Sunday, September 28, 2014

Season 24 opens with pianist Beatrice Rana

My spirits are always lifted when regular concerts resume at Spivey Hall in the fall.  This afternoon at 3 PM, Italian pianist Beatrice Rana takes the stage to open Spivey Hall's 2014-2015 season.  Season 24 thus begins with an artist making her Atlanta debut -- a new artist for a new season.  And off we go!

I first encountered Beatrice Rana during the chamber music round of the 2013 Cliburn Competition, which I attended in Fort Worth, Texas.  Very taken by her playing, I extended an invitation to her before the Competition had completed, so convinced I was of musicianship, her fidelity to the score, and the ideas she brought to them.  Ms. Rana ended up winning the Silver Prize and the Audience Prize, and her career (already strong in Europe) has continued to flourish.

Today she'll perform Bach's First Partita, Chopin's Second Sonata, and Prokofiex's Sixth Sonata, which will give Spivey Hall's audience a telling overview of her skills, strengths, personality, and artistry at the piano.  

It's been a pleasure once again to welcome Ulrich Gerhartz, director of concerts and artists for Steinway & Sons in London, to Atlanta for his regular visit to check up on our Hamburg Steinway concert grand, "Clara."  Mr. Gerhartz took part in our selection of this piano at the factory in Hamburg and continues to look after her well-being with tremendous care and expertise.  Ms. Rana's debut coincides with his visit, thus "Clara" is in tip-top shape, and today begins another chapter of our understanding of how "she" continues to settle in at Spivey Hall.

This afternoon's concert is our Season Opening Celebration.   Thus the entire audience is invited to a post-concert reception, hosted by our donors, the Friends of Spivey Hall, in honor of Beatrice Rana, and our generous  Friends of Spivey Hall Concert Sponsor,  Michael Koch, MD, himself a passionate fan of pianos and pianists, and proud owner of a beautiful Hamburg Steinway of his own, who goes by "Hans." We talk about having a "play date" sometime with "Clara" and "Hans" at Spivey Hall -- which in time, I do believe, we could indeed make happen.

Even though the lockout of the Atlanta Symphony musicians continues, and Jeremy Denk (another Spivey Hall favorite) was unable to perform with them as planned, it's been a good weekend in Atlanta for fans of piano music.  Garrick Ohlsson, well known to Atlanta audiences, and the only American to win first place at the prestigious Chopin Competition, played the Third Sonata of Chopin at Emory University's Schwartz Center on Friday night, and treated us also to a truly amazing second-half of works by Scriabin, which he discussed from the stage with his characteristic intelligence, enthusiasm, and wit.  A fine number of Spivey Hall patrons attended, and I'm delighted that so many of them are making it a double-header weekend and showing up this afternoon for more solo piano as well.  

Also new this season:  the first of 18 exhibitions in the lobby that begins our countdown to Season 25 in 2015-16.  The first exhibition focuses on how Emilie Spivey led the effort to create Spivey Hall, beginning with her major challenge gift, the founding of The Walter and Emilie Spivey Foundation, and the series of dedication concerts in 1991 (violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Andre Watts, and bass-baritone Samuel Ramey) and again in 1992, after our magnificent Fratelli Ruffatti was installed, an occasion celebrated with two brilliant recitals by organist Gillian Weir and a program (given twice) by the legendary Robert Shaw, his Festival Singers, organist Norman Mackenzie, and vocal and instrumental soloists.  I attended Ramey's recital as well as one of Weir's recitals; both were splendid and memorable.  (Little did I know at that time what the future would hold for me and Spivey Hall!)  It's rather astounding to recognize that we're coming up on major anniversaries of these events.  The musical legacy of Walter and Emilie Spivey continues to pay tremendous dividends with the concerts given in Spivey Hall which are also broadcast on public radio locally on WABE 90.1 FM and nationally on American Public Media's Performance Today. 

Another innovation:  we've added Music Notes to our website -- program notes with clickable music examples chosen to illustrate the points being made in the note.  Look for them on event pages for most concerts in the Spivey Series -- they're up now for Beatrice Rana's program.  We will continue to publish unabridged program notes in our program books as well.  Comments/feedback all welcome.

There are still great seats for today's recital, so don't hesitate -- come, and you will be rewarded.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions results

The snow and ice that besieged Atlanta vanished in time for the annual Southeast Region Metropolitan National Council Auditions in Spivey Hall this afternoon.  Twelve contestants from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida sang two arias for a distinguished panel of judges:  Paul Kilmer, Director of Artistic Administration, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; John Churchwell, Head of Music, San Francisco Opera; and Diane Zola, Director of Artistic Administration, Houston Grand Opera.  

Two Encouragement Awards were combined as one and given to bass Daren Jackson (age 21) from North Carolina, who sang "Vous, qui faites l'enormie" from Gounod's Faust and "Madamima, il catalogo è questo" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. 

The Third Place Award was given to soprano Abigail Rethwisch (age 24) from Florida, who sang "Martern aller Arten" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's Roméo et Juiliette. 

The Second Place Award was given to tenor Jonathan Johnson (age 25) from North Carolina, who sang "Here I stand" from The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, and "Ah! lève-toi, soleil!" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

The Ryan Smith First Place Award was given to soprano Jennifer Cherest (age 29) of South Carolina, who sang "Comme autrefois" from Les Pecheurs de perles by Bizet, and "Quel guardo il cavaliere...So anch'io la virtù magica" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale.  As the sole First Place Award winner from the Southeast Region Final Auditions, Ms. Cherest will advance to the National Semi-finals at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on March 23, 2014. 

The pianists performing with the contestants were Utah Opera staff accompanist Carol Anderson, and Angela Ward.  

While the judges were deliberating, the audience was treated to arias sung by a previous winner of the Southeast Region Finals and the National Finals, soprano Indra Thomas, accompanied by pianist Sandra Lutters.

Congratulations to all the contestants, all of whom demonstrated talent, accomplishment, and promise.  It was another wonderful afternoon of music-making at Spivey Hall, where vocalists love to sing, and audiences love to hear them.  You can hear for yourselves on Monday, March 31, 2014 at 9:00 PM Eastern, when WABE 90.1 FM airs its broadcast of today's performances, which will also be streamed live on its Internet website (scroll down and look for "Listen now" in the column on the right). 

The Met Auditions will return to Spivey Hall again next season, details of which will be announced first to Spivey Hall's donors at the end of March.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Christiane Karg recital this Sunday cancelled

My tombstone (if I have one) will read, "Programs and Artists Subject to Change."  Due to illness, the eagerly-awaited North American recital debut of the brilliant German soprano, Christiane Karg, and pianist Malcolm Martineau cannot take place this Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 3 PM, as originally planned.  A cold that suddenly became severe has prevented her from flying from Germany to perform.  

Cancellations of this nature are, of course, a great disappointment, but we in Atlanta -- who have been through recurrent waves of colds and flu viruses since mid-November, with the crazy-wild fluctuations of unseasonably cold and warm weather -- cannot be anything but sympathetic to Ms. Karg's plight. Given her condition, it was clear she could not travel or sing this week. 

I heard Ms. Karg as a soloist in Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass at Mostly Mozart in New York a few summers ago, which reinforced all I knew about her and led to my decision to invite her to sing here.   I was truly delighted that she and her manager readily accepted this invitation.  

In my 30 years in artistic planning, I've dealt with a good number of last-minute cancellations (e.g., replacing a singer on four days' notice when the concert's in Australia, the singer's in Europe, and the singer needs a visa to enter the country before he can board a plane) -- but finding a singer of this level of quality and a pianist able to properly prepare and perform a full-length recital program on just a few days' notice is nigh impossible. The few candidates I had in mind are, quite naturally, busy, currently involved in opera productions in the US or Europe.  

Thus we must look to a future season for Ms. Karg's Spivey Hall debut, and I've decided (after significant consideration, and not without sincere regret) not to present another artist on Sunday, just to have a concert on Sunday.  Spivey Hall patrons familiar with the quality of our international artist series will, I hope, understand and agree.

There's one more solo vocalist left in the current season:  the bel canto rising-star Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught makes her Georgia and Spivey Hall debut on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 3 PM.  Click here for more information about her.  We also greatly look forward to Spivey Hall's first-ever performance of Bach's magnificent St. Matthew Passion by the early-music ensemble of The Juilliard School, Juilliard 415, with Juilliard vocal soloists and the excellent Trinity Wall Street Choir, all conducted by Gary Thor Wedow.  Thus there's plenty of singing still to be enjoyed at Spivey Hall this spring.

Patrons who have been issued tickets will be contacted by Spivey Hall's Patron Services staff by email if we have email addresses for them, otherwise by snail mail or telephone.  The value of tickets purchased may be applied towards another Spivey Hall performance this season or next.  Refunds of purchases made with a credit card are possible, but since Spivey Hall doesn't retain credit card numbers, the numbers will have to be confirmed by patrons and the Box Office. Purchases made with cash are also refundable, but more information is required (in this instance, it's best to speak a Patron Services representative).

Now, back to grant applications and next season's brochure...