Saturday, May 23, 2015

Not sure this is news...

Lyrics of most popular songs in 2014 were at second- to third-grade reading levels, according to a study by British data analyst Andrew Powell-Morse, summarized by The Guardian:

Powell-Morse, using the Flesch-Kincaid index and other readability metrics, found that country music scored slightly higher than rock or hip-hop, mainly because country songwriters use multisyllabic words such as “hallelujah,” “cigarettes” and “Mississippi.”

The most literate best-seller of 2014, “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, boasted lyrics at a fifth- to sixth-grade reading level.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Joe Wilson (1938-2015)

Joe Wilson, longtime director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, maestro of the National Folk Festival (which spawned the Richmond Folk Festival and other such events across the US) and a figure instrumental in creating the Blue Ridge Music Center and The Crooked Road network of traditional country music venues in Southwest Virginia, has died at 77.

An obituary by Ralph Berrier Jr. for The Roanoke Times:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Letter V Classical Radio this week

May 21
11 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Alexander Reinagle: “Miscellaneous Overture”
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois (Naxos)

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488
Ivan Moravec, piano
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/
Neville Marriner
(Hänssler Classic)

Jean Françaix: Wind Quintet No. 1
Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet (Bis)

Schumann: “Fantasiestücke,” Op. 12
Marc-André Hamelin, piano (Hyperion)

Dvořák: Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (“Dumky”)
Eroica Trio
(EMI Classics)

Past Masters:
Beethoven: Symphony
No. 7 in A major
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Bruno Walter (Sony Classical)
(recorded 1958)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Letter V Classical Radio this week

May 14
11 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT
1500-1800 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Josef Suk: “Fantastiké Scherzo”
Buffalo Philharmonic/JoAnn Falletta (Naxos)

Jan Antonín Koželuh: Oboe Concerto in F major
Albrecht Mayer, oboe & director
Kammerakademie Potsdam
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Beethoven: Sonata in
C minor, Op. 10, No. 1
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano (Bis)

Past Masters:
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor (“Scottish”)
London Symphony Orchestra/Peter Maag (Decca)
(recorded 1960)

J.S. Bach: “English Suite” No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808
András Schiff, piano (Decca)

Delius: “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring”
London Philharmonic/
Vernon Handley
(Classics for Pleasure)

Debussy: Quartet in G minor
Belcea Quartet (EMI Classics)

Rodrigo: “Fantasia para un gentilhombre”
Pepe Romero, guitar
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/
Neville Marriner (Philips)

Berlin Philharmonic punts

After 11 hours of deliberations and several votes, members of the Berlin Philharmonic have failed to agree on a new chief conductor. A spokesman says the musicians will meet again “within one year” to consider a replacement for Simon Rattle, who is leaving the orchestra in 2018, The Guardian’s Louise Osborne reports:

“The election seemed to lay bare divisions among the players over what direction to take,” The New York Times’ Michael Cooper and Katarina Johannsen report:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Richmond Symphony

Steven Smith conducting
with Richmond Symphony Chorus
May 9, Richmond CenterStage

The final Masterworks program of the Richmond Symphony’s 2014-15 season coincides with the 70th anniversary of VE-Day, the end of World War II in Europe. The concluding work on the program, Sergei Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, composed late in the war and first performed in January 1945, can be heard as one of the most extroverted and optimistic, if not explicitly triumphal, products of the war years.

In the first of two weekend performances, Steven Smith obtained an assertive and finely detailed reading from the orchestra, enlarged with extra strings and winds for the piece. The symphony’s big brassy and percussive episodes sounded with impressive heft, and the conductor and musicians consistently brought out the unique sound texture – brilliance in high-register strings and winds coexisting with thicker, steel-wooly tonalities rooted in low-register brass and contrabassoon – that makes this music sound simultaneously ethereal and earthy.

Smith’s close attention to details of internal balance, especially among woodwinds and the percussion section, and to realizing various special effects in string and wind playing, gave this reading greater depth and dimension – and, in the allegro giocoso finale, a clearer than usual soundstage for Prokofiev’s musical wit.

Sharing the program with the Prokofiev symphony, two vivid, if quite dissimilar, showcases for the Richmond Symphony Chorus: the “Polovtsian Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.”

Bernstein’s settings of Psalms 100, 23 and 131, along with selected verses from Psalms 108, 2 and 133, all sung in Hebrew, employ unusual orchestration – strings with full brass and percussion sections, but no woodwinds – supporting a large chorus. A boy alto – 10-year-old Jack Rigdon in this performance – introduces Psalm 23, while a quartet of adult soloists – here, soprano Jennifer Hagen, alto Erin Stuhlman, tenor Wesley Pollard and bass Joseph Ciulla, all drawn from the Symphony Chorus – are featured in the final section.

Subject and language might suggest music in “ancient” style, but Bernstein wrote in a modern and American vernacular, at times echoing blues and Latin-accented jazz. (One of the most prominent tunes in “Chichester Psalms” was originally intended for “West Side Story.”) His setting of Psalm 2, verses 1-4 (“Why do the nations rage”) is as percussively violent as any music he ever produced; but the overall tone of the work is hopeful and pacific.

The Symphony Chorus, prepared by Erin R. Freeman, gave a characterful, borderline-theatrical performance, quite in keeping with Bernstein’s style, while the instrumental forces emphasized the brightness and animation of the score.

The orchestra and chorus held nothing back in the “Polovtsian Dances,” rendering its romantic lyrical sections voluptuously and its war cries and orgiastic dances with a frenzy that seemed uncontrolled. Actually, effective musical frenzy requires a lot of control, which Smith and his charges exercised very capably.

The program repeats at 3 p.m. May 10 at the Carpenter Theatre of Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $10-$78. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX);

Thursday, May 7, 2015

VCU Rennolds Concerts 2015-16

Performances by the Juilliard String Quartet and the classical comedy duo Igudesman & Joo highlight the 2015-16 season of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concerts series.

Violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo have built a wide following (largely via YouTube) for their physically manic yet wryly comic spoofs on classical music and its performance etiquette. The duo will stage its “And Now Mozart” program to open the coming Rennolds season on Oct. 10.

The Juilliard Quartet, due on Oct. 24, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the coming season. In its current lineup, the quartet’s longtime cellist, Joel Krosnick, and violinist Ronald Copes, a member since 1997, perform with violinist Joseph Lin, who joined the Juilliard in 2011, and violist Roger Tapping, who joined in 2013.

Following an acclaimed performance earlier this season by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a different foursome from the society – pianist Gilles Vonsattel, violinist Aranaud Sussman, violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Paul Watkins – will give another concert of piano quartets, including Dvořák’s E flat major, Op. 87, on Feb. 20.

Two musicians familiar to Richmonders from their performances with the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, violinist Jesse Mills and pianist Reiko Aizawa, will return to town with cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, with whom they comprise the Horszowski Trio, for a March 19 Rennolds program.

In the final concert of the series’ 2015-16 season, the Doric String Quartet – violinists Alex Reddington and Jonathan Stone, violist Hélène Clément and cellist John Myerscough – will be joined by pianist Jonathan Biss on April 2.

To obtain a season brochure or more information on the Rennolds Chamber Concerts, call the VCU Music Department box office at (804) 828-6776.