The monster conductor prowls once more

Richard Bratby, writing for The Spectator, mulls over the issue of bad behavior by prominent classical musicians. While there are plenty of horror stories about operatic divas and stellar instrumentalists, conductors have been exemplars, for intemperance (Arturo Toscanini), cruelty (Fritz Reiner) and sexual predation (James Levine).

Bratby writes that “the podium tyrant walks again in the person of Lydia Tár – the fictional conductor played by Cate Blanchett in Todd Field’s movie ‘Tár.’ ” (An updated tyrant, he notes, in that the character is an American woman.)

He traces the tradition of conductor as tyrant and orchestra musicians as lowly underlings to their respective status in the royal and aristocratic court orchestras and opera houses of pre-modern central Europe. For their conductors, “autocracy had been part of the job description,” Bratby writes:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/article/do-conductors-have-to-be-cruel-to-be-good/

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

I haven’t seen “Tár.” Even though it’s a film about classical music, and not many of those get made, fictional tyranny doesn’t seem enticing when there’s so much of the real thing around.

Letter V Classical Radio Jan. 9

Sampling music by five composers whose birth anniversaries are being celebrated this year: the 100th of György Ligeti and Ned Rorem, 150th of Sergei Rachmaninoff and Joseph Jongen, the 200th of Édouard Lalo.

1-3 p.m. EST
1800-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM
http://wdce.org

Ligeti: “Romanian Concerto”
Berlin Philharmonic/Jonathan Nott
(Warner Classics)

Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
Martha Argerich & Nicolas Economou, pianos
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Rorem: “Eagles”
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Louis Lane
(New World Records)

Lalo: Cello Concerto in D minor
Janos Starker, cello
London Symphony Orchestra/Stanisław Skrowaczewski
(Mercury)

Jongen: Sinfonia concertante, Op. 81
Jean Guillou, organ
Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Eduardo Mata
(Dorian)

Return to radio

After nearly three years off the air, Letter V Classical Radio is returning to WDCE at the University of Richmond. The show will run from 1 to 3 p.m. EST (1800-2000 UTC/GMT) on Mondays, beginning Jan. 9.

WDCE broadcasts at 90.1 FM and streams via its website, http://wdce.org, and various radio-streaming services.

Along with music, the show will feature highlights of the week ahead from Letter V’s calendar of classical events. Also, listen for interviews with artists performing in the Richmond area.

Each week’s program will be posted here on Saturday mornings, two days in advance of the show.

Reviving Letter V Classical Radio is not just a return to life as I knew it pre-pandemic, but also a homecoming. My media career began in 1967 at WDCE’s predecessor, WCRC, and many of my closest and longest-lasting friendships were forged at the station. All too many of those old friends have died in recent years, so there’s a bittersweet quality in returning to the air we shared.

Life goes on, though, and sharing favorite pieces and performances, as well as musical discoveries, will be sweet without the bitter. I hope you can join me.

January calendar

Classical performances in and around Richmond, with selected events elsewhere in Virginia and the Washington area. Program information, provided by presenters, is updated as details become available. Adult ticket prices are listed; senior, student/youth, military, group and other discounts may be offered. Service fees may be added.

Contact presenters or venues for health-safety protocols.

Jan. 5 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago conducting

Rossini: “William Tell” Overture
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor

Louis Lortie, piano
Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (“Rhenish”)
$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Jan. 7 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
Richmond Music Teachers Association members
works TBA by Scriabin, J.S. Bach, Federico Ruiz, others
free
(804) 646-7223
http://rvalibrary.org/events/gellman-concerts/

Jan. 11 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Postclassical Ensemble chorale & orchestra
“Amazing Grace”
spirituals; works TBA by J.S. Bach, William Grant Still, Samuel Barber, Adolphus Hailstork

$45
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 12 (7 p.m.)
Jan. 13 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 14 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda conducting

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor
Seong-Jin Cho, piano
Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (“Rhenish”)
$25-$124
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 12 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Pops
Jack Everly conducting

