Bach: a love-hate triangle

Philip Kennicott, a onetime music critic who’s now The Washington Post’s art and architecture critic, loves playing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on his piano. He also loves his dog, a border collie-Newfoundland mixed breed named Nathan; but Nathan howls pitiably and flees the room whenever he hears the “Goldbergs.” Kennicott consults the experts, and has to settle for speculative answers:

Among the generations of cats who’ve allowed me to share their homes, only one responded in any way to music: He was attracted to the buzzy noises of certain instruments – harpsichords, bassoons, bagpipes. Whenever he heard them, he would jump up on a loudspeaker to savor the vibrations and get a virtual tummy rub.

A silver anniversary in Roanoke

David Stewart Wiley celebrates his 25th anniversary with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra in the orchestra’s coming season of 14 classical and pops programs. The Roanoke Times’ Mike Allen reports on Wiley’s ambition to “reconnect” the RSO and its audience:

Rediscovering Nadia Boulanger

Bard College in New York is mounting a two-week festival that seeks to reintroduce a 20th-century musical figure described by one of her pupils, composer Virgil Thomson, as “a one‐woman graduate school so powerful and so permeating that legend credits every U.S. town with two things: a five‐and‐dime and a Boulanger pupil.”

Nadia Boulanger died in 1979, and most of her best-known students – Thomson, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Elliott Carter, Marc Blitzstein, Jean Françaix, Igor Markevitch, Grażyna Bacewicz, Dinu Lipatti, Yehudi Menuhin, Astor Piazzolla – also have passed from the scene. A few are still with us: Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Daniel Barenboim, John Eliot Gardiner.

Boulanger’s stature as a teacher overshadowed her work as a musicologist, conductor and composer. She was the first woman to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and led the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto. She was one of the most prominent advocates for the modern revival of early music, making pioneering recordings of the works of Claudio Monteverdi in the 1930s.

She might have been one of the first prominent female composers had she not discounted her own work and given up composition in favor of promoting the music of her short-lived younger sister, Lili.

The Bard festival, “Nadia Boulanger and Her World,” beginning Aug. 6, “invites a reconsideration of her life and legacy,” with her music performed alongside works by her sister as well as her contemporaries and students, William Robin writes in The New York Times:

August calendar

The August Musicales series, 7 p.m. Wednesdays at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1627 Monument Ave.: Organist Theodore Davis, playing his adaptation of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Impromptu, Op. 78, No. 1; Florence Price’s Suite No. 1; and the Lied from Louis Vierne’s “24 Pieces en style libre,” Aug. 4. . . . The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, playing Coleridge-Taylor’s “Louisiana Blues Strut: Cakewalk,” Oscar Navarro’s “Creation,” Edoward Destenay’s Tarantelle, Reena Esmail’s “Tasveer,” Ilja Hurnik’s Sonata da camera, Astor Piazzolla’s “Fuga y Misterio,” and Saint-Saëns’ Caprice, Op. 79, Aug. 11. . . . Pianist Dmitri Shteinberg, playing J.S. Bach’s “Italian Concerto;” Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major, K. 570; Mendelssohn’s “Variations seriéuses,” Op. 54; and Debussy’s “La Cathedrale engloutie,” “Poissons d’or,” “La Danse de Puck” and “Feux d’artifice,” Aug. 18. Donations requested. Details: (804) 359-2463, ext. 204;

A Violins of Hope ensemble, joined by Israeli violin maker Avshi Weinstein, will present chamber works by Mendelssohn and two Jewish composers whose music was suppressed by the Nazis in the 1930s and ’40s, Viktor Ullmann and Hans Krása, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St. Tickets: $6. Details: (804) 257-5400;

Pianist Lisa Niemeier will play Haydn’s Andante and Variations in F minor (“Un piccolo divertimento”), Poulenc’s “Mélancolie,” Chopin’s Étude in C minor, Op. 25, No. 12, and Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s “Widmung” (“Liebeslied”) at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads. Admission is free; reservations and masks required. Details: (804) 288-1131;

Virginia Beach’s Neptune Festival presents free concerts by Symphonicity on Aug. 12 and 26 and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 19, all at 7:30 p.m. at 31st Street Park on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Details: (757) 498-0215;

David Stewart Wiley conducts the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, joined by dancers from the Southwest Virginia Ballet, in a free “Symphony under the Stars” program at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 in Roanoke’s Elmwood Park, 706 S. Jefferson St. Details: (540) 343-9127;

At the Garth Newel Music Center, US 220 between Hot Springs and Warm Springs in Bath County: The center’s fellows and faculty, playing Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E flat major, K. 493; Webern’s Langsammer Satz (Slow Movement); Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte;” and Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, 3 p.m. Aug. 1. . . . The Fellowship Chamber Concert II, with Brahms’ Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1, and Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (“Dumky”), 3 p.m. Aug. 7 and 8. . . . The Garth Newel Piano Quartet, playing Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 41; and Jordan Kuspa’s “Collideoscope,” being introduced at Garth Newel this summer, 3 p.m. Aug. 14. . . . Violinist Teresa Ling, cellist Isaac Melamed and pianist Jeannette Fang, playing William Grant Still’s Suite for violin and piano and Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32, 3 p.m. Aug. 15 and 28. . . . Flutist Conor Nelson and pianist Jeannette Fang, playing Schubert’s “Trockne Blumen” Variations, Toru Takemitsu’s “Voice,” Martin Bresnick’s “Bird as Prophet” and Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for flute and piano, 3 p.m. Aug. 21 and 22. . . . Pianist Jeannette Fang, playing Chopin’s Etude in C minor, Op. 25, No. 12 (“Ocean”); Margaret Bonds’ “Troubled Water;” J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875, and Toccata in C minor, BWV 911; the intermezzi in A minor and A major from Brahms’ “Six Piano Pieces,” Op. 118; Caroline Shaw’s “Gustave le Gray;” and Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, 3 p.m. Aug. 29. Tickets: $25 (concerts only), $50-$80 (concerts with food and drink), $10 (live online stream). Details: (540) 839-5018;

At the Filene Center amphitheater of Wolf Trap, 1625 Trap Road in Fairfax County: Soprano Renée Fleming with the National Symphony Orchestra, Patrick Summers conducting, singing Ravel’s “Shéhérazade” and songs and arias by Flotow, Puccini, Leoncavallo and Lerner & Loewe, along with orchestral works by Mozart, Gershwin and Richard Rodgers, 8 p.m. Aug. 6. Tickets: $27-$102. . . . The National Symphony in live accompaniment of a screening of “Star Wars: a New Hope,” 8 p.m. Aug. 27. Tickets: $40-$77. Details: (703) 255-1868;

No Interludes this summer

For a second year, the Richmond Chamber Players will not stage their Interludes series, a longtime summer staple of classical music in Richmond, in August.

Stephen Schmidt, the violist and artistic director of the ensemble, says that the ongoing covid-19 pandemic created uncertainties over securing a performance space, conforming to potential limitations on audience capacity, fundraising and other factors, leading the Chamber Players to forgo concerts this summer.

Symphony holiday concerts

The Richmond Symphony has announced dates for its two popular holiday programs. The “Let It Snow!” pops program moves to a Thanksgiving weekend date, while the Richmond Symphony Chorus returns in excerpts of Handel’s “Messiah,” joining other baroque music in an early December program.

Both concerts will be staged at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets.

The symphony is offering discounts for tickts purchased before Aug. 1.

For more information, call (800) 514-3849 (ETIX) or visit

The symphony’s 2021 holiday concerts:

Nov. 27 (8 p.m.) – conductor & guest artists TBA. “Let It Snow!” Christmas carols, other holiday music TBA. $9-$82.

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.) Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting, Richmond Symphony Chorus & soloists TBA. “A Baroque Holiday.” Handel: “Messiah” (excerpts), other baroque works TBA. $18-$54.

Louis Andriessen (1939-2021)

Louis Andriessen, the radical Dutch composer whose works both absorbed and confronted European classical traditions, has died at 82.

