With its roots in folk, bluegrass, and early African-American music, the banjo may not appear to have a place in the classical world. But John Bullard’s collaboration with other musicians on his recording Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art reveals the bright, sweet-sounding instrument’s ability to fit snugly into the music of Marcello, Handel, Bach, Telemann, and Grieg. The album also reveals the perils of arranging for such a distinct sound, most notably in Bullard’s attempt to reinvent Schumann’s Three Romances for the banjo. Though not effective all the way through, the disc has enough charm and deeply expressive moments to make a convincing case for the instrument’s versatility. Continue reading “Bullard Goes To Bat For Classical Banjo”→
“You are too thin to be an opera singer,” older ladies from my church squawked at me when I was young. Looking at my petite, 5’2” stature, it was no surprise that I wasn’t automatically compared to the stereotypical Rubenesque soprano, complete with breastplate, spear, and horns. However this image, although well known, is now false advertising. The opera world’s body images now conform to that of the dance, musical theater, and film industries.
Every year, orchestras around the world announce the programs of their upcoming seasons as though it’s an exciting surprise. Don’t get me wrong — the works of Romantic and Classical era composers will never cease to hold a soft spot in my heart. But by adhering to programs full of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Copland, and Mahler, we’re presenting classical music by composers who are white, male, and dead. Continue reading “Popular Programming Preventing Progress”→
Listening to the recording Joyce and Tony Live at Wigmore Hall with a glass of wine in hand is a gift that everyone should experience. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, winner of the 2016 Grammy for best classical solo album, and pianist Antonio Pappano teamed up to bring an audience at London’s Wigmore Hall a taste of their multi-genre platter. A sweet and salty mixture, the program consisted of classical, musical theater, and jazz favorites. The 2-disc Erato album takes you on vacation, first to 18th- and 19th-century Italy, then to Tin Pan Alley in New York City.Continue reading “Opera…And All That Jazz”→
Thirty years ago we started dreaming of the world we wanted to live in. It would be a kind of utopia for music: all the boundaries between composers would come down, all the boundaries between genres would come down, all the boundaries between musicians and audience would come down. Then we started trying to build it. Building a utopia is a political act — it pushes people to change. It is also an act of resistance to the things that keep us apart. — Gordon/Lang/Wolfe
Thirty years ago on Mother’s Day in a SoHo art gallery, a one-day marathon concert spurred the development of a performing arts organization that now hosts a variety of year-round international activities. Bang on a Can, co-founded by minimalist composers David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe (above, photo by Peter Serling), has been dedicated to cultivating innovative music regardless of its origin. Continue reading “CME Bangs on a Can”→
The large audience at Oberlin’s Warner Concert Hall experienced something spectacular on Friday evening, but don’t expect to hear about all of it. Due to the fact that Vijay Iyer’s Trouble for violin and chamber orchestra was still being tweaked, the publisher requested that no one review the artistry or the piece itself. Continue reading “What To Say? Not a Lot”→
Seeing a world-class orchestra on stage Friday evening, April 21 in Finney Chapel — the home to the Oberlin Conservatory Orchestra — suddenly seemed similar but different. The Cleveland Orchestra concluded Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series with a program that featured principal players in works by Delius, Vaughan Williams, and Strauss. Continue reading “The Cleveland Orchestra Returns to Finney Chapel”→
When I first started playing the cello, I only touched the instrument during lessons. In my early teens, I would practice by listening to my favorite recordings of pieces, which resulted in my duplicating the performer’s mistakes. What you do in the practice room is transparent onstage, and there are no shortcuts to achieving progress — but certainly shorter, focused practice times will yield greater productively. Continue reading “Don’t Work Hard, Work Differently”→
Chatting with cellist Aaron Wolff in the conservatory library was a lucky coincidence, for he is known for being the busiest person in the room at any given time. On Wednesday, May 3 at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel, Senior Concerto Competition Winner Wolff will perform Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Minor with the Oberlin Orchestra under Raphael Jiménez.
Romantic soundscapes sculpted by orchestral playing of the highest magnitude shaped The Cleveland Orchestra’s program on Friday evening April 21st, in Oberlin Conservatory’s historic Finney Chapel. Anticipation grew steadily as the concert hall rapidly filled with a diverse audience ranging from students, to young families, to elderly community members. Everyone eagerly awaited the downbeat that guest conductor Sir Andrew Davis would give the world-renowned ensemble. Continue reading “Cleveland Orchestra Presents Delius, Vaughan Williams and Strauss”→