Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra
Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Musical Love Letters: Dedications By LGBT Composers

Aaron Copland with Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti
in Bernardsville, New Jersey, 1945

By Heather O'Donovan
June 7, 2019

June is Pride Month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969 in New York City. To mark 50 years since those history-changing events, we've decided to compile a special playlist of musical dedications by LGBT composers – musical love letters, if you will – in honor of Pride.

In 1969, for many composers, dedicating their compositions to a same-sex romantic partner, or even referencing aspects of their lives in their work, could be considered risky, to say the least. From societal prejudices to legal ramifications, the world did not – and still does not always – look kindly upon the LGBT community. Today, these musical love letters can be viewed in the greater history of Pride as small acts of subversion and assertions of the fundamental rights owed to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.

Richard Chanlaire: Nature morte aux fleurs, tableau
Francis Poulenc to Richard Chanlaire: Concert champêtre

Francis Poulenc's first serious love was a painter by the name of Richard Chanlaire. In a letter accompanying the original score of Concert champêtre, Poulenc addressed Chanlaire: "Here is the best gift I can offer you – accept it along with my heart as it contains all the best parts of myself. These are my tears, my joy, my blood and flesh itself that I have put into this Concerto. I offer it to you today because you are the being that I cherish most upon this earth. You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, my reason for living and for working. During my long months of solitude, I called to you without knowing you... Thank you for finding me at last".

The letter was dated May 10, 1929, although the pair had already established a friendship long before then. In 1927, Poulenc used an inheritance to purchase an estate. Rumors circulated that he was preparing for marriage, and perhaps wanting to dispel the gossip, and maybe in an attempt to grapple with his own "Parisian sexuality", as he referred to it, Poulenc proposed to long-time friend Raymonde Linossier. But she refused him, sparking Poulenc's first real relationship with a man, Chanlaire. Poulenc's letters became suffused with declarations of love for the painter.

After his short-lived affair with Chanlaire, Poulenc went on to have relationships with other men, and also fathered a daughter with Fréderique Lebedeff. Even when Poulenc's religious faith deepened in his mid-30s, he clarified in a letter to a friend that he remained "as sincere in my faith, without any messianic screaming, as I am in my Parisian sexuality".

Ethel Smyth

Emmeline Pankhurst

Ethel Smyth to Emmeline Pankhurst: The March of the Women

Ethel Smyth – the first female composer to have her work performed at the Metropolitan Opera –  was a strong figure who played an important role in the development of England's women's suffrage movement, and scholars today believe she was involved romantically with several women. As a female composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Smyth experienced significant prejudice and resistance, which hindered her ability to get her works performed, particularly at the beginning of her career. When she heard Women's Social and Political Union leader Emmeline Pankhurst deliver a speech in 1910, she was immediately drawn to the cause – and Pankhurst. Smyth gave up music for the ensuing two years, devoting herself instead entirely to the suffrage movement.

The evidence surrounding the actuality of a romantic relationship between Smyth and Pankhurst is somewhat speculative, as it is mostly based upon snippets from letters. Virginia Woolf (another intimate acquaintance) wrote, "In strict confidence, Ethel used to love Emmeline – they shared a bed". In 1914 Smythe wrote to Pankhurst, "Goodnight my darling amd thank you for your letters... Do you really know, I wonder, what they are to me? how I devour them... how I live on one, and all its wonderful news, till the next comes!" Regardless of the romantic extent of their relationship, Smyth was undeniably drawn to the "quiet, exceedingly feminine-looking companion" she found in Pankhurst.

In 1911, Smyth returned to composition briefly in order to compose The March of the Women, which she dedicated to Pankhurst. It became the official anthem of England's women's suffrage movement.

Peter Pears & Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten to Peter Pears: My Beloved Is Mine

Composer Benjamin Britten met tenor Peter Pears through a mutual friend in 1937. What initially began as a fruitful professional relationship soon blossomed into a meaningful personal bond as well. When Britten was nearing the end of his life, he asked a friend to promise that he would "tell the truth about Peter and me" once the composer had passed. It was important to Britten and Pears that their love not be struck from history, even if they were careful about the people with whom they shared their open secret.

Pears was Britten's "beloved man", and the composer wrote many of his greatest works for his voice, including Canticle I: My Beloved is mine, an effusive declaration of passionate and uninhibited love. The dedication says only, "This Canticle was written for the Dick Sheppard Memorial Concert on 1 November 1947, when it was performed by Peter Pears and the composer". The text comes from 17th-century poet Francis Quarles, who intended the poem to be a declaration of religious love for God. But we can confidently infer that Britten's relationship with Pears served as a major influence on his setting of the text and that, for him, it was an undeniable homage to romantic, rather than religious, passion. Its closing text beautifully summarizes the love the couple shared: "He gives me wealth; I give him all my vows: I give him songs; he gives me length of days; With wreaths of grace he crowns my longing brows, And I his temples with a crown of Praise, Which he accepts: an everlasting sign, That I my best-beloved's am; that he is mine".

Gian Carlo Menotti & Samuel Barber

Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber: Vanessa

Composers Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber met at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1928. Menotti had come to the school with very little knowledge of the English language. He did, however, speak Italian and French, and soon became acquainted with another student – one year older than himself – who also spoke French. Menotti's friendship with Barber ("Sam") may have been born out of practicality (in fact, for about two years the pair spoke almost exclusively French), but it soon turned into something deeply meaningful that would profoundly touch both their lives for over three decades.

In 1956, the pair began working on an opera – Barber's first – entitled Vanessa. Menotti crafted the libretto and Barber, the music. By that point they had been partners for much of their lives, and so the work they completed together was born out of their deep understanding of and love for one another. Reminiscing on the intimate nature of Menotti's libretto, a pupil of Barber's remarked that small details like a character borrowing a comb harken back to Barber himself, who never had one. Other references to the intimate details of a life shared for many years come to life as mini love letters throughout the otherwise unhappy story of Vanessa.

Sergey Kireyev
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to Sergey Kireyev: My Genius, My Angel, My Friend

Tchaikovsky's sexuality, once covered up by Soviet censors, has since become a topic of significant research. We know that Tchaikovsky had relationships with many men throughout his life, although the nature of some of his adorations, such as that of his nephew Vladimir Davidov, give today's reader pause. Tchaikovsky struggled to come to terms with his sexuality. At 36 years old, he even resolved to marry a woman, "so as to shut the mouths of assorted contemptible creatures whose opinions mean nothing to me, but who are in a position to cause distress to those near me".

One of Tchaikovsky's earliest infatuations was with Sergey Kireyev, a student four years his junior that he met at school when the composer was 16. It is believed that Tchaikovsky dedicated his first surviving song, My Genius, My Angel, My Friend, to Kireyev. The dedication reads only "To . . . . . . . . . . . . ." It is believed that these 13 dots refer to the 13 letters in Kireyev's name. The pair had a tempestuous relationship during their school days – possibly due to teasing from his schoolmates, Kireyev began to treat Tchaikovsky cruelly, flattering him one moment and mocking him the next. In 1867, 10 years following the composition of the song, Kireyev visited Tchaikovsky in Moscow. Tchaikovsky was happy to see him, but less smitten with him than he had formerly been.

Victor Kraft, 1935 (Photo by Carl Van Vechten)
Aaron Copland to Victor Kraft: El Salón México

Victor Kraft began studying music with Aaron Copland during his teenage years. Although Kraft would eventually turn to a career in photography, he remained a constant in Copland's life. The pair traveled to Mexico together in the fall of 1932 (when Kraft was 17 and Copland 32), and not long after their return, Kraft moved into the composer's Manhattan residence.

Copland dedicated El Salón México to Kraft. Named after a popular dance hall in Mexico City, Copland was determined to create the next España or Bolero, a piece devoid of any pretensions, which can be beloved by all. The orchestral work is a reflection of the Mexican spirit as perceived from the outside eye, suffused with Latin dance rhythms and quotes from Mexican folk music. This musical dedication demonstrates the extent to which Copland was inspired by his travel companion.

Kraft later fathered a son named Jeremy, requesting that Copland be the boy's godfather. After Kraft's death, Copland continued to provide financial support for the boy, even leaving $25,000 in his will to the mother in order to support Jeremy.

Michael Tippett (right) with Wilfred Franks in Spain in 1933

Michael Tippett and Wilfred Franks: String Quartet No.1

Michael Tippett met Wilfred Franks in the spring of 1932 on a train platform in Manchester, introduced through a mutual friend. "Wilf" was unmistakable, wearing a green shirt and green shorts. His personality was marked by what the friend described as "a taxi driver's fund of knowledge, irreverence and humour". Tippett quickly became enamored, and Franks became an embodiment of the sort of freedom that Tippett found elusive. Franks was a Marxist who represented a starkly different outlook on life, and through him, Tippett's understanding of music as a vehicle for social change grew.

