Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jeremy Denk reviewed

My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of pianist Jeremy Denk, presenting his “Medieval to Modern” recital program at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Roberta Peters (1930-2017)

Soprano Roberta Peters, a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera from the early 1950s into the mid-’80s, as well as a familiar television and film presence, has died at 86.

Peters vaulted into stardom on Nov. 17, 1950, when she was called into the Met as a last-minute substitute in the role of Zerlina in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Her performance, with little or no rehearsal, won rave reviews. She went on to give more than 500 performances at the Met, specializing in coloratura roles such as Susanna in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Rosina in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1998.

Although the Met was the principal stage of the New York-born Peters, she also sang at Covent Garden in London, the Vienna State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and other major houses in the US and Europe.

After leaving the Met in 1985, Peters sang in recital, operetta and musicals.

For many Americans, her most famous role may have been in a TV commercial for American Express, “singing out ‘Tax-eee!’ in a descending major third, from G to E flat,” Margalit Fox writes in an obituary for The New York Times:

Federal cultural spending targeted

The transition team of President-elect Donald J. Trump is proposing to shut down the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities and to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of a plan to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years, Alexander Bolton reports in the Washington political publication The Hill:

Spending on the endowments ($148 million for each) and CPB ($445 million) accounted for 0.02 percent of the 2016 federal budget of $3.9 trillion, notes Philip Bump of The Washington Post:

Elimination of federal cultural programs, particularly the arts endowment, as well as arts agencies and public-broadcasting subsidies in individual states, have been advocated by conservative activists and politicians since the 1980s.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Letter V Classical Radio this week

A program of Scandinavian music – appropriate for the season, but more warm-blooded than its latitude of origin might lead you to expect.

Jan. 18
noon-3 p.m. EST
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Sibelius: “The Wood-Nymph”
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/
Osmo Vänskä

Piano Concerto in A minor
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
Berlin Philharmonic/
Mariss Jansons
(EMI Classics)

Hugo Alfvén:
“Bergakungen” – 
“Dance of the Shepherdess”
Swedish Radio
Symphony Orchestra/
Esa-Pekka Salonen
(Sony Classical)

Einojuhani Rautavaara:
“Cantus Arcticus”
(“Concerto for Birds”)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/
Osmo Vänskä

Niels W. Gade:
Violin Concerto in D minor
Christina Åstrand, violin
Tampere Philharmonic/
John Storgårds

Vagn Holmboe:
“Ballata,” Op. 159
Ensemble MidtVest

Franz Berwald: “Play of the Elves”
Royal Philharmonic/Ulf Björlin
(EMI Classics)

Dag Wirén:
Quartet No. 5, Op. 41
Saulesco Quartet

Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 (“Sinfonia espansiva”)
Nancy Wait Kromm, soprano
Kevin McMillan, tenor
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra/
Herbert Blomstedt

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Richmond Symphony reviewed

My review for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of the Richmond Symphony, performing on Jan. 14 with former music director Jacques Houtmann and pianist Rémi Geniet at Dominion Arts Center:

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Elbphilharmonie sets sail

The world’s newest concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, opened on Jan. 11. The work of architects Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog and Ascan Mergenthaler, the structure looks like a futuristic sailing vessel – a fitting visual reference for this historic Hanseatic port. The 2,100-seat hall, built on top of an old cocoa warehouse, stands on an island on the city’s waterfront.

One of the first English-language reviews, from Rick Fulker of the Deutsche Welle radio service, suggests that while the hall may not be a place for those with a fear of heights – “[t]he rows of seats ascend in wine terrace form so sharply that my knee was higher than the head of the man seated in the row in front of me” – musical sound is “mercilessly clear,” even for those seated far from the stage:


The New York Times’ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim reviews the opening-night concert . . .

. . . and provides background on the costly, controversial project and its striking results:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oratorio Society auditions

The Oratorio Society of Virginia will hold auditions from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Municipal Arts Center, 1119 Fifth St. SW in Charlottesville.

The chorus, led by Michael Slon of the University of Virginia’s music faculty, rehearses on Mondays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

During the remainder of the 2016-17 season, the Oratorio Society will lead a community sing of Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna,” March 18 at Charlottesville’s First Presbyterian Church, and perform with soprano Danielle Talamantes and organist Jeremy Thompson in a Mother’s Day program, “A Celebration of Great Choruses,” May 14 at the University of Virginia’s Old Cabell Hall.

Singers in all voice parts are invited to audition. To schedule a time, call (434) 295-4385 or e-mail

For more information, visit the Oratorio Society of Virginia’s website,