“Revolution: The Music of The Beatles, a Symphonic Experience”
$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Jan. 14 (8 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony Pops
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
Butcher Brown, guest stars

$15-$85
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Jan. 15 (3 p.m.)
Perkinson Arts Center, 11810 Centre St., Chester
Richmond Symphony
Daniel Myssyk conducting
Isaac Wilson, violin
Brown Ballerinas for Change

“Celebrate MLK”
Adolphus Hailstork: “Fanfare on ‘Amazing Grace’ ”
Florence Beatrice Price: “Dances in the Canebrakes”
Jessie Montgomery: “Starburst”
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Ballade for orchestra
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 317
Damien Geter: “I Said What I Said”
George Walker: “Lyric For Strings”
Hailstork: “Three Spirituals”
Hailstork: “Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed (In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968)”
James Weldon Johnson & J. Rosamund Johnson: “Lift Every Voice And Sing”

$25
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Jan. 15 (7 p.m.)
Calvary Revival Church, 5833 Poplar Hall Drive, Norfolk
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins conducting
Noah Crumbley, cello
Victor Wooten, electric bass
Stephanie Sanders, saxophone
Amandla Quartet
Earl Bynum & Mount Unity Choir

“A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Thomas A. Dorsey: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
Margaret Bonds: “Montgomery Variations”
(excerpts)
other works TBA
free
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Jan. 19 (7 p.m.)
Jan. 20 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 21 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda conducting

Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A major
$15-$109
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Perkinson Arts Center, 11810 Centre St., Chester
Jan. 21 (7:30 p.m.)
Ryan Recital Hall, St. Christopher’s School, 711 St. Christopher Road, Richmond
Jan. 22 (3 p.m.)
Blackwell Auditorium, Randolph-Macon College, 205 Henry St., Ashland
Richmond Symphony
Valentina Peleggi conducting

Christopher Theofanidis: “Visions and Miracles”
Marian Bauer: Symphonic Suite for strings
Steven Snowden: “This Mortal Frame”

Schuyler Slack, cello
Bartók: Divertimento for strings
$25
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Jan. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Ferguson Arts Center, Christopher Newport University, Newport News
Jan. 21 (7:30 p.m.)
Chrysler Hall, 215 St. Paul’s Boulevard, Norfolk
Jan. 22 (2:30 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins conducting

Peter Boyer: “Silver Fanfare”
William Dawson: “Negro Folk Symphony”
Victor Wooten: “La Lección Tres”

Victor Wooten, electric bass
$25-$114
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Jan. 21 (4 p.m.)
All Saints Episcopal Church, 8787 River Road, Richmond
Daniel Stipe, piano
program TBA
free
(804) 288-7811
http://allsaintsrichmond.org

Jan. 21 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
Kronos Quartet
Nikky Finney, narrator
Valérie Sainte-Agathe conducting

Michael Abels & Nikky Finney: “At War with Ourselves”
$35
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu

Jan. 21 (7 & 9 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative
Evan Rogister conducting

B.E. Boykin & Jarrod Lee: “Oshun” (premiere)
Jens Ibsen & Cecelia Raker: “Bobbie and the Demon” (premiere)
Silen Wellington & Walken Schweigert: “What the Spirits Show” (premiere)
casts TBA
in English
$19-$45
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 21 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
James Conlon conducting

Verdi: Requiem
Michelle Bradley, soprano
Yuliana Matochkina, mezzo-soprano
Russell Thomas, tenor
Morris Robinson, bass
The Washington Chorus

$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Jan. 24 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
Janáček: Sonata (“1.X.1905”)
Alexander Vustin: “Lamento”
Beethoven: Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110
Dvořák: “Poetic Tone Pictures,” Op. 85

$60-$90
(202) 785-9727 (Washington Performing Arts)
http://washingtonperformingarts.org

Jan. 24 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 25 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra Pops
conductor TBA
Ben Rector & Cody Fry, guest stars
$29-$139
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 25 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Fortas Chamber Music Concerts:
Jaime Laredo & Bella Hristova, violins
Nokuthula Ngwenyama & Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, violas
Keith Robinson & Sharon Laredo Robinson, cellos

