Letter V Classical Radio July 31

The second of two programs in our midsummer exploration of baroque music. In the second hour, music by Johann Sebastian Bach alongside works of two of his formative influences, his uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, and the Danish-German organ master Dieterich Buxtehude.

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

Handel: Concerto grosso in D major, Op. 6, No. 5
Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze
(Harmonia Mundi)

Georg Muffat: “Armonico tributo” – Sonata No. 2 in G minor
NZ Barok

Johann Jakob Froberger: Suite No. 2 in D minor
Celine Frisch, harpsichord

Corelli: Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12 (“ ‘Follia’ Variations”)
Stefano Montanari, violin
Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone

J.S. Bach: “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Book 1 –
Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, BWV 846
Scott Ross, harpsichord

Past Masters:
Dieterich Buxtehude: Prelude, Fugue and Ciaccona in C major, BuxWV 137
Michel Chapuis, organ
(recorded 1972)

Past Masters:
J.S. Bach: Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564
Michel Chapuis, organ
(United Archives)
(recorded 1967)

Johann Christoph Bach: Motet, “Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir”
Julia Doyle & Katherine Fuge, sopranos
Clare Wilkinson, contralto
James Gilchrist, Jeremy Budd & Nicholas Mulroy, tenors
Peter Harvey & Matthew Brook, basses
English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
(Soli Deo Gloria)

J.S. Bach: Motet, “Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir,” BWV 228
Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe

J.S. Bach: “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue” in D minor, BWV 903
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord

J.S. Bach: “The Art of Fugue,” BWV 1080 –
XV: Canon alla decima in contrapuncta all terza
XVI: Contrapunctus XIII, à 3
Marcin Świątkiewicz, harpsichord
Rachel Podger, violin & direction
Brecon Baroque
(Channel Classics)

Jean-Féry Rebel: “Symphonie nouvelle – Les Éléments”
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall

Vivaldi: Concerto in D major, RV 428 (“Il gardellino”)
Jeremias Schwarzer, recorder
Holland Baroque
(Channel Classics)

Telemann: Overture in C major, TWV 55:C3 (“Hamburger Ebb und Fluth”)
Zefiro/Alfredo Bernardini

Harada to lead Savannah Philharmonic

Keitaro Harada, the former associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, has been named music and artistic director of the Savannah Philharmonic in Georgia. The Tokyo-born Harada succeeds Peter Shannon, who became the first conductor of the orchestra, organized in 2009, several years after the demise of the Savannah Orchestra.

Harada, who has been serving as associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops for the past four years, was added to a field of candidates to lead the Savannah Philharmonic after Shannon abruptly resigned in February, the Savannah Morning News’ Joshua Peacock reports:


Letter V Classical Radio July 24

The first of two programs of baroque music, whose light textures, bright tone colors and vivid atmospheric effects are just right for dispelling midsummer doldrums. Those who assume that one baroque work sounds pretty much like another are in for many surprises.

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

Marc-Antoine Charpentier:
“Fanfare à deux trompettes”
“Marche de Triomphe”
“Second Air de trumpette”
Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel
(DG Archiv)

Purcell: “Come, ye sons of art” (“Ode for the Birthday of Queen Mary”)
Jennifer Smith, soprano
Michael Chance & Timothy Wilson, counter-tenors
Stephen Richardson, bass
The English Concert & Choir/Trevor Pinnock
(DG Archiv)

Jean-Baptiste Lully: “Amour malade”
Sharla Nafziger, soprano
Aradia Baroque Ensemble/Kevin Mallon

Handel: “Coronation Anthems” – III: “The king shall rejoice”
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
Academy of Ancient Music/Stephen Cleobury
(Warner Classics)

Johann Georg Pisendel: Sonata in A minor for solo violin
Anton Steck, violin

Domenico Scarlatti:
Sonata in C minor, K. 84
Sonata in C major, K. 460
Sonata in D minor, K. 213
Sonata in D major, K. 119
Jean Rondeau, harpsichord

J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005, for solo violin
Christine Busch, violin

Telemann: Concerto in E minor, TWV 52:e1, for recorder and flute
Michael Schmidt-Casdorff, flute
Dorothee Oberlinger, recorder
Ensemble 1700
(Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

Rameau: “Les Boréades” (excerpts)
Jennifer Smith, soprano
John Aler & Philip Langridge, tenors
François Le Roux & Gilles Cachemaille, baritones
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner

Vivaldi: “The Four Seasons” – II: “Summer”
Giuliano Carmignola, violin
Venice Baroque Orchestra/Andrea Marcon
(Sony Classical)

Ben Johnston (1926-2019)

Ben Johnston, the American composer known for employing just intonation (even spacing of 12 notes within an octave) and producing works with numerous microtones (the near-infinity of tones spaced between the notes of the even-tempered scale), has died at 93.

Johnston was once described by The New York Times critic John Rockwell as “one of the best non-famous composers this country has to offer.”

Johnston, born in Macon, GA, grew up in Richmond (his father was my father’s boss at the Richmond Times-Dispatch), and earned degrees from the College of William and Mary and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He also studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College and with American avant-gardists Harry Partch and John Cage.

Johnston taught composition, music theory and acoustics at the University of Illinois at Urbanna-Champaign for 35 years. After his retirement from the university in 1986, he continued teaching composition privately.

His most important works are 10 string quartets, in styles ranging from serial to microtonal to minimalist; the best-known of them is the Quartet No. 4, which features variations on the old hymn tune “Amazing Grace.” Among his other compositions are “Quintet for Groups,” for which he was awarded the Orchesterpreis der Donaueschingen Musiktage in Germany in 2008; “Sonnets of Desolation,” commissioned by the Swingle Singers; incidental music for Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla,” as staged by the LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York; and a sonata and suite for microtonal piano.

Johnston won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959 and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his book “Maximum Clarity” in 2007.

Review: Richmond Symphony Summer Series

Adrian Pintea, violin
Russell Wilson, piano
July 18, Dominion Energy Center

Ardian Pintea, assistant concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony, and Russell Wilson, the orchestra’s pianist and a veteran performer and teacher at various institutions in the region, took on a succession of formidable technical and interpretive challenges in the second program of the symphony’s Summer Series, this year exploring chamber music by American composers.

The duo negotiated the almost constantly shifting terrain of John Corigliano’s Violin Sonata (1963), a work that the composer, now an esteemed elder of American music, wrote when he was 25 and audibly testing his capacities and those of performers. In introductory remarks, Pintea noted that Corigliano wrote the sonata for his father, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic (1943-66), who declined to play it unless another violinist of stature agreed to. The younger Corigliano sent the score to Jascha Heifetz, who tersely spurned it. (Corigliano Sr. relented, and recorded the piece in 1965.)

The outer movements of the Corigliano sonata are packed with vivid, elaborate displays of violin technique, often at extremes of the instrument’s register, vying with dense, angular piano accompaniment. The inner andantino and lento movements form a dark fantasy, the most expressive and musically coherent sections of the piece. Pintea and Wilson emphasized the lyricism and sonic atmospherics at the center of the sonata.

Wilson faced a comparable challenge in the first movement of George Walker’s Piano Sonata No. 1, written in 1953 and revised in 1991. The long-lived (1922-2018) composer, who also was an accomplished pianist, was one of the first African-Americans to establish himself in the mainstream of classical music in the US. Wilson observed that Walker’s references to black vernacular styles such as blues and jazz were subtle elements of a generally abstract musical language.

The sonata movement, marked allegro energico, is sternly neo-classical in style, with touches of impressionism in quieter passages. Wilson’s performance, appropriately, alternated between manic energy and moody reverie.

Pintea played two movements from Max Stern’s “Bedouin Impressions” (1989), a solo-violin album of sound-pictures of the composer’s time in Israel. The featured pieces, “Pastoral” and “Lament,” are finely spun and open-textured, calling for rarified tone production and sensitivity to silence as a musical element. The violinist proved to be a convincing advocate for Stern’s work.

Pintea and Wilson opened the program with four miniatures by Samuel Barber, nicely riding the lyrical flow of arrangements of “St. Ita’s Vision” and “The Desire for Hermitage” from the “Hermit Songs” cycle of 1953, and “Canzone (Elegy)” (1959), an alternate version of an arrangement for flute and piano of the slow movement of Barber’s Piano Concerto. The duo turned up the heat in “Gypsy Dance” (1922), written by the 12-year-old Barber for an unfinished opera, “Rose Tree.”

The Richmond Symphony Summer Series continues on July 25 with French horn player Dominic Rotella and pianist Ingrid Keller playing works by Bernstein, Gershwin, Alan Hovhaness, Robert Weirich, Carol Barnett and Paul Basler. The series presents hour-long chamber-music programs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 15 in Gottwald Playhouse of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $20 (seating limited). Details: (804) 788-1212; http://www.richmondsymphony.com

National Philharmonic faces shutdown

The National Philharmonic, an orchestra of freelance professional musicians performing in Montgomery County, MD, a suburb of Washington, anticipates ceasing operations this summer. Its finances have been squeezed by decreased support from the county and increased fees at its principal venue, the Music Center at Strathmore.

The orchestra, whose annual operating budget is about $2 million, would need $150,000 to salvage its fall season, The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette reports:


Letter V Classical Radio July 17

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

Corelli: Concerto grosso in D major, Op. 6, No. 7
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Gottfried von der Goltz

Respighi: “Concerto all’antica”
Ingolf Turban, violin
English Chamber Orchestra/Marcello Viotti

Martinů: Concerto grosso for two pianos and chamber orchestra
Jaroslav Šaroun & Karel Růžička, pianos
Czech Philharmonic/Jiří Bělohlávek

Franz Berwald: “Grand Septet” in B flat major
Anima Eterna

Louise Farrenc: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 30
Schubert Ensemble

Beethoven: Romance No. 2 in F major, Op. 50
Katarina Andreasson, violin
Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro/Thomas Dausgaard
(Simax Classics)

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488
Richard Goode, piano
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Brahms: String Quintet in G major, Op. 111
(string-orchestra arrangement)
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
(Channel Classics)

Review: Richmond Symphony Summer Series

Ron Crutcher, cello
Joanne Kong, piano
July 11, Dominion Energy Center

Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata in C minor, Op. 6, composed when the 22-year-old Barber was concluding his studies at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, anticipates much of his later instrumental music, wavering in style between neo-classicism and romanticism, most memorable when it emphasizes the latter.

In the opening concert of the Richmond Symphony Summer Series, whose theme this year is “Exploring America,” Ron Crutcher, the cellist who serves as president of the University of Richmond (a co-presenter of the series), and his UR colleague, pianist Joanne Kong, delivered an ardent account of the Barber sonata.

Crutcher’s instrument, which has a markedly deep tone, was at times overbalanced by the piano – Barber’s piano part is busy, often brilliantly so. The cellist prevailed where it counted, though, in the succession of lyrical themes that crop up throughout the sonata.

Kong’s solo moments came in two of Philip Glass’ etudes for piano. Glass, who with several collaborators played all 20 of these pieces several years ago at UR, remarked at the time that the first 10 were written primarily for his own practice, with the second set of 10 more attuned to public performance.

Sure enough, the Etude No. 2 sounded like a technical exercise, a miniature exemplar of Glass’ “music with repetitive structures,” while the Etude No. 12 was a more elaborate and finished product, a piano rag with neo-romantic trappings. Kong played the former with disciplined clarity and the latter with freer phrasing and richer tone.

Crutcher opened the program with his signature piece, “Argoru II” for solo cello by Alvin Singleton, written for Crutcher when both were graduate students at Yale Unversity, and subsequently recorded by the cellist.

The title, from the Twi language of Ghana, translates as “play,” Crutcher explained in introductory remarks, adding that play in this context is serious business. The cellist is run through a veritable gauntlet of techniques and sonic gestures, plucking as often as bowing, frequently bending notes, and putting frequent silences into context with sound. It is decidedly uneasy listening, but compelling as one sees and hears the cellist negotiate its many challenges.

Crutcher and Kong concluded the program with an arrangement of the second of George Gershwin’s three preludes, originally for solo piano. This bluesiest and most lyrical of the preludes lends itself nicely to the songful qualities of the cello.

The Richmond Symphony Summer Series continues with violinist Adrian Pintea and pianist Russell Wilson playing works by Samuel Barber, George Walker, John Corigliano and Max Stern at 6:30 p.m. July 18 in Gottwald Playhouse of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $20 (seating limited). Details: (804) 788-1212; http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Symphony music director candidate withdraws

Paolo Bortolameolli, one of the six candidates vying to become the next music director of the Richmond Symphony, has withdrawn, electing to remain with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he is associate conductor.

The Masterworks series concerts he was to have conducted, on Nov. 16 and 17, will be led by Chia-Hsuan Lin, the Richmond Symphony’s associate conductor. The program remains the same: Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, with Eduardo Rojas as guest soloist; Bartók’s “Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta;” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor.

Remaining candidates for Richmond Symphony music director are Roderick Cox, former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra; Ankush Kumar Bahl, former assistant conductor of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra; Laura Jackson, music director of the Reno (NV) Philharmonic; Valentina Peleggi, resident conductor of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil; and Farkhad Khudyev, music director of the Hidden Valley Orchestra Institute and Youth Music Monterey County in California.

Letter V Classical Radio July 10

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

Haydn: Symphony No. 63 in C major (“La Roxelane”)
Heidelberger Sinfoniker/Benjamin Spillner
(Hänssler Classic)

Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Antonio Meneses, cello
Royal Northern Sinfonia/Claudio Cruz

Baldassare Galuppi: Sonata in C major, Illy 27
Aleksandar Serdar, piano
(Warner Classics)

Mozart: “Così fan tutte” Overture
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Stravinsky: Concerto for piano and wind instruments
(1950 version)
Paul Crossley, piano
London Sinfonietta/Esa-Pekka Salonen
(Sony Classical)

Past Masters:
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
(RCA Red Seal)
(recorded 1959)

Olli Mustonen: Nonet No. 1
Tapiola Sinfonietta/Olli Mustonen

Debussy: “Six épigraphes antiques”
(orchestration by Ernest Ansermet)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Kazuki Yamada

Janáček: Sinfonietta
Czech Philharmonic/Jiří Bělohlávek