Review: Piedmont Singers

with Classical Revolution RVA Chamber Orchestra
Erin Freeman conducting
June 28, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Piedmont Singers of Central Virginia, an ensemble of eight voices based in Farmville and Hampden-Sydney, brought together two semingly disparate composers – Felix Mendelssohn and Arvo Pärt – in a program of sacred works presented to a capacity crowd in the Marble Hall of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Mendelssohn’s cantata “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” (“Christ, You Lamb of God”), framed by Pärt’s “Da pacem Domine” and “Berlin” Mass, turned out to have more in common than might have been expected.

All three works are contemplative in tone, and fittingly on the quiet side. And they are deeply informed both by religious belief and sturdy compositional precedents, in Mendelssohn’s case by the forms and techniques of Johann Sebastian Bach, and in Pärt’s case by his “Tintinnabuli” (bell-like) compositional style, melding ancient and medieval liturgical chant with modern, at times quasi-serial practices.

The “Berlin” Mass, written in 1990 for the Katholikentag (Catholics Day) festival at Berlin’s St. Hedwig Cathedral, adds to the standard Mass setting two alleluias and a “Veni sancte spiritus” section appropriate for Pentecost performances, and two more alleluias for Christmas performance. All were sung in this concert.

The vocal octet blended and balanced its voices well through most of the program, although soprano voices occasionally stood out more than optimally. The male soloists shone in their introductions of Pärt’s alleluias.

Sufficient projection was a challenge in the large, crowded space in which they performed, especially when competing with stray noises from the audience, the bar and surrounding galleries.

A small string ensemble, led by Erin Freeman, acompanied the Mendelssohn cantata and the Pärt Mass with warmth and suitable reticence.

Letter V Classical Radio June 27

1-5 p.m. EDT
1700-2100 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Wagner: “The Flying Dutchman” Overture
Les Musiciens du Louvre, Grenoble/Marc Minkowski

Bruch: “Scottish Fantasy”
Joshua Bell, violin & director
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
(Sony Classical)

Nielsen: “Helios” Overture
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard

Sibelius: “Pohjola’s Daughter”
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä

Past Masters:
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor
Jacqueline du Pré, cello
London Symphony Orchestra/John Barbirolli
(EMI Classics)
(recorded 1965)

Hubert Parry: Symphonic Variations
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Andrew Penney

Beethoven: Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4
Hagen Quartet
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor
Orchestre des Champs-Élysées/Philippe Herreweghe

J.S. Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
(orchestration by Ottorino Respighi)
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz

Villa-Lobos: “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 2
Orquestra Sinfônica Municipal de São Paulo/Rodrigo de Carvalho
(Lua Classical)

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067
Juliette Hurel, flute
Les Surprises

Richmond Chamber Players’ Interlude 2018

The Richmond Chamber Players’ 2018 Interlude series of four Sunday afternoon concerts in August will be staged at River Road Church, Baptist, in western Henrico County, while the series’ usual venue, the sanctuary of Bon Air Presbyterian Church, is closed for renovation.

This summer’s series will mark the centenary of Claude Debussy’s death with his Piano Trio and the 100th aniversaries of two works, Germaine Tailleferre’s String Quartet and Igor Stravinsky’s “L’histoire du soldat” (“The Soldier’s Tale”), the latter in a performance of the concert suite for clarinet, violin and piano that Stravinsky arranged from the original theater piece.

Other repertory ranges from solo string works by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Crumb to the Piano Trio by the early 20th century British composer Ethel Smyth, a woodwind trio by the late Richmond composer Allan Blank and string quartets by Shostakovich and the Mexican composer Javier Álvarez.

Performers include violinists Susy Yim and Catherine Cary, violist Stephen Schmidt, cellists Neal Cary and Ryan Lannan, clarinetists Jared Davis and David Niethamer, flutist Mary Boodell, bassoonist Thomas Schneider, harpist Lynette Wardle and pianist John Walter.

Tickets, $25 per concert, will be sold at the door and may be ordered in advance by mail: Richmond Chamber Players, P.O. Box 14654, Richmond, VA 23221. For details, visit

Interlude 2018 programs, all at 3 p.m. at River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads:

Aug. 5
Stravinsky” L’histoire du soldat” (“The Soldier’s Tale”) Suite for clarinet, violin and piano; Allan Blank: “Introduction and Three Episodes” for flute, clarinet and bassoon; Mozart: Flute Quartet in D major, K. 285.

Aug. 12
J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, for solo violin; Henry Cowell: “Seven Paragraphs” for string trio; Kodály: Intermezzo for string trio; Germaine Tailleferre: String Quartet.

Aug. 19
Ethel Smyth: Piano Trio; Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 5

Aug. 26
Debussy: Piano Trio; George Crumb: Sonata for solo cello; Javier Álvarez: “Metro Chabacano” for string quartet; Dvořák: String Quartet in F major, Op. 96 (“American”) – IV: Finale.


Symphony extends Lin, taps Myssyk

The Richmond Symphony has extended the contract of Chia-Hsuan Lin, its associate conductor, for two more years, and has appointed Daniel Myssyk to the new position of assistant conductor.

Lin’s contract extension, running through the 2019-20 season, coincides with the period during which the orchestra will be searching for a new music director to replace Steven Smith, who is leaving at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Lin, who joined the symphony in 2015, has been the principal conductor of Symphony Pops, LolliPops and Discovery concerts, and also has led classical subscription, community and tour programs.

Myssyk, who serves as director of orchestral studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and was artistic director of the Appassionata Chamber Orchestra in Montreal from 2000 to 2016, will become conductor of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and will assume a leadership role in the orchestra’s Young Performers Program, as well as taking conducting dates with the symphony.

Lin’s extension and Myssyk’s appointment were announced at the end-of-season symphony board meeting. Also announced were the appointments of two new board members: Joshua Bennett, vice president of technical services at Dominion Energy, and Samuel Koo, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, president of World Embrace and executive director of the Great Mountains Music Festival in his native South Korea.


Letter V Classical Radio June 20

1-5 p.m. EDT
1700-2100 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Berlioz: “Rob-Roy Macgregor” Overture
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Alexander Gibson

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44
La Gaia Scienza
(Winter & Winter)

Barber: “Knoxville, Summer of 1915”
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Orchestra of St. Luke’s/David Zinman

Marty Regan: “Splash of Indigo”
Apollo Chamber Players

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Martin Fröst, clarinet & director
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Bizet: Symphony in C major
Orchestre de Paris/Paavo Järvi

Medtner: “Sonata-Idylle” in G major, Op. 56
Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Suk: Serenade in E flat major, Op. 6
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Boccherini: Quintet in D major, G. 448 (“Fandango”)
Rolf Lislevand, guitar
José de Udaeta, castanets
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (1931-2018)

Gennady Rozhdestnevsky, the emiment Russian conductor, has died at 87. Rozhdestnevsky was a close associate and advocate of several generations of Russian composers, notably Dmitri Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina.

While directing several leading Moscow musical institutions, including the Bolshoi Theater, State Symphony Orchestra of the Soviet Ministry of Culture and Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rozhdestnevsky became of the most frequent visitors to the West during the Soviet era. He subsequently led Western ensembles, including the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and regularly guest-conducted other leading European and American orchestras and opera companies.

His large discography ranges from standard and lesser-known Russian concert and theater music to an eclectic sampling of romantic and modern repertory from central and western Europe.

An obituary by David Nice for The Guardian:

Letter V Classical Radio June 13

1-5 p.m. EDT
1700-2100 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Dvořák: “In Nature’s Realm” Overture
Prague Philharmonia/Jakub Hrůsa

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216
Pamela Frank, violin
Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich/David Zinman
(Arte Nova)

Chopin: Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat major, Op. 61
Stephen Hough, piano

Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (“Razumovsky”)
Miró Quartet
(Miró Quartet Media)

Martinů: Quartet No. 5
Kapralova Quartet

Stravinsky: “Scherzo fantastique”
Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Dukas: Symphony in C major
Orchestre National de France/Leonard Slatkin
(RCA Red Seal)

Osvaldo Golijov: “Omaramor”
Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Joseph Martin Kraus: Symphony in C minor
Basel Chamber Orchestra/Giovanni Antonini

Past Masters:
Brahms: Scherzo in E flat minor, Op. 4
Julius Katchen, piano
(recorded 1964)

Past Masters:
Elgar: “Variations on an Original Theme” (“Enigma”)
London Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux
(recorded 1958)