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and Asiya Korepanova playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, violinist Philippe Quintet featured in pieces by Astór Piazzolla and Max Richter that echo and reimagine Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s choral “Chichester Psalms,” and members of the orchestra playing concertos by Vivaldi and J.S. Bach.

New and recent music includes Aldo López-Gavillán’s “Emporium,” with the composer at the piano; Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: the Dream of America;” Viet Cuong’s “Extra(ordinarily) Fancy;” and Stephen Lias’ “Gates of the Arctic.”

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Highway.

Subscriptions are $330, including access to online live streams of the six concerts. Access to the streams only is $150. June 30 is the deadline for subscriptions. Single-ticket prices and availability will be announced later.

For more information, call (757) 229-9857 or visit http://williamsburgsymphony.org

The season’s dates, programs and soloists:

Sept. 8
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major

Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Oct. 18
Astór Piazzolla: “The Four Season of Buenos Aires”
Max Richter: “The Four Seasons Recomposed”

Philippe Quint, violin

Feb. 1
Ravel: “Le Tombeau de Couperin”
Vivaldi: Concerto in C major, RV 537
, for 2 trumpets
Viet Cuong: “Extra(ordinarily) Fancy”
J.S. Bach: Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043
, for 2 violins
Bloch: Concerto grosso No. 1
soloists TBA

March 15
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor
Asiya Korepanova, piano
Peter Boyer: “Ellis Island: the Dream of America”

April 11
Stephen Lias: “Gates of the Arctic”
Bernstein: “Chichester Psalms”

chorus TBA
Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2 (“Mysterious Mountain”)
Copland: “The Tender Land” Suite

May 14
George Walker: “Lyric for Strings”
Aldo López-Gavillán: “Emporium”

Aldo López-Gavillán, piano
Ginastera: “Variaciones concertantes”
Britten: “Variations on a Theme of Purcell”

Belvedere Series 2023-24

The Belvedere Series will present five chamber-music programs in three venues in its 2023-24 season.

In addition to pairs of performances in the parlor and sun room of the historic Marburg House in Richmond’s Carillon district, single concerts will be staged at Ryan Recital Hall of St. Christopher’s School and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

Seating is limited at Marburg House; programs there usually sell out in advance.

The series, directed by pianist Ingrid Keller, will feature rotating casts, including members of the Richmond Symphony, as well as the Diderot String Quartet, cellist James Wilson, tenor Daniel McGrew and other guest artists.

For more information, call (804) 833-1481 or visit http://belvedereseries.org

Dates, artists, programs and ticket prices (service fees are added) for the Belvedere Series’ coming season:

Sept. 9 (7 p.m.)
Ryan Recital Hall, St. Christopher’s School, 6010 Fergusson Road
Nicholas DiEugenio & Ellen Cockerham Riccio, violins
Fitz Gary & Dana Kelley, violas
James Wilson & Carrie Bean Stute, cellos
J.S. Bach: Partita in B minor, BWV 1002
, for solo violin – Allemande
Richard Strauss: “Capriccio” – Sextet for strings
Schoenberg: “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”)

Nov. 11 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 12 (3:30 p.m.)
Marburg House, 3102 Bute Lane
Domenic Salerni & Rebecca Anderson, violins
Fitz Gary, viola
Andres Sanchez, cello
Ingrid Keller, piano
“The Roaring Twenties”
Maria Theresia von Paradis: Sicilienne
Caroline Shaw: “Limestone and Felt”
Fauré: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120
Korngold: Suite, Op. 23
, for 2 violins, cello & piano left-hand

Jan. 12 (7 p.m.)
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Grove Avenue at Three Chopt Road
Diderot String Quartet
Caroline Shaw: “Punctum”
J.S. Bach: “The Art of Fugue,” BWV 1080
Mendelssohn: Quartet in A minor, Op. 13

Feb. 10 (7 p.m.)
Feb. 11 (3:30 p.m.)
Marburg House, 3102 Bute Lane
Daniel McGrew, tenor
Domenic Salerni, violin
Andres Sanchez, cello
Ingrid Keller, piano
“Eros Walked Softly”
Robert Schumann: Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70
Brahms: Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 100
Robert Schumann: “Liederkreis,” Op. 24
Clara Wieck Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17


April 13 (7 p.m.)
April 14 (3:30 p.m.)
Marburg House, 3102 Bute Lane
Rebecca Anderson, violin
Schuyler Slack, cello
Mary Boodell, flute
Jessica Xylina Osborne, piano
Kenji Bunch: “Vesper Flight”
for flute & piano
Valentin Silvestrov: “28 Juli 1750 . . . in memoriam J.S.B.”
Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 5 in G major
for solo violin
Rachmaninoff: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19

Letter V Classical Radio May 15

In the second hour, remembering Menahem Pressler, the eminent pianist, teacher and longtime leader of the Beaux Arts Trio.

1-3 p.m. EDT
1700-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

George Whitefield Chadwick: “Symphonic Sketches” – I: “Jubilee”
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1 (“Afro-American”)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Kellen Gray

Thomas Canning: “Fantasy on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan”
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Raymond Leppard

Ben Johnston: Quartet No. 4 (“Amazing Grace”)
Kronos Quartet

Beethoven: Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110
Menahem Pressler, piano

Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor
Beaux Arts Trio

Chopin: Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth.
Menahem Pressler, piano

Grace Bumbry (1937-2023)

Grace Bumbry, who was a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Vienna State Opera and other major companies and was the first Black singer to perform at the Bayreuth Festival, has died at 86.

Denied admission to a segregated conservatory in her native St. Louis, Bumbry performed on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts” program, an appearance that led to her enrollment at Boston and Northwestern universities and studies with the great German-American soprano Lotte Lehmann.

A mezzo-soprano who later took on soprano roles, Bumbry made her stage debut in 1960 at the Paris Ópera as Amneris in Verdi’s “Aïda,” and was dubbed the “Black Venus” after singing that role in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” at Bayreuth in 1961. In 1962 she sang at a state dinner at the White House at the invitation of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and made her debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

She went on to sing many mezzo and soprano roles at major US and European opera houses through the 1990s, including the Met’s first staging of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” in 1985, in which she co-starred with bass-baritone Simon Estes.

Initially retiring from the opera stage in 1997, she returned in a 2010 Paris production of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha” and a 2013 Vienna production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades.”

She also founded and starred in the Grace Bumbry Black Musical Heritage Ensemble, which toured in the 1990s with performances of spirituals.

An obituary by The New York Times’ Alex Williams:

Tuesday Evening Concerts 2023-24

The Dover and Arod string quartets, violinist Augustin Hadelich and pianist Orion Weiss, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and pianist Paul Lewis are among the artists engaged for the coming season of the Tuesday Evening Concerts, the long-running chamber-music series in Charlottesville.

The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall of the University of Virginia.

Ticket subscriptions are $65 to $250. For more information, call (434) 244-9505, or visit http://tecs.org/buy-subscriptions/

Artists and programs for the 2023-24 Tuesday Evening Concerts:

Oct. 10
Augustin Hadelich, violin
Orion Weiss, piano

Beethoven: Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 96
Daniel Bernard Roumain: “Filter”
for solo violin
Amy Beach: Romance in A major, Op. 23, for violin & piano
Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 80
John Adams: “Road Movies”

Oct. 31
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble

Purcell: Chacony for strings (Benjamin Britten arrangement)
Nielsen: “Serenata in vano”
Howard Ferguson: Octet, Op. 4
Beethoven: Septet in E flat major, Op. 20

Nov. 28
Behzod Abduraimov, piano

Franck: Prelude, Fugue and Variations, Op. 18 (Harold Bauer arrangement)
Dilorom Saidaminova: “The Walls of Ancient Bukhara”
Ravel: “Gaspard de la nuit”
Florence Price: “Fantasie nègre” No. 1
Prokofiev: “ ‘Romeo and Juliet:’ 10 Pieces,” Op. 75

Feb. 20
Arod Quartet

Haydn: Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5
Debussy: Quartet in G minor
Beethoven: Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131

March 12
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Jean-Marie Leclair: “Scylla et Glaucus” Overture
Vivaldi: Bassoon Concerto in A minor, RV 498
Pietro Locatelli: “Sinfonia funèbre” (or “Pianto d’Arianna”)
Michel Richard Lalande: “Les fontaines de Versailles” – Chaconne
Johann Christoph Pez: Suite in D minor
Telemann: Overture-Suite in B flat major, TWV55:B11 (“La Bourse”)
work TBA by J.S. Bach or Vivaldi

March 26
Dover Quartet
Haochen Zhang, piano

Mozart: Quartet in E flat major, K. 428
Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
solo-piano works TBA

April 23
Paul Lewis, piano

Schubert: Sonata in C minor, D. 958
Schubert: Sonata in A major, D. 959
Schubert: Sonata in B flat major, D. 960