Eleven weeks into this feature, and it’s crystal clear that concert artists and orchestral musicians have stayed active during quarantine. What may not have been as evident is that composers, teachers, students, and amateurs have also been playing their part to keep music alive.
This week we feature an outstanding university professor (demonstrating that those who can, do and teach). We have a group of outstanding student artists, ages 14 - 20 (showing there clearly is viola power in numbers). We offer the Juilliard Orchestra (led by arguably the most famous violinist in the world). We have a Baroque violinist who trades her trills for a down home romp (fireworks and all). We showcase a wannabe violinist/trumpeter (who has an interesting take on Mendelssohn’s string octet). And we have two highly-acclaimed violinists, one offering a Philip Glass classic and the other a brand-new piece by Scott Wheeler that is bound to become an encore favorite.
Composer Scott Wheeler dashed off his latest gem, "Isolation Rag," while in quarantine. In what I’ve got to believe is every composer’s fantasy, violinist Gil Shaham surprised the composer by playing the world premiere at the 24-hour Livestream Festival "Music Never Sleeps DMF" on May 16. In the YouTube comments, v.com member Gene Huang notes hearing a bit of Mendelssohn! (I heard it too, Gene! Thought I was hallucinating at first). And a free v.com luggage tag goes to the listener who is the first to recognize the other musical quote. P.S. According to the composer, “Gil reacted that the quotes gave the piece the feeling that the soloist was at home thinking of and missing his orchestra.” (What a lovely, and heartbreaking, thought.)
Itzhak Perlman and the Juilliard Orchestra offer a sincere and heartfelt gift — "Nimrod" from Edward Elgar’s "Enigma Variations." I personally loved one of the comments under the video which reads: "I’m one of the bassoonists in the video (in the striped shirt). This was an unbelievably cool experience! Hope everyone who watches this video enjoys!" (Oh, we will!)
Violinist Rachell Ellen Wong and cellist Coleman Itzkoff offer a rousing performance of Mark O’Connor’s "F.C.’s Jig." (Known primarily as a Baroque expert, Rachell proves there are no musical boundaries she isn’t willing to cross.)
My absolute favorite violinist, Robert McDuffie, dazzles in Movement 1 of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto (1987). (I’m pretending Mr. McDuffie put the suit on just for me! Somehow I don’t think Mr. Glass would care one way or another.) By the way, if you want more of the Glass concerto, don’t miss Laurie’s write up of violinist David Nebel’s latest album, which includes concertos by Glass and Igor Stravinsky. She also provides a link to David playing Glass’ hauntingly beautiful Movement III.
Violinist and University of Tennessee Professor Miroslav Hristov responded to a Facebook initiative by WeiwuYin (a major concert hall in Taiwan) to compose, play, or create a variation on a movement from J.S. Bach’s Musical Offering. Miro created a "Caprice Variation" on the Largo from the trio sonata, based on the movement’s harmonic progression and in the style of Locatelli’s Labyrinth or Paganini’s Caprice No. 1. (What an inspiration you must be to your students, Miro!)
Trumpeter/violinist-hopeful Peter Lawrence gives a unique one-man version of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in E flat major, opus 20, first movement. (Pete clearly knew how to get himself featured on violinist.com! Just pretend to play the violin and you’re in.)
And for our grand finale, teacher and conductor Ronald Houston and his group ViolaPower perform the powerful "Intermezzo" from Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Ronald’s students, ages 14 to 20, produced a series of videos in tribute to their health care heroes. (Ronald, you are my hero. You may just be single-handledly populating the viola world for the very near future!)
With concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of online "lockdown" 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.
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