Classical Music News of the Week, October 30, 2011

Eric Owens Resumes Role as Alberich in Siegfried, Hosts Satyagraha HD Broadcast 11/19, and Tours Nationally

New York, NY – Eric Owens's work as Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera production of Das Rheingold last season was met with universal acclaim: The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded, "Owens alone is worth the ticket"; the New York Times noted his voice was filled with "stentorian vigor"; Manuela Hoelterhoff of Bloomberg cheered, "Eric Owens, now one of the greatest bass-baritones in the world, was sublime as crazy Alberich"; and Alex Ross of The New Yorker proclaimed, "Owens's portrayal is so richly layered that it may become part of the history of the work." It is not without a great deal of excitement, then, that audiences anticipate Owens's appearance in The Met's first full cycle of Robert Lepage's new production. Owens also embarks on a busy recital tour of his own this season, and appears in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston and Atlanta symphony orchestras.

The Metropolitan Opera's production of Siegfried opened on October 27 and will be performed on November 1 and November 5 (HD broadcast). Götterdämmerung will be performed on January 27, 31, February 3, 7, and 11. The first complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen will take place in spring 2012. Owens will sing the role of Alberich in two complete cycles: Das Rheingold on April 7 and 26; Siegfried on April 21 and 30; and Götterdämmerung on April 24 and May 3.

In addition to his on-stage duties, Owens will host his first Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcast, Philip Glass's Satyagraha on November 19 at 12:55 p.m. EST. This matinee performance will be transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series, which reaches 1600 movie theaters in 54 countries.

Opera News understands that for many just seeing their favorite performers on stage and in print is not enough for audiences to connect with great artists. To give fans more access to the world of opera, the magazine hosts "The Singers' Studios: Candid and Casual Conversations." In this intimate interview series, opera singers chat with of Opera News editors and writers. Last season's series was held in front of a completely sold-out audience. On November 2 at 6 p.m., Eric Owens will sit down to talk with Adam Wasserman at the Opera Learning Center of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

Also this season, Owens embarks on a significant recital tour with pianists Robert Spano and Craig Rutenberg. With engagements in Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Portland and Philadelphia, Owens will notably perform February 21 at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. He will sing Bach Cantatas with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on December 6.  Owens will perform Beethoven's Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston and at Carnegie Hall, one of three appearances at the New York cultural institution in 2011-2012. Appearing as Jochanaan in Strauss' Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra, Owens assumes the role in both Cleveland and at Carnegie Hall in May. Summer 2012 begins with Owens reprising the role of The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree by John Adams with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Owens will continue his summer at Glimmerglass Festival 2012 as the Artist-in-Residence. There, he will appear in Aida and Lost in the Stars, and will perform a cabaret evening.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Orion String Quartet at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Dedicated to Haydn: Nov. 4, 2011, 7:30pm

Great Clarinet Quintets: Mar. 30, 2012, 7:30pm

New York, NY - The Orion String Quartet, one of the most sought-after ensembles in the United States and Artist Members of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, perform complimentary selections of quartets by Mozart and Haydn at Alice Tully Hall on November 4 at 7:30pm. After hearing young W.A. Mozart's six quartets dedicated to him, Franz Joseph Haydn said to Mozart's father, Leopold, "Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me." On March 30, 2012 the Quartet is joined by estimable clarinetist David Shifrin for quintets by Weber, Neikrug and Mozart at Alice Tully Hall.

Over the past 24 seasons the Quartet has been consistently praised for the fresh perspective and individuality it brings to performances. With over fifty performances each year, the members of the Orion String Quartet - violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips (brothers who share the first violin chair equally), violist Steven Tenenbom and cellist Timothy Eddy - have worked closely with such legendary figures as Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Peter Serkin, members of TASHI and the Beaux Arts Trio, as well as the Budapest, Végh, Galimir and Guarneri String Quartets.

Orion String Quartet

Friday, November 4, 2011 at 7:30pm

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Alice Tully Hall

Haydn: Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 "Fifths"

Mozart: Quartet in D minor, K. 421

Haydn: Quartet in C Major, Op. 74, No. 1

Mozart: Quartet in C Major, K. 465 "Dissonance"

Orion String Quartet

Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7:30pm

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Alice Tully Hall with David Shifrin, clarinet

Weber: Quintet in B-flat Major, Op. 34

Neikrug: Quintet (New York Premiere)

Mozart: Quintet in A Major, K. 581

--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Naxos Announces New Digital Products, Including iPad App of Best-Selling "My First Classical Music Book"

Naxos is proud to release several new digital products including an exciting new iPad application aimed at children aged five and above. Naxos has always been a market leader within the classical music industry and the launch of these new products cement Naxos' role as the leader in the classical, digital music field.

iPad App:

On October 11, 2011, Naxos released its first App designed for the iPad. An interactive version of the hugely successful My First Classical Music Book, this app is the perfect introduction to classical music for children. Find out where classical music is used, meet the great composers, visit the sections of the orchestra and hear each instrument in action. The cost of this app is $2.99. For a video demonstration of the app, visit

--Raymond Bisha, Naxos USA

National Philharmonic Performance Celebrates Women Pioneers in Law and Music

North Bethesda, MD, October 25, 2011 – The National Philharmonic, under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski,  presents Women Pioneers, a concert dedicated to women pioneers in law and music, on November 12 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The program includes as its centerpiece, Amy Beach's rarely performed masterpiece for chorale and orchestra, Grand Mass in E-flat Major, composed in the late-19th century when Beach was just 19. It pairs Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman and the work that inspired it, Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The concert also includes a performance of Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, featuring the world-renowned violinist Chee-Yun.

The Honorable Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, hosts this evening and opens the concert with a brief welcome, after being introduced by Maryland's former First Lady, Francis Hughes Glendening. All concert proceeds will go toward the Maryland Women's Bar Association Foundation's (MWBAF) scholarships and the Finding Justice Project, which documents the history of women lawyers in Maryland.

Andrea Leahy, the managing partner of the law firm Leahy & DeSmet who coordinates the work of the Finding Justice Project of the MWBAF, explains that although much has changed, women's struggle to gain equality in the professions of law and music is far from over. "Less than one-third of American lawyers are women and their pay is only three fourths of that of their male colleagues," she says, citing figures from a New York Times editorial. "Women musicians face similar struggles," Leahy adds. "It's rare to see a woman at the podium of a major orchestra, and even rarer to find women composers' works featured on the program."

Last summer, Leahy approached Maestro Gajewski to partner with the Finding Justice Project to produce a concert to showcase works by women composers and to help the Project raise funds to expand its law school scholarships.  Gajewski (who is, coincidentally, a lawyer as well as a musician) embraced the idea and set to work to turn it into an exciting, innovative concert program.  "For the National Philharmonic this is a great chance to introduce our audiences and our musicians to beautiful music by Amy Beach and Joan Tower that they rarely, if ever, have a chance to hear or perform anywhere else," Gajewski said. "At the same time, it enables us to support a great organization that is doing important work and to introduce the National Philharmonic to the audiences that support that work."

At the heart of the program is Amy Beach's Grand Mass in E-flat Major, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale.  Ms. Beach, the first American woman composer of large-scale works, wrote the heartfelt and uplifting Grand Mass while still a teenager. The piece reflects the late Romantic period in its long melodies and breadth of conception.

Aaron Copland's noble Fanfare for the Common Man, a piece commissioned during World War II to honor soldiers fighting in the ranks, as well as those working on the home front, is paired with Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (1986).  The latter, written "to honor women who are adventurous and who take risks," uses Copland's Fanfare as its musical model.

Violinist Chee-Yun, whose tone is like "butter, smooth, rich and flawless" (Strings Magazine), joins the Philharmonic for the dazzling Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saëns, one of the greatest child prodigies in the history of music.

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered in the concert hall at 6:45 pm on November 12, 2011 at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to Women Pioneers on  November 12, 2011 at 8pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, please visit or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $32-$79; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette).  ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. In addition, parking is free.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute of Chicago Announces Winners of Inaugural Chicago International Duo Piano Competition

Russian, German, and U.S. competitors awarded $16,000 in cash prizes

After three days of preliminary competition and an intense seven-hour final round, the Music Institute of Chicago announced the winners of the inaugural "Liszt 200" Chicago International Duo Piano Competition, in celebration of Franz Liszt's 200th birthday:

Grand Prize "Liszt 200 Chicago" ($8,000): Duo Vis à Vis, Polina Grigoreva and Yulia Yurchenko (St. Petersburg, Russia)

2nd prize ($4,000): Tsuyuki & Rosenboom, Chie Tsuyuki and Michael Rosenboom (Hannover, Germany)

3rd prize ($2,000): Liang-He Duo, Xiaomin Liang and Jue He (Chicago, Illinois, United States)

"Norman Pellegrini Schubert Prize" ($2,000): Duo Vis à Vis, Polina Grigoreva and Yulia Yurchenko (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Judges' Discretionary Honorable Mention: Yamamoto Piano Duo, Ayaka and Yuka Yamamoto (Vienna, Austria)

From an initial field of 28 duos, seven advanced to the final round. In addition to the prize winners above, other finalists included 4HandsLA (Los Angeles, California, U.S.), Steven Vanhauwaert (Belgium) and Danny Holt (U.S.); Duo Fortin-Poirier (Montreal, Canada), Amélie Fortin and Marie-Christine Poirier (both Canada); and Susan and Sarah Wang Piano Duo (Rostock, Germany), Susan Wang and Sarah Wang (both U.S.).

The competing piano duos ranged from 20 to 35 years old and came from around the world, including China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Russia, Germany, Canada, and throughout the U.S. Each duo performed 45–60- minute programs of at least three works, including a work by Mozart and a piano duo by Franz Liszt; more than half the competitors performed a work by Schubert to compete for the Pellegrini Prize.

The three days of preliminary competition (expanded from the two originally planned due to demand and the caliber of competitors) took place October 20, 21, and 22, followed by the final round and prize presentation Sunday, October 23, all at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Portions from the final round will air on 98.7/WFMT, Chicago's classical radio station, at a later date.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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