Nokuthula Ngwenyama: “Sexagesimal Celebration”
Brahms: String Sextet in B flat major, Op. 18
Brahms: String Sextet in G major, Op. 36

$45
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 26 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
Matt Worth, baritone
Alex Katsman, piano

Schubert: “Winterreise”
free
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu

Jan. 26 (8 p.m.)
Eisenhower Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Renée Fleming VOICES:
Juan Diego Flórez, tenor
Vincenzo Scalera, pianist

program TBA
$69-$149
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 27 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 28 (7:30 p.m.)
Jan. 29 (2:30 p.m.)
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk
Virginia Opera
Adam Turner conducting

Gregory Spears & Greg Pierce: “Fellow Travelers”
Joseph Lattanzi (Hawkins Fuller)
Andres Acosta (Timothy Laughlin)
Katherine Pracht (Mary Johnson)
Katrina Thurman (Miss Lightfoot)
Joshua Jeremiah (Sen. Joseph McCarthy/Estonian Frank/Interrogator)
John Fulton (Sen. Charles Potter/General Arlie/Bartender)
Kaileigh Riess (Lucy)
Kyle White (Tommy McIntyre)
Jeremy Harr (Sen. Potter’s Assistant/Bookseller/Technician/French Priest/Party Guest)
Kevin Newbury, stage director

in English, English captions
$20-$110
(866) 673-7282
http://vaopera.org

Jan. 27 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 28 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra Pops
Steven Reineke conducting
Ne-Yo, guest star

$34-$114
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 27 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Eva Ollikainen conducting

“Off the Cuff”
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D minor

$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Jan. 28 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
The TAM Trio:
Sharon Miller, piano
Christine Anderson, violin
Kate Tibbetts, cello

works TBA by Mozart, Mendelssohn, others
free
(804) 646-7223
http://rvalibrary.org/events/gellman-concerts/

Jan. 28 (8 p.m.)
Jan. 29 (3 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
Valentina Peleggi conducting

Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”
Anna Clyne: “DANCE”

Inbal Segev, cello
Rimsky-Korsakov: “Scheherazade”
$15-$85
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Jan. 28 (2 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Charles Richard-Hamelin, piano
Chopin: 2 nocturnes, Op. 27
Chopin: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35
Franck: Prélude, Aria et Final, Op. 23
Ravel: “Le tombeau de Couperin”

$60-$90
(202) 785-9727 (Washington Performing Arts)
http://washingtonperformingarts.org

Jan. 29 (3:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
UVa Chamber Music Series:
Jiyeon Choi, clarinet
program TBA
$15
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Jan. 29 (4 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Silk Road Ensemble:
Pura Fé, lap-steel slide guitar & vocals
Haruka Fujii, percussion
Maeve Gilchrist, Celtic harp & vocals
Wu Man, pipa
Karen Ouzounian, cello
Mazz Swift, violin & vocals

“Uplifted Voices”
program TBA

$33-$55
(703) 993-2787
http://cfa.gmu.edu

Jan. 29 (2 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Kennedy Center Chamber Players:
Heather LeDoux Green, violin
Daniel Foster, viola
David Hardy, cello
Lin Ma, clarinet
Lambert Orkis, piano

Bruch: “8 Pieces,” Op. 83, for clarinet, viola & piano (excerpts)
Sebastian Currier: “Ghost Trio” for violin, cello, and piano
Beethoven: Piano Trio in D major, Op. 70, No. 1 (“Ghost”)
$49
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 29 (3 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Eva Ollikainen conducting

Britten: “Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes’ ”
Florence Beatrice Price: Piano Concerto
in one movement
Michelle Cann, piano
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D minor
$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Jan. 30 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Sō Percussion
Caroline Shaw, composer & vocalist

Angélica Negrón: “gone”
Negrón: “go back”
Julia Wolfe: “Forbidden Love”
Shaw: “Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part”

