Stewart Goodyear FOR GLENN GOULD: a gift from a gifted artist.

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I first heard the bright Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear in a memorable recital in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. Since then I have looked forward to hearing him again, either in recording or live.

In a musical homage to a fellow Canadian simply titled Stewart Goodyear FOR GLENN GOULD, recently released by Sono Luminus, Goodyear traverses six centuries during a sixty-six minute journey that never satiates but leaves one thoroughly satisfied with a banquet of music for the keyboard that includes pieces by two High Renaissance/Early Baroque masters: Orlando Gibbons and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, six compositions by J. S. Bach, two intermezzi of Brahms, an Alban Berg sonata and, at the end of the CD, an aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

In this musical valentine to an artist whom he deeply admires, Goodyear replicates a program he heard as a young aspiring pianist many years ago, writing: “While paying homage to one of the great Canadian legends, I was being transported to childhood memories of growing up in Toronto, studying at the Royal Conservatory, Gould’s home alma mater, and being an artist from Canada, Gould’s country.”

Stewart Goodyear’s playing is nothing short of extraordinary, not only in its chameleonic way of switching technical and musical gears from Gibbons and Sweelinck’s music, conceived as it all was for the gentlest of keyboard instruments, to Brahms’ sweeping romanticism and from there to Alban Berg’s atonal severity.

Goodyear’s profoundly respectful approach to all of this music makes us marvel at the honesty and integrity of this artist: there is neither a hint of selfish grandstanding, nor a shred of showing-off, but total devotion to the composer’s intentions. All of the embellishments are executed just as they should, cleanly and unselfconsciously. When power of attack is to be summoned, Goodyear summons it, and throughout the entire album the Canadian pianist imbues his music-making with an ideally even mix of a cool head and a warm heart.

As is always the case with this enterprising label, the engineering by Daniel Shores is crystalline, and the nicely annotated booklet sheds light on both music and musician.

Stewart Goodyear FOR GLENN GOULD is a gift from a gifted artist.

Rafael de Acha

Leonard Bernstein/Marin Alsop: The Complete Naxos Recordings

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A mentor once mentored by Aaron Copland and Sergei Koussevitzky, an inexhaustible creative figure, a prolific composer, a brilliant conductor, an insightful lecturer, and a restless intellectual unceasingly asking the big questions about what music is and why we make music, Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 years old this year. Living and composing and writing at warp speed, ever overscheduled and running from working vacations in Martha’s Vineyard to concerts in Tel-Aviv, to recordings in Boston, to master classes in London, to rehearsals in New York, and to record yet another Mahler in Vienna, Bernstein worked hard and lived hard and changed the face of Classical music in America in the 20th century.

In 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.

Here are the titles, all splendidly conducted by Marin Alsop: Symphony No. 1, ‘Jeremiah’; Symphony No. 2, ‘The Age of Anxiety’; Missa Brevis; Symphony No. 3, ‘Kaddish’; The Lark; Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium); Facsimile: Choreographic Essay for Orchestra; Divertimento for Orchestra; Mass; Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront; Chichester Psalms; Three Dance Episodes from On the Town; Mambo from West Side Story; Slava! A Political Overture; Suite for Orchestra from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; CBS Music; Times Square Ballet from On the Town; A Bernstein Birthday Bouquet; Overture to Candide; the Ballet Fancy Free; Anniversaries for Orchestra; Overture to Wonderful Town.

The collection is lovingly curated, with liner notes by Marin Alsop, Frank K. DeWald, David Ciucevich, Robert Hilferty, and Sean Hickey. The packaging of the seven CD’s and one DVD is compact and handsome, divided into eight separate single pockets that neatly fit into a small lightweight box. The engineering of the 7 CD’s, some of it going back fifteen years is all top-notch.

Symphony No. 1, ‘Jeremiah’ was written in 1942 and recorded years ago with Bernstein at the podium. Given the fact that Marin Alsop apprenticed at Tanglewood as an aspiring young conductor with Bernstein as her conducting teacher, one might imagine that she leads her Baltimore forces with the spirit of her mentor hovering about, so inspired and inspiring her work is. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano delivers a strong performance with a creamy lyric mezzo voice uncannily similar to that of the great Jennie Tourel, the mezzo-soprano soloist in the 1944 premiere with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

The first CD is shared between the ‘Jeremiah’ Symphony and the Symphony No. 2, ‘The Age of Anxiety,’ composed in 1949 and later revised by Bernstein in 1949. Both these works and the 1963 Symphony No. 3, ‘Kaddish’, have much in common. All three are narrative works, inspired by literature – whether W. H. Auden or the Hebrew sacred writings, either text-driven and utilizing vocal soloists or, as in the case of The Age of Anxiety employing an instrumental soloist as a protagonist of sorts, in this case the excellent Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Missa Brevis, a choral work sparsely accompanied by percussion, Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium), and the better-known Chichester Psalms evidence Bernstein’s lifelong preoccupation with matters of the spirit. All are deeply serious works that show both the acquiescently faithful side of the man in their content and the pragmatically questioning side of the artist in their form. Ever searching for new ways to express his musical ideas, and not one to be bound by traditional constraints, Bernstein named these works the way he wanted, attaching to some the label of symphony even though none of them followed the academic definition of that form.

When it comes to “Lenny”, the populist man of music who held us happily captive with his talks on television or to his musical alter ego, Maestro Bernstein, he who shed light in so many unexpected ways on everything under the musical sun, the Naxos collection is generous and evenhanded.

To lighten things up there is the 1965 Symphonic Suite of moody film music from the Hollywood film On the Waterfront. Dance music was close to Bernstein’s heart as witness the terrific Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, and the equally exciting complete ballet Fancy Free, commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre in 1944 and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

There are arrangements of music from Bernstein’s hit Broadway shows Wonderful Town and West Side Story, and from the ill-fated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And there is the Overture to Candide, played with spunky American pizzazz by the Brazilians of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. There is also the playful Anniversaries for Orchestra, a collection of ten musical birthday salutations to friends of the composer, and to his wife, Felicia Montealegre, orchestrated by Garth Edwin Sunderland in 2016.

The Naxos release includes several reissues and several brand new recordings. Throughout the seven CD’s Marin Alsop magisterially commands the three orchestras with which she has had a long and fruitful relationship: the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. There is much love, much craftsmanship, and much fine music-making in this comprehensive collection of Alsop’s conducting of Bernstein’s music.

There is a potent story here told in sound: it is a true-life tale about a giant of American music, along with a stunning survey of the musical arts in America in our time. An unabashed self-promoter of the Lenny brand, a conflicted and flawed and compassionate and driven human being with a larger than life persona and an ego to match it, and a legendary artist with an unquenchable thirst for music-making, whether at the podium or at the piano as soloist or at his desk as composer, Bernstein at age 100 lives on in these recordings.

Rafael de Acha

PS: In my effort to get this review posted as soon as possible I completely neglected to mention the very nice DVD that’s part of the ten-disc box!

 

 

 

THE ARTS IN MARCH

Music and poetry just as you like it

SHAKESPEARE

It’s nice to see arts organizations working with each other, and Samuel Martin’s Cincinnati Song Initiative is very good at this. His As You Like It: Shakespeare in Song and Word is coming up the very day that daylight saving time begins: Sunday March 11, at 3PM, at the Lutheran Church on 1208 Race Street.

Presented in partnership with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the collaboration will feature Deborah Lifton, Ricardo Rivera-Soto, Chris Dimaras, Samuel Martin and members of the Shakespeare troupe in songs set to the Bard’s words back-to-back with excerpts of his plays and poetry.

For tickets: http://www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org/events/shakespeare

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Mozart opera set in modern-day Coney Island

These days anything goes. The MET is trotting out yet another updated production of a standard opera. This time the target is Cosi fan tutte, Mozart’ comedy of mistaken identities and mixed up relationships, whose Italian language title defies translation. Meaning something like: That’s the way they all do it, the opera tells the story of what happens when two couples exchange partners as a result of a wager.

You can bet that the singing will be good even if the funhouse setting has little to do with Mozart’s music. In the youthful cast Tony Award–winner Kelli O’Hara and baritone Christopher Maltman will drive the action, with Amanda Majeski, Serena Malfi, Ben Bliss, and Adam Plachetka providing top-notch singing as the four confused lovers.

Look for your local movie listings with details on the HD presentation on Saturday March 31 at midday.

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CCM in March…lots of Leonard Bernstein and more

MUSICAL – March 1-4 – Jesus Christ Superstar
CONCERT – Friday March 2 – Bernstein, Khachaturian, Strauss
JAZZ – Sunday March 4 at 2 PM – CCM Jazz Orchestra: The Music of Benny Goodman
CHORAL – Thursday March 8 at 8 PM – Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms
CHAMBER MUSIC – Thursday March 20 at 8 PM – Ariel Quartet
OPERA – March 22-25 – Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica
ORCHESTRAL – Friday March 30 at 8 PM –  Bernstein, Strauss, Brahms
Tickets and Information: 513 556 4183 boxoff@uc.edu

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GREAT HALL 007Cincinnati Art Museum
Cagnacci: Painting Beauty and Death opens on March 23
Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors opens on March 30
Still running: William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance
Still running: Marcel Duchamp’s Box in a Valise
Information: 513-721-2787

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Music for All Seasons’ FINAL CONCERT of the Season 2017-2018

Music for All Seasons’ FINAL CONCERT of the Season 2017-2018 at Peterloon on April 29 at 2 pm (please note new date!)

Our fourth and final Music for All Seasons concert of our Season 2017-2018 is fast approaching, and we want to make sure that you won’t miss the music being sung and played by a superb group of artists in the welcoming and intimate environment of Cincinnati’s historic Peterloon Estate.

The theme of our upcoming concert is Music for the Home and Stage, and the selection to be heard encompass music from six centuries.

ALLAN PALACIOS CHAN

Many of you might remember Tenor Allan Palacios’ sterling voice and artistry from prior appearances in our series, qualities that will perfectly suit the Italian songs of Alessandro Scarlatti that he will sing in the April 29th program, accompanied by the versatile Bill Willits on Baroque string instruments. Bill will also play a solo group of Renaissance dance tunes on the lute.

MELISA BONETTI

Appearing for the first time in our series, the lovely Mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti will share with our audience arias from Spanish zarzuelas and from Bizet’s Carmen and Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila. Melisa and Allan will join their voices in selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story

The brilliant South African pianist Eben Wagenstroom returns to Peterloon to collaborate with the other artists in the program and to play a group of 19th century Contradanzas by the Cuban composer Manuel Saumell.

The well respected visual artist James Slouffman will exhibit a group of his works in the rooms of the Peterloon mansion: a continuing feature that will accompany and enhance this and other upcoming concerts with the work of Ohio/Kentucky artists.

We invite you to visit our much enhanced website that features a preview of the program and links to the artists’ websites. Go to http://www.musicseasonscincinnati.com and there you can make your reservations.

An informal get-together with the artists, over tea, coffee and pastries will follow the concert.
WHAT and WHERE: Music for All Seasons at Peterloon on February 11 at 2 pm at Peterloon Estate at 8605 Hopewell Road, in the Village of Indian Hill.
RESERVATIONS: musicseasons@zoomtown.com / TICKETS: $35; FLEXIBLE 4-TICKET PASSES: $120
INFORMATION: http://www.musicseasonscincinnati.com;
Visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/musicforallseasonscincinnati
THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EVENT!

Jo Ann Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra play Kodály

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Ask anyone who likes classical music to name a Hungarian composer, and they will pause, think, and then say: “Bartok?” Past that one-name test, ask the same individual to name another Hungarian composer. This time the response will come slower. Give a hint: “Variations on …” No response.

Of course we are talking about the prolific Zoltán Kodály, who has just been given a terrific musical salute by the peripatetic Jo Ann Falletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra via a new Naxos release.

Comparisons are most often odious, so we’ll refrain from making one in this review. Bartók is Bartók and he is indispensable, and not one season goes by that we don’t get a performance of his Concerto for Orchestra on the radio or in our local concert hall. But Kodály also has a Concerto for Orchestra (which I have to confess to never having heard it), and his Dances of Galánta, Dances of Marosszék, and his Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song, all three provide over an hour of delightful listening in this new CD. And thanks to Naxos and to the Buffalo Philarmonic for reminding us all of the many musical riches of Magyarország.

Very much like his fellow Hungarians Béla Bartók and Ernő Dohnányi, Zoltán Kodály was also a nationalist who championed Hungarian folk music as a source of inspiration. But Kodály is an inexhaustible melodist, a late Romantic at heart, though not averse to using some very new for the time sonorities in his orchestration and many inventive harmonic ideas.

Jo Ann Falletta leads the Buffalo musicians magisterially, mining every moment for color and keeping a tight control of the sudden rhythmic twists and turns and syncopations that give this music a uniquely dance-like feel and gypsy-inflected flavor. The musicians do extraordinary playing, with principal clarinet, Patti Dilutis eliciting sounds out of her instrument uncannily similar to those of the Hungarian tárogató. The entire ensemble in fact plays like a dream, reminding us living in the fly-over Midwest that there’s also great music-making happening in the northern reaches of New York State.

Naxos has us accustomed to nothing but the best, and here the top notch engineering (Tim Handley), classy packaging, and well written notes (Edward Yadzinski) once again live up to our expectations.

Rafael de Acha

OPERA D’ARTE AT CCM

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The CCM Opera d’arte Series of undergraduate productions presented a triple bill of one-act American operas, including Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone, and Mark Bucci’s Tale for a Deaf Ear.

Opera d’arte is CCM Voice Professor Kenneth Shaw’s brainchild. Ken’s colleague, soprano Amy Johnson joined him a couple of years ago as co-producer. Since its inception, this indispensable group has presented a lineup of chamber operas ideally suited to the sill-developing voices of undergraduate hopefuls in need of much-needed stage experience to compliment their musical training. We’ve been watching their growth for a number of years now, and fondly recall many worthy past productions by Opera d’arte: Britten’s Albert Herring and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortileges, among them.

The Bernstein-Menotti-Bucci triple-bill lived up to our expectations. Impeccably paced by conductor Brett Scott and imaginatively directed by Amy Johnson, the young cast flexed its singing and acting chops with flair, transitioning from The Telephone to the jazzy Trouble in Tahiti to the lesser-known Tale for A Deaf Ear by Mark Bucci.

Finest among the very fine members of the triple-bill cast, the young baritone Hayden Smith, possessor of a burly physique and the voice to go with it, delivered a vocally mature and dramatically honest performance in the role of Sam that bodes well for a young man soon to be on the cusp of an operatic career. The physically petite though full-voiced coloratura Sofia Villalon sang a beautiful Lucy  and acted with terrific comic flair in Menotti’s The Telephone. A 16-voice chorus did multiple duties as singers, stage hands and in solo supporting roles throughout the evening led by Sam Krausz as the charming Master of Ceremonies.

Additional performances are scheduled on Saturday February 4 at 8 pm and Sunday February 5 at 2 pm. Admission is free. Reservations are required. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve.

Rafael de Acha