ASTRAL MUSIC

Named after the gigantic hunter in Greek mythology who threatened to kill all the animals of the world, Orion is perhaps the most visible constellation at night when the skies are clear and our telescopes are at the ready. And nothing will happen to you, notwithstanding the colossally bad reputation of the Greek bully after whose name this constellation is named.

Composer Miguel A. Roig-Francolí, whose take on Orion is more evocative of the astronomical than the mythological, has created in his compelling composition for symphony orchestra a memorable tour de force that puts to work every section of the ensemble to its utmost capacity and to great effect.

Orion is the first section of the three-part Astral Poems, for orchestra. It starts with a forceful introduction set to a marcato figure in the strings. That gives way to a section where the first violin, glockenspiel, and oboe emit solo snippets of melody against a backdrop of strings.

Suddenly a fugue starts – a scherzando in a playfully syncopated manner underpinned by percussion and then set off by a massive response of the brass. The fugue then invites all orchestral sections to join in. The tonality is undefined as if various tonal centers were jockeying up for dominance. There is a huge climax and a return to the ostinato figure of the beginning – one that seems to evoke the gigantic steps of a colossal figure that devastates everything in its path. Another climax is achieved at fortissimo level with a huge cluster chord, and the movement is over.

The work has been played here and in Europe. But its first performance in Cincinnati will take place on Tuesday March 7 at 8 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium on the campus of UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. The concert will be repeated, this time with a multimedia experience by astronomer and visual artist José Francisco Salgado, at the Princeton High School Auditorium on Wed. March 8 at 7:00 pm.

Maestro Mark Gibson will conduct the CCM Philharmonia in a program that also includes more astral music by Gustav Holst: The Planets.

Admission is free, and all readers of this blog are encouraged to take in this concert in which the music of Miguel A. Roig-Francolí a most valuable artistic treasure of our Queen City will be heard by most Cincinnatians for the first time.

Rafael de Acha

Here is a link to the complete Three Astral Poems: https://youtu.be/GcIbxMbfF_s

 

 

MACK AND MABEL AT CCM

 

1486411113158

The improbable love affair between movie director Mack Sennet and silent screen diva Mabel Normand is CCM’s Musical Theatre Department’s next foray. The music is by Jerry (Mame, Hello Dolly, Cage aux Folles) Herman, Aubrey Berg directs, the CCM students (remember they are practically professional) sing, act and dance up a storm, and the show is MACK AND MABEL. It is a randy, off-the-beaten-Broadway path, in your face show. It runs at CCM, March 2 through 5. Evenings at 8 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets: $31 and $35 (on Broadway that would set you back three times that much…)

Call 556 4183 to reserve.

Michael Feinstein sings “I Won’t Send Roses” from Jerry Herman’s 1974 Broadway musical “Mack & Mabel.” https://youtu.be/6xXn-RKNrmk

28 singers vie for 5 awards at CCM

ccm

OPERA SCHOLARSHIP COMPETITION

Yesterday, from ten in the morning until well past four in the afternoon, 28 young singers competed for five different awards. Along with cash prizes ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 that also carried with them full tuition scholarships, the awards also provide an additional $5,000 given to those singers entering the pre-professional Artist Diploma program.

Three judges sat in the panel that heard each of 28 competitors sing two arias each: the soprano Benita Valente, a Metropolitan Opera star and a highly respected concert artist, was joined by Stephen Lord, Artistic Director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, and Roberto Mauro, Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company. Grateful thanks to them.

At the end of the auditioning process, the judges conferred and proceeded to announce their decision to the participants and some of the audience that stayed to learn the results.

Soprano Nicolette Book won the Corbett Award with I Want Magic from Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Depuis le jour from Charpentier’s Louise.

Soprano Caitlin Gotimer received the Italo Tajo Memorial Award singing two Mozart arias: Come scoglio from Cosi fan tutte and Pamina’s aria from The Magic Flute.

Mezzo-soprano Chelsea Duval-Major was the singer chosen by the panel for the Andrew White Memorial Award. She offered O mio Fernando from Donizetti’s La Favorita and the Letters aria from Massenet’s Werther.

Karis Tucker, a mezzo-soprano earned the Seybold-Russell Award with Parto! Ma tu ben mio from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and Adalgisa’s Prayer from Bellini’s Norma.

The John Alexander Memorial Award was given to baritone Eric Heatley after a performance of Silvio’s arioso from Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Arlecchino’s serenade from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three collaborative pianists played for the auditions: Lydia Brown, Marie-France Lefebvre, and Donna Loewy. Heartfelt thanks to all three. Thanks to Robin Guarino for doing all the behind the scenes work that is involved in getting these auditions up and running. Thanks to William McGraw for his elegant handling of the introduction to the proceedings.

Congratulations to the winners and to all of the other participants who made the decision of the judges a challenging one.

And, above all, posthumous thanks to Italo Tajo, to Andrew White, to John Alexander, to Patricia and Ralph Corbett for making their love of music live in perpetuity through these awards.

Thank you to Trude Seybold, who was there today supporting the young talents with her indispensable presence.

Rafael de Acha

INVENTIONS

 

untitled

INVENTIONS

 

Music by John Williams, Gernot Wolfgang, Bruce Broughton, John Mackey, Michael Daugherty.
North Texas Wind Symphony Eugene Migliaro Corporon, Conductor

John Williams’ FOR THE PRESIDENT’S OWN is, in the words of its composer, a “salute” to the Air Force band, of which he was once a member. It is, to these ears, vintage Williams: big, bold and brassy stuff, like a fanfare that extends itself past the conventionally accepted stopping off point though never running out of steam.

Gernot Wolfgang tells three stories in music in his compelling Three Short Stories. The first is a pull out all the stops big band showstopper, appropriately titled Uncle Bebop. The second, Rays of Light musically evokes what happens when random, isolated shafts of light fall upon different things – instruments in this case, that are afforded both solo and small ensemble moments within the larger landscape of the composition. It is a moody, nocturnal, evocative piece that taps the various members of the ensemble to full advantage. Latin Dance is the composer’s third story. It is told in this context bin a full out, hip-swinging mix of salsa and Latin jazz gestures. Wolfgang’s language is essentially tonal but he does not shy away from either melody or dissonance to make his points.

Bruce Broughton invites the listener of In The World of Spirits to imagine “a movie without the screen” in his program-free, energetically-inventive composition, inspired by Native American folklore.  

John Mackey’s The Ringmaster’s March is a deliriously energetic three-minute tour de force that gets one to think wistfully about the pre-Cirque de Soleil, sawdust three-ring wonders of a now long-gone past.

Winter Dreams has within it more than a whiff of exoticism, with its use of moody modal scales and isolated passages of soli for the woodwinds. But the exoticism of this enchanting music is not foreign but rather that of the paintings and lithographs of Grant Wood and their depiction of bleak Iowa winter landscapes depicted in this composition with eerie stillness.

John Mackey states – whether tongue-in-cheek or in earnest – that he writes the music and his wife, Abby titles it. Wine Dark Sea is a literary leitmotif that one finds often repeated in The Odyssey referring to the Aegean that provides the setting for more than one of Homer’s classics. It is an apt title to the episodic tone poem that occupies the last three tracks of Inventions. And due to its inexhaustible inventiveness, Wine Dark Sea never overstays its welcome, even when clocking in at over thirty minutes running time.

The North Texas Wind Symphony is beautifully led by Eugene Migliaro Corporon and excellently recorded here on this GIA CD (1004).

John Williams, Gernot Wolfgang, Bruce Broughton, John Mackey, Michael Daugherty: five American composers from as many generations here explore the challenges of writing for the woodwind ensemble with felicitous results. More please!

Rafael de Acha

 

JUST TO LET OUR READERS KNOW…

15741119_1181042545278316_1801095827514863006_n

… that we have discontinued our old website (musicforallseasonsCincinnati)

FROM NOW ON we will use our blog, http://www.Rafaelmusicnotes.com and our Facebook group page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/MusicForAllSeasonsCincinnati/ as two of our means of communication. In addition, if you, the reader, want to contact me,
Rafael de Acha directly, please email me at musicseasons@zoomtown.com or send me a comment right here on whatever post you wish to discuss.

Thank you for your support!

Rafael

MOONKYUNG LEE’S TCHAIKOVSKY

 

nv6079-lee-frontcover

Navona Records (NV 6079). Recorded June 20 and 21, 1969 at the Angel Studios in London, UK.

Producer: Kresimir Seletkovic; Engineer: Steve Price

Here’s Moonkyung Lee playing the third movement of the Violin Concerto in D rhttps://youtu.be/diFkV1eK_Lg

Navona Records either surprises the listener by bringing out unusual repertoire – a CD of works for piccolo, for example – or by highlighting young performers on the rise, as is the case with their all-Tchaikovsky CD featuring the enormously talented Korean violinist Moonkyung Lee.

The first track of the album is given to the D Major Violin Concerto – a daunting challenge for any but the most valiant of violinists. I confess not to know whether or not Tchaikovsky indicated any metronome markings on this or any other of his scores, but rather doubt it. One is used to most violinists taking the first and third movements of this concerto at warp speed, even at the risk of loss of clarity and cleanliness of articulation.

Ms. Moonkyung does not fall into any tempo traps, opting instead for a measured approach to the Allegro Moderato of the first movement and the Vivacissimo marking of the third, which allows for graceful transitions in and out of the slower sections that Tchaikovsky positions within each of them. The middle Canzonetta: Andante is taken at a leisurely pace though never a lax one, and the results are satisfying. Ms. Moonkyung  is a sensitive and sensible player that regales the listener with lyrical playing that spares any grandstanding. Yet, when the Big Moments come around, the Korean violinist is ready to deliver the needed fireworks.

The Meditation in D Minor is a midcareer work filled with heartfelt melody and sentiment. It comes from opus 42, titled “Remembrances of a beloved place” Moonkyung Lee gives it an impassioned and delicate rendition. The Bb Melancholy Serenade is perhaps more familiar to more concertgoers. It is, much like the Meditation a one-movement piece with the musculature of a concerto, and in it the Korean violinist excels, giving the CD a lovely closing.

The London Symphony Orchestra, led by Miran Vaupotić provides solid support to Ms. Moonkyung’s world class playing.

May we hope for more from this wonderful artist?

Rafael de Acha

 

LINES ABOVE

image

LINES ABOVE

In the facile world or recorded music, ratings, awards and celebrity cult it’s rare to find intelligent thinking and inspired music-making. Anyone who cares for jazz music that transcends self-imposed limits should have a listen at LINES ABOVE, Rick VanMatre’s terrific CD of compositions by himself and Kim Pensyl.

Soulfully played by an ensemble featuring Aaron Jacobs on bass, Tom Buckley on drums, Rusty Burge on vibraphone and both composers, Kim Pensyl on piano and Rick VanMatre on soprano and tenor saxes and wooden flute, the CD is a joy to listen to.

The Summit Records release (DCD608) is cleanly engineered, edited, mixed and mastered by Kim Pensyl at Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music Jazz Recording Studios, classily packaged and produced by both Pensyl and VanMatre, and given enlightened program notes by VanMatre, who finds his inspiration in sources as diverse as the evocative artwork of Anna Socha, Rick’s wife and muse, in Man Ray’s experimental films and artwork and also – based on this CD liner notes – in western and eastern philosophies.

The sound of the ensemble assembled for this recording is flawless. Kim Pensyl’s playing is clear, free-flowing, technically beyond reproach. Rick VanMatre’s command of his three instruments nothing short of impressive, as in Solstice of Another Age, when he switches from wooden flute to sax without effort. Rusty Burge’s work at the vibraphone is virtuosic but always with not himself but the music up front. Tom Buckley’s agile ability on drums allows him to place himself in the background when called for and then rip into a fusillade of rhythms that bring to the mind the playing of Cuban conga players, as happens in Ray’s Return. Aaron Jacobs is rock solid on bass, always providing the foundation for everything happening in all eight tracks and stepping up to the plate with a lyrical solo in Pensyl’s I Had You In Mind.

VanMatre’s compositions occupy the first six of eight tracks on the CD. His creations straddle the worlds of  “classical” music and contemporary jazz, balancing both with seriously strong compositional technique and imagination. Pensyl’s style, on the other hand, as one listens to I Had You In Mind sounds like pure, cool, laid-back, easy-sounding, artfully-written jazz. But then, he turns the corner with Coming Back To Yesterday, a composition that begins with a recitative-like sax solo that then morphs into a race to the finish between Rusty Burge’s vibraphone and the rest of the ensemble. Luckily they meet at the end in the quiet finale of this lovely composition.

Ashes is a somber piece, and it took a great deal of courage to give it the closing track. This is eerie, meditative, contemplative, haunting music. The ensemble gives it a stunning reading. Dedicated to Jadwiga and Tadeusz, the composition is a profound meditation on loss, on cruelty, on rage and on the ultimate cleansing and redemptive power of music.

Rafael de Acha

Lines Above is available from rickvanmatre.com              

 

IMPROVISATORY MINDS

 

untitled

IMPROVISATORY MINDS is in a ‘cut to the chase’ description on the CD’s cover, “a collective of composers… (that) present classical concert music informed by a jazz perspective.”  

In nine tracks, composers Ed Neuemeister, Michel Patteson, Bevan Manson, and Dennis Dreith showcase their individual styles in a variety of idioms that straddle concert music and jazz.

Ed Neuemeister’s String Quartet No. 2 is a scherzo that juxtaposes a singing melody in the violin to pizzicato and tremolo figurations from the strings. Neuemeister’s idiom is tonal without obeisance to a fixed key, and his inspiration as wide ranging as Beethoven (of whom we hear a passing hint) and Latin American rhythms. In Olympic Quartet, Neuemeister uses ostinato but never unnecessarily repetitive ensemble figurations alternating with solos for the woodwinds.

Michael Patterson’s Andante Cantabile establishes a tranquil mood in its opening bars: an impassioned duo for piano and violin. There is a hint of underlying turmoil when the dialogue between the two is interrupted by moments of dissonance. Then a slow return to the quiet of the opening brings the hauntingly beautiful piece to its end. Unabashedly romantic at heart, Patterson’s Piano Quintet, Movement 2 is jazzily nocturnal when the piano predominates to the accompaniment of a string quartet. Well into the movement, strings and piano engage in a rhapsodic dialogue where melodic riffs alternate with each other, as if announcing the apex of an evening of love making.

Bevan Manson‘s Switchbacko assigns to five members of a wind quintet five and a half minutes of playfulness that traverse moments of  undefined tonality with multi-tonal pointillism. Later, his tongue-in-cheek Turkey in the Star, Man turns the familiar folk ditty on its musical head. Later still, in Gotcha! the composer gives the solo clarinet a fun workout. Manson’s writing is brilliant, inventive, witty but never self-consciously clever.

Dennis Dreith’s Trio for Alto Flute, English Horn and Bass Clarinet and later, his Theme and Variations find many of the possible sonorities that can be gotten out of an unusual combinations of woodwinds. In what sounds at times like a conversation and at others like a polite argument, the first composition resolves in a musically amicable end, but not before a good dose of slides, beeps and mocking glissandos have passed back and forth among the prickly participants.  Theme and Variations begins and ends quietly, developing its theme with inventive changes of harmony and tempo.

Improvisatory Minds is a collective of four concert composers Bevan Manson, Ed Neuemeister, Michael Patterson and Dennis Dreith, who are active jazz musicians. They present performances of original chamber concert works informed by a jazz perspective, thereby promoting a unique and often neglected facet of the contemporary concert music world. The concerts also feature prominent guest composers such as Clare Fischer, Paquito D’Rivera, and Alan Broadbent. They also promote this music through clinics, educational and community outreach. This approach makes Improvisatory Minds, indeed, “four of a kind”.

Improvisatory Minds recorded this album in 2016. For more information contact: ImprovisatoryMindsInc@gmail.comwww.ImprovisatoryMinds.org

Rafael de Acha

CALVIN SIMMONS

 

th

Calvin Simmons (April 27, 1950 – August 21, 1982) was the first African-American conductor of a major American orchestra. He had been preceded by pioneers such as Everett Lee and Henry Lewis, to name but two iconic Black conductors.

But the reason I’m posting this is not due to an anniversary or as a celebration of Calvin’s warp-speed 8 year-career.

What prompted this little homage to someone whom we cherished as a close friend from our college days is that another friend from those days, Michael Patterson premiered one of his works at CCM last night in a wonderful concert in which the Ariel Quartet collaborated with some of the finest jazz musicians in Cincinnati.

Michael, Kimberly, and Rick and Anna VanMatre and I had dinner tonight and our exchange of stories extended well past the restaurant’s closing time. And Mike reminded us that Calvin was the rehearsal pianist for the first ever directorial venture of mine at CCM in 1969.

But even more personally, Calvin and Kimberly and I became soul mates at CCM back in 1967 when Calvin, age 18 arrived at CCM like a blast of fresh air.

Calvin inhabited a realm rarely inhabited by mere mortals. He was a gangly bean pole of a guy, certifiably mad, and a genius. He could sit at the piano and play the entire score of Aida by memory, while singing in a funny voice all the parts. He could turn around and sing the part of Ko-Ko in The Mikado in a flawless Oxbridge accent.

Calvin was flunking at CCM right out of the gate because he would not practice scales for his piano boards. Italo Tajo recognized that Calvin’s was an outsized talent. Sylvia Ogden Lee and Max Rudolf did, and they absconded with Calvin when they left Cincinnati for Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute.

As things go in this crazy career of ours, we saw little of each other over the next several years: once in Philadelphia when we were there to do a Mike Douglas Show, once in San Francisco, when we were back from an engagement in the Far East or on our way to one (I forget which) and Calvin was being recognized with some major award given him by the City.

The year was 1980 or 1981, I recall, and Calvin already well on his way to a major conducting career took us aside and asked to please write to him and keep him in our radar.

It was just months after his untimely death in 1982, at the age of 32 in a canoeing accident on Lake George that we learned from our friend Nancy Markum that Calvin was gone. We couldn’t mourn his loss and I think Calvin would not have wanted us to. He would have joked about it. And so we chose to remember our good times together, most of which were filled with music and laughter. And dinner tonight brought him to mind.

One more thing I thought of after posting this: Italo Tajo’s birthday is April 25, mine is April 23, Calvin’s is April 27. All three of us hard-headed children born under the sign if Taurus. Calvin often played for my lessons with Maestro Tajo, who often took Calvin and Kimberly and me home for Italian dinners cooked by Signora Tajo that kept all of us from starvation during our college days.

Funny how those things happen and how the lives and careers of people in the arts interconnect.

 

What, where, when this week

where-am-i-going

Coming up this week at CCM, three interesting events for your calendar…

·        Tuesday 14th at 8 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium. Aik Khai Pung and several conducting students lead the CCM Philharmonia in an unusual program of musical riffs on love, including orchestral excerpts by Mendelssohn, Rimsky Korsakoff, Beethoven, Dvořák, and Puccini. Two operatic excerpts highlight the program: the wedding night duet from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and the trio from Richard StraussDer Rosenkavalier. Tickets: $15.

·         Conrad Susa’s take on tales by the Brothers Grimm, with a libretto by Anne Sexton reinvents the meaning of ‘happily ever after’ in the chamber opera, TRANSFORMATIONS, in a staging by  Emma Griffin. Tickets are free and limited to two per order. Call TODAY after noon 513 556 4183 to reserve. THREE PERFORMANCES: Friday 17 and Saturday 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday 19 at 2 p.m. in the Cohen Studio Theater.

·         TAKING THE WHEEL: A GALA CABARET CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF CCM’S MUSICAL THEATRE SHOWCASE is a celebration of the past 24 years of CCM musical theatre showcases. It will feature surprise appearances by “Broadway Babies” who once were hopeful stars of tomorrow at CCM and now return in the midst of ongoing regional and Broadway careers. Sunday 19 at 4 p.m. in the Patricia Corbett Theatre. Tickets: $25.