Seen and Heard-International

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Established in 1999, http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com has more than 60 internationally based correspondents who publish hundreds of reviews of concert, opera and dance performances every year as well as other articles of musical interest. S&HI reports from most of the major venues in the UK and from many others in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, making it probably the most comprehensive online classical music review magazine anywhere in the world.

I have been contributing to Seen and Heard now for the past five years and I am thrilled that some of my writings have brought international recognition to Cincinnati. I look forward to continuing to work with our wonderful editors in the UK and with the peerless Bruce Hodges in New York.

Please have a look at my latest contribution to S&HI: http://seenandheard-international.com/2018/05/a-mass-for-a-deeply-dispiriting-time  and check periodically for my upcoming coverage of the Cincinnati May Festival, Mam-Luft & Co. Dance, Summermusik and much of the Cincinnati Music Scene this coming season.

Keep the good music going!

WALTON WORLD CLASS

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This morning, listening to a classical music station the announcer let us know that next up was a viola concerto. The announcement pleased me, the snarky chuckle the announcer gave did not. I find nothing funny about all the tiresome viola jokes that go around in music circles, and I felt downright insulted when the announced composition turned out to be William Walton’s twice-revised Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.

I turned off the radio in a huff and put on the recently released Chandos CD of William Walton’s compositions (WALTON CHSA 5210) that includes the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, the 1971 Sonata for String Orchestra, and the 1957 Partita for Orchestra.

Edward Gardner paces the BBC Symphony Orchestra in all three of the compositions in a patrician manner, ever attentive to his soloist in the Viola Concerto, and violinist James Ehnes is the superb viola soloist, utterly comfortable with his other instrument.

Listening to this album, some of its contents dating back to 1928, when Walton was a twenty-six year old hopeful still finding his way in the midst of the ever-changing European music scene of those years, pleased immensely and made one ponder the significance of Walton in the context of 20th century music.

And, in a personal way, the varied moods of the viola concerto brought back a memory of my first encounter with Walton’s music, when at age fourteen I was held transfixed by Walton’s score for Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Not the specific musical ideas from the film’s score, but the muscularity, the mercurial changes of tempo, the at times purposely dense, at others crystal-clear orchestration are all there to remind us of what a great composer Walton is.

Walton indicates no less than eight tempo markings in the first movement of the Concerto, that section lasting barely eight minutes. And a good thing it is that he has the indispensable Edward Gardner at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the formidable James Ehnes on the viola, for no transition ever feels abrupt, and every switch of musical gears is pure quicksilver.

The second movement is marked in Italian: lively and very precisely and with resolve, and in it there are passages in which Walton whimsically employs odd pairings, like a humorous duettino for bassoon and viola, only to follow these moments with deadly serious, jagged patterns that remind us that the composer means business. In the third and final movement of the concerto, Walton tests the mettle of his conductor and orchestra with no less than a dozen changes of pace, each moodily different.

Throughout the three compositions, the writing is tonal (A minor, E minor, A Major in the Concerto) and there are plenty of melodic turns of phras, even though none call attention to themselves. Never one to flirt with atonality, Walton held fast to an English tradition of tonality that was unselfconsciously embraced by many of his British predecessors and contemporaries. Yet unpredictable twists and turns in the harmony let us know that here was a young fellow with his  ears open to what was happening in the Paris, Berlin and Vienna of the first decades is the 20th century

The Concerto is the main event on this CD, but the inclusion of the Sonata for String Orchestra and the Partita for Orchestra should be noted. Both are admirable works that call for bravura and soloist-level playing, especially from the strings, and in both, concertmaster Igor Yuzepovich makes us wish for a future Chandos CD of English music for violin and orchestra, which hopefully would include Ralph Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending.

Once again Chandos delivers here a world-class product, impeccably packaged, insightfully annotated by Anthony Burton, and perfectly engineered by Brian Pidgeon.

Rafael de Acha

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT: TCHAIKOVSKY’S IOLANTA AT THE QUEEN CITY CHAMBER OPERA

Iolanta

In Tchaikovsky’s 1892 opera, Iolanta (his last), the composer’s brother Modeste, author of the libretto, based it on Henrik Hertz’s play Kong Renés Datter, a semi historical Danish language play about a blind princess. Tchaikovsky and his brother treat the subject of psychological blindness sensitively, sufficiently romanticizing it so as to make this one-act tale about the healing power of love something more than a scientific tract.

More than a century later, the first ever documented case of psychological blindness was treated in America when Shirl Jennings recovered his loss of sight becoming at first psychologically overwhelmed by the visual saturation to which his newly-recovered sight subjected him, ultimately becoming a painter.

The subject proved so fascinating that the movie, At First Sight and, later, Brian Friel’s play Molly Sweeney, and Dr. Oliver Saks’ book An Anthropologist in Mars all three dealt with the same story in markedly different ways.

Art may imitate life although it does not have to slavishly replicate it, and thus Tchaikovsky’s one-act romantic fairy tale makes for a fascinating evening of lyric theatre. Welcome then the enterprising Queen City Chamber Opera now gearing up to bring to the Queen City the first ever local production of the tale of Iolanta.

The young Isaac Selya helms this little company that could and has and will, assembling a very fine cast of young up and coming singers. In the title role, soprano Raquel Gonzalez will find love in the arms of tenor M. Andrew Jones (Count Vaudemont) against the wishes of Stefan Egerstrom (King Rene) and in spite of the cautious advise of bass-baritone, Adam Cioffari (medicine man Ibn-Hakia).

Baritone Simon Barrad is love-sick, Robert, and an assortment of courtiers and retinue is in the capable hands of several of this area’s finest singers: Shareese Arnold, Melisa Bonetti, Lauren Mc Allister, Travis Pearce and Junbo Zhou.

Maestro Isaac Selya paces the production, which has been staged by Rebecca Herman, and designed by Lizzie Duquette (set), Joy Galbraith (costumes), and Larry Cserink (lighting). Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad is the Russian-language coach. The opera will be sung in the original Russian, with projected English translations.

Performances will take place Friday May 25 at 8.00 pm and Sunday May 27 at 3.00 pm,
both at the Arts Center at Dunham (1945 Dunham Way). Tickets are available by visiting https://iolantaopera.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Rafael de Acha

HAYDEN SMITH

 

HAYDEN SMITHI first heard Hayden Smith a couple of years ago in a production of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, playing to perfection the role of Sid. Later, in a triple bill of one act operas given by Opera d’Arte at CCM this past April, I found the singing of this 19-year old baritone to be well ahead of his chronological age, writing: “Finest among the very fine members of the triple-bill cast, in the role of Sam, the young baritone Hayden Smith, possessor of a burly physique and the voice to go with it, delivered the kind of vocally mature and dramatically honest performance that bodes well for a young man soon to be on the cusp of an operatic career.”

Hayden will be entering his junior year at CCM this fall, studying with Professor Kenneth Shaw. He is in good hands there, as he is also under the direction of Professor Shaw with whom he will be working on the role of Dr. Falke in the upcoming Opera d’Arte production of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, this coming February.

Hayden has been awarded a $1,000 tuition scholarship at Oregon’s prestigious Saratoga Music Festival. There he will be singing the role of Count Almaviva in an all-student production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Cause for celebration? Sure. Bravo, Hayden!

But Hayden needs our help. He needs approximately $2,000 for his round-trip flight and his living expenses in Oregon. He even needs the money to buy the score of Mozart’s opera, so he can start to study it.

And like with most students at CCM, Hayden’s family pays his tuition, and tuition at UC, in case you did not know, is a killer.

Our De Acha Family Foundation has chosen Hayden Smith as its 2018 Young Artist of Great Promise. He will be the recipient of a cash award to be given him in our October 8 Music for All Seasons concert at Peterloon, in which he will also perform.

But that is then and this is now, and you too can help by taking out your checkbook and pen and sending a tax-deductible donation of any amount you can afford payable to the De Acha Family Foundation/MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS, P0 Box 43172, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243, making sure to write at the bottom of the check: HAYDEN SMITH FUND.

Thank you for your support of a wonderful young artist.

Rafael de Acha

TWO YOUNG MUSICAL TALENTS

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TWO YOUNG MUSICAL TALENTS

First the facts: Miriam K. Smith is ten years old. She has been studying with Sara Kim and Alan Rafferty since she was 4, and has already built up an extensive resume, playing in concert and in recitals across America. Her partner pianist was Jacob Miller, who just received his Master’s degree at CCM, and who will continue his work with Ran Dank towards a DMA this fall.

On Friday May 12, Miriam and Jacob played a recital at CCM’s Werner Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s Variations on the Pamina-Papageno Duet, from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Miriam’s gift for producing a seamless, singing sound was soon in evidence. Miller proved at once to be a fine and flexible collaborator.

Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata sounds best to this pair of ears when played by a cello, and Miriam Smith’s elicited from her instrument a creamy though robust sound perfectly suited to this seemingly simple yet complex composition. Miller again was an equal partner

After a brief pause, the recital began anew with Alberto Ginastera’s moody Pampeana No. 2. The fairly brief composition mines the lower register of the cello with restless, at times dissonant gestures that evoke the desolate and lonely expanses of Argentina’s southernmost regions. The Smith-Miller pairing excelled in their playing, both assertively taking on Ginastera’s musical asperities with flair and flawless musicality.

The recital came to a close with Mstislav Rostropovich’ Humoresque for Violoncello and Piano, an early opus by the legendary Russian maestro that would give pause to any but the bravest of cellists. Miriam Smith played it with cheeky virtuosity and Jacob Miller kept up with the rapid tempo, ever attentive to his partner.

The sizeable audience gave the pair a well-deserved ovation that brought the two back for a lovely rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise.

Miriam can be found on http://www.miriamksmith.com

Rafael de Acha

A PASSION FOR THE HARP

 

Joe Rebman

 

Cincinnati-born Joseph Rebman is passionate about the harp. Over coffee a few weeks ago we spoke at length about his life-long love: the harp. Joe told me how he began studying the harp and composition at age ten, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree in harp performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master’s degree in composition from the University of Oklahoma, and an Artist Diploma from CCM.

 

Since then Joe has been performing with orchestras and ensembles throughout the United States, serving as principal harpist and acting principal harpist with the Amarillo Symphony, the Huntington Symphony, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Fort Smith Symphony, and the Erie Philharmonic. He has also appeared as soloist with the Norfolk Chamber Music, and the Five-One Experimental Orchestra of Cleveland.

 

Joe has lectured on composing for the harp at the Atlantic Music Festival, the CIM Young Composers Program, the Rocky Ridge Music Festival, the University of Oklahoma, and CCM. He has had his own compositions played at the NACUSA convention, the TUTTI New Music Festival, the Ball State Festival of New Music, and the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s Composers Connection Concert.

 

Joseph Rebman makes his first appearance with Music for All Seasons at Historic Peterloon on October 14, 2018, playing Marcel Grandjany’s Fantasy on a theme of Haydn, Op. 31 and Gabriel Fauré’s Impromptu’ for Harp in D flat major.

 

Here he is as both composer and harpist in his own composition Eros Pithos http://www.josephrebman.com/eros