Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Takács Quartet

April 20, University of Richmond

The Takács Quartet’s recorded cycle of the Beethoven string quartets has been widely rated as a reference version since the discs were released between 2002 and 2004.

Some of the same qualities that have gratified record collectors – a middle-of-the-road interpretive stance that stood up to repeated hearings, warm-blooded collective tone that made room for felicitous details from individual players – characterized the ensemble’s performances of three of the quartets in a return engagement at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center.

The Takács – violinists Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violist Geraldine Walther and cellist András Fejér – sampled early, middle and late Beethoven, playing the quartets in B flat major, Op. 18, No. 6, and F major, Op. 135, in the first half of the program, and the third “Razumovsky” Quartet, in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, after intermission.

The later quartets lent themselves more readily to the Takács’ expansive, room-filling sound and borderline-romantic mode of expression. The foursome’s long lyrical arc in the slow movement of Op. 135 and pacing of the slow movement of Op. 59, No. 3 – almost Mahlerian in its scale – were perhaps the most rewarding performances in the program.

Dusinberre’s quasi-cadenza in the opening movement of the “Razumovsky” was a rare burst of solo brilliance. Elsewhere, the Takács emphasized consistent, concentrated ensemble sound, exploring gradations of dynamics – how many degrees of mezzoforte can these musicians produce? – and playing with a tonal weight reminiscent of the Budapest and Guarneri quartets in their primes.

I’ve heard the playful Beethoven – of the first movement of Op. 18, No. 6, for example – played more playfully, and the energetic finale of Op. 59, No. 3, played more speedily, than they were in this performance. There were times, especially in the early quartet, when I would have preferred a leaner, more focused tone.

But very few string quartets at work today have this music as securely in hand. The Takács has a clear, long-considered notion of how Beethoven quartets should sound, and makes a compelling case for its approach.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mozart Festival 2017

The musicians’ collective Classical Revolution RVA stages its fourth annual Mozart Festival on April 23, with eight afternoon and evening performances at galleries, restaurants and nightclubs in the Jackson Ward neighborhood of downtown Richmond.

All events are open without admission charge.

The schedule of events:

11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Saadia’s Juicebox, 402½ N. Second St.; Max’s, Brook Road at Marshall Street.) “Eine kleine Brunch Music.” String quartets, other chamber music. (Reservations suggested for Max’s.)

Noon-3 p.m. (Gallery5, Marshall Street at Brook Road) Family events. Crafts and activities, noon; musical storytime, 1 p.m.; student recital and “Twinkle Play-in,” 2 p.m.

1 p.m. (Big Secret, 120 W. Marshall St.) – “Wolfgang 101.” Erin Freeman discusses Mozart’s life and work, with live musical examples. (Cosponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Music.)

2 p.m. (1708 Gallery, 819 W. Broad St.) – Richmond Cello Orchestra, Michael Knowles directing. (Sponsored by Four Strings.)

3 p.m. (Charm School Social Club, 311 W. Broad St.) – University of Richmond Vocal Studio singing scenes from “The Marriage of Figaro,” other operas. (Sponsored by UR Music Department.)

4 p.m. (Coalition Theater, 8 W. Broad St.) – Capitol Opera in “Bastian and Bastienna.” (Sung in English.)

5 p.m. (Candela Gallery, 214 W. Broad St.) Orchestra, chorus and soloists, Chia-Hsuan Lin conducting, in excerpts of symphonies and Requiem, with violinist Adrian Pintea and violist HyoJoo Uh featured in Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K. 364.

7 p.m. (Atlas Gallery, 114 W. Marshall St.) “Mozart’s Greatest Hits.” Singers and orchestra, Anthony Smith conducting, in opera arias.

For more information, visit the festival’s website,

Letter V Classical Radio this week

April 19
noon-3 p.m. EDT
1600-1900 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Johann Joseph Fux:
“La Grandezza della Musica Imperiale” –
Overture in D minor
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/
Gottfried von der Goltz

Sonata in E minor,
Hob. XVI:34
Marc-André Hamelin,

Past Masters:
Prokofiev: “Lieutenant Kijé” Suite
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
(recorded 1977)
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Symphony No. 38
in D major, K. 504
(arrangement by
Franz Theodor Schubert)
Vienna Schubert Ensemble

Sonata in A major,
Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”)
(orchestration by Richard Tognietti)
Antje Weithaas, violin
Camerata Bern/Hyunjong Reents-Kang
(Avi Music)

Quartet No. 2
in A minor, Op. 35
Philippe Quint, violin
Lily Francis, viola
Claudio Bohórquez &
Nicolas Altstaedt, cellos
(Avanti Classic)

Piano Concerto in A minor
Howard Shelleypiano & director
Orchestra of Opera North

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Inflammation sidelines Lang Lang

Pianist Lang Lang, who is scheduled to play Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto (No. 5 in E flat major) on Sept. 14 in the opening concert of the Richmond Symphony’s 2017-18 season, has canceled performances through June to recover from inflammation in his left arm, Slipped Disc’s Norman Lebrecht reports:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Radio special

Music for Holy Saturday: Dieterich Buxtehude’s oratorio “Membra Jesu nostri” (“The most holy limbs of our suffering Jesus”) (1680) and Peteris Vasks’ “Dona nobis pacem” (1996), framing Otto Klemperer’s memorably intense performance of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

April 15
11 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT
1500-1700 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Dieterich Buxtehude: “Membra Jesu nostri,” BuxWV 75
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
(DG Archiv)

Past Masters:
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
(recorded 1956-57)
(EMI Classics)

Peteris Vasks: “Dona nobis pacem”
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Talinn Chamber Orchestra/Paul Hillier
(Harmonia Mundi)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: Klemperer Trio

April 12, University of Richmond

In the 18th and 19th centuries, chamber music was played among relatives and friends, to entertain other relatives and friends,
or for the musicians’ own enjoyment.

That was very much the vibe of a concert
by the Klemperer Trio
– violinist Erika Klemperer, cellist Ronald Crutcher and pianist Gordon Back – at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center.

Klemperer and Back have been married for 37 years. Klemperer and Crutcher have known each other since early teen-age. The three musicians have performed together, on and off, since 1980.

This reunion took place near the end of Crutcher’s second year as UR’s president. He circulated in the lobby greeting guests before the performance, while his wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, did the same as people made their way to seats in Camp Concert Hall.

The trio’s program was composed of old friends: Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Shostakovich’s Trio in C minor, Op. 8; and Anton Arensky’s Trio in D minor, Op. 32 – all staples of the piano-trio repertory, and audibly the subjects of musical discourse among these artists for some time.

So, the violinist and cellist knew when and how to give the pianist space to project his glittering runs in the Mendelssohn, and the violinist and pianist naturally deferred to the cellist in setting the tone of the Arensky, especially in its elegiac adagio.

The choice of two Russian-romantic works – Shostakovich’s Op. 8 is an early composition, looking back as much as forward stylistically – was wise programming, because Crutcher’s cello has a Slavic accent in its unusually dark, throaty timbre. He exploited that quality to fine effect in the Arensky and Shostakovich, and Klemperer darkened her tone nicely to match.

The threesome’s reading of the Mendelssohn was on the cautious side in tempos and accents, but nicely detailed, often affectionate in its instrumental exchanges.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Letter V Classical Radio this week

Music for Passover and Holy Week: Rarely heard works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Ernest Bloch; a distinctive and moving account of Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis” conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt in his last recording; and Arvo Pärt’s “Tabula Rasa,” played by the artists who introduced the piece 40 years ago.

April 12
noon-3 p.m. EST
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

J.S. Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
(orchestration by Ottorino Respighi)
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/
Gerard Schwarz

“Passover Psalm”
Emily Magee, soprano
Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus
Munich Radio Orchestra/
Marcello Viotti

Bloch: Psalm 22
Vincent Le Texier, baritone
Luxembourg Philharmonic/David Shallon

Haydn: Symphony No. 39 in G minor
Il Giardano Armonico/
Giovanni Antonini

Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/
John Eliot Gardiner
(Soli Deo Gloria)

“Missa solemnis”
Laura Aikin, soprano
Bernarda Fink, alto
Johannes Chum, tenor
Ruben Drole, bass
Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Concentus Musicus Wien/
Nikolaus Harnoncourt
(Sony Classical)

Arvo Pärt: “Tabula Rasa”
Gidon Kremer &
Tatjana Grindenko, violins
Alfred Schnittke,
prepared piano
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/
Saulius Sondeckis

Barber: Agnus Dei
Choir of New College, Oxford/
Edward Higginbottom