Letter V Classical Radio Nov. 28

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

Mozart: Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370
Heinz Holliger, oboe
Thomas Zehetmair, violin
Tabea Zimmermann, viola
Thomas Demenga, cello

Past Masters:
Tchaikovsky: “Souvenir de Florence”
(string orchestration)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
(recorded 1968)

Lars-Erik Larsson: “En vintersaga” (“The Winter’s Tale”)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze

Vaughan Williams: “Norfolk Rhapsody” No. 1 in E minor
New Queen’s Hall Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth

Past Masters:
Franck: Symphony in D minor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux
(RCA Red Seal)
(recorded 1961)

Brahms: Scherzo in C minor, WoO 2
Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Yuja Wang, piano

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

Ravel: Sonatine
Ivan Moravec, piano

Schubert: Fantasy in C major, D. 934
Jennifer Koh, violin
Reiko Uchida, piano

Music and brainpower: more evidence

Educators, parents and policy-makers, take note:

A new study by psychologists Katherine Sledge Moore and Pinar Gupse Oguz of Arcadia University and Jim Meyer of Elmhurst College finds that trained musicians, especially those whose training began early in life, score higher on tests of “fluid intelligence” – the ability to “think abstractly and solve problems,” Tom Jacobs reports for Pacific Standard magazine:


The researchers also found that “executive function” – planning, organizing and reaching goals – was enhanced even among amateur or less experienced musicians.

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

Letter V Classical Radio Nov. 21

Home for the holidays: A program featuring musicians from Virginia and music introduced in Virginia.

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

Adolphus Hailstork: “An American Port of Call”
Virginia Symphony Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta

Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Zuill Bailey, cello
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra/David Stewart Wiley

Richard Strauss: Suite in B flat major, Op. 4
National Chamber Players/Lowell Graham

Steve Reich: Double Sextet
eighth blackbird

Mason Bates: Violin Concerto
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
London Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin

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

Ginastera: “Variaciones concertantes”
Richmond Sinfonia/George Manahan

Brahms: Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1
Charles West, clarinet
Susan Grace, piano
(Wilson Audiophile Recordings)

Zachary Wadsworth: “Three Lacquer Prints”
(arranged for cello ensemble)
Northwestern University Cello Ensemble/Hans Jørgen Jensen
(Dorian Sono Luminus)

Zachary Wadsworth: “Gabriel’s Message”
The Crossing/Donald Nally

Letter V Classical Radio Nov. 14

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

Antonio Bertali: Sonata à 8 in C major
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra Consort

J.S. Bach: Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011
(transcribed for viola)
Kim Kashkashian, viola

Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 7 in D minor
Nieuw Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Lev Markiz

C.P.E. Bach: Sonata in C minor, Wq 65/31
Mikhail Pletnev, piano
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Beethoven: Quartet in E flat major, Op. 127
Danish String Quartet

Past Masters:
Chopin: Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 31
Martha Argerich, piano
(Deutsche Grammophon)
(recorded 1974)

Enescu: Violin Sonata No. 3 (“Dans le caractère populaire roumain”)
Gilles Apap, violin
Diana Ketler, piano
(Solo Musica)

Rodrigo: “Concierto-Serenade” for harp and orchestra
Catherine Michel, harp
Orchestre National de l’Opera de Monte-Carlo/Antonio de Almeida

Michael Torke: “Javelin”
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Yoel Levi

Review: Richmond Symphony & Chorus

Steven Smith conducting
with Martha Guth, soprano; Darren Stokes, bass-baritone
Nov. 10, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I, once known as the Great War, which turned out to be not the greatest or deadliest of the last century’s conflicts, but one that continues to resonate powerfully. Some of the world’s most intractable crises can be traced to that war.

The Richmond Symphony marked the anniversary with what appeared to be an unusual program, framed by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for strings, a work from the 1930s that became this country’s semi-official music of mourning only toward the end of World War II when it was played at the funeral of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Johannes Brahms’ “A German Requiem,” a personal expression of grief and hope completed in 1868, several years before the establishment of the German state, and several generations before Germany became the principal aggressor of the Great War.

Only one selection was directly relevant to the conflict: “The Banks of Green Willow” by George Butterworth, an English composer who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Still, these works, in sum, fit the occasion. Butterworth’s short tone poem echoed from the sylvan world and optimistic worldview all but destroyed in the war, while Barber’s austerely tragic music and Brahms’ somber, at times turbulent, contemplation of death and redemption testified to the catastrophe of 1914-18 from historical distances, much as we view it today.

Steven Smith, the symphony’s music director, led a crisply phrased but nonetheless deeply moving account of the Brahms. This was, arguably, the most successful reading of a score by this composer during the conductor’s Richmond tenure.

The Richmond Symphony Chorus, prepared by Erin Freeman, realized Brahms’ range of dark vocal colors, excelling both in the quietly contemplative sections that open and close the Requiem and in the more dramatic and declarative “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras” (“For all flesh is as grass”) and “Denn wir haben hie’ kleine bleibende Statt” (“For here we have no continuing city”).

Darren Stokes, a bass-baritone whose high register has the ring of a tenor’s, and Martha Guth, a soprano who can summon an alto’s richness and depth, were highly expressive in their solos, although Guth bordered on the over-emotive in “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” (“And thee now therefore have sorrow”).

When the chorus occupies the rear of the stage, the orchestra necessarily is pushed forward, with the woodwinds positioned under the Carpenter Theatre’s proscenium arch. This is an acoustical “sweet spot” that effectively amplifies instruments, and so it did here, with flutes and oboes sounding over-prominent in the orchestral texture.

The symphony’s strings found an interpretive sweet spot, between tonal austerity and romantic expressiveness, in the Barber Adagio, and the orchestra nicely captured the jovially pastoral flavor of Butterworth’s tone picture.

The program repeats at 3 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $10-$82. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX);

Baltimore Symphony suspends concertmaster

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has suspended without pay its concertmaster, Jonathan Carney, following allegations of harassment and threatening behavior.

One of the violinist’s accusers is Katherine Needleman, the BSO’s principal oboist, who formerly held the same post with the Richmond Symphony. Needleman filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding an incident with Carney that she says occurred in 2005.

A Maryland judge has issued a peace order (similar to a restraining order) following a complaint that Carney threatened a Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra musician following a rehearsal last month at a Baltimore church, the Baltimore Sun’s Sarah Meehan reports:


“After a comprehensive independent investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior towards another musician in our own orchestra, we made it clear to Jonathan Carney that we would not tolerate inappropriate behavior, whether verbal or physical,”  Peter Kjome, the orchestra’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “In our view, Mr. Carney was not forthcoming about this current allegation.”

Carney has not publicly responded to the charges. His attorney, Neil Ruther, says the violinist has “endured misrepresentations” about his behavior. “We are confident that once the facts are known the issue will be promptly resolved with the BSO,” Ruther told The Sun.

(via http://slippedisc.com)

UPDATE (Nov. 16): A Maryland judge has denied the previously granted peace order against Carney, but his suspension from the Baltimore Symphony continues, The Sun’s Christina Tkacik reports:


Review: Danish String Quartet

Nov. 8, University of Richmond

The season is still young and some highly promising artists and programs are yet to come our way; but it’s going to be hard to top the performance the Danish String Quartet gave in Camp Concert Hall of the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center.

The Danes produced a robust sound at near-orchestral scale, often recalling the Guarneri Quartet at its peak. That sound also was vividly detailed and high-contrast, presenting listeners with what amounted to an aural X-ray.

The quartet’s members – violinists Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Frederik Schøyen Sjölin – were distinct, and distinctive, voices, brightly illuminating every strand of the music they played. Every accent, grade of dynamics and tonal and textural nuance came through with almost pointillistic clarity. That clarity never turned clinical, thanks to the musicians’ skill at making their parts add up to animated musical conversations.

It was an ideal sound and interpretive stance for the works that the group essayed: Two of the most exploratory string quartets of the classical period – Haydn’s Quartet in C major, Op. 20, No. 2, and Beethoven’s Quartet in F major, Op. 59, No. 1 (the first of his three “Razumovsky” quartets) – and “10 Preludes for String Quartet,” a wide-ranging traversal of string techniques and tonalities by the contemporary Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.

All three works challenge listeners as well as performers. Haydn, writing in 1771, reintroduced baroque counterpoint and fugue, complicating the melodic flow and jovial spirit of the early classical (“rococo”) style that had prevailed in the mid-18th century and making the quartet idiom a full interaction among instrumental parts. Beethoven, a generation later, stretched classical style and structure to accommodate a more complex form and less straightforward expressive language that anticipated the works of 19th-century romantics and planted some seeds of modernism. Abrahamsen synthesized two-plus centuries of musical style and instrumental technique in a succession of wildly contrasting miniatures.

A lot to absorb in a single program.

The Danish String Quartet hardly minimized or smoothed over these musical challenges, but made a compelling experience of them. The group’s treatment of the extraordinary capriccio at the heart of the Haydn quartet, an aria confronted repeatedly by portentous recitatives, and of the adagio of the Beethoven quartet, whose yearning tune grows to a length and emotional complexity later heard in Mahler, were thoroughly absorbing, and their work in more up-tempo or high-tension passages was thrilling.

Abrahamsen’s preludes brought to mind the quip by Buell Cobb, the scholar of the shape-note hymns of “The Sacred Harp,” that he would cross the country to sing them but wouldn’t cross the street to hear others sing them.

The Danish composer (a friend and mentor of the quartet) produced a stylistically and technically all-encompassing set of string-quartet pieces, formidable technical exercises couched in musical episodes or “short stories” that test performers’ narrative and interpretative skills as well as their playing chops. These pieces, however, were a jarringly discontinuous listening experience, the principal satisfaction of which was hearing them played with the conviction and spontaneity the Danes brought to them.

Tallis Scholars returning

The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips directing, will return to Richmond with their program “A Renaissance Christmas” at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads.

The ensemble’s program will center on the Renaissance, with works by William Byrd, Hieronymus Praetorius and Giovanni Palestrina, but will range from the medieval to the contemporary.

Tickets are $35 ($37.79 with processing fee) and may be purchased via http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-tallis-scholars-a-renaissance-christmas-in-richmond-virginia-at-river-road-church-baptist-tickets-48653230121?aff=Churchwebsite

Letter V Classical Radio Nov. 7

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

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall

Agustin Barrios Mangoré: “La Catedral”
Thibaut Garcia, guitar

Martinů: Concerto in D major for two violins and orchestra
Deborah & Sarah Nemtanu, violins
Marseilles Philharmonic/Lawrence Foster

Haydn: Sonata in B minor, Hob. XVI:32
Olivier Cavé, piano

Carl Frühling: Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 40
Michael Collins, clarinet
Steven Isserlis, cello
Stephen Hough, piano
(RCA Red Seal)

Nielsen: Theme with Variations, Op. 40
Mina Miller, piano

Dvořák: “Czech Suite,” Op. 39
Prague Philharmonia/Jakub Hrůša

Mozart: Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K. 364
Aisslinn Nosky, violin
Max Mandel, viola
Handel & Haydn Society/Harry Christophers

Tchaikovsky: “Swan Lake” – Waltz
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko