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McDowell County: Resilience and Rebirth

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Musing with the Maestro

(Interviews) Permanent link

by Jim Lange

Erich Kunzel

“He’s a pistol.” said the publicist about Erich Kunzel, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. “I drove him around one time and he really made me laugh.”  That was great news. A sense of humor makes the interview process so much easier.

From the opening moments of checking levels, which I deliberately left in, it was clear that this man’s personality is as exuberant, witty and vibrant as the recordings he does for Telarc. There’s something so alive and joyful about the Cincinnati Pops recordings and now I know why.

Ravel Bolero et al

Kunzel spoke excitedly about the new disc, Bolero, and he even revealed a little trade secret!

Listen Here’s part one of my interview. What a pistol. Enjoy.


Ed. note: We're offering this CD as a thank you gift for a pledge of $80 or more during the 2009 Chocolate Challenge. 

Thunderous Flutes and Inaugural Stars

(News) Permanent link

by Mona Seghatoleslami

This weekend, there are some neat musical events taking place in Huntington and Morgantown. 

Marshall University flute professor Wendell Dobbs wrote to let us know about the FluteWorks Day going on at Marshall University’s Department of Music on Saturday.  It’s a day dedicated to all things flute, including informative sessions, rehearsals, demonstrations, and performances.  At the end of the day (4pm), there’s a free concert where you can hear all the participants perform together as the “Thunder Flute Ensemble.” 

To find out about getting “tutti flutti” in Huntington on Saturday, read more here.  And if that doesn’t satisfy your craving for all things flute, check out our interview with Professor Dobbs from this past summer.

flute picture

Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Symphony will be in Morgantown, and they are joined by pianist Gabriela Montero.  If that name seems familiar, perhaps you’ve heard her classical improvisations (we’ve had her CD Baroque on the radio a few times).  Gabriela Montero: Baroque 

Or perhaps you caught her at her last gig—the presidential inauguration, where she performed music by John Williams along with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and clarinetist Anthony McGill.  (If you’re looking for the music from the inauguration, you hear it on Performance Today's website for the next week).  Also, Fred Child and Alex Ross both have video clips, reactions, and roundups of relevant links).

On Saturday in Morgantown, Montero will be playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and she’ll be taking requests—improvising on tunes suggested by the audience. The Pittsburgh Symphony also brings a pair of symphonies: Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s “Reformation" to this concert at the WVU Creative Arts Center.

If you want to let us know about other classical music events going on around the state, leave a comment, or send me an email.


Wintry Mix

(Commentary, Just for Fun) Permanent link

by Jim Lange

Foggy Mountain

In these long and seemingly endless gloomy days of winter, your mood cannot help but be affected. Your musical choices are affected as well and so, in response to my colleague’s post, I have decided to pass on some thoughts and suggestions for your playlist.


Sibelius Tone PoemsEmbrace the gloom. Yes, enjoy it. Own it. Become the gloom. I highly recommend some Sibelius tone poems, as hardly anyone could match the Scandinavians for their existential angst. This Naxos release has the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. If they don’t know cold, who does? Sibelius: Tone Poems 


Part: Da PacemDrink plenty of tea or coffee. Hanging out in coffee shops is the best way to keep in touch with other people (so you don’t weird out from being indoors too much) and to put your existential dilemma on display. I highly recommend Estonian composer (Estonia - another freezing place!) Arvo Pärt for your tea/coffee imbibing. This record will send shivers, of the good kind, up your spine.  Da Pace Domine and Magnificat are exquisite. Arvo Pärt: Da Pacem 

Mozart Requiem (Gardiner)Walk about with a serious expression.
Come on, man. Own the angst! Only Mozart’s requiem will give you that extra charge of outrage that you need. Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis!  When John Eliot Gardiner gets going, it’s as if the earth will split in two. Mozart: Requiem 


Reich: Music for MalletsStare at the snow. Seriously. Nothing is more relaxing. You’ll need music that will help get you in the zone, so I suggest Steve Reich’s Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Electric Organ. These hypnotic patterns are a wonderful accompaniment to spacey snow watching. Besides, you’ve got Zen bragging rights when your friends call and ask what you have been doing all day. “I’ve been…watching snow fall. It’s beautiful.” Reich: The Four Sections; Music for Mallet Instruments 

CPE Bach SymphoniesPlay in the Snow.
OK, so you can let your guard down just a little and go out and play. I recommend C.P.E. Bach’s Symphonies for your frosty frolic. Andrew Manze and his rockin’ English Concert play like the house is on fire. You can savor the joyful sounds, but be sure to show little outward sign. You are gloomy after all.  CPE Bach: Symphonies 


Music for AirportsTurn Off Your Mind. Relax. It’s just a season that will pass. I highly recommend Bang On a Can’s Music for Airports; a literal transcription of Brian Eno’s minor ambient masterpiece. You’ll be floating. And thanking me. You’re welcome. Bang on a Can/Brian Eno: Music for Airports 



Meet Shannon Lee

(Interviews) Permanent link

By Mona Seghatoleslami

Introducing Shannon Lee

Violinist Shannon Lee will be leaving the warmth of Texas behind this weekend to play for us here in chilly Charleston, West Virginia. 

She’ll be performing Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the West Virginia Symphony.  The rest of the concert’s program features music related to water—Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes, Handel’s Water Music, and Debussy’s La Mer

On Saturday afternoon, you can meet this charming young violinist, talk to her about music, and hear her play a few pieces (including some Bach and selections from her debut CD) during a free informance at the Clay Center.  They're especially encouraging young musicians to come to this event.

We had time for just a very short interview over the phone the other day, and here are some highlights from our conversation:

ListenListen to my interview with violinist Shannon Lee 

And here’s an excerpt of her playing the piece she talked about in the interview:

ListenExcerpt of Shannon Lee playing Carl Engel’s “Sea-Shell” 

Looking for more? Shannon's CD has been added to our library, so you might catch her playing on Classical Music with Jim Lange.  You can also check out videos of her playing on YouTube 

Wheeling Beethoven Festival

(Interviews, News) Permanent link

by Mona Seghatoleslami

Beethoven Portrait

This week, the Wheeling Symphony will be celebrating the music and life of the great Ludwig van Beethoven.  There will be talks and concerts, and the Wheeling Symphony is opening up an afternoon rehearsal to audiences.  The week of Beethoven celebrations culminates with a concert including Beethoven’s King Stephen Overture, the Triple Concerto (featuring the Pittsburgh Trio), and Symphony No. 7.  

Back at the beginning of the season, music director Andre Raphel Smith told me about this concert and his approach to Beethoven.  Smith shares his reasons for choosing these pieces, as well as explaining how different factors influence his interpretation.

ListenListen to Maestro Andre Raphel Smith on Beethoven and the upcoming concert 

Andre Raphel Smith conducting

Schedule of events (more info on the Wheeling Symphony’s website)

Wednesday, January 14th:
* 7pm: Lecture/Concert “Beethoven the Heroic Period” (free)

Friday January 16th:
* 2-4:30pm: Open rehearsal (free)

* 7pm: Pre-concert talk (free)

* 8pm: Wheeling Symphony Concert, with the Pittsburgh Piano Trio

Pittsburgh Piano Trio in concert

Not enough Beethoven for you?  Here’s some further reading:

-Beethoven’s Letters online: volume 1 and volume 2

-The Beethoven-Haus Bonn (Beethoven's birthplace has been transformed into a museum, with archives and a concert hall, and their website has lots of resources). 

-Maynard Solomon's biography of Beethoven 

Dark days, light music?

(Commentary) Permanent link

By Mona Seghatoleslami

It’s a cold, rainy afternoon.  As I organize the library here, I’ve been idly pondering what music I should play tomorrow on the radio. Not sure if it’s all the rain, but I’ll admit I’m not in the sunniest of moods.  I found myself lining up in my head an afternoon of late-romantic symphonies, desperately melancholy string quartets, and perhaps a requiem or two. 

And then I caught myself…what am I doing?  Is this really what I want to hear? Is this what everyone else wants to hear?  So I've abandoned the library for a bit to write down my thoughts and see what other people think.

Do you generally want music that fits your mood or counters it? 

Are dark days (emotionally or weather-wise) well-suited to some darker Elgar, Prokofiev, or Sibelius?  Or are they exactly the time to brighten things up with Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet, early Mozart piano concertos, or some Leroy Anderson miniatures?

 (And what are your exceptions?  And are there some pieces fit many of your moods?  Or is this all a pretty silly line of inquiry?)

Talk to me…meanwhile, I’m keeping it bleak with Nielsen’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 5

Opera in the New Year

 Permanent link

by Mona Seghatoleslami

Renee Fleming as Thais

My Christmas present this year was a trip to the Metropolitan Opera to see Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson in Massenet’s Thaïs (thank you, Dad!).  It was absolutely beautiful and transporting…the singing, the settings…the whole experience.  But what’s an opera-lover to do the rest of the year?

There are a few opera opportunities around the state.  In February, WVU will stage opera scenes and Marshall University will be performing Copland’s The Tender Land, and in May the WV Symphony will present La Boheme.  Perhaps you’re close enough for a day trip to see opera in PittsburghDayton, or Cincinnati.

You can also always listen to the opera on the radio on Saturday afternoons, and for a few Saturdays, you can go out and see it in the movie theaters.  La Rondine at the Met

Have you been to one of the Metropolitan Opera movie broadcasts yet?  I’ve gone on about my love for these shows around here previously. How would you like to go for free? I have some tickets to give away! 

If you’re interested in free tickets to the Met Opera at the Movies, leave a comment below, or send an email with “Classically Speaking blog” in the subject line: feedback@wvpubcast.org.  I have tickets for Morgantown, WV and Ashland, KY; be sure to mention which location is better for you.  The first one is coming up pretty quickly: Puccini’s La Rondine on Saturday January 10th, so let me know soon if you’re interested.

Here’s some of the comments that have been sent to me by people who went to see previous operas at the movies:

Both operas were wonderful - the Dr. Atomic was life-changing.  John Adams is truly a genius

Faust was beyond my powers of description…

Thank you so much for giving us the tickets for Faust. It was an amazing experience, we both loved it. It was just perfect.

Dr. Atomic was amazing.

The show was sensational! That HD picture blown up to 20' x 40' was terrific.  Better than being at the Met!  It saved 9 hours of driving...

If you've been, I'd love to hear what you think.  If you want to go--your free tickets are waiting!  And if you have a line on some good opera opportunities in the area, be sure to let me know.

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