Sunday, September 25, 2016

Coming to terms with Mahler

Barton Swaim, a onetime speechwriter, now a cultural columnist for The Weekly Standard, chronicles his difficult reconciliation with the symphonies of Gustav Mahler – finding, among other things, that Old Testament stories may be more helpful than psychoanalysis in developing an appreciation:


Monday, September 19, 2016

Letter V Classical Radio this week

Sept. 21
10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT
1400-1700 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

William Boyce: Symphony in B flat major
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
(DG Archiv)

Thomas Linley Jr.:
Violin Concerto in F major
Mirijam Contzen, violin
Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic/
Reinhard Goebel
(Oehms Classics)

Brahms: “Variations
on a Theme by Handel”
Murray Perahia, piano
(Sony Classical)

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

Past Masters:
Schumann: Symphony
No. 2 in C major
New York Philharmonic/
Leonard Bernstein
(recorded 1960)
(Sony Classical)

Kodály: “Variations on a Hungarian Folksong”
(“The Peacock”)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/
Neeme Järvi

Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
Pascal Rogé, piano
Vienna Radio
Symphony Orchestra/
Bertrand de Billy
(Oehms Classics)

Michael Torke: “Charcoal”
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/David Zinman

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chamber concerts reviewed

My reviews for the Richmond Times-Dispatch of concerts by Alexander Paley and colleagues at St. Luke Lutheran Church, the Dover Quartet at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia at Second Presbyterian Church:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Letter V Classical Radio this week

Sept. 14
10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT
1400-1700 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

Richard Strauss: “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks”
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/
Manfred Honeck
(Reference Recordings)

Sinfonia concertante
in E flat major, K. 297b
(reconstruction by
Robert D. Levin)
Aurèle Nicolet, flute
Heinz Holliger, oboe
Hermann Baumann, French horn
Klaus Thunemann, bassoon
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/
Neville Marriner

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
James Galway, flute
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet
Heidi Lehwalder, harp
Tokyo String Quartet
(RCA Victor)

Beethoven: Sonata
in C minor, Op. 13 (“Pathétique”)
András Schiff, piano

Violin Concerto in D major
Jennifer Koh, violin
Odense Symphony Orchestra/
Alexander Vedernikov

Past Masters:
Delius: “Brigg Fair”
Royal Philharmonic/
Thomas Beecham
(recorded 1956)
(EMI Classics)

Amy Beach:
Theme and Variations,
Op. 80, for flute and
string quartet

Vaughan Williams: “Ten Blake Songs”
Mark Padmore, tenor
Nicholas Daniel, oboe
(Harmonia Mundi)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Paley Festival 2016

The 19th annual Richmond music festival staged by pianist Alexander Paley will run from Sept. 16 to 18 at St. Luke Lutheran Church.

This year’s festival features Paley with his wife and keyboard partner, Pei-Wen Chen, in four-hands arrangements of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”
and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and Paley with violinist Daisuke Yamamoto, French horn player James Ferree, cellist Nicholas Finch and clarinetist Charles West in chamber works by Brahms, Prokofiev, Anton Arensky and Alexander Zemlinsky.

Paley also will play Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons” and four-hands pieces by Mozart and Rachmaninoff with Chen.

The Vivaldi arrangement will be a US premiere.

There is no admission charge for the concerts, but donations are requested.

For more information on the festival, call (804) 665-9516 or visit

Dates, times, artists and programs at St. Luke, 7757 Chippenham Parkway:

Sept. 16 (7:30 p.m.) Vivaldi: “The Four Seasons” (Alexander Paley and Pei-Wen Chen, piano four-hands); Brahms: Sonata in E minor, Op. 38 (Nicholas Finch, cello; Paley, piano); Brahms: Trio in E flat major, Op. 40 (James Ferree, French horn; Daisuke Yamamoto, violin; Paley, piano).

Sept. 17 (7:30 p.m.) Prokofiev: Sonata, Op. 119, for cello and piano (Finch, cello; Paley, piano); Rachmaninoff: “Six Pieces,” Op. 11 (Paley and Chen, piano four-hands); Tchaikovsky: “The Seasons” (Paley, piano); Arensky: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32 (Yamamoto, violin; Finch, cello; Paley, piano).

Sept. 18 (3 p.m.) Mozart: Sonata in F major, K. 497 (Paley and Chen, piano four-hands); Mozart-Zemlinsky: “The Magic Flute” (Paley and Chen, piano four-hands); Zemlinsky: Trio in D minor, Op. 3 (Charles West, clarinet; Finch, cello; Paley, piano).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

L. Wayne Batty (1922-2016)

L. Wayne Batty, the longtime voice professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and impresario of hundreds of productions of opera and musical theater in Richmond since the 1950s, has died at 94.

Perhaps most widely known for staging Christmas-season performances of Gian
Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl
and the Night Visitors” at the Altria Theater, Batty was the teacher and mentor of generations of singers in Richmond and well beyond. His best-known student, tenor Thomas Moser, became a major figure in opera in Europe, singing on the roster of the Vienna State Opera and with other major companies.

Staging locally produced opera, often in tandem with his wife, Mary Jane Ellis Batty, with the Richmond Opera Company and in Festival of Arts productions at Dogwood Dell, Batty devoted special attention to contemporary American scores. He led one of the first performances of Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” following its premiere in 1958 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

(In 2002, Batty accompanied me to a Washington National Opera revival of “Vanessa,” with Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role and Rosalind Elias, who portrayed Erika in the original production, as the Old Countess. Attending that performance, I missed the biggest news story to come of Ashland during the 27 years I lived there – the southernmost attack in the killing spree of the Washington snipers. The musical lore that Batty recounted during the trip more than compensated for my missing the big story.)

After singing with the World War II-era Army Air Corps Stage Band led by Henry Mancini and completing musical studies, Batty joined the faculty of what was then Richmond Professional Institute in 1949, and subsequently served for 12 years as chairman of the school’s music department. When he retired in 2007 after 58 years, he was both the longest-serving VCU professor and the longest-serving state employee.

An obituary by Ellen Robertson in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Letter V Classical Radio this week

Sept. 7
10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT
1400-1700 UTC/GMT
WDCE, University of Richmond
90.1 FM

György Ligeti: “Concert Romanesc”
Berlin Philharmonic/Jonathan Nott

traditional (Collection
Uhrovska, c. 1750):
“Visel som”
“Ach ma myla”
C 298
“Ksobassu Nota”
Ensemble Caprice/
Matthias Maute

Bartók: Quartet No. 5
Chiara String Quartet

George Onslow:
Quartet in C minor,
Op. 8, No. 1
Ruggieri Quartet

Beethoven: Sonata in A major, Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”)
(orchestration by
Richard Tognietti)
Hyunjong Reents-Kang, violin & director
Camerata Bern

Wagner: “Tannhäuser” –
Overture & Bacchanale
MET Orchestra/
James Levine
(Deutsche Grammophon)

“Poem of Love and the Sea”
Jessye Norman, soprano
Monte-Carlo Philharmonic/
Armin Jordan