Holiday Choral Festival 2014

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The Louisville Chamber Choir, Protus, Voces Novae and the Youth Performing Arts School Women’s Choir are the four ensembles you can hear December 7th at 7pm on the 2014 Holiday Choral Festival. Non-member tickets are $15. Members and children (17 & under) are $10. Tickets available here and by calling (877) 435-9849, and available in person at Louisville Public Media, 619 S. Fourth Street, Louisville, KY, 40202.

2015 Grawemeyer Award in Music

2015 music Wolfgang Rihm

The 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Music has been awarded to Wolfgang Rihm for his 15-minute orchestral work IN-SCHRIFT 2, premiered in October of 2013.

Rihm composed the music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic‘s concert hall, the Philharmonie, a concert venue known for its excellent acoustic properties and unique construction. IN-SCHRIFT 2 explores this unique space, by placing musicians from the orchestra around and within the audience, creating spatial and surround-sound effects. The work is also noted for not using flutes, violins or violas (standard orchestral instruments), instead focusing on the darker and deeper sounds of the ensemble. A preview of the premiere can be seen on the Berlin Philharmonic’s website.

A prolific composer of over 400 works, Wolfgang Rihm came to prominence in 1974 after the premiere of Morphonie at an historic new music festival in Donaueschingen. His output is often associated with expressionism, a style that can be traced back to Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg. Rihm has composed thirteen string quartets, four operas, and his oratorio Deus Passus was commissioned by the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart for the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. He has been featured composer at music festivals in Lucerne and Salzburg, and his violin concerto was premiered in 2010 by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the New York Philharmonic. Rihm was born in 1952 in Karslruhle and is a professor at Karlsruhle University of Music.

The 2015 Award in Music is one of five Grawemeyer awards from the University of Louisville, each with a prize of $100,000.

Event: Holiday Music Unwrapped

Currier and Ives winter sleigh ride

Like it or not, holiday music is already playing everywhere … and you’ll only hear more of it as we get closer to December 25. Why not make the best of it and learn where these familiar tunes and arrangements come from? This class will help you impress your friends at holiday parties or take home the MVP trophy at the holiday trivia contest. Listen and learn with Classical 90.5’s Daniel Gilliam, Wednesday, December 3rd at noon.

This is a FREE event for Classical 90.5/Louisville Public Media members. Please use code IFUHOLIDAY90.5 to receive 100% discount on your admission fee. http://www.eventbrite.com/e/holiday-music-unwrapped-tickets-14149881677

Review: Johannes String Quartet plays the dark, poignant and playful

Photo Credit: Daniel Ashworth Photography

Chamber Music Society of Louisville presented the Johannes String Quartet on its second concert of the season, to a modestly-filled crowd at Margaret Comstock Concert Hall on Sunday, November 23rd at 3pm. Typical of the ensembles CMS Louisville books, each player of Johannes is highly skilled with an impressive list of credentials: Soovin Kim, the first American to with the prestigious Paganini Violin Competition; Jessica Lee, winner of a Concert Artists Guild Competition; C.J. Chang, principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Peter Stumpf, former principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and currently on faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington.

In the Mendelssohn family, siblings Felix and Fanny were the most musical and the closest. She died in May of 1847 at the age of 43, and her brother, overcome with anguish, churned out a string quartet subtitled “Requiem for Fanny.” Felix would die just two months later at the age of 38. This F minor quartet opened the Johannes String Quartet’s darkly-hued program. It’s frenetic first and second movements were played ferociously. An unanswered question leads into a loving third movement, which in turn gives way to more grief and anger. This isn’t music that seeks understanding or comfort. Yesterday’s performance was memorable for emoting every note from the page. First violinist Soovin Kim, full of presence and adrenaline, lost some precision in a few highly exposed moments. But this is not a warm up quartet or an icebreaker ﹘ it’s difficult technically and emotionally. We are experiencing grief and mourning privately with Felix.

Bela Bartok’s final string quartet dwells in a similarly grim place, but with less emotion. His sixth quartet is cold and calculated, each movement opening with a theme marked “mesto” (mesto is Italian for “sad”). These dark times are no place for revelry, but Bartok manages to liven things up, if through a clenched jaw, writing for the quartet as an Hungarian folk band in the second and third movements. The Johannes quartet showed us their understanding of every detail in this complex music, and how gritty their fine instruments can sound.

Combined with the drowsy, rainy afternoon, we all needed a heavy dose of vitamin D after the first half. Thankfully, the Johannes String Quartet chose a lighter work from their namesake. What Brahms thought was inconsequential in his catalog ﹘ and perhaps it isn’t his most important contribution ﹘ was enjoyable. He wants to show us little trinkets here and there, rather than grand gestures. The third movement featured the viola, with Mr. Chang coaxing a humanized, velvety voice, lilting and singing above undulating pulses. Johannes String Quartet shows its strength in this highly emotive music. Their sound yesterday afternoon was full and rich, perfect for Brahms. According to their website, the group is currently working recording the complete quartets of Brahms, which should be a welcome addition to the catalog.

Finally, praises to Chamber Music Society of Louisville, capable of programming a season that is on par with major presenters in Chicago or New York, at a fraction of the ticket price, in the best venue in town. The next Chamber Music Society of Louisville concert is February 15th at 3pm, again at Comstock Concert Hall, with the Amernet String Quartet and soprano Lauren Skuce Gross.

Photo Credit: Daniel Ashworth Photography

REVIEW: An Orchestra, Almost, In Your Living Room

Abrams-Photo-by-Sam-English

The Louisville Orchestra continued its Neighborhood Series “Music Without Borders” last night, with about an hour of music, to a full house at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Prospect. Billed as a casual concert, the orchestra played a mix of light stage music paired with a couple weightier movements from concertos and symphonies.

Rossini’s overture to La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) made a strong first impression, and for about 7 minutes we were listening in a 19th-century opera house, not a church.

Incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the calling card of a genius named Felix Mendelssohn, a fact underscored by Teddy Abrams in his address to the audience. Mendelssohn’s music is often confused with that of an older composer, not one who died at the age of 38. The fact remains that Mendelssohn, like Mozart, was an anomaly in human achievement. Though Mendelssohn, unlike Mozart, still rests on a second tier in our musical pantheon, coming from that period still reeling from someone named Ludwig van Beethoven.

The brilliant overture, both in intellect and luster, opens with four shimmering chords in the woodwinds, a reference to the four days and “Four nights that will quickly dream away the time,” spoken by Hippolyta. What follows is a blistering forty seconds for the violins, at their most exposed, flittering lightly on their strings. Last night the violins held together, never out of control, but lacking the precision needed for this difficult passage, and similar ones that followed, to sound crisp. Its Scherzo, a jaunty interlude that precedes the entrance of Puck and the Fairies in Act II, bounced and danced, ending with a long, unbroken phrase gracefully played by principal flutist, Kathy Karr.

Spencer Sharp, winner of the 2014 Association of the Louisville Orchestra Concerto Competition, played the first movement of the Dvořák violin concerto with assuredness. Abrams’ account of the first movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished” was impassioned and brooding. Like Mendelssohn, we may never come to terms with Schubert’s short, prolific life.

Beethoven, known for his anguish, showed us a playful and cheeky side with the Turkish March from The Ruins of Athens and the King Stephen Overture. The latter is Beethoven as a caricature of himself: grandiose statements, perky tunes and rousing anthems.

“Music Without Borders” implies a boundary exists, namely in Whitney Hall or the Brown Theater, and between an audience and the orchestra. The audience last night looked no different than the audience at Whitney Hall. The concept is right, but maybe next season will include concerts in Shawnee, Portland or Pleasure Ridge Park.

Music Without Borders continues tonight at 7:30pm, Ogle Center IUS, and tomorrow at 3:00pm at Congregation Adath Jeshrun.