Letter V Classical Radio Feb. 21

noon-3 p.m. EST
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Joseph Martin Kraus: Symphony in C minor
Basel Chamber Orchestra/Giovanni Antonini

Ryan Cockerham: “Before, It Was Golden”
Er-Gene Kahng, violin
Janáček Philharmonic/Ryan Cockerham

Handel: Jubilate, HWV 279 (“Music for the Peace of Utrecht”)
Nicki Kennedy, soprano
William Towers, countertenor
Julian Podger & Wolfram Lattke, tenors
Peter Harvey, bass
Netherlands Bach Society/Jos van Veldhoven
(Channel Classics)

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major
Norman Krieger, piano
London Symphony Orchestra/Philip Ryan Mann

David Lang: “This Was Written by Hand”
Andrew Zolinsky, piano

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Fantasia for cello and orchestra
Claes Gunnarsson, cello
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund

Past Masters:
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
(Sony Classical)
(recorded 1959)

Review: Gil Shaham & Akira Eguchi

Feb. 18, University of Richmond

Violinist Gil Shaham, returning to town for a recital with pianist Akira Eguchi at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center, pulled off one of the most elusive feats in classical music: thrilling non-specialist listeners with a piece of contemporary music.

The piece was Avner Dorman’s Sonata No. 3 (“Nigunim”), which Shaham and his pianist sister, Orli, commissioned and introduced in 2011. The sonata’s title refers to a vein of Jewish song, sacred or secular, that “ascends beyond words and conveys a deeper spiritual message,” the composer writes, observing that “a Nigun sung in Yiddish will reach and affect someone who only speaks Arabic and vice versa.”

“Nigunim,” drawing on Jewish musics from Eastern Europe and the Balkans to North Africa and Central Asia, casts its material in a modern tonal language that emphasizes virtuosity and expressiveness. It is a perfect vehicle for Shaham’s fiddle technique and musicality. The violinist and pianist played with audible affection for this music, ranging idiomatically from its dance rhythms to its introspective, prayerful tunes, and earned loud cheers after its dazzling high-speed finale.

Shaham and Eguchi made nearly as persuasive a case for an even newer work, Scott Wheeler’s Sonata No. 2 (“The Singing Turk”) (2017), a sonically prismatic take on music from the “Turkish” operas that were in vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wheeler casts the “Aria of Roxelana” from Paul César-Gilbert’s “The Three Sultanas” is a bittersweet soliloquy, framed by more playful takes on arias from Handel’s “Tamerlano” and Rossini’s “Il Turco in Italia.”

The program opened with Fritz Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro “in the Style of Pugnani,” one of the famed violinist’s bogus “discoveries” of early music that fooled even scholars in pre-historically informed times. Shaham doted on Kreisler’s deception, giving the prelude convincing faux-baroque treatment before indulging in the latter-day pyrotechnics of the allegro.

More standard fare filled the concert’s second half. Shaham began with a fluent and sonically brilliant, if not quite in current baroque fashion, rendition of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006, last of the composer’s six great suites for solo violin.

Then, Shaham and Eguchi took on César Franck’s Sonata in A major, playing this violin-recital staple with focused tone and fine expressive range, bringing out the Wagnerian ecstasy of its allegro molto movement and the proto-impressionism of its recitative-fantasia.

Review: Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet

Feb. 17, Virginia Commonwealth University

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, performing in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rennolds Chamber Concerts series on its farewell US tour, etched in high relief several staples of the wind-quintet repertory and at least one curiosity.

The staples were Carl Nielsen’s Wind Quintet, one of the many quintets of Anton Reicha (the D major, Op. 91, No. 3) and Paul Hindemith’s “Kleine Kammermusik” (“Little Chamber Music”) No. 2.

The curiosity, at least on this side of the Atlantic, was “Five Sacred and Profane Dances” by Henri Tomasi, a French composer who wrote extensively for winds and brass.

Nielsen’s quintet, dating from 1922, serves as a kind of overture to the late period of the Danish composer’s working life, when his music became increasingly quirky, angular and harmonically adventurous. The quintet, written for his friends in the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, is couched as a conversation among the five instruments – a conversation that grows especially animated as a churchy chorale tune is run through a decidedly un-churchy set of variations.

The Berliners – flutist Michael Hasel, oboist Andreas Wittmann (doubling on English horn), clarinetist Walter Seyfarth, bassoonist Marion Reinhard and French horn player Fergus McWilliam – played the Nielsen with the fluency of long familiarity, liberally garnished with energetic spontaneity.

They conveyed much the same spirit in the Hindemith, one of the composer’s better balances of compositional rigor and good cheer, and in the Tomasi suite, a 1948 opus modeled after and expanding upon Claude Debussy’s “Danses sacrée et profane.”

Tomasi frames his sacred and profane dances with pastoral, wedding and war dances. Weirdly, his wedding dance sounds more eventful, even eruptive, than his war dance – at least it did in this performance.

Reicha was the father of the wind quintet, and a prolific parent, siring no fewer than 24 of them in nine years (1811-20). Op. 91, No. 3, dating from 1818-19, is late-classical in style, sometimes sounding like a miniaturization of a Haydn symphony. That similarity was played up in the Berliners’ exuberantly assertive reading.

Letter V Classical Radio Feb. 14

For Valentine’s Day, high romance – including his-and-hers piano concertos by Robert and Clara Schumann.

noon-3 p.m. EST
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Tchaikovsky: “Romeo and Juliet” Fantasy-Overture
Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov

Nielsen: “Hymnus amoris”
Inga Nielsen, soprano
Poul Elming & Arne Elkrog, tenors
Per Høyer, baritone
Jørgen Ditlevsen, bass
Copenhagen Boy’s Choir
Danish National Radio Choir
Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor – IV: Adagietto
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas
(SFS Media)

Clara Wieck Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor
Francesco Nicolosi, piano
Alma Mahler Sinfonietta/Stefania Rinaldi

Past Masters:
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor
Stephen Kovacevich, piano
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis
(recorded 1970)

Past Masters:
Wagner: “Tristan und Isolde” – Prelude and “Liebestod”
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
(Sony Classical)
(recorded 1962)

Rimsky-Korsakov: “Scheherazade”
Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille/Myung-Whun Chung
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Orchestra musicians stand to take tax hit

Many orchestra musicians will lose big under the tax law enacted by Congress in December, according to Daniel Braden, who was a tax consultant to musicians for two decades.

“Under the previous tax rules, employee musicians deducted their expenses as part of Schedule A itemized deductions. Under the new tax law, no employee expenses are allowed to be deducted at all,” Braden writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, PA. A larger standard deduction will not offset “a serious loss when an employee is required to pay out of pocket for substantial expenses, as is the case for orchestra musicians.”

Moreover, musicians with permanent positions with an orchestra will no longer be able to take depreciation deductions on their instruments. Nor can they write off expenses such as repair and insurance, although those working as independent contractors may still do so, Braden writes:


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

Letter V Classical Radio Feb. 7

noon-3 p.m. EST
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Dvořák: “Scherzo capriccioso”
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459
Hélène Grimaud, piano & director
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Pablo de Sarasate: “Zigeunerweisen”
Julia Fischer, violin
Milana Chernyavskaya, piano

Haydn: Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5
Doric String Quartet

Beethoven: Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131
Miró Quartet
(Miró Quartet Media)

Rameau: “Zoroastre” Suite
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall

Kodály: “Variations on a Hungarian Folksong” (“The Peacock”)
Buffalo Phiharmonic/JoAnn Falletta

Heinrich Ignaz Biber: “Sonata Jucunda”
Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/Jan Willem de Vriend
(Challenge Classics)

Richmond Symphony reviewed

My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of the Richmond Symphony’s “Remembering 1968: a Tribute to MLK Jr.,” featuring “Scenes from the Life of a Martyr,” a musical contemplation on the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. by the longtime Virginia State University teacher and composer Undine Smith Moore: