Friday, September 30, 2022

#ClassicsaDay #FallConcert Week 4

What's on the program for your local performing arts organization? The Classics a Day team wants to know! For the month of September, you're invited to post a work that your local symphony, chamber music ensemble, or choral society will be performing this fall. 

There's a lot of great music-making going on. Let's share it all!

I live in Central Virginia, so my posts showcase concerts in that area. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and imagination of the programming. (I hope you will be, too.) Here are my posts for the third week of #FallConcert

09/26/22 Carlos Simon: The Block

The Richmond Symphony performs this work in their opening "Classics" series. The concert takes place on October 21, in Richmond, Virginia.

09/27/22 Arvo Part: Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten

This work will be performed by the Charlottesville Symphony. It will be featured in their November 11th concert.

09/28/22 Arvo Part: De Pacem Domine

The Charlottesville Symphony has two Arvo Part works on its November program. The second is the string orchestra version of Da Pacem Domine. The concert takes place on November 11th.

09/29/22 Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6 in E minor

The Richmond Symphony presents RVW's 6th Symphony in its October 25th concert. The work was programmed to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

Friday, September 23, 2022

#ClassicsaDay #FallConcert Week 3

 What's on the program for your local performing arts organization? The Classics a Day team wants to know! For the month of September, you're invited to post a work that your local symphony, chamber music ensemble, or choral society will be performing this fall. 

There's a lot of great music-making going on. Let's share it all!

I live in Central Virginia, so my posts showcase concerts in that area. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and imagination of the programming. (I hope you will be, too.) Here are my posts for the third week of #FallConcert

09/19/22 Maxim Berezovsky: Sonata for violin and piano

Three Notch'd Road, the Virginia Baroque Ensemble opens their season on November 4. "Eastern Exotic: Slavic, Romanian & Hungarian" features music by #Ukrain composer Maxim Berezovsky.

09/20/22 Ivan Khandoshkin: Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 3, No. 2

Khandoshkin was born in Ukraine and is described as the "finest Russian violinist of the 18th Century." He's featured on the opening concert of Three Notch'd Road Baroque Ensemble, on Nov. 4.

09/21/22 Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dances Nos. 6, 14, and 5

The Charlottesville Symphony performs a selection of  Hungarian Dances at their opening concert on September 24.

09/22/22 Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring

The Waynesboro Symphony will perform the orchestral suite from this ballet at their October 1 concert.

09/23/22 PDQ Bach: Schleptet in E-flat major

The Chamber Music Society of Virginia's opening concert is "Just Kidding." The lighter side of chamber music by Franz Joseph Haydn, Heinrich von Biber, and PDQ Bach.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Stefan Poradowski Concertos show range of talent

Stefan Poradowski was a man of many talents -- including a talent for survival. This Polish composer was deported by the Nazis in 1939,. He lived through the war and returned to become Vice-Rector of the Polish State Music Academy. 

Poradowski was also a renowned violinist and organist. And he was a respected artist and art photographer.

These days, he's best known outside of Poland for his compositions. His Double Bass Concerto, Op. 26 is often performed at double bass competitions. 

That work is included in this recording, as well as his Violin Concerto, Op. 70 and his symph9ony No. 3, Op. 29. 

In the immediate postwar period, Poradowski worked closely with the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra. So it's fitting that "his" orchestra record these works. The ensemble, directed by Lukasz Borowicz, has a nice, tight sound. The various soloists perform a high degree of musicality. 

Poradowski wrote in a mainly tonal style. To my ears, it sounds a little more conservative than, say, Prokofiev. His themes are well-defined. And the structure of his music makes it easy for the listener to follow. 

Piotr Czerwinski is an exceptional bassist. At times, Czerwinski's instrument sounded more like a cello than a double bass. Czerwinski maintains a well-rounded singing tone in the upper register. That's not easy to do consistently. This is why this concerto makes a good competition piece.

Violinist Marcin Suszycki also gives a good performance. His playing is sometimes aggressive, and his sound often has an edge to it. His performance is what put me in mind to Prokofiev. 

The Third Symphony, written in 1930, is the most tonal and conservative of the three works. Poradowski was a skillful orchestrator. And this symphony has some thrilling moments. Poradowski wrote eight symphonies in all. Based on the strength of this one, I would love to hear the other seven.

