Monday, March 31, 2008

Cleveland Chamber Symphony followup

I asked the music director of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Steven Smith, when his band's next CD will be coming out; he said he doesn't know and said there are no agreements in place now for the symphony to record anything.

I mentioned that I remembered that I recalled that the CCS had recorded Gerald Plain's recorder concerto last year; Smith said Plain had a grant to record it. "I imagine that will come out on a disk of his music," Smith said. (Does anyone have more information?)

Smith said the orchestra is still accepting $25 a measure donations to pay for the cost of Marta Ptaszynska's composition that premiered Sunday, "Lumen."

If you liked some of what you heard at Sunday's Cleveland Chamber Symphony at Baldwin-Wallace, here are some links that may be useful.

A search for "Monica Houghton" on turns up nothing; a search of Amazon for her turns up only a brief track on a collection of organ music. But her web site offers about an hour's worth of MP3 tracks.

Loris Chobanian offers only sound samples on his site; searches an Emusic and Amazon show that his works turn up on several albums.

Dennis Eberhard is represented on by an album that includes "Prometheus Wept," the piece played Sunday; Amazon has the same Naxos album featured on Emusic.

Amazon lists for Marta Ptaszynska albums; I can't find anything of hers on Emusic.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A fitting tribute

At his death in 2005, composer Dennis Eberhard was perhaps Cleveland's most-successful and best-known composer. Sunday's thrilling Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert at Baldwin-Wallace College's music conservatory turned out to be a tribute to Eberhard, with three of the four pieces linked in some way to him.

The opening number, a premiere of Monica Houghton's "Osa Sinfonia," especially written for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, was dedicated to Eberhard. (Houghton also wrote the biography of Eberhard printed in the program notes.) The piece, which I liked, sounded very ominous to me, like a soundtrack for a thriller. Houghton wrote in the notes that "Osa" was linked to her trip "to the remote Osa Peninsula on the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica" and says the music "was written in celebration of the beauty and mystery of the natural world."

The next piece before the intermission was a three-movement "Concerto for Cello" by Loris Chobanian. The piece didn't interest me very much, although there was nothing wrong with it and the soloist, Regina Mushabac, played very well. Chobanian is the composer in residence at B-W College.

After the intermission, the symphony played Eberhard's atmospheric, elegiac "Prometheus Wept," a fine piece for strings. The last piece was another premiere, "Lumen" by Marta Ptaszynka, and for me it was the best number of the evening, a composition that produced a variety of thrilling sounds from the orchestra by a composer who until now had been unknown to me.

"Lumen" was written for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's Public Commissioning Initiative; members of the public were invited to pay $25 a measure to pay for the piece. I'd say the people who underwrote it got their money's worth. (Fromm Music Foundation also chipped in, the program says.) Eberhard originally had been the composer picked for the commission; when he died, the commission went instead to his friend, Ptaszynka, who wrote in the notes that it's in memoriam of Eberhard.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sunday: Cleveland Chamber Symphony

I've been waiting for months for Sunday's Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert, set for 3:30 p.m. at the Kulas Musical Arts Building at 96 Front Street in Berea. The show is free; lots of free parking, too, a short block away west in a parking lot across from the Giant Eagle. The program: "Lumen" by Marta Ptaszynska; "Prometheus Wept" by Dennis Eberhard; "Osa Sinfonica" by Monica Houghton, and something by Loris Chobanian. Three out of four (Ptaszynska the exception) are Cleveland folks. We'll have to see, but the program looks very promising.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Red (an orchestra) folds

Red (an Orchestra), a Cleveland chamber orchestra which emphasized modern music and innovative programming, has shut down, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports today in a page one story. The orchestra had been running a deficit; the death blow was a blizzard that wiped out two planned concerts on March 7-8.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cleveland Orchestra announces new music concerts

The Cleveland Orchestra has announced its 2008-2009 season, and the list of concert programs includes a new music festival on May 23, 2009, conducted by Oliver Knussen and featuring works by Julian Anderson, Luke Bedford, Sean Shepard and Augusta Read Thomas.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Donald Rosenberg has a roundup on the new season here; his article includes a listing of the season's programs that's easier to scan through than the official listing at the orchestra Web site. Rosenberg's article also notes concerts featuring other current composers, such as George Benjamin and Osvaldo Golijov.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Latest John McLaughlin Williams news

Conductor John McLaughlin Williams, who last year won a Grammy Award with the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Olivier Messiaen's "Oiseaux Exotiques," get a nice writeup in the Springfield State Journal Register.

The bad news: Although the guy is a former Cleveland resident, he doesn't live in the area now, as I had assumed, but rather lives in Livonia, Mich.

The good news: He has a bunch of new recordings and thinks he has a "very good shot" at another Grammy The paper reports, "On Feb. 26, the Naxos label released another in its American Classics series featuring Williams conducting the National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in two symphonic masses, “Missa Sinfonica” by Nicolas Flagello and “Symphony No. 5” by Arnold Rosner.

"His next major release will be in March, again by Naxos, and will feature Williams conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine with Elmar Oliveira on violin, performing violin concertos by Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees.

"He’s also recorded, in Kiev, the music of composer Deon Nielsen Price, whose works document California culture and history. That recording will be on the Cambria label."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

March concerts in Cleveland

Here are some concerts this month in Cleveland, all free, that might interest fans of new music. At 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, the Cleveland Institute of Music will present a Cleveland Composers Guild concert at Mixon Hall featuring works by Margaret Brouwer, Jeffrey Quick and Jeffrey Mumford. Info here. (If you follow the link, note the March 19 faculty recital featuring Penderecki and Golijov.) The Cleveland Contemporary Players over at Cleveland State University are presenting a concert by the San Antonio Chamber Choir at 8 p.m. Monday, March 17, at Drinko Recital Hall in the Music and Communication Building. The program isn't listed, but it "focuses on the 20th Century." More here. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony will present a concert at Baldwin-Wallace featuring work by Marta Ptaszynska, Dennis Eberhard, Monica Houghton and Loris Chobanian. More on the latter concert soon.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Jennifer Higdon: The hot composer?

Today I interviewed Allan R. Scott, music director of the Helena Symphony, for a story for my newspaper, The Sandusky Register, advancing this Saturday's Firelands Symphony Orchestra concert, where Mr. Scott will serve as the guest conductor. (Mr. Scott is one of the finalists for the Firelands music director job.)

I noticed that Scott seemed to be more interested in modern music than some of the other conductor candidates I've met, so I asked him who his favorite living composers are. He mentioned John Corigliano and John Adams, names that don't really surprise. His repertoire listed on his Web site includes Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine." I've always wondered why the piece doesn't get performed more by regional orchestras.

But I was surprised that Scott went on and on about how much he likes Jennifer Higdon. He's performed her "blue cathedral" in concert and told me audiences have reacted really well to her work. He also said Higdon gets so many commission requests she can't keep up with them.

Higdon was nominated for a 2008 Grammy for "Zaka" on eighth blackbird's "Strange Imaginary Animals" album. She didn't win (Joan Tower won instead for "Made in America") but the album itself nabbed a Grammy for eighth blackbird for "Best Chamber Music Performance."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Steven Smith's new gig?

Letter V, the Virginia classical music blog, reports that Steven Smith, music director of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, is one of nine finalists for the job of music director of the Richmond Symphony. The new music director is expected to be named at the end of 2009.