“In large-scale works his sound was typically strident and bold. His signature orchestration combined beefed-up woodwind and brass along with keyboards, electric guitars and clanging percussion. Most of all, he liked it loud,” The New York Times’ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in an obituary:

July calendar

The Richmond Symphony’s Summer ChamberFest series, staged at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays in the Gottwald Playhouse of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, presents clarinetist David Lemelin, violist Hyojoo Uh and pianist Russell Wilson playing Mozart’s Clarinet Trio in E flat major, K. 498 (“Kegelstatt”), Ravel’s “Menuet antique” and Rebecca Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale on July 8; violinists Adrian Pintea and Stacy Matthews, violist Stephen Schmidt and cellist Jason McComb in the Quartet No. 5 in G minor of Joseph Boulogne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges), Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44, and Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte on July 15; trumpeter Anthony Limoncelli, French horn player Dominic Rotella and trombonist Evan Williams in works by Mozart, Poulenc and others on July 22; and violinist Ellen Cockerham Riccio and pianist Daniel Stipe in Astor Piazzolla’s “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (“The Four Season of Buenos Aires”) and Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Diálogos” on July 29. Series tickets: $75; single tickets: $25. Details: (804) 788-1212;

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra will perform in a free “Concert in the Park” at 6 p.m. July 25 at Town Point Park, 113 Waterside Drive on the downtown Norfolk waterfront. Conductor and program to be announced. Details: (757) 892-6366;

The Garth Newel Music Center, 403 Garth Newel Lane in Hot Springs, presents the Garth Newel Piano Quartet – violinist Teresa Ling, violist Rachel Yonan, cellist Isaac Melamed and pianist Jeannette Fang – in “Remembrance of Things Past,” with Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in E flat major, WoO 36, and Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45, at 3 p.m. July 10 and 17; “Homage,” with Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60, and the premiere of Robert Merfield’s Fantasy (“In Homage”) at 3 p.m. July 11 and 18; “Collideoscope,” with Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 41, and the premiere of Jordan Kuspa’s “Collideoscope,” 3 p.m. July 24; and Fellowship Chamber Concert I, with Garth Newel’s Emerging Artists Fellows playing Lera Auerbach’s Piano Trio No. 1, Jordan Kuspa’s “Hat Trick” and Beethoven’s Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 (“Razumovsky”), 3 p.m. July 25. Tickets: $25 (concert only); $50-$80 (concert with food or food and drink); $10 (access to online stream). Details: (540) 839-5018;

At Wolf Trap, the national park for the performing arts, 1645 Trap Road in Fairfax County: Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” starring Thomas Glass in the title role, Jonathan Bryan as Anthony Hope, Shannon Jennings as the Beggar Woman and Lucy Barker, Megan Esther Grey as Nellie Lovett, Nicholas Newton as Judge Turpin, Wayde Odle as Beadle Bamford, Alexandra Nowakowski as Johanna Barker, Conor McDonald as Tobias Ragg and Christopher Bozeka as Adolfo Pirelli, with Roberto Kalb conducting the National Symphony Orchestra, at 8 p.m. July 2-3. Tickets: $42-$97. . . . Jonathon Heyward conducts the National Symphony, in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major and, with violinist Francesca Dego, the Violin Concerto No. 2 in A major of Joseph Boulogne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges), 8 p.m. July 8. Tickets: $32-$72. . . . Christopher Allen conducts the National Symphony, with alumni and current artists of Wolf Trap Opera, in “STARias,” a program marking the opera troupe’s 50th anniversary, including excerpts of operas by Verdi, Gounod, Puccini and others, 8 p.m. July 23. Tickets: $37-$72. . . . Broadway star Norm Lewis joins the National Symphony in songs from favorite musicals, 8 p.m. July 30-31. Tickets: $37-$127. Details: (703) 255-1868;

Frederic Rzewski (1938-2021)

Frederic Rzewski, the avant-garde composer and pianist best-known for “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” an hour-long set of variations on a popular song sung by protesters against the repressive regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has died at 83.

A Massachusetts-born pupil of leading modernist composers – Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Luigi Dallapiccola – Rzewski spent most of his career living and teaching in Europe, serving for more than 40 years as a professor at the Royal Conservatory of Liège in Belgium.

An obituary by Tim Page for The Washington Post:

Jeanne Lamon (1949-2021)

Jeanne Lamon, the longtime music director of the Toronto-based period-instruments orchestra Tafelmusik, has died at 71.

A violinist who studied with Sigiswald Kuijken in Amsterdam, Lamon assumed artistic leadership of Tafelmusik in 1981, two years after it was organized. Under her direction, Tafelmusik became one of the leading historically informed ensembles in the Western Hemisphere, touring widely and making a number of recordings for Sony Classical and on its own label.

Lamon retired from Tafelmusik in 2014, and for a time led the Health Arts Society of Ontario, which presented concerts to residents of long-term care and retirement homes. She spent her last years in Victoria, British Columbia.

An obituary in The Strad: