HUNGARIAN FEAST

DE3558cover-1024x1024In the DELOS just-released BRAHMS HUNGARIAN DANCES (DE 3558) German violinist Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker and Italian pianist Fabio Bidini compellingly make a case with their playing for the erasing of any and all national boundaries.

The duo lovingly makes this minor miracle happen by playing this category-defying music with equal quantities of Hungarian szenvedély and szomorú spiced with a nice dose of Italian passione, further tempered by impeccable musicianship and flawless technique.

The resulting musical feast should be enjoyed by anyone who loves Brahms and or violin and or Roma music.

I have a challenge ahead of me, though a negligible one: Do I file this in my CD library as Classical or as World Music? Yes, I know, Brahms laid claims to these 21 miniature gems by publishing them as “set by J. Brahms.”

Mind you, he neither used the German words for “arranged by” nor “adapted by”, and were I to program them in a concert of my imagination with me playing the violin I cannot begin to play for real, I would list them in the program as Hungarian Dances arranged by Joseph Joachim.

Neither here nor there, you would say, but, for me, these mini-fests of melody are as much verbunkos ideally played by Roma musicians in Budapest cafés as they are long-hair music for the concert hall. 19th century crossover, in other words…

But, thank Heaven for the enterprising and immensely gifted Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker, who lets her classical hair down and grabs this music and does not let go until she has drawn every ounce of passion out of it.

The music is familiar, no doubt, having been played and recorded by many a symphony orchestra. But hearing these tunes played with the capriciousness and flair that Ms. Höpcker and maestro Bidini bring to their playing will elicit not only admiration but curiosity on the part of the alert listener.

Originally conceived by Brahms for piano-4 hands, then some for orchestra, these 21 dances were arranged by the composer’s friend, violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim for violin and piano. I am glad Herr Joachim made these arrangements, more than elated than the Höpcker-Bidini duo made the decision to record them, and immensely grateful to DELOS for the production of this nicely-packaged and perfectly engineered CD.

Rafael de Acha                                                                                 WWW.RAFAELMUSICNOTES.COM

DECEMBER 9TH AT PETERLOON


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SAVE THE DATE: DECEMBER 9TH AT 2 PM AT PETERLOON ESTATE

MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS IN CINCINNATI

PRESENTS ITS ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONCERT AND SILENT AUCTION TO BENEFIT CCM’S SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM FOR TALENTED MUSICIANS.

INFO & TKTS: musicseasons@zoomtown.com

THE PERFORMERS
Aria Braswell, Vocalist; James Bunte, Jazz Saxophonist; Thomas Hammons, Baritone; Cindy Beatrice Candelaria, Mezzo Soprano; Matthew Copley, Vocalist; Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Vocalist/Narrator; Dale Hodges, Actress; Yaoyue Huang, Pianist; Sam Krausz, Singer/Pianist; Fred Martens, Clarinetist and his Wind Ensemble; James Meade, Guitarist; Jenny Mollet, Vocalist; Pamela Myers, Vocalist; Joseph Rebman, Harpist; Mary Southworth-Schaffer, Soprano; Scott Sherman, Pianist; Miriam K. Smith, Cellist; Alex Stone, Vocalist; Mary Stucky, Mezzo-soprano; Rodney Stucky, Guitarist…

SILENT AUCTION

Wearable Art by Anita Ellis and Linda Ellis… Autographed Books by Laurinda Dixon and  Anita Ellis… CD’s by Miriam K. Smith and James Meade… Private Performances by several of our participating artists… Artwork by Johannes Bjorner, Virginia Cox, James SlouffmanGallerie VeroniqueAnna Van Matre… Tickets from Chamber Music Cincinnati….Cincinnati Art Museum…Cincinnati Ballet…Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Summermusik…Cincinnati Opera…Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park…Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra…Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati…Taft Museum of Art…University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music…Gift package from Cincinnati Nature Center…

DEATH IN VENICE

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Death in Venice is Britten’s last work for the stage. The composer based it on Thomas Mann’s 1912 short novel of the same title, negotiating with his go-to librettist, Myfanwy Piper to create a distinctly different dramatic landscape from that of the original German language narrative of the same title, until the opera eventually saw its world premiere in 1973.

Given the vast body of works for the stage that Britten created it would be unfair to label Death in Venice Britten’s best opera, although it would be fair to say that it is a significant stage work. Through-composed and largely devoid of set pieces, and neither entirely operatic nor balletic, the work features a group of dancers to portray the family of the Polish boy, Tadzio, a fourteen-year old Adonis that becomes the source of the infatuation that inflames the older writer Aschenbach and that eventually leads him to a tragic end. The themes of the conflict between the lofty Apollonian and the earthly Dionysian impulses, and the obsession of an older man with a younger one recur in this opera, treated perhaps much less obliquely than Britten had in his earlier Turn of the Screw.

The music fluctuates between passages of accompanied recitative and moments of lyricism, especially compelling during the scene changes and the extended dance sequences. The vocal writing, above all that of Aschenbach, a role originally created for Peter Pears, is demanding and replete of melismas. Gone are Britten’s earlier attempts to incorporate 12-tone techniques into his music: instead he stays in a largely melodic, tonal idiom truer to him and his aesthetic.

English tenor, John Daszak does a very fine job in a role long associated with its creator: his singing is potent, and his acting unfussy and ultimately moving. Baritone Leigh Melrose is enormously versatile and vocally impressive in half a dozen roles. Dancer Tomasz Borczyk is a perfect Tadzio, and the quartet of dancers that surround him, portraying the boy’s family is faultless, as is the small ensemble of singing actors that play the appropriately tacky band of players.

Willy Deker staged the handsome production for Madrid’s Teatro Real in 2014 with lovely sets and costumes by Wolfgang Gussmann and Suzana Mendoza. This fine NAXOS DVD was filmed live, with Alejo Perez conducting exemplarily the orchestra and chorus of the theatre.

Rafael de Acha

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF 2018

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“Best of” lists will be popping up at every turn over the next few weeks. Here is, admittedly early, my list of musical favorites for 2018, listed in random order. Some of the artists on this list are well known names, some are up and coming individuals. Some are groups that often go unnoticed due to the vagaries of marketing and the sheer number of musical events in our communities. Each and every one of these artists deserves for all of us music lovers to sit up and listen.

OPERA: AS ONE

In the Cincinnati Opera’s As One, an intriguing chamber work about the perilous journey of a transgender person, composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, made theatrical and musical magic within the span of ninety minutes. A first-tier string quartet, led by Gene Chang provided the instrumental portion. Matthew Worth, an impressive singing actor, played Hannah before her transition, and Amber Frasquelle, a superb mezzo-soprano, played Hannah after. The director, Robin Guarino handled the material sensitively and intelligently, helping to craft a straightforward and elegant production. Kudos to Evans Mirageas for going out on a limb and programming new work, proving that in Cincinnati there is an audience for contemporary opera.

OPERA: LA TRAVIATA

In the Cincinnati Opera Traviata, Norah Amsellem, a stunning French soprano, would have made Verdi very happy. Her film star looks and her dramatic gifts made her utterly convincing as the high-class toast of tout Paris. Father and son were sung by tenor Ji-Min Park and baritone Youngjoo An, both artists overflowing with conviction in their assignments. A cast of young artists excelled in supporting roles under the firm directorial hand of Linda Brovsky, among them baritone Simon Barrad, who made his Marquis d’Obigny an important dramatic element in the elegant production designed by Desmond Heeley. In the pit, Renato Balsadonna helmed the orchestra with Italianate panache

CONCERT SOLOIST: COLEMAN ITZKOFF

The rapidly-rising, young cello virtuoso Coleman Itzkoff mined Elgar’s intimately personal score of the Cello Concerto with utmost intensity, yet never allowing his take on this music to wallow in sentimentality, that notwithstanding the profound sadness of Elgar’s musical meditation. Eckart Preu provided his ever top-notch leadership at the helm of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra which continues to surprise with its daring programming, its risk-taking in its choice of soloists, and its ever more cohesive sound.

NEW WORK: ENRICO CHAPELA’S RADIOAXIAL

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Mexican composer Enrico Chapela’s Radioaxial. Massively scored, Chapela’s work alternates moments of aural density with occasional pockets of streamlined lyricism and crystal clarity. Chapela’s intriguingly inventive composition received an enthusiastic ovation from the sometimes staid Cincinnati audience. Now here’s hoping for more rep choices outside the Beethoven-Brahms- Schumann-Mozart box from the CSO.

