Lynn Harrell (1944-2020)

The eminent US cellist Lynn Harrell has died at 76.

Joining the cello section of the Cleveland Orchestra at the age of 18 and named principal cellist two years later, Harrell spent seven years with the orchestra before launching a career as a soloist and chamber musician. His work in a piano trio with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and violinist Itzhak Perlman yielded a number of acclaimed recordings, two of which won Grammy awards. Harrell also taught at the Juilliard School, the Aspen Festival, London’s Royal Academy of Music and other institutions.

An obituary from The Strad magazine:

Richmond Symphony 2020-21, adjusted

To accommodate the schedule of its new music director, Valentina Peleggi, the Richmond Symphony has adjusted dates and programming for its 2020-21 classical subscription concerts.

The deadline for subscription renewal has been extended to April 30. For information on subscriptions, call the symphony’s ticket services office at (804) 788-1212 or visit

Single tickets will go on sale on Aug. 1.

The new schedule:

Saturday evenings & Sunday afternoons at Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets
8-concert subscriptions: $185-$553
4-concert subscriptions: $93-$284

Sept. 19 (8 p.m.)
Sept. 20 (3 p.m.)
George Manahan conducting
William Grant Still: “Festive Overture”
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F major
Aaron Diehl, piano
Jessie Montgomery: “Coincident Dances”
Duke Ellington: “Black, Brown and Beige” Suite

Oct. 17 (8 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219
Melissa White, violin
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

Nov. 14 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 15 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Louise Farrenc: Overture No. 1 in E minor
Fauré: Pavane in F sharp minor, Op. 50
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”)
soloists TBA
Richmond Symphony Chorus

Jan. 16 (8 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Barber: “Toccata Festiva”
Ravel: “Ma mère l’oye” (“Mother Goose”) Suite
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (“Organ”)
Daniel Stipe, organ

Feb. 6 (8 p.m.)
Erin Freeman conducting
Haydn: “The Creation”
soloists TBA
Richmond Symphony Chorus

March 6 (8 p.m.)
March 7 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Guillaume Connesson: “Maslenitsa”
Prokofiev: “Romeo and Juliet” (excerpts)
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor
Gabriela Martinez, piano

April 17 (8 p.m.)
April 18 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Anna Clyne: “Abstractions”
Barber: Violin Concerto
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor

May 22 (7:30 p.m.)
Andrew Litton conducting
Menuhin Competition Senior Finals
soloists & repertory TBA

* * *

Saturday evenings at Jimmy Dean Theater, Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts, 11801 Center St., Chester
Sunday afternoons at Blackwell Auditorium, Randolph-Macon College, 205 Henry St., Ashland
4-concert Sunday subscriptions: $70
3-concert Saturday subscriptions: $53

Oct. 25 (3 p.m.)
conductor TBA
Rossini: “L’Italiana in Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”) Overture
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”)
Rossini (attr.): Bassoon Concerto
Thomas Schneider, bassoon
Boccherini: Symphony in D minor, Op. 12, No. 4 (“La casa del diavolo”)

Jan. 23 (7:30 p.m.)
Jan. 24 (3 p.m.)
Valentina Peleggi conducting
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D major (“Classical”)
Wagner: “Siegfried Idyll”
Caroline Shaw: “Entr’acte”
Poulenc: Sinfonietta

Feb. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Feb. 21 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Daisuke Yamamoto, violin & leader
J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Melinda Wagner: “Little Moonhead”
J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Stravinsky: Concerto in E flat major (“Dumbarton Oaks”)

April 24 (7:30 p.m.)
April 25 (3 p.m.)
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Zachary Wadsworth: “Variations on an Unheard Theme”
Hilary Purrington: Guitar Concerto (“Harp of Nerves”)
JIJI, guitar
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major

Symphony streams virtual Music Marathon

The Richmond Symphony’s annual fund-raising Music Marathon, in which the orchestra’s musicians, staff and patrons perform in chamber music, will be streamed on Facebook LIVE beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on April 25.

To view and hear performances, go to:

To make a contribution, go to:

Music may boost body’s immune system

Music has been a spiritual refuge for many of us during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s also evidence that its role in reducing stress and anxiety can positively affect the body’s immune system.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jeremy Reynolds cites several studies, including a 2013 review in the journal Brian Behavior and Immunity, examining the impact of music on biomarkers and hormone levels. “Immunoglobulin A, which plays a crucial role in immune functions, was cited as being ‘particularly responsive to music.’ There is also general consensus among researchers that listening to music reduces cortisol levels,” Reynolds reports.

He quotes Dr. Andrew Levin, a University of Pittsburgh neurologist: “I’m a skeptic by nature, so when I first heard of the mind-body connection I thought it was new-age woo-woo. However, the more I learned about human physiology, and in particular neurophysiology and neurology, I became increasingly convinced that we actually underestimate how profound this connection is.”


Cancellations, closures extended into summer

Updated regularly

With Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam extending a stay-at-home order through June 10, musical events, like other public gatherings, are off for the forseeable future.

Specific notices in the Richmond area and Virginia-DC region:

The Menuhin Competition for young violinists, which had been scheduled for May 14-24 in Richmond, has been postponed until May 13-23, 2021. Tickets already sold for festival events will be honored next year. For information on ticket donations, refunds or exchanges, go to

The Richmond Symphony has canceled or postponed this season’s remaining performances. The “Star Wars” concert has been rescheduled to June 19, and “Violins of Hope” has been postponed to a date to be announced. Details: (804) 788-1212;

Virginia Opera canceled performances of Verdi’s “Aïda,” which had been scheduled for March 20, 22 and 24 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House and March 27 and 29 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center in Richmond, and of Derrick Wang’s “Scalia/Ginsberg,” which was scheduled for April 4 in Norfolk. Information: (866) 673-7282;

The Richmond chapter, American Guild of Organists has postponed an April 24 recital by Clara Gerdes, part of its Repertoire Recital Series, until Nov. 13 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Information:

The Richmond Philharmonic postponed a concert scheduled for May 10, and hopes to reschedule it in the 2020-21 season. Information: (804) 556-1039;

The Richmond Choral Society has canceled remaining concerts in its current season. Information: (804) 353-9582;

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia has canceled a program scheduled for May 3 at Perkinson Recital Hall at the University of Richmond. Information: (804) 304-6312;

Virginia Commonwealth University has canceled all remaining concerts in the current school year. Information:

The University of Richmond has canceled all Modlin Arts Center events through the rest of the season. Credits or donations on ticket purchases may be arranged through March 23; thereafter, refunds will be issued automatically. Information: (804) 289-8980;

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart has canceled a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor that was scheduled for May 1. Information: (804) 359-5631;

Elsewhere: The Virginia Symphony Orchestra has postponed all concerts until late August. . . . The Virginia Arts Festival has postponed or canceled all performances through late August. . . . The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has canceled remaining concerts in its current season. . . . The Ferguson Arts Center at Christopher Newport University in Newport News has suspended performances until June 10. . . . The Feldman Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg have canceled remaining concerts in their current seasons. . . . The University of Virginia in Charlottesville has suspended all performances at Old Cabell Hall until further notice. . . . The Charlottesville Symphony has canceled all remaining concerts in its current season. . . . The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville has postponed or canceled events through Aug. 2. . . . Charlottesville Opera has canceled its summer-season productions. . . . Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs has canceled all events until May 22. . . . The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra has postponed all remaining concerts in its season, and plans to reschedule them to dates in June. . . . Opera Roanoke has canceled the rest of its season, including performances of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” that had been scheduled in May. . . . Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg has canceled all events through early August. . . . Wolf Trap in Vienna has canceled or postponed all performances and events through June 30. . . . George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax has canceled all events through Aug. 8. . . . The Kennedy Center in Washington has canceled all performances and public events through Aug. 9. . . . Washington Performing Arts has canceled all remaining events in the current season (through June 7). . . . The Library of Congress in Washington has postponed concerts and other public events through May 30. . . . The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, outside DC, has canceled most ticketed events through June 13.

Walter Braxton (1952-2020)

Walter Braxton, a prolific but chronically under-performed Richmond composer, has died at 67.

A onetime boy soprano, Braxton began composing in childhood. In teenage, he came to the attention of Edgar Schenkman, then the music director of the Richmond Symphony, who advised him on composition and invited him to conduct the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra. Braxton also was the principal flutist of the International Music Festival Institute of the London Symphony Orchestra.

He subsequently enrolled at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and later studied composition at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the early 1970s, he was diagnosed with schizo-effective disorder, which plagued him for the rest of his life. He also struggled with substance abuse.

Braxton’s output includes five symphonies, two string quartets and a dozen other chamber works, a Requiem Mass, and the opera “To Damascus,” which he worked on for a quarter-century before its premiere in 2018 at Richmond’s Firehouse Theatre.

A profile of Braxton by Dale Brumfield, published in 2013 by Style Weekly:

UR’s Crutcher joins virtual concert ranks

Ronald A. Crutcher, the University of Richmond’s president and a longtime cellist, will present a solo recital at noon EST (1600 GMT/UTC) April 17, joining the ranks of musicians around the world who’ve sought to compensate for the closure of concert halls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A link to Crutcher’s performance here:

Richmond Symphony taps Valentina Peleggi

Valentina Peleggi has been named the new music director of the Richmond Symphony. She will be the sixth music director in the symphony’s 63-year history and the first woman in the post.

The 37-year-old Italian conductor, who currently is Mackerras Fellow in the conducting program of the English National Opera in London and guest music director of the Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo, Brazil, will take up the Richmond post on July 1. She has been engaged initially for four years.

The symphony’s musicians were “bowled over” by her conducting skills and level of interaction in rehearsals for and performances of a Masterworks program in March, said David Fisk, the orchestra’s executive director. “She was head and shoulders over [three] other candidates, all of whom are excellent conductors.” (A fifth candidate, Farkhad Khudyev, was to have led audition concerts this month; they were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.)

“Within hours of Ms. Peleggi’s first interaction with the symphony, members of the search committee knew she was very special, and by the time of her Masterworks concerts, there was unanimous agreement that she was ‘the one,’ ” said Elisabeth Wollan, who led the music-director search committee.

“The passion, enthusiasm and profound musical sensitivity of the musicians of the Richmond Symphony impressed me enormously from our very first rehearsal,” Peleggi said in a statement released with the announcement of her appointment.

In the 2020-21 symphony season, Peleggi is scheduled to conduct eight weeks of concerts, including a Sept. 12 community festival under the orchestra’s Big Tent outdoor stage, as well as four Masterworks programs and chamber-orchestra concerts in the Metro Collection and Rush Hour series, on dates to be announced later.

“We were surprised and gratified that she was able to commit so much time in her first season, given her responsibilities with the English National Opera,” Fisk said.

A native of Florence, Peleggi is an alumna of the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome and the conducting program of London’s Royal Academy of Music. She also studied with David Zinman at the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich and Daniele Gatti at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

She won the 2014 conducting prize of the Festival International de Inverno Campos do Jordão in Brazil and the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Conducting Prize at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California, and was a 2015-17 recipient of the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, organized by Marin Alsop to mentor female conductors.

Peleggi formerly served as resident conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor and artistic advisor of its chorus, and as music director of the University Choir of Florence. She has guest-conducted a number of ensembles, including the Royal Philharmonic in London, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

* * *

“I cannot wait for the next note to start. It will be so powerful, so moving.”

Speaking by phone from Florence earlier today, Valentina Peleggi was recalling her journey, both physically and emotionally, from a busy schedule of performing on three continents to a solitary trip home, passing through largely deserted Italian cities. “When all this – the pandemic, the deaths, the isolation – started, I found I couldn’t really listen to music. I was feeling full of so many emotions, there wasn’t enough space to accept another emotional presence.

“And the silence: Everything felt so strange. The normal noises we hear weren’t there anymore.

“Then I started thinking, this isn’t really silence, but the pause before what comes next – anticipation, something that is very important in music. Thinking that way helps me. I think it will help others.”

Peleggi has a lot to anticipate: Her first opportunity to craft the artistic direction of an orchestra after years as a student, understudy to artistic directors and guest conductor of various ensembles. She said she was delighted to find in the Richmond Symphony’s musicians “real artists – engaged and passionate, driven by this hunger for excellence, always concerned with how we can do this better.

“It’s not that common to work with such musicians. You are blessed to have them.”

She is one of a new generation of female conductors – like many of them, she was mentored by Marin Alsop, a onetime associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, who encouraged Peleggi to audition for the music directorship here.

Unlike many conductors today, however, Peleggi followed a professional course that was the norm a century ago: Starting her career in opera houses, coaching singers and serving as an assistant or potential substitute in leading the opera orchestra. She also has worked extensively as a choral director.

“That experience is very enriching for a conductor,” she said. “Working with voices enables you to reflect on the importance of vocal qualities in all of music – how consonants and vowels shape musical phrases and, above all, how important it is for the musician, and the music, to breathe.

“From opera, we also learn to view pieces of music from a dramatic, a storytelling, point of view, to understand the dramatic intentions of composers. Whether a piece is a music drama or an instrumental work, there is some dramaturgic intention to it.”

Peleggi also looks for resonations of other art forms in music. “I studied comparative literature as well as music, and I think that opened up my learning path as a musician, making me hear music from a wider artistic perspective.”

In recent generations, symphony orchestra conductors have been expected to prepare convincing, stylish performances of repertory spanning four centuries, from the baroque to the contemporary. Peleggi said she is all too aware of how challenging that can be.

Although she could name composers and works “that are closest to my heart,” she does not consider herself a specialist in any particular school or period of music. “I am most interested and curious, I think, about the sound world, and I like to discover pieces that can speak to us in a powerful way.”

Peleggi sees her role as music director of an orchestra as one who “opens doors. . . . I am a music lover because I love people. I am always looking for ways to communicate that love through music – to reach out, to create opportunities to make music for everybody.”

Symphony to sustain musicians’ and staffers’ pay

As many businesses and non-profit institutions lay off and furlough staff because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Richmond Symphony is securing the salaries of its 70 full-time and contracted part-time musicians and its administrative staff.

Drawing on a reserve fund of $600,000, a fund-raising effort and available credit, and having applied for a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the symphony should be able to maintain its payroll of musicians and staff through the crisis, said David Fisk, the orchestra’s executive director.

“People care about the people in our organization, both internally and externally,” Fisk said. “We’ve made tough choices in the past when we had to. In this case, though, we’ve decided that we can rebuild from whatever financial hardships that develop far more easily than it would be to have to rebuild relationships and the musicianship of an ensemble that has been built over decades.”

The Paycheck Protection Program, a $349 billion component of the $2 trillion financial rescue package recently enacted by Congress, forgives loans to small businesses that continue to pay their employees. Non-profits such as the symphony qualify under the program’s provisions.

The symphony’s plan covers its “core” of full-time musicians and its regular roster of “per-service” players, part-timers who under contract play a set number of rehearsals and performances each season. “Although the per-service musicians generally have other jobs, many of those jobs have diminished or disappeared, so we felt it was important to sustain their income from the symphony,” Fisk said.

Thomas Schneider, the symphony’s principal bassoonist and chairman of the RSO orchestra committee, says that substitute and extra musicians “are being paid for canceled services and hired for rescheduled services through the end of the season.”

The symphony’s musicians “are incredibly grateful that the [orchestra] has decided to keep its commitments to all musicians (full-time, part-time, and subs) who have been offered work in the coming months,” Schneider writes.

The symphony has canceled or postponed all performances from mid-March through May.

Virtual concertgoing (6)

As we enter a singularly solemn and stressful Easter season, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” from the source of one of the most distinguished traditions of annual performances of this work:

J.S. Bach: “St. Matthew Passion”
Mark Padmore, tenor (Evangelist)
Peter Harvey, bass (Christ)
María Espada & Renate Arends, sopranos
Ingeborg Danz & Barbara Kozelj, mezzo-sopranos
Peter Gijbertsen, tenor
Henk Neven, bass
Netherlands Radio Choir
National Children’s Choir
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Iván Fischer conducting
(recorded 2012, Amsterdam):