The Week in Hope-Inspiring Spontaneous Music Online, Op. 8

May 5, 2020, 9:42 AM · This week’s roundup includes a version of Bach’s "Chaconne" that features not one, but 14 remarkable violinists. It offers a real-life love story between a singer on the operatic stage and a violinist in the orchestra pit. It showcases siblings who bring new meaning to the words “talented family.” And, in a break from our usual format, we’ll also take a moment to remember one of classical music’s finest performers who is no longer with us.

Q: What do Julia Fischer, Augustin Hadelich, Renaud Capuçon, Klaidi Sahatçi, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Nicola Benedetti, Andreas Janke, Daniel Röhn, Lisa Batiashvili, Lena Neudauer, James Ehnes, Stefan Jackiw, Rudens Turku, and Vadim Gluzman have in common? A: One remarkable performance of Bach’s "Chaconne" from Partita No. 2. (This is truly Must See TV!)

100 Juilliard students, and some very famous alumni (think Perlman, Ma, etc.), put a creative spin on Ravel’s Bolero. (Warning: You will have the tune stuck in your head all day. Listen at your own peril!)

They fell in love when he was on the operatic stage and she was in the orchestra pit. Metropolitan Opera artists Stephen Costello and his violinist wife Yoon Kwon Costello collaborate on "Salut! demeure chaste et pure" from Gounod’s Faust. (The look of love on Yoon’s face when Stephen nails the high C is precious.)

Violinist Razvan Stoica performs a classic guitar piece, "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" (Memories of the Alhambra), by Francisco Tárrega. Razvan writes that the "challenging bow tremolo" represents the water from the fountains inside the Alhambra. It is, indeed, a stunning effect. (Razvan notes that people often mistake this solo piece for a duet. I can see why!)

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason was scheduled to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Royal Albert Hall in April, but, of course, the concert was cancelled. Members of her unbelievably talented family — Braimah (violin), Aminata (violin), Jeneba (piano), and Sheku (cello) — created their own version, which was recently live-streamed. (Move over, Von Trapps!)

Boulder Bach Festival Music Director Zachary Carrettín performs selected movements from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites #1 and # 2 on the viola. His beautiful performance is enhanced by the stunning backdrop of the historic chapel at Sono Luminus Studios in Boyce, Virginia. Zachary is joined by Mina Gajic, pianist and Artistic and Executive Director of Boulder Bach Festival. (The two performers alternate, so don’t miss Zachary’s second appearance at 11:31.)

Violinist Gabriel Meidinger and cellist Toby Kuhn play "Vojake Sheja," a traditional Roma song. This is part of their beautiful series, Kadiköy Sessions in Quarantine. (This performance reminds us of the sheer joy that music can bring!)

Last week the classical music world lost one of its finest, cellist Lynn Harrell. In a break from our usual format, here is a clip of Mr. Harrell discussing, believe it or not, his role in the movie Cello, in which he played cellist Ansel Evans — a man stricken with ALS. In a touching moment, Mr. Harrell says, "If it wasn’t for that box of wood, I don’t know what I would have done with my life." Oh, Mr. Harrell, you've made all our lives richer through your artistry. (Don’t miss Laurie’s lovely tribute, which includes an incredibly beautiful rendition of Mr. Harrell playing Rachmaninoff.)

With symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of online "quarantine" performances. If you’d like to share links of performances you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.

Replies

May 5, 2020 at 09:44 PM · The Kadikoy Session is fabulous. This music is infectious in the best possible way. Such joyous and enthusiastic music can cure what ails you. COVID doesn't have a chance against these guys!

May 5, 2020 at 10:41 PM · Lynn Harrell seems like such a kind man. I hope to find the movie!

May 6, 2020 at 02:43 AM · Wonderful! Please keep these coming.

May 6, 2020 at 12:18 PM · Thanks again, Diana, for this wonderful selection of performances! I can't help being reminded of the phrase my violin teacher often used to say: "the affirmation of Bach." The Chaconne in the hands of these top players truly affirms us all right now! Extra points to Fischer, Hadelich and Gluzman for using baroque bows, too! I also enjoyed seeing John Batiste paired with YoYo Ma in Bolero. There's a duo that should explore some additional artistic collaborations, IMHO. And wow! I had never heard the Tarrega before! The bowing looks like a challenge, indeed--but does it look to anyone else like it is saltando rather than tremolo? Keep 'em coming, Diana! These really brighten my week!

May 6, 2020 at 06:59 PM · 17: I agree! That duo is formidable!

87: I had the great opportunity to play second violin in an orchestra where Mr. Harrell was performing the Elgar. I was 19 years old, he would have been about 31. Everyone in the orchestra adored him. He truly was gracious and kind.

152: We'll be here every Tuesday until performances return.

207: The idea of a Batiste/Ma Duo is quite appealing! As for the "tremolo bow," I believe it was dubbed such by the artist. Thank you for your wonderful and insightful comments.

Note for instrument enthusiasts: I've had several questions from my "viola friends" about the instrument Zachary Carrettín uses in the Boulder Bach Festival clip above. I reached out to him and here is his comprehensive response: "The viola is an anonymous 18th century Italian instrument (15-1/2" body length), and I have several historical bridges, sound posts, and tailpieces for it. In the clip above, I used a custom made classical style tailpiece with sheep gut tailgut, and a romantic era ("modern") bridge design. My C, G, and D strings were Toro, wound gut from Italy. My A string is steel (not synthetic), after the fashion of what many in France and Russia used from the 1870's through WWII. (There's an interesting concert review of violinist Marie Tayeau in 1876 Paris, using a steel E and A at the recommendation of luthier Charles J.B. Collin-Mezin.) My bow is a baroque viola bow replica by Chris English, made from ironwood. Overall, the online concert viola set up was something of a hybrid baroque/classical/romantic period set up. I chose it for the tone colors and for the response to the bow at low pitch, (A=415). I often use pure guts without chin rest on that viola, but in the humidity it likes a bit more tension on the top, and the chin rest helps focus the fundamental of the tone. Each set up is circumstantial, reflecting the repertoire and the environment—and what I seek in playability.” Thank you for the information, Zachary!

May 6, 2020 at 08:34 PM · For those who would like to see Lynn Harrell's movie, Click here for the website for "Cello." The website has all kinds of great stuff. Click here for download options; looks like it's on Amazon and iTunes.

May 6, 2020 at 11:12 PM · Wow! Just what the doctor ordered, especially today when I was feeling really down for the first time. Yoon Kwon Costello started playing during the Gounod and I sobbed. The emotional quality of the violin - no words. The Kadikoy Session was so much fun and listening to Lynn Harrell was so touching. Beautiful. And the Bolero! I immediately recognized Chopin in the Bolero arrangement but never heard the Chopin Bolero before. So I googled it, listened to Rubinstein play it and was instantly transported somewhere else. The Beethoven arrangement was marvelous. Since you mentioned the Von Trapp family, have you ever heard of The 5 Browns? They are a classical piano ensemble, 2 brothers and 3 sisters who all play piano, have all attended Juilliard and have recorded and given concerts all over the world many times together on 5 grand pianos. My son-in-law’s sister is married to one of them, Ryan, and I’ve gotten to know him very well. Please check them out for some wonderful music!

Thanks for the education once again, and thanks as always for brightening up my day!

May 7, 2020 at 01:47 AM · Joe: I do know The 5 Browns, but haven't checked them out in awhile. I will definitely do so! Glad to hear the music selections were uplifting. My hope is that tomorrow brings a true lift to your spirits. There is music, opera, theatre in our future. Please don't despair!

May 7, 2020 at 03:31 PM · Lovely article Diana! Thank you!

May 8, 2020 at 12:56 PM · 249: You are most welcome! I'm appreciative of people who are sending me ideas!

May 10, 2020 at 10:51 AM · I really liked the refreshingly free interpretation of the cello suites by Carrettin, as well as Gajic's captivating suspension of the affekt in her movement from the French Suites. Good stuff! Thanks!

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