RECITALS: DANIEL WEEKS AND DONNA LOEWY

The Art of Song is alive and well in Cincinnati. Daniel Weeks and Donna Loewy proved that to be true as they made musical magic happen on the stage of CCM’s Werner Recital Hall in a recital of songs in German, Spanish and English. The two artists did this not pull this off through sleight of hand but through musicality, technique and artistry. But what made this recital extra-special was the way in which it mercifully broke free of the tired and quite often dull formality of the concert platform and spiced up the evening with some inspired humor and theatricality.

CHAMBER MUSIC: A GROUP IN SEARCH OF A NAME

The Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams opened its inaugural Chamber Music Series with string players Christina Nam, Holly Nelson, Kanako Shimasaki, Yu-Ting Huang, Hojoon Choi, and Jonathan Lee assembled into what we hope will be a permanent ensemble playing a concert that included a vigorously vibrant Octet by Mendelssohn. In a city rich in chamber music offerings, it is difficult for an ensemble of young players to establish an identity and make a mark. All the more remarkable then that this musically ad-hoc group that cries out for a name should begin its young journey so auspiciously.

MUSICAL THEATRE: GUYS AND DOLLS

CCM celebrated the fiftieth Anniversary of its impressively successful Musical Theatre program, led by Aubrey Berg, with a superb production of Frank Loesser’s GUYS AND DOLLS. Helmed by choreographer-director Diane Lala and musical director Roger Grodsky, the show blurred the dividing line between professional and college. A cast made up of Broadway hopefuls (who most likely will be working professionally in a matter of months) stopped the show time and again, leaving no doubt that this CCM program offers the top training for triple threats on their way to Broadway in the nation.

ORCHESTRAL: CCM CONCERT ORCHESTRA and AIK KHAI PUNG

The youthful, robust, cohesive, disciplined, committed results that the CCM Concert Orchestra consistently delivers in a city chock full of musical surprises is a thing of wonder. In a concert that paid homage to Leonard Bernstein and several of his friends, the orchestra opened with the single-movement Sinfonia India, by Carlos Chavez, a Mexican ground-breaking composer who explored in his music the native sounds of Mexican folklore. Led by its young maestro, Aik Khai Pung, the orchestra gave an inspired reading of the 12-minute work, ending with a jarabe tapatio dance taken at warp speed that all but raised the roof of Corbett Auditorium.

ORCHESTRAL: SUMMERMUSIK

The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Summermusik lineup of four main-stage concerts, weekday evening pub crawls, and Sunday matinees, now in its third year under the leadership of Eckart Preu has become the best musical antidote to the dog days of summer in the Queen City, with its innovative themed programs and its featuring up and coming soloists in programs of new music in nifty pairings to warhorses from the bread-and-butter orchestral repertoire.

SUSTAINED ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSICAL TRAINING: MARK GIBSON

At the helm of the CCM Philharmonia, Mark Gibson’s work in Opera (Verdi’s Don Carlos…Strauss’ Salome…), in the symphonic repertoire, and in nearly all idioms and styles and periods is a force to be reckoned with: meticulous, impassioned, insightful, and revelatory. Beyond all that, he’s been on the podium and in the rehearsal studio for four decades, as a maestro to future maestros up ‘til now and, we hope for years to come.

Rafael de Acha

 

TOP CD’S AND DVD’S OF 2018

“Best of” will be popping up at every turn over the next few weeks in every imaginable kind of list. Here is mine, admittedly much earlier than most, with all ten items randomly listed: all ten  equal favorites. This selection includes some well known names and some up and coming artists, represented by recording labels both small and mid-size, whose choices are often infinitely more imaginative than those of much bigger labels.

Jaap Listening to the superb reading of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung by the Hong Kong Philharmonic, led by Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden recently released by NAXOS in a 4-CD set just recorded live, this listener found himself not waiting for the next familiar moment, but wanting to linger at every minute of the 3 ½ hour musical journey. The cast is led by Gun-Brit Barkmin, a sensational Brunhilde.

lortie The Louis Lortie CD of Camille Saint-Saëns’ piano concertos is a musical act of love. Gorgeously engineered and given inspired performances by Lortie and the Edward Gardner-BBC Philharmonic team, the 2018 Chandos release provides a treat to all members of the Saint-Saëns Fan Club.

lorelei“Give us a haven upon judgment day” plead the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in a 12th chant that opens the stunning Sono Luminus double CD Impermanence. It features the Lorelei Ensemble, a group of nine women under the leadership of Beth Willer singing a wide ranging repertoire unified by the themes of migration and movement.

goodyear Hans von Bülow famously called the Piano Sonatas of Beethoven The New Testament. The extraordinarily gifted Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, equal to the task of taking on all of these works, has just released a ten-CD collection simply titled Beethoven/Stewart Goodyear – The Complete Piano Sonatas, available from Marquis Recordings and nicely packaged and engineered.

thK9J9OI77 Cuban composer Yalil Guerra’s Guerra Works for String Orchestra’s seven CD tracks more than hint at the deeply romantic undercurrent that runs just beneath the surface of this young composer’s music. Playing with awesome technique and intense musicality, the Ensamble Solistas de la Habana led by its committed conductor Ivan Valiente delivers a performance recorded live with a flawless accumulation of artistic results. The CD is available for download through most digital platforms.

quartet A CD titled Apotheosis vol. 2 features the Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang playing Mozart’s piano quartets: K. 478 and K. 493. The five musicians handle this music with an even mix of seriousness and flair, elegance and abandon during every minute of this CD from Foghorn Classics.

cover27809-1024x1024A superb 1928 studio recording flawlessly re-mastered and digitally restored by Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio and reissued by divine art (www.divine-art.com) in its HISTORIC SOUND (DDH27809) series is a sonically satisfying labor of love, especially when one considers that this Carmen dates back to the very early days of electric recordings. The singers are beyond reproach, and the great Georges Thill, arguably the finest Don José of his generation, gives a first class performance that provides a lesson about how French opera ought to be sung.

th0M904SY5 During a period of eleven months in 1981 Leonard Bernstein set aside time from his ever busy schedule to travel to Munich to work on a project near and dear to his heart. It took several rehearsals prior to each of the three public performances – one per act – to make this C Major A05005284 set of three DVD’s of Richard Wagner’s music drama Tristan und Isolde with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and Peter Hoffman and HIldergarde Behrens at the top of their games as the two ill-starred lovers.

1540466731_matei-varga-early-departures-2018-hi-res Matei Varga is a deeply serious musician well in the midst of a major career. His playing of works by three of his fellow Rumanians is solid, elegant, substantial, profoundly musical and rigorous. Varga’s hour-long CD, Early Departures (Sono Luminus DSL92223) is available for purchase as either a CD or as a digital download from http://www.sonoluminus.com

untitledIn a collection of 8 CD’s and 1 DVD, ever-surprising Naxos has just paid homage to Lenny in its recent release Leonard Bernstein Marin Alsop: The Complete Naxos Recordings. The engineering of the 7 CD’s, some of it going back fifteen years is all top-notch, including several reissues and several brand new recordings. Throughout the seven CD’s, Marin Alsop magisterially commands orchestras with which she has had a long and fruitful relationship.

Rafael de Acha

CINCINNATI MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS NOVEMBER

untitledMUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: NOVEMBER

These are just a few of the many musical events that crowd the month of November right up to Thanksgiving week. CCM remains the largest presenter of performing arts events in the State of Ohio, as will be evident by the number of CCM events highlighted here. Many of these are free, and those that are not, are reasonably priced. Look for the remaining Bernstein Festival events and the production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

Elsewhere, concert nova is featuring George Crumb’s Black Angels, and David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion is given its local premiere by the new Coro Volante in Hyde Park’s  Church of the Redeemer.

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NOVEMBER 2, FRIDAY, 8 PMCCM BERNSTEIN FESTIVAL

BERNSTEIN’S SONGFEST AND HIS FANCY FREE IN A PROGRAM THAT ALSO INCLUDES EXCERPTS FROM GUSTAV MAHLER’S  SYMPHONIES NOS. 2 AND 4, WITH MARK GIBSON LEADING THE CCM PHILHARMONIA, ALONG WITH VOCAL SOLOISTS.

TKTS: $15 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 556-4183

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NOVEMBER 3, SATURDAY AT 8 PMCORO VOLANTE

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A NEW CHORAL ENSEMBLE LED BY BRETT SCOTT AND NAMED CORO VOLANTE (FLYING CHOIR) IN ITALIAN GIVES MEANING TO ITS WINGED NAME BY TAKING FLIGHT WITH THE LOCAL PREMIERE OF THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION. (LISTEN HERE: https://youtu.be/AztSbzKf0Pc) THE HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN STORY, SET TO MUSIC BY PULITZER-PRIZE WINNER DAVID LANG, WILL ALIGHT AT THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER ON ERIE AVENUE IN HYDE PARK.

FREE AND OPEN WITH NO NEED FOR RESERVATIONS.

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NOVEMBER 4, SUNDAY  CCM PRESTIGE SERIES

BERNSTEIN FESTIVAL AT CCM THE CCM JAZZ ORCHESTRA IN CORBETT AUDITORIUM WITH A JAZZED UP WEST SIDE STORY, PRECEDED BY A TALK WITH STAN KENTON SCHOLAR AND CONDUCTOR VAUGHN WIESTER. TKTS: $20 CCM’S

BOX OFFICE – 513 556-4183 (check with box office for times)

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NOVEMBER 4 AND 5, SUNDAY AND MONDAYGEORGE CRUMB’S BLACK ANGELS

concert:nova GIVES THE LOCAL PREMIERE OF CRUMB’S 1970 MUSICAL COMMENTARY ABOUT A WORLD AT WAR.

TIMES AND LOCATION BY PHONE 513 – 739 6682

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NOVEMBER 8-10, THURSDAY THROUGH SATURDAY – CCM – GODSPELL

THE 1971 OFF-BROADWAY HIT IS ON STAGE IN THE INTIMATE COHEN FAMILY STUDIO THEATRE AT 8 PM THIS WEEKEND WITH AN ADDITIONAL 2 PM MATINEE ON SATURDAY.

TKTS ARE FREE! PHONE CCM’S BOX OFFICE ON MONDAY NOVEMBER 5 AT 12:30 PM 513 556-4183

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NOVEMBER 11, AT 3 PM AT WYOMING’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

THE AGE OF WAGNER CINCINNATI SONG INITIATIVE AND WAGNER SOCIETY OF CINCINNATI JOINTLY PRESENT SOPRANO LATOYA LAIN AND TENOR DANIEL WEEKS WITH PIANISTS DONNA LOEWY AND CASEY ROBARDS

IN A PROGRAM OF LIEDER BY LISZT, MAHLER, WOLF, AND WAGNER.

TKTS http://www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org)

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NOVEMBER 11 AT 4 PM AND NOVEMBER 12 AT 7:30 PMLINTON MUSIC

ANNA POLONSKY, ILYA FINKELSTEIN, STEFANI COLLINS MATSUO, CHRISTIAN COLBERG, DWIGHT PARRY, AND WILLIAM WINSTEAD PLAY POULENC, MOZART AND DVORAK.

TKTS AND INFO: 513 556-4183

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NOVEMBER 15-18 THURSDAY THROUGH SUNDAY AT 8 PM, SUNDAY AT 2 PMTHE TURN OF THE SCREW BENJAMIN BRITTEN’S CHAMBER OPERA ABOUT CHILDREN HAUNTED BY GHOSTS IN AN ENGLISH ESTATE IS STAGED FOR CCM AT THE PATRICIA CORBETT THEATRE BY VINCE DE GEORGE, WITH AIK KHAI PUNG LEADING THE ORCHESTRA.  Here’s Soprano Kate Royal in the Tower Scene from the opera: https://youtu.be/mwvvWN_Dkhk

TKTS: $32-$36 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 – 556-4183

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NOVEMBER 17 and 18, A CCM PRESENTATION IN THE WILKS STUDIO AT MUSIC HALL
COMPOSER MATTHEW AUCOIN AND SARAH RUHL, HIS LIBRETIST, TEST THE OPERATIC WATERS WITH A WORKSHOP READING OF THEIR EURYDICE, WITH UP AND COMING SINGERS FROM THE RANKS OF CCM LED BY ROBIN GUARINO.

TKTS ARE FREE BY email at http://www.cincinnatiopera.org/calendar/ofnw-eurydice

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NOVEMBER 20, TUESDAY AT 8 PM – THE CCM CONCERT ORCHESTRA AT CCM
AIK KHAI PUNG LEADS THE ENSEMBLE IN

HAYDN’S “CLOCK” SYMPHONY, LISZT’S LES PRELUDES AND SCRIABIN’S POEM OF ECSTASY. Listen: https://youtu.be/i1L6p4B2hBs

FREE ADMISSION

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NOVEMBER 30, FRIDAY AT 8 PM – THE CCM PHILHARMONIA AT CCM

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OPENS THEIR CONCERT WITH A VERDI OVERTURE FROM I VESPRI SICILIANI, FOLLOWS IT WITH BRITTEN’S SINFONIA DA REQUIEM AND WRAPS IT ALL UP WITH RACHMANINOFF’S SYMPHONIC DANCES. MARK GIBSON CONDUCTS

TKTS: $15 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513- 556-4183

Let this serve as a guide for you to go and explore further… Visit the websites of these organizations… bone up on the music ahead of time… Whatever you do, please enjoy all the music that the City of Cincinnati has to offer.

José António Carlos de Seixas

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José António Carlos de Seixas? Never heard of him – not until the good people of Divine Art sent us a copy of Japanese pianist Mariko Terashi’s CD of music by this lesser-known 18th century Portuguese composer. Senhor Seixas did his county proud as its finest organist, harpsichordist and composer at the height of Portugal’s Golden Age.

Seixas’ music navigates the transition between the not yet fully formed style of the 1600’s and that of 17th century, the ornate and quintessentially French Stile Galant that had its heyday in the music of Rameau and Couperin, both of whom are also amply represented in this CD.

Ms. Terashi’s playing is elegant, sober, and poetic, mining for more sonority than could ever be obtained from a harpsichord, while at no time abusing the use of the pedals and overwhelming the compositions featured on this CD.

Seixas is represented by four sonatas – two complete, two with movements excerpted from them. From Rameau we hear five teaching pieces culled from his various Livres de Pièces de Clavecin which include some delightful novelties. Couperin occupies six tracks of this CD with music that provides either amusement or enchantment or both.

Altogether this is a lovely collection of French Baroque gems, beautifully annotated, nicely engineered, and flawlessly played by Mariko Terashi.

Rafael de Acha

John Harbison’s Requiem

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The text of almost any musical composition named Requiem should ideally be set to traditional sections of the Latin language, Catholic Mass for the Dead. Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi. All three wrote Requiems using mostly the text of the Missa pro  defunctis.

In 2002 John Harbison completed his Requiem after laboring on and off on his composition for over fourteen years. The results can be heard in the Naxos recording that was made on May 12 and 13, 2017 in Nashville’s Laura Turner Concert Hall, with Giancarlo Guerrero conducting the Nashville Symphony and Nashville Symphony Chorus. The quartet of soloists was comprised of Soprano Jessics Rivera, Mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, Tenor Nicholas Phan and Baritone Kelly Markgraf.

About his Requiem, completed during the aftermath of 9-11, John Harbison has written, “I wanted a sense of ancient inheritance to inhabit my setting: a ritual steeped in the inevitability of death – gradually moving toward consolation and acceptance. My account of the genesis of the piece makes it clear that its sources go back fifteen years. But the events of that fall made my purposes clearer. I wanted my piece to have a sense of the inexorability of the passage of time, for good and ill, of the commonality of love and loss. I wanted to open up an aural space where this could be acknowledged.”

Harbison’s Requiem does not call for one to feel this or that way. The composer instead provides a world of sound that the listener is invited to enter for the space of nearly one hour. That world is inhabited by voices and instruments – four soloists, a chorus, and an orchestra with a good number of woodwinds, brass, percussion, piano and harp, plus strings. That amassed sound is bound to provoke emotions in the listener.

Today, October 27, 2018, I sat down to listen one more time to Harbison’s Requiem, but my listening was interrupted by the news of a gunman’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh that caused the deaths of a dozen innocents that had assembled on the Sabbath to worship. Too moved to continue, I stopped writing, and listened to the news coming from out kitchen’s TV. To resume now could compromise my objectivity and yet I have to finish ad post this.

The first part of the text of Harbison’s Requiem is about the depiction of the human contemplating the inevitability of death. The music Harbison writes to express the wrath of God in the Dies Irae, the sounds he creates to accompany the terror we will feel when the trumpet sounds on the final Day of Judgment, the craft in orchestration he puts to use to convey the consolation of the Recordare and the deep grief of the Lacrymosa evolve in the second half into music that memorably assuages the disconsolate and offers a sense of spiritual commonality.

The soloists are beyond reproach. The chorus is simply perfect. The orchestra is marvelous. and Maestro Guerrero a superb leader. Outliving this embarrassment of riches, there will always be Harbison’s profound music, living as long as there are voices to sing it and an orchestra and a maestro up to the task.

Rafael de Acha

FRANZ SHREKER ON CD

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Music is its own language, and therefore it is unnecessary to attach adjectives to describe it. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and what one may describe as beautiful may sound positively ugly to someone else. Thus adverbs are preferable, for they are safer and more accurately objective. It’s simpler to say that Jo Ann Falletta conducts the music of Franz Schreker passionately than it is to call the music of the 20th century German composer ‘passionate’.

Given all that it’s easier to write Maestra Falletta conducts the music of the Austro-German post-Romantic composer with appropriate passion. Of course who know knows Ms. Falletta was feeling from June 19 to 23, 2017! I doubt that even she herself would not remember. One can only subjectively say how wonderfully satisfying the sounds she elicited from the members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in Berlin’s GrosseSendesaal a year plus ago are to this listener’s heart and brain a year plus later.

Passionate? Sure!

Most of us know little or nothing about how Franz Shreker was feeling in 1914 when he composed Vorspiel zu einem Drama, or six years earlier when he wrote The Birthday of the Infanta (English title), after Oscar Wilde’s novella, or a year before that, when he penned his Opus 14, Romantische Suite. One can only surmise from the excellent liner notes attached to this NAXOS CD by Paul Conway and Chris Possiac that the hapless Shreker was none too happy with the cool reception the critics of his time were according his works, given the inevitable rise of the Dodecaphonists, and the large shadows cast by the rising Richard Strauss and the by then consecrated Gustav Mahler.

None of the three compositions included in this CD were conceived for the lyric stage, as much of Shreker’s work is. But theatrical they are, and framed not in the traditional forms of overture and symphony, but as concert pieces that may be used, if desired, in other ways, as was the case with The Birthday of the Infanta, which premiered as a balletic pantomime with sets by Gustav Klimt, no less. The music for this composition in particular reflects the largely gentler sentiments of love and heartbreak that the dwarf at the center of the story experiences during his all too-brief life in the Spanish Court of the 1600’s so colorfully depicted in Diego Velazquez Las Meninas.

Shreker’s complex music reflects the personal and professional vicissitudes that led to his premature death from a stroke at age 56. At times lyrical, at others dramatic, yet ever melodic this music is quintessentially post-Romantic and modern for its time.

The Nazi specter was rising in Germany, and already much of the music of Shreker’s contemporaries, Jewish or not, was being labeled Entertete (Contaminated) and kept out of German radio and concert halls. Paralyzed and embittered by circumstance, the composer’s death at age 55 spared him the exile that Kurt Weill and Ernest Krenek and Arnold Schoenberg chose, or an even worse fate suffered by Krasa, Ullmann, Haas, and others among the many European artists and musicians who perished during the Holocaust.

Rafael de Acha

GUYS AND DOLLS AT CCM

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Let me put it in a few words. Kimberly and I just got back from GUYS AND DOLLS at CCM. I could wait and write a proper review and post it and then a few of you would see it now and a few more tomorrow, and so on. But I will tell you now to make it a point to go on line to the CCM box office or go to CCM Info on Facebook or phone the box office, but whatever you do please do not miss this wonderful show.

Set in Damon Runyon’s mythical New York City, Guys and Dolls is the perfect musical comedy. Nathan Detroit is a gambler trying to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they’ve been engaged for 14 years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the dough, and Sky ends up chasing straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown as a result. Guys and Dolls takes us from the heart of Times Square to the cafés of Havana, Cuba and even into the sewers of New York City, but eventually everyone ends up right where they belong.

Single tickets are on sale now; prices start at $32. Student discounts are also available. For more information or to purchase tickets online go to boxoff@uc.edu. OR visit ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage. To order tickets call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183 GUYS AND DOLLS IS ON STAGE NOW THROUGH OCTOBER 27TH.