In 1934-1935, Tippett wrote his String Quartet No.1, ascribing the piece's beauty to his "deepest, most shattering experience of falling in love", and dedicating it to Wilf. As he described it, "all that love flowed out in the slow movement of my First String Quartet, an unbroken span of lyrical music in which all four instruments sing ardently from start to finish". Tippett revised the work in 1943 after his relationship with Franks had ended, transforming the four-movement version into another with three movements, retaining only the last two of the original score.

Lou Harrison & Bill Colvig, Cabrillo College, 1967
Lou Harrison to Bill Colvig: Music for Bill and Me

Lou Harrison and Bill Colvig met in San Francisco in 1967 after a concert featuring the composer's works. Just weeks later, the pair moved into Harrison's woodland cabin together. They shared many interests, including a deep fascination with and love of non-Western musical traditions. They became particularly interested in the gamelan, a set of pitched percussion instruments from Indonesia. Together, Harrison and Colvig developed and built three "American" gamelans featuring such materials as tin cans and oxygen tanks. Outside of music, the pair were also active members in the Society for Individual Rights, a San Francisco-based organization for protecting gay rights. In 1975, Harrison performed at the very first Santa Cruz Pride celebration, playing one of the gamelans that the couple had built together.

Harrison was happy to live what he called "a life of mountains and music" with Colvig. He composed Music for Bill and Me shortly after the pair's meeting in 1967. The couple remained together for 33 years, until Colvig's death in March 2000.

Source: wqxr.org

P. I. Tchaikovsky, Samuel Barber & Gian Carlo Menotti, Benjamin Britten

More photos

See also

50 Years After Stonewall, Classical Music Still Fights the Fight – Exhibits, panels, opera, more mark 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

The Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No.39 in E flat major, K.543. The concert was recorded at Rothenberg Hall, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, on December 9, 2018.

No group of Mozart's works has been the subject of more discussion than his final three symphonies, No.39 in E flat major, No.40 in G minor, and the "Jupiter" No.41 in C major. They were apparently composed within the remarkably short space of about two months during the summer of 1788, and the composer's motivation for writing them has since been vigorously debated. In common with his contemporaries, Mozart composed nearly exclusively for practical purposes, yet none has been positively identified in this instance. Still, the least plausible explanation advanced is that Mozart composed his great final symphonic trilogy as a result of some personal "inner need", the attractive romanticism of the theory being compounded by the assertion that he did not live to hear these three pinnacles of the symphonic repertoire performed. Such a theory runs counter to all we know about Mozart's working practices. In particular, he would not have had the time for such indulgence during the period concerned, a summer during which his surviving correspondence is predominantly concerned with increasingly desperate begging letters to his benefactor and fellow Freemason Michael Puchberg. More practically, it has been suggested that Mozart intended to mount a series of subscription concerts for the fall or Advent season. It was thought that these concerts never took place, but recently the scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has persuasively argued that these concerts were in fact held, with the three last symphonies as the principal new works performed at them. It also appears highly likely that Mozart took the new works on the tour of Germany he undertook the following year.

In the three symphonies of 1788 (to which must be added in this regard the "Prague" Symphony of 1786) we find the culmination of Mozart's assimilation of the contrapuntal style of Bach and Handel he had first begun to study during the early 1780s. It was this synthesis of "learned" style with the clean clarity of classicism that caused so much trouble for Mozart's contemporaries, to whom his late style became increasingly "difficult". Each of the symphonies occupies a very specific world of its own. The E flat Symphony, entered by Mozart into his thematic catalog on June 26, 1786, is often characterized as being "warm and autumnal" (Robbins Landon), a description that (as so often with Mozart) tells only part of the story; it fails to bring to attention the symphony's tensile strength and a dramatic quality that does not preclude moments of pathos more readily associated with the G minor symphony. There are four movements. The opening Allegro is prefaced (as it had been in both the "Prague" and "Linz" symphonies, its immediate numerical predecessors) by a powerful slow Adagio introduction. The following Andante has a secondary theme which is much stormier (and also subjected to considerable development) than might be expected in a "slow" movement, while the succeeding Minuet has an elegant gait set off by a rustic central trio. The final Allegro is a dazzling display of good humor and contrapuntal wizardry, its complexity skillfully masked in one of those movements in which the composer conceals his art. The Symphony is scored for flute, pairs of clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, and strings.

Source: Brian Robins (allmusic.com)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

♪ Symphony No.39 in E flat major, K.543 (1788)

i. Adagio – Allegro
ii. Andante con moto
iii. Menuetto e Trio. Allegretto
iv. Finale: Allegro

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Rothenberg Hall at The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, December 9, 2018

(HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra: About

Vision. We envision a world where our commitment to a collaborative artistic process results in profound orchestral performances that inspire people to pursue cooperation and artistry in their own creative, professional and personal lives.

Mission. Kaleidoscope is a conductorless chamber orchestra dedicated to enriching lives through exhilarating concert experiences, artistic excellence, musician leadership, and connecting with the diverse communities of Los Angeles.

Core Values

• We believe that our collective of musicians has ideas that are worthy of respect and consideration; that each member has a voice worth hearing; that every person, given the chance and tools, can help to create great art.
• We believe that pursuing a democratic process within the orchestra will improve the quality of the performance, fulfill the collective vision of the ensemble, and create a unique experience not found in traditional orchestras.
• We believe in developing an infrastructure that supports, empowers, and values its musicians.
• We believe in bringing our performances and artistic process to audiences who have little or no exposure to symphonic music with the belief that the experience will enrich the lives of both the audience and the performers.

Artistic Intent. We perform orchestral music that speaks profoundly to our community and is both representative of its time and timeless, whether written today or centuries ago. We stretch the boundaries for what is thought possible without a conductor, both by musicians and audiences, to allow us all to grow through the process. We regularly collaborate with living composers because their music represents our time. We design programs that explore less conventional concert experiences and allow audiences to feel more personally connected to music and the musicians who perform it.

Community Engagement and Education. Kaleidoscope is committed to music education for all ages and is happy to offer a "pay what you can" model to eliminate the barrier of a set ticket price. We want everyone in Los Angeles to have the opportunity to experience great classical music in person by a professional orchestra, think about what that experience means, and pay what makes them happy. We also perform many additional free concerts in schools, hospitals, shelters, and other underserved parts of our community.

We recently started a music education program at a title I elementary school in Culver City, providing music instruction to 200 students each week. With additional funding, we are planning to expand this program to other grades and other schools in the future. Not only do we want every child in Los Angeles to love listening to music, we want every child to have the opportunity to read, play, and write music, too.

Source: kco.la

More photos

See also

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Irene Kim, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope: Meet a different, colorful orchestra

Saturday, June 08, 2019

50 Years After Stonewall, Classical Music Still Fights the Fight – Exhibits, panels, opera, more mark 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots

50 Years After Stonewall, Classical Music Still Fights the Fight

By David Patrick Stearns
June 5, 2019

Typical story themes in LGBT literature are being pushed to the side in the Stonewall 50 anniversary, and with good reason. Poignant tales of finding a loved one in a homophobic world seem comparatively pale as the two-day 1969 Stonewall uprising is re-experienced and commemorated, maybe incongruously, in the uptown world of classical music. Brick-throwing lesbians, a gay Australian outlaw, and unfiltered rage from once-marginalized corners of society might seem out of place in reputedly genteel symphonic and operatic terrains, but they’re not at all, at least now. The long history of classical music provides an endlessly possible vocabulary for amplifying social issues beyond the basic Wikipedia headings about drag queens repelling a routine police raid in the West Village a half century ago.

Political cabaret, refracted Renaissance-era counterpoint and modern dissonance are all resources coming into play in several Stonewall 50 commemorations this year, including The Stonewall Operas, four half-hour works performed May 19 and 20 John Corigliano's AIDS-era Symphony No.1 that's played by the New York Philharmonic May 30 and June 1, and arising from 19th-century history books, Captain Moonlite, the nickname for the gay Australian outlaw who may be a hero for our times thanks to Wally Gunn's excellent new choral opera Moonlite, heard in May in the Bronx, Princeton, and Philadelphia.

Gays once had too much fear and shame to fight at all. In Chicago, such raids included publishing the arrested names in the newspaper – causing any number of suicides. Stonewall patrons from Wall Street were reportedly being blackmailed. Mafia extortion was part of the toxic mix.

Fighting back, however, was in the air on June 28 and 29, 1969. The women's rights movement had gained plenty of momentum. Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War gave birth to something known as "the fighting Jew" after centuries of persecution. The Vietnam War was being still being protested. Topping it off on the day the riots began was the depressing funeral of Judy Garland, who had made impromptu visits to West Village bars. Yet, fighting back at that particular moment had a singular price that was characterized in a number of different directions in the Stonewall Operas.

The four works by New York University Tisch School graduate students, co-produced by American Opera Projects, were first seen at NYU's Schubert Theatre, and then crammed into a stage space about a tenth of that size on the Stonewall Inn's second floor. The dim lights and lack of dinner menu told you this was a place to hide out from the world, and not something that made you feel especially great about being gay. Yet being there was essential to understanding how fighting back was possible only among those who had nothing to lose. You had to be at Stonewall to know what that looked like. And – with the dried alcohol scent – what that smelled like.

And felt like. Their world was nasty. The first opera, Nightlife (by composer TJ Rubin and librettist Deepali Gupta) is a fairly predictable coming-out-in-the-face-of-homophobia story. But its deepest moment is an extended aria by one of the secondary characters about heroin addiction – sung as an answer to the question of if he has a mistress in his life. The detail of the words and the conviction of the music has nothing directly to do with Stonewall, but showed the desperate, dead-end level of society in which West Village gays trafficked. Heroin kills any sex drive – one way to circumvent the gay problem.

To fight or not to fight? That was the question in The Pomada Inn, with music by Brian Cavanagh-Strong and a libretto by Ben Bonnema, set in modern-day Kiev where, as in 1960s America, gays feared raids that would result in job loss and general ostracization. In contrast, an intelligent, sensitive, upscale lesbian couple from New York that would easily pass for straight becomes morally committed to fighting the good fight. But when handed a brick, will they throw it on behalf of their less-fortunate friends? Maybe not. They aren't wired for physical combat. Who is, really. The missing piece, with them, is desperation.

Cut to Outside, with music by Bryan Blaskie and libretto by Seth Christenfeld. It's 1969, Stonewall uprising–eve. But at a gay bar down the block, a drag performer is happy to play to an audience of 10 – despite, thanks to the composer, having some good, barbed cabaret music to sing. His boyfriend is back from the Midwest, still not having come out to his family back home. When the disturbance erupts down the block at the Stonewall Inn, the drag queen – who is down to his last $10 – is out the door ready to break a bottle over somebody's head. The boyfriend stays behind but comes out to his sister by phone – it's still not brick-throwing, but it's a start.

There you have the dilemma. Hiding can be effortless, which is maybe why gay rights lagged behind. If African-Americans could change the color of their skin at will, would that movement had happened when it did? If feminists could pass for men in the work place and get equal pay, would they? Gays could do exactly that. But one of many stages to increased visibility within society was the AIDS epidemic, which pushed gays to publicly protest the indifference of the larger world during the 1980s.

John Corigliano took a huge risk when he wrote his 1989 Symphony No.1 ("Of Rage and Remembrance"), which confronted audiences with the AIDS epidemic. Whatever the subject matter, any new, 45-minute symphony requiring a huge symphonic contingent is a gamble. (With its many collage effects, the piece requires, among other things, the extra expense of a mandolin section.) Corigliano might seem to have had career insurance with his long-in-the-works opera The Ghosts of Versailles waiting in the wings at the Metropolitan Opera. But its 1990 premiere was by no means assured, since Met commissions don't always translate into Met productions (Virgil Thomson's Lord Byron, for example). And no matter how receptive artistic circles are to openly gay composers, what about the conservative donors who have a certain amount of clout? Corigliano's Symphony No.1 is indeed a case of fighting back from the inside out – and at its recent May 30 New York Philharmonic performance, it felt angrier than it ever did, partly because the challenging score can now be played with more authority. Much to the piece's credit, the poly-stylistic piece maintains a piercing fierceness, not to mention eloquent clashes, that apparently prompted a small walkout rate that evening.

The fact that conductors such as Jaap van Zweden (who led the Philharmonic performance) and Charles Dutoit have conducted the piece without needing a special occasion suggests that it has a staying power that can't necessarily be expected of something so specifically tied to an historic event. But even with the composer on hand to talk the Philharmonic audience through the work's extensive musical symbolism as a prelude of sorts, I forgot much of it during the supercharged performance – which told me what the symphony says is one thing, and what it does is another. (Of course, the two are welded together.) This is a piece that drew on Bernstein, Stravinsky, and Ives to create something wholly original. Nothing like it before; nothing like it since. From the offstage piano playing an Albéniz tango, to the poignant cello duet near to the end, to the aforementioned mandolin section, Corigliano brought together sounds and gestures with astounding virtuosity and mastery. Put simplistically, Corigliano is having his cake and eating it too. Though listeners easily forget that Beethoven's Symphony No.3 was once inspired by Napoleon, audiences will always know that this is a work about the AIDS epidemic. But tragedy is timeless, and so is Corigliano's symphony. He didn't just fight back – he created something with an artistic future that won't stop fighting.

"A queer true crime love story" is how Moonlite was dubbed at its May 16 premiere in Philadelphia by the vocal group Variant 6 and Mobius Percussion. And that wasn't an exaggeration. The two-hour choral opera details the events leading to the moment in which Andrew George Scott (1842-80) – already notorious for robbing a bank or two – was caught in a shoot-out that sent him to the gallows. With so many dramatic episodes to choose from in Scott's life, Veronica Jurkiewicz's libretto is weighted toward the dramatic conclusion, when Scott and his lover James Nesbitt, who had been publicly vilified, headed into the bush country looking for work, but ended up starved and exhausted. The final straw was a torrential rainstorm that washed away or ruined what little they had. Except for their firearms. In desperation, Scott and his gang held up the railroad station and hotel, resulting in a shoot-out in which Nesbitt died in Scott's arms.

Some of the libretto came from some of Scott's own texts, and the choral writing utilized a modern version of madrigal-like counterpoint as well as austere harmonies dating back late-medieval composers such as Dufay, which were pungent but avoided the primary-color emotions of major and minor keys. Percussion could blend with the vocal effects, but was particularly atmospheric amid the awful rainstorm that drove Scott back into the outlaw zone. The message: Weep for Scott and Nesbitt if you must, but observe what drove them to fight back. Moonlite has been quite well received. There's serious talk of staging it fully.

So we haven't heard the last of Scott. Or Corigliano, Stonewall, and any number of others once considered to be outlaws in one way or another.

Forthcoming is the New York City Opera's Stonewall, June 21-28 at the Rose Theater – with the high-pedigree creative team of composer Iain Bell and Mark Campbell. It dramatizes the riots head on. Can we expect a good percussion section?

After all, these pieces are about fighting back.

Source: wqxr.org

"Stonewall", New York City Opera, June 21-28, 2019, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater

Exhibits, panels, opera, more mark 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots

By Deepti Hajela
June 7, 2019

NEW YORK — If it's Pride Month, there's gotta be a parade. And there will be, in New York City and places around the country and world.

But this year, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that fuelled the fire for a global LGBTQ movement, there's also a lot more. From symposiums to movie screenings, walking tours to art exhibits, and even an opera, a slew of institutions and organizations are filling June with events that commemorate that moment and its impact through the past five decades, and also using it as inspiration for the current generation of activists to keep pushing for civil rights.

The uproar at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's West Village, began on June 28, 1969, when bar patrons and area residents, tired of harassment that was still allowed by law, clashed with police officers who had come to raid the nightspot. Demonstrations continued for the next several nights.

Those events weren't the first resistance act of the gay rights movement, but it galvanized activism in the United States and around the world.

That history is all over the events that a wide range of institutions are hosting in June, from an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum called "Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall" to an opera by British composer Iain Bell commissioned by the New York City Opera called "Stonewall", which is getting its world premiere toward the end of the month.

There are walking tours, like the one from the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project that will take participants around Greenwich Village and talk about the anti-gay climate that led to the Stonewall protests, and a panel discussion at a branch of the New York Public Library from transgender speakers talking about Stonewall and current trans life.

"In the best possible world we would use these anniversaries, and I think it's happening this time, as a jumping-off point to look deeper", said Eric Marcus, founder of the Stonewall 50 Consortium, an organization that brought together cultural institutions and others primarily in New York City that have created programming connected to Stonewall.

It's not just New York City, as Pride festivals and parades are taking place around the country in June and beyond, and references to the Stonewall anniversary are everywhere.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a month of events will include a ball celebrating those who resisted at Stonewall. At the Library of Congress in Washington, a display that went up at the end of May called "Stonewall at 50 – LGBTQ+ Activism in the United States" uses flyers and other historical items to showcase protest history.

But for New York City, the anniversary has become the opportunity to take its already high-profile Pride celebrations even higher; Heritage of Pride, the organization that plans the city's parade and other events, has included a commemorative rally in its slate of events for the month, and is hosting WorldPride as well, the first time the international event has been held in the United States in its two-decade existence.

The confluence of all that has Pride organizers and city tourism officials hopeful that the throngs of visitors who come to take part in the various Pride activities over a period of about six weeks could double.

Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, the city's marketing organization, said the city's cultural institutions really responded to the anniversary.

"We're proud of how many came forward and put together great programming", he said.

The spirit of protest that Stonewall represents is also represented in some events this month, including the Queer Liberation March being planned by the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

That group decries what it sees as the commercialization and corporatization of mainstream Pride events. The coalition's march is planned for the same day as the main Heritage of Pride march June 30.

"There are members of our community who have always struggled, who have always been left behind", said Natalie James, co-founder of Reclaim Pride. "What I think we want to go back to is... the radicalism and solidarity of the early days of the activists in this movement."

Source: The Associated Press

More photos

See also

Musical Love Letters: Dedications By LGBT Composers

John Corigliano: Of Rage and Remembrance & Symphony No.1 – Leonard Slatkin (Audio video)

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Irene Kim, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Accompanied by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the American pianist Irene Kim performs Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.3 in C major, Op.26. The concert was recorded at Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, Orange, California, on February 24, 2019.

For his Third Concerto for piano and orchestra, Prokofiev looked to the past for inspiration: this concerto incorporates material derived from sketches made between 1911 and 1918. The first movement contains two themes that were written in 1916, plus a chordal passage first sketched in 1911; the second movement contains a theme and variations that was written in 1913, while the final movement uses thematic material from a discarded string quartet begun in 1918. When he began composing this concerto during a holiday in Brittany, Prokofiev wrote, "I already had all the thematic material I needed except for the third theme of the finale and the subordinate theme of the first movement".

The Third Piano Concerto is perhaps Prokofiev's best known essay in this genre, and approaches Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in popularity and frequency of performance. Its opus number places it just after the "Classical" First Symphony of 1917, and the concerto is, in its way, similar to the First Symphony is a number of ways: both works are lively, acerbic, with brilliant orchestration and a certain transparent texture. Both pieces are also clearly the work of a deft young composer of considerable technical skill; however, the two works differ greatly in regards to their reception. The "Classical" Symphony was reasonably well received in Russia, where it was performed only once before Prokofiev emigrated to the United States. Subsequent performances of the symphony in America were very successful. The Third Concerto, on the other hand, did not fare so well, and after a good premiere in Chicago (along with the opera Love for Three Oranges) in 1921, the work was roundly denounced in New York.

The Concerto displays much of the "harmonic liveliness", in Nancy Siff's words, of the mid-period symphonies, with its sudden shifts from key to key and chromatic harmony. The sophistication and bravura generally associated with Prokofiev's music is ever present, as is the humor found in many of his orchestral works. The Concerto is in a traditional three-movement concerto form (the only one of Prokofiev's five piano concertos to use the traditional form), beginning and ending with fast movements that flank a slow middle movement. Each movement is about the same length, and the thematic weight and interest is distributed evenly throughout the movements. The work begins with a vivacious opening movement, which includes a humorous march underlined by castanets, followed by the five variations of the second movement, and concludes with a grandiose display of colorful harmonies and virtuosic orchestration. The solo writing for the piano is also virtuosic, and at times quite percussive.

Source: Alexander Carpenter (allmusic.com)

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

♪ Piano Concerto No.3 in C major, Op.26 (1921)

i. Andante – Allegro

ii. Tema con variazioni
iii. Allegro, ma non troppo

Irene Kim, piano

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, Orange, California, February 24, 2019

(HD 1080p)

American pianist Irene Kim has been praised for her "vitality and charm" and "authoritative inevitability" by the Peninsula Review and her "superior technique and delicate sensibility" by the Korea Times. Her performances have been heard across North America and Europe in recitals, chamber ensembles, and as a soloist with the Washington Youth Orchestra, Los Angeles Korean Chamber Orchestra, Rio Hondo Symphony, Southwestern Youth Music Festival Orchestra, and repeat performances with the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra.

Having garnered the Franz Liszt First Prize in the Liszt-Garrison International Young Artist competition and top prizes in the Carmel Music Society, Korean Concert Society, Yale Gordon Concerto, and Russell C. Wonderlic competitions amongst others, she gave subsequent performances at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Centro Cultural del Antiguo Instituto, Luckman Theatre, and the Library of Congress. Irene has also made appearances at the Banff Centre for the Arts Festival, Gijón International Piano Festival, Piano Festival Northwest, Seminars at the Colburn School, Columbia Chalice Concert Series, An die Musik Live, American Liszt Society Conferences, and also as a member of the Young Artists Guild.

As a musician of curiosity, Irene has collaborated extensively, most notably with vocalists, cellists, violinists, and percussionists. She tours frequently with violinist Benjamin Hoffman as brightfeather, appearing in recitals from the New England area to Florence, Italy to enthusiastic audiences. Continuously piqued by the music and art of her contemporary surroundings, she has recently taken on projects with living composers, premiering works, and collaborating with visual artists and dancers. Irene's other interests have led her to train as a conductor and also as a piano technician assistant at the Peabody Institute. She finished an internship with the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her love for cinematography has led to projects of setting mixed media to music. Taking after her architect father, Irene is thoroughly interested in the acoustical designs of theatres and music halls.

Irene was born and raised in Los Angeles and began musical studies at age three with her mother. By age five, she was accepted into the distinguished and influential studio of Ick-Choo and Hae-Young Moon, where her formative training was established. At age eight, she made her orchestral debut with the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra.

Irene's professional training has been centered at the Peabody Conservatory, where she recently received her Doctorate in Musical Arts. She was awarded the Albert and Rosa Silverman Memorial Scholarship, the Lillian Gutman Memorial Piano Prize, and Clara Ascherfeld Award by the Conservatory for her musical endeavors during her studies there. Her mentors and teachers, Marian Hahn and Boris Slutsky, have been infinitely inspiring in the impartation of their passion for the art of musicianship.

In the course of her musical erudition, she also has had the honor to work with and receive precious insight from various distinguished musicians, including Leon Fleisher, Anton Kuerti, Robert McDonald, Ani Kavafian, Alexander Toradze, and Robert Van Sice amongst others.

Irene is an avid believer that the arts are a manifestation of humanity and its creativity and aspires to let music travel to where its resounding compassion is much needed.

Source: irenekimpianist.com

More photos

See also

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope: Meet a different, colorful orchestra


Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Yuja Wang, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Beethoven worked on the Fifth Symphony for more than four years, completing it in 1808, and introducing it on December 22 of that year at what must have been one of the most extraordinary concerts in history. The marathon program included the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies; the Choral Fantasy, Op.80; the Fourth Piano Concerto; and parts of the Mass in C. Vienna was in the grip of exceptionally cold weather, the hall was unheated, and the musicians woefully under-prepared. As Schindler noted, "the reception accorded to these works was not as desired, and probably no better than the author himself had expected. The public was not endowed with the necessary degree of comprehension for such extraordinary music, and the performance left a great deal to be desired".

Following early indifference, the public only gradually began to come to terms with the Fifth. One of its earliest proponents, the poet and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote, "How this magnificent composition carries the listener on and on in a continually ascending climax into the ghostly world of infinity!... the human breast, squeezed by monstrous presentiments and destructive powers, seems to gasp for breath; soon a kindly figure approaches full of radiance, and illuminates the depths of terrifying night". In his Howard's End, E.M. Forster writes of the work, suggesting that it satisfies "all sort and conditions". The characters of Helen and Tibby know the work well, the latter even describing "the transitional passage on the drum" before the finale. That Forster dwelt at such length on the work shows the extent to which it had become absorbed into the Romantic consciousness.

Hermann Kretzschmar wrote of the "stirring dogged and desperate struggle" of the first movement, one of the most concentrated of all Beethoven's symphonic sonata movements. It is derived almost exclusively from the rhythmic cell of the opening, which is even felt in the accompaniment of the second subject group. There follows a variation movement in which cellos introduce the theme, increasingly elaborated and with shorter note values at every reappearance. A second, hymn-like motif is heard as its counterfoil.

The tripartite scherzo follows; the main idea is based on an ominous arpeggio figure, but we hear also the omnipresent "Fate" rhythm, exactly as it is experienced in the first movement. The central section, which replaces the customary trio, is a pounding fugato beginning in the cellos and basses, and then running through the rest of the orchestra. Of particular structural interest is the inter-linking bridge passage which connects the last two movements. Over the drumbeat referred to by Forster's Tibby, the music climbs inexorably toward the tremendous assertion of C major triumph at the start of the finale. The epic grandeur of the music, now with martial trombones and piccolo added (the Fifth also calls for contrabassoon), has irresistible drive and sweep, though that eventual victory is still some way off is suggested by the return of the ominous scherzo figure during the extended development.

Source: Michael Jameson (allmusic.com)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

♪ Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67 (1807-1808)

i. Allegro con brio

ii. Andante con moto
iii. Scherzo: Allegro
iv. Allegro

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, Orange, California, February 24, 2019

(HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra: About

Vision. We envision a world where our commitment to a collaborative artistic process results in profound orchestral performances that inspire people to pursue cooperation and artistry in their own creative, professional and personal lives.

