. Interchanging Idioms: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alan Gilbert's conducting scores triumph in Return to Berlin

Performance Lives on in the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall

Gilbert’s Next Performances, Back with NY Phil, Will Include Martinu’s Fourth Symphony, Mahler’s First Symphony, and World Premiere of Peter Lieberson’s The World in Flower

When Alan Gilbert made an unscheduled debut conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in 2006 (replacing the indisposed Bernard Haitink at short notice) few people would have imagined that his next appearance before Berlin’s greatest symphony orchestra would be as Music Director Designate of the New York Philharmonic. Having welcomed him as a “podium god” the first time around, the press was prepared for his triumphant return to the Philharmonie on April 18.

Berlin’s Morgenpost review headline reads: “Martinu Rediscovered in the Philharmonie … Why wander so far afield when the good – the very good – is so close at hand?” The review begins:

“The New York Philharmonic made an especially happy selection with Alan Gilbert as its next chief conductor. ... Gilbert returned to the Berlin Philharmonic’s podium, where he stood as a substitute several years ago, and demonstrated everything he has as a conductor and musician. They’re not often the same thing. He ripped Bohuslav Martinu from the perpetual twilight that has been so negligently inflicted upon him, and, with an enlightened performance of the Fourth Symphony, demonstrated the gravitas, greatness, and originality of this master. … A musical panorama of great density came to the fore; for Gilbert and the curious orchestra (which last played this symphony 20 years ago) knew exactly how to put it across – with utmost intensity.”

Luckily, music lovers around the world will – for the price of a ticket to a movie – be able to hear the performance online, where it is available in the Berlin Philharmonic’s new Digital Concert Hall. A trailer is available now and the full concert – including a pre-recorded intermission segment featuring Gilbert discussing the program with BPO flutist Emmanuel Pahud – will be posted shortly. Here’s the link: http://dch.berliner-philharmoniker.de/#/en/concertarchiv/archiv/2009/4/t27/

Before arriving in Berlin , Gilbert conducted Germany ’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, of which he is principal guest conductor, in a series of concerts of Debussy, Ravel, Haydn, and Strauss in Hamburg and Kiel . The Hamburg Abendblatt noted that the French Impressionists were treated to “particular devotion … . Gilbert led the magically performed Nocturnes with wonderfully subtle colors. [Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé] Suites grew from fluffy sound-formations, via the superb woodwind solos, to orgiastic final dances.”

Die Welt went even farther, praising Gilbert’s especially well-designed program (Salome’s dance preceded her monologue, with Strauss’s “orientalism” balancing the perfumes of French “antiquity”):

“The journey through the sensually dazzling aural landscapes of the turn of the previous century began in the dreamscape that opens the first Daphnis et Chloé Suite. … The NDR Chorus was astonishing as it followed the composer’s instruction to ‘sing as if from a distance’. … The wind soloists and chorus attained a peak of atmospheric sound-art in Debussy’s Three Nocturnes … . Thomas Hengelbrock, whose appointment as the NDR’s next chief conductor was announced the same day, is taking on quite an inheritance.”

A reviewer in Kiel, Germany ’s northernmost city, sounded somewhat envious of New York ’s next Philharmonic Music Director: “Gilbert demonstrated once again how he manages to transform the NDR into a sinuously organic, shimmering Ravel orchestra.”

Alan Gilbert returns to the New York Philharmonic on April 30 for a pair of programs. In the first, he reprises the Martinu Fourth Symphony that so impressed Berlin , and will also conduct works by Dvorák and Saint-Saëns (April 30; May 1, 2, and 5). And on May 7, 8, and 9 he leads the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s cantata The World in Flower – a New York Philharmonic commission – with Joyce DiDonato, Russell Braun, and the New York Choral Artists – on a program with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. This is the first time Gilbert has performed a Mahler symphony with the New York Philharmonic, and, as a bonus, the program opens with Mahler’s delightful “Blumine”, a movement originally written for the First Symphony but ultimately removed from it.

Gilbert returns to lead the New York Philharmonic in a number of free summer concerts (July 14–20), including its traditional Concerts in the Parks series, which brings the orchestra to Central Park for two concerts, as well as Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He also leads the Philharmonic in two free indoor concerts in Queens and Staten Island . Alan Gilbert’s final concerts with the Philharmonic before becoming Music Director in September 2009 will take place at the Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival, during the Orchestra’s annual residency there (July 24–31).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Così fan tutte: OperaColorado does Mozart right

If only all other opera companies could accomplish the same quality

Last night was the second performance of Così fan tutte by OperaColorado, a comic opera about the fidelity of lovers by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. While the music may not be Mozart's best, the opera still is a wonderful comic romp through the amorous adventures of two young men and their lovers - a pair of sisters. The alternate title for the opera is La scuola degli amanti (The School For Lovers) using the wit of da Ponte's libretto and the mastery of Mozart's music to give us a lesson in the joy of opera buffa (as well as lessons in fidelity). Così fan tutte is one of the three great operas Mozart wrote with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte (the others being Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni).

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect about the performance was the near perfect blending of voices and orchestra. Carlo Montanaro did a wonderful job leading the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, keeping the instruments light and audible, yet never over-powering the vocalists. Even when Fiordiligi (played by Nicolle Foland) was directed to face into a wall and sing a tender moment in Act II, the words were still paramount with the orchestra providing the sublime accompaniment. We were allowed to hear the beautiful agony in Ms Foland's voice blended perfectly with the orchestra.


Jacques Imbrailo, Leah Summers, Nicolle Foland and Norman Reinhardt
in OperaColorado's Così fan tutte

A great deal of credit is due to the cast as well. Leah Summers, in the role of Dorabella, has beautiful comic timing as well as a stunning voice. The scene leading up to her aria in Act I, Smanie implacabili left me near breathless from laughter. Norman Reinhardt as Ferrando and Jacques Imbrailo as Guglielmo were perfectly matched. Not only did they suit physically, playing off each others actions as if they had been best friends for years, but their voices blended beautifully. Their opening trio with Dale Travis as Don Alfonso really set the stage for an evening of Mozart. Even in Italian the words were clear and yet lyrical, allowing the sentiment of what they were saying to be heard while allowing the wonderful music of Mozart to lilt over the audience. Dale Travis also did well to carry the heavy role of Don Alfonso. He was the first actor on stage and embodied the character from his first step. Susanne Mentzer, in the role of Despina, was spectacular in the role of Despina. Despina assumes a variety of costumes to play out the deceptions orchestrated by Don Alfonso. Ms Mentzer played each new character changing her voice as necessary without losing the music or clarity needed for opera.

The recent trend in opera is to cast singers who can act and OperaColorado did this in spades. Throughout the evening, the laughter of the audience was directly related to the actors on stage. The opera is a comedy, but so much of what they did, from dueling with rolling pins and wire whisks to twitching near death from the effects of poison bordered on farce, perfectly executed for Mozart's opera.

Così fan tutte is filled with asides. This is particularly difficult when singing because there needs to be a noticeable change in the vocal volume and inflection. Norman Reinhardt and Jacques Imbrailo accomplish this beautifully when they jointly sing "Dalla voglia ch'ho di ridere Il polmon mi scoppia or or" (I'm bursting with laughter).

Although it is a comic opera, it has tender moments too. As I mentioned earlier, Ms Foland has a beautiful moment when she turns to the wall and sing, "A chi mai mancò di fede Questo vano ingrato cor? Si dovea miglior mercede, Caro bene, al tuo candor!" (And who is it whom this unworthy heart has betrayed? Dear heart, your trust deserved a better reward!). The emotion in her voice and her body were touching and poignant.

The set by Allen Moyer was an interesting mirrored "box" which set the mood of the lavish room of two aristocratic sisters. It then broke into sections to become a terrace and eventually a church. I found this technically very interesting, although the mirrored effect with the lights occasionally gave the faces an odd glow - something surreal as if from a Fellini film.

David C. Wollard did the costume design. Against the backdrop of the set some of the costumes didn't play as well as perhaps they might. The opening act has the two sisters in pale green print dresses. While the style was perfect for the 1950's concept by director James Robinson, the women tended to fade into the background. In a film, effects with focusing can highlight the foreground which even in black and white, can bring out the characters. On stage the eye needs to be drawn by the costumes.

For the most part, the directing on stage was brilliant. James Robinson was attempting to bring out the comedy, the insanity, the timelessness of the story, while in the end leave us with a sense of ambiguity. Through most of the opera the audience is laughing and enjoying the production. However, there were moments when the actors were placed center stage and just let sing, as during Fiordiligi's aria in Act I, Come scoglio immoto resta (Like a rock standing impervious). While the words say "like a rock", there was so much action leading up to this point with actions highlighting words or providing a double entendre to the words, that it felt as if this aria could have been so much more. Yes, Ms Foland has a beautiful voice. But she can act too (as evidenced in numerous other scenes). So why make the action static at this point?

Let me not be too harsh on the directing or take away from the performance in any way. This was a stunning evening's entertainment and a rare chance to see truly comic opera. At the end of the evening the audience was eager to give a well deserved standing ovation. The cast was allowed to take numerous bows to a very appreciative, nearly sold out audience. I am not certain if there are seats available for the remaining two performances, but you should try to get one at all cost! Così fan tutte by OperaColorado is probably your best chance to see Mozart done right.

Ellie Caulkins Opera House Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis downtown Denver Fri, May 1 at 7:30 pm Sun, May 3 at 2:00 pm Prices: $29-$157 Tickets online: www.OperaColorado.org Tickets by phone: 800-982-ARTS (2787)

Boston Pops Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Legendary Ballets Russes

Keith Lockhart with Special Guest Rebecca Rice Dance Company on May 19 celebrate the centential of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes

May 20 Concert Honors the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of the late Harry Ellis Dickson; Program to also Showcase Winners of the Fidelity Futurestage at Pops Competition, Featuring Four Winning Acts From Boston Public Schools

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops join the city-wide Ballets Russes 2009 festival, and mark the exact centennial of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with a special concert May 19 featuring some of the groundbreaking music the legendary company made famous. Members of the Rebecca Rice Dance Company and Boston Ballet are the evening’s special guests. The May 20 concert is a Tribute to Harry Ellis Dickson, an evening commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of this beloved musical icon, who served as Arthur Fiedler’s associate at the Pops for 44 years. Both concerts also feature vocalist Ashley Brown, star of the Broadway production of Mary Poppins, making her Pops debut with popular song sets.

May 19, BALLET RUSSES
Founded a century ago by Russian impresario and producer Serge Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes was the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, transforming ballet into a vital, modern art form with such groundbreaking classics as The Firebird, Petrushka, and Afternoon of a Faun. For two decades, from 1909 until his death in 1929, Diaghilev nurtured a select group of outstanding choreographers (including Fokine, Nijinsky, and Balanchine) and fostered landmark collaborations with some of the most innovative creators of the day, especially composers. He is credited with launching the international career of Stravinsky by commissioning the 27-year-old composer to score The Firebird, the suite from which opens this special program.

The Rebecca Rice Dance Company, along with a guest dancer from Boston Ballet, contributes a series of dances choreographed by Rice to music by composers who worked for Diaghilev or were influenced by the Ballets Russes, including Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian. Selections include Stravinsky’s “Marche Chinoise,” from Le Chant du Rossignol and the Sabre Dance from Khachaturian’s Gayne. Diaghilev presented not only ballet but also opera productions, which often had choreographic interludes, such as the “Polovetsian Dances” in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, which the Pops and the Rebecca Rice Dance Company will also perform. The evening’s second half is a Tribute to Oscar and Tony, featuring vocalist Ashley Brown singing “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins, as well as other Broadway favorites.

MAY 20, TRIBUTE TO HARRY ELLIS DICKSON AND FIDELITY FUTURESTAGE AT THE POPS
Keith Lockhart and the Pops pay tribute to one of the orchestra’s most beloved conductors, the late Harry Ellis Dickson, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. For 44 years, Mr. Dickson served as assistant and associate conductor of the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler and John Williams and associate conductor laureate under Keith Lockhart. Mr. Dickson was also responsible for bringing the tradition of the Youth Concerts back to Symphony Hall in 1959, after their initial introduction in the 1888-89 season; he continued conducting the concerts until 1995, when he was named Youth Concerts Conductor Laureate. The May 20 Pops concert features a film tribute to the conductor, as well as many of Mr. Dickson’s favorite music selections, including the beloved overture to Leonard Bernstein’s Candide and Copland’s powerful Lincoln Portrait.

Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and Mr. Dickson’s son-in law, is the work’s narrator for this concert. This program also honors Mr. Dickson’s legacy of promoting young classical musicians, showcasing the winners of the Fidelity FutureStage at the Pops competition. Four winning acts from Boston public high schools will perform, representing a wide range of performance styles: jazz, classical, pop, and Broadway. Vocalist Ashley Brown contributes a set of popular songs, and the evening’s finale is a lively Sound of Music Sing Along.

TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for the 2009 Boston Pops are priced from $20 to $89.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.bostonpops.org or by phone through SymphonyCharge at 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with a $5.50 handling fee for each ticket ordered online or by phone). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Symphony Hall box office, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 1 p.m. through the first concert intermission on concert dates. Most major credit cards, personal checks, and cash are accepted at the box office. For Group Sales of 25 or more, please call 617-638-9345 or 800-933-4255.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert-ticket treasure hunt

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has hidden two novels in secret locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh this week, each containing a pair of tickets to SCO concerts in the cities on 8 and 9 May. Clues to the location of the books will be posted online this Friday 1 May, at The Lost Book - www.thelostbook.net. Visitors to the website can follow the trail of clues to lead them to the free books and concert tickets.

The two novels to be ‘set free’ are Robin Jenkin’s Changeling and Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville, both of which have been donated by sponsors Canongate Books. The books will be released by two SCO musicians who performed on soundtracks to The Lost Book - flautist Alison Mitchell and cellist Su-a Lee.

The finders of the two books will be encouraged to pass the books after reading, using the popular website www.bookcrossing.com, and will find in the books a pair of tickets to the world premiere performances of Icelandic composer Halfidi Hallgrímsson’s new double bass concerto at Glasgow City Halls on Friday 8 May and Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on Saturday 9 May.

The plot of the first episode of The Lost Book was written by animators Binary Fable, who also design the animation for each subsequent episode. The rest of the story remains in the hands of the public who comment and vote on the website. Together, people from all around the world have taken decisions big and small, from t-shirt slogans to major plotlines. Each month between January and July, the storylines will be pulled together into the next episode, animated and published online.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has commissioned three composers to score the music for the web series. Each composer is writing the original soundtrack for two episodes and the resulting compositions are being recorded by musicians from the Orchestra.

The SCO is also running a soundtrack competition open to composers of any age, all over the world. The challenge is to write new music for episode one of The Lost Book. Resources for entrants include tips from composer Alexis Bennett and sound designer Stephen Gilmour.

BASS NOTES
KODáLY Dances of Galánta
HALLGRíMSSON ‘Sonnambulo’ Concerto Op 42 for Double Bass - World premiere
BARTóK Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste (Sz 106)

Baldur Brönnimann, conductor
Nicholas Bayley, double bass

Friday 8 May, 7:30pm Glasgow City Halls
Tickets £12, concessions available: Glasgow’s Concert Halls Box Office 0141 353 8000

Saturday 9 May, 7:30pm Edinburgh Queen’s Hall
Tickets £12, concessions available: Queen’s Hall Box Office 0131 668 2019.

Guildhall School’s Faculty Artist Series with countertenor Andrew Watts

Guildhall School professors are leaders in their fields, pre-eminent in teaching, performing, recording and research. In 2008, the Guildhall School launched a series of performances by senior professors, giving public, staff and students the opportunity to see these leading musicians perform in the intimate setting of the School.

Professor of Voice Andrew Watts takes to the stage on 7 May, in the last Faculty Artist recital of the academic year, following on from the successes of Deputy Head of Strings Louise Hopkins and David Corkhill, Professor of Timpani and Percussion.

Andrew Watts’ previous engagements include operatic appearances with the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin, and the Teatro La Fenice, Venice. He has appeared at an array of prestigious festivals including Glyndebourne, Almeida Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, Batignano Festival and the Dresden Music Festival. Andrew’s concert engagements include performances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Edinburgh International Festival and the Hanover Band at the Wigmore Hall. Andrew is also an established recording artist and broadcasts regularly in England and abroad. Recordings include an acclaimed edition of Boyce’s Ode For St Cecilia’s Day with The Hanover Band for ASV and Lost Objects for Teldec.

7 May 2009, 7.30pm, Guildhall School Music Hall
Andrew Watts countertenor
Linnhe Robertson piano

Songs by Dowland, Tippet, Wolf, Howells, Gurney, Quilter, Adès, Richard Strauss, Duparc, Hahn, Yiu, Purcell arr. Britten and Porter

Unreserved tickets: £15 (£10 concessions) available from the Barbican Box Office 0845 120 7500

Baltimore Symphony Musicians Donate $1 Million in Salary and Benefit Concessions

Collaborative “Music Matters” Campaign Challenges Community to Raise $2 Million in Matching Gifts

Inspired by an extraordinary act of generosity by its musicians, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announced an unprecedented fundraising initiative called “Music Matters: Play Your Part” designed to garner additional public support to ensure that the BSO weathers the current economic recession. This historic initiative is spurred by the BSO musicians, who voluntarily donated $1 million in savings through wage and pension rate freezes, unpaid furloughs, deferment of filling certain orchestra vacancies, and $24,000 in annual fund contributions (the latter achieved through 100% participation from all 93 musicians.) These concessions represent an 8% reduction in the salary and benefits package the orchestra players were scheduled to receive in the 2009-2010 season. In response to the musicians’ generosity, the BSO challenges the public to raise 2:1 matching funds, or $2 million in new money (defined as new or increased gifts) in the coming months. A collaborative campaign of this nature is unparalleled at the BSO and has already generated $675,000 in gifts from Baltimore Symphony supporters, including a leadership gift of $50,000 from Music Director Marin Alsop. This extraordinary donor support puts the BSO roughly a third of the way toward its $2 million fundraising goal.

“For me, during these times of economic crisis, we have a unique opportunity to reassess what we truly value. Music is one of those intangible experiences that are impossible to quantify. But with a small investment, the rewards can be life-changing. It is a matter of urgency that the community-at-large rallies around cultural treasures like the BSO. I am so pleased to join the Musicians of the BSO in taking proactive measures towards securing the Orchestra’s future through this initiative.” - Marin Alsop, Music Director

BSO Players Committee Chair and piccolo player Laurie Sokoloff explains the musicians’ motivation, “The Baltimore Symphony is thriving; unfortunately, the economy is not. The musicians are so appreciative of the current BSO leadership, which has done everything possible to steady the BSO’s course. We understand that [President & CEO] Paul Meecham and his team and the board are now dealing with economic pressures not of their making. The musicians proposed this campaign because we want to do our part to help. I feel confident the communities we serve in Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. area will step up to make a statement about the value and joy a professional world-class symphony orchestra brings to their lives.”

Leading up to the launch of this campaign, the BSO underwent two rounds of cost-cutting this season to minimize the economic impact of external factors. Decreased funding from the State of Maryland combined with a diminished endowment necessitated reduced spending in all areas. In recent months, the BSO laid off five staff members (representing 11% of its full-time employees), converted another from full-time to part-time, instituted a two-week furlough for administrative staff and implemented a series of reductions in general administrative and artistic expenses. These cost savings have already netted $1,000,000 in savings and were applied toward the BSO FY09 operating budget of $28.3 million.

“Earlier this season, we took preemptive and responsible steps toward reducing our expenses, but it’s now clear that in this economy we need to do more. When Laurie [Sokoloff, BSO Players’ Committee Chair] approached me about musicians volunteering these financial sacrifices, I was truly moved. This campaign is a creative way toward resolving our current financial challenges. The orchestra’s proactive steps to secure the continued solvency of the institution is further evidence that the degree of collaboration and harmony between the BSO management, the board and the musicians has never been greater.” - President and CEO Paul Meecham

Along with these cutbacks, additional funds are needed to reduce a projected deficit in the current fiscal year and to offset potential further shortfalls in earned and contributed support, thus ensuring the BSO can balance its budget in FY10.

BSO board chair Michael Bronfein emphasizes the urgency of acting now. “Like me, I know many Marylanders who are proud to live in a region that boasts such rich cultural life and I am committed to ensuring that the Baltimore Symphony thrives for future generations. A powerful sense of momentum is propelling the BSO forward and we mustn’t let the recession impede that positive energy. Over the past three years, the Orchestra has erased its accumulated operating deficit, balanced the budget for two consecutive years and welcomed Music Director Marin Alsop, whose tenure has met with unequivocal success. I applaud the musicians for the generosity and foresight they demonstrated by proposing this creative solution. The communities that support the Orchestra are incredibly loyal and generous, so I have every confidence we’ll weather this recession and emerge stronger.”
HOW TO PLAY YOUR PART

The Baltimore Symphony encourages the public to participate in this important initiative by making a donation either as a first-time gift or increasing a current commitment. To donate, visit www.BSOmusic.org/MusicMatters or call the BSO Membership Hotline at 410.783.8124.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings Schumann: two song cycles
Frauenliebe und -leben and Liederkreis - new recording from naïve

“What a luscious and luminous recital! Alto Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s voice is lush and lovely with effortless skill combined with a full-bodied tone … .Pianist Daniel Blumenthal is at once a support and a guide for Lemieux’s ardent interpretations and the result is immensely compelling.” – All Music Guide review of Lemieux’s all-French recital album, L’heure exquise

The acclaimed Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings two major song cycles by Robert Schumann (1810-56), and four other songs by the composer (“Der Nussbaum”, “Er ist’s”, “Loreley”, and “Widmung”), on a new recording from naïve. Pianist Daniel Blumenthal accompanies Lemieux in the Liederkreis (Op. 39) and Frauenliebe und -leben (Op. 42), both written in 1840 when Schumann, who had long avoided the song genre, suddenly threw himself into writing Lieder with a surpassing passion – 138 songs in 1840 alone! “I can do nothing else; I’d like to sing myself to death, like a nightingale,” he declared to his beloved Clara at the time.

The twelve songs of Liederkreis are settings of poems by Joseph von Eichendorff, and Schumann described this “circle of songs” as the most romantic of his works. Claire Badiou explains in the liner notes that “the composer found in the poetry of his contemporary the whole thematic repertory of Romanticism. Schumann’s cycle presents no intelligible narrative framework, no linear evolution or plot; it derives its unity, rather, from an atmosphere, a special ‘Stimmung’, which envelops each of the episodes.”

Badiou goes on to observe, “The organization of Frauenliebe und -leben is noticeably different, in that the work’s cyclic character was already imposed on it by the poetic text [by Chamisso] ... The verse reflects the aesthetic of the Biedermeier period in evoking the successive stages in a woman’s life: burgeoning first love, amorous ecstasy, engagement, marriage, motherhood, and conjugal fidelity that continues after the husband’s death.”

In 2000, at the age of 24, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux became the first Canadian to win First Prize as well as the Special Prize for Lieder at the Queen Elisabeth Intern ational Music Competition of Belgium. Winning this prestigious award opened the door to an immediate international career, allowing her to perform in recital and with many great orchestras around the world. She has appeared on numerous naïve recordings, including, most recently, Vivaldi’s La fida ninfa, the latest opera release in the label’s landmark Vivaldi Edition. L’heure exquise, her recital of French songs by Hahn, Chausson, and Debussy, received the highest rating from ClassicsToday.com – 10/10 for Artistic Quality/Sound Quality:

“Times are great for fans of mezzos and contraltos, especially ones who perform song recitals as well as opera and oratorio roles. And among today’s several young stars, Quebec-born Marie-Nicole Lemieux has the versatility, technique, artistic instincts, and, of course, the voice to ensure a long and illustrious career … . This is a first-rate recital by a truly extraordinary singer. Accompanist Daniel Blumenthal is a perfect partner, as you never notice a note or dynamic or aspect of phrasing out of sync with Lemieux. Solo singing rarely if ever gets better than this, and the quality of the recording matches the high standard of the performances.”

Lemieux also sang sacred vocal music by Vivaldi in a release last season with Ensemble Matheus under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi. The New York Times observed, “In the more austere Stabat Mater, Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings with a gripping sense of drama, her darkly rich, agile contralto illuminating the text with anguish and passion.”

Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42; Liederkreis, Op. 39; and other songs
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto
Daniel Blumenthal, piano
V 5159
Available in the U.S. on April 28 from naïve

Handel Overtures, Arias, and Duets Featuring Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo with Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano

On their new all-Handel album, soprano Sandrine Piau and contralto Sara Mingardo sing duets from Handel’s operas Poro, re dell’Indie, Orlando , Radamisto, Tamerlano, Rinaldo, and Ottone, re di Germania with Concerto Italiano under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini. Additional tracks feature overtures and arias from Handel’s Flavio, Ezio, Alessandro, and Amadigi di Gaula.

Piau’s all-Handel recital for naïve, Opera Seria, with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques was a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” in January 2005. Reviewer David Vickers summed up the album’s attractions succinctly: “This is without doubt the finest recital of Handel arias I have ever heard.”

Sara Mingardo has an extensive and distinguished discography with naïve that includes a recital of arias by Handel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and other Baroque composers with Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano. That album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection (December 2004). The headline of David Vickers’s review read: “Spellbinding – a Baroque singer’s art at its most gorgeous and intense.”

From the liner notes by Philippe Venturini

“Let’s enjoy ourselves!” That’s what the artists decided to do, recalls Sandrine Piau. Before thinking about the composition of the program, the selection and ordering of the arias, the two singers began with a desire to make music together. Yet they hadn’t seen very much of each other previously. They had recently appeared together in a concert of cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Handel, and Porpora, in the company of Rinaldo Alessandrini.

“I immediately felt vocal and musical affinities with Sara,” says Sandrine enthusiastically. And Sara Mingardo felt she was “in harmony” with Sandrine Piau, whom she regards as “the greatest interpreter of Handel” and with whom she “can sight-read a score very fast and immediately share the same phrasings.” With the two voices in perfect agreement to set out on this adventure, they needed to settle on a destination. The 19th century, which they both visit regularly despite their profile as “Baroque specialists”? No, that didn’t suit either of them. Then the promising subject of Handel opera came up, and quickly convinced both ladies. “Sara’s low register, as a true contralto and not a mezzo-soprano, was very well suited to the many roles he wrote for castratos,” adds Sandrine Piau.

All that was lacking to weigh anchor and follow a detailed chart was the captain: Rinaldo Alessandrini was the right man for the job. He works regularly with Sara Mingardo, and together they have made several memorable recordings. Sandrine Piau took to him straight away: “It was love at first sight! Italian musicians always have a feeling for lyricism, a wish to preserve the voice, to showcase it, to make it sound its best. And Rinaldo, who sings very well himself, senses exactly whether the tempo suits the voice or not.”

Handel – Overtures, Arias, and Duets
Sandrine Piau, soprano
Sara Mingardo, contralto
Concerto Italiano / Rinaldo Alessandrini
OP 30483
Available in the U.S. on April 28 from naïve

One of Handel’s earliest Italian operas, Rodrigo released by ambroisie

“Al Ayre Español, led by Eduardo López Banzo, plays with beautiful tone, high spirits, and dramatic nuance – the musical performances are altogether first rate and fully satisfying.”– All Music Guide on Al Ayre Español’s previous Handel recording, Amadigi di Gaula

naïve’s sister label, ambroisie, presents a new edition of one of Handel’s Italian-period masterpieces, Rodrigo, with an exceptional cast led by Maria Riccarda Wesseling in the title role, María Bayo as his wife Esilena, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as his young lover Florinda, and Max Emanuel Cencic as Fernando. Following Amadigi di Gaula earlier this year, Rodrigo is the second Handel opera on the label conducted by Eduardo López Banzo. The release follows a European tour with the same cast and orchestra, Al Ayre Español, resulting in an interpretation that will undoubtedly lead to a new understanding of the piece almost exactly 300 years after it was written.

“There can hardly be another Handel opera so fraught with unanswered questions, conjectures, and legends as Rodrigo,” writes Rainer Heyink in his fascinating booklet article on the work’s background and reconstruction. “Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria , o Rodrigo” (To conquer oneself is the greatest victory, or Rodrigo), to give its full title, is one of Handel’s earliest operas, the first he wrote after arriving in Italy in his early 20s. Until recently, despite the magnificence of the music, Rodrigo had been little heard, partly because much of the autograph score remained in fragmentary form and the extensive revisions Handel evidently made, prior to its Florence premiere in 1707, were lost. Over the past 25 years, much has been rediscovered or re-created by various musicologists. For this recording, those sections still missing were replaced as far as possible by musical material from other works by Handel, in an edition reconstructed and published under the auspices of the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. The typical opera seria plot revolves loosely around the political and marital conflicts and complications in the life of a real 8th-century Spanish king – most caused, of course, by his infidelity. His wife’s constancy, forgiveness, and wisdom prove to be everyone’s salvation in the end.

Handel: Rodrigo
Maria Riccarda Wesseling, María Bayo, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, Kobie van Rensburg, Max Emanuel Cencic, Anne-Catherine Gillet
Al Ayre Español / Eduardo López Banzo, harpsichord and conductor
AM 132
Available in the U.S. on April 28 from ambroisie

David Grimal plays Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin

French violinist David Grimal plays the complete set of Bach’s six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (BMV 1001-06) on a new recording from ambroisie. Grimal’s performances of these iconic works by Bach are coupled with composer Brice Pauset’s 2009 Kontrapartita. Pauset, born in Besançon , France in 1965, is cited by Grimal as a key influence in his understanding of Bach’s music.

Grimal speaks at length in the album’s liner notes about his special preparation for this recording – a journey to what he calls “Bach’s magic mountain”, which included his intensive work studying and performing Beethoven’s String Quartets, an earlier live recording he made of Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas, and a Bach tour he made across India. Grimal also provides details of his particular approach to tuning and other technical matters: “What I really needed was a different violin, set up in a Baroque way. But there was no question of exchanging my Stradivarius for another violin! This recording, therefore, is a transcription of Bach’s sonatas and partitas, played on a 1710 Stradivarius with a modern setup, metal strings, and a Francois-Xavier Tourte bow made in the early 19th century.”

In addition to the two CDs, Grimal’s new recording also includes a DVD, featuring a film by Frédéric Delesque in which Grimal performs the complete Partita No. 2 in D minor. This five-movement partita concludes with the famous “Chaconne”, a monumental movement lasting close to 15 minutes that represents, for some, the summit of the solo literature for violin.

Bach composed his six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin while in Köthen in 1720, at around the time he wrote such other works as the Brandenburg Concertos and solo cello suites. The Sonatas each consist of four movements in a slow-fast-slow-fast pattern; the Partitas are suites of dance movements.

Grimal concludes his contribution to the liner notes with this poetic view of Bach’s music: “Although ‘Bach cries out’, he made his peace with the world through music. He used it to describe the world, and his ‘string theory’ resolved the ontological gap between the infinitely small and infinitely large; he speaks to us of the timeless moment of the eternal beginning. God, mankind, nature, simplicity rather than complexity, and life above all. It is the contour of the world under the shining stars.”

David Grimal was born in 1973 in Paris and started to play the violin at the age of five. He won the First Prize in violin and chamber music at the Paris Conservatory in 1993. Afterwards he did postgraduate studies with Regis Pasquier, as well as with such personalities as Philipp Hirschhorn (to whom his new Bach recording is dedicated), Shlomo Mintz, and Isaac Stern.

Bach / Grimal
Bach: Sonatas and Partitas
Brice Pauset: Kontrapartita
David Grimal, violin
V 5159
Two CDs-plus-DVD set available in the U.S. on April 28 from ambroisie

Nelson Freire joins Mario Venzago and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 4

Long a favorite of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra audiences, Mario Venzago (pictured right) conducts the orchestra through Beethoven's sublime Piano Concerto No. 4 with the award winning Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire (pictured left). The evenings program also includes brings the spiritually uplifting Third Symphony of Bruckner.

Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto was premiered in March of 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Coriolan Overture and the fourth symphony were premiered in that same concert. However, the public premiere was not until 22 December 1808 in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien. Beethoven again took the stage as soloist. This was part of a marathon concert which saw Beethoven's last appearance as a soloist with orchestra, as well as the premieres of the Choral Fantasy and the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to his friend, student, and patron, the Archduke Rudolph.

A review in the May 1809 edition of Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung states that "[this concerto] is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever." After its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn. Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, considered one of the central works of the piano concerto literature - and one of the few that starts with solo piano.

Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 in D minor was dedicated to Richard Wagner and is sometimes known as his "Wagner Symphony". Although the premiere of the piece was not well received causing Bruckner to revise the music numerous times, it is considered to possess "a majestic momentum."

Friday, May 1, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. The Music Center at Strathmore
Sunday, May 3, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Mario Venzago, conductor
Nelson Freire, piano

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (1889 version)

Tickets range from $25-$85.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baltimore Symphony Associates’ 33rd Annual Decorators’ Showhouse

Sunday, April 26, 2009 through Sunday, May 17, 2009--1121 S. Rolling Rd., Catonsville, MD 21228
Hours: Tu, W, F, Sat: 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.; Th: 10:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. ; Sun: 12:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.

Featuring Maryland’s leading interior designers, the Show House is an annual fundraiser to benefit the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s education programs. Baltimore architect William F. Stone, Jr. designed the “Arden House” in 1927 using stucco and stone exteriors with half-timbering, numerous Tudor arches and leaded glass elements combine to make it a fine example of Tudor Revival design.

Tickets are $20 in advance and are available through the BSO Box office 410.783.8000, BSOmusic.org or the following ticket outlets: Graul’s Market, Bill’s Music House, Plymouth Wallpaper, Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, Obects Found, Catonsville Hair Co. and Hair-M Family Hair Care. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Grammy and Golden Globe-Winning Artist Kitaro Provides the Score
for Zhang Yimou's Modern-Day Opera

Impressions of the West Lake to be released April 28th

Impressions of the West Lake is a modern day opera conceived and directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower), the visionary artist behind the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The production is highlighted by music composed by the Grammy and Golden Globe-winning artist Kitaro.

Impressions of the West Lake represents the latest artistic success in the long, storied career of Kitaro. As a Grammy and Golden Globe award-winning artist, this incredibly prolific composer and performer has continued his reign in the international spotlight and at the forefront of musical innovation ever since the release of his debut solo album, Astral Voyage, in 1978. His numerous recording highlights include 1986's Tenku (his U.S. debut), 1987's The Light of the Spirit (a collaboration with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Kitaro's American breakthrough), as well as Sacred Journey of Ku-kai, a multi-volume series of peace-themed albums inspired by the tragedy of 9/11.

Perhaps the single most significant collaboration on Impressions of the West Lake is between Zhang and the opera's composer, Kitaro. This pairing of East-meets-East is a rare combination of two artists at the peak of their creative talents. The opera also marks a reunion for Kitaro and music arranger Randy Miller, the pair's first effort together since the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to Oliver Stone's 1993 film Heaven and Earth. This opera is another impressive credit for Miller, whose lengthy career as a composer, orchestrator, and conductor for films includes such highlights as Without Limits, First Snow, and The Soong Sisters (Best Original Score, Hong Kong Film Award).

Through the course of his career, Kitaro has sold millions of albums, cd's and DVD's worldwide. Kitaro's various sound collaborations and resonant, multi-textured compositions, with their crescendos of passion and oases of serenity, truly defy the constraints of any genre. His pioneering fusion of cultures, techniques and spheres of consciousness is truly his own. With Impression: West Lake, Kitaro continues to explore new, uncharted terrain with his magnificently expansive vision and ever-questing spirit.

More on Impressions of the West Lake - Zhang is known internationally by his film work, the awe-inspiring 2008 Olympic ceremonies (viewed worldwide by several billion people) introduced a vast new audience to Zhang's impressive work in the realm of live musical and dance productions. The Olympic performances were but a mere taste of the splendor that lies in store for viewers of the Opera. Impressions of the West Lake is a breathtaking spectacular of light, dance, and water effects. This work is the latest in an ongoing series of outdoor musical events, which will dazzle to complement, through sound and image, the beautiful majesty of China's natural landscape. The latest Production in the Impression series has been showcased in the town of Yangshuo, near the Li River in the Guangxi province (Impression: Liu Sanjie) and at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (also known as Yulong Mountain) near Lijiang in the Yunnan province (Impression: Lijiang). Impression: West Lake might very well be the most ambitious of these productions to date. It represents nothing short of a soaring imagination, a piece of art that is not only historically and culturally meaningful, but whose beauty transcends the barriers of language and history to appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, united by the immense sense of wonder it imparts.

The opera tells the story of the city of Hangzhou (known as "the paradise under heaven"), located on the shore of West Lake, one of China's most famous fresh water lakes, in the Zhejiang province. In the 13th century, famed explorer Marco Polo deemed Hangzhou to be "the most splendid and luxurious city in the world." Zhang's production has brought increased tourism to the city of Hangzhou and entertained travelers from all around the world with its energy and vitality. West Lake itself has long been famous for inspiring countless generations of Chinese artists and poets--Zhang's production is simply the latest example of that inspiration. The lake and its surroundings are as much an element--a character--of the production, as they are its backdrop. Surrounded on three sides by cascading mountains, the environs provide a stately background to the performance. And the area's unique climate routinely alters the lake's appearance, so that each show is entirely unique and impossible to duplicate.

Through a seamless combination of music and dance, sound and image, the legends of South China come alive in Impressions of the West Lake, along with the essence of Hangzhou's history and culture. While colored lights dance against the night sky, the show's performers dance atop the surface of the lake in five episodes: Making Acquaintance, Falling in love, Parting, Memory and Impression. These episodes tell the story of the White Lady Snake and Xu Xian, an ancient love story, as well as the tragic tale of the Butterfly Lovers, and the life story of the famed Chinese hermit, Lin Fu.

The Opera plays regularly to sell-out audiences. From the start, the show was meticulously designed to be as minimally invasive to its environment as possible. The result is an extremely green production. Zhang's opera is performed on the surface of the lake itself, on a specially constructed stage, in front of the Yue Fei Temple. During the day, this "invisible" stage resides 75 centimeters below the lake's surface, raised to 3 centimeters below the surface for each performance. This allows the opera's infrastructure to remain intact over the long-term without compromising the lake's radiance or interfering with boating activities on the lake. In addition, this unique design provides for the stunning visual of the show's hundreds of performers appearing to dance directly on the water's surface. Additionally, the production has pioneered an individualized sound system, in order to prevent noise pollution on the lake.

Zhang's collaborators on Impressions of the West Lake includes two co-directors, Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue. Wang is a stage director well known in China for the show China National Spirit, staged in the People's Great Hall in 1995, while the multi-award winning Fan is a dancing-art designer and director in the General Political Singing-Dancing Troupe. The show's soundtrack also features rising Chinese pop star Jane Zhang, a gifted young performer who provides stunning vocals to the production. The singer emerged from the 2005 season of the Super Girl contest, a national all-female singing competition in China, where she placed third. She is widely admired for her ability to sing in the high-pitched whistle register, as well as for flawlessly performing songs in several languages, including English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin Chinese.

Intrepid British Violinist Daniel Hope Returns to US
“Terezín/Theresienstadt” Program

with Anne Sofie von Otter and Friends including Performances at Strathmore Hall Arts Center on April 30 and Carnegie’s Zankel Hall in New York City on May 2

“In a business that likes tidy boxes drawn around its commodities, the British violinist Daniel Hope resists categorization.”– New York Times

After concerts in Hartford , CT (Apr 26) and North Bethesda , MD (Apr 30), Daniel Hope returns to New York City this week for a performance on Saturday, May 2 at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. The tour program, “Terezín/Theresienstadt”, teams Hope with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, pianist Bengt Forsberg, and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott for an unforgettable exploration of vocal and chamber works by composers interned during World War II in the notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hope performs Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for violin and piano and Duo for violin and cello as well as Robert Dauber’s Serenade for violin and piano; he also joins Von Otter in a selection of songs.

Hope has long championed the works of composers whose lives were destroyed by the Nazis. Last year, his Deutsche Grammophon recording of music from Theresienstadt met with great acclaim. The album, which featured liner notes by Hope and performances by von Otter, Forsberg, and baritone Christian Gerhaher, was a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection. Britain ’s Guardian called the recording “an eloquent act of homage which cannot fail to move,” and the disc also won France ’s coveted Diapason d’Or prize.

Deutsche Grammophon, for which Hope records exclusively, recently released his latest disc, a collection of lesser-known violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. The new album, described by Gramophone in an “Editor’s Choice” review as “Out-of-season Vivaldi delivered with a winning blend of love and intelligence,” also features an exquisite aria from the opera Andromeda liberata, sung by Anne Sofie von Otter.

Daniel Hope last performed in New York City in February, at one of the grand re-opening celebration concerts for Lincoln Center ’s Alice Tully Hall. The performance featured another of Hope’s special programs, “War and Pieces”. Steve Smith reported on it for the New York Times:

“In a business that likes tidy boxes drawn around its commodities, the British violinist Daniel Hope resists categorization. Mr. Hope, a compelling performer whose work involves standard repertory, new music, raga, and jazz, emphasizes thoughtful engagement over flamboyant display. In his most personal undertakings, he puts classical works within a broader context – not just among other styles and genres but amid history, literature, and drama – to emphasize music’s role as a mirror for struggle and aspiration.

“‘War and Pieces’, a dramatic presentation Mr. Hope conceived with the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, vividly demonstrates that urge. The program, staged by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall on Friday night, paired Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ Overture, composed for a Goethe play about a Flemish revolutionary, with Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale, a wry fable about a soldier who trades his violin (read: his soul) to the Devil for the promise of power and wealth.

“Mr. Hope and six superb young colleagues played Stravinsky’s lean, jazzy score with dazzling virtuosity and bite. Mr. Brandauer, narrating in English translation and discreetly amplified, was eccentric and riveting. The soldier barked, sputtered, and fell mute in connivance; the Devil seduced in a singsong falsetto.

“‘Egmont’, arranged by Jan Müller-Wieland for Stravinsky’s wiry complement, was like a brittle parody out of Brecht and Weill, with flamboyant work for a percussionist: here, Hans-Kristian Kjos Sorensen. Passages from texts by Goethe, Kafka, and Poe, recited by Mr. Brandauer before and between the works, underscored themes of bellicosity and futility.”
A list of Daniel Hope’s upcoming engagements follows.
Daniel Hope – spring 2009 engagements

    April 30
    Strathmore Hall Arts Center
    North Bethesda, MD
    “Terezín/Theresienstadt” project
    Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg

    May 2
    Zankel Hall (Carnegie)
    New York, NY
    “Terezín/Theresienstadt” project
    Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg

    May 4–30
    Brussels, Belgium
    Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition
    Serving on jury and teaching master class

    May 5
    Kronberg Academy
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Baroque program
    Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra

    May 8
    Ravensburg, Germany
    Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
    Concerto Köln

    May 10
    Mendelssohn Festival
    London, England
    Mendelssohn program
    Sebastian Knauer

    May 21
    Detmold, Germany
    “Wege durch das Land ”
    Klaus Maria Brandauer and Sebastian Knauer

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nikolaj Znaider Performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Guest Conductor Osmo Vänskä with Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Great Reviews for Recent Performances with Cleveland Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony

Danish-born violinist Nikolaj Znaider returns to the Chicago Symphony on May 14-16 for three performances of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under guest conductor Osmo Vänskä. Znaider’s most recent US appearances – in Miami with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Brahms concerto, and with the Pittsburgh Symphony in the less-frequently performed Korngold concerto – earned the kind of reviews most artists only dream about.

In March, Andrew Druckenbrod, music critic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote:

“No one person should have the range of ability that Znaider possesses. A ravishing tone across the complete register, virtuosity for the quick and the nuanced, and artistic soul that allows him to sing out in the most compelling fashion. At 33, he already stands in an elite class of violinists worldwide.”

Znaider’s April performance of the Brahms concerto, with the Cleveland Orchestra at Miami ’s stunning new Adrienne Arsht Center , prompted the Miami Herald’s critic to observe: “the undisputed star of the evening was Nikolaj Znaider.”

The Danish violinist will perform Beethoven in Chicago , a city where he has long been a favorite. Znaider’s recording of the Beethoven concerto with the Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta is described in American Record Guide as “the best performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto I’ve heard in over a decade.” The reviewer continues:

“[I had to re-hear] some incredibly played passages to try to figure out just exactly how Znaider did that. The supreme musicality of this performance comes partly from the consummate partnership between Znaider and Mehta. … Part comes from the utterly gorgeous instrument Znaider plays, and part from his awesome technique, particularly how he can nail pitches brightly and perfectly.”

The Washington Post wrote of Znaider’s performance of the Beethoven with the National Symphony under Iván Fischer:

“Znaider … shaped [Beethoven’s Violin Concerto] in the manner of a storyteller, starting off nearly inaudibly and then building and climbing before taking off into an inspired and beautifully ornamented narrative. … He combines his near-superhuman technique with a very human sense of song.”

After his Chicago performances, Znaider returns to London’s Barbican Hall for the Brahms Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis (May 24), and, a week later, plays string sextets by Brahms and Schoenberg with the LSO Chamber Ensemble (May 31). He and Sir Colin will then give centennial performances of Elgar’s lush Violin Concerto with the Dresden State Orchestra (Staatskapelle) in Dresden and on tour to Bad Kissingen and Wiesbaden . Znaider plays a famous “del Gesù” violin that once belonged to the great Fritz Kreisler, who first performed the Elgar concerto – which was dedicated to him – nearly 99 years ago. Znaider’s recording of the work (one of the longest of Elgar’s creation) – with Sir Colin Davis and the Dresden State Orchestra – should be released just in time for the concerto’s centennial next November.

The Soloist: Believable performance by Jamie Foxx as Cellist

I have not seen The Soloist yet, but based on an article by Tara Dooley of the Houston Chronicle Jamie Foxx does a believable job protraying a Juilliard trained cellist in this new film.

“He was very convincing,” said Norman Fischer, cello professor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, a premier Texas music program. “To do what he was doing was very impressive.”

There are some moments in the film where a professional might recognize the sound we're hearing isn't actually coming from Jamie's playing, but it's done well enough to be a creditable performance.

Of the 43 news articles posted about the film, most were only luke warm about the overall film. Some suggest it is "cheesy and overdone", other's think it was trying to be too much for one film. While the music is generally thought of as wonderful, the general attitude is The Soloist missed the mark.

Christian Tetzlaff & Esa-Pekka Salonen perform Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 1
with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall

Christian Tetzlaff (pictured) joins Esa-Pekka Salonen and the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 1 at Avery Fisher Hall May 14th. While much of the world was at war during the composition of Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, the sounds therein give no indication of such turmoil. Equally at home in repertoire from Bach to the Romantics, and renowned for his interpretations of new music, Christian Tetzlaff has been aptly described as "brilliant and inquisitive" by The New York Times. The concert is comprised of 20th century music from Northern Europe featuring pieces by Witold Lutosławski (Poland), Karol Szymanowski (Poland) & Jean Sibelius (Finland).

Lutosławski had taken folk material and, by transforming it into magnificent symphonic sonorities, had placed his personal stamp on it. The Concerto for Orchestra is cast in three movements: the Intrada is constructed in an “arch” form with massive climaxes at the midway point; the Capriccio notturno e Arioso, where strings and winds form bookends around a slower section for the brasses; and the vast finale that unifies the first two movements. It begins with an 8-measure passacaglia on a folk theme that is repeated more than a dozen times, always building in intensity, and concludes with a Toccata and Chorale. Listen for a reference to a fellow-sufferer under the Socialist regime, as Lutoslawski embeds Shostakovich’s signature monogram, DSCH (notated in music as D, E-flat, C, B-natural) in the Toccata. The coda provides a powerful and dramatic conclusion to this 20th century masterpiece, which has become Lutoslawski’s most admired and most popular work.

Jean Sibelius revised his Fifth Symphony several times over the course of four years. Despite struggles with health, alcoholism, finances, and political turmoil, Sibelius created this masterpiece—one of the great late-Romantic symphonies—that strongly resonates with audiences. He once described his approach to composing like this: “It is as if the Almighty had thrown down the pieces of a mosaic from the floor of Heaven and told me to put them together.” It begins somewhat mysteriously with an arching theme from the horns, underscored by timpani rolls; in the middle movement listen for a simple theme that highlights pizzicato playing from the strings. The ending of the Fifth is surely one of the most glorious, most affirmative expressions in all of Sibelius works. The final moments are astonishing: after the exultant washes of sound comes a moment of utter silence followed by six hammered chords, each separated from the next by what seem stunning silences, till the final one brings resolution.

“In a deep valley again. But I begin already dimly to see the mountain that I shall certainly ascend. God opens his door for a moment and his orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.” - Jean Sibelius

Esa-Pekka Salonen is renowned for his interpretations of contemporary music, and has given countless premieres of new works. He has led critically acclaimed festivals of music by Berlioz, Ligeti, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Magnus Lindberg — who will become the New York Philharmonic’s Composer-in-Residence beginning in September 2009. Mr. Salonen’s major awards include the Siena Prize by the Accademia Chigiana in 1993, the first conductor ever to receive it; the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Opera Award in 1996, and the Society’s Conductor Award in 1997. In 1998 he was awarded the rank of Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In May 2003 he received an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Finland and in 2005 the Helsinki Medal. Musical America named him its Musician of the Year 2006.

Mr. Salonen is also a composer whose works have been performed worldwide. The New York Philharmonic commissioned and gave the World Premiere of his Piano Concerto in February 2007, performed by Emanuel Ax and conducted by Mr. Salonen at his last appearances with the New York Philharmonic.

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff is known for performances and recordings of a broad spectrum of the repertoire, ranging from Bach’s unaccompanied sonatas and partitas to 19th-century masterworks by Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Brahms, and from 20thcentury concertos by Bartók, Berg, and Shostakovich to world premieres of contemporary works. He has appeared with the orchestras of New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto, among many others, and with major European ensembles including the Berlin, Vienna, and Rotterdam philharmonic orchestras, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw. He also collaborates frequently with distinguished artists in chamber music performances and is the founder of the Tetzlaff Quartet.

Tickets range from $30 to $109 and are available online at: nyphil.org

Concert Information
Thursday, May 14, 7:30pm
Sat, May. 16, 8:00pm

Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra
Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 1
Sibelius Symphony No. 5

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conductor
Christian Tetzlaff Violin

Pre-concert talks are an hour prior to each performance

Sunday, April 26, 2009

WorldMusicLink.com: Music Industry Marketplace

WorldMusicLink.com is claiming to be the first music industry marketplace, connecting over 1,000 Music Industry Professionals (Agents, Managers, Media / Press, Promoters, Producers, Publishers, Radio Stations, Record Labels, Studios / Engineers & Venues) and Music Talent (Bands, DJs, Ensembles, Lyricists, Orchestras, Musicians, Singers, Songwriters) from around the globe, and provides tools that expedite new talent recruitment, brand / music promotion, communication, and new business deals (concert bookings, representation offers, etc.).

“WorldMusicLink is an essential online tool for getting my music out there.” - Gabriel Gandzjuk, aspiring Singer/Songwriter

By way of the WML System, it is our goal to bridge the fragmented pieces of the music industry, by creating a universal Hub that advances careers and businesses to new heights. Music Talent and Industry Professionals can create Basic Profiles for Free by visiting www.worldmusiclink.com. We also offer subscription-based PRO Accounts that provide users with a greater array of features, media/content storage (music, pictures, videos, documents, news, calendar, etc.) and global connections / access.

“WorldMusicLink is a great place for emerging talent and people like me to connect.” - Warren Riker, Producer, Mixer, Engineer & 3-time Grammy Award winner (The Fugees, Santana, Lauryn Hill)

As with most "networking" sites, this has a basic level and a "professional" level. You can join free at the basic level, but there is a fee for the additional features of the professional level. With the basic registration, you get your name and a few details. If you're a band or somehow working in the Pop industry, the categories fit quite nicely. It's not so elegant for those of us in the classical music world (there is no category for composer, only songwriter).

For the most part, it is a bit like LinkedIn, although it is specifically for the music industry and divided into Music Professionals (Agents, and the like) verses Music Performers (bands, singers...). It does allow you to upload some of your music to include with your profile. Although, again there is a difference between the basic level and professional level (basic gets ONE track, professional gets 12). Professionals can also add videos of their performances.

There is a section to add documents, so press releases, sample scores or the like, with a separate news section to include posts and reviews. WorldMusicLink.com has a calendar tool to add upcoming events. The main page shows "featured" artists and industry professionals. Again, another way to get you to pay money.

I did sign up for the basic service and then did a search for other "talent" in the Denver area. There were only three listed. Another search yeilded three more industry professionals in the state of New York - not a very good sampling. Granted it's just getting started, but it seems to me this is just another way to get musicians to pay money for publicity. While you can join for free (and free publicity is never a bad thing), I am not sold on how effective the "professional" level is at this point.

Nikolaj Znaider: Artist Portrait with the London Symphony Orchestra, May 2009

Schoenberg, Korngold and Brahms Violin Concertos conducted by LSO Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev and LSO President Sir Colin Davis

Artist Conversation streamed live over internet

The London Symphony Orchestra is delighted to welcome Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider as the 2008/09 season LSO Artist Portrait where he will perform three concertos and a chamber recital with the LSO Chamber Ensemble, as well as take part in a Q&A with an LSO player, which will be broadcast live over the internet.

‘I’m so happy to be working with the Orchestra again, and especially with Sir Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev – they’re people with whom I have a real rapport…The LSO Discovery education programmes are wonderful, and vitally important for the future of music.’

Artist Conversation, Wednesday 6 May 2009, 11am – 12.30pm, LSO St Luke’s
A question and answer session with internationally renowned violinist Nikolaj Znaider. The conversation will also be streamed live over the internet so, if you are unable to attend in person, log on to lso.co.uk/znaider to watch or submit a question.

Schoenberg Violin Concerto, Thursday 7 May 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican
Conducted by Valery Gergiev, the LSO and Nikolaj Znaider perform Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto, written in 1936 after the composer had fled Nazi Germany. The piece was first deemed unplayable but was soon mastered by the violinist Louis Krasner who premiered the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1940.

The LSO and Valery Gergiev also perform Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Sponsored by Baker & McKenzie LLP.

Korngold Violin Concerto, Friday 8 May 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican
Composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold in 1945, the work was dedicated to Alma Mahler – the wife and widow of Korngold’s childhood mentor – Gustav Mahler. The sumptuous and lyrical work is scored for elaborate forces and like many of his classical works, calls upon themes from the composer’s film scores.

The LSO and Valery Gergiev also perform Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

Brahms Violin Concerto, Sunday 24 May 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican
Brahms’s only violin concerto was composed in 1878 and is dedicated to the composer’s great friend the violinist Joseph Joachim, who premiered the work in Leipzig on New Year’s Day in 1879. LSO President Sir Colin Davis conducts and the LSO also performs Stravinsky’s Orpheus and Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings.

Brahms Sextet No 1 in B flat, Sunday 31 May 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican
Nikolaj Znaider directs the LSO Chamber Ensemble in a performance of the Brahms Sextet No 1 in B flat and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht – both of which were composed when the two composers were only 25 years’ old.

Nikolaj Znaider Artist Portrait online: lso.co.uk/Znaider Violinist Nikolaj Znaider talks about the concertos he is playing with the LSO in May 2009 in an exclusive online video interview.

Tickets to LSO Barbican concerts: £7 - £32
Tickets to the LSO Chamber Ensemble concert: £7 - £19
Nikolaj Znaider Artist Conversation: Free entry, booking essential from Barbican Box Office
Secure online booking at lso.co.uk (£1.50 booking fee)
Box office: 020 7638 8891 open Mon-Sat 9am – 8pm, Sun 11am-8pm (£2.50 booking fee)
In person at the Advance Box Office in the Barbican centre (Mon-Sat 9am – 9pm; Sun 12pm – 9pm)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Andrew Grams Leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in an All-Mozart Program, May 23

BSO Principal Philip Munds performs Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2

Guest conductor Andrew Grams will lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in its last Casual Concert Series performance this season featuring an All-Mozart Program on Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. This program will also be performed at Frederick Community College on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. The program includes three of Mozart’s works, including his Horn Concerto No. 2 (performed by BSO principal Philip Munds), Symphony No. 36, “Linz” and the first movement of Symphony No. 38, “Prague.” As part of the Casual Concert Series, coffee and pastries will be on sale in the lobby at 10:00 a.m. Please see below for complete program information.

Written for friend and horn player Joseph Leutgeb, Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2 memorializes the horn player’s talents on the unwieldy natural horn still in use in the late 18th century. The original score of Horn Concerto No. 2 is an offering of friendship, inspired by the horn's origins as the signal instrument for aristocratic hunting parties. BSO Principal Philip Munds, a musician who has been hailed by The Baltimore Sun for his “terrific contributions” to BSO programs, will perform the concerto.

Symphony No. 36, “Linz” is now known as one of Mozart’s finest symphonic works, so inventive and beautifully crafted that its short gestation is quite impressive. After a three-month visit with his family during the summer of 1783, Mozart stopped en route to Vienna at the city of Linz. While staying with Count Thun, one of Austria's most powerful nobles, his host asked Mozart to present one of his symphonies at the court. He completed Symphony No. 36 in just five days. The product of his efforts is a symphony worthy of a noble court and associated with lofty ceremony.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, “Prague,” was written for the Prague Opera House after the success of Mozart’s comic opera The Marriage of Figaro. Delighted and honored by the Opera House’s commission, Mozart completed the symphony in just over a year. “Prague” has only three movements rather than the four that was customary in Mozart's symphonies at the time. The first movement of the “Prague” will be performed as part in this program.

Andrew Grams, conductor
Young American conductor Andrew Grams has served as the resident conductor of the Florida Orchestra and completed his three-year term as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra in 2007. He was appointed to that post by Franz Welser-Möst in June 2004. In 2002, Grams was appointed the assistant conductor of the Reading Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania and returned to conduct that orchestra again in 2005. As one of America’s most promising and talented young conductors, Mr. Grams has already made debut appearances with many of the great orchestras of the world including The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Rome and the orchestras of Baltimore, Dallas and Houston.

A Maryland native raised in Severn, Andrew Grams began conducting at the age of 17, when he directed the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. In 1999 he received a bachelor of music degree in violin performance from the Juilliard School and in 2003 he received a conducting degree from the Curtis Institute of Music. Also an accomplished violinist, Mr. Grams was a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra at Lincoln Center from 1998 to 2004, serving as acting associate principal second violin in 2002 and 2004. In addition, he has performed with ensembles including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New Jersey Symphony.

Philip Munds, horn
A California native, Philip Munds attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in music. After graduation, he remained in the Bay area and played for the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera and Ballet orchestras, the Berkeley Symphony and the Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestra. In 1989 he moved east to play with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. While playing associate principal horn in the band, he also performed extensively with the Air Force Woodwind Quintet. In 1997, Mr. Munds left the service and filled the position of assistant principal horn with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and in 2004, was appointed principal horn under Maestro Temirkanov. He currently teaches at the Peabody Conservatory.

COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION:
BSO at Frederick: All Mozart
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. – Frederick Community College
The Jack B. Kussmaul Theater
7932 Opossumtown Pike
Frederick, MD 21702

Casual Concert Series: All Mozart
Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Come early for coffee and pastries, on sale at 10:00 a.m.

Andrew Grams, conductor
Philip Munds, horn

Tickets for this concert range from $20 to $60. Tickets are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 877.BSO.1444, 410.783.8000 or BSOmusic.org.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein Appointed Artist-in-Residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been appointed artist-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music. While her teaching arrangements are still being finalized, Ms. Weilerstein plans to be at CIM at least two days each semester to work with cello students.

New York-based Ms. Weilerstein, 27, is in demand internationally as a soloist and chamber musician and performs around 100 concerts a year. She has been described by New York magazine as “arguably Yo-Yo Ma’s heiress apparent as sovereign of the American cello” and has attracted widespread attention for playing that combines a natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship.

Ms. Weilerstein is herself a graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, and she made her Cleveland Orchestra debut when she was 13. During the 2008-09 season Ms. Weilerstein made her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut performing Brahms’s Double Concerto with violinist Janine Jansen and conductor Hans Graf. She also returned to Severance Hall to perform Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul with The Cleveland Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot. She will end the season by making her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with conductor Sir Mark Elder June 10 and 11. Summer festival performances include Spoleto Festival USA, Aspen Music Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, Vail Valley Music Festival, Britt Festival of Music and the Cabrillo Music Festival.

Last year Ms. Weilerstein was appointed a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Charles Theatre in Baltimore to hold music/art event to mark opening of 'The Soloist'

Hollywood so rarely acknowledges classical music and musicians in a serious way that The Soloist, opening Friday, can't help but be a very big deal.

This fact-based story of a homeless, mentally unstable musicians discovered by a Los Angeles Times newspaper columnist, actually includes footage shot at Disney Hall featuring a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with much-acclaimed conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (who has just finished his remarkable tenure as music director). That sort of class, or classical, is not likely to pop up in another movie anytime soon.

The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., has been stirring up lots of interest, inspiring orchestras around the country to hold food drives, for example. It's also leading to the creation of some fresh artistic expression. To help kick off the movie's arrival in Baltimore, the Charles Theatre will present a dual event in the lobby at 6 p.m. Friday. The Altra String Quartet, from Catholic University, will make music while the graphic/motion artist Kamil Nawratil, known as 2stimuli, will create something visual on the spot, inspired by the performance. The lobby event is free.

Leonard Slatkin begins journey through Mahler's symphonies

Leonard Slatkin (pictured) plans to run the Mahler cycle as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His adventure through Mahler's nine-plus symphonies begins tonight with a sort of "plus" version of Symphony No. 1 in D major.

While Slatkin hasn't made a big deal of his intention to keep Mahler for himself, he couldn't have made it plainer when we talked about programming for next season. When I noted that Peter Oundjian, the DSO's principal guest conductor, would lead the Mahler Seventh next year, Slatkin said, yes, that was something Oundjian wanted to do, but that in the future he (Slatkin) would be on the podium when Mahler was on the docket.

The extra bit Slatkin is adding to the First Symphony this weekend is a seven-minute movement called "Blossoms" (or "Blumine" in the original German), which was part of the First Symphony at its premiere in 1888. But after a couple of performances, Mahler decided "Blumine" didn't really fit and tossed it out, reducing the work to a four-movement scheme.

Slatkin will offer "Blumine" as a stand-alone concert opener, to be followed by Christopher Rouse's "Friandises," a dance suite modeled on French Baroque style and written for the New York City Ballet in 2005. Mahler's First Symphony, in its conventional form, fills the concert's second half.

Tickets:
8 p.m. Thursday, 10:45 a.m. Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday. $19-$72.
Orchestra Hall at The Max, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. (313) 576-5111. www.detroitsymphony.com

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents The Three Bears & Other Famous Fairytales

Program features narrator Rheda Becker, Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers and CityDance Ensemble, May 9

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will present The Three Bears & Other Famous Fairytales narrated by Rheda Becker and conducted by BSO violinist and conductor Christian Colberg on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Becker will be joined by the Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers, Washington D.C.’s CityDance Ensemble and mezzo-sopranos Jessica Renfro and Madelyn Wanner, as they explore fairytale classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Three Bears.

Favorite fairytales take to the stage in this family event. The BSO will perform music from Snow Maiden, The Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Mother Goose, Hansel and Gretel and Peer Gynt. The Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers will perform in “A Phantasy for the Orchestra” from The Three Bears and CityDance Ensemble will perform in “Waltz from the Suite” from The Sleeping Beauty and “Conversation of Beauty and the Beast” from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. “Brother, Come and Dance with Me,” a song from the opera Hansel and Gretel, will be performed by Jessica Renfro and Madelyn Wanner.

The BSO Family Fun Zone will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the Meyerhoff lobby. Children and their families can take advantage of numerous, free, age-appropriate pre-concert activities, including Port Discovery Children’s Museum’s interactive World Rhythm Drum Circus, the Maryland Zoo’s ZOOmobile as well as an instrument petting zoo and face painting.

Rheda Becker is recognized as one of the outstanding professionals in the specialized art of the musical narrator. She made her debut in 1974 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and since then has appeared with them frequently as the speaker in works by Britten, Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Schuller, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. In addition to guest performances with symphony orchestras throughout the United States, including the Cleveland Orches­tra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ms. Becker has performed with chamber ensembles at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Boston’s Gardner Museum, the Library of Congress and the Folger Library in Washington, D.C. Her repertoire includes a wide variety of works ranging from a 14th-century narrative to compositions by composers of the present day. She was the narrator in world premieres by the composers Ernst Krenek, Earl Kim, Robert Hall Lewis and Jonathan Holland. She has been a frequent guest soloist at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Performances have included the role of Joan in Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, Walton’s Façade, Hindemith’s Herodiade, Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, Krenek’s They Knew What They Wanted and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish.” She has also served on the faculty of the Conservatory.

Mezzo-soprano Jessica Renfro has been described as "simply marvelous" with "deliciously playful comic timing" (The Washington Post) and a "sparkling voice" (The Washington Times). Her opera credits include Hansel in Hansel und Gretel, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Cenerentola in La Cenerentola, Der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Concepcion in L'heure Espagnole with Baltimore Opera, Opera Vivente, Bel Cantanti Opera and many others.

Madelyn Wanner is in her senior year in Phyllis Bryn-Julson’s studio at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. In the fall of 2006, Ms. Wanner made her operatic debut with the role of Cherubino in Peabody Opera’s mainstage production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and in the fall of 2007 she sang the title role of The Child in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges. Most recently, Ms. Wanner sang the role of the Second Lady in Peabody Opera’s 2008 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Ms. Wanner is looking forward to singing the role of Hansel in Peabody’s 2008-2009 opera outreach program. Other roles include Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with the Little Lyric Opera Company of Philadelphia. She is a recipient of the Linda A. Mantegna Endowed Scholarship as well as a Peabody grant.

COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION
Musical Adventures: The Three Bears & Other Famous Fairytales
For children ages 3-6 and their families
Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Lobby opens at 10:00 a.m. for Family Fun Zone.

Christian Colberg, conductor
Rheda Becker, narrator
Jessica Renfro, mezzo-soprano
Madelyn Wanner, mezzo-soprano
Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers
CityDance Ensemble

Tickets for this program range from $12 to $20 and are available through the BSO Ticket Office 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Susan Graham Performs World Premiere of Ned Rorem’s Newly-Orchestrated Songs for Susan

Featuring Three Brand New Songs – on Tour and at Carnegie Hall (May 11) with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Susan Graham’s recording Songs by Ned Rorem, featuring Malcolm Martineau at the piano, was issued by Erato in 2000, abundantly praised by numerous critics, and nominated for a Gramophone Award for “Best Vocal Recording” of the year. A decade after the recording was made, Rorem has orchestrated some of his songs especially for the popular mezzo. With Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, she will sing world premieres of three brand new Rorem songs as well as premiering eight newly-orchestrated arrangements in a series of concerts culminating at Carnegie Hall on May 11.

One reviewer called the Rorem CD “a marvelous anthology”, praising the way “Graham is constantly attentive to the marriage of music and text … and phrases their little worlds into being with grace and wit. She can shade to a sweet vanishing point or allow her voice to blossom, orchid-like, into a dazzling profusion of colors.”

“I’m thrilled that Orpheus has commissioned orchestrated versions so that we can revisit these jewels in a new way.” - Susan Graham

Time magazine portrayed Rorem as “the world’s best composer of art songs”; to Graham, he is “the godfather of American song, with thoughtful melodies that go straight to the heart.” Graham, herself dubbed “America’s favorite mezzo” by Gramophone magazine, is an avid recitalist and – like Rorem – a keen Francophone and member of France’s distinguished “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”. She enhanced her rich discography with last year’s release Un frisson français: A Century of French Song – 24 songs by 22 composers, ranging from Bizet to Poulenc – which has been widely acclaimed.

“Susan Graham brings her sumptuous voice and sensuous feel for the French language to an appealing assortment of songs ranging from Édouard Lalo’s 1856 ‘Guitare’ to Francis Poulenc’s 1961 mini-cantata, La Dame de Monte-Carlo … . A cohesive recital, without sounding like a repertoire survey class.” - Opera News

In the weeks leading up to the concerts with Orpheus, Susan Graham will have been in Paris and Munich singing the role of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther; after the Carnegie Hall performance she returns to Europe for a recital tour of – French songs!

Susan Graham: upcoming engagements

May 7
Easton, PA
Overture Hall
Rorem: Songs for Susan
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

May 9
Madison, WI
Williams Center
Rorem: Songs for Susan
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

May 11
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
Rorem: Songs for Susan
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra