Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 31

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Past Masters:
Brahms: “Tragic” Overture
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
(IMG Artists)
(recorded 1957)

Mendelssohn: Quartet in F minor, Op. 80
Artemis Quartet

Vaughan Williams: “The Lark Ascending”
Hagai Shaham, violin
New Queen’s Hall Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth

Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a
(orchestration of Quartet No. 8 by Rudolf Barshai)
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
(Channel Classics)

Aaron Jay Kernis: “Musica Celestis”
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Hugh Wolff
(Phoenix USA)

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor (“Resurrection”)
Lisa Milne, soprano
Birgit Remmert, alto
Hungarian Radio Choir
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
(Channel Classics)

Cleveland Orchestra fires two first chairs

The Cleveland Orchestra has dismissed its concertmaster, William Preucil, and principal trombonist, Massimo La Rosa, after an independent investigation found evidence that they had engaged in sexual misconduct.

A team from the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, after conducting more than 70 interviews, wrote that Preucil “engaged in sexual misconduct or sexually harassing behavior with at least 12 female musicians while he was employed by the [o]rchestra. Debevoise also received indirect reports that Preucil engaged in misconduct with eight additional women.”

Preucil, Cleveland’s concertmaster since 1995 and a professor at Cleveland Institute of Music until resigning from its faculty in July, admitted to investigators that he had engaged “in sexual contact with three female students during or after lessons, and said that his behavior on all three occasions was wrong. He admitted to telling a sexually explicit story to one female violinist. He denied engaging in any other acts of misconduct. Preucil refused to answer a number of questions, which largely focused on sexual activity with women who had not already been identified in the press.”

Allegations of misconduct by Preucil, which had been published in Cleveland area media, became more widely known after a July 25 investigate report by Anne Midgette and Peggy McGlone was published in The Washington Post. The article also aired charges against the chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Daniele Gatti, who was subsequently dismissed.

Trombonist La Rosa admitted to investigators that he engaged in “appropriate behavior” with a female student at the University of Iowa prior to joining the Cleveland Orchestra in 2007. The Debevoise team also found evidence that “La Rosa also engaged in at least six additional instances of sexual misconduct while employed with the [o]rchestra, bringing the total to seven confirmed instances of misconduct.” La Rosa was suspended this year from the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music.

The Debevoise report, issued on Oct. 23, concludes that the orchestra’s management “should have done more to investigate reports of sexual misconduct by both Preucil and La Rosa.”

Since the charges surfaced, the Cleveland Orchestra has revised its anti-harassment policy and adopted a set of “ethical principles” outlining standards of personal and professional conduct.

UPDATE: The publishing firm that controls Suzuki method instructional violin recordings, the current version of which are played by Preucil, has announced that it will re-record them with a different violinist, The Post’s Midgette and McGlone report:


Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 24

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Josef Mysliveček: Overture No. 2 in A major
Collegium 1704/Václav Luks

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major (“Emperor”)
Ronald Brautigam, piano
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Parrott

Schubert: Polonaise in B flat major, D. 580
Gidon Kremer, violin & director
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
(Deutsche Grammophon)

George Onslow: Quartet in C minor, Op. 56
Quatuor Diotima

Alice Mary Smith: Symphony in C minor
London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley

Chopin: Ballade in F major, Op. 38, No. 2
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
(Sony Classical)

Rimsky-Korsakov: “Fantasia on Russian Themes”
Lydia Mordkovich, violin
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

Past Masters:
Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
(RCA Gold Seal)
(recorded 1957)

Review: Richmond Symphony

Steven Smith conducting
with Joan Kwuon, violin
Oct. 20, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

Masterful work in this month’s Richmond Symphony Masterworks program, as the orchestra delivered an epic and nearly note-perfect performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony (No. 3 in E flat major) and a lushly textured, idiomatically voiced account of Zoltan Kodály’s “Dances of Galánta.”

Steven Smith, the symphony’s music director, has hit and miss in Beethoven during his 10-year-tenure, but with this “Eroica” in his final season, he’s leaving on a high note.

As the “Eroica” is both a summation of classical style and a birth cry of musical romanticism, there are many ways to interpret this epic score. (Check out this sampling of the divergent approaches of conductors in its two opening chords: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnhlQUBsd6g The options are compounded from that point onward.)

Smith chose a stylistic middle course, crafting a classically inflected, well-detailed account that fully exploited the sonorous resources of a full-scale modern orchestra, and that sprang Beethoven’s many surprises without undue italicization.

String tone was rich and robust in full-bore passages, nicely shaded in the second-movement funeral march, finely spun in the polyphonic writing of the finale’s variations. The wind choir, paced by oboist Mark Debski, was songful and, when appropriate, playful. Horns, trumpets and timpani packed the needed punch.

The performance was, in a word, heroic.

Kodály’s fantasy on Hungarian-Slovakian dances (Galánta now is part of Slovakia), pulsing to that region’s distinctive dance rhythms and vividly splashed with bright tone colors, is one of the great orchestral showpieces of 20th-century music. Smith and the symphony gave the piece sonically sweeping, rhythmically infectious treatment, with clarinetist David Lemelin adding extra shades of color and licks of ethnic flavor.

The putative centerpiece of the program, Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade (“after Plato’s Symposium”), programmed to mark the composer’s centenary (his 100th birthday was Aug. 25), was a disappointment.

The piece is not quite a violin concerto, and guest violinist Joan Kwuon sounded to have chosen to underscore that not-quiteness by playing a partnering, concertante role rather than performing as a conventional soloist. She did not produce enough volume or summon enough panache to match the orchestra, which was fully, at times boisterously, engaged in this most ingenious and explorative of Bernstein’s concert works.

Kwuon’s most effective contribution came in the “Agathon” adagio, when her descant set a striking tone of austere lyricism.

The program repeats at 3 p.m. Oct. 21 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 11220 Nuckols Road in Glen Allen. Tickets: $20 Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Review: Dover Quartet

with Peter Serkin, piano
Oct. 19, University of Richmond

In its Richmond debut, the Dover Quartet was just a few measures into Schubert’s Quartet in G major, D. 887, when it became clear why this ensemble has so quickly vaulted into the top tier of American string quartets.

The Dover – violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and cellist Camden Shaw – treated Schubert’s last (and longest) quartet to an urgent reading that fully plumbed its sonic and spiritual darkness but also revealed a wealth of textural and coloristic detail, as well as the many harmonic twists in this piece that suggest how Schubert’s musical language might have evolved had he lived longer.

The first movement was distinguished by sharp accents and stark dynamic contrasts, underlining the turbulence of this music. Equally striking was the transparency of the group’s string voicings, most notably in the quartet’s andante. The musicians maintained concentration in the scherzo and finale, making these less substantial and more episodic movements sound stronger than they really are.

Pianist Peter Serkin joined the ensemble in a performance of Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, that one veteran listener described as “old school.” Serkin set the tone of this interpretation, adopting decidedly measured tempos with emphatic rhythms and producing piano sonorities that favored the dusky over the brilliant.

The string players followed the pianist’s lead, perhaps more dutifully than ardently – one often sensed they would have preferred a more propulsive pace. String balances were inconsistent, with Shaw’s cello at times standing out unexpectedly, but the emphasis on detail and dynamics that characterized the Schubert came through in the Brahms as well.

Camp Concert Hall at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center was “tuned” to string tone, and treated the Dover even more kindly than it has most quartets. Projecting piano tone in this space is trickier, and as played by Serkin the instrument’s sound tended toward the boomy and boxy.

Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 17

New recordings this week, including solo Bach from violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Vikingur Ólafsson alongside pianist Igor Levit playing Ferrucio Busoni’s “Fantasia after J.S. Bach;” François-Xavier Roth and his period-instruments orchestra Les Siècles re-creating the sound of Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé” as it was first heard in 1912; violinist Viktoria Mullova playing Arvo Pärt’s Passacaglia; and two popular romantic piano concertos, Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No. 2 in G minor, played by Bertrand Chamayou, and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in D minor, played by Daniil Trifonov.

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Busoni: “Fantasia after J.S. Bach,” BV 253
Igor Levit, piano
(Sony Classical)

J.S. Bach: Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002, for solo violin
Hilary Hahn, violin

J.S. Bach: Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904
Vikingur Ólafsson, piano
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Ravel: “Daphnis et Chloé”
Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
(Harmonia Mundi)

Arvo Pärt: Passacaglia
Viktoria Mullova, violin
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
Bertrand Chamayou, piano
Orchestre National de France/Emmanuel Krivine

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor
Daniil Trifonov, piano
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Richmond Symphony’s 2018 Come and Play

The Richmond Symphony’s Come and Play concert will be staged on Nov. 4 in the Wade Arena of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, Broad and Harrison streets.

In this annual event, now in its 12th year, members of the symphony play alongside musicians from the community. In recent years, more than 700 musicians have performed together, forming the largest orchestra in Virginia.

Chia-Hsuan Lin, the symphony’s associate conductor, will lead the ensemble in works such as Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 4, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Grieg’s music for “Peer Gynt” and Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

A rehearsal will run from 2:30 to 5 p.m, followed by the concert at 6 p.m. Both are open to the public free.

Come and Play supports music education in Richmond area schools.

Oct. 29 is the deadline to register. Spaces are limited; the flute section is already full.

For more information on the 2018 Come and Play concert, visit http://www.richmondsymphony.com/community/come-play/come-play-2018/

Letter V Classical Radio Oct. 10

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Osvaldo Golijov: “Lullaby and Doina”
Tara Helen O’Connor, flute
Todd Palmer, clarinet
Barry Shiffman & Geoff Nuttall, violins
Mark Dresser, double-bass
(EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Mussorgsky: “Pictures at an Exhibition”
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
(recorded 1958)

Bloch: “Suite hébraïque”
Gérard Caussé, viola
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Lior Shambadal

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Piano Concerto in G minor
Andreas Staier, fortepiano & director
Concerto Köln

Kodály: “Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song” (“The Peacock”)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

Amy Beach: “Variations on Balkan Themes”
Moravian Philharmonic/Hector Valdiva

Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111
Boston Symphony Chamber Players

Glinka: “Valse-Fantasie”
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Paavo Järvi
(Virgin Classics)

Tabernacle Choir: Mormon no more

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has retired the name by which it has been known since 1929, renaming itself the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, referring to the location of its home in Salt Lake City. The move comes as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints discourages use of the terms Mormon and LDS to identify the denomination:


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

Montserrat Caballé (1933-2018)

The Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, known as “La Superba,” famed for her mastery of roles in repertory ranging from Gluck to Verdi to Richard Strauss, and lauded especially for her performances in the bel canto operas of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, has died at 85.

Caballé reached her widest audience when she sang in a 1987 duet with Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the rock group Queen, in “Barcelona,” which became the theme song of the 1992 Olympic Games in her home city.

An obituary by Margalit Fox in The New York Times: