Letter V Classical Radio Nov. 1

For what promises to be a perfect fall afternoon, a program of music for strings from the late-19th and early 20th centuries, when even the modernists sounded pretty romantic.

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Wolf: “Italian Serenade”
Ana Bela Chaves, violin
Orchestre de Paris/Daniel Barenboim

Past Masters:
Britten: “Simple Symphony,” Op. 4
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
(recorded 1968)

Berg: “Lyric Suite – Three Pieces for String Orchestra”
Vienna Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Richard Strauss: “Capriccio” – Sextet
Berlin Soloists

Enescu: Octet in C major, Op. 7
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble

Vaughan Williams: Partita for double string orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra/Bryden Thomson

Janáček: Idyll for strings, JW VI:3
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra/Iona Brown

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Symphonic Serenade in B flat major, Op. 39
Northwest German Philharmonic/Werner Andreas Albert


Grooving, again

Yet another essay on the resurgent popularity of vinyl records, this one from Max Ufberg for The Pacific Standard.

For all its sonic and physical imperfections and lack of portability, “[v]inyl offers a sense of sentimentality – of mortality, even – that only imperfection allows,” Ufberg concludes:


(via http://www.artsjournal.com)

Reprised postscript from yours truly: Grooved records can be played even if they are damaged. In other playback media – cassette or 8-track tape, compact disc, mp3, soundstream – a flaw equivalent to a scratched surface or slightly warped disc would make the recording unplayable.

Don’t get me started on the price of new vinyl, or the difficulties consumers face in acquiring decent turntables, cartridges and tuners/amplifiers with preamps that accommodate turntables.

Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 18

A program of chamber music, from the 18th century to our time. In the second hour, Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio and music by the archduke to whom it was dedicated, Rudolph of Austria.

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Haydn: Octet in B flat major, Hob. II:46
Consortium Classicum

Past Masters:
Tchaikovsky: Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11
Smetana Quartet
(recorded 1969)

Bright Sheng: Quartet No. 4 (“Silent Temple”)
Shanghai Quartet

Past Masters:
Beethoven: Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 (“Archduke”)
Arthur Rubinstein, piano
Jascha Heifetz, violin
Emanuel Feuermann, cello
(RCA Red Seal)
(recorded 1941)

Rudolph, Archduke of Austria: Clarinet Trio in E flat major
Olaf Dressler, piano
Dieter Klöcker, clarinet
Guido Schiefen, cello

Debussy: Sonata for flute, viola and harp
Philippe Bernold, flute
Gérard Caussé, viola
Germaine Lorenzini, harp
(Harmonia Mundi)

Jennifer Higdon: “String Poetic”
Jennifer Koh, violin
Reiko Uchida, piano

Vaughan Williams: “Phantasy” Quintet
Maggini Quartet
Garfield Jackson, viola

Bates extends Kennedy Center residence

Mason Bates, the Richmond-bred composer best-known for his works mixing traditional acoustic instruments with electronic sounds, will extend his engagement as the Kennedy Center’s composer-in-residence through the 2019-20 season, The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette reports:


Bates’ Washington gig includes serving as maestro of “Mason Bates’ KC Jukebox,” a series of nightclub-style programs of contemporary music. His works also are performed regularly by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Following the premiere over the summer of his first opera, “The (Re)volution of Steve Jobs,” at the Santa Fe Opera, Bates is at work on an orchestral-choral work to be premiered in May 2018 by the Richmond Symphony and Symphony Chorus.

Jarvi leads Charlottesville Opera in 2017-18

Steven Jarvi has been named interim artistic director of Charlottesville Opera for the 2017-18 season. A former resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, Jarvi has conducted the Charlottesville company’s opera productions for the past eight years.

Charlottesville Opera also has announced repertory for its 2018 summer season: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” which will be the first Sondheim musical staged by the company.

Performances will be in July and August at the Paramount Theater on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Ticket prices will be $12-$75.

For more information, call (434) 293-4500 or visit http://www.charlottesvilleopera.org

Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 11

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Tchaikovsky: “Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem”
London Symphony Orchestra/Geoffrey Simon

Mendelssohn: Octet in E flat major, Op. 20
Daniel Hope, Lucy Gold, Sophie Basançon & Christian Eisenberger, violins
Pascal Siffert & Stewart Eaton, violas
William Conway & Kate Gould, cellos
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Schubert: Impromptu in A flat major, D. 899, No. 4
Grigory Sokolov, piano
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Rossini: “La gazza ladra” Overture
Filarmonica della Scala, Milan/Riccardo Chailly

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor
Norman Krieger, piano
Buffalo Philharmonic/JoAnn Falletta

Dvořák: Romance in F minor, Op. 11
Josef Suk, violin
Czech Philharmonica/Václav Neumann

Terry Riley: “Etude from the Old Country”
ZOFO piano duo
(Sono Luminus)

Rodrigo: “Concierto en modo galante”
Robert Cohen, cello
London Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz
(EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. (“Haffner”)
Berlin Philharmonic/Karl Böhm
(Deutsche Grammophon)
(recorded 1959)

New York’s cultural woes: scale and cost

New York has been the US musical capital for the better part of two centuries. The New York Philharmonic, the country’s oldest symphony orchestra, was founded in 1842. The Metropolitan Opera has been a star magnet for the art form since its founding in 1880. Carnegie Hall has been the country’s premier concert venue since it opened in 1891. The Juilliard School, founded in 1905, is the most prestigious US conservatory. Lincoln Center, whose venues opened between 1962 and 1966, is the country’s leading performing-arts complex. New York has been the center of the recording industry since the infancy of the medium. And for generations, leading performers have called the city home, or kept a pied-à-terre there.

