Cellist Mark Kosower

Cleveland-Orchestra-Principal-Cellist-Mark-Kosower-with-pianist-Jee-Won-Oh-1494350654By Scott MacClelland

AFTER TUESDAY NIGHT’S banquet of Brahms sonatas by cellist Mark Kosower at Hidden Valley, in Carmel Valley, I find it hard to square his brilliance with the current crop of cello superstars. He is altogether their equal as a solo concert artist and, despite less than a household or marquis name, ought to be right up there in their lights.

Now forty, and a scant generation younger than the pack but five years beyond the highly-anointed Alisa Weilerstein, Kosower—who the program notes said began to study cello at one-and-a-half years of age—has held the position of principal cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra since 2010 and, for four years before that, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany.

The Hidden Valley recital kicked off the annual weeklong Kosower masterclass that, this year, attracted 14 advanced students from China, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, Maryland, and seven from California. The concert also pulled in a large crowd of local musicians and music lovers.

Kosower and his bold keyboard partner, Korea-born Jee-Won Oh—is that love or what?—plan to record the program next month in Hannover, Germany. It, the program, included the two cello sonatas, in E Minor, Op 38 and F, Op 99, plus the violin sonata, Op 78, in a transcription to D from the original G, by Paul Klengel.

I mention the latter because the sensitive ear gets a different feeling from the two different keys—and the difference of character between violin and cello—and because someone during the interval expressed a preference for the original. Either works equally well for me, but frankly, I find the finale of Op 78 a letdown into academic noodling after the first two artistically inspired movements—a bête-noire that pesters the final movements of more than a few of Brahms’ most celebrated works. (Of course, I will be accused of elitism by those who need an excuse. This is after all the Age of Trump.)

These three works all clocked in at an average 28 minutes, and Kosower’s instrument, a Bernardo Calcagni (Calcanius) from 18th century Genoa, spoke with rare clarity of speech as it sang large with warmth of soul. ‘Twas a feast by any reckoning and rightly inspired a cheering ovation that inspired an encore of demonic virtuosity, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s variations on “Figaro” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Such was its bristle that I found myself musing on the bizarre scene from The Witches of Eastwick when Susan Sarandon’s cello catches fire.

 

 

Weekly Magazine

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MĂCELARU’S TRIUMPHANT DEBUT

CABRILLO FESTIVAL’S new music director made such a smooth transition into the role that nothing went wrong. There was a slight dip in attendance at the second and third of his four orchestra concerts, and, as ever, some new works were more popular than others, but the Cabrillo adventure rolled on with a parade of new music that, across the board, was consistent in its ambition and creative authority. Opera composer Jake Heggie made his first festival appearance. Composer John Adams, as an audience member only, co-commissioned one of four world premieres in the festival finale. We have reviews of last weekend’s concerts HERE  (Photo by rr jones)

THIS WEEK

CELLIST MARK KOSOWER performs tonight at Hidden Valley. PACREP OPENS J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN at the Forest Theater. MONTEREY COUNTY COMPOSERS FORUM introduces new works by 10 composers at Hidden Valley. DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE MUSICAL opens at MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY THEATER in Ben Lomond. For more listings and links, click our CALENDAR

SPEAKING OF PETER PAN

A J.M. BARRIE comedy has just been discovered in Texas. Click HERE

ALMA ESPAÑOLA

9491_cover_3000x3000_rgb_largeISABEL LEONARD and SHARON ISBIN have produced a fabulous new CD in which the mezzo-soprano and guitarist document their work on tour together since 2014. The two Grammy winners survey a generous program of Spanish art songs by Federico García Lorca, Manuel de Falla and Xavier Montsalvatge, plus Agustín Lara’s popular Granada, all in first recordings of original arrangements by Isbin. The collection also includes a vocal arrangement of the haunting slow movement from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (with words in French by Victoria Kamhi) and well-known guitar solos Granados/Llobet and Tárrega. Opera fans have probably heard the Argentine-born Leonard in some among her many appearances at the San Francisco Opera in such repertoire as Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro, Dialogue of the Carmelites, Rosenkavalier and many more. She is a familiar figure at the Met, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, Salzburg Festival and other world-class venues, including concert halls. So far, Isbin has released 25 recordings.

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REMEMBERING GLEN CAMPBELL

MANY GREAT GUITARISTS sought him out for guitar lessons. (Prior to launching his career as a solo artist, Campbell was a sought-after session guitarist, playing on countless hits by a variety of music stars.) He made songwriter Jimmy Webb rich with such mega-hits as Wichita Lineman, Galveston and By the Time I get to Phoenix. Webb remembers. Webb, pictured with Campbell, recalled, “He could sit and play with any guitar player in the world, from George Benson to Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. I think all this will come to the surface as the years pass and people realize what an extraordinary genius Glen really was.” Webb says that when he and Campbell first met, their opposing political beliefs caused some friction. (Webb was a liberal and Campbell a conservative.) “We established a place in the middle of our lives where we could work and we could give reign to creativity and emotion and reveal deep parts of ourselves as we worked on music.” Webb said he had great respect for Campbell for deciding to tour late in his life, despite struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Campbell first revealed his diagnosis in 2011, released his album “Ghost on the Canvas” and embarked on a lengthy ‘goodbye’ tour through most of 2012. “He finished like a champion and maybe he was the bravest man I’ve ever known.” In this performance of Galveston, at Branson, Missouri, you get a generous glimpse of Campbell’s guitar genius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS OPERA ESSENTIALLY GAY?

ALEX ROSS documents a deeper culture than is widely acknowledged. Click HERE

SUSPICIOUS MINDS

ELVIS PRESLEY, 82 tomorrow, exactly 40 YEARS after “The King” rocked his last. Mark James’ song was Presley’s final No. 1 hit, in 1969. What would those stunningly handsome features look like today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRESH REVIEWS

CABRILLO FESTIVAL second weekend orchestra concerts. Click HERE

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor