The perils and promise of clickable culture

In an essay for The Guardian, Anne Helen Petersen, the former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, contemplates the consequences of spending the pandemic stuck at home, consuming an overload of television, film, music, books and more.

“Wading through the streaming menus felt akin to babysitting hundreds of small children, all of them clawing at me, desperate for my attention,” Petersen writes:

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2021/nov/20/overloaded-is-there-simply-too-much-culture

You can make a pretty convincing case that cultural overload has been a thing ever since the widespread dissemination of recordings, movies and broadcasts began a century ago – or, taking a longer view, since the spread of literacy, invention of movable type and opening of book shops and circulating libraries.

Culture at the click of a mouse or tap on a screen is a much newer, overwhelming thing. The quantity of culture-on-demand – highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow, furrowed brow – has grown exponentially in recent years, and time on our hands during pandemic isolation has compounded its effects.

At the same time, guidance in consuming culture has become an all-bets-are-off proposition. The old gate-keepers are mostly gone. Everybody’s a critic, and anybody can launch a website, podcast or YouTube/TikTok/whatever’s-next channel. In time, you can find reliable guides; or you can just say, “To hell with them” (being one of them, I should say “us”), and become a do-it-yourself curator. Either way, you’ll endure cultural overload getting there.

The easy cure for overload isn’t culturally healthy. At a certain age – 40, let’s say – you know what you like and tend to stick with it, re-watching favorite TV shows and movies, re-reading favorite books, listening to the music you grew up with, tuning in to long-trusted channels. Maybe you’ll try new offerings that, according to some reliable source of guidance (or, God help us, algorithm), may resemble your old favorites. You’re in a feedback loop, comfortable but constricted. Your perspective is more then than now.

The easiest way out of this loop is to graze, to discover new things by sampling episodes, trailers, tracks and chapters. That’s time-consuming, much of the time wasted because most of what’s on offer won’t be worth your time. Young people have (or make) time to waste (or experiment, or explore), which goes a long way toward explaining why cultural innovations usually come from the young and initially appeal to the young.

The good news is that cultural overload can lead to a golden age. The European Renaissance didn’t happen until people were exposed to art and ideas that weren’t previously accessible, then built upon that newly discovered stuff. American music didn’t become distinctively “American” until recordings and radio circulated songs and dances and instruments previously heard only in isolated subcultures, and musicians began to absorb and apply those styles and techniques.

Clickable culture could usher in a renaissance. It’s going to take time, though, for creators to break through the clutter and consumers to sort through the results.

Review: Richmond Symphony

Valentina Peleggi conducting
with Katherine Needleman, oboe
Nov. 13-14, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

(reviewed from online stream, posted Nov. 17)

Listeners long immersed in classical music, especially people like me who’ve long listened for a living, approach unfamiliar music with greater anticipation than most symphony concertgoers – a spoiler alert for what follows.

The Richmond Symphony’s latest Masterworks program featured two works by Ruth Gipps (1921-99), a British composer previously unknown to most of this audience and undoubtedly to most of these musicians, alongside the most familiar of symphonies, Beethoven’s No. 5 in C minor.

Too much appetizer, not enough main course? Not to my ears.

Gipps’ Symphony No. 2 in B major and Oboe Concerto in D minor, both dating from the 1940s, proved to be well worth hearing, and received more engaged and refined accounts than might have been expected. These were among the first performances of the two works by a professional US orchestra. The musicians played like they were glad to discover this composer and motivated to do right by her – always a good thing, whatever the music on their stands.

Throughout the concerto, Gipps ably exploits the oboe’s two prime expressive qualities, austere lyricism and witty, playful elaboration, and provides plenty of attractive interaction between soloist and orchestra.

The soloist in this performance, Katherine Needleman, onetime principal oboist of the Richmond Symphony who went on to fill the same post in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is now the most prominent non-British advocate for this work. She has done colleagues and audiences a favor in finding something other than Mozart and Richard Strauss for oboe soloists to play with orchestras.

Needleman was consistently virtuosic and interpretively persuasive, especially in the composer’s imaginative deconstructions of Scottish/Celtic tunes and dances in the final movement.

Gipps’ Second Symphony, in one movement but with distinct, contrasting sections, is green-and-pleasant-land atmospheric in the tradition of the British “pastoral” school, but with a more colorful orchestration (tambourine shakes the shires!) and with wider expressive contrasts than heard in most such works.

Some of the symphony’s asides and transitions are awkward; others, like the English horn solo between the animated first section and the subsequent idyll – realized beautifully here by Shawn Welk – are sublime. The piece tends to ramble – the curse of late-late-romantic composers generally, Brits especially – but is far from the worst offender in wearing out its welcome.

So, what to make of Ruth Gipps from these examples of her music? A deft orchestrator (oboe fronting big band ain’t easy), a composer who audibly and agreeably manifests her national/ethnic cultural DNA, doesn’t just orchestrally gloss folky themes but only occasionally transforms or re-invents them . . . a Kodály, not a Bartók.

Then, the Fifth: Certainly a contrast with Gipps, a century and a half and a lot of stylistic evolution separating them, but not chalk to her cheese. Both composers build big edifices from small, constantly manipulated thematic bits; both rise to dramatic heights, Beethoven with greater urgency; and both fully employ all their instrumental resources.

Valentina Peleggi, the orchestra’s music director, and her forces lit into the Fifth’s first movement and finale – brisk bordering on terse, almost but not quite too fast for proper articulation and balances (except for some of the wind players). Inner movements were paced at more customary tempos, allowing for warmer, more breathing expression.

Was it a Fifth that made you hear the music as if for the first time? You’d be lucky to hear a warhorse classic played that compellingly in concert once in a lifetime, and this wasn’t such a performance. Did it do the Fifth justice? Outside of stray flubs and balance problems between strings and winds in the quietest passages, yes, it did.

The online stream’s camera work improves on past productions. Over-prominent winds and brass, whether from the performances or microphone placement and audio mix, persist.

The stream of the program remains accessible through June 30, 2022. Single-concert access: $30. Full Masterworks season access: $180. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Woke or awakening?

Pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, the artistic directors of New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Music@Menlo festival in California, kindled a brushfire of sorts in a recent interview with The New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández, in which Finckel responded to complaints that the society’s programming leans too heavily on the tried-and-true and offers too little exposure to contemporary music and previously marginalized composers.

“We never want to force people to listen to music that they don’t want to listen to because we think it’s good for them,” Finckel said:

To that and other comments from Han and Finckel, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman responds, “What is so damn terrifying about the possibility that exploring new and diverse musical sources — living composers, women, creators of color — might prove rewarding?”

Diversify the world of classical music? Some key players are digging in their heels

This back-and-forth is hardly new. In US orchestral circles, the tension between old and new, familiar and novel, dates back to the early 20th century, when Leopold Stokowski at the Philadelphia Orchestra and Serge Koussevitzky at the Boston Symphony Orchestra provoked audiences with then-radical works by the likes of Alexander Scriabin, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky and the young (pre-“Americana”) Aaron Copland.

Today, the issue is the rather sudden inclusion of works by female, Black and Asian or Asian-American composers, many of whom have long deserved to be heard – where have Louise Farrenc and Florence Price been all our lives? – but whose emergence in concert programs alongside the #MeToo and racial-justice movements suggests trendy, defensively “woke” programming.

Is Valentina Peleggi, the Richmond Symphony’s music director, trendy/woke in conducting two works by the mid-20th century English composer Ruth Gipps alongside Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in this weekend’s Masterworks concerts?

Gipps’ music is not noticeably feminist (however that might find expression in a purely instrumental work) or radical by the standards of her time and place. Like her contemporaries Frank Bridge, William Walton and Benjamin Britten, Gipps stylistically occupied the shifting terrain between the English pastoralists (Vaughan Williams & Co.) and the spiky modernist Brits (Oliver Knussen, Harrison Birtwistle, et al.) who would emerge in the late 20th century. Gipps contrasts pretty sharply with Beethoven – but, then, so do others among the “circumscribed set of a dozen or so dead white European men” that Kosman finds emblematic of stuck-in-a-rut classical programming.

The real resistance to composers like Gipps is not that they represent marginalized groups but that they’re unknown to most listeners. The same sort of resistance might greet music by dead white European male contemporaries of Gipps – Bohuslav Martinů, say, or Mieczysław Weinberg.

Orchestras, opera companies, chamber groups and recitalists are playing catch-up in their programming today. That, too, isn’t new. It took a generation or two for classical music to admit now-familiar works by modern composers to the standard repertory, and several centuries to rediscover figures from the distant past such as Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Philippe Rameau and C.P.E. Bach. Long before woke was an epithet, performers and audiences were gradually (resistantly?) growing attuned to non-European composers such as Japan’s Toru Takemitsu and Argentina’s Alberto Ginastera – not to mention Americans not named Ives, Gershwin, Copland or Bernstein. That process will be ongoing as long as classical music is performed.

Does all of this long-unknown music measure up to Beethoven or Tchaikovsky? Of course not. Most music is mediocre or worse (including some Beethoven and Tchaikovsky), most obscure music from the past deserves its obscurity, and most of the music being premiered today is destined to be forgotten, often as soon as the next piece on the program is played.

The argument, essentially, is whether classical performers will be curators of historical greats – like museums devoted to past masters or, at lower elevation, “tribute” bands playing old rock songs in nightclubs or at pops concerts – or advocates for a living, evolving art form that plays the greatest hits but also looks to the future and explores neglected corners of the past.

For a little context, let’s time-travel back a century, to a program (archived at http://www.classical.net/music/guide/society/krs/programs/index.php) from the Concerts Koussevitzky series in Paris, presented on Nov. 24, 1921:

J.S. Bach: “Brandenburg” Concerto in G major (No. 3? No. 4? Not specified)
C.P.E. Bach: Concerto in D major for strings (arrangement by Maximilian Steinberg)
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major
Jacques Thibaud, violin
Ravel: “La Valse”
Mendelssohn: Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” incidental music
Prokofiev: “Scythian Suite”

Surely, many in that concert’s audience came to hear Thibaud play Beethoven and squirmed through the then-new Ravel and Prokofiev works, and not inconceivably through the then-obscure pieces by the Bachs.

Was Koussevitzky too . . . réveillé?

‘Rings’ all around

In the opera department of Getting Back to Normal, all manner of “Ring” cycles – emphasis on “all manner” – are in the works.

Putting on “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas, with its massive orchestration and populous cast, would be an epic coming-out party after all the cancellations, truncations, chamber reductions and limited-attendance performances of the pandemic years.

Trouble is, staging the cycle is infamously expensive and labor-intensive, as well as being very challenging to cast and, with the four works collectively clocking in at 17 hours or so (not counting intermissions), a high-stakes gamble if your audience isn’t German-speaking and you don’t promise to be an irresistible draw for hard-core Wagnerites who wander the Earth in search of the ultimate “Ring.”

(I define a “Ring” junkie as someone who eagerly anticipates sitting through Act 1 of “Siegfried.”)

New York’s Metropolitan Opera, whose last staging of the cycle, directed by Robert Lepage, is remembered for its massive, noisily malfunctioning lazy-susan set and for being subjected to memorably caustic reviews by the New York critics. The Met now is planning a new production directed by Richard Jones, whose previous two “Ring” efforts were (1st time) abandoned halfway into the cycle when the money ran out and (2nd time) went the distance, only to be ferociously panned by British critics, The New York Times’ Matthew Anderson reports:

However Jones’ third go turns out – it’s scheduled to begin in 2025 and to be staged in full in the 2026-27 season – it will follow two cycles that are unlike any “Ring” presented in living memory.

As previewed here last year (https://letterv.blog/2020/01/05/), conductor Kent Nagano and Concerto Köln, the German period-instruments orchestra, are rolling out a “Ring” with the instrumentation and purportedly in the style that would have been heard in the mid- to late-19th century. That cycle begins with “Das Rheingold,” first (and shortest) of the four dramas, to be presented on Nov. 18 at the Kölner Philharmonie and Nov. 20 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (unless the latest European wave of Covid-19 leads to lockdowns).

