Creating this week’s roundup of musical events was a revelation to me. Simply put, I learned a few things about repertoire, composers, and instruments. I saw what a socially-distanced chamber performance actually looks (and sounds) like. I fell in love with an Elgar chamber piece that I’d not heard before. I got to know a new violinist who is now among my "favorites." I discovered a Baroque instrument that was previously unfamiliar to me. And I familiarized myself with the amazing accomplishments of an American composer whose work I knew only tangentially. I hope you’ll make a few musical discoveries yourself.
This week, the London Mozart Players give us their first live performance since the pandemic. We’re featuring four online series: Fritz on Friday with Tessa Lark, Uri-Poste Juke Box with Elena Urioste and Tom Poster, Musical Bytes with the Boulder Bach Festival, and Gilharmonic on Violinist.com with Gil Shaham and Laurie Niles. Meaningful tributes continue under the #TakeTwoKnees banner. And lots more!
When the London Mozart Players returned to “live” performances, they followed every rule of social distancing. They observed the 2-meter rule, wore masks, and limited the program to string pieces (no winds or vocalists). And, the audience was watching via live-stream. The resulting performance, directed by Simon Blendis, was broadcast last week in partnership with Classic FM and received over 500,000 views in 24 hours. While their rendition of W.A. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is about as close to impeccable as it gets, I’ve started the video at a piece that is new to me and that I have absolutely fallen in love with: Edward Elgar’s Chanson de Matin. And don’t miss the next number — the rousing Dobra Dobra by Max Shalka and Felix Stahl — a real showpiece for Mr. Blendis. (The program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. And all you need to do to hear the Mozart is move the time bar backward — and I highly recommend that you do.)
As part of our continuing coverage of #TakeTwoKnees tributes, violinist MingHuan Xu and pianist Winston Choi of Duo Diorama play William Grant Still’s Mother and Child from his Suite for Violin and Piano. In the spirit of perpetual learning, here’s what I discovered about William Grant Still via Wikipedia: Still was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. (This is a truly beautiful performance, musically and visually, of a wonderfully touching piece.)
Because everybody needs a little more Elgar, and since most of us missed hearing what has become standard graduation musical fare, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel has a treat for you. Members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) perform Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance in honor the 2020 YOLA graduating class. Keep your eyes peeled for LA Phil concertmaster Martin Chalifour! (P.S. This is NOT the Elgar piece with which I was not familiar. See the London Mozart Players above.)
The Sphinx Virtuosi bring you Elegy: In Memoriam - Stephen Lawrence by Philip Herbert. As many v.com readers know, the Sphinx Organization was founded in 1997 by Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of "addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music." The Sphinx Virtuosi is a professional chamber orchestra "made up of 18 top Black and Latinx classical performers." (This beautiful work was written in 1999 by Black British composer Philip Herbert in response to the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence.)
Master violinist Gil Shaham comes by the bad dad jokes honestly as the proud father of three. And while his jokes might make co-host Laurie Niles roll her eyes, his delivery is so completely charming that one has to forgive his comedic inadequacies. (He can’t be good at everything, can he?) On last Sunday’s live Father’s Day broadcast of Gilharmonic on Violinist.com, violinist Vaishi Sharma gave a lovely reading of the first movement "Largo" from Henry Eccles' Sonata in G minor (or what Mr. Shaham referred to as "Dr. Eccles and Mr. Hyde"). Elizabeth Wei delivered an expressive excerpt from Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasie, (a piece Mr. Shaham referred to as "Scratch Frantically"). Elena Urioste and her pianist/husband Tom Poster offered a romantic rendition of Un Sonnet d’Amour from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite de Concert, Op. 77. And in what is surely an online first, Elena, a seasoned Yogi, taught Gil and Laurie some moves. (I personally loved when the subject of yoga came up and Tom suddenly had to go practice his kazoo!) NOTE: I’ve cued up the video at Mr.Shaham's discussion of "musical grammar" that I found particularly interesting.
Speaking of the kazoo, evidently Tom wasn’t kidding when he headed off to practice! Here Elena Urioste and her kazooist/pianist/husband Tom Poster play Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. (I have two words for you, Tom: Keep practicing!) The duo’s jukebox series is called #UriPosteJukeBox. The costumes and myriad instruments they play, in addition to delving into classics like "Stairway to Heaven," make it a memorable journey. (The duo has filmed close to 90 episodes!)
I recently featured a cellist who plays standing up, so is it much of a leap that I now feature one who plays with the cello under his chin? Boulder Bach Festival launched a summer mini-series called Musical Bytes: Historical Happenings at the Curiosity Corner. So take four minutes and let Music Director Zachary Carrettín introduce you to the Cello da Spalla. (Let me be perfectly candid. Would I learn about the Cello da Spalla if I weren’t basically a prisoner in my own home? Probably not. But I’ve got the time and turns out it's quite fascinating!)
Violinist Tessa Lark probably has many musical heroes. But there is one of which I am certain: Fritz Kreisler. Tessa writes, "Few match Kreisler’s natural gift of finding such heartfelt, magical fantasy in their music." Agreed! Since the beginning of May, Tessa has released a video each Friday on Facebook under the moniker #FritzonFriday. Her latest entry is Kreisler’s Tempo di Minuetto (in the style of Pugnani). (Spoiler alert: Tessa will be the guest star on Gilharmonic next Sunday, June 28).
With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of "summer of change" activities. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, teaching experiences, camps, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.Tweet
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