Tag Archives: James Fellenbaum

Confessions of a Bachophile: The Brandenburgs This Week

jsbachIt isn’t every day that one gets to hear all six of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg concerti in a relatively short space of time, but fans of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will have the opportunity this week. On Thursday night’s concert, the orchestra will be offering the No. 4 in G Major, the No. 3 in G Major, and the No. 1 in F Major. Soloists in the No. 4 will be KSO flutists Ebonee Thomas and Jill Bartine, along with KSO concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz.

The Friday night performance will offer the No. 5 in D Major, No. 6 in B-flat Major, and the No. 2 in F Major. Violists Kathryn Gawne and Eunsoon Corliss will be heard in the No. 6. The No. 2 features Lefkowitz and Thomas, plus oboist Phylis Secrist and guest trumpet Ryan Beach, who is Principal Trumpet of the Indianapolis Symphony. Also performing on the two performances is guest harpsichordist Michael Unger. The conductor for the week is KSO resident conductor, James Fellenbaum.

Both evenings will open with two Leopold Stokowski transcriptions of Bach–the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and the Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor.

Read my preview of the concerts in this week’s Metro Pulse.


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In Metro Pulse: Review of KSO’s ‘Autumn in Italy’

My review of Sunday’s Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra concert (Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist David Brunell, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1, and Rossini’s Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri) is online at MetroPulse.com. James Fellenbaum conducted.

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Review: UT-SOM’s Concerto Competition Concert

One of the understated satisfactions of writing about music in a college town with a university-level School of Music is the opportunity to see and hear musicians that may be on the cusp of noteworthy careers. Such was the case in Knoxville with the UT School of Music’s annual  Concerto Competition Concert on Sunday, March 17. (The UT-SOM Concerto Competition is a juried competition open to all students enrolled in performance instruction.) After UT Orchestra’s music director James Fellenbaum opened the afternoon with Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March, the winners in four categories (vocal, piano, strings, and non-strings) joined the UT Symphony Orchestra for a performance of their winning entry.

Without doubt, percussionists are the least heralded members of orchestras, yet their work requires as much, if not more, consummate musicianship and accuracy as any other section. Percussion soloists are an even rarer breed—those who must, with little repertoire in the classical world, somehow draw life and descriptive emotions out of instruments that seem to texturally resist it. Marimbist, and Masters of Music candidate, Kevin Hanrahan, the winner in the non-strings category, did just that in the second movement from Casey Cangelosi’s Concerto for Marimba and Orchestras No. 2, a work clearly aimed at contemporary virtuosos on the instrument.

Leonard Bernstein’s Candide certainly gets a lot exposure in concert versions these days; and one of the jewels—pardon the pun— among the operetta’s many is Cunegonda’s aria “Glitter and Be Gay.”  The number is a real showcase for a soprano with coloratura power and ability, assuming that the soprano also knows a thing or two about comic delivery. Those qualities came together brilliantly in Jenna Weaver, a senior vocal performance major, who really wowed the audience in the Bernstein.

The final two winners in the strings and piano categories chose material from two Russian composers who, ironically, didn’t really care much for each other and who had dramatically different life experiences in the year of 1917. Sergei Prokofiev was finishing up his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 (although it wasn’t premiered until 1923). The work avoids virtuosic showmanship for a more integral structure, requiring a top-of-form violinist with the musical maturity to understand Prokofiev’s sense of textural balance. Anileys Bermudez was just such a violinist, taking the third Moderato movement and weaving a gorgeous silken fabric with the orchestra. And those subtle,  final trills, high above the orchestral line, were quietly impressive.

While Prokofiev was having a banner compositional year in 1917, Sergei Rachmaninoff was preparing to flee Russia under the duress of the Russian Revolution with his family. Before his exodus, though, he managed to extensively revise his Piano Concerto No. 1, written first as a student in 1891. Pianist Carson Hayes, a junior in Piano Performance, chose the opening movement for his entry. This turned out to be a brilliant conclusion to the afternoon’s program. Hayes is a remarkably talented pianist, one that we shall, no doubt, be hearing a lot about in the future.

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Filed under From the Balcony, Performance Reviews

Concerts in Brief: Ott’s Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra

The Tennessee Cello Workshop opened last evening with a performance by the University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra of David Ott’s Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra. The soloists were Wesley Baldwin of the UT School of Music and Carter Enyeart of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. James Fellenbaum conducted.

The work was commissioned for David Teie and Steven Honigberg, and the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich. The work bursts with waves of energy and excitement that hit the listeners not unlike waves crashing onto a beach. And like any positive beach experience, there are moments, too, of serenity and lyricism, moments of elation, and moments of sadness. This is a piece of notorious difficulty, yet one with gorgeous tonal complexity and driving energy which Baldwin and Enyeart handled beautifully.

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Review in Metro Pulse: KSCO, Haydn and Beethoven

My review of Sunday’s KSCO  concert of Haydn’s Symphony #22 and Trumpet Concerto, along with the Beethoven Symphony #1, is online at metropulse.com.

Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Chamber Music, In Metro Pulse, Orchestral, Performance Reviews

Violist Hillary Herndon and UT Symphony To Perform Forsyth Concerto

Outside of viola players and, possibly, music theory and orchestration students, the name Cecil Forsyth does not ring that much of a bell. Forsyth was born in Greenwich, England, in 1870 and studied at the University of Edinburgh and later at the Royal College of Music. He worked as a violist in various orchestras, one being the Queen’s Hall Orchestra–and wrote his Viola Concerto in G Minor for a September, 1903 premiere with soloist, Émile Férir.

Forsyth’s association with Hubert Parry, director of the RCM, probably contributed to his other area of specialization, musicology. Forsyth published Orchestration in 1913 before moving to New York City to work in the music publishing business. He died there in 1941.

Violist Hillary Herndon will be performing the Forsyth concerto with the UT Symphony Orchestra on Saturday evening, February 18, 8 pm, in Cox Auditorium on the UT campus. The concerto is grouped on the evening’s bill with a Gerard Schwarz arrangement/orchestration of Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz, followed by a work that, most definitely, has not languished in obscurity, the Ravel-orchestrated version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. James Fellenbaum conducts.

The performance is free. (A lecture by Maestro Fellenbaum on the Mussorgsky/Ravel precedes the concert at 7 pm)

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Briefly noted: Relentlessly Good Performances

I’m really becoming quite weary of constantly having to rave about the miraculous progress that the UT Symphony Orchestra has made in the last five years or so. This season, in particular, it has become rather tedious having to sit through concert after concert awaiting student mistakes that never come, sloppy entrances that are instead crisp and clean, performance fatigue that has been replaced by ebullient energy and focus, and compromised interpretations, dynamics, and tempos that are anything but. Give me something to write about—a curtain falling, a string breaking, a horn splaat—something, please!

Unfortunately, the orchestra had to really rub salt in my wounds on Sunday by taking on Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis with guest conductor Anthony Parnther and turning out a stunning performance. The work is a performance minefield for almost any orchestra, yet this turned into a bright and bold feast for both the orchestra and the listeners. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some excellent woodwind work, and, notably, the torturous flute passage taken by principal flute Kathryne Salo.

UT music alumnus and bassoonist Steven V. Ingle returned to take the featured role in Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese, a showcase for bassoon amidst  ever-increasing elaborations…and difficulty. Ingle’s bassoon tone is rich and velvety, matched by an amazing dexterity.

Following last month’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Music Director James Fellenbaum wanted to finish off the Mahler tribute by programming the deleted movement from that symphony, now called Blumine. This lyrical, somewhat un-Mahler-like piece, features a lovely solo trumpet line (Emily Whildin) that was as soothing  as it was impressive .

Guest conductor Parnther is also a bassoonist, so the three available ones (Parnther, Ingel, and UT bassoon faculty member Keith McClelland) closed the concert with Three’s Company by Steven Amundson, an amusing showcase for three bassoons, strings, and drum set. Not being a woodwind player, I never get to hear three bassoons play in harmony—that was fun.

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Filed under Orchestral, Performance Reviews