Review: Stars of the Guitar

Every two years, three of the world’s most talented guitarists are chosen as finalists to compete in the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. A production of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Stars of the Guitar features recordings of finalists from previous years of the competition. The finalists perform under the direction of JoAnn Falletta and as featured with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. This two-disc set gives an entirely new perspective and meaning to some of guitar’s most timeless masterworks.

The first disc of the set begins with a recording from 2004 by the competition’s first winner, Marcin Dylla, playing Concerto del sur by Manuel Ponce. The album then features Concierto No. 3 “ Elegiaco” played by Chad Ibison who competed and received the 3rd place in in 2014. “Elegiaco” was a commission by the BBC for famed guitarist, Julian Bream. The final feature on the first disc is Joaquin Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre performed by Ekachai Jearakul, recent winner of the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Concert Artist Competition.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is no stranger to the repertoire of the guitar. The second disc features another concerto by Joaquin Rodrigo, Concierto de Aranjuez. Though the most popular and most recorded concerto from the two disks, the orchestra and guitarists Petrit Ceku give this piece a much needed redo. The second recording on the disc, Folias by Robert Sierra, is one of two living composers to have been featured on this album. Written in 2002, Folias was performed in 2012 by second place prize winner Celik Refik. The use of extended percussive and harmonic exploration is beautifully displayed by Refik. Last held in 2014, Marko Topchii, the most recent winner of the competition , won with his performance of Concerto pour Guitare et Petit Orchestra. Topchii provides a flawless performance of what is a technically demanding piece. Chosen as one of American’s “ 30 great guitarists under 30” by Acoustic Guitar Magazine,Benjamin Beirs in 2008 performed Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Op. 33, the last work on the album.

Stars of the Guitar lives up to its name in every way by providing some of the newest and most invigorating recordings for the guitar’s repertoire. The competition will convene again in 2016 for what will likely be it’s more exciting competition yet. For more information on this recording, visit

In-Studio: LO Violinist Rob Simonds

Rob Simonds playing live

Louisville Orchestra violinist Rob Simonds returns to Classical 90.5, featuring music for solo violin by – mostly – living composers.

Members can reserve a lunch from City Cafe by calling (502) 814-6565 by Tuesday at noon. The concert is free and open-to-the-public. December 16th at noon, at Louisville Public Media, 619 S. Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202.

A Very English Christmas

Nigel Short photo by Susan Porter Thomas

After vocalist Nigel Short left the renowned The King’s Singers, he founded the vocal group Tenebrae. In the fifteen years since his departure, Short and Tenebrae have been very busy. Since 2000, Tenebrae has released 26 albums.

The group’s latest recorded effort is appropriately titled A Very English Christmas because it is full of original compositions and carol arrangements by British composers from the early 20th century to today. Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930) features prominently on this recording with a total of five carols included. Contemporary organist and composer Simon Preston is represented on the CD with 3 selections. John Gardner (1917-2011) has two.

A stand-out carol from the contemporary composers that are featured on this release is The Birds by Richard Hickox. The late Hickox was a prominent conductor in England who recorded hundreds of discs for the Chandos record label. The Birds is a simple, pastoral carol that mimics the serene calls of the cuckoo, pigeon and dove.

Philip Ledger (1937-2012) led the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge for many of their famous Nine Lessons and Carols service (heard on Christmas Eve at 10 am on Classical 90.5). His setting of Adam lay ybounden receives a fine performance here as does his famous setting of On Christmas Night.

Other notable works on A Very English Christmas are Arnold Bax’s I Sing of A Maiden and No Small Wonder by Jonathan Lane. There 22 tracks in all on this 2015 release.

A Very English Christmas
Tenebrae conducted by Nigel Short
Bene Arte SIGCD902

In-Studio: Louisville Vocal Project

louisville vocal project

Join Classical 90.5 for a special in-studio with Louisville Vocal Project, singing music for Advent and Christmas, from the Renaissance to today. – December 9th at noon.

Free and open to the public. Classical 90.5 members can reserve a lunch from City Cafe by calling 502-814-6565 by Tuesday at noon.

2015 Channukah Specials

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Violinist Itzhak Perlman performs before the NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic at the Barclays Center on January 28 , 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.The Nets defeated the Magic 97-77.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

We’ll celebrate the Festival of Lights this year with some familiar voices, including Itzhak Perlman, Mindy Ratner, Bill Morelock and Louisville’s own Cantor David Lipp. Here’s the schedule:

December 6 at 8pm: Itzhak Perlman’s Chanukah Radio Party
Itzhak Perlman invites you to his Chanukah Radio Party. Join the superstar violinist as he tells the story of the Jewish festival of lights, and shares his favorite recordings for the holiday – some serious, some silly. This engaging one-hour special includes numbers from Itzhak Perlman’s radio-addicted childhood in Israel; evocative songs in Yiddish and Ladino; classical music that revolves around the Maccabee heroes of the story; and Chanukah gems by American folk singers. The master storyteller also regales you with jokes and memories, plus tales of three classic Chanukah symbols: the menorah, the latke, and, of course, the dreidel. A good time for the whole family, at Itzhak Perlman’s Chanukah Radio Party!

December 7 at 8pm: Candles Burning Brightly
A one-hour celebration of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights with an exploration of Chanukah foods and traditional activities … and plenty of music. Hosted by Mindy Ratner and Bill Morelock.

December 8 at 8pm: Chanukkah Ear Candy
A celebratory hour of music hosted by Cantor David Lipp, and featuring composers Samuel Adler, Joshua Lind and Michael Isaacson, and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

December 13 at 8pm: Chanukkah Blessings
A meditative hour of blessings and liturgy associated with the Festival of Lights, as sung and composed by various artists and communities of Jewish people. Hosted by Cantor David Lipp.