Monday, March 20, 2017

Letter V Classical Radio this week

March 22
noon-3 p.m. EST
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Alexander Reinagle: “Occasional Overture” in D major
(reconstruction by Bertil van Boer)
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/
Patrick Gallois

Jan Ladislav Dussek:
Piano Concerto in G minor
Andreas Staier,
fortepiano & director
Concerto Köln

Johann Friedrich Peter:
Quintet No. 1 in D major
American Moravian Chamber Ensemble
(New World)

François-Joseph Gossec: Symphony in D major,
Op. 5, No. 5 (“Pastorella”)
Tafelmusik/Jeanne Lamon

Past Masters:
“Appalachian Spring” Suite
Boston Symphony Orchestra/
Aaron Copland
(recorded 1959)
(RCA Victor)

Debussy: “Printemps”
Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Piano Quintet in C minor,
Op. posth.
Alexander Mogilevsky,
Andrey Baranov &
Géza Hosszu-Legocky,
Nora Romanoff, viola
Jing Zhao, cello
(Warner Classics)

Past Masters:
Symphony No. 8 in G major
London Symphony Orchestra/István Kertész
(recorded 1963)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Chuck Berry, who melded blues guitar licks and boogie-woogie rhythms with country balladry to produce the still-greatest examples of the rock ’n’ roll song, has died at 90.

Growing up in St. Louis in the 1930s and ’40s, Berry absorbed a variety of styles, from gospel and blues to swing and country, distilling them into a song form that became the model of the new rock ’n’ roll genre in the ’50s. His tunes were elevated by lyrics that combined a wit comparable to Noel Coward’s with the authenticity and enduring appeal of folksong.

“His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment,” Jon Pareles writes in an obituary for The New York Times.

Berry’s lyrics, to my ears, place him in the triumvirate of great mid-20th century American merry pranksters, alongside Bugs Bunny and Archie Goodwin, the wise-cracking, street-savvy assistant to the pompous, cerebral detective in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories.

The inclusion of Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) on a disc launched aboard the Voyager I spacecraft in 1977 prompted one of the most spot-on punchlines of any joke ever told on “Saturday Night Live.” First message to Earth from extraterrestrials: “Send more Chuck Berry.”

The full obituary by Pareles:

Bill Wyman, the former culture editor of National Public Radio and Salon, casts Berry as head chef in devising the recipe of rock ’n’ roll, in a wide-ranging piece of pop musicology originally posted on Vulture, now re-posted on Slate:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Letter V Classical Radio this week

Britannia rules the airwaves, in a program of British music ranging over four centuries. Along with familiar works such as Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” Benjamin Britten’s “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell” (better-known as “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” here without the narration), Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis” and Purcell’s “Come, Ye Sons of Art,” a number of discoveries: the Cello Concerto in D minor of Charles Villers Stanford, Arthur Sullivan (minus William S. Gilbert) taking on “Macbeth,” and compositions by 18th-century Brits of the generation after Handel’s, including selections from Thomas Arne’s “Alfred,” the royal masque, introduced in 1740, that gave the world “Rule Britannia!”

March 15
noon-3 p.m. EST
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Past Masters:
William Boyce: Symphony No. 5 in D major
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/
Neville Marriner
(recorded 1976)

Thomas Arne: “Rosamond” – “Rise, glory, rise”
Emma Kirkby, soprano
Academy of Ancient Music/
Christopher Hogwood

William Boyce:
“Solomon” –
“Softly rise,
o southern breeze”
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Albert Grazzi, bassoon
Sophie Daneman, soprano
Madeleine Shaw,
Benjamin Hulett, tenor
Jonathan Gunthorpe, baritone
The English Concert/Bernard Labadie
(Warner Classics)

John Marsh: Symphony No. 10 in E flat major

(“A Conversation for Two Orchestras”)
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert

Thomas Arne: “Alfred” –
“Through storms awhile
the sun obscure”
“O guardian angels,
o descend”
“See liberty, virtue and honour appearing”
“Rule Britannia!”
Jennifer Smith &
Christine Brandes, sopranos
David Daniels, countertenor
Jamie MacDougall, tenor
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale/
Nicholas McGegan
(Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

Arthur Sullivan:
“Macbeth” Overture
Royal Philharmonic/
Royston Nash

Charles Villiers Stanford: Cello Concerto in D minor
Alexander Baillie, cello
Royal Philharmonic/
Nicholas Braithwaite

Past Masters:
Elgar: “Variations on an Original Theme” (“Enigma”)
London Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux
(recorded 1958)

Thomas Tallis:
“Why Fum’th in Fight?”

Atlanta Symphony Chorus/
Norman Mackenzie

Vaughan Williams:
“Fantasia on a Theme
of Thomas Tallis”
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/
Robert Spano

Past Masters:
“Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell”
London Symphony Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
(recorded 1966)

“Come, Ye Sons of Art”
Emily van Evera, soprano
John Mark Ainsley &
Charles Daniels, tenors
David Thomas, bass
Taverner Consort
& Players/
Andrew Parrott
(EMI Classics)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

UR Modlin Center '17-'18 preview

Pianist Richard Goode and Tan Dun and the China National Symphony Orchestra highlight the roster of classical artists scheduled to perform in the 2017-18 season of the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center.

The center’s classical schedule next season also includes the Shanghai, Jerusalem and Escher string quartets, the latter performing with guitarist Jason Vieaux.

Tan Dun, perhaps the best-known contemporary composer from China, is the artistic director of the China National Symphony Orchestra. Their concert programs often mix works by Chinese and Western composers.

Three more new-music or cross-cultural events are on the schedule:

– The So Percussion quartet – Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting – joined by soprano Dawn Upshaw and her longtime recital accompanist, pianist Gilbert Kalish.

– eighth blackbird, UR’s resident contemporary music sextet, joined by composer-fiddler Dan Trueman and singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, in “Olagón: a Cantata in Doublespeak,” a concert-length work, based on
an Irish folk tale, composed by Trueman, Ó Lionáird and poet Paul Muldoon.

– “Songbook,” featuring vocalist Steven Page, a founding member of the Canadian pop-rock group Barenaked Ladies, and The Art of Time Ensemble, which bills its programming as “fusing high art and popular culture.”

A “Save the Date” advisory on the coming classical season was mailed last week to subscribers. Programs, ticket details and venues, as well as other Modlin Center offerings for 2017-18, will be announced later.

The Modlin Center’s 2017-18 classical dates, all at 7:30 p.m.:

Sept. 19 – Escher Quartet with guitarist Jason Vieaux.

Oct. 20 – Pianist Richard Goode.

Nov. 9 – Shanghai Quartet.

Feb. 7 – Steven Page & The Art of Time Ensemble in “Songbook.”

Feb. 14 – China National Symphony Orchestra, Tan Dun conducting.

March 21 – Jerusalem Quartet.

March 23 – eighth blackbird with composer-fiddler Dan Trueman and singer Iarla Ó Lionáird in “Olagón: a Cantata in Doublespeak.”

April 7 – So Percussion with soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish.

To be added to the Modlin Center’s mailing list, call the box office at (804) 289-8980, or visit

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Chamber Music Society

Jesse Mills, violin
James Wilson, cello
Mary Boodell, flute
James Ferree, French horn
Rieko Aizawa, piano
March 10, Boodell-Davis House

“The future of live music,” the BBC reported recently, is for people to have friends over and invite musicians to play concerts in their homes:

Hmm, where have we heard this before? Those whose memories stretch back to the previous millennium will recall that there’s a genre called chamber music, and that it came by that name because, until fairly recently, it generally was performed in domestic settings. (Those with shorter memories are referred to an at-home musicale with tragic consequences in season 4, episode 3 of “Downton Abbey.”)

Each season in Richmond, the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia revives the genre’s roots by staging a couple of its programs in houses: a December baroque program at the Wilton House Museum and another chamber concert in a home large enough for the musicians to play to a smallish but not minuscule audience.

This time, the venue was the Fan District home that Mary Boodell, the Richmond Symphony’s principal flutist and a regular performer with (and current board president of) the Chamber Music Society, shares with her husband, Evan Davis, and their sons.

The selections were big enough in sound and scope, and the setting intimate enough – three dozen or so listeners in the house’s living room and front hall – to produce a truly enveloping evening of music-making.

The main attraction was Brahms’ Trio in E flat major, Op. 40, for piano, violin and French horn, not the most muscular of the composer’s chamber works, but in this setting, as played by pianist Rieko Aizawa, violinist Jesse Mills and horn player James Ferree, borderline-brawny in impact and deeply passionate in spirit.

The musicians played with technical assurance, expressive spontaneity and – remarkably, considering how assertively they played – fine balance among the three instruments.

A more in-your-face reading of Bohuslav Martinů’s “Madrigal Sonata” by Aizawa, Mills and flutist Boodell nearly cracked the sound barrier of the space in which they played, especially in the sonata’s opening movement, a busy construct with all three instruments emphasizing their high registers.

Dvořák’s “Silent Woods,” which cellist James Wilson, the society’s artistic director, played in a custom-made arrangement with piano, flute and horn, and the Elegie for violin and piano by the short-lived (1915-40) Czech composer Vitěslava Kaprálová complemented each other musically – the Elegie is more Slavic-romantic than some of Kaprálová’s other works, which reflect French-impressionist influence – and complemented the performance space in warmth and intimacy.

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia presents “Brahms and Friends,” a free mini-concert of works by Brahms, Robert and Clara Schumann, Ferdinand David and Heinrich von Herzogenberg, 2 p.m. March 11 in the Gellman Room of the Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets. (Seating is limited.) Details: (804) 646-7723;

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Youth Orchestra Program sessions

The Richmond Symphony will hold open-house sessions later in the month on its Youth Orchestra Program, with introductions to its entry-level String Sinfonietta and intermediate-level Camerata Strings and Youth Concert Orchestra at 4:30 p.m. March 21 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St.; and an introduction to its advanced-level Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra at 4:45 p.m. March 28 at Dominion Arts Center, Sixth and Grace streets.

Reservations are required to attend the sessions.

Prospective members and their parents are invited to bring their instruments and experience a rehearsal. Question-and-answer sessions will follow the rehearsals.

Auditions are not required for membership in the String Sinfonietta. Auditions for the other ensembles, all to be held at Dominion Arts Center:

May 23 (4:30-8 p.m.) and May 30 (4:30-8 p.m.) Camerata Strings, Youth Concert Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra.

June 6 (4:30-8 p.m.) Youth Concert Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Aug. 15 (5-7 p.m.) Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Aug. 22 (4:30-8 p.m.) Camerata Strings and Youth Concert Orchestra.

To make reservations for an open house or obtain more information about the Youth Orchestra Program, call (804) 788-4717, Ext. 144, or link online:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Letter V Classical Radio this week

The plan for this program was to see how much instrumental virtuosity I could fit into three hours without turning it into a succession of splashy showpieces. Plenty of dazzlers here – you’ll often be amazed that real people in real time made the sounds that you’re hearing – but real music to chew on, too.

March 8
noon-3 p.m. EST
1700-2000 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D major, RV 208
(“Il grosso Mogul”)
Gordan Nikolitch, violin
Combattimento Consort
Jan Willem de Vriend
(Challenge Classics)

Past Masters:
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
London Symphony Orchestra/
Kirill Kondrashin
(recorded 1961)

Ravel: “Gaspard de la nuit”
Benjamin Grosvenor, piano

Cello Concerto No. 1
in C major
Pieter Wispelwey,
cello & director
Florilegium Ensemble
(Channel Classics)

Bartók: Sonata for solo violin
Viktoria Mullova, violin

J.S. Bach:
Partita in D minor,
BWV 1004 – Chaconne
(arrangement by
Jean Rondeau)
Jean Rondeau, harpsichord

Dukas: Villanelle
David Jolley, French horn
Samuel Sanders, piano

Piano Quintet
in F minor, Op. 34
Stefan Vladar, piano
Artis Quartet
(Sony Classical)

Julia Fischer, violin
Milana Chernyavska, piano