Musical novelty for your weekend pleasure, including viola, Viardot and Vitebsk
The summer season around here can be a little iffy for classical music. Conventional wisdom seems to be that people get out of their classical mood as the temperature and humidity rise, a point of view I've never been able to embrace.
Well, I'm happy to report that you can, indeed, find substantive classical events on the calendar if you look hard enough, this weekend being a fine example.
To begin with, how about an operetta by Pauline Viardot? Who's that? I'm glad you asked.
Her father was Manuel Garcia, the tenor who premiered the role of Count Almaviva in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." Her sister was mezzo Maria Malibran, one of the most sensationally talented and celebrated opera singers of the 19th century.
Pauline was awfully talented, too, as a mezzo (she premiered Brahms' "Alto Rhapsody"; Schumann and Saint-Saens dedicated pieces to her) and as a composer. Her speciality in the latter field was
Viardot wrote "Cendrillon" with only piano accompaniment, making it more of a salon piece -- and ideal for modest-sized companies. The Baltimore Vocal Arts Foundation, a recent addition to the area's musical scene, will present a production of "Cendrillon" at the Theatre Project Saturday and Sunday, performed in a new English translation by Robyn Stevens of the French libretto. (A concert version of the operetta will be offered first at Germano's on Thursday night.)
"Cendrillon" is easily the most unusual item this weekend, but there are a couple of other surprises out there. How about an all-American chamber music program? The West Garden Trio -- violinist Luke Wedge, cellist Benjamin Wensel and pianist Danielle DeSwert Hahn -- will perform infrequently encountered trios by Ives, Copland (an early work, "Vitebsk: Study on a Jewish Theme"), and Bernstein. This ensemble-in-residence at the National Gallery of Art will be presented Sunday at An die Musik (where you'll find some unusual jazz the night before from a group called Fire in July that mixes voice, cello, trombone and vibraphone).
Anytime the viola steps into center stage -- and isn't just there to encourage more viola jokes -- is unusual. Peter Minkler, a longtime Baltimore Symphony member, is a first-rate violist who received one of the 2010 Baker Artist Awards. Although a rotator cuff tear has caused him to curtail what would have been a full recital at the BMA to celebrate the Baker prize, Minkler will still have a program there on Saturday afternoon that includes live performances of excerpts from his CD of solo viola works and a conversation with Tom Hall.
That's still not all you'll find during what is shaping up to be a nicely classical weekend. This next item may not have unusual repertoire, but the talent involved is certainly uncommon: BSO concertmaster Jonathan Carney will give a recital of sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven with pianist Lura Johnson on Sunday at St. John's in Glyndon.