Sebastian Chang and a New Symphony

Sebastian was commissioned by Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra for a new symphony. Mr. Chang was in town for the performance and talked with Daniel Gilliam about the creative process surrounding his first major work.

Jinjoo Cho In-Studio

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Violinist Jinjoo Cho joined us in the Performance Studio of Classical 90.5 to perform a concert on February 3rd. Ms. Cho received the gold medal at the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in September. The Gheens Great Expectations Program welcomed her and the administrator of the Gheens series pianist Jeff Jamner accompanied her. She gave an outstanding concert of “Grave and Fuga from Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003″ by J.S. Bach, “Sonata in E Minor, K. 304″ by W.A. Mozart, and “Fantasy for Solo Violin” by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Daniel Gilliam hosted the concert, and spoke with Ms. Cho and Glen Kwok, Executive Director of ICVI.

Artist Spotlight: Casey Cangelosi

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Casey Cangelosi

Michelle Frech recently joined Classical 90.5 as an intern. She is a student of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying Music Business. Over the next few months Michelle will be writing for our website, focusing on some of her interests which include percussion music.

Award-winning percussionist Casey Cangelosi is an outstanding performer, composer, and educator. He is a truly versatile percussionist. He writes for everything from marimba to multiple percussion and performs his works with ease. Cangelosi has a few nicknames in the percussion world such as “The Paganini of Percussion.” The Classical Marimba League calls him “a marimbist of magisterial power and insight.” He has performed in festivals all over the world and has been a guest at over 30 schools. Percussionists around the world, including myself, look up to Cangelosi as an inpiration. His solid technique and flawless exhibition is something all musicians aspire to attain.

My main love and focus in percussion is marimba. I have trouble with my snare drum technique and it takes me longer to work through more rhythmic pieces with non-pitched percussive instruments. A snare drum exercise that would take my fellow colleague an hour to learn and perfect would have me in the practice room for about 3 hours, if not more. This fact made me stubborn when it came to listening to rhythmic pieces for non-pitched percussion. “Wicca” by Cangelosi was the piece that changed all of that. When I first heard “Wicca” it was as if this block in my brain that kept me from enjoying a world of non-pitched percussion instantly vanished. I fell in love with the piece and could not stop listening to it. Then I dived into Cangelosi’s other works.

“Walking Left Handed” was another piece that caught my attention. This is another multiple percussion piece, but this one is played along with a recording. The recording is inspired by an interview with a woman who describes her effects of being on LSD. The piece requires both pitched percussion and non-pitched percussion. The performer plays in the dark with three candles lit and wears a head lamp. Blowing out the candles and turning the head lamp on and off is a part of the piece! This YouTube video is only part one, so be sure to continue to parts 3 and 4.

“Prelude in F Minor” is one of five preludes Cangelosi has written for solo marimba. His top right mallet sings the melody as his bottom three mallets accompany. He composed this specific prelude for his sister Amy. It is one of his many brilliant marimba pieces. Cangelosi is probably most well-known for his quick “White Knuckle Stroll” which is quite a challenging work. This prelude is still challenging, but it is much more lyrical and expressive.

You can hear Casey Cangelosi at the Kentucky Day of Percussion taking place at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts hosted by the Kentucky Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society on Saturday, February 28th from 10:00am – 6:00pm. Registration begins at 9:00am. Learn more at kydrum.com.

African American Voices

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Our award-winning special, African American Voices, returns this February. Listen at 10am and 4pm, or anytime at wuol.org/voices, for stories of courage and hope through music.

Review: Louisville Orchestra Presents World Premiere of Chang Symphony

Sebastian-Chang

Teddy Abrams led the Louisville Orchestra on Thursday and Friday in two symphonies: one premiere and the other one of the most performed since its premiere in 1876. The new work by Sebastian Chang, and commissioned by the LO, is his first major composition, clocking in at around thirty minutes. Titled Classical Symphony, it’s modeled on those of Mozart and Haydn, but with a musical language of today (Prokofiev did the same this with his first symphony).

Chang’s symphony is charming, with moments of nostalgia hinting at Leonard Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann. Chang seems most comfortable writing lush jazz chords or memorable tunes (I’ve remembered the second movement theme since hearing it once at the first rehearsal in December). He is melodically gifted and wants to say something that is personal in every gesture. Chang is also charming, and he smiles a lot, just like his music.

An orchestra at a premiere is a tightly-wound band, which can lead to a mechanical performance. But these performances were full of care and musicality, led by Abrams who didn’t just lead the music, but understood it. Chang’s romantic score gives the bulk of the melodic material to the violins, which at times felt like too much. I kept hoping for some prominent cello lines, or individual wind and brass players showcased. The Whitney Hall audiences were genuinely thrilled, giving Chang a warm, enthusiastic welcome.

At both performances Abrams noted the history of the Louisville Orchestra as a commissioning organization, and how this premiere was continuing that tradition. Crucial in reviving this reputation is funding. The money to commission a composer fairly for their work must come from within the community (individuals, organizations and foundations), even as the orchestra seeks funders on a national level. A composer earns in a year what a high-profile soloist makes in one night. Equally, the composers who are commissioned should be well-known and lesser-known, from around the country and close to home.

Johannes Brahms carefully deliberated over his first symphony for twenty years. Was he a rookie composer and unsure of himself? No, he had written a monumental Requiem, a piano concerto, two lengthy works for orchestra and dozens of chamber works. You could say Brahms developed a complex thanks to Beethoven’s legacy — he, Johannes, was the chosen successor. As a result, we get a symphony that wrestles with demons, finds beauty and playfulness around us, and finally stands on higher ground, like a preacher to the flock, eyes widened and fists shaking.

The orchestra plunged into this complex, emotional narrative, fully invested in every bit of the drama. More tender moments in the music were led by the prinicipal winds and brass. Concertmaster Michael Davis soared at the end of the second movement. Oboist Jennifer Potochnic was sublime, and her richly delivered solos lingered long after their ending. During the symphony’s driving moments, Abrams pushed the orchestra to the edge, almost saying “Let’s try to get even closer!” He was as much a leader as a cheerleader, giving validation to an ensemble that knew exactly what to do. The final movement, an operatic apotheosis, was a statement in and of itself triumphing for Brahms and the Louisville Orchestra.