How, in light of all that, do we absorb the news that the philharmonic has ditched plans to spend upwards of $500 million on an ambitious reconstruction of the orchestra’s home, now known as David Geffen Hall, deciding instead to pursue a less expensive tweaking that would address the hall’s problematic acoustics and off-putting distance between performers and listeners?

Michael Cooper of The New York Times reports on the decision by the philharmonic and Lincoln Center to abandon the full makeover:

The plan was unnecessarily ambitious, New York magazine’s Justin Davidson writes:


The philharmonic’s decision, the ongoing crisis at the Metropolitan Opera – now shedding staff after struggling with middling-to-poor attendance – and the travails of other arts institutions in the city underscore a question that crops up with increasing frequency: Is New York running out of cultural juice?

It certainly isn’t running out of money. With the Wall Street rebound and an ongoing high-end real-estate boom, the city is as rich as it has been since the Gilded Age of the late-19th and early 20th centuries. That’s especially true in Manhattan, where the arts mostly reside. And New York remains a top destination for cultural tourists.

“That a city that has as many wealthy individuals who’ve made a fortune in New York — that they couldn’t show up and support the most important cultural institution in New York, I think is too bad and shameful,” Geffen told The Times in reaction to the philharmonic’s retrenchment.

Geffen’s comment comes in an article by Robin Pogrebin and Cooper that surveys aborted plans by New York cultural institutions:

* * *

In my view, the overriding problems faced by classical-music institutions in New York are scale and location.

The big venues are clustered in midtown Manhattan, far away from many of their local patrons and more than an easy walk away from most of the hotels accommodating visitors.

Lincoln Center’s halls are oversized in seating capacity – 3,800 at the Met, 2,586 at the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater), 2,738 at Geffen Hall. Their acoustics are mediocre and sightlines from most seats are distant. Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium, seating 2,804, is comparable to Geffen Hall in capacity, but famously better acoustically and feels more intimate thanks to its oval layout.

While two of the most celebrated US concert halls have seating capacities comparable to Geffen Hall’s – 2,625 at Boston’s Symphony Hall, 2,500 at Orchestra Hall in Chicago – newer American classical concert venues tend to be smaller, and most are more intimate in layout: Los Angeles’ Disney Concert Hall seats 2,265; Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, 2,062; Turner Concert Hall in Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 1,844; Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh, 1,700.

The great European concert halls are even more intimate: Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal seats 1,744; Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, 2,037; Paris’ Salle Pleyel and Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 1,900 each; Barbican Centre in London, 2,026; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, 1,900; Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague, 1,100. (Two new halls are larger: The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg seats up to 2,700, and the Philharmonie in Paris seats 2,400.)

Among leading opera houses, the Met’s seating capacity of 3,800 compares with those of Chicago’s Lyric Opera House, 3,563; San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, 3,146; Winspear Opera House in Dallas, 2,200; Brown Theater of Wortham Theater Center in Houston, 2,405; McCaw Hall in Seattle, 2,890; and Santa Fe Opera, 2,128.

Europe’s opera houses, like its concert halls, are smaller: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London, seats 2,256; La Scala in Milan, 2,013; Berlin State Opera, 1,396; Deutsche Oper Berlin, 1,954; Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, 1,900; Semperoper in Dresden, 1,300; Vienna State Opera, 2,300; Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, 1,609; Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, 928; and Paris’ Opéra Garnier, 1,979, and Opéra Bastille, 2,703.

* * *

That long-held American notion, bigger is better, is now colliding with new demographic and artistic realities. US population has surpassed 325 million, but growing numbers of Americans are not of European origin and, aside from those of East Asian lineage, seem less inclined to patronize symphony and opera.

Atomization of cultural preferences, notably in music, has produced smaller followings for any genre. This shrinkage has affected pop-music styles as well as classical music. Increasingly, Americans are musical grazers rather than single-style devotees.

And consumers of all sorts of music are developing a taste for live music in more intimate spaces.

Big venues, whether those of Lincoln Center or the massive arenas that once were central to the rock concert circuit, are feeling the pinch of these trends.

Downsizing existing halls is expensive. The just-completed renovation of Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall, reducing the seating capacity of its Springer Auditorium from 3,500 to 2,500, cost $143 million. Building a brand-new space is even costlier: LA’s Disney Hall, completed in 2003, cost $274 million.

Those numbers are dwarfed, however, by the $500 million it would have cost to gut and rebuild the interior of Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.

No cost projections have been floated for a more modest renovation of the space. And, given the sad history of attempts in 1976 and 1992 to improve the hall, there’s no guarantee that the third time will prove the charm.