Stefan Bolesław Poradowski Violin Concerto; Double Bass Concerto; Symphony No. 3
Marcin Suszycki, violin; Piotr Czerwinski, double bass
Orkiestra Filharmonii Poznanskiej
Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra; Lukasz Borowicz, conductor

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

James Lee III -- Fantastic Voyages

 I had not heard James Lee III's music before I received this release. And shame on me. This gifted African-American composer has a rare talent for melody and orchestration. And he has a musical imagination that's well-served by those talents. 

Lee writes, “I want to compose music to reach to the inner soul of the listener that elevates them irregardless of race and religious affiliation.” 

And he does. Lee's musical language is essentially tonal, though fluid. It sounds contemporary while still being accessible.

Marion Alsop leads the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in some energized performances. The album opens with "Sukkot: Through Orion's Nebula." Sukkot means Feast of Tabernacles in Hebrew. Lee also takes it to mean festivities. Sukkot is the most abstract work on the release, and the most exuberant. It's a perfect concert opener. 

A Different Solider's Tale was inspired by Lee's grandfather. He had served in World War II. His experiences as an African-American soldier were very different from his white comrades-in-arms. Lee's music illustrates the action and emotions effectively.

Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan ends the program. It's a tone poem inspired by the life of Harriet Tubman. According to Lee, "chuphshah" means freedom from slavery. (I misread it as chutzpah, which means something very different -- but still applies to Tubman, I think.) 

Lee quotes from Negro spirituals, Dixie, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. But these motifs are continuously transformed, aiding the narrative. It's an exciting work, and a contemplative one, too.

Highly recommended. 

Voyages: Orchestral music by James Lee III
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor
AVIE Records AV2507

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Adrian Butterfield consistently delivers with Leclair sonatas

Jean-Marie Leclair published twelve sonatas in his Opus 5 collection. This release presents sonatas 5 through 8 of the set. I reviewed the previous installment in this series, which included sonatas 1-3. 

In many ways, this release follows through with the standards set by that release.

Violin Adrian Butterfield shows remarkable musicality and technique with his performances. Leclair was a violin virtuoso. He wrote these works for professional musicians, not amateurs. 

Butterfield nicely handles Leclair's technical challenges. At the same time, he plays with expressive sensitivity, each phrase thoughtful shaped. 

All that was true of the previous volume. What makes this one stand out is the music itself. I can't quite explain why, but I think this set of sonatas is better written. They sound a little less fussy than Nos. 1-4. And they seem to have more cleanly-defined melodies. 

Both volumes are worth a listen. but if you only have the budget to buy one, I'd recommend this release. 

Jean-Marie Leclair: Violin Sonatas, Book 3, Op. 5, Nos. 5-8
Adrian Butterfield, violin
Sarah McMahon, cello; Silas Wollston, harpsichord
Naxos 8.574351

Friday, September 16, 2022

#ClassicsaDay #FallConcert Week 2

 What's on the program for your local performing arts organization? The Classics a Day team wants to know! For the month of September, you're invited to post a work that your local symphony, chamber music ensemble, or choral society will be performing this fall. 

There's a lot of great music-making going on. Let's share it all!

I live in Central Virginia, so my posts showcase concerts in that area. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and imagination of the programming. (I hope you will be, too.) Here are my posts for the second week of #FallConcert

09/12/22 Emilie Meyer: Overture No. 2 in D

The Albermarle Symphony Orchestra (Charlottesville, VA) will perform this work on Nov. 19. Their season opener is a concert of all female composers.

09/13/22 Camille Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33

This is the featured work for the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra's (Waynesboro, VA) opening concert. Jennifer Kloetzel, founding member of the Cypress String Quartet is the soloist.

09/14/22 Franz Schubert: Rosamunde Overture

This piece will be featured in the first concert of the Charlottesville Symphony. It takes place on September 24.

09/15/22 Florence Price: Symphony No. 1 in E minor

The Albermarle Symphony will be playing this at their November 19th concert. Unfortunately (IMHO), they'll only be doing "selected movements." Still...

09/16/22 John Williams: Elegy for Cello and Orchestra

The Waynesboro Symphony will be playing this at their October 1st concert. Jennifer Kloetzel is the soloist.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Simone Lamsma recovers Rautavaara's Lost Landscapes

This release features works written in the final years of Rautavaara's life. In 2004 a ruptured blood vessel brought him near to death -- and six months in the ICU. That experience changed the composer's creative output. It affected the types of music he wrote and their emotional centers. 

Violinist Simone Lamsma plays a selection of these late works for violin and orchestra. Her playing has an exceptionally fluid and luminous tone. Rautavaar's music always has an ethereal quality to it. Lamsna embodies it in her performances. 

This is especially true in the Two Serenades. Rautavaara left these pieces unfinshed at the time of his death. In this composition, he revisits music from early in his career. 

The music's reinterpreted and given added emotional depth. And it's colored with a hint of sadness. Rautavaar's student Kavali Aho completed and orchestrated these serenades. 

And they are ravishing. Lamsma's playing is heartbreaking at times. Robert Trevino leads the Malmö Symphony Orchestra in some truly fine performances.    

The title track, "Lost Landscapes" is an elegiac piece. Rautavaara recalls in music significant places that shaped him as a composer. Movements include musical portraits of Tanglewood; Ascona, where he studied 12-tone technique, his apartment in Vienna, and his home at West 23rd St in New York. And while the movements have a trace of nostalgia, there's also a sense of saying goodbye.

I'm a fan of Rautavaara's music, so of course, I loved this release. But if you have yet to experience his music, I recommend "Lost Landscapes." It's just gorgeous music full of honest emotion. 

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Lost Landscapes
Works for Violin and Orchestra
Simone Lamsma, violin
Malmö Symphony Orchestra; Robert Trevino, conductor

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Niklay Shugaev excels with underrated 20th Century cello works

The three works have one thing in common. They're all works for cello and orchestra, composed by Italians in the mid-20th Century. And that's about all they have in common. 

Gian Malipiero's work is a full-blown cello concerto. Giorgio Ghedini's is a neo-classical composition for two cellos (and orchestra). Alfredo Cansala's is an unassuming Notturne e Tarantella

Niklay Shugaev is the principal cellist for all three works. He plays with a rich, singing tone. Sugaev adapts his playing to the style of the composer, emphasizing their differences. 

Dmitri Prokofiev joins him for the Ghedini work. His playing style is different than Shugaev's yet complimentary to it. And it fits perfectly with the intent of the music.

"L'Oment" (The Elm Grove) represents two herbs that appear to grow separately. Yet underneath the ground their roots intertwine, nourishing each other. The two cellos -- as the herbs -- do just that. Their lines intertwine, harmonizing and supporting each other. Shugaev and Prokofiev blend while retaining their individuality. 

Malipiero's brother was a renowned cellist. And that's who this concerto was written for. Shugaev plays the work with aggressive exuberance. It left me with the impression that this music was both fun and rewarding to play. It certainly was to listen to. 

Gian Francesco Malipiero: Cello Concerto
Giorgio Federico Ghedini: L'Omenta
Niklay Shugaev, cello
Dmitrii Prokfiev, cello
Rostov Academic Symphony Orchdestra; Valentin Uryupin, conductor

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Naxos launches Claudio Santoro Symphonic Series

How familiar are you with classical music outside Europe? I thought I was pretty well-versed. I could even name some composers from Brazil -- like Heitor Villa-Lobos. But I wasn't at all familiar with his contemporary, Claudio Santoro. And that's some oversight. 

Over the course of his life, Santoro served about every musical role in Brazil. He was a violin virtuoso and child prodigy. He began concertizing at 17. And he joined the faculty of the Conservatory Music of the Federal District two years later. 

Santoro traveled to France and studied with Nadia Boulenger. At 31 he was first violinist for the Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra.

He composed and conducted for Brazilian Radio. Santoro toured as a conductor. Santoro also founded the Chamber Orchestra for the Radio Ministry of Education. He spent a lifetime educating, presenting, and performing music in Brazil. 

And he composed continually. This release is the first installment in a new Naxos series of Santoro's symphonies. He wrote his first in 1939 at age 20. And he finished his fourteenth and final symphony in 1989, the year of his death. 

The release features his Fifth Symphony and Seventh Symphony, "Brasilia."  The Fifth Symphony premiered in 1955. It's a well-constructed work. Its tonal foundation makes the symphony easily accessible. Santoro develops his themes in imaginative ways, keeping the sound fresh and engaging. 

Symphony No. 7, from 1960, commemorates the foundation of Brazilia, Brazil. This work mixes traditional Brazilian melodies and rhythms with European forms. Yes, Villa-Lobos did the same thing, but the results are different. Santoro has a unique voice. And one worth paying attention to. 

The Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Neil Thomson deliver some excellent performances. Santoro may not be a household name here in the states. But in Brazil, he's a major musical figure. I'm sure this music is quite familiar to the players. 

Classical music can be a universal language. And one that can be adapted to the aesthetics of virtually any culture. Santoro demonstrates that with these two works. And I'm sure they're not isolated examples, either. This is a series I'm eager to follow.    

Claudio Santoro: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 1
Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra; Neil Thomson, conductor
Naxos 8.574402

Friday, September 09, 2022

#ClassicsaDay #FallConcert Week 1

 What's on the program for your local performing arts organization? The Classics a Day team wants to know! For the month of September, you're invited to post a work that your local symphony, chamber music ensemble, or choral society will be performing this fall. 

There's a lot of great music-making going on. Let's share it all!

I live in Central Virginia, so my posts showcase concerts in that area. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and imagination of the programming. (I hope you will be, too.) Here are my posts for the first week of #FallConcert 

09/05/22 Ina Boyle: Violin Concerto

The Albermarle Symphony Orchestra (Charlottesville, VA) will perform this work on Nov. 19. Wanchi, Professor of Violin at James Madison University is the violin soloist.

9/06/22 Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in F major

The Charlottesville Symphony performs this work on September 24. Elizabeth Roberts, the symphony's principal bassoonist, will be the soloist.

09/07/22 Cesar Franck: Le chasseur maudit

The Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra (Waynesboro, VA) is performing this on October 1. It's in celebration of Franck's bicentennial.

09/08/22 Caroline Shaw: Thousandth Orange

This is on the opening program for the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. It will be performed tonight!

09/09/22 Missy Mazzoli: Sinfonia (for orbiting spheres)

The Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra opens its season with this work on September 24. The orchestra is comprised of University of Virginia music faculty and students, and community members.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Classics of American Romanticism Worth Revisiting

When did American classical music begin? Sooner than you might think. Long before Aaron Copland -- and even Charles Ives -- composers were looking to create a national voice. George Frederick Bristow and William Henry Fry were two such pioneers. Fry was the first native-born American to compose symphonic works. 

His 1854 Niagra Symphony is really more of a tone poem. This twelve-minute piece effectively depicts the roiling waters of Niagra Falls. While the orchestral effects are there, the actual content struck me a little thin.

More successful, I think, is Bristow's "Arcadian" Symphony. Bristow joined the fledgling New York Philharmonic in 1842 at age 17 as a violinist. He eventually became concertmaster. 

Bristow was passionate about creating an American style of classical music. His goal was to create an art form that would be on par with the European repertoire he played with the New York Phil. 

His symphony has a distinctively mid-19th Century American theme. It depicts the arrival of settlers to the New World, their exploration, conflict with Native Americans, and eventual taming of the new land. 

From a 21st Century perspective, the program is problematic. And the Scherzo, "Indian War Dance and Attack by Indians" especially so. Bristow makes no attempt to recreate authentic Native American music. Rather, it's a slightly exotic version of his Eurocentric style (just with more drums). 

For those willing to accept the symphony as a product of its time, it's worth a listen. Bristow channels Mendelssohn, and his orchestrations are clean and effective. He also lays out some clear-cut themes, with he develops throughout the work. 

Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now give these works some solid performances. If some sections sound a little clunky, it's the writing, not the playing. Highly recommended to anyone curious about the origins of America's classical music tradition. It's older than you might think.

Classics of American Romanticism
George Frederick Bristow: Symphony No. 4 "Arcadian"
William Henry Fry: Niagra Symphony
The Orchestra Now: Leon Botstein, conductor
Bridge Records 9572

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Johann Wilms Piano Concertos Rescued from Obscurity

Not much remains of the legacy of Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772–1847). He was a major figure in Amsterdam, admired both as a composer and a pianist. He premiered the concertos of his contemporaries, Mozart and Beethoven, to great acclaim.

He was a professor at the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Instituut voor Wetenschappen. He judged composition contests and wrote several influential articles on music.

And Wilms composed. He wrote at least seven symphonies, five piano concertos, and a raft of chamber music. He also wrote the Dutch national anthem. Yet after his death, Wilms' music all but disappeared. It wasn't just a lack of performances.  His manuscripts were not curated, and several have disappeared. 

Wilms' catalog of works is only an approximation of his actual output. That's what makes this release so exciting (at least for me). It's volume one of Johann Wilms' piano concertos. 

It's music worth exploring. Wilms was a talented player, and his concertos show his skill. Stylistically, these concertos land between Mozart and early Beethoven. Wilms' concertos all have clean, simple forms. The melodies are straightforward, yet still manage to surprise. 

Ronald Brautigam performs on a fortepiano. I don't normally enjoy this instrument, but Brautigam's fortepiano is up to the task. The action is virtually silent, and the instrument holds the pitches quite well. All that comes through is the distinctive timber of the instrument (as opposed to that of a modern piano).

The Kölner Akademie, directed by Michael Alexander Willens, is in fine form. Willens keeps the ensemble light on its feet. And he leans into the Mozartian elements of Wilms' music.

Would Wilms have been as successful in Vienna as he was in Amsterdam? Hard to say. Other composer/pianists went toe-to-toe with Beethoven and lost. But Wilms' music is well-crafted. And these concertos are certainly undeserving of the obscurity they were consigned to. 

I'm very much looking forward to volume two. 

Johann Wilhelm Wilms Piano Concertos, Volume 1
Piano Concerto in E major, Op. 3; Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 12; Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 26
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, conductor

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Early George Enescu Chamber Works Satisfy

This release presents two chamber works by George Enescu. Both come from early in his career. The Piano Quartet No. 1, and the Piano Trio. 

Piano Quartet No. 1 in D major is representative of Enescu's music at the time. It has rich, post-Romantic harmonies. And the melodies share some characteristics with Romanian folk music. 

The piano quartet was published in 1909. Enescu wouldn't return to the form until 1930. And when he did, his compositional style had significantly changed.

The work is paired with the Piano Trio in A minor. Enescu wrote the work around 1911 but never published it. The trio was discovered in 1965, among the late composer's papers. 

The trio complements the quartet nicely. The texture is thinner, of course. The harmonies also seem leaner as well. Overall the piece seems to have a restlessness to it -- especially as performed here. 

The four musicians on this release perform well together. Violinist Stefan Tarara plays expressively, yet with restraint. Pianist Josu De Solaun provides solid support for the strings without overpowering them. 

And Molly Carr (viola) and Eun-Sun Hong (cello) also deserve mention. All four (or three in the case of the trio) present unified visions of these works. 

And that makes them all the more enjoyable. If you're looking for 20th Century music that isn't afraid of beauty, give this a listen. 

George Enescu: Piano Quartet No. 1; Piano Trio
Stefan Tarara, violin; Molly Carr, viola;
Eun-Sun Hong, cello; Josu De Solaun, piano

Friday, September 02, 2022

#ClassicsaDay #FunintheSun Week 5

We couldn't let the season go by without having some kind of summer-related theme. The Classics a Day team chose to catch some rays this August. And to find out how many classical composers did so with their music. 

Of course, any summer-related topic is fair game, too. Here are my posts for the fifth and final week of #FunintheSun.

8/29/22 Frederick Delius - A Song of Summer

Delius completed this tone poem in 1931. It was based on a 1918 work. Delius had lost most of the score, and his reconstruction became "A Song of Summer." 

8/30/22 Ferde Grofé - Grand Canyon Suite

The opening and closing movements of this suite are "Sunrise" and "Sunset." Grofé wrote this piece in 1929, and it was premiered by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. 


8/31/22 Frederick Delius - Summer Night on the River

This is part of Delius' "Two Pieces for Orchestra." It premiered with its companion piece "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" in 1913. It wasn't long before each was programmed separately, as they often are today. 


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