Mission. Kaleidoscope is a conductorless chamber orchestra dedicated to enriching lives through exhilarating concert experiences, artistic excellence, musician leadership, and connecting with the diverse communities of Los Angeles.

Core Values

• We believe that our collective of musicians has ideas that are worthy of respect and consideration; that each member has a voice worth hearing; that every person, given the chance and tools, can help to create great art.
• We believe that pursuing a democratic process within the orchestra will improve the quality of the performance, fulfill the collective vision of the ensemble, and create a unique experience not found in traditional orchestras.
• We believe in developing an infrastructure that supports, empowers, and values its musicians.
• We believe in bringing our performances and artistic process to audiences who have little or no exposure to symphonic music with the belief that the experience will enrich the lives of both the audience and the performers.

Artistic Intent. We perform orchestral music that speaks profoundly to our community and is both representative of its time and timeless, whether written today or centuries ago. We stretch the boundaries for what is thought possible without a conductor, both by musicians and audiences, to allow us all to grow through the process. We regularly collaborate with living composers because their music represents our time. We design programs that explore less conventional concert experiences and allow audiences to feel more personally connected to music and the musicians who perform it.

Community Engagement and Education. Kaleidoscope is committed to music education for all ages and is happy to offer a "pay what you can" model to eliminate the barrier of a set ticket price. We want everyone in Los Angeles to have the opportunity to experience great classical music in person by a professional orchestra, think about what that experience means, and pay what makes them happy. We also perform many additional free concerts in schools, hospitals, shelters, and other underserved parts of our community.

We recently started a music education program at a title I elementary school in Culver City, providing music instruction to 200 students each week. With additional funding, we are planning to expand this program to other grades and other schools in the future. Not only do we want every child in Los Angeles to love listening to music, we want every child to have the opportunity to read, play, and write music, too.

Source: kco.la

More photos

See also

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Irene Kim, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope: Meet a different, colorful orchestra

Monday, May 27, 2019

The best new classical albums: May 2019

Recording of the Month

Gustav Mahler: "Titan", Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform (Hamburg / Weimar 1893-1894 version)

Les Siècles (On period instruments)
Conductor: François-Xavier Roth

Recorded 2018
Released on May 10, 2019 by Harmonia mundi

Forget the Mahler First you know and travel back to the work's second incarnation. This is Titan, a five-movement symphonic poem with a very definite programme, which Mahler later dropped: a man's heroic but ultimately fruitless battle with fate. Playing mainly Austro-German instruments appropriate to the period, Les Siècles make a compelling case for this precursor of Symphony No.1. Beautifully judged, vividly characterised and with a gorgeous range of colours – the later-discarded second movement, "Blumine", is heavenly – this is another triumph for conductor François-Xavier Roth.

Source: itunes.apple.com

Gustav Mahler was not yet thirty years old when he mounted the podium to conduct his "Symphonic Poem" (Sinfonische Dichtung) in the Large Hall of the Redoute (Vigadó) in Budapest on 20 November 1889. The young man, who had recently been appointed director of the Hungarian capital's opera house, was presenting an orchestral composition for the first time that evening. This work, which Mahler thought would be "child's play", was in fact – as he was to admit years later – "one of [his] boldest". It is the crystallisation of his childhood, marked by the successive deaths of his brothers and sisters but also by the brutality of his father. The work also embodies the dreams that this rebellious young student at the Vienna Conservatory had already forged some ten years earlier, with the new generation of artists and thinkers of which he was a member.

In this album, François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles have chosen to present Mahler's First Symphony in its second version, that of Hamburg / Weimar (1893-1894) – a unique opportunity to hear the symphonic poem Titan. By allowing us to follow the genesis of this first large scale work, Titan opens the doors of Mahler's artistic workshop at a crucial moment in the creative process: the transition from the youthful effort of 1889 to the Symphony in D major of 1896, which established Mahler as one of the foremost symphonists of the modern era.

Source: prestomusic.com

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony No.1, but the "real" Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg / Weimar performances of 1893-1894. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E. Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

This allows us, as Anna Stoll Knecht and Benjamin Garzia of the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler note, "to follow the genesis of this first large-scale work, (which) opens the doors of Mahler's artistic workshop at a crucial moment in the creative process". Mahler extensively revised his very first version, premiered in Budapest in 1889. For the Hamburg performance, in October 1893, he described it as "The Titan, A Tone Poem in the form of a symphony" in five parts, each with programmatic titles. In Weimar, in June 1894, he adapted it further, so it was no longer a symphonic poem but a "symphony". While the text accompanying the Weimar performance retained the programmatic titles from Hamburg, the score was now devoid of them, heralding the transition from symphonic poem to the Symphony in D major, as the Berlin version from 1896 was to be called. Donald Mitchell has compared this working process to building with scaffolding, which is later removed to reveal the finished structure. Even after publication, Mahler reserved the right to make further revisions, continuing to do so until the last performance he conducted, in New York in 1909.

While the edition of the score is of great interest, the performance itself is superb, definitely worth hearing on its own merits. Roth has conducted the standard version many times, but here he conducts Les Siècles "sur instruments d'époque", using instruments of Mahler's time. They use instruments which would have been used in the pit of the Vienna Court Opera and the Musikverein, and selected Viennese oboes, German flutes, clarinets and bassoons, German and Viennese horns and trumpets, and German trombones and tubas. "These instruments are built quite differently from their French contemporaries", writes Roth. "The fingerings, the bores and even the mouthpieces of the clarinets were completely new to our musicians. The wind instruments have a singular quality that exactly matches the rhetoric of the Austro-German music of that time, with a darker colour than that of the instruments then used in France. Perhaps they are also more powerful, and their articulation is a little slower. In the case of the string section, each instrument is set up with bare gut for the higher strings and spun gut for the lower ones. Gut strings give you a sound material totally different from metal strings, more highly developed harmonics, and incisiveness in the attack and articulation." Each instrument is individually identified, as are the players.

This approach to instrumentation infuses the performance, giving it an invigorating sense of vitality. Given that Mahler was embarking on new adventures, Roth and Les Siècles capture the spirit of the piece with extraordinary expressiveness. The first movement of the first part, "Frühling und kein Ende" comes alive from the start. Period horns emerge from the rustling strings to create an earthiness entirely in keeping with the idea of Spring and burgeoning new growth. The woodwinds call the "kuck-kuck" motif with such purity that they sound like birds. The movement builds up to a crescendo so joyous that it seems to explode with energy and freedom. In the song "Ging heut' Morgen über's Feld" the protagonist hears the birds sing "Ist's nicht eine schöne Welt? Ei, du! Gelt? Schöne Welt!". Though the song ends on a minor key, Mahler ends the movement with a punch of an exuberant timpani.

In the past, the "Blumine" movement has been attached to what is now known as Mahler's Symphony No.1, even though the composer himself pointedly removed it. The result is neither sympohony noit "symphonic poem" but a hybrid. Mahler dropped the piece, finding it too "sentimental", a "youthful folly" (Jugend-Eselei), and it does inhibit the flow of the symphony. "Blumine" includes passages from "Der Trompeter von Säckingen", incidental music to a play he'd written in 1884. Hence the prominent trumpet part, which here is particularly beautifully played: almost as evocative as the post horn in Mahler's Third Symphony, though "Blumine" is a much slighter piece. The mellowness of the instruments Les Siècles employ enhances the section's function as a throwback to past times. There's not much point in including it as an add-on these days when the full symphony is so well known, so it's better to hear it in proper context, as this new edition offers. It operates as an andante to the much more sophisticated scherzo of the (third) movement here. Originally titled "Mit vollen Segeln", it's played here with ebullient verve: the trio part earthy Ländler, part cheeky waltz.

Part Two of the Titan was titled "Commedia humana" (Human Comedy). It begins with "Gestrandet", a Totenmarsch inspired by an illustration of hunted animals following the cortege of a dead huntsman: the worldly order of power in reverse. Again, the usee of instruments Mahler himself would have known adds colour to this performance. The rhythms reference the folk tune Bruder Jakob: hence Mahler's comment that it should sound quaint "as if slaughtered by a bad orchestra". Ländler values again, with echoes of the motif "Auf der Straße steht ein Lindenbaum" from the song "Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz" with which Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen ends. The dark humour of this Dantesque "human comedy" comes to the fore in the last movement, an allegro furioso originally titled "Dall'Inferno". Such energy in this performance – proof that instruments of the right period can sound powerfully animated. Roth and Les Siècles perform with intense conviction. Each section of the orchestra sounds alert, aware of what's evolving in the music: the triumph of some heroic force of life, blasting away death and venality. Hence the term "Titan", refering to Jean Paul's Bildungsroman, where wisdom is won through fire, in search of higher purpose. 

Source: Anne Ozorio (operatoday.com)

George Frideric Handel: Messiah, HWV 56

Giulia Semenzato, soprano
Benno Schachtner, countertenor
Krystian Adam, tenor
Krešimir Stražanac, bass

Collegium Vocale 1704, Collegium 1704
Conductor: Václav Luks

Recorded March 2018 at Rudolfinum, Prague
Released on April 19, 2019 by Accent

Handel's Messiah is already very well represented on the market with dozens of existing recordings and new productions appearing at regular intervals. Yet this is a very special version, carefully crafted by the Prague-based Collegium Vocale and Collegium 1704 under the baton of Vaclav Luks, founder of the ensemble and one of the most exciting conductors of the Baroque and Classical repertoire. The fine young singers Giulia Semenzato, Benno Schachtner, Krystian Adam, and Krešimir Stražanac joined the ensembles for two moving live performances in Prague's Rudolfinum in March 2018, and those performances are now presented here. Collegium 1704 and the Collegium Vocale 1704 were founded in 2005. Since 2007, Collegium 1704 has been ensemble in residence of the St Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava and a regular guest at leading European festivals and concert venues in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and more.

Source: naxosdirect.com

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor "Pathétique", Op.74

Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko

Recorded March 22-23, 2017, at the Philharmonie Berlin
Released on May 10, 2019 by Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings

When Kirill Petrenko performed Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony with the Berliner Philharmoniker in March 2017, one critic was "stunned at how beautiful and breathtakingly exciting this music can be". This first audio release of the orchestra and its new chief conductor reflects the whole sonority and intensity of the interpretation – and offers a taste of an exciting new beginning.

The orchestra's musicians, audiences and journalists had high expectations of the concert. After all, this was their first appearance together since the Berliner Philharmoniker had elected Kirill Petrenko as their chief conductor two years earlier. In the end there were loud cheers, and the press's verdict: "A triumph". In fact, all the qualities of this artistic partnership which had led the orchestra electing Kirill Petrenko came together here. While the rehearsals were still characterised by concentrated work on sound, colouring and phrasing, during the concert itself, musicianship took over, born entirely of the moment, full of commitment, energy and emotion.

With its both finely balanced yet uninhibited expressiveness, the interpretation perfectly meets the requirements of Tchaikovsky's last symphony. In this work, the composer not only reveals the pain and drama of a troubled soul, but also his whole compositional art – with sophisticated inflections and formal concepts, including a waltz in a complex 5/4 beat.

The high-quality hardcover edition presents the recording on a CD/SACD which can be played on all CD and SACD players. It allows playback in either best CD sound or, when used as SACD, in high-resolution audio quality plus in surround sound. The extensive booklet includes an essay which, among other things, reflects Kirill Petrenko's view of Tchaikovsky's symphony and this recording.

Source: berliner-philharmoniker-recordings.com

Edward Elgar: Caractacus, Op.35

Elizabeth Llewellyn (Eigen), soprano
Elgan Llŷr Thomas (Orbin), tenor
Roland Wood (Caractacus), baritone
Christopher Purves (Arch-Druid, A Bard), bass
Alastair Miles (Claudius), bass

Huddersfield Choral Society
Orchestra of Opera North
Conductor: Martyn Brabbins

Recorded April 11-13, 2018, at Huddersfield Town Hall, England
Released on March 29, 2019 by Hyperion Records

Although the London performance of the Enigma Variations under Richter in 1899 is invariably cited as the composer's "red letter" day, Elgar's cantata Caractacus, written for Leeds in 1898, was in many ways equally if not more important as the stylistic confluence of his mature voice (even if Ackworth's rather dated libretto occasionally sticks in the craw). A coming together of his Wagnerian enthusiasms, the work amply illustrates his fertile use of leitmotif technique (one that was already incipient in his earlier choral works, The Black Knight, King Olaf and The Light of Life). But, more significantly, it was only one conscious step for Elgar to translate his instinctive musical thought in instrumental terms into a fully fledged Wagnerian symphonic process in which the orchestra became the dominant vehicle. This is compellingly evident in Caractacus, in many ways a one-act nationalist opera, and points the way to those operas-manqués of The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Kingdom, which represent the pinnacle of his interpretation of the British oratorio paradigm.

Martyn Brabbins, a true specialist of late Victorian repertoire (as we know from his interpretations of Parry and Stanford), is very much alive to these aspects of the work (perhaps encouraged by his experience at ENO). He brings an electricity and Straussian Schwung to the orchestral sound throughout this recording, whether in the vibrant marches of scene 1 ("Watchmen, alert!"), the processional march of scene 4 (the best-known part of the cantata) or the delicious "woodland interlude", a forerunner of "Dorabella" in the Enigma Variations and the immutable miniatures of the two Wand of Youth Suites.

There are some fine performances here from the soloists. Roland Wood is very much up to the weighty role of Caractacus, especially in the big soliloquies of scene 1, scene 4 (the moving lament "O my warriors") and the historically renowned eloquent address before Claudius and the Senate in scene 6. Christopher Purves's euphonious, rich bass tone is admirably suited to the well-meaning if deceitful Bard in scene 2 (at times thoroughly redolent of Parsifal) with its splendid march theme ("Go forth to conquer"), and Alastair Miles plays an authoritative Claudius in scene 6. Elizabeth Llewellyn lends some lyrical respite to much of the forceful rhetoric of the work's warrior spirit, one abundantly supplied by Caractacus's impetuous son, Orbin, played by Elgan Llŷr Thomas. Both are also passionately equal to Elgar's enthralling love duet in scene 3, a section that avidly confirms the operatic character of this rich score. The well-prepared Huddersfield Choral Society, appropriately attuned to their role as turba, provide a range of sensitive light and shade, as well muscular tone, to the varying dramatic contexts, and a crisp counterpoint to the orchestra, with which they often participate as part of the larger instrumental canvas. This is particularly memorable in the opening chorus of scene 1 and the stirring music of the triumphal march in scene 6.

Source: Jeremy Dibble (gramophone.co.uk)

Ivan Bessonov plays Frédéric Chopin & Ivan Bessonov

Ivan Bessonov, piano

Recorded November-December 2018 at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory
Released on April 5, 2019 by Ars Produktion

"I like the way the world reveals itself in Chopin's music: Very pure, very subtle, lyrical, often even tragic, but sometimes light and cheerful, with a belief in something very good. I think that Chopin will always be a reason for me to love life even more. [...] Why these compositions? Of course they shaped my soul when I heard them for the first time, and afterwards I really wanted to continue playing them." — Ivan Bessonov

Ivan Bessonov is fascinated by Chopin's works, which not only manifests itself in his performance, but also encourages him to create his own works. In them little details and intonations of Chopin's music are heard. Born in 2002, Ivan Bessonov comes from a family of musicians in St Petersburg. He started taking piano lessons at the age of six. Since 2012 he has been studying piano at the Moscow Central Music School for particularly gifted children of the Conservatory in the class of Professor Vadim Rudenko.

Source: arkivmusic.com

The Yiddish Cabaret – Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Erwin Schulhoff, Leonid Desyatnikov

Hila Baggio, soprano

Jerusalem Quartet:
Alexander Pavlovsky, violin
Sergei Bresler, violin
Ori Kam, viola
Kyril Zlotnikov, cello

Recorded December 2018 in Teldex Studio Berlin
Released on May 17, 2019 by Harmonia mundi

The disc's program is the result of a work by the Jerusalem's Quartet around the music of Yiddish cabarets in Poland between the two world wars. For nearly two years, the four musicians, assisted by the musicologist Gila Flam, started doing research in the archives of Jerusalem's National Library. After a long task of selection, they held back five Yiddish songs that were sung in the Jewish cabarets of Warsaw and Łódź between 1919 and 1939. The first one is a nostalgic song about Warsaw (Varshe), the second one is a parody of an American song which tells about the fate of a Jewish prostitute (In a hoyz vu men veynt un men lakht). The third (Ikh ganve in der nakht) and fifth song (Ikh vel shoyn mer nit ganvenen) come from the repertoire of Yiddish "thiefs songs" of the Jewish mob. The fourth song (Yosl und Sore-Dvoshe) is a duet between a man and a woman who live in poverty but dream of having a big family and live happily in a big town. These five songs served as the "raw material" for a creation by Israeli composer Leonid Desyatnikov (1955) who made an adaptation for vocals (performed here in Yiddish by the Israeli soprano Hila Baggio) and string quartet. As it is precised by Desyatnikov in the booklet of the disc written by Gila Flam: "This cycle is a serie of free transcriptions for this music, commonly qualified of ‘low value’. It's the eclectic culture of the proletarian and foreign, the culture of the cheap posh, and, in the same time – in its best ways –, an insolent and talented culture, full of self-irony and of waiting despair". Gila Flam adds that "the Jewish musicians and performers played a leading role in Poland's popular music, contributing in helping widening the repertoire of Polish and Yiddish songs. With this, they influenced all the European cabaret's music as well as Hollywood's film music, and music of theatres on Broadway in America".

And it is precisely in Hollywood that the Jewish composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) did most of his carreer. Born in Brno in Austria-Hungaria on the 29th of May 1897, child prodigy, sometimes compared to Mozart, he is one of the last representatives of Viennese romantism. In 1925, he is the most played composer after Richard Strauss in the German speaking countries. In 1934, he makes a first trip to the USA, where he writes essentially film music for Warner Bros company. After a short return to Vienna in 1937, he settles down definitively in 1938. During twelve years, he writes eighteen film music, two of them (Anthony Adverse and Robin Hood) awarded with Oscars. His String Quartet No.2 Op.26, in four movements, was composed in 1933 and created in Vienna by the Rose Quartet on March 16th 1934, just before the composer left for the USA. According to Jerusalem's String Quartet, this work by Korngold expresses his deep nostalgia of Central Europe's musical traditions.

The last piece of music of this disc – slightly eclectic – is from the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942). Born in Prague in 1894 in a Jewish family, Schulhoff was very early noticed and encouraged by Dvořák. His style is characterised by a mix of atonality, of surrealism and popular repertoire. Arrested by the Nazis on June 22nd 1941, he will be interned in the Wülzburg's fortress, in Bavaria, where he will die of tuberculosis the 28th of August 1942. His Five pieces for string quartet (1923), dedicated to Darius Milhaud, were performed for the first time in Salzburg on the 8th of August 1924. They form a succession of dances (waltz, tango, tarentella...) which take their inspiration from popular music of the time.

Source: cfmj.fr

The Beginnings – Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Jacobus Kloppers, Krystian Kiełb, Oscar Peterson

Adam Żukiewicz, piano

Recorded May 23-26, 2018 at the European Center Matecznik "Mazowsze" in Otrębusy, Poland
Released on April 19, 2019 by DUX

The intention of Adam Żukiewicz, a Polish pianist developing his artistic career in North America, is to provide the listener of this recording with a unique diversity of musical experiences. Żukiewicz, being an enthusiast of new music, regularly presents contemporary works and performs premieres of new compositions. This category includes, written especially for the purposes of this album, the cycle Images by Krystian Kielb, or Goodbye Old Friend by Oscar Peterson in the arrangement of Don Thompson and Adam Żukiewicz. It is not a coincidence, however, that the album bears an original title The Beginnings – the most classical piano staples with Beethoven and Chopin show how strong and diverse the musical inspirations of the artist are.

Source: clicmusique.com

Johann Sebastian Bach: Overture in the French style, BWV 831 – Sarabande con partite in C major, BWV 990 – English Suite No.6 in D minor, BWV 811

Nils Anders Mortensen, piano

Recorded January 14-16, 2019, at the Jar Church, Bærum, Norway
Released on May 10, 2019 by LAWO Classics

One thing on which many agree is that Bach was doubtless the greatest composer of them all. Schumann noted in his diary that "Johann Sebastian Bach has done everything completely", and in Mahler's words "In Bach all the vital cells of music are united as the world is in God; there has never been any polyphony greater than this."

Bach's works are universal and essentially independent of the instrument the performer is playing. But the use of a modern grand piano is a challenge and can require an adaptation of resources and ideas. The Overture in the French Style, BWV 831, the Sixth English Suite, BWV 811, and the lesser known Sarabande con partite, BWV 990 are three works in which the original instrument with two or three manuals influences the composition to a considerable extent. Pianist Nils Anders Mortensen uses various approaches to the music, with a nod at times to the historical instruments, or an affirmation of the modern grand piano's inherent possibilities, while at other times he plays with different styles.

The Overture in the French Style represents the culmination of Bach's encounter with French music and captures the most essential elements of French harmony, rhythm, ornamentation and form. The Sarabande variations are appealing and uncomplicated. The English Suite in D minor (with the notation in the score "Written for the English", but not composed in the English style) has a marvellously monumental prelude before the French dance movements.

With his critically acclaimed recordings and his soloist appearances with the principal Norwegian orchestras, Nils Anders Mortensen has established himself as one of Norway's leading pianists. Employed as state musician in Finnmark County, he is also active as a freelance artist. This is Mortensen's third solo album on the LAWO Classics label. In addition, he has recorded eight albums with mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland, and two duo releases with double bassist Knut Erik Sundquist and violinist Arvid Engegård, respectively.

Source: highresaudio.com

Havergal Brian: The Tinker's Wedding. Overture – Symphony No.7 in C major – Symphony No.16

New Russia State Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Alexander Walker

Recorded January 16-19, 2018 in Studio 5, Russian State TV & Radio Company KULTURA, Moscow
Released on May 10, 2019 by Naxos

Havergal Brian's late creativity is almost unparalleled in musical history – in the last two decades of his life he wrote 25 symphonies. No.7, the last of his truly large-scale symphonies, was inspired by Goethe's autobiographical account of his time as a student in Strasbourg. Symphony No.16 is a tough single-movement work, evoking Ancient Greece and the savagery of the Persian Wars. In bright contrast The Tinker's Wedding is a sparkling comedy overture based on the play by J.M. Synge.

Source: CD back cover

The recorded sound of this disc is joyously impressive: heaps of detail, atmospheric and a sense of a wide open acoustic, even if this is a broadcasting studio. This complements three Brian works of gawky progress and splendid incident here receiving second (or third) recordings. The respective works' disc debuts date back in the case of No.16 to the analogue era in 1973 and for the other two works five years after that to early digital technology; they were issued by EMI on LP, cassette and CD. In humdrum terms these recordings were historical. These were in the vanguard of professional Brian performances to be commercially recorded. The present Naxos disc owes its existence to financial support from the Havergal Brian Society.

Naxos open proceedings with two works from 1948. The first is an affable, bright rather than brilliant eight-minute overture just occasionally showing some kinship with Walton and Berners. It is based on J.M. Synge's play, The Tinker's Wedding and is a sort of obverse in mood to the fantastical melodious Sixth Symphony Sinfonia Tragica. It was also written in 1948 which may well have been a great year for Brian. The Sixth found its genesis in another Synge play, Deirdre of the Sorrows. The latter was also set by Healey Willan, Karl Rankl and Cecil Gray. Synge had impressed Brian as early as 1918. Clearly, his writings held long-term musical fascination because other Synge works have been written from the 1930s to 1990s by Vaughan Williams, Bernard Stevens and Marga Richter. The overture is in step with Brian's much earlier overture, Dr Merryheart.

The two symphonies show contrasting aspects of Brian. The Seventh, seemingly inspired by Goethe, Strasbourg and its cathedral adopts an epic stance across four distinct movements, ending with a completely non-Baxian Epilogue. The Sixteenth, from twelve years later, is characteristic of the later works. It is in a single movement and is only fifteen minutes long.

The Seventh launches out with a jerkily pecked-out fanfare-march of an idea. Brian had a gift for intensely memorable openings: witness the first three symphonies. This purposeful aspect, which is also felt at the start of then second movement, is undermined by many more reflective and disillusioned pages. It's interesting that the term "Allegro" appears in the mood indications for three of the four movements and "Adagio" twice in the third. The third movement – almost as long as the Sixteenth Symphony by itself – can serve as a demonstration piece (as can the overture) for it is accomplished with a flighty and spectral hand. The finale caries the shadow of the opening's fanfare. It includes a part for Nikolai Savchenko's violin but this capricious moment is quite different in stance from the pastoral ecstasy violin solos in The Gothic and the Third.

The music of the Sixteenth is sometimes bleak but it is packed with kaleidoscopic incident, mostly serious but with wind parts injecting humour and grotesquerie. It starts in totally engaging fashion with an oboe/flute/clarinet idea that suggests Narcissus and the pool under leaden grey rain heavy clouds; it returns momentarily at 10:47. Only five years later he was to write what is for me the finest of the late symphonies, Symphony No.22 Symphonia Brevis.

The Sixteenth Symphony came out on a Lyrita LP in the mid 1970s and was reissued with its then disc-mate No.6 on a still astonishingly good Lyrita LP reissued in 2008 on CD; the latter with Arnold Cooke's Third Symphony.

The excellent liner-sheet notes are by composer and Brian adherent John Pickard. They are in English and run to four sides. Although these offer some musical analysis it is counterbalanced with biographical flesh and reflection. The musicology is, for the most part, done with an accessible rather than overly technical hand.

Source: Rob Barnett (musicweb-international.com)

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960 – Four Impromptus for piano, D.935, Nos. 2 & 3

Stefan Stroissnig, piano

Recorded September 26-27, 2017
Released on May 17, 2019 by Paladino Music

One of Austria's leading pianists grants access to his own and Schubert's inner soul – a recording not to be missed! The Austrian pianist Stefan Stroissnig, born in 1985, studied with Oleg Maisenberg in his native city of Vienna and with Ian Jones at the Royal College of Music in London. He received further artistic inspiration from renowned pianists such as Daniel Barenboim and Dmitri Bashkirov. His concert activity as a soloist has taken him to all five continents and to the most prestigious concert houses in Europe, such as the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Vienna Musikverein, the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Berlin Philharmonic. He has attracted special attention for his interpretations of works by Franz Schubert and the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Amongst other things, in 2013 he was the soloist in Olivier Messiaen's monumental Turangalîla-Symphonie at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Source: naxosdirect.com

Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No.1 "Kreutzer Sonata", String Quartet No.2 "Intimate Letters" | György Ligeti: String Quartet No.1 "Métamorphoses nocturnes"

Belcea Quartet:
Corina Belcea, violin i
Axel Schacher, violin ii
Krzysztof Chorzelski, viola
Antoine Lederlin, cello

Recorded May & December 2018 at Philharmmonie Luxembourg
Released on April 26, 2019 by Alpha Classics

Formed in 1994 at the Royal College of Music in London, the Belcea Quartet already has an impressive discography, including the complete Beethoven string quartets. For this new recording, the ensemble has chosen three quartets by two iconic composers of the 20th century: Leoš Janáček and György Ligeti. Fifteen years after their first recording for Zig-Zag, and after some changes in personnel, they have decided to record again the two string quartets by Janáček . The First Quartet was inspired by Leon Tolstoy's famous novella, The Kreutzer Sonata: the four movement work follows the narrative, including its culminating murder. The Second Quartet is subtitled Intimate Letters, in homage to Kamila Stösslova, with whom the composer had an important relationship expressed through letters, one that influenced both his life and his music. Finally, the First Quartet by Ligeti, subtitled Métamorphoses nocturnes because of its particular form. The composer described the work as a sort of theme and variations, but not with a specific theme that is then subsequently varied: rather, it is a single musical thought appearing under constantly new guises – for this reason the word "metamophoses" is more appropriate than "variations".

Source: chandos.net

Frédéric Chopin: Four Ballades, Polonaises, Valses, Nocturnes

Jean-Paul Gasparian, piano

Recorded November 2018 at the Hôtel de l'Industrie, Paris
Released on May 17, 2019, by Evidence Classics

In his first critically acclaimed CD, Jean-Paul Gasparian demonstrated that his technique allowed him to compete with the giants of Russian music and that his rugged playing was capable of sensitivity. His second opus, dedicated this time to Chopin, confirms these qualities. It must be said that the Four Ballades represent a sacred piece of bravery where Jean-Paul Gasparian shines particularly. And if the French pianist is rigorous, he also willingly surrenders to the lyricism and beauty of these pages, from Nocturnes to Waltzes via the Polonaises. His elegant expression and full sound make this new album a second essential milestone in the discography of the young pianist and, more generally, in that of Chopin.

Source: evidenceclassics.com

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder play Fazil Say

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder, piano

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Conductor: Markus Poschner

Recorded February 18, 2019 at Reitstadel, Neumarkt, Germany, & May 29, 2016 at Philharmonie Berlin, Germany
Released on May 17, 2019, by Winter & Winter

The compositions of Fazıl Say belong to the key works of Turkish music of the 21st century. The classical music of the Occident, jazz improvisations as well as elements of oriental folk music and Turkish music inspire his work. Fazıl Say, who lives in Istanbul, celebrates great success all over the world with his very effective, distinctive sounds, both as a composer and as a pianist. Fazıl Say writes numerous compositions for the piano duo of the twin sisters Ferhan & Ferzan Önder. Ferzan Önder: "Since our childhood we know Fazıl Say, he is a highly esteemed friend!".

In 2013 Ferhan & Ferzan Önder presented the world premiere of the composition "Winter Morning in Istanbul" in Berlin. The Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, Op.48, was also created for them under the working title "Twins" in 2013, at a time when protests were shocking Turkey. In 2018 Fazıl Say wrote for Ferhan & Ferzan Önder the Sonata for two pianos, Op.80, for the Fondation Louis Vuitton, this premiere took place in Paris in January 2019. This composition was the missing piece in the mosaic to realize this concept album "Ferhan & Ferzan Önder play Fazıl Say".

Fazıl Say writes his compositions Ferhan & Ferzan Önder on their skin. Their playing full of rhythmic virtuosity, overwhelming expression and artistic maturity brings the music texts to life with intense timbres. They are made for each other. Say's compositions and the art of this piano duo create a special artistic unity that is seldom to be found. For the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, Op.48, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Markus Poschner and Ferhan & Ferzan Önder, work together in a convincing musical understanding and make this album a listening experience.

Source: winterandwinter.com

Chiaroscuro – Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Philip Glass, Dimitri Shostakovich, Anton Webern, Leoš Janáček, Georg Gershwin

Schumann Quartett:
Erik Schumann, violin
Ken Schumann, violin
Liisa Randalu, viola
Mark Schumann, cello

Recorded 2019 in Bauer Studios Ludwigsburg
Released on May 10, 2019, by Berlin Classics

We are standing in a picture gallery of music. All around us we can hear snippets of the great works for string quartets, along with unfamiliar things to delight the ear; it is truly a music-lover's paradise. "Chiaroscuro" forms the conclusion of a rather special trilogy of albums by the Schumann Quartett and at the same time marks a journey's end.

After searching for their own roots in "Landscapes" and engaging with their namesake Robert Schumann in "Intermezzo", the four musicians complete their trilogy with the album "Chiaroscuro", which in itself represents an equally exciting journey through time and temperament.

By way of Mozart's arrangements of five selected fugues from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier II" they look left and right into very different musical rooms. There are two early pieces for string quartet by Shostakovich, Philip Glass's "Company" string quartet, a short fugue by Felix Mendelssohn, and the six Bagatelles Op.9 by Anton Webern. The whole promenade culminates in Janáček's last work, his Second String Quartet.

"A few years ago we were even more inclined to do things ‘the right way’, or to fulfil other people's expectations of us." In recent years, the young musicians have progressively released themselves from these demands. And perfected their own. "We want our music to exist in the immediate moment, as we lose ourselves in it. For that to succeed, each of us must transcend their individual ego." Their focus is on the concert, and that is the way they have approached "Chiaroscuro": "We recommend everyone to listen to the whole album from beginning to end without a break".

"Chiaroscuro" – Italian for "light and dark" – is the name of the programme. The Schumann Quartett combines works that could not be more different. They aim to show that despite the contrasts, the differences and discontinuities between such pairs as Mozart and Webern, Glass and Janáček, there are glimpses of common elements and evidence that many of the composers on display are brothers in spirit. It is a question of the "unity that the album forms", perhaps not in spite of, but just because of the contrasts.

And when at the very end of the album, at the very end of the whole trilogy, we hear Gershwin's "Lullaby", we cannot shake off the feeling that all this is such stuff as dreams are made of.

Source: berlin-classics-music.com

Paul Müller-Zürich: Streichquartett Op.4, Streichtrio Op.46, Streichquintett Op.2

Felix Froschhammer, violin i
Rachel Späth,  violin ii
Markus Fleck, viola
Andreas Fleck, cello

Razvan Popovici, viola ii (tracks 5-8)

Recorded February 21-22 & June 19-20, 2017 in Studio 1 SRF Zürich
Released on March 15, 2019, by Solo Musica

"For me tradition is not synonymous with adhering to the past, but with growth and transformation. It might seem that a composer who still shows reverence for tonality, and even retains the triad as the foundation of his harmonic language, remains bound to tradition out of comfort, or because he feels a sense of security in long-established principles. During his work, however, he discovers that the striving for tonal order, which cannot be guided by any rules, continually confronts him with new questions and decisions for which there are no recipes." (Paul Müller-Zürich)

With his commitment to tonality, Müller-Zürich seemed to justify itself at a time when the avant-garde after the Second World War vilified all sound and harmony. In fact, however, his works are neither epigonal nor even retrogressive, but have their very own tone, which, a quarter of a century after his death, must be rediscovered. His large-scale string works (quintet with 2 violas 1919 & quartet 1921) are lush, colorful sound paintings full of passion and sophistication that can compete with Reger, Mahler and young Strauss. The later string trio from 1950 shines as a virtuoso, neoclassical bravura piece. With these three first recordings on CD, casalQuartett and Razvan Popovici set a magnificent sounding monument to the great Swiss.

Source: solo-musica

The albums were chosen by the owner and blog editor of "Faces of Classical Music", Alexandros Arvanitakis.

More photos

See also

The best new classical albums: April 2019

The best new classical albums: March 2019

The best new classical albums: February 2019

The best new classical albums: January 2019

The Faces of Classical Music Choose the 20 Best Albums of 2018