Already underway in London is a cycle by the ensemble Gafa (Samoan for “family”), staging “concert with movement” presentations that draw “parallels between Wagner’s great Nordic creation myth, with the gods’ love of power destroying them and Brünnhilde’s self-inflicted immolation ushering in suffering humanity, and the Pacific experience of western settlers usurping indigenous deities and imposing their own faith and values. Throw in a backcloth of the 1918 flu epidemic (prefiguring our present pandemic), brought to the islands by New Zealanders aboard the SS Talune, that killed 22% of Samoans, as well as allusions to climate change that threatens to overwhelm the islands . . . a potent cocktail,” The Guardian’s Stephen Moss writes:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/oct/28/samoan-ring-cycle-wagner-gafa-ringafa

UPDATE (Nov. 19): Shirley Apthorp reviews the first Concerto Köln “Rheingold” performance for Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog:

Nelson Freire (1944-2021)

Nelson Freire, the esteemed Brazilian pianist and longtime duo-piano partner of Martha Argerich, has died at 77.

Freire, initially trained in Brazil and then in Vienna, was often described as a pianist of poetic sensibility, although he played a number of virtuoso finger-busters as well as repertory requiring more subtlety of technique and interpretation.

Among his many recordings, his duo performances with Argerich, notably of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn,” and of the Brahms piano concertos with Riccardo Chailly conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, were among the most celebrated.

Famously publicity-shy, Freire was more of a star among fellow pianists and piano connoisseurs than the broader public.

An obituary by Maddy Shaw Roberts for the Classic FM website:

http://www.classicfm.com/artists/nelson-freire/brazilian-pianist-dies-aged-77/

“The important thing is the experience of life, and today there are fewer opportunities to live a full life that allows a natural expression of music,” Freire told Luis Sunen in a 2019 interview, posted on the International Classical Music Awards website. “I know from experience that without life there is no music.”

Nelson Freire: ‘I have lived seven different lives’

November 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. Check with venues on masking, proof of Covid-19 vaccination or negative test results and other public-health requirements. Adult single-ticket prices are listed; senior, student/youth, military, group and other discounts may be offered.

Nov. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
South Lawn (Homer Flat), University of Virginia, Charlottesville
UVa Wind Ensemble
New Music Ensemble
Jazz Ensemble

Terry Riley: “In C”
free
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 3 (7 p.m.)
Vlahcevic Concert Hall, Singleton Arts Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Park Avenue at Harrison Street, Richmond
VCU Guitar Program
“An Evening of Classical Guitar”
works TBA by J.S. Bach, Sor, Villa-Lobos, Ponce, others

free
(804) 828-1166
http://arts.vcu.edu/academics/departments/music/concerts-and-events/

Nov. 3 (8 p.m.)
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW, Washington
Lara Downes, piano
Thalea Quartet
Rita Dove, poet

“Tomorrow I May Be Far Away”
works TBA by William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Quinn Mason, Carlos Simon, Nina Simone, Alvin Singleton

$40
(202) 785-9727 (Washington Performing Arts)
http://washingtonperformingarts.org

Nov. 4 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 6 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan conducting

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069
Telemann: Orchestral Suite in F major, TWV 55:F3
Haydn: Symphony No. 98 in B flat major

$29-$89
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Renée Fleming VOICES & Fortas Chamber Music Concerts:
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
Copland House Ensemble

Pierre Jalbert: “Crossings”
John Harbison: “Songs America Loves to Sing”
(selections)
Richard Danielpour: “A Standing Witness”

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

Nov. 5 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Nov. 7 (2:30 p.m.)
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk
Virginia Opera
Adam Turner conducting

Puccini: “La Bohème: Rodolfo Remembers”
(concept & adaptation by Keturah Stickann & Bruce Stasyna for San Diego Opera)
Matthew Vickers (Rodolfo)
Raquel González (Mimi)
Luis Orozco (Marcello)
Marlen Nahhas (Musetta)
Eric J. McConnell (Colline)
Nicholas Martorano (Schaunard)
Keturah Stickann, stage director

in Italian, English captions
$25-$130
(866) 673-7282
http://vaopera.org

Nov. 5 (8 p.m.)
Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons
National Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan conducting

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069
Telemann: Orchestral Suite in F major, TWV 55:F3
Haydn: Symphony No. 98 in B flat major

$29-$69
(800) 653-8000 (Ticketmaster)
http://capitalonehall.com/events

Nov. 6 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
Sigma Alpha Iota artists
program TBA
free
(804) 646-7223
http://rvalibrary.org/gellman-concerts/

