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Perchance to Stream: Cold Snap Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio and online video from the week gone by. After clicking to an audio or video stream, you may need to press the "Play" button to start the broadcast. Some of these streams become unavailable after a few days.

  • A performance of the Requiem Mass by Sigismund Neukomm, dedicated to the memory of Louis XVI, with the Choeur de Chambre de Namur and La Grande Écurie et La Chambre du Roy led by Jean-Claude Malgoire, recorded last month at La Chapelle Royale de Versailles. [France Musique]

  • Watch the production of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel from Brussels, billed as the Chicago-based company Manual Cinema combining film projections, shadow puppetry, and live acting in an immersive family experience. [De Munt]

  • Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, in the two-piano version, performed by Adam Laloum et David Kadouch, recorded in Nantes. [France Musique]

  • The Trio Wanderer performs music for piano trio by Schubert, recorded in Nantes. [France Musique]

  • Watch the closing concert of La Folle Journée de Nantes. [ARTE]

  • Gottfried Goltz leads the Freiburger Barockorchester, with mezzo-soprano Gaëlle Arquez and harpsichordist Christine Schornsheim, in music by C.P.E. Bach, Homilius, Gluck, and Jommelli, recorded in Freiburg in 2014. [ORF}

  • Watch Jordi Savall lead Hesperion XXI in a concert called Le Voyage d'Ibn Battuta. [Philharmonie de Paris]

  • As a preview of Steven Osborne's recital at the Phillips Collection later this month, he plays the same program of music by Schubert, Debussy, and Rachmaninov at St John's Smith Square, London. [BBC3]

#morninglistening: Bach on Sandpaper with Feldman Looking On


Classical Music Agenda (April 2016)

By comparison to the previous three months, April feels a little light on major concert events. Here are our Top 10 picks for the month, which are all performances you will want to hear and see.

In the lifetime of the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium, which has seen so many excellent performances, none looms larger than the premiere of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring with Martha Graham's ground-breaking choreography. The Martha Graham Dance Company returns for the 90th anniversary of the Library's concert series, with three free performances including Appalachian Spring and some new works (April 1 and 2).

Opera Lafayette takes a look at operas performed during the French Revolution, with scenes from Martini's Sapho (a modern premiere), Cherubini's Médée, and Sacchini's Œdipe à Colone (April 29), presented at Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University.

Washington National Opera presents its first-ever complete Ring Cycle starting at the end of the month, with the first performance of Wagner's Das Rheingold (April 30). The hot ticket should be for the third of the three cycles, featuring Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde.

Icelandic composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir has been at the top of many critics' favorite lists in the last couple years. She will appear on the Leading International Composers Series at the Phillips Collection (April 14).

The Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, performs mostly British music in the ongoing British choir festival at Washington National Cathedral (April 3).

The Venice Baroque Orchestra, last heard in Washington in 2011, will perform two concerts at Dumbarton Oaks (April 10 and 11). Andrea Marcon will lead a program of concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, George Frideric Handel, and Pietro Locatelli.

Ionarts readers are used to our European correspondent's reports on the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The ensemble, under the baton of Mariss Jansons, will play at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (April 12), presented by Washington Performing Arts. The program combines Mahler's fifth symphony and Korngold's violin concerto, the latter with Leonidas Kavakos as soloist.

More Mahler is on the menu later that week when the San Francisco Symphony performs Das Lied von der Erde with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and tenor Simon O'Neill (April 16), also presented by Washington Performing Arts in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Michael Tilson Thomas also conducts Schubert's eighth symphony.

available at Amazon
Beethoven, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Ma, E. Ax
(Sony, 1990)
Who does not remember the set of Beethoven's cello sonatas with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax? These two artists, now more seasoned, are reunited to perform four of the sonatas, again presented by Washington Performing Arts in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (April 13). It should be a night to remember.

You know that when the Takács Quartet comes to town, Ionarts is there. The next opportunity is on the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series (April 20), in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, and they will play music by Dvořák, Webern, and Beethoven.

If I were not going to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, I would want to hear the Esterházy Trio, presented by the Embassy Series at the Hungarian Embassy (April 12). This is a trio playing viola, cello, and baryton, the oddball string instrument favored by Prince Esterhazy, and they will play music by Haydn, Tomasini, and Abel.

See the complete calendar after the jump.


A Survey of Mozart Piano Sonata Cycles

Discographies on ionarts: Bach Organ Cycles | Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycles I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX | Bruckner Symphony Cycles | Dvořák Symphony Cycles | Shostakovich Symphony Cycles | Sibelius Symphony Cycles | Mozart Keyboard Sonata Cycles

02/11/2016: A-J are finished... the rest, from Walter Klien to Christian Zacharias, will be added over the next weeks.

01/29/2016: There are several new discographic entries under work. Mahler Symphony Cycles, almost obviously. Ditto Nielsen and Martinů as well as Bartók and Shostakovich String Quartet cycles. They just take so much darn time and even then they are rarely complete or mistake free. Neither will this one be, and every such post is also a plea to generously inclined readers with more information and knowledge of the subject than I have to lend a helping hand correcting my mistakes or filling data-lacunae. (I.e. will Yuko Hisamoto’s begun cycle be finished? Are there new, available editions of formerly hard-to-find sets?) I am grateful for any such pointers, hinters, and corrections.

Because I lack consistent data for when these cycles were recorded (I need the date of the earliest and the last included recording), I will list the sets alphabetically for now. As (or if) I gather enough information, I will want to set it up chronologically or else that only pianists with "Z" in the name continue to record.

Like the Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle Survey, this is a mere "inventory" of what has been recorded and whether it is still available. Favorites are denoted with the "ionarts' choice" graphic. >Unlike with earlier surveys, I will give each (meaningful) iteration of a cycle its own space, rather than listing only to the most recent re-issue. This is partly because with cycles going in and out of print, more than one may be available, depending on your location prices might differ, and perhaps most of all so that we can marvel at the covers and how they have evolved. (And remember: Ah, this is the one I have.) If cycles of one pianist are not given a differing roman numeral, then they are identical to all those that share that (lack of) numeral, even if they are on entirely different labels. Prices are approximate, reflect the situation on the secondary market, and are taken from AmazonUS.

Latest on Forbes: NSO, Eschenbach & Lang Lang hit Vienna

Washington's National Symphony And Lang Lang In Vienna

...BA-Dam!! Christopher Rouse rips the score of his 1986 8- or 9-minute symphonic overture open with a loud, butts-from-seats-jolting chord before plinking and plonging away, harp-supported, and moving on with great gaiety in the woodwind section. The tuba engages in sounds that would make juveniles giggle; the neglected strings are allowed a word in, edgewise, here and there. Eventually the music works up an appetite and goes through more notes than the Cookie Monster through Oreos. Me want demisemiquaver!...

The full article on


La Piau Goes to Washington

available at Amazon
Après un rêve, S. Piau, S. Manoff
(Naïve, 2011)
Charles T. Downey, French soprano Sandrine Piau makes stunning D.C. debut
Washington Post, February 9
Sandrine Piau made her long overdue Washington debut on Sunday afternoon, and the Phillips Collection, celebrating its 75th anniversary season, got the glory. The French soprano’s excellent program of 19th-century songs, superbly accompanied by pianist Susan Manoff, was the latest sign of the ascendancy of the Phillips concert series, which has become one of the strongest in the city.

Manoff and Piau recorded many of these songs on their 2011 CD, “Après un rêve.” The qualities that set Piau’s voice apart on disc were, if anything, more pronounced live... [Continue reading]
Sandrine Piau (soprano) and Susan Manoff (piano)
Phillips Collection

Charles T. Downey, Briefly Noted: Sandrine Piau (Ionarts, November 1, 2011)


Mel Brooks on ‘Blazing Saddles’

The movies of Mel Brooks have long been a guilty pleasure of mine, none more than Blazing Saddles. One must be careful, however, when quoting or even referring to the film, because politically correct sensitivities have eroded some people’s sense of humor. In Blazing Saddles, Brooks has his characters say the things that are better left unsaid, making fun of racists, homophobes, sexists, and other small-minded people by blasting open the dam that holds back vile talk and sentiments. No trigger warnings here: you are going to hear what people really think.

Brooks is still going strong at almost 90, as he showed when he appeared at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Saturday night, in a Q&A session after a screening of Blazing Saddles. Truth be told, there were relatively few questions in this part of the event, mostly just Brooks sharing memories of how the film came to be made, in a rather delightful, slightly manic monologue.

Even people who know Blazing Saddles well may be surprised to learn that Brooks had wanted Richard Pryor to play the role of Sheriff Bart. The insurance company balked, because of Pryor’s problems with addiction, but the film is still partly Pryor’s work, through the writing he contributed to the screenplay. “All of the uses of the N-word,” Brooks said at one point, “were approved by Richard.” This sounds like retroactive butt-covering on Brooks’s part, but Richard Pryor, who died in 2005, could not be reached for comment. More surprising is that Brooks approached John Wayne for the film, possibly to take the role of the Waco Kid, which Gene Wilder eventually played. Brooks said that Wayne read the script and liked it, but declined because he had “too many white Christian fans.”

Puppet-Driven 'Equus' at Constellation Theater

Ross Destiche (Alan Strang) and Ryan Tumulty (Horse), in Equus, Constellation Theater (photo by DJ Corey Photography)

We welcome this theater review from Ionarts contributor Philip Dickerson.

“The Naked Play,” “The Horses Play,” “The Harry Potter is in love with a horse Play”: These are just some of the descriptive nicknames given to Peter Shaffer’s Equus. Constellation Theater has revived this dark tale, bringing new life to a play that is plagued with stigmas and practical hurdles. In her program note, director Amber McGinnis Jackson speaks of the play as having “big ideas.” Despite the beautiful exploration McGinnis Jackson takes us on, the biggest obstacles presented by the play may not lie in the theme or ideas, but in requiring six horses moving about on stage and two brave actors being nude on stage for several minutes.

This play also has an infamous history tied to its 2009 West End/Broadway revival when Daniel Radcliffe, best known for playing the title role in the Harry Potter franchise, took on the role of Alan Strang, which required the young celebrity to bare all in front of thousands, night after night. Radcliffe’s stardom made the production more about seeing Harry Potter naked, and the story fell by the wayside. Now we find Constellation Theater doing what they do best, bringing local artists together to tackle productions that others may avoid. Thanks to careful crafting by McGinnis Jackson and the bravery of actors Ross Destiche and Emily Kester, the required nudity is handled with grace and the story remains the focal point.

Other Reviews:

Jane Horwitz, Constellation Theater revives ‘Equus’ to great effect (Washington Post, January 19)

Mark Lieberman, Horse Whisperer: Constellation Theater Interrogates the Mind with Equus (DCist, January 21)

Rebecca Ritzel, Actors head out of the theater and into the stable to prepare for ‘Equus’ (Washington Post, January 12)
At the onset, we are guided through this emotional quagmire by Martin Dysart (played exceptionally by Michael Kramer), an emotionally stale psychiatrist working day to day, until an extraordinary case is placed at his feet. A young boy named Alan Strang (Destiche) has blinded six horses for an unknown reason. Other psychiatrists have failed to get through his hardened shell, and Dysart is seemingly the boy’s last chance. Intrigued by the extremity of the case Dysart begins treating Alan. The production takes a while to find its pacing during the back and forth of the counseling sessions between Dysart and Alan and the flashbacks involving Alan’s parents (Laureen E. Smith and Michael Tolaydo), the stable master (Colin Smith), Alan’s love interest Jill Mason (Kester), and of course the Horses (Tori Bertocci, Gwen Gastorf, Ashley Ivey, Ryan Alan Jones, Ryan Tumulty and Emily Whitworth). When Alan begins to trust Dysart and play his mental “games and tricks,” the horse-like gallop sets in and the tension builds.

Beyond the intimacy displayed between Kramer, Destiche, and Kester, the horses make this production more real. The puppet head-pieces give visual satisfaction, but under the movement direction of Mark Jasser, the puppeteers provide authentic movement, mannerisms, and breath. Such authenticity is reminiscent of the West End/Broadway hit War Horse, which in many ways revolutionized puppetry. While Constellation’s horse puppets are much simpler in design, the actors bringing them to life create their reality with just as much precision.

Equus runs roughly two and a half hours with a ten-minute intermission. It closes on February 14.

#morninglistening: Hartmann by Committee


Perchance to Stream: Folle Journée de Nantes Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio and online video from the week gone by. After clicking to an audio or video stream, you may need to press the "Play" button to start the broadcast. Some of these streams become unavailable after a few days.

  • Leonard Slatkin conducts Mahler's sixth symphony with the Orchestre National de Lyon, plus Mozart's fifth violin concerto with Vilde Frang as soloist. [France Musique]

  • The Munich Radio Orchestra gives a concert performance of Benjamin Godard's opera Dante, recorded at the Prinzregententheater. [BR-Klassik]

  • Listen to Giovanni Simone Mayr's opera Medea in Corinto (Naples, 1813), conducted last July by Fabio Luisi at the Festival della Valle d'Itria. [ORF]

  • From the Wigmore Hall in London, the Takács Quartet plays music by Haydn and Shostakovich. [BBC3]

  • Elise Caluwaerts and Wiard Witholt star in Sydney Chamber Opera's staging of Pascal Dusapin's Passion. [ABC Classic]

  • In a concert recorded at the Church of Saint-Roch in Paris, Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent perform Bach cantatas for Christmas. [France Musique]

  • The BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Alexander Vedernikov perform Shostakovich's 6th Symphony and Schnittke's Viola Concerto with Lawrence Power, recorded at the Barbican Hall. [BBC3]

  • Ophélie Gaillard leads soprano Claire Lefilliâtre and the Ensemble Pulcinella in sacred music by Purcell, Monteverdi, Rossi, Sanses, Merula, and other, recorded in the Cathédrale Saint-Macou in Pontoise. [France Musique]

  • Watch many of the concerts from the Folle Journée de Nantes. [ARTE]


Venzago, Watts with the BSO

available at Amazon
O. Schoeck, Sommernacht (inter alia), Berner Symphonieorchester, M. Venzago
(Musiques Suisses, 2015)
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is approaching the celebration of its 100th anniversary this Thursday. For the last program before that event, conductor Mario Venzago returned to the podium, with a pleasing selection of music that was full of surprises, heard on Thursday night in the Music Center at Strathmore. Opening with Gluck, some odd selections from the marvelous opera Armide, was an inspired choice, music that few BSO listeners are likely to have heard, at least from the BSO.

The Gluck set included the overture and several dances, plus a chaconne and finale, with a concentrated number of players, including a harpsichord for the continuo part and, somewhat mysteriously, a part for harp. The modern brass instruments had to play in a rather contained way, so as not to overwhelm the ensemble, revealing many delightful sounds, especially the hypnotic Elysium number and an ornately beautiful flute solo in the Siciliana. Gluck premiered this opera in Paris in 1777, the same year that Mozart composed his ninth piano concerto, K. 27, in Salzburg for Victoire Jenamy, the daughter of dancer and choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre. It is a jewel of a piece, given a pretty if not always easily flowing account by pianist André Watts. Venzago kept the orchestra at just the right levels to allow his soloist to come to the fore, making many little adjustments to realign the ensemble. Watts performed the cadenzas and other solo moments with some panache, but this was not exactly a rendition to be remembered, although the third movement had a daring spirit.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, BSO welcomes back Andre Watts, Mario Venzago (Baltimore Sun, February 6)
Schumann's symphonies often bore me, but good conductors know how to fix balances to make the best of the composer's sometimes dull orchestration. Venzago did just that in this performance of Schumann's fourth symphony, in D minor, reigning in the string and brass sound to reveal the winds more and applying generous rubato to bring out the Romantic nature of Schumann's phrases. The second movement was delicate and wistful, with some tuning issues when the oboe and cello section shared a melody (not a good combination), but a lovely violin solo in the middle section. The scherzo felt plenty fast but was limber and lively than just forceful, and a trio of charming, murmuring sounds that Venzago's rubato touch brought to life. Venzago's earlier restraint of the brass now paid off, as he finally gave that section its head, driving an exciting finale to its conclusion.

This concert repeats this evening, at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

CD Review: Eschenbach's Hindemith

available at Amazon
Hindemith, Symphonie 'Mathis der Maler' / Symphonie in Es, NDR Sinfonieorchester, C. Eschenbach

(released on October 9, 2015)
ODE 1275-2 | 67'32"
Charles T. Downey, Hindemith, Symphonies, NDR Symphony Orchestra
Washington Post, February 5
When Christoph Eschenbach began his tenure with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2010, he arrived with a recording contract with the Finnish recording label Ondine. He has recorded only one disc with the NSO to date, in 2011 — the orchestra’s first recording since 2001 — which inauspiciously paired some slightly sloppy Gershwin and Bernstein with the premiere of the instantly forgettable “Remembering JFK” by Peter Lieberson.

Eschenbach may not have released any more recordings with the NSO since then, but he has done so with two of his former bands: the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra and the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg. With the latter orchestra, he made two Hindemith discs, both recorded live around the 50th anniversary of Hindemith’s death in 2013, slightly after which the NSO programmed the composer’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d"... [Continue reading]
Hindemith, Symphonie 'Mathis der Maler' / Symphonie in Es
NDR Sinfonieorchester, Christoph Eschenbach

#morninglistening: Hashtag Jean Muton


CD Review: Divine Redeemer

available at Amazon
Divine Redeemer (music by Bach, Franck, Gounod, Reger, et al.), C. Brewer, P. Jacobs

(released on September 11, 2015)
Naxos 8.573524 | 61'22"
Charles T. Downey, Divine Redeemer: Christine Brewer, Paul Jacobs
Washington Post, February 3
A new album of Christian devotional pieces by a major opera singer, while part of a long tradition, might turn off some listeners. On her new disc, “Divine Redeemer,” the celebrated soprano Christine Brewer, together with the equally celebrated organist Paul Jacobs, moves beyond cliche with a varied selection of music that she approaches with a sincerity that reflects her start singing in church in her Illinois home town.

There are only a couple of pieces that might set off chestnut alarms. César Franck’s “Panis angelicus” is offered, thankfully, in a version closer to its original form, in the “Messe à 3 voix,” than the schmaltzy arrangements with oohing chorus often heard now. Jacobs plays the organ arrangement in a way that recalls Franck’s original scoring for cello, harp, and organ, with the cello melody on a solo stop and the closing arpeggios rendered in a harp-like way... [Continue reading]
Divine Redeemer (music by Bach, Franck, Gounod, Reger, et al.)
Christine Brewer (soprano) and Paul Jacobs (organ)