Review: Laredo & Robinson

March 17, Virginia Commonwealth University

The Kalchstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio temporarily became the Laredo-Robinson Duo after pianist Joseph Kalichstein slipped on black ice and broke an arm last weekend. He’s recovering nicely following surgery, violinist Jaime Laredo reported as he joined his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson, in a concert at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Singleton Arts Center.

The program, last of this season’s Rennolds Chamber Concerts, was a showcase of rarities. There is a limited repertory of violin and cello duets. Just two pieces, Johann Halvorsen’s Passacaglia, based on a movement from Handel’s Keyboard Suite in G minor, and Zoltan Kodály’s Duo, Op. 7, could be called “standard,” and then only if you stretch the term.

Other works played by Laredo and Robinson were the Duo (1925) of Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech Jewish composer who died in a Nazi concentration camp; Mozart’s Duo in G major, K. 423; and “Inventions on a Marriage” by Richard Danielpour, written in celebration of the 35th wedding anniversary of the violinist and cellist and introduced in 2011 at the Virginia Arts Festival.

The Kodály Duo is to violin-cello duos what Johann Sebastian Bach’s unaccompanied suites are to solo violinists and cellists – a technical and musical summit to be scaled, and returned to for artistic replenishment. This performance by Laredo and Robinson showed that they have pondered the work at length and in years of playing it have learned to coalesce its numerous challenges to fiddle technique with its musical content – a sophisticated suite-cum-fantasy on the folk song and dance of Hungary and neighboring lands.

Schulhoff’s Duo is a similar, although more episodic, exploration of vernacular idioms, couched in a spiky modernist language and spiced with 1920s jazz rhythms. Laredo introduced it as “a masterpiece,” and he and Robinson treated it accordingly, smoothing its edges somewhat and playing it with more import than wit.

Danielpour’s piece, described by the composer as “snapshots” and “invented scenarios” of a longtime marriage (not necessarily that of Laredo and Robinson), is a characterful, generally cheerful, succession of seven musical vignettes. Aside from an overly mellow “Argument,” the duo’s performance lived up to the composer’s descriptive titles, most strikingly in the buzzing effects of “As You Were Sleeping . . . ” and the merriment of “Celebration.”

The violinist and cellist emphasized technical display in the Halvorsen Passacaglia, and played the Mozart Duo as an ear-pleasing divertissement.

Kalichstein out; Laredo, Robinson play as duo

Because of an arm injury, pianist Joseph Kalichstein has withdrawn from an engagement this month in the Rennolds Chamber Concerts at Virginia Commonwealth University. His trio partners, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson will perform string duo works by Handel, Mozart, Kodály, Erwin Schulhoff and Richard Danielpour.

The concert, finale of this season’s Rennold series, begins at 8 p.m. March 17 at VCU’s Singleton Arts Center, Park Avenue at Harrison Street. Tickets are $35.

For more information, call (804) 828-1169 or visit

Letter V Classical Radio March 14

Ancient and modern, sacred and secular, instrumental and vocal . . .

noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

anon. (“Red Book of Montserrat,” c. 1399): “Stella splendens”
Hesperion XXI/Jordi Savall

Peteris Vasks: Cello Concerto No. 2 (“Presence”)
Sol Gabetta, cello
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
(Sony Classical)

Hildegard of Bingen: “O Jerusalem”
Sequentia/Barbara Thornton
(Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

Jan Jirásek: “Missa Propria”
Boni Pueri Boys Choir/Jiří Skopal

Arvo Pärt: “Tabula Rasa”
Gidon Kremer & Tatjana Grindenko, violins
Alfred Schnittke, prepared piano
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Saulus Sondeckis

Ioannes Koukouzeles: Psalm 148 (“Praise the Lord from the Heavens”)
Cappella Romana/Alexander Lingas
(Cappella Romana)

Orff: “Carmina burana”
Sylvia Greenberg, soprano
James Bowman, countertenor
Stephen Roberts, baritone
Berlin City & Cathedral Children’s Choir
Berlin Radio Choir
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly

Russ Solomon (1925-2018)

Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records, the chain of record stores that at its peak operated at nearly 200 locations (one of them at Richmond’s Willow Lawn), has died at 92.

Tower’s massive inventory, spanning all styles of music, made it a favorite destination for record collectors and musical grazers – and a bonanza for specialty artists and boutique labels whose recordings weren’t stocked at other record stores.

Burdened by high debt and unable to fend off competition from online retailers and digital-file services, Tower closed down in 2006. Only one store carrying its name survives, in Tokyo.

An obituary by Harrison Smith in The Washington Post:

Letter V Classical Radio March 7

noon-3 p.m. EST
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Mozart: Symphony No. 32 in G major, K. 318
English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner

C.P.E. Bach: Trio Sonata in D minor, Wq 141
Merlin Ensemble

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Piano Concerto in G minor
Andreas Staier, fortepiano & director
Concerto Köln

Sibelius: Quartet in D minor (“Voces intimae”)
Emerson String Quartet
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytè-Tyla

Past Masters:
Martinů: Symphony No. 3
Czech Philharmonic/Václav Neumann
(recorded 1977)

Beethoven: Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4
Schuppanzigh Quartet
(Ars Musici)

Rameau: “Les Indes galantes” – Chaconne
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall

Celebrating Debussy

The British pianist Stephen Hough, writing for The New York Times, marks the centenary of the Claude Debussy’s death. His exploitation of overtones, “forming a halo over every note,” set him apart from earlier composers, Hough writes, adding that no other composer wrote so idiomatically for his instrument: “This is music of the piano as much as for the piano.”