$50
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Jan. 31 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Fortas Chamber Music Concerts:
Sphinx Symphony Orchestra
Tito Muñoz & Eugene Rogers conducting
EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble
Aundi Marie Moore, soprano

members of The Washington Chorus
Carlos Simon: “Motherboxx Connection”
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Ballade for orchestra
Valerie Coleman: “Seven O’Clock Shout”
Michael Abels: “Delights and Dances”
Carolos Cordero & Julie Flanders: “Holding Our Breath”
trad.: “Fix Me, Jesus”
(Augustus Hill arrangement)
Joel Thompson: “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed”
John Legend: “Selma” – “Glory”
(Eugene Rogers arrangement)
$20-$50
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Feb. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
Richard Becker, piano
Becker: “Nine Inventions for the Muses”
works TBA by Ravel, Albéniz, Chopin
poetry readings from Becker’s “Fates,” “On Sunday Afternoons,” “Scylla”

free
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu

Feb. 2 (7:30 p.m.)
First Baptist Church, Monument Avenue at Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Richmond
Richmond Symphony Chorus
Valentina Peleggi directing

Dan Forrest: “Good Night, Dear Heart: Requiem for the Living”
other works TBA

$25
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Feb. 2 (7:30 p.m.)
Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Highway
Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra
Michael Butterman conducting

Michael Abels: “Global Warming”
Xavier Foley: “For Justice and Peace”
Giovanni Bottesini: “Gran Duo concertante”

Xavier Foley, double-bass
Eunice Kim, violin

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor
$60
(757) 229-9857
http://williamsburgsymphony.org

Feb. 2 (7 p.m.)
Feb. 4 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
James Gaffigan conducting

Mozart: “Idomeneo” – ballet music
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor

Beatrice Rana, piano
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D minor
$15-$109
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Feb. 2 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Opera Lafayette
Patrick Dupré-Quigley conducting
Gwendoline Blondeel & Hannah De Priest, sopranos
Sarah Mesko, mezzo-soprano
Patrick Kilbride, tenor
Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone

Pergolesi: “La Servante Maîtresse”
Nick Olcott, stage direction
Pergolesi: “Stabat Mater”
$90-$135
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Feb. 2 (8 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Kwamé Ryan conducting

John Luther Adams: “Become Ocean”
Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor

Pablo Ferrández, cello
$35-$90
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Feb. 3 (7 p.m.)
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Monument Avenue at Staples Mill Road, Richmond
Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia:
Cramer String Quartet
James Wilson, cello

“La Vida Notturna”
Boccherini: Guitar Quintet in G major (“Fandango”)
Brian Nabors: “Soul Bop”
Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga: Quartet No. 3 in E flat major
Boccherini: String Quintet in C major (“La musica notturno della strade di Madrid”)
Boccherini: String Quintet in E major – Minuetto

$30
(804) 304-6312
http://cmscva.org

Feb. 3 (8 p.m.)
The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
James Gaffigan conducting

Mozart: “Idomeneo” – ballet music
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D minor

$25-$40
(202) 888-0020
http://theanthemdc.com

Feb. 3 (7:30 p.m.)
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD
National Philharmonic
Piotr Gajewski conducting

Rachmaninoff: “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”
Claire Huangci, piano
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E minor
$19-$99
(877) 276-1444
http://strathmore.org

Feb. 4 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia:
Cramer Quartet
works TBA by Haydn, contemporary composers
free
(804) 646-7223
http://rvalibrary.org/events/gellman-concerts/

Feb. 4 (8 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony Pops
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting

“Classic Hollywood Love Songs”
songs TBA from “West Side Story,” “Ben Hur,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Titantic,” other films

$15-$85
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Feb. 4 (8 p.m.)
Feb. 5 (2 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Virginia Opera
Adam Turner conducting

Gregory Spears & Greg Pierce: “Fellow Travelers”
Joseph Lattanzi (Hawkins Fuller)
Andres Acosta (Timothy Laughlin)
Katherine Pracht (Mary Johnson)
Katrina Thurman (Miss Lightfoot)
Joshua Jeremiah (Sen. Joseph McCarthy/Estonian Frank/Interrogator)
John Fulton (Sen. Charles Potter/General Arlie/Bartender)
Kaileigh Riess (Lucy)
Kyle White (Tommy McIntyre)
Jeremy Harr (Sen. Potter’s Assistant/Bookseller/Technician/French Priest/Party Guest)
Kevin Newbury, stage director

in English, English captions
$45-$115
(866) 673-7282
http://vaopera.org

Feb. 5 (5 p.m.)
Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Arthur Ashe Boulevard at Kensington Avenue, Richmond
Richmond Symphony String Ensemble
“History Notes: an Intimate Evening of History & Music”
program TBA

$48
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://richmondsymphony.com

Feb. 5 (3 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
Anthony McGill, clarinet
Gloria Chien, piano

Telemann: Fantasias for solo clarinet
Jessie Montgomery: “Peace”
Brahms: Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1
Deng Yu-Hsien: “Pining for the Spring Breeze”
(Stephen Hough arrangement)
James Lee III: “Ad Anah?”
Weber: “Grand Duo Concertant”

$35
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu

Feb. 5 (7 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Washington Performing Arts Gospel Choirs
Michele Fowlin & Theodore Thorpe III directing
Choral Arts Society of Washington
Jace Kaholokula Saplan directing

“Living the Dream . . . Singing the Dream”
program TBA, in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

$25-$75
(202) 785-9727 (Washington Performing Arts)
http://washingtonperformingarts.org

Advice to the young and gifted: Give it time

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman addresses a question that’s coming up more frequently in classical music today: Are exceptionally gifted young musicians being put under too bright a spotlight too soon?

The currently most prominent face of this phenomenon is Klaus Mäkelä, the Finnish conductor who leads the Oslo Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris, and this year was tapped to become chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. He will turn 27 next month.

Mäkelä’s steep and speedy ascent is not unique. He’s not even the youngest Finnish conductor making waves: The 22-year-old Tarmo Peltokoski, currently music director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, is due to take charge of France’s Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse in 2024.

In addition to Mäkelä, Kosman cites the examples of María Dueñas, a Spanish violinist who made her debut with the San Francisco Symphony three years ago when she was 16 (Dueñas performs with the Richmond Symphony in February), and Alma Deutscher, a 17-year-old British composer and conductor who recently led an Opera San José production of “Cinderella,” a revision of a work that she composed at the age of 10.

An “almost lurid fascination” with very young performers “can prompt us to mistake facility for profundity or technique for insight,” Kosman writes. “[E]veryone involved – the artists and their audiences alike – is better served by patience and commitment. Let young musicians develop and thrive at their own pace and through their own process.”

Young musicians keep showing up on concert stages. It’s not clear they’re ready

Alex Ross, The New Yorker’s music critic, weighed in on Mäkelä after the conductor’s debut with the New York Philharmonic earlier this month, and the release of a cycle of Sibelius symphonies that he recorded in Oslo.

“Mäkelä looks the part of the dashing European maestro, particularly if you are seeking a Generation Z reboot of Herbert von Karajan,” Ross writes; but his philharmonic performance was uneven, and the Sibelius discs betray “his immaturity on nearly every page. . . . I suspect that in later years Mäkelä will be embarrassed by this premature debut.”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/12/26/looking-past-the-celebrity-conductor

Reporting on and reviewing classical artists in a mid-sized US city, I’ve had plenty of exposure to prodigy soloists, newly minted chamber ensembles and conductors at the beginning of their careers. A lot them showed great promise; some made good on it. Decades later, I’m sure, many of them would wince at rehearing some of their performances in Richmond.

The smarter, or more wisely advised, knew better than to take on music whose interpretive and technical challenges they wouldn’t be equipped to meet without years of seasoning in rehearsals and performances.

Even young musicians with more advanced technique and deeper musicality than would be expected at their age haven’t had time to realize which composers or musical styles they’re best attuned to.

Young artists, Kosman observes, “have countless skills and strengths that oldsters often lack – energy, ambition, the knack for learning new things.

“But acquiring knowledge, let alone wisdom, is a process that requires logging a certain number of trips around the sun. And having that knowledge or wisdom is an essential part of being an artist.”

Classical music’s online motherlode

As regular readers will have noticed, Letter V frequently links to music on YouTube. I’ve been remiss in not singling it out for praise sooner. Now I can make up for that omission and pass along some news at the same time.

First, the news: The web service Epidemic Sound reports on its survey finding that YouTube users made some 200 million selections of classical music this year, a 90 percent year-over-year increase, “making it the fastest-growing genre.” Growth was seen not just in the classical heartlands of Europe, the Americas and East Asia, but also in Africa and the Middle East:

http://www.epidemicsound.com/blog/sound-of-the-internet-2022/

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

If I’m reading Epidemic Sounds’ post correctly, this is a survey of producers, not consumers – i.e., measuring not what people watch and hear on YouTube but the kinds of music that people who make content for it chose from the firm’s archive. Lots of videos have classical soundtracks; but would you consider hyperactive pets cavorting to “Flight of the Bumblebee” a video about classical music?

So let’s call this survey good news with an asterisk.

Now, the praise: I’m a hardcore YouTube user. I spend far more time watching it than I do television, far more time listening to it than I do radio or my stereo system. When I wind up in the old folks’ home, a laptop, good headphones and YouTube will satisfy my electronic requirements for music. (Assuming some cranky gazillionaire hasn’t bought it and ruined it.)

If you enjoy classical music, or want to get to know it, YouTube is the motherlode.

Its classical content, uploaded by record companies, performers, presenters and civilian music-lovers, covers the whole soundscape, from ancient to avant-garde, from every culture with an art-music canon, and from all eras of recorded sound, wax-cylinder to digital.

Orchestras, opera and ballet companies, chamber groups, music festivals, conservatories and other venues upload full-length performances, most of them at least television-grade, some in high-definition video and audio. You can find numerous documentaries on and interviews of composers and artists.

The main hurdle you’ll face is the way the digital realm organizes music. All pieces, from Gregorian chant to hip-hop, are called tracks or songs. A four-movement symphony or string quartet is not one selection but four, often identified as “songs” titled “allegro con brio,” “larghetto,” etc., with no composer’s name or the work’s actual title listed.

Highbrows trying to negotiate music-streaming services are all too familiar with this, and it’s an issue on YouTube as well.

Record companies’ uploads on the platform, like the downloads they sell, are divided into movements of symphonies, concertos and chamber works, and recitatives, arias and choruses in opera and oratorio. Scrolling at length to find the scherzo or the big aria is a common hassle. Bits of “Goldberg Variations” are scattered like confetti.

Mercifully, you can find works in albums – full recordings with their tracks in correct order – or on uploads of complete performances, quite a few of which are out-of-print or hard-to-find recordings and concert broadcasts, a nice bonus for collectors.

Algorithms, the computer codes that gauge interests and anticipate preferences, have proved to be troublesome, not to say toxic, in much of online and social media. I’ve suffered no toxic shocks with classical music on YouTube. Its algorithms usually are accurate in reading my intentions, and pretty good at “if you like X, try Y” curiosity-piquing.

Access to all this is free, but I recommend that serious listeners and those who use YouTube for other long-form content – films, television shows, audiobooks – pay for the premium service to avoid commercial interruptions.

A song for this and all seasons

As this is its third year running, “Give Good Gifts” seems to have become our Christmas Eve tradition. This 19th-century Shaker hymn is a song for all seasons and spiritual inclinations. Its admonition, “peace, joy and comfort, gladly bestow,” is especially timely as we near the end of a year full of anxiety and conflict.

The performers are the Pro Arte Singers, led by Paul Hillier. If you’d like to sing along, the lyrics are below the link :

Give good gifts, one to another,
Peace, joy and comfort, gladly bestow;
Harbor no ill ’gainst sister or brother,
Smoothe life’s journey as you onward go
.

Broad as the sunshine, free as the showers,
So shed an influence blessing to prove;
Give for the noblest of efforts your powers,
Blest and be blest, is the law of love.

Not the usual ‘Messiah’

“Traditional” (English-churchy) renditions of “Messiah” obscure a quality that George Frideric Handel could not have underplayed, even if he had intended to. Handel was a man of the theater. And while this is not music-theater but a sacred oratorio, whose text is more contemplative than narrative, the vocal solos and choruses, the orchestration and pacing of the music, resonate from the stage, not the altar.

The theatricality – and fervor – of “Messiah” come through in this dramatically inflected, brilliantly sung, altogether exilharating performance by the chorus and orchestra of the Czech early music ensemble Collegium 1704, led by Václav Luks, with soprano Hana Blažíková, alto Delphine Galou, tenor Markus Brutscher and bass Marián Krejčík, recorded in 2011 at the Saint-Robert Abbey in La Chaise-Dieu, France:

Infectious hiatus

I had planned to attend and review the Richmond Symphony’s “Messiah” and to hear Three Notch’d Road’s Christmas program last weekend, and was anticipating “An Evening at Versailles” with the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia on Dec. 19. Then, a Woody Allen one-liner came to life: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.”

Treatment for some annoying ailments requires me take immunosuppressant drugs. They make me more vulnerable to currently raging flu and other respiratory infections, and possibly to Covid-19, even though I’m fully vaccinated.

So I’m avoiding crowds and public events until it’s less infectious out there.

In here, I’ll continue to post news, commentary and the monthly calendar.

See you at a performance soon, I hope.

ADDENDUM (Dec. 23): Conductors, singers and other performers all over the planet have fallen ill and canceled engagements.

Two modern Christmas classics

We’ll get to “Messiah” presently, but first, in a sub-chapter of our series on unjustly neglected music, a couple of modern Christmas works that aren’t heard too often, and really ought to be. (Links are to recordings, with their record labels in parentheses.)

Ottorino Respighi: “Lauda per la Natività del Signore.” This Christmas cantata (“Laud for the Nativity of the Lord”) is Respighi’s only sacred work, a tantalizing hint of how he might have treated other liturgical forms and religious themes. (We make do with hymns and chants quoted in his instrumental works.) When the “Lauda” was introduced in 1930, he had recently completed “Trittico Botticelliano” and “The Birds,” and was in the midst of producing his “Ancient Airs Dances” suites; so this is peak Respighi as master of orchestration and sensibility in adapting antique melodies.

From one of my favorite Christmas discs – a 2015 release that also includes Francis Poulenc’s “Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël,” Morten Lauridsen’s “O magnum mysterium” and modern settings of traditional carols – Māris Sirmais conducts the Respighi with soprano Yeree Suh, mezzo-soprano Kristine Larissa Funkhauser, tenor Krystian Adam, the Rundfunkchor Berlin and Polyphonia Ensemble Berlin (Carus):

Ralph Vaughan Williams: “Hodie (This Day).” Another Christmas cantata, much grander in scale and more extroverted in spirit. Vaughan Williams, whose 150th birth anniversary is being marked this year, wrote “Hodie” in 1953-54 and introduced it at Britain’s Three Choirs Festival. As composers tend to do in choral-festival pieces, he super-sized performing forces: three vocal soloists, multiple choirs, big orchestra with lots of brass and percussion. An uninhibitedly celebratory echo of pomp-and-circumstance Edwardian England, to be sure; but “Hodie” also incorporates this composer’s pastoral and impressionistic modes of expression. It’s full of what people who like Vaughan Williams like about Vaughan Williams.

The first and still best recording, from 1965, with David Willcocks conducting mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, tenor Richard Lewis, baritone John Shirley-Quirk, organist Philip Ledger, The Bach Choir and Choristers of Westminster Abbey, and the London Symphony Orchestra (EMI/Warner Classics):