Nov. 6 (4 p.m.)
Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Highway
Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra
Michael Butterman conducting

Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Massenet: “Thaïs” – “Méditation”

Zuill Bailey, cello
Elgar: “Enigma Variations”
$55 (live attendance); $25 (access to online stream)
(757) 229-9857
http://williamsburgsymphony.org

Nov. 6 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Nov. 7 (3:30 p.m.)
Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center, Charlottesville High School, 1400 Melbourne Road
Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia
Benjamin Rous conducting

Missy Mazzoli: Double-Bass Concerto (“Dark with Excessive Bright”)
Peter Spaar, double-bass
Gershwin: Lullaby
Beethoven: Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4
(string-orchestra arrangement)
$8-$45
(434) 924-3376
http://cvillesymphony.org

Nov. 6 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 8 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 10 (7:30 p.m.)
Nov. 14 (2 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington
Washington National Opera:
WNO Orchestra & Chorus
Evan Rogister conducting
Pretty Yende & Alexandria Shiner, sopranos
Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano
Lawrence Brownlee & David Butt Philip, tenors
Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Brenna Corner, stage director

“Come Home: a Celebration of Return”
program TBA

$45-$299
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 7 (3 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Schola Cantorum & Women’s Chorale
members of 1971 University Choir
Jeffrey Riehl directing

Mary Beth Bennett: “There Must Be Silence” (premiere)
trad.-James Erb: “Shenandoah”
other works TBA

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

Nov. 7 (3 p.m.)
Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons
Capital Wind Symphony
George Etheridge directing

Charles Tomlinson Griffes: Poem for flute
Erin Fleming Morgan, flute
Delibes: “Sylvia” – March and Procession of Bacchus
Mark Camphouse: “A Movement for Rosa”
Johan de Meij: Symphony No. 1 (“The Lord of the Rings”)
Sousa: “Hands Across the Sea”
Kenneth J. Alford: “Eagle Squadron”

free
(800) 653-8000 (Ticketmaster)
http://capitalonehall.com/events

Nov. 7 (4 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Jerusalem Quartet
Pinchas Zukerman, violin & viola
Amanda Forsyth, cello

Bruckner: String Quintet in F major – Adagio
Dvořák: String Sextet in A major, Op. 48
Brahms: String Sextet in B flat major, Op. 18

$41-$65
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://cfa.calendar.gmu.edu

Nov. 9 (7:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Tuesday Evening Concerts:
Augustin Hadelich, violin
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: “Blue/s Forms”
Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 2 (“Obsession”)
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

$12-$39
(434) 924-3376
http://tecs.org

Nov. 11 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 12 (11:30 a.m.)
Nov. 13 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Juanjo Mena conducting

Schumann: “Manfred” Overture
Bryce Dessner: Concerto for two pianos

Katia & Marielle Labèque, pianos
Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major
$15-$89
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 12 (7:30 p.m.)
Sandler Arts Center, 201 S. Market St., Virginia Beach
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta & Paul Sanho Kim conducting

Bizet: “Carmen” (excerpts)
Brian Nedvin, tenor
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (“Unfinished”)
Adolphus Hailstork: “Fanfare on ‘Amazing Grace’ ”

$25-$110
(757) 892-6366
http://virginiasymphony.org

Nov. 12 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
University Singers
Michael Slon directing

concert celebrating women and marking 50th anniversary of co-education at UVa
program TBA

$15
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 13 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 14 (3 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
Valentina Peleggi conducting

Ruth Gipps: Symphony No. 2 in B major
Gipps: Oboe Concerto in D minor

Katherine Needleman, oboe
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor
$10-$82 (live attendance); $30 (online video-audio stream, accessible from Nov. 17)
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Nov. 13 (7:30 p.m.)
Nov. 14 (3 p.m.)
Shaftman Performance Hall, Jefferson Center, 541 Luck Ave., Roanoke
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra
David Stewart Wiley conducting

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491

Terrence Wilson, piano
Soon Hee Newbold: “Perseus”
$34-$56
(540) 343-9127
http://rso.com

Nov. 13 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 14 (2 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Virginia Opera
Brandon Eldredge conducting

