Academy helps young musicians explore their potential

Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Chris Howell | Herald-Times Layla Vamos, 10, practices a Joseph Haydn concerto during a private lesson last week with Mimi Zweig, director of the Indiana University String Academy.

When Layla Vamos’ bow touches the strings of her violin, she doesn’t need to watch.

Her body sways, and often her eyes close, allowing the music to take over while she plays. Joseph Haydn’s “Concerto in G Major” fills the walls of Mimi Zweig’s room in the round Music Addition building at the Jacobs School of Music.

Zweig, the program director of the music school’s String Academy, watches and listens, correcting Layla’s stance and providing encouragement after a particularly clean section.

Layla’s been playing the violin for years now and can hear when she’s a bit sharp — a tendency when pulling out of long notes. But by and large, the music flows from her 4-foot-nothing frame with an ease that comes from a thousand hours of practice.

At just 10 years old, the incoming fifth-grader at University Elementary School has put in the time to be great. Or, at least, to be on her way to greatness.

 

Worldwide appeal

Now in its 32nd year, Indiana University’s String Academy allows children like Layla who wish to study violin and cello to realize their potential in a world-class academic setting, Zweig said.

This year, 135 children are participating in the Summer String Academy, split over two sessions, with at least 20 students from Monroe County. There are also students from Iceland, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Mexico, Japan and China, among other countries, all living in the Forest Quad dormitory, eating at the Wright food court for lunch, just like college students.

The students were each required to send in an audition tape to be selected for the program.

“This school offers the environment to realize their potential in just four weeks,” Zweig said. “Mind you, not their full potential. It is just four weeks, but it is amazing to see the progress they make in such a short amount of time.”

Zweig attributes the String Academy’s worldwide lure to a top-notch roster of instructors and a reputation that regularly brings in world-famous musicians to perform. During the summer sessions, Zweig has secured nearly nightly concerts for the students, many with Hoosier ties to match this year’s “Made In Indiana” theme.

“Parents are always looking for excellence in their education, and this is one of those hot spots,” Zweig said.

Simin Ganatra can speak to both sides of that argument. Ganatra is a renowned violin player in her own right, as well as a professor of practice at the Jacobs School of Music. She is also Layla’s mother and a big fan of the String Academy, first enrolling her daughter at age 6. This is Layla’s second time through the summer session.

“It’s just such a great program. It’s a great networking opportunity for the kids, and they learn so much,” Ganatra said. “Mimi is an amazing teacher. She has so much energy and is always positive. (The instructors) expect a lot, but they do it with encouragement and passion.”

Preparing for a career

When Layla was 3 or 4 years old, Ganatra was rooting for her daughter to choose the cello, the instrument of choice for Layla’s father, Jacobs professor of practice Brandon Vamos. But Layla gravitated toward the violin (because, as Layla explains it, that’s what the girls in the house played).

Layla is reaching a critical age in her development as a violinist. The young girl who enjoys playing outside and is a fan of dogs is doing all the right things to be great, Zweig said, as are the other kids who are committing themselves to their craft this summer.

By around age 12 or 14, students who have “caught the bug” should be preparing for a rigorous life of training over the coming years, Zweig said, a life current Jacobs students know well.

Zweig has modeled String Academy participants’ days in much the same way. In the morning, they practice from 9 to 11 a.m., then attend chamber music coaching for the next two hours. This is where students break out into string quartets based on levels of ability.

After lunch at the food court, students have private lessons from 2 to 4 p.m., and then practice for two more hours before heading back to the food court for dinner.

“Almost every night, then, we have class, a lecture or a concert,” said Zweig, who spends no less than 14 hours at the school each day. “They need to know how they will function in an environment like this.”

Many flourish, and Zweig said she’s had more than a few String Academy alumni later attend Jacobs as full-time IU students.

‘That’s so beautiful’

Layla closes her eyes and begins again with a confidence beyond her years. Mom nods in approval.

“Good! That’s so beautiful,” Zweig says.

Layla’s bow flashes back and forth as the fingers on her left hand slide along the strings. Her toes curl slightly into her flip-flops at the crescendo, and Zweig instructs her to hold the long notes longer.

“Do you hear the difference?” Zweig asks. “You opened up the space by using …”

“More bow,” Layla responds quietly but confidently.

“That’s right!” she says, flashing a broad smile, inciting Layla to do the same. “Now, let’s move on to Beethoven.”

Find out more

To learn more about the String Academy’s fall sessions, visit http://music.indiana.edu/precollege/year-round/strings/index.shtml.

By Jonathan Streetman 812-331-4353 | jstreetman@heraldt.com © HTO

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Alumna Yura Lee Appointed 1st Violinist of New York’s Enso Quartet

Yura-Lee-Enso-Quartet-696x329

The New York-based Enso String Quartet has today announced the appointment of 30 year old violinist, Yura Lee as their new 1st violinist – from the commencement of the 2016-17 season.

She will replace Maureen Nelson – who will leave the ensemble to take up a position with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

A graduate of the Indiana University and the New England Conservatory, Yura is a former major prize winner at the Leopold Mozart, Indianapolis, Hannover, Kreisler, Paganini and ARD International Violin Competitions.

“I feel very lucky that I get to spend time with, and explore this music with the Ensō Quartet … they are some of the most amazing musicians and people that I have been fortunate enough to know …” Yura has said.

Formed at Yale University in 1991, the Enso Quartet are former 1st prize winners at the Concert Artists Guild and Banff international String Quartet Competition.

©The Violin Channel 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Grammy Winning Violinist Joshua Bell Guest-Stars on TV’s Royal Pains

 

Josh Bell Royal Pains

 

ROYAL PAINS– “The Good News Is” Episode 807– Pictured:–(Photo by Giovanni Rufino/USA Network)

Superstar violinist Joshua Bell makes a very special guest appearance on the TV Series “Royal Pains,” airing on the USA Network on Wednesday, June 29.

Playing himself, Bell performs an original song by Tom Kitt in a scene with Cloris Leachman, who guest stars as a London West End diva. Also making special guest appearances are Henry Winkler and Christine Ebersole.

This is the second to last episode of the final season of the series which stars Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma  Shetty, Brooke D’Orsay, Ben Shenkman, and Campbell Scott.

The episode, titled  “The Good News” was written and directed by Michael Rauch (who also co-wrote the lyrics with Tom Kitt). Executive Producers: Michael Rauch and Andrew Lenchewski.

The writers, Michael Rauch and Antonia Ellis, have worked with Joshua Bell on Rauch’s show “Love Monkey,” and are huge fans of his.

Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era, and his restless curiosity, passion, and multi-faceted musical interests are almost unparalleled in the world of classical music. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2011, Bell is the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.

Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader, Bell’s 2015 summer highlights include a South American and European tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a tour to South Africa, including appearances with the Johannesburg Philharmonic and Starlight Classics, performances in New York and Shanghai with the New York Philharmonic and summer festivals including Verbier, Tanglewood, Mostly Mozart and Saratoga.

In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award, he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.

Photo attached courtesy of USA Network

Left to right: Joshua Bell, Christine Ebersole and Henry Winkler

 

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Pacifica Quartet says farewell to founding member and violinist

Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist

The Pacifica Quartet

The Pacifica Quartet

A few matters to write about.

A developing story

Word came quietly from Norman Lebrecht’s music website and then from the website of the Jacob School’s resident string ensemble: “The Pacifica Quartet has announced the departure of founding member and first violinist Simin Ganatra. Ms. Ganatra, who has been the first violinist of the ensemble since their founding in 1994, will be leaving at the end of the 2015-16 season to assume an expanded role at Indiana University’s Jacobs School… and pursue other musical opportunities. The Pacifica Quartet will announce Ms. Ganatra’s replacement at a later date.”

On behalf of his Pacifica colleagues, violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson told us in the news release: “We are so very proud of Simin and wish her nothing but the best on her new adventure. As we say farewell to Simin, we look forward with much excitement to the next leg on our musical journey.”

On behalf of herself, Simin Ganatra said: “The decision to leave was not an easy one, but after 22 years with the ensemble, I feel ready to explore other musical opportunities. I will excitedly watch as my colleagues continue to grow artistically and further develop this remarkable ensemble into the quartet of the future.”

There were immediate questions without answers.

One: When is “a later date?”

Two: What are the specifics about Simin Ganatra’s new job, the job with “an expanded role at IU?

Three and Four: As for the Pacifica and its change of personnel — Will the group stay here and continue its important efforts to heighten student enthusiasm for chamber music training? Or will the Pacifica depart to headquarter elsewhere?

Five: What are the why and wherefores for these changes?

I emailed the Pacifica’s usual spokesperson, violinist Sigurbjorn “Sibbi” Bernhardsson. Sibbi answered: “Dear Peter. Thanks for your email. Sorry for the late reply. I am en route to Japan. The short answer is that we are all very much staying and will continue our work at Jsom. We have had over 20 wonderful years with Simin. She has taken a more expanded role at Jsom. The Pacifica Quartet will continue on, and we are in the midst of finding a replacement. Please write to Brandon [cellist Brandon Vamos] and Simin directly about this for future clarification.”

I wrote back: “Thank you, Sibbi. That’s great news. Happy journey!” Then I wrote Brandon and Simin.

She answered: “I just arrived in Japan and am reading your email now. Hope it is not too late to respond. I am taking on a more extensive role at Jacobs which I am really excited about. I absolutely love the school and love that I will be able to do even more on campus. I plan to still perform extensively, and more in Blooomington than I have been able to, and look forward to exploring other repertoire. As you may or may not know, Brandon and I have two wonderful girls, ages 5 and 10, and this new position allows me to pursue the dreams I have for my career while at the same time not leaving them home 3-4 days every week with a nanny. I also know that I will be able to devote more time to my students. Thanks for your interest and support.”

What more can I say except to emphasize the good news: that, after all, we’re not losing anyone, and we’ll be gaining another violinist for the Pacifica package. My frown has changed to a smile.

BLEMF remembered

If you read my reviews of five Early Music events that took place during an extended Memorial Day weekend, you’re undoubtedly aware that I was pleased by what some devoted and gifted musicians managed to contribute to the town’s musical scene and, thereby, keep BLEMF’s footprint distinct.

Just the idea of doing it took courage on the part of performers and, perhaps even more, on the part of planners: the board members of Bloomington Early Music, the faculty and students at the Jacobs School’s Historical Performance Institute, and the leaders in the student group Gamma Ut. They all apparently felt the need to test whether or not Bloomington misses BLEMF, its Bloomington Early Music Festival, enough to attempt a revival. I think the test validated the belief of local enthusiasts that public reaction to the event was encouraging and that what we saw and heard merited future efforts.

This time around, the musicians worked for free so that audiences could come free of charge. In the long run, that won’t work and would hinder growth. Local talents, from the Jacobs School and from loyal alums, are far more likely to do their parts without compensation, but adding musicians of note from greater distances becomes another reality: paying musicians, which is only fair, requires paying customers.

So, not all the tests have been taken. But I’m encouraged that there are enough musicians of serious interest to sustain the desire, and there will be, I think, a continuing interest from those of us who listen (and, yes, pay for tickets) if the offerings promise sufficient pleasure. The wonderful thing is that Bloomington had and has and will continue to have contingents of talents for BLEMF-like endeavors, a talent base from and with which to start. Then, depending on the budget’s health, decisions about celebrity invites can be made.

I’m encouraged.

At the auditorium

Somehow, I always wish for more when the brochure detailing the IU Auditorium’s next season arrives in the mail. I always want more to be chosen from the classic arts. But how valid can my argument be when the coming season holds two hardcore classical ensembles in the month of January: the Cleveland Orchestra and Dance Theater of Harlem?

The Clevelanders give a concert at the Auditorium on the 18th (the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto Number 2 with Yefim Bronfman as soloist and the Sibelius Symphony Number 2). The orchestra’s stay also includes, as is becoming a wonderful custom, a residency that gives IU music students opportunities to engage with the orchestra’s musicians through master classes and additional small ensemble concerts, which all Bloomingtonians are able to take advantage of.

The Dance Theater of Harlem’s performance on January 28 will also be enriched by a short residency designed for ballet and dance students, a most welcome add-on.

Welcome

I missed the recent welcoming event in the City Hall Council Chambers for Sean Stamowitz, hired by Mayor Hamilton and Linda Williamson, Bloomington’s interim director of economic and sustainable development, to become assistant director for the arts. Sean succeeds Miah Michaelsen, a terrifically productive predecessor who has moved on to become the Indiana Arts Commission’s deputy director.

We, on the Bloomington Arts Commission, miss Miah. I miss Miah. But Sean Stamowitz appears to have a rich background for his new job, along with the right temperament. I express regret for having missed the City Hall get-together but look forward, as a member of the BAC, to working with him. Belatedly, I say, “Welcome, colleague.”

Contact Peter Jacobi at pjacobi@heraldt.com.

Show times

• Competition sessions for the 10th USA International Harp Competition set for this week are open to the public. Second stage sessions are scheduled in Recital Hall on Monday and Tuesday mornings starting at 9 and afternoons starting at 3. Third stage sessions are set for Auer Hall on Wednesday morning starting at 9 and Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. Free.

• In addition, this afternoon at 3 in Auer, the 10th USA offers a recital by Yuying Chen, winner of the most recent Israel Harp Competition On a later date, the USA reciprocates by sending the winner of its current competition to Israel for a recital. The local recital is free.

• Thursday evening at 7 in Auer, the 10th USA sponsors a “Stars of Tomorrow” concert, featuring young harpists considered to be stars in the making. Free.

• Friday afternoon at 3 in the Memorial Union’s Alumni Hall, a Competition Celebration Gala honors its founder, Susann McDonald. Featured is the performance of “Fantasie for Madame McD, “ a tribute composed by Don Freund to be played by McDonald’s faculty colleague, Elzbieta Szmyt. Free.

• Saturday evening at 7 in the Musical Arts Center, hear the three finalists of the harp competition perform with orchestra. Following this final stage, the judges will announce their choices for medals and other honors. Free.

© The Herald Times June 2016

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

New Artists of the Month: The Verona Quartet

“At first it was just a quagmire of unknowns.” Violist Abigail Rojansky of the Verona String Quartet is describing Milton Babbitt’s complex Second Quartet (1954), which the group performed at the Juilliard School’s week-long Focus! festival in January. “We couldn’t really see the hidden correlations and references he nestles into the score until we’d played through it many, many times and allowed ourselves to be open to the humor that he wrote into it and the little conversations that he builds among the four voices. It really is a masterpiece.”

“Discovery” is the key word at Focus! concerts. For 32 years, the festival has been dishing up the most delectable new-music smorgasbord in New York City. This year’s event celebrated the centennial of distinguished American composer, teacher, and writer Milton Babbitt+ (1916- 2011). The four musicians of the Verona Quartet were encountering his sophisticated 12-tone language for the first time—although a listener might never have suspected as much. Their electrifying realization of the work’s Stravinsky-esque drive and Bartókian rhythms and pizzicatos finally unlocked the secret to a composer whose music I had heretofore appreciated mostly for his puckish titles: e.g., Swan Song No. 2, It Takes Twelve to Tango, Minute Waltz (or 3/4±1/8), Sheer Pluck (for guitar), and Whirled Series (for alto sax and piano).

Verona Quartet

Cellist Warren Hagerty, violist Abigail Rojansky, violinists Dorothy Ro and Jonathan Ong

In a lively interview afterward, violinist Jonathan Ong explained, “Part of delving into the music for us really involved getting to know who Babbitt was as a person. Of course, we have no first-hand experience,” but Juilliard professor and Focus! Director Joel Sachs does, and so does Joel Krosnick, longtime cellist of the Juilliard String Quartet, recently retired. “It was such a great opportunity to work with Mr. Sachs,” says Ong, “who knew him very dearly, and Mr. Krosnick, who was a student at Columbia when Babbitt was there. Whenever they reminisced about him, they spoke so much of his humor and wit, and they laughed and smiled—they just loved him as a person.”

Cellist Warren Hagerty drew a parallel with another composer. “Bartók’s music is often based on Hungarian folk tunes and also on the speech pattern. Mr. Sachs told us that the [Second Quartet] kind of resembles having a conversation with Milton, and that Milton would tend to jump around between topics very fast. You would find yourself talking about five different things within one minute, and I think we heard a lot of that in the piece—it made a lot more sense to us.”

The Verona players will be performing Bartók’s Fifth Quartet in their May 7 Alice Tully Hall debut, which also includes works by Haydn and Mendelssohn. Violinist Dorothy Ro says she finds it “very interesting to go from Babbitt and then to Bartók. Babbitt really expanded our perspective of things, really pushed our boundaries and musical interpretation in so many ways. So when we’re working on Bartók now, I feel we have a clear palette—we have more imagination, more ideas. I feel we’re able to think outside the box more, so I think it’s done a great deal for us.”

Only three years into its formation, the Verona Quartet has straddled the professional and academic worlds, performing across North America, Canada, Asia, and Europe, amassing top awards in numerous international competitions, and playing at Wigmore Hall in London, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and this month at Tully Hall. Next season will mark its Carnegie Hall debut, in Weill Hall. Studies with the Juilliard String Quartet+ led to being named the School’s graduate resident string quartet last September, a post that will continue next season. As the designated Lisa Arnhold Fellows, they have been coaching with the JSQ and will assist them in chamber-music teaching. Also among their alma maters are Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and Eastman School of Music.

At Indiana the Verona was the first graduate quartet-in-residence and worked chiefly with the Pacifica Quartet+, which violist Rojansky credits with the encouragement to be a quartet “right from the start,” helping the group to find its voice and pick the right pieces to continue its growth. “They were a huge influence on us, and they continue to be, to this day.” Perhaps working with the Pacifica, which performed and recorded the 15 Shostakovich quartets so memorably, will lead the Verona players to follow suit.

But don’t think they ignore the classics. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a Beethoven score, a quartet part, in my case,” says Rojansky. “I think I would feel like something was missing. It feels right to have some Haydn ready when I need it, and some Beethoven scores to pull out. For a string quartet player, it’s like carrying your heart and soul around with you, especially for us.”

Speaking of Haydn, Jonathan Ong pipes up: “There’s so much humor in Haydn—it’s amazing. I love how he just toys with the listener. Right now we’re working on Op. 50, No. 1, and there are so many false endings. We’ve actually made it a point to try to get the audience to clap!”

Rojansky sums up the Verona credo: “I think forging a quartet career—and this is something that we’ve experienced and continue to experience and learn from all of our mentors in Indiana and here at Juilliard—is very exciting. It’s a lot like learning a Babbitt quartet for the first time. It exposes gems and little delights left and right. It can be very challenging and painful sometimes, but in the end it’s always worth it.”

Her colleagues nod heartily in agreement.

The Verona Quartet will perform Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 50, No. 1, Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2, and Bartók’s Quartet No. 5 at Alice Tully Hall, May 7 at 7:30 p.m.

+Milton Babbitt was Musical America’s 2009 Composer of the Year

+The Juilliard Quartet was Musical America’s 1996 Musician of the Year

+The Pacifica Quartet was Musical America’s 2009 Ensemble of the Year

Copyright © 2016, Musical America

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Mark Kaplan Pierces the Heart of Bach

mark_kaplan_cover_large

Bach: Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin / Mark Kaplan, violinist / Bridge 9460A/B (2 CDs)

I’m almost ashamed to admit that this is the kind of recording I might have passed on for review had I still been writing for a major classical journal—not because I dislike the music, but on the contrary, because there are so many performances of these Sonatas and Partitas out there, and I’ve heard so many of them that I was afraid of Bach Overload. And, from the first notes of this new release, I was worried by the fact that Kaplan seemed to take these pieces at not merely a leisurely pace but a granitic one, almost like Otto Klemperer’s recording of the Bach St, Matthew Passion.

But like Klemperer’s Passion, Kaplan creates here an entire world of feeling and emotion. For him, these are obviously not just Bach pieces to be played but major, monumental structures to be explored and savored, note by note and phrase by phrase. By the time you finish just one complete Sonata, you are emotionally drained, but you realize there are two more sonatas and the three partitas yet left to hear.

It is difficult to describe in words exactly what Kaplan does with this music; an objective description really isn’t enough, but I will try. To begin with, he plays in a more modern style. Kaplan plays a 1685 Stradivarius called “The Marquis” after the Marchese Spinola whose family owned this instrument for generations, and although he does not use straight tone, he does employ a light, fast vibrato which gives the illusion of straight tone without sacrificing beauty of sound. More importantly, to my ears, is that he knows how to “build” each piece, using both its structure and its emotional message (to him) to convey something far, far deeper than what one sees in the naked music. It is as if every note, every phrase of these monumental works has something to say to Kaplan and, in turn, he has something to say to you about them.

It took me a while to figure out who Kaplan’s tone reminded me of. It reminds me of Isaac Stern, but Stern in a really fired-up mood. I have to say that I was never much of a Stern fan, not because he couldn’t play the violin well—he certainly could—but because I found most of his performances very generic-sounding. There is nothing generic about Kaplan; on the contrary, he is an individualist of the highest order.

When Kaplan played the entire Sonatas and Partitas over two evenings at Ostin Hall in Los Angeles in October 2000, at a time when he was on the faculty of UCLA, Los Angeles Times critic Richard S. Ginell praised him for his “near-perfect intonation, even in the most treacherous multiple-stopped chords; expressive rubatos in the slower dances; sufficiently graceful rhythm in others. He could dig trenchantly into the Sonata No. 2’s great Fuga, finding the climaxes and crunching them with satisfying, robust attacks.” This is perhaps a bit more of a “macho” description of what Kaplan does in this music than I would say, but it’s very close. In style, he seems to me to combine the best of the Italian and German approaches to violin playing in that his long-lined passages have extraordinary lyricism yet do not collapse under the weight of the slow pace he chooses, while the fast movements have the brightness of sound and that identifiable “lift” to the rhythm that the best Italian violinists can bring to this music.

Prior to hearing Kaplan’s recording, my benchmark performances in these works were the ones recorded by the great Dutch violinist Sigiswald Kuijken way back in 1981. They were, I believe, the very first recordings made of these works using straight tone, and Kuijken was able (as so few Historically-Informed violinists can do) to make the violin sing without sounding whiny. Going back and relistening to Kuijken’s performances after hearing Kaplan’s, I still find much to admire insofar as the unusual approach is concerned (there is, as I’ve said many times, no conclusive evidence that 18th-century violinists played with constant straight tone or even mostly with straight tone), but because he is using constant straight tone, Kuijken is physically incapable of achieving the kind of emotional impact that Kaplan brings to this music.

Now, I’m not saying that no straight-tone violinist can achieve anything close to what Kaplan gives us, but I’m not holding my breath, either. Regular readers of my reviews know my philosophy: it’s the musical approach, not the instrument or the technique used, that brings a piece of music to life. If you don’t really love the music and get deep inside it, all your audience is going to hear is a nice progression of notes, possibly played with a good legato and spiffy stops but not much more. I’ll take an artist—a real artist—like Kaplan over a more clinical approach any day of the week.

As I was preparing to upload this review online, I discovered that this is Kaplan’s second recording of these works. The first was apparently made for Mitch Miller Music (14630-2) Kaplan early Bachin 1991-92—an image is inserted here—but I’ve never heard it or even seen a review of it. (Kaplan also recorded Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Wieniawski’s Concerto No. 2, with Miller conducting, for the same label.) I can only imagine that he must have grown in this music over the years or he wouldn’t have insisted on re-recording it. Incidentally, this recording was made in 2011, so it apparently took a few years to get the nod for release.

As noted earlier, I purposely avoid most new recordings of these great works so I can’t say with any certitude that this recording is the best out there, but by way of comparison I also reviewed Rachel Barton Pine’s new version of them (Testament: Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Avie AV2360). Much as I’ve loved her in past recordings, her insistence on using straight tone in early music hamstrings her emotional projection. Her performances are more deeply felt than Kuijken’s, but every time you get the impression that she is digging into the score, all her instrument is capable of projecting is a shallower version of the emotion that Kaplan gives us in spades. One good example is the “Siciliana” of the first Sonata. Barton Pine plays it with superb balance and her patented clear tone, whereas Kaplan, who extends it more than a minute longer, is doing something entirely different. He is not playing music; he is communicating something deep and personal. Indeed, this is even true of that sonata’s concluding “Presto,” played at the same tempo by both violinists. Barton Pine has a certain swagger, she makes the music dance, but Kaplan views it as yet another way of communicating his inner feelings, building it phrase by phrase in a slow crescendo. This is not to say that Barton Pine’s recording is shallow. In comparison to many a HIP violinist, she has a unique sparkle regardless of playing method used, but compared to Kaplan it is like hearing Montserrat Caballé sing Massenet’sÉlégie before turning to Feodor Chaliapin, who tears your heart out. There is good, and there is great. Both Kuijken’s and Barton Pine’s performances are ones you will listen to occasionally, but you’ll go back to Kaplan’s, in whole or part, much more often.

This is a great recording, plain and simple.

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Joshua Bell and Chris Botti –Announce First Tour Together for Summer 2016

It’s a double billing of out-of-this stratosphere musicianship as two renowned Grammy winners trumpeter Chris Botti and classical violinist Joshua Bell join forces to tour seven U.S. cities together during the summer of 2016.

While both artists attended Indiana University and have recorded together, this will mark their first official tour, staring June 10th in Atlanta, and concluding August 21 in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Bell and Botti, both leaders in their respective fields of classical and pop,  share much in common: Both Grammy winners, each artist has sold countless records, performed at the White House and on the Grammy Awards telecasts, and enjoyed having their CDs debut at number one many times on the Billboard Charts. While both artists are firmly rooted in their respective genres, they have frequently blurred lines, enjoying collaborations with artists outside their respective arena .

Chris Botti has proven over and over again that he is an exceptional balladeer – whether performing the “Star Spangled Banner” in the New York Giants’ stadium or captivating audiences at the Blue Note in New York . He’s sold more than four million albums, won Grammy awards, played with the world’s  finest symphonies and A-list pop collaborators – most notably  Sting, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and Yo-Yo Ma – and appeared in venues ranging from  Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House.  He has delivered four No. 1 albums and still manages to keep up a rigorous, global touring schedule while his sound, rooted in jazz, seamlessly crosses genres.

As one New York Times reviewer notes, “Chris Botti has a trumpet sound that suggests the softer side of luminosity, the realm of sunsets and half-moons and low-wattage incandescence. Mellow and pearly, it emits an unabashed beauty…”

Grammy Award winner Joshua Bell, often referred to as “the poet of the violin” considered “the greatest American violinist active today” (The Boston Herald), has all the prestigious accolades of a superstar classical musician. He commands the stage as a soloist, having performed on every continent except Antartica. He’s collaborated with A- listers including Josh Groban, Sting, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis and Placido Domingo.Named the Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2011, Bell is the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.

It was when Bell agreed to perform incognito as a subway busker – part of Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten Pulitzer Prize winning story about art and context – that he transitioned from “musician’s musician” to household name as the article provoked an international firestorm of discussion. He has recorded numerous movie soundtracks, including the Oscar Winning score for The Red Violin, among more than 40 CDs since his first recording at age 18. Bell’s most recent, the 2014 Bach album (recorded with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields) debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Chart. Critics concur that Bell’s performance stirs souls.

 

June 10, 2016 – Atlanta Symphony Presents, Chastain Park Amphitheater – Atlanta, GA, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

June 11, 2016 – Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Walt Disney Theater – Orlando, FL, Orlando Philharmonic –

July 24, 2016 –  Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Denver/Morrison, CO with Colorado Symphony Orchestra

August 12, 2016 – Ravinia Festival – Pavillon, Highland Park, IL – Chicago Symphony Orchestra

August 13, 2016 –  Chautauqua Amphitheater, Chautauqua, NY, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra

August 19, 2016 – SPAC – Saratoga Springs, NY – with the Philadelphia Orchestra

August 21, 2016 – PNC Bank Arts Center   – Holmdel, NJ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Violinist Joshua Bell Receives Dushkin Award from Music Institute of Chicago

The Music Institute of Chicago, now in its 86th year, hosts its annual gala Wednesday, May 25 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 East Delaware Place. The oldest community music school in Illinois and one of the three largest community music schools in the nation, the Music Institute is planning a celebratory evening highlighted by the presentation of the Dushkin Award to acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by an elegant dinner and awards presentation. Musical performances throughout the evening include some of the Music Institute’s talented Community School students and award-winning students from the Music Institute’s Academy for gifted pre-college musicians, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The prestigious Dushkin Award, established 30 years ago and named for the Music Institute’s visionary founders Dorothy and David Dushkin, recognizes international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as to the education of youth. Past recipients include Deborah Rutter, André Previn, Lang Lang, Stephen Sondheim, Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Leon Fleisher, Renée Fleming, Placido Domingo, William Warfield, Isaac Stern, Sir Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez, Samuel Ramey, and Bruno Bartoletti, among others.

This year’s recipient, Joshua Bell, is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and orchestra leader, Bell is music director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He performs with orchestras across the U.S., and last summer toured to South Africa and Shanghai. He has recorded more than 40 CDs on the Sony Classical label and has made numerous television appearances, from The Tonight Show to Charlie Rose, from CBS SundayMorning to Sesame Street. Convinced of the value of music as both a diplomatic and educational tool, he has performed for three U.S. Presidents as well as the President of China and devoted himself to several charitable causes, most notably Education Through Music, which has helped put instruments in the hands of thousands of kids in America’s inner cities.

The Music Institute of Chicago is pleased to present its seventh annual Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago, which recognizes individuals who have provided visionary philanthropic and civic leadership for the broad spectrum of arts in Chicago and Illinois, to Lois M. and Harrison I. Steans. With their three daughters, they co-founded the Steans Family Foundation in Chicago 30 years ago. Committed to the belief that long-term personal involvement with individuals can change lives and communities, the foundation’s mission is to improve community development in Chicago. The Steans have made a commitment to North Lawndale, directing much of their Foundation’s annual grants budget directly to working with residents on capacity building/leadership, economic development, education and youth development, housing, health and human services, and quality of life. The Steans have been longstanding friends of the Music Institute, along with numerous other organizations throughout the Chicago area.

Honorary Chairs for the event are Mary B. Galvin, George Gingold, and Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols. Co-chairs are Fran and John Edwardson, Nancy and Scott Santi and David F. Heroy and Joycelyn Winnecke.

The generosity of individuals and companies who support the Music Institute’s annual gala provide the primary source of scholarship and financial aid programs that benefit more than 5,000 students annually at the Music Institute’s six primary campuses, as well as through its extensive outreach programs in Chicago Public Schools and with community-based nonprofit organizations.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

BBC Young Musician winner Callum Smart releases second album

Callum Smart will release La Voix in March 2016 on the record label Orchid Classics. Featuring music from French composers Poulenc, Fauré and Ravel, the album presents pieces for violin and piano, each of which speaks or sings with its own individual voice.

Album Artwork

La Voix follows the 2014 release of Callum’s first recital disc (ORC100040), which was described by BBC Music Magazine as ‘an exuberantly assured debut’ and was selected for special mention as June’s ‘The Strad Recommends’. On the release of La Voix, Callum comments:
“Recording this CD with Richard, and with Patrick our producer, was a real pleasure. I find this music both moving and exhilarating, and the people with whom I had the chance to collaborate really helped me bring it to life”.

Poulenc’s sonata has a distinctly Spanish accent, and demonstrates the composer’s admiration for one of Spain’s great literary talents, Federico García Lorca. Fauré’s sonata is an extended love song, written with the intent of winning the heart of Marianne Viardot, the sister of the work’s dedicatee. Finally, the two Ravel pieces are examples of the composer adopting the voice of another – the gypsy music of Tzigane and the hispanic vocalise of the Pièce en forme de Habanera – both a tribute to Ravel’s Basque-Spanish mother.

Callum attracted wide public attention after winning the strings category of the 2010 BBC Young Musician Competition and becoming the top European prizewinner in the Menuhin Competition in Oslo, aged just 13 years old. Since then, he has appeared at a number of European festivals including the Dvořák Festival in Prague, the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad and the Malmö International String Festival and performed at the Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester under such luminaries as Vasily Petrenko and Grant Llewellyn. Following the release of La Voix, Callum will give recital performances with pianist Richard Uttley in London’s Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin and the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, and perform Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Matthew Halls.

La Voix will be available in record stores and online from March 2016. Catalogue number ORC100053. PPD £9.00.

– ENDS - 
For more information or to request a review copy or interview, please contact:

Alexandra Watson at Orchid Media
alexandra@orchidmedia.co.uk
+44 (0)7789 656 433
www.orchidmedia.co.uk
@orchidmediauk
https://www.facebook.com/orchidmedia.co.uk

Notes to Editors:

About Callum Smart
Callum Smart attracted wide public attention at the age of 13 having won the strings category of the 2010 BBC Young Musician Competition performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Vasily Petrenko and broadcast on BBC 2 and Radio 3.
Also in 2010, Callum became the top European prizewinner in the Menuhin Competition in Oslo. He has since appeared at a number of European festivals including the Dvořák Festival in Prague, the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, Les Sommets Musicaux in Gstaad and the Valdres Sommersymfoni Festival with pianist Gordon Back, Mecklenburg Vorpommern with the Polish Chamber Orchestra and the Malmö International String Festival with Jonas Vitaud. UK recitals include Birmingham, the Cheltenham Festival, Glasgow, Leeds, the Lichfield Festival, Manchester, Newport and Perth. In March 2016 he gives recital performances with the pianist Richard Uttley in Birmingham, London’s Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin and the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris.
January 2015 saw Callum make his Royal Festival Hall debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto under Michael Collins. Previous concerto appearances include venues such as Cadogan Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, London and performances with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Glazunov’s Concerto under Grant Llewellyn and Mozart Violin Concerto No.5 as part of a North Wales tour with Nicholas Collon, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 in Liverpool with Vasily Petrenko, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5 with the European Union Chamber Orchestra, and Britten’s Violin Concerto with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra at Lichfield and Cheltenham Festivals and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. In 2013 he performed Tchaikovsky’s Concerto with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and made his North American debut with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Grant Llewellyn. In September 2016 he has been invited to perform Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Matthew Halls.
2014 saw Callum release his first recital album on Orchid Classics (ORC100040), which was met with critical acclaim. Described by Christopher Dingle from BBC Music Magazine as ‘an exuberantly assured debut’ the recording received four stars and was selected for special mention as June’s ‘The Strad Recommends’. He was also named as a BBC Music Magazine Rising Star: Great Artists of Tomorrow.
Callum began violin studies at the age of six and at nine became a student of Maciej Rakowski whose tutelage continued alongside his studies at Chetham’s School of Music. Currently in Indiana as the recipient of the Premier Young Artist Award from the Jacobs School of Music, he studies with Mauricio Fuks.
Callum plays on a c.1730-35 violin by Carlo Bergonzi.

About Richard Uttley
Richard has given solo recitals or played concertos in the UK’s major halls, and his playing has frequently been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. He has been recognised for his ‘musical intelligence and pristine facility’ (International Record Review), ‘amazing decisiveness … tumultuous performance’ (Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph), and featured as a Rising Star in BBC Music Magazine.
He studied at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating with a Double First in Music, and with Martin Roscoe at the Guildhall School. His awards include first prizes in the Haverhill Sinfonia Soloist Competition and the British Contemporary Piano Competition, and he was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2011.
Recently, Richard has attended the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove (Thomas Adès Masterclasses and Open Chamber Music), given regular recitals and made recordings with BBC New Generation Artist Mark Simpson (including Wigmore Hall and The Sage Gateshead live on Radio 3, and a film for Sky Arts), collaborated with visual artist Nat Urazmetova, and released his third solo disc Ghosts & Mirrors to critical acclaim.
Highlights of 2015/16 include Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and the premiere of a new work by Rolf Hind at Cheltenham Festival; recording for NMC; commissioning and premiering works by Francisco Coll, Matthew Kaner and Naomi Pinnock; solo recitals in Bridgewater Hall and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival; and recitals with Callum Smart in Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin and Auditorium du Louvre.
Richard is a trustee of New Dots, a charity promoting contemporary music.

Track Listing

Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)
Sonata for violin and piano, FP 119
1 I Allegro con fuoco 6:50
2 II Intermezzo: Très lent et calme 6:09
3 III Presto tragico 5:35

Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13
4 I Allegro molto 9:24
5 II Andante 7:00
6 III Allegro vivo 4:14
7 IV Allegro quasi presto 5:52

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
8 Tzigane, rhapsodie de concert 10:35
9 Pièce en forme de Habanera 3:19

Total Time: 58:59

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Zorá String Quartet wins First Prize at 2015 Young Concert Artists International Auditions

The string quartet was one of six artists to receive the New York prize, which includes concert opportunities and management

The Zorá String Quartet is one of six artists and ensembles to be named a First Prize Winner of the 2015 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York.

The winners each receive three major debuts next season in New York, Washington, DC, and Boston, and join the roster of Young Concert Artists Inc, which provides a minimum of three years of management services, concert engagements, promotion, and career development.

2015’s other winners are pianists Rémi Geniet, Tomer Gewirtzman and Dasol Kim, baritone Samuel Hasselhorn, and oboist Olivier Stankiewicz.

Graduates of the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University, the Zorá String Quartet – violinists Seula Lee and Dechopol Kowintaweewat, violist Pablo Muñoz Salido and cellist Zizai Ning – was named the Grand Prize and Gold Medal Winner of the 42nd Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Coleman-Barstow Prize winner at the Coleman National Chamber Music Competition in 2015.

This year’s Young Concert Artists Auditions drew almost 300 applicants from 40 countries. Sitting on the jury were: violinists Lynn Chang and Koichiro Harada; violist Scott Nickrenz; cellist Fred Sherry; pianists Hung-Kuan Chen, Jeffrey Swann and Ilana Vered; oboist Elaine Douvas; singers Neal Goren and Marvis Martin; conductor James Sinclair; and chair Susan Wadsworth.

Founded in 1961, the Young Concert Artists has launched the careers of violinists including Ani Kavafian, Ida Kavafian, Chee-Yun and Pinchas Zukerman, and the Tokyo, Borromeo, and St Lawrence String Quartets.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter