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Inside Appalachia

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Opera at the Movies: More WV locations, New Season

(News) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 31, 2011
Le Comte dOry
Juan Diego Flórez as Comte d'Ory

The Metropolitan Opera movie theater broadcasts can now be seen in a couple more West Virginia locations – live broadcasts in Nitro and encores in Bridgeport.

 I’m not sure when these new locations were added, but I’m glad to discover more opera options around the state. Here are all the nearby theaters that I've found; let me know if you find others!

* Live in HD (the original Saturday afternoon broadcasts):

   - Barboursville (Huntington Mall)
    - Nitro
    - Borderland locations:
Ashland, KY; Germantown, MD;
       Pittsburgh, PA; Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Staunton, VA

* “Encore” Presentations (Wednesday evening rebroadcasts)
    - Barboursville (Huntington Mall)
    - Borderland locations:
Ashland, KY; Germantown, MD;
       Pittsburgh, PA; Lynchburg, VA

At these theaters, you can see the rest of this season, including Rossini’s Le Comte d’Ory (which looks to wonderfully fun), Strauss’s Capriccio, Verdi’s Il Trovatore (anvils! And Dmitri!), and Wagner’s Die Walküre.

Die Walkure at Met Opera
Mothers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be Valkyries?

The Met has also recently announced the next season of operas at the movies. Check out the 2011-2012 season on their site.

As always, lots of potential goodness – I’m most looking forward to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Glass’s Satyagraha, and Willy Decker’s stylish production of La Traviata (starring Natalie Dessay). And while I have yet to warm up to French opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin is conducting Faust, and I’ll check it out, since his super-lively Carmen caught my attention.

musica intima (music and interview)

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 25, 2011

Into Light album

Recently, we received a recording of choral music by Canadian composers performed by the ensemble musica intima. The album is called "Into Light," and it is beautiful throughout.

You can listen to musica intima sing Imant Raminsh’s Ave verum corpus in this video:


musica intima has traveled from its home base of Vancouver to Toronto this weekend, because this album has been nominated for two Juno Awards, including best classical album of the year (choral or vocal performance).

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with baritone Peter Alexander, who has been part of the twelve-member vocal ensemble since 2006. During our conversation, it was clear how much he and the rest of the group love and respect the music that they sing, and especially how important this album is to them.

Along the way, we also talked about how the ensemble works – the singers manage the group as well as singing in it – their rehearsal and coaching process, and the music on this album, as well about Alexander's musical background and how he balances the different requirements of singing opera and choral music. Check it out:

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Interview with Peter Alexander of musica intima


Pardon some of the extra noise – when I spoke to Peter he was at the airport. He managed to find a corner that mostly quiet, until a bunch of service vehicles showed up!

Catching up with composer Evan Mack

(Interviews) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 24, 2011
Evan Mack, Composer & Pianist
Evan Mack

Composer and pianist Evan Mack has lived in Lewisburg and Charleston. Now he lives in upstate New York, but he’s maintained his ties to West Virginia. His in-laws live here, and he’s part of musical collaborations in the state.

This weekend, the Charleston Ballet will perform a world premiere of the ballet Pinocchio, with music by Evan Mack and choreographed by Kim Pauley. 

In an interview, Mack spoke about how his perspective on the Pinocchio story has changed after becoming a father, the challenges and rewards of writing music for a new ballet, and the idea of creating a “springtime Nutcracker” to engage young dancers the other half of the year.

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Interview with Evan Mack

You can hear a feature on the ballet, including some of the music, Friday morning on West Virginia Public Radio's West Virginia Morning

Evan Mack is also the composer of the opera Angel of the Amazon, which will be performed in New York this May; he has chronicled some of the opera producing experience in a series of guest blog posts here last year titled “From Idea to Opera.” 

Related Links:

* The Charleston Ballet
* Evan Mack
* Evan Mack: Pianist and Composer (May 2009 interview)

* From Idea to Opera, on Classically Speaking:
  - Part One, From Idea to Opera
  - Part Two, Building the Story
  - Part Three, Character Studies
  - Part Four, Off the Page, Onto the Stage
  - Part Five, New York Recital
  - Part Six, “Angel” in California

Simone Dinnerstein: Beauty in Bach

 Permanent link
By Jim Lange
 · March 23, 2011

Simone Dinnerstein
Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Simone Dinnerstein

Regarding opportunity, a friend of mine once told me, “If a door doesn’t open, then keep pounding.” Pianist Simone Dinnerstein might just agree with that.

Dinnerstein herself raised the money (“borrowing from family and friends”) to record Bach’s Goldberg Variations which was subsequently released in 2007 on Telarc. The record skyrocketed to No. 1 on the US Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales and was named to many "Best of 2007" lists including those of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Yorker.

Her follow-up album, The Berlin Concert, also gained the No. 1 spot on the Chart.  

Bach: A Strange Beauty, is her latest release.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Dinnerstein in January of this year.  

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Simone Dinnerstein speaks of Bach & asks about George Crumb.

Dinnerstein will perform as part of Shenandoah Conservatory Performances on Sunday, March 27.

Details at http://www.conservatoryperforms.org/

Purchase her new CD at Amazon

Sunshine Souverain

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 22, 2011

Do you know about the connection between Laurie Anderson and Jules Massenet?  This pair of pieces keeps coming up in conversation recently; I think it started with my friend Anne, who is teaching students at WV State University about postmodernism this semester.

First, listen to this:

 “Ô Souverain, ô juge, ô père" from the opera Le Cid (1885), by Jules Massenet (sung by Placido Domingo)

Then listen for echoes of the aria in this song:

O Superman (1981), by Laurie Anderson.

Bonus tracks:

* Some of my other favorite Laurie Anderson tracks: From the Air and Language is a Virus.

* Actually, you might need to just get the Big Science album.

* Clarification of my bad joke in the post title.

Anna Larsson sings Mahler (interview)

(Interviews) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 17, 2011
Anna Larrson
Anna Larsson

Contralto Anna Larsson will be singing music by Gustav Mahler with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra this Friday. Earlier this week, she and I spoke over the phone about Mahler’s music and her approach to singing it, with a little digression on vocal range and personality. 

I loved hearing her insights into the music, so I hope you enjoy listening to the interview, which is about 15 minutes long:

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Interview with Anna Larsson


Can you hear the students practicing in the background? Perhaps that’s a clarinetist somewhere nearby running through scales? I hope it’s not too distracting; I think it’s an exciting reminder of all the energy that goes into bringing together a musical performance. It also makes me think of Performance Today’s new series about the art of practicing, which you can check out on their website.

Related links:

* Anna Larsson
* Shenandoah Conservatory Performances
* International Gustav Mahler Society

Violinist Rebecca Zeller of Ra Ra Riot (Interview)

(Interviews) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 16, 2011

Rebecca Zeller
Rebecca Zeller of Ra Ra Riot

The band Ra Ra Riot is performing on Mountain Stage this weekend, and they have not one, but two string players (ok, guitars are string instruments too, but I mean the kind you’d normally find in an orchestra, bowed strings). Violinist Rebecca Zeller and cellist Alexandra Long are both members of the band.

I’d read that they were “classically trained,” but that phrase is pretty vague and overused, so I was happy to get a chance to speak with violinist Rebecca Zeller.

We talked about the transition from classical violin studies to being in a band. Zeller discusses the things that she had to learn and unlearn, and how she and Long come up with their parts and fit their instruments into the guitar-dominated world of pop-rock music. 

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Interview with violinist Rebecca Zeller

You can also hear a profile of Zeller on West Virginia Morning later this week (I'll post it here once it's online!). Ra Ra Riot will be performing Sunday at the Culture Center in Charleston on Mountain Stage; the show will be on the radio in May.

You can also see her rocking out on the violin in some of the band’s videos:


This one features a confusing amount of cats in addition to the band:


His Music Died Before He Did

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 15, 2011

His Music Died Before He Did 1
PJ Zimmerlink
His Music Died Before He Did, by PJ Zimmerlink

"Corrette was a prolific composer, but his work died
before he did." -Boisgelou

While statues may not be put up in honor of critics, a recent artwork was inspired by criticism of an eighteenth-century composer. Artist PJ Zimmerlink heard a story on the radio about a composer of whom it was said "his music died before he did."  He wrote down the phrase, and then later painted a landscape that incorporated the words.

The work was then displayed at the Greensburg Art Club, where it was a very popular part of his exhibit, with many people asking the source of the quotation. Some suggested that it was a description of Kurt Cobain. Zimmerlink knew it wasn't Cobain, but couldn't remember who it was, so he called West Virginia Public Radio to ask: who was that composer that you played a year and a half ago who they say his music died before he did?

We were able to solve the mystery! The composer was Michel Corrette (1707-1795). Tastes changed over the course of the 18th century, but Corrette did not change with the times, prompting this striking turn of phrase in a critique of his work. The story is found in the liner notes of my of my favorite Christmas-albums-that-aren't-too-aggressively-Christmasy: Corette: Symphonies de Noels, Concertos Comiques, performed by Arion.

Thank you very much to PJ Zimmerlink for sharing these photos of his work and his comments below.

His Music Died Before He Did 2
PJ Zimmerlink
His Music Died Before He Did, by PJ Zimmerlink

"It is to be viewed with the text upside down. This piece is about the way I sometimes feel as a object maker, like a dinosaur or just passé. I don't typically make installations or do videos or any of the more avant-garde ways of making art. So perhaps you can see why the quote struck me so. I think most artist worry about this same feeling.

I wrote the text on the paper several weeks before painting the partial landscape. I wasn't immediately sure what if any thing should accompany the text. When I decided upon the landscape it made perfect sense to me because it is a very traditional thing to paint and also I could manipulate it to give a sense of mood.

I think the shape gives the piece a sense of being a relic as well a a certain ephemeral quality. I feel by showing the text inverted you can have your mind focus on the landscape more independently than if the text was right side up. by doing so the mood of the landscape and shape of the piece can strike you more easily than if your gaze was fixed on the quotation. which I believe would be hard to escape since it is such a strong narrative." - PJ Zimmerlink

Music for Pi Day (& Copyright Kerfuffle)

(News, Just for Fun) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 14, 2011

Pi Pie
Paul Smith

Pi Pie picture by Paul Smith. Some rights reserved.

Happy Pi Day (3.14)!

I've just heard some fun music for the holiday; check out this story for Morning Edition: “How to Transform the Number Pi into a Song”

It now joins the poem “Poe, E. Near a Raven” by Mike Keith on my (short) list of favorite pi-inspired works.

The cheery little piece in the NPR story is by Michael John Blake. Since I first heard it this morning, his YouTube video "What Pi Sounds Like" has been taken down due to a copyright claim by composer Lars Erikson, who previously had written a Pi Symphony:

Even though they use the same idea of using the digits of Pi to notes in a chromatic major scale, it seems that the results are different enough to legally co-exist. I am not a lawyer, and I suppose a melody is a melody, whether it's based on the digits of a mathematical constant or stumbled upon through random inspiration or other processes, but I really like Blake's piece.

What do you think of the copyright issue? Do you know any other neat artistic interpretations of Pi, in classical music, or elsewhere?  

It seems that musicians have tended more towards Phi, the number at the heart of the golden ratio. Which is cool, and seems to involve fewer copyright issues, but it doesn’t sound as tasty…unless we’re talking about phi-lo (phyllo? I'm not even sure if it's pronounced the same way, and if I have to explain the pun, it’s probably not a very good one). 

Maybe I’ll just stick with pie for food and Phi for music.

Cello Wrap?

(Just for Fun) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 12, 2011
After some wonderful adventures in New York, I'm enjoying a quiet day in New Jersey with my family. Due to my mom's love of crafts (and coupons), part of this visit involved some yarn shopping. In front of the store, this bargain caught my attention. 

Cello Wrap
Saied Seghatoleslami
Cello wrap: no strings attached?

I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with new ways to store musical instruments, but it certainly conjures up some pretty silly images. Craft-people, cellists, anyone -- want to weigh in on this one?

Post-Symphony Wrap-up

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 7, 2011

Did you get to the WV Symphony this past weekend? What did you think?

I'd spent all week before the concert giddy for The Carnival of the Animals, and it was wonderful to see it performed on Friday. The musicians, especially pianists Deborah Gross and Vicki Berneking-Cavendish, made light work all those dangerously difficult parts that go into making these light-hearted vignettes work, so the music just sparkled. The Swan was the only movement that didn't really fit with the fuller orchestra used for this performance; it makes more sense as a cello solo. I missed the Ogden Nash poems; it's too bad that the performance rights are too expensive.

Stravinsky's Petrushka was great.  I lost track during the music of where we were in the plot of the ballet, but it didn't matter. I'll just agree with a friend's assessment of: "Holy whoopin' ass orchestration."

And every time I start describing the Debussy Première Rhapsodie for clarinet, I just end up daydreaming, lost in the memory of the sounds of the clarinet and the orchestra, so let's just call that a success. Bravo to clarinetist Bob Turizziani.

I made it just in time for the music, so I missed the pre-concert talk. My friend Steve Allen Adams was there, and he recorded the talk and shared it on the website Kanawha Valley Live. Here's their post (West Virginia Symphony Orchestra Takes You Behind the Music), and you can check out the video below. 

West Virginia Symphony Orchestra Takes You Behind the Music

You can also read David Williams's review of the concert in the Charleston Gazette: "W. Va. Symphony Shines in Stravinsky."

If you were there too, you can share your post-concert thoughts by joining the conversation in the comments.

I'll be gone in NYC for a week to learn more about radio and visit my family, but I'll hopefully be able to check back in here from the road. Have fun!

Great Chinese State Circus - Swan Lake

 Permanent link
By Frank Stowers
 · March 7, 2011

This is incredible. Enjoy.



WV Symphony 2011-2012: Share the Music

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 2, 2011
Lisa Pegher
Percussionist Lisa Pegher will play Schwanter's Concerto for Percussion with the WV Symphony in January

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra just announced their 2011-2012 concert season. The season features some great big orchestral works (Tchaikovsky Symphony 4, Mahler Symphony No. 1, Dvorak's New World, Beethoven Symphony 5, Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, Respighi's Roman Festivals).

The coolest, most unexpected thing: a percussion concerto! Percussionist Lisa Pegher will be playing Joseph Schwantner's Concerto for Percussion. There are three piano concertos (Gershwin Concerto in F with Katie Mahan, Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with Jon Kimura Parker, and a Mozart concerto with Domenico Codispoti). Cellist Julie Albers will be playing concertos by Schumann and Shostakovich. All sorts of good stuff.

We'll have a story on the radio Friday morning, which will have more details and in a much organized fashion! Until I get that together, since I recorded the season announcement event this afternoon, you can listen to the whole thing (about 17 minutes) right here: 

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
WV Symphony President David Gross & Artistic Director Grant Cooper introduce WVSO 2011-2012 Season

Rachmaninoff & Your Cheating Heart

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 2, 2011

In films both tragic and comic, Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto seems to be the music of choice for cheating hearts.

The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Thanks to Carol, a listener who wrote in about this music (and the song Full Moon and Empty Arms) after hearing it yesterday on Performance Today (you can still hear the full concerto their site for a week).


(News, Commentary) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 1, 2011

This weekend, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra is playing one of my favorite pieces: The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Cellists (and people looking for pretty wedding music) love it because of “The Swan”:

Yo-Yo Ma plays "The Swan"

I have fond memories of attending a music camp where all of the bass players (dozens of them) got together every year to play The Elephant:
The Elephant

But my favorite movement currently is “Aquarium.”

It’s so sudden and strange; it always catches me off guard in the middle of the piece. It’s beautiful, and it sounds like perhaps something that Danny Elfman would write for a Tim Burton score.

I was listening to “Aquarium” recently when brainstorming fishy music in the wake of the Bruckner/Arby’s nonsense, and I discovered that it did inspire a film scoring moment – in Disney’s Beauty in the Beast. Listen (and compare the two):

Beauty and the Beast Introduction


(What's your favorite part of this musical menagerie?)

Saint-Saëns wrote The Carnival of the Animals in 1886. The previous year he’d composed a little confection called “The Wedding-Cake.” Afraid of being labeled a composer of light music, he suppressed Carnival of the Animals, and it wasn’t published until after he died. Poor sad, stuffy Saint-Saëns! He wrote plenty of other serious stuff, and what’s so bad about light music, anyway?

If you want to really embrace all that is light and silly, check out the poems that Ogden Nash wrote in 1949 to go with the music. I may not agree with Nash’s thoughts on women’s fashion, but his poems are so much fun.

Camille Saint-Saëns
Was wracked with pains,
When people addressed him,
As Saint-Saens.
He held the human race to blame,
Because it could not pronounce his name,
So, he turned with metronome and fife,
To glorify other kinds of life,
Be quiet please - for here begins
His salute to feathers, fur and fins.

Read the rest of Ogden Nash's The Carnival of the Animals here.

My favorite recording has Leonard Bernstein conducting and narrating. I’ve also recently been enjoying these videos with Sir Roger Moore reading Nash’s poems before each movement.

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra will be playing Carnival of the Animals (and music by Debussy and Stravinsky)  at Fairmont State University on Thursday, and at the Clay Center in Charleston on Friday and Saturday.

WV Classical Calendar - March

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 1, 2011


Whoosh! The lion has roared, and March is here with a lot of really nice concerts throughout the state (and some nearby neighbors, including Shenandoah, Virginia). Hope favorable winds blow some great music your way (or you to the music, either way). Let me know if I'm missing anything from the calendar. You can also leave a comment or send an email if you want to share your thoughts after attending any of these shows. Enjoy!

March 1: Marshall University Young People’s Concert

March 1: Laureate Wind Quintet (WVU)

March 2: Emil Yap Chua, piano (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 2: Met Opera HD Encore: Adams’s Nixon in China (Barboursville; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; and others)

March 2: Shenandoah Conservatory Choir

March 3: Marshall University New Music Festival Concert

March 3: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions” (Fairmont State University)

March 4: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions”

March 4: Marshall University New Music Festival Concerts

March 5: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions”

March 5: Marshall University Festival of Trumpets

March 6: Marshall University Opera Workshop

March 6: WVU Flute Choir

March 7: US Fleet Forces Band (WVU)

March 8: Tuesdays with Fran, Baroque Favorites, with Leah Trent, harp (Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg)

March 9: James Flowers, saxophone (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 9: Fairmont State University Wind Ensemble

March 10: WVU Opera Scenes

March 11: Wheeling Symphony Orchestra Pops “Music of the Beatles” with Classical Mystery Tour

March 11: Chris Chreviston, saxophone (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 11: WVU African Music Ensemble

March 11: Fairmont State University Collegiate Singers Chamber Choir

March 11: WVU Opera Scenes

March 11: Vienna Boys Choir (Carnegie Hall Lewisburg)

March 12: Huntington Symphony and Marshall University Choruses “Carmina Burana”

March 12: Ohio Valley Symphony with Margaret Carlson “Broadway!”

March 12: Marshall University Sonatina Festival

March 12: WVU Opera Scenes

March 12: Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra (Shepherd University Friends of Music)

March 12: Shepherd University Trombone Day

March 13: Jack Gibbons plays Gershwin (WVU Steinway Fundraiser Event) (interview)

March 13, 3pm: WV Youth Symphony Chamber Ensembles (Charleston)

March 15: WVU Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band Concert

March 16: Erich Thomas, baritone; Robert Thieme, piano (WVU Guest/Faculty Artist Recital)

March 16: Sarasvati Trio (Kanawha Forum)

March 16: Met Opera HD Encore: Gluck’s Iphéghenie en Tauride (Barboursville; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; and others)

March 17: WVU Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Concert

March 18: WV Symphony Pops “The Music of Abba” with Arrival

March 18: WVU New Music Concert

March 18: Anna Larsson, contralto, with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra

March 19: WV Symphony Family Concert “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

March 19: Marshall University Day of Percussion

March 19: Met Opera Live in HD: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (Barboursville; Morgantown; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; Charlottesville, VA; and others)

March 19: WV Symphony Pops “The Music of Abba” with Arrival

March 19: Shenandoah Singers

March 20: Jack Gibbons Plays Chopin (Davis & Elkins)

March 20: Eddie Daniels, clarinet (Shenandoah Conservatory)

March 23: Lindsey Goodman, flute; Rob Frankenberry, piano (Kanawha Forum)

March 24: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Huntington)

March 25: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Morgantown)

March 26: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Flatwoods)

March 27: Shepherd University Faculty Brass

March 27: Simone Dinnerstein, piano (Shenandoah Conservatory)

March 29-30: WV Symphony Young People’s Concerts “Peter and the Wolf”

March 29-30: Glenville State College Percussion Ensemble School Shows

March 30: Marshall University Guitar Ensemble

March 30: Christian Smith, piano (Kanawha Forum)

March 31: Glenville State College Percussion Ensemble

March 31: Shenandoah Conservatory Student Composers


Something missing? Let me know!

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