Puccini: “La Bohème: Rodolfo Remembers”
(concept & adaptation by Keturah Stickann & Bruce Stasyna for San Diego Opera)
Matthew Vickers (Rodolfo)
Raquel González (Mimi)
Luis Orozco (Marcello)
Marlen Nahhas (Musetta)
Eric J. McConnell (Colline)
Nicholas Martorano (Schaunard)
Keturah Stickann, stage director

in Italian, English captions
$45-$115
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://vaopera.org

Nov. 14 (2 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Kennedy Center Chamber Players:
Dayna Hepler & Ricardo Cyncynates, violins
David Hardy, cello
Lambert Orkis, piano

Mozart: Piano Trio in E major, K. 542
Clara Wieck Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17
Franck: Violin Sonata in A major

$36-$41
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 17 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Young Concert Artists:
Zhu Wang, piano
J.S. Bach: Concerto in D minor, BWV 974 (after Benedetto Marcello)
Schumann: Humoresque in B flat major, Op. 20
Zhang Zhao: “Pi Huang” (Beijing Opera)
Nina Shekhar: work TBA (premiere)

Liszt: “Réminiscences de Norma”
$20-$40
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 18 (6:30 p.m.)
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Overbrook Road at Ownby Lane, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
conductor TBA
program TBA
$15
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Nov. 18 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Nov. 19 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 20 (3:30 p.m.)
The Bridge PAI, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Technosonics ’21 computer music festival:
Matthew Burtner, Ted Coffey & Judith Shatin, composers
MICE (Mobile Interactive Computer Ensembles)
New Music Ensemble

programs TBA
free
concerts streamed live on YouTube
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 18 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 20 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra
Simone Young conducting

Arvo Pärt: “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten”
Britten: Violin Concerto in D minor

Simone Lamsma, violin
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 in E minor
$15-$99
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 19 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 21 (2:30 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Virginia Opera
Adam Turner conducting

Puccini: “La Bohème: Rodolfo Remembers”
(concept & adaptation by Keturah Stickann & Bruce Stasyna for San Diego Opera)
Matthew Vickers (Rodolfo)
Raquel González (Mimi)
Luis Orozco (Marcello)
Marlen Nahhas (Musetta)
Eric J. McConnell (Colline)
Nicholas Martorano (Schaunard)
Keturah Stickann, stage director

in Italian, English captions
$18.75-$130
(866) 673-7282
http://vaopera.org

Nov. 19 (7:30 p.m.)
River Road Church, Baptist, River and Ridge roads, Richmond
Richmond chapter, American Guild of Organists’ Repertoire Recital Series:
Clara Gerdes, organ
Walton: “Orb and Sceptre” (Coronation march, 1953)
Duruflé: Scherzo, Op. 2
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Idyll, from Organ Album, Book I
Reger: “Phantasie über den Choral ‘Hallelujah! Gott zu loben’ ”
Gaston Litaize: “Douze pièces pour grand orgue” – Lied
Liszt: “Mephisto Waltz” No. 1

donation requested
(804) 288-1131
http://rrcb.org

Nov. 19 (8 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
UVa Chamber Singers
Michael Slon directing

choral pieces TBA from Broadway shows
$10
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 20 (2 p.m.)
Gellman Room, Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets
RVA Baroque
Niccolo Seligmann & Raphael Seligmann: “Julie, Monster” (preview)
free
(804) 646-7223
http://rvalibrary.org/gellman-concerts/

Nov. 20 (2 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
UVa Early Music Ensemble
David Sariti, violin & direction

program TBA
$10
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 21 (3:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
UVa Chamber Music Series:
Jeannette Jang, violin
Adam Carter, cello
Jeremy Thompson, piano

J.S. Bach: Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009, for solo cello
Debussy: Cello Sonata in D minor
Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67

$15
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 21 (7 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Jeffrey Siegel, piano
“Keyboard Conversations: the Glorious Music of Chopin”
Chopin: solo piano works TBA

$34-$53
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://cfa.calendar.gmu.edu

Nov. 21 (3 p.m.)
Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons
Washington Balalaika Society
“Winter Dreams”
program TBA

$30
(800) 653-8000 (Ticketmaster)
http://capitalonehall.com/events

Nov. 22 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Wind Ensemble
Steven Barton directing

Travis Weller: “Chronicles of Hyperion” (premiere)
works TBA by Frescobaldi, Holst, Kabalevsky, Sousa, Ron Nelson
free
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu/events

Nov. 22 (7:30 p.m.)
IX Park, 522 Second Street SE, Charlottesville
UVa Wind Ensemble
writers TBA
“Re:Imagine”
Steve Danyew: “Variations on the Tallis Canon”
Percy Grainger: “Molly on the Shore”
Thomas Albert: “A Maze with Grace”
Giovanni Santos: “Aphelion”
Roger Zare: “Mare Tranquilitatus”
Sohei Kano: “Wave Color”
Satoshi Yagisawa: “Capricious Winds II”

free
(434) 924-3376
http://music.virginia.edu/events

Nov. 26 (8 p.m.)
Nov. 27 (8 p.m.)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
National Symphony Orchestra Pops
Steven Reineke conducting

Michael Giacchino: Disney & Pixar’s “Up,” film with live orchestral accompaniment
$39-$79
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Nov. 27 (8 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony Pops
conductor TBA
guest artists TBA
“Let It Snow!” holiday pops concert
carols, seasonal classics, other works TBA

$9-$82
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Nov. 27 (8 p.m.)
Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax
Canadian Brass
“Making Spirits Bright”
holiday program TBA

$41-$65
(888) 945-2468 (Tickets.com)
http://cfa.calendar.gmu.edu

Nov. 29 (7 p.m.)
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Laurel Street at Floyd Avenue, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
conductor TBA
other artists TBA
Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ annual Christmas concert
program TBA

$55-$70 (live attendance); $30 (online stream)
(804) 285-5900 (Commonwealth Catholic Charities)
http://ccofva.org/tickets

Nov. 29 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Chamber Music Ensembles
program TBA
free
(804) 289-8980
http://modlin.richmond.edu/events

Nov. 30 (7:30 p.m.)
Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Tuesday Evening Concerts:
Trio Celeste
Beethoven: Piano Trio in G major, Op. 1, No. 2
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

$12-$39
(434) 924-3376
http://tecs.org

Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond
UR Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kordzaia conducting
Matthew Robinson, violin
Rilyn McKallip, flute

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

Dec. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington
Young Concert Artists:
William Socolof, bass-baritone
pianist TBA
Ibert: “Quatre Chansons de Don Quichotte”
Robert Owens: “Die Nacht,” “Morgendämmerung”
Schubert: “Schwanengesang” (selections)
Leaha Maria Villareal: “Crossing the Rubicon”
Debussy: “Trois Chansons de Bilitis”
Joel Engel: “Jewish Folksongs” (selections)
Mahler: “Urlicht”
Matthew Aucoin: “Three Whitman Songs”

$20-$40
(800) 444-1324
http://kennedy-center.org

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets, Richmond
Richmond Symphony
Richmond Symphony Chorus

soloists TBA
Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
“A Baroque Holiday”
Handel: “Messiah”
(excerpts)
other works TBA

$18-$54
(800) 514-3849 (ETIX)
http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Dec. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Academy of the Arts Historic Theater, 600 Main St., Lynchburg
Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra
David Glover conducting

guest artists TBA
“Happy Holidays”
program TBA

$6-$75
(434) 846-8499
http://lynchburgsymphony.org/events-concerts/

Veteran conductor and teacher retiring

Victor Yampolsky, the Russian-born conductor and violinist who has been a frequent guest of the Richmond Symphony, will retire after 37 years as head of orchestras at Northwestern University at the end of the school year.

The 79-year-old Yampolsky is the son of Vladimir Yampolsky, a prominent pianist in the former Soviet Union and longtime accompanist to David Oistrakh. The younger Yampolsky studied violin with Oistrakh, played in the Moscow Philharmonic, then conducted by Kirill Kondrashin, and eventually became the orchestra’s assistant concertmaster and assistant conductor.

Leonard Bernstein helped him emigrate to the West in the early 1970s. Within weeks of arriving in the US, Yampolsky had secured a position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and within two years became its principal second violinist.

Attracted to conducting, he led an orchestra in Nova Scotia before joining the Northwestern faculty in 1984. Among his students were Giancarlo Guerrero, music director of the Nashville Symphony; Roderick Cox, the 2018 Georg Solti Award winner who was a candidate in the latest music-director search by the Richmond Symphony; and Chia-Hsuan Lin, the Richmond Symphony’s associate conductor.

Yampolsky was music director of the Omaha Symphony from 1995 until 2004, and guest conducted a number of orchestras and served as artistic director of several music festivals.

Richmond Symphony patrons will remember Yampolsky conducting Tchaikovsky’s “Manfred” Symphony in a 2016 Masterworks program, as well as leading several special concerts with the orchestra’s musicians.

A profile of Yamplosky by Les Jacobson for Evanston (IL) Roundtable:

http://evanstonroundtable.com/2021/10/22/inspiring-music-professor-victor-yampolsky-begins-last-season-teaching-and-conducting-at-nu/

Review: Richmond Symphony

Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting
with Sterling Elliott, cello
Oct. 23-24, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

(reviewed from online stream, posted Oct. 27)

Cellist Sterling Elliott, well on his way to being the most stellar member of a highly musical Newport News family, winner of the 2019 Sphinx Competition and the 2014 Richmond Symphony League Concerto Competition, brought out the lyricism within classicism of Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major in his return to the Richmond Symphony.

The concerto, written as the mid-18th-century rococo or early classical style was evolving into the mature classical style that prevailed later in the century, is Haydn on good behavior: no rhythmic or structural quirks, no sudden silences or dissonant exclamations, and only one real joke – a “hunt” finale in which the solo cello is the prevailing voice while the usual hunt-masters, the horns, are bit players. It’s also Haydn at his most expansively lyrical, especially in its first movement, one of the largest pieces in sonata allegro form that the composer ever penned.

Throughout the concerto, Elliott balanced impeccable technique with warm projection of Haydn’s almost romantic melodies. And he treated listeners to solo cadenzas that sounded truly improvisatory.

Chia-Hsuan Lin, the symphony’s associate conductor, obtained orchestral playing that was closely attuned to the cellist’s conception of this music.

The second half of the program was devoted to two of the best examples of 20th-century composers writing in “antique” style, Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” Suite and Sergei Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony (No. 1 in D major).

“Pulcinella,” a 1920 ballet setting the adventures of a familiar commedia dell’arte character to tunes from a variety of then- (and still-) little-known 18th-century composers, is more orchestrally adventurous than similarly inflected, contemporaneous scores, such as Ottorino Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances” suites and Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin.”

In the suite drawn from the ballet, Stravinsky produced a work that, like Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” is peppered with cameos for solo strings, woodwind and brass – notably, in this performance, contributions by violinist Daisuke Yamamoto, oboist Shawn Welk, flutist Mary Boodell, trumpeter Samuel Huss and trombonist Evan Williams.

Lin and the orchestra made comparably animated yet suave work of the Prokofiev symphony, with the full orchestra creating a gratifying balance of expressive and coloristic detail and full-blooded sonic mass.

The odd piece out in this program was its opening selection, “Overdrive” by the contemporary Australian-American composer Melissa Dunphy. Her brief score is eventful, colorful, rhythmically charged and more than a bit cinematic, often recalling the bustling and wackily characterful music that Carl Stalling wrote for the “Looney Tunes” cartoons.

The online stream of the program remains accessible through June 30, 2022. Single-concert access: $30. Full Masterworks season access: $180. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX); http://www.richmondsymphony.com

Bernard Haitink (1929-2021)

Bernard Haitink, longtime chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, has died at 92.

Haitink led the Amsterdam orchestra from 1963 until 1988, and thereafter was awarded a laureate post with the ensemble.

He also held artistic leadership posts with the London Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Britain’s Glyndebourne Festival and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London. He also was a regular guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic and other major orchestras in Europe and the US.

He led his final concert two years ago with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, with which he had made his conducting debut in 1954. (A recording of that final performance, of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, has just been issued on the Challenge Classics label.)

Haitink was a prolific recording artist, especially celebrated for his recordings of the symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven and Shostakovich.

An obituary by The New York Times’ Vivien Schweitzer: