Sunday, June 30, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 30th June 2013

 Ricky Ian Gordon: music & Mark Campbell: lyrics-"Gordon-Campbell: Rappahannock County" Naxos 8.669028-29-excerpts w/Kevin Moreno, Matthew Tuell, Aundi Marie Moore, Mark Walters, Faith Sherman-Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra-Rob Fisher, conductor

"apologetica- daniel lentz" New Albion Records NA 097-"Apologetica" excerpts w/Dana Marsh, singer-I Cantori-Edward Cansino, dir-The Archbishop's Ensemble-Zdenka Vaculovicova, director-Bradford Ellis, keyboards

Charles Wakefield Cadman-"Cadman: Chamber Music" Naxos 8.559067-"The Legend of the Canyon Op. 68" /"From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, Op. 45 no 1" w/Paul Posnak, piano-Peter Zazofsky, violin

William Thomas McKinley "Divergence-modern concert for strings" (sic) Navona NV 5858-"Concert Variations" w/ Glenn Dicterow, violin-Karen Dreyfus, viola-Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra-Carl St. Clair, conductor

"Eric Moe-Meanwhile Back at the Ranch" New World Records 80741-2-"Preamble and Dreamsong from the 4-5 a.m. REM Stage" w/Moe, piano-Gabriela Diaz, violin

Alan Fletcher-"R. Strauss: Symphonic Poem 'Ein Heldenleben" Op. 40 etc.-Manfred Honeck cond. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra" Exton OVCL -00338
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra-Allegro (first movement) w/ Michael Rusinek, clarinet-Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Manfred Honeck, conductor

Leonardo Balada-"Balada; Caprichos Nos. 2, 3 and 4" Naxos 8. 572176-"Caprichos No.2: Samba" w/Andres Cardenas, violin-Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp-Jeffrey Turner, double bass


Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" 30th June 2013

George M. Cohan: music and lyrics-"George M." (original Broadway cast) Columbia CK 3200-excerpts w/Joel Grey, Jerry Dodge, Betty Ann Grove, Bernadette Peters, Jamie Donnelly, Jill O'Hara, Jacqueline Alloway-Jay Blackton, music director

Irving Berlin: music and lyrics-"Annie Get Your Gun"(1999 Broadway cast) Angel 7243 5 56812 2 5-excerpts w/ Tom Wopat, Ron Holgate, Peter Marx, Bernadette Peters-Marvin Laird, music director

Friday, June 28, 2013

My finale

Hello! My last WRCT broadcasts of “The Best of Broadway” and “Classics” are June 30th. I’m leaving Pittsburgh in a few months to move to Omaha.

I’ve been hosting programs on WRCT since 2003 and continue to admire and respect the CMU students who have kept the station going, taking on the many responsibilities which make its existence possible.

The great thing about WRCT is that it allows students and other local people opportunities to create broadcasts based on their own interests, interests they want to share. So much music on radio, including on public stations, is controlled and dictated by people who run the stations where program hosts have little or no such freedom or creative input. 

I have been able to share what appeals to me most and that's what has always motivated me. When listeners have commented it was much appreciated, showing me that I’ve been connecting with interested people. And I can see on my blog view-counts that someone has looked at my playlists, suggesting that they liked something they heard. That’s good to know.

My theatre reviews have likewise had the same motivation. And I hope that readers have been stimulated to attend the wonderful live theatre that enriches this community.

If you enjoy what program hosts present on WRCT, it would be great if you told them, so that they can know you're there. Because, when you love what we love, that’s a kind of bonding. We become close without ever meeting face to face.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 23rd June 2013

Maury Yeston: music and lyrics

"Nine" (2003 Broadway cast) ps classics PS-312-
excerpts w/Mary Stuart Masterson, Antonio Banderas, William Ulrich, Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski-Kevin Stites, music director

"Titanic" (original Broadway cast) RCA Victor 09026-68834-2-excerpts w/ Brian D'Arcy James, John Cunningham, Ted Sperling, Michael Cerveris, Jennifer Piech, Theresa McCarthy, Erin Hill, David Elder, Martin Moran, Victoria Clark etc-Kevin Stites, music director

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Playlist-"Classics" Sunday 23rd June 2013

Helen Humes-"The Essential Count Basie-Volume 2" Columbia LP CJ 40835-"Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" w/Basie,p-Harry Edison,tp-Lester Young,ts

Helen Humes-"The Essential Count Basie-Volume 1" Columbia LP CJ 40608-"If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight" w/Buck Clayton,tp

"Helen Humes" Contemporary LP M3571-"T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do", "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," "When The Saints Go Marching In" w/Benny Carter,tp-Frank Rosolino, tb-Teddy Edwards, ts-Andre Previn, p-Leroy Vinnegar,b-Mel Lewis or Shelley Manne, dms

"Johnny Smith Quintet Featuring Stan Getz" Fresh Sound Records FSR CD 37-"Yesterdays," Cavu" w/ Stan Getz,ts-Sanford Gold, p

"Johnny Smith and His New Quartet" Fresh Sound Records-FSR CD 80-"Blue Lights," "Bag's Groove' w/Johnny Rae, vibes

"Johnny Smith" Verve LP V 8692-"The Shadow of Your Smile," "My Favorite Things" w/Hank Jones, p-George Duvivier, b-Don Lamond, dms

Sahib Shihab-"Howard McGhee" Bethlehem LP N-11-21-YP7126-BE (reissue)-"Transpicuous," "Tweedles" w/ McGhee, tp-Duke Jordan p

Sahib Shihab-"The Modern Art of Jazz-Tony Scott" Seeco LP CELP 425-"Blues for Three Horns"w/Scott, cl-Shihab, bs-Jimmy Knepper, tb-Bill Evans, p

 Sahib Shihab-"Mal Waldron Sextets with John Coltrane-MAL 2" Prestige OJCCD-671-2-"From This Moment On" w/John Coltrane, ts-Idrees Sulieman, tp-Sahib, as-Waldron, p-Art Taylor,dms

Sahib Shihab-"Milt Jackson-Plenty, Plenty Soul" Atlantic LP SD 8811-"Plenty,Plenty Soul" w/ Jackson, vibes-Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. as-Frank Foster,ts-Sahib, bs-Joe Newman,tp- Jimmy Cleveland, tb-Horace Silver, p-Art Blakey, dms

 "George Russell-The Jazz Workshop" RCA LP LPM 1372-"Ye Hypocrite, Ye Beelzebub," "Jacks' Blues," "Ezz-Thetic," "Night Sound," "Round Johnny Rondo" w/Hal McKusick, as-Art Farmer, tp-Barry Galbraith,g-Bill Evans, p-Milt Hinton, b-Joe Harris,dms

George Russell -"The Gil Evans Orchestra-Out of The Cool" MCA Impulse LP MCA 5653-"Stratusphunk" w/Ray Crawford, g-John Coles, tp-Ron Carter,b-Evans,p-Charlie Persip, dms

Monday, June 17, 2013

Playlist:"Classics"-Sunday 16th June 2013

All the music is by Igor Stravinsky (born 17th June 1882)

"Stravinsky: Chamber Music & Historical Recordings" Sony SM2K 46297-"Ragtime" w/Columbia Chamber Ensemble-Toni Koves, cimbalom-Stravinsky, conductor

"Stravinsky:The Nightingale-Mavra-35 Songs" Sony SM2K 46 298-The Nightingale" Act 1-w/ Donald Gramm, tenor-Reri Grist, sop-Donald Gramm, bar-Marina Picassi, sop-Kenneth Smith & Herbert Beattie, bass-CBC Symphony Orchestra-Stravinsky, conductor

"Stravinsky: Ballets-Rattle" EMI 50999 9 677 11 2-"Apollo" w/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra-Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

"Igor Stravinsky-Works for Piano & Orchestra-Crossley-London Sinfonietta-Esa-Pekka Salonen" Sony SK 45797-Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra w/Paul Crossley, -London Sinfonietta-Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

"Stravinsky: Symphonies -Rehearsals and Talks" Sony SM2K 46 294-"Symphony of Psalms: Laudate Dominum" w/Festival Singers of Toronto-CBC Symphony Orchestra-Stravinsky, conductor

"Stravinsky: Symphonies-Berliner Philharmoniker-Rattle" EMI 50999 2 07630 0-Symphony in Three Movements-w/ Berlin Philharmonic-Rattle, conductor

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway-Sunday 16th June 2013

Benj Pasek & Justin Paul: music and lyrics-"Dogfight" (original off-Broadway cast) Ghostlight 8-4470-excerpts w/Linda Mendez, Derek Klena, Josh Segarra, Nick Blaemire, Anna Leigh Ashford-Bryan Perri, music director

Billy Goldenberg: music & Alan & Marilyn Bergman: lyrics:"Ballroom" (original Broadway cast) Sony Broadway SK 35762-excerpts w/ Dorothy Loudon. Lynn Roberts, Bernie Knee,Vincent Gardenia-Don Jennings, music director

Monday, June 3, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 2nd June 2013

 Henry Wolking-"Cross Connections-Henry Wolking & Jams Scott Balentine" Navona NV 5903-"Gone Playin': Gone Sleepin’'" w/ Robert Walzel, clarinet-Moravian Philharmonic Strings-Petr Vronsky, conductor

John Alden Carpenter-"Works of Carpenter" New World Records 80228-2-"Krazy Kat" w/ Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra-Calvin Simmons, conductor

John Corigliano-"Corigliano: Music for String Quartet" Naxos 8.559180-"Snapshot: Circa 1909" and "A Black November Turkey" w/Corigliano Quartet

John Adams-"Adams: Shaker Loops-The Wound Dresser" Naxos 8.559031-"The Wound Dresser" w/Nathan Gunn, baritone-Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra-Marin Alsop, conductor

Michael Daugherty-"Spokane Symphony Orchestra -Daugherty-Letters from Lincoln" E1 E1E CD 7725-"Letters from Lincoln: Letter to Mrs. Bixby-Gettysburg Address" w/Thomas Hampton, baritone-Spokane Symphony-Eckart Preu, conductor

 "Jennifer Higdon-Summer Shimmers" Koch KIC-CD-7738-"Summer Shimmers" w/Susan Glaser, flute-Stephen Taylor, oboe-Todd Palmer clarinet-Marc Goldberg, bassoon-Joseph Anderer, horn-John Novacek, piano

John Adams-"Adams: Shaker Loops-The Wound Dresser" Naxos 8.559031-"Shaker Loops: Loops and Verses-A Final Shaking" w/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra-Marin Alsop, conductor

Howard Richards-"Seeking & Finding-Bakker-Richards" Navona NV 5877-"The Noise of Waters" (text: James Joyce) and "The Song of the Rain" (text: Kahil Gibran) w/Kühn Choir-unidentified pianist-Marek Vorlicek,conductor

"Jennifer Higdon-Summer Shimmers"Koch KIC-CD-7738-"Dash" w/Susan Glaser, flute, Todd Palmer,clarinet-John Novacek, piano

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 2nd June 2013

 Richard Rodgers: music & Oscar Hammerstein II: lyrics

 "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" (sic) (2013 Broadway cast) Ghostlight Records 8447-2-excerpts w/ Santino Fontana, Laura Osnes, Victoria Clark-Andy Einhorn, music director

"State Fair" (1996 Broadway cast) DRG 94765-excerpts w/John Davidson, Charles Goff, Kathryn Crosby, Ben Wright, Andrea McArdle, Scott Wise, Donna McKechnie-Kay Cameron, music director


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Theatre review: "The Kreutzer Sonata" from Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre

A one-person play comes full of burdens and expectations. The performer has to do everything  alone to make it believable and significant. Thus, the audience is bound to judge the result as much by the artist as by the writer and, even without thinking about it, the director.  When the performer is famous the burden increases due to expectations.

Certainly, by now, regular theatre-goers in Pittsburgh have witnessed and often admired the talents of locally-renowned Martin Giles. Now he takes center stage in Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre’s production of Nancy Harris’ stage adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s famed novella The Kreutzer Sonata. Giles and director Alan Stanford make it clear that what you witness does not call attention to a potentially bravura performance but tells the story, superbly saying what Harris and Tolstoy want to say.     

Harris has created richly evocative dialogue to fill out a tale about a man named Pozdynyshev. In a train compartment, he tells unspecified passengers about his life, his marriage, of jealousy and his killing of his wife plus subsequent imprisonment. Harris includes a disturbing description of the stabbing, by the way. En route, Pozdynyshev ruminates on sex, relationships between men and women and, equally, on the force of music. And he details how his wife, an amateur pianist, seems to have developed a sensual connection with his violinist friend Trukhachevsky when they began rehearsing and then performing Beethoven’s Sonata No 9 usually known as “The Kreutzer Sonata.”  

There are things which you could infer en route, such as compassion for the wife and/ or empathy for the guilt and sorrow that Pozdynyshev must feel so deeply that he has to atone by repeating his story to strangers. These elements remain buried in the shadows of Jim French’s sparsely-lit stage. With all of Giles’ integrity and talent, he does not reach across the platform and make you want to hold his hand in sympathy. That kind of deep emotion does not surface. But, within the telling, he eloquently illuminates the moments of tenderness and makes charming the flashes of humor without ever going off-track.  Equally he makes dynamically clear those times of mind-altering anger and disillusionment about how a seemingly ideal life is bound to fall into disarray.   

Director Stanford’s evident choice of having the stage constantly in near- darkness seems symbolically appropriate although, eventually, more gloomy than necessary. He and scenic designer Gianni Downs have come up with an imaginative setting, showing what looks like a abandoned home with shrouded furniture where Jessi Sed0n-Essad’s evocative projections glimmer with remembrances of things past, or become surfaces showing flickering, sometimes ghostly shadows of events gone by.

Giles inhabits this space supremely well, but this well-conceived production does not call on us to admire the acting. Rather, it plunges us into a well-written story, one in which every note becomes clear.  

The Kreutzer Sonata plays through June 22nd at Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland. 412/ 561-6000 or

Monday, May 27, 2013

Playlist: "Classics-Sunday, 26th May 2013

Stephen Vincent Benét: writer-"John Brown's Body-Tyrone Power-Judith Anderson-Raymond Massey" Columbia LP-OSL 181-complete w/Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, Raymond Massey-Walter Schumann chorus-Richard White, choral director-Betty Benson, soprano-Roger Miller, bass-Charles Laughton, director and adapter

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 26th May 2013

Leonard Bernstein: music-Betty Comden & Adolph Green: lyrics-"On the Town" (1960 studio cast) Columbia CK 2038-excerpts w/ Adolph Green, John Reardon, Cris Alexander, Betty Comden, Nancy Walker-Leonard Bernstein, conductor

Richard Rodgers:music & Oscar Hammerstein II: lyrics-"South Pacific" (2008 Broadway cast) Sony Masterworks Broadway 88697 30457-2-excerpts w/Danny Burstein, Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Morrison, Paulo Szot-Ted Sperling, music director

Kurt Weill: music & Paul Green:lyrics: "Weill/Green/Music(sic)for Johnny Johnson-Joel Cohen"(1997 studio cast) Erato 0630-17870-2-excerpts w/Donald Wilkinson, Lynn Torgove, Ellen Santaniello-The Otare Pit Band-Joel Cohen, music director

Monday, May 20, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 19th May 2013

Hans Bakker-"Seeking & Finding-Bakker-Richards" Navona NV 5877-"Sanctus" "Pater Noster I" w/Kuhn Choir-Marek Vorlicek, conductor

Ida Gotkovsky-"Oasis Quartet" Innova 744-"Quatour":“Misterioso,” “Lent” w/Oasis Quartet

Zoltan Kodaly-"Yo-Yo Ma-Solo" Sony Classical SK 64114-Sonata for Solo Cello, op. 8 w/Yo-Yo Ma, cello

Norbert Glanzberg-"Glanzberg: Holocaust Lieder-Trekel/Klajner" MDG 901 1588-6 -"Suite Yiddish" (orchestrated:Frederic Chaslin): "Di Bobe gedenkt ir ershten Bal," "Viglid," "Mitsve Tants" w/Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse-Daniel Klajner, conductor

Fernando Lopes-Graca-"Lopes-Graca:Symphony-Rustic Suite" Naxos 8.572892-"Suite Rustica No. 1" w/Royal Scottish National Orchestra-Alvaro Cassuto, conductor

"Kronos Quartet-Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh" Nonesuch 79804-2-"Music for Piano" w/Ali-Zadeh, piano

"Mood Indigo-Symphonic Music of Erik Lotichius" Navona NV 5913-"Four Songs on American Poetry": "It Really Must Be Nice," "I Like My Body" w/Miranda van Kralingen, soprano-St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra-Vladimir Lande, conductor

Mulo Francel-"Quadro Nuevo-Grand Voyage" Justin Time JTR 8552-2-"Die Reise nach Batumi," "Krim"w/Quadro Nuevo

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 19th May 2013

 Michael John LaChiusa: music & lyrics-"Giant" (original Off-Broadway cast) Ghostlight Records 8-4471-excerpts w/ Brian D'Arcy James, Michele Pawk, PJ Griffith, Kate Baldwin, Doreen Montalvo, John Dossett, Mackenzie Mauzy, Miguel Cervantes, Jon Fletcher, Natalie Cortez, Katie Thompson-Chris Fenwick, music director 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 12th May 2013

"Bernard Peiffer-Modern Jazz for People Who Like Original Music" Laurie LP LLP 1006-"Rondo" w/ Jerry Segal, dms-Gus Nemeth, bass

Friedrich Gulda: pianist, composer-"From Vienna With Jazz" Columbia LP CL 2251-"This Veiled Old Land" w/Tubby Hayes, fl & ts-Heinz Bigler, cl & as-Idrees Sulieman, tp-Pierre Cavalli, g

"Jan Hammer/The First Seven Days" Nemperor LP NE 432-"The Sixth Day-The People" w/Steve Kindler, violin

Harold Shapero-"Modern Jazz Concert-Orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller and George Russell" Columbia LP WL 127-"On Green Mountain (Chaconne After Monteverdi)" w/Art Farmer, tp-Bob DiDomenica, fl-John La Porta, ts-Jimmy Knepper, tb-Barry Galbraith,g

"Joe Burgstaller-License to Thrill" Summit DCD-600-"Within,""Lullaby"-w/Benjamn Herrington, tb-Julian Gargiulo, Hector Martignon, pianos

"Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge-River Runs" Summit MAA 1044-"Bound Away" w/Jack Wilkins, ts-LaRue Nickelkson, g-Rob Thomas,violin-Owen conducting

"Don Shirley Plays Birdland Lullabies" Cadence LP CLP 3035-"Lullaby of Birdland"- "Body and Soul" w/Richard Davis, Jim Bond, Kenneth Fricker, basses

"Sauter-Finegan Orchestra-Concert Jazz" RCA LP LPM 1051-"The Land Between" w/Nick Travis, tpt

Gerry Mulligan: baritone sax, composer-"Mulligan-Symphonic Dreams" Pro Acoustics CDP 703-"Entente for Baritone Sax and Orchestra" w/Mulligan, soloist-Houston Symphony-Erich Kunzel, conductor

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 12th May 2013

Charles Strouse: music & Martin Charnin: lyrics-"Annie Warbucks" (original off-Broadway cast) Broadway Angel CDQ 7243 5 55040 2 9-excerpts w/ Alene Robertson, Kathryn Zaremba, Harve Presnell. Margeurite Macintyre, Raymond Thorne-Keith Levenson, music director

Betty Comden and Adolph Green: lyrics & Larry Grossman: music-"A Doll's Life" (original Broadway cast) Bay Cities cassette 3031-excerpts w/George Hearn, Betsy Joslyn, Peter Gallagher, Edmund Lyndeck-Paul Gemignani, music director

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Theatre review: "Abigail/1702" at City Theatre

City Theatre is offering a quite recent play, one which premiered earlier this year in Cincinnati. It’s Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Abigail/1702 which deliberately spins off and into Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It speculates what might have happened to one of the prime sources of evil in Miller’s tale, Abigail Williams.Her accusations spurred famed real-life witchcraft trials and executions in 17th Century Salem Massachusetts. Abigail was said to have trafficked with the Devil.

Certainly such a story carries with it sinister shadows and suggestions of dark doings but this script takes considerable time to develop them, at first in meandering exposition as Abigail talks about herself, and later, at great length, detailing horrible events before she arrived in Salem. A minor plot situation is set up, a romance. That element vanishes as the later part of the play follows a new path with interesting revelations and permutations. There, actor John Feltch makes it memorable in a compelling portrayal of the Devil, full of style and personality. On the other hand, especially by contrast, Diane Davis in the major role of Abigail stays a colorless, hollow figure.
I suppose you could infer that this 10 years- later version of drably dressed Abigail, having been drained of her previous venom, has become tame. Yet, Aguirre-Sacasa posits her as full of remorse and sorrow, trying to atone by doing good works. In her new life, with a new name, she has become a devoutly religious healer doing her best to remain virtuous. Davis conveys none of the potential therein, as if relying on her words to say it all, words which, in her case, she often delivers in unvarying cadences blurring meaning rather than clarifying it. And, on opening night, she seemed more often propelled by intensity and volume than by something complex going on inside.

As for the rest of the plot essentials, Abigail heals plague-infected young sailor John Brown who falls in love with her. And she cares about a local boy named Thomas. Finally the fascinating essence of something dramatic happens when the Devil comes calling.
Likewise referring to the legendary past, Reverend Parris appears. In Miller’s play as in real life, Parris bore some responsibility for the persecutions and punishments during the witch trials. Here, 10 years later, he newly laments his responsibility. In this role too actor Feltch comes across with substance.

Aguirre-Sacasa has written dialogue akin to Miller’s in types of speech suggesting the period. He goes over much old ground of what happened in The Crucible, instead of exploring new territory, coming up with story-telling rather than character study.
Tony Ferrieri has created a remarkably imaginative set suggesting ghosts of trees.  And, effectively adding to the atmosphere, Eric Shimelonis has written some good period-implying music. Tracy Brigden directed, keeping the play moving well.

FYI: The only local actors are two pre-teen brothers alternating in the small role of Thomas.
Clearly the play still needs work. Having a more convincing, more definitive performance of  the title character might help.

Abigail/1702 continues through May 26th at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, South Side-412/ 431-CITY (2489) or

Monday, May 6, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday, 5th May 2013

John Williams-"Superman: The Movie" soundtrack score Warner Bros. 3257-2-excerpts w/Williams conducting

"Alex North's 2001-Jerry Goldsmith-The National Philharmonic Orchestra" Varese Sarabande VSD 5400-excerpts w/Goldsmith, National Philharmonic

Bernard Herrmann-"Herrmann: The Concert Suites" Masters Film Music 2005-"The Day The Earth Stood Still”:“Outerspace"-“Gort" w/Herrmann conducting London Philharmonic

David Arnold-"The Chronicles of Narnia:The Voyage of the Dawn Treader-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" Sony 88697811422-excerpts, Nicholas Dodd, conductor

Bohuslav Martinu-"Martinu: La revue de cuisine" Naxos 8.572485-"La Revue de Cuisine": excerpts w/ Holst Sinfonietta-Klaus Simon, conductor

"Efrain Amaya-Phantasmagorilla? No! Phantasmagoria" Troy 1075-excerpts w/Kimberley Steinhauer, Sean Donaldson, Amadis Amaya, Annie Rago, Charlene Canty, singers-The Pont Chamber Orchestra-Amaya conducting

Brian Easdale -"The Red Shoes: Classic British Film Music" Silva America SSD 1011-"The Red Shoes Ballet" w/Philharmonia Orchestra-Kenneth Alwyn, conductor

Elinor Armer: composer & Ursula K. Le Guin: words-"Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts: Elinor Armer-Ursula K. Le Guin" Koch 3-7331-2 Y6x2-"The Seasons of Oling" w/Le Guin, narrator-Don Erlich, viola-Bonnie Hampton, cello-Lois Brandwynne,piano- David Dieni, percussion

Sir Arthur Bliss-"Bliss-Miracle in the Gorbals" Naxos 8.553698-"Miracle in the Gorbals" (ballet):excerpts w/ Queensland Symphony Orchestra-Christopher Lyndon-Gee, conductor

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 5th May 2013

Rupert Holmes: music & lyrics-"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (original Broadway cast) Verve/Decca B0017483-02-excerpts w/ Patti Cohenour, Jana Schneider, Judy Kuhn, Donna Murphy, Betty Buckley, Joe Grifasi, John Herrera, Howard McGillan, Cleo Laine-Michael Starobin, music director 

Benj Pasek & Justin Paul: music & lyrics-"A Christmas Story-The Musical" (2010/11 studio cast) Masterworks Broadway 88725 45981 2-excerpts w/ John Bolton, Clarke Hallum, Dan Lauria, Liz Callaway, Matthew Lewis-Ian Eisendrath, music director

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Theatre review: "Without Ruth" at Off the Wall Productions

Off the Wall Productions is now less far off the Pittsburgh grid than it was in Washington Pa. And this proximity has become really welcome. As its first season ends in Carnegie, Off the Wall is getting an ever-increasing audience with many seats filled with enthusiastic supporters. Such thriving benefits us all. Also the company gives us another close chance to witness excellent performances by local actors, as if Off The Wall is developing something like a repertory company.

Off The Wall still takes chances with the kind of plays for which it has been known, most often those of limited fame, frequently dark or quirky, another reason to gravitate there, out of the mainstream in content as well as geographically.

The current offering seems characteristic, a new play titled Without Ruth by company co-founder Virginia Wall Gruenert. It’s about mothers dying and how their daughters try to deal with that, something you’d least expect especially now around Mother’s Day. But don’t expect somber sorrow, wailing and unceasing grief. Witness a dynamic, versatile and sassy performance by Linda Haston as Ruth, one of the mothers. Haston owns the stage, charming you at every turn, singing with soul, even capably knocking out some tap dancing footwork. And Gruenert and Haston’s characterization fits the subject. Ruth has always dominated the life of her actress daughter Linda who, in this case, Haston likewise expertly portrays.  
The story line stays simple, matching the deliberately short length of about an hour and a half. But the play itself doesn’t go very far with its subject. Gruenert has not made this a reflection on death nor on the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. She mostly shows the two daughters struggling with their feelings not by what they say and think and more by what they do. And she misses the chance to have those two daughters bond and share their feelings. There is a potential here to emotionally connect us to the realization that mothers are just as human as their children and to come to terms with that in acceptance and love.

Ruth is nearing the end of life; Linda wants her own to be more her own. Linda seeks help and advice from Norah, a case worker in a social services agency dealing with aging. As it turns out, Norah’s mother has terminal cancer and wants help to kill herself. This parallel sticks to the subject but feels forced.  We never see Norah’s mother and learn nothing about her other than about her condition, a major contrast to how much we see and learn about Ruth, as if Gruenert is trying to cost-control the staging and production, by limiting the roles and the complexities of more extensive development. This turns out mostly to be a character study. That character is Ruth.
Haston’s performance as Ruth remains full of vitality and dimension, the certain virtue to this experience,underscoring Gruenert’s major thrust. Adrienne Wehr portrays Norah, bringing a lot of emotional dimension to an insufficiently-defined character. And Diana Ifft capably appears as two more people. 

Director F.J. Hartland keeps most of this definitively moving well, although having saxophonist/clarinetist Rob Stull’s on-stage-playing too often reflective, out of keeping with the fact that that every time Ruth appears the play comes across as life-affirming.  
Certainly Gruenert admirably calls for celebration rather than mourning, a good choice; death is inevitable no matter what we do or say in the finite time we’re given to love one another.

Without Ruth continues through May 18th at Off The Wall Theater, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA. Tickets and info: Showclix: 1-888-71-TICKETS(1-888 718 4253)  or at Off the Wall: 724/ 873-3576


Monday, April 29, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 28th April 2013

Duke Ellington's music, orchestra and piano. He was born April 29th 1899.
Some of the music was written with or by Homewood's Billy Strayhorn ("BS")

"At His Very Best-Duke Ellington and His Orchestra" RCA LP LPM 1715-"Creole Love Call' w/Adelaide Hall, voc.-Bubber Miley, tp-Rudy Jackson, cl

"Early Ellington-Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra" Brunswick LP BL 54007-"Mood Indigo" w/ Barney Bigard, cl-Arthur Whetsel, tp

The Ellington Era 1927-1940-Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra-Volume One” Columbia LP C3L 27-“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’/”The Gal from Joe’s” w/Johnny Hodges, as-Harry Carney, bs-Lawrence Brown,tb-Bigard

"Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band" RCA/Bluebird 5659-2RB-"Congo Brava" /"Five O'Clock Whistle"/"Warm Valley"/"Bakiff"/"Chelsea Bridge" (BS)w/ Juan Tizol, tb-Bigard- Hodges-Ben Webster,ts-Carney- Rex Stewart, tp- -Ivy Anderson, voc-Ray Nance, vn.-Billy Strayhorn,p

"Happy Birthday, Duke-The Birthday Sessions-Vol 3" LaserLight 15 785-"She Moved" w/Jimmy Grissom, voc.-Ray Nance,tp-Quentin Jackson,tb-Jimmy Hamilton, ts

"Duke Ellington Presents..." Bethlehem 20-30202-"Frustration" w/Harry Carney, bs

"Duke Ellington-Happy Reunion" Doctor Jazz LP FW 40030-"Play The Blues and Go" w/Clark Terry, tp-Hamilton-Hodges-John Sanders, tb-Sam Woodyard, dms

"Duke Ellington-The Great Paris Concert" Atlantic LP 2-304-"Suite Thursday:Zweet Zursday/Lay-By" (w/BS) w/Nance, vn-Brown-Paul Gonsalves,ts-Hamilton

"Duke Ellington and His Orchestra-Berlin '65-Paris '67" Pablo PACD 5304-2-"Blood Count" (BS) w/Hodges

"Duke Ellington-The Pianist" Fantasy OJCCD =717-2 (F 9462)-"The Shepherd (take 2)" w/John Lamb, bs

"The Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington Cote D'Azur Concerts on Verve" -"La Plus Belle Africaine" w/Lamb- Carney- Hamilton-Rufus Jones, dms

"Duke Ellington's Far East Suite" BMG Heritage/Bluebird 82876-55614-2-"Agra'/"Amad" (w/BS) w/ Carney-Brown

"Duke Ellington-New Orleans Suite" Atlantic LP SD 1580 -"Blues for New Orleans" w/Hodges-"Wild" Bill Davis, org

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 28th April 2013

 Charles Strouse: music & Lee Adams: lyrics-"It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's Superman" (original Broadway cast) Sony Broadway SK 48207-excerpts w/ Bob Holiday, Jack Cassidy, Patricia Marand, Linda Lavin, Michael O'Sullivan, Don Chastain-Harold Hastings, music director

Johnny Mercer: lyrics & Gene De Paul: music -"L'il Abner" (original Broadway cast) Columbia LP OL 5150-excerpts w/Peter Palmer, Marc Breaux, Ralph Linn, Jack Matthew, Robert McClure, George Reeder, Stubby Kaye, Edith Adams, Stanley Simmonds-Lehman Engel, music director

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Theatre review: "Romeo and Juliet" at CMU

Carnegie Mellon school of Drama is presenting a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as conceived by director Don Wadsworth. In performances full of youthful vitality and sincerity, his student cast thoroughly brings out the essence of the story although not giving enough attention to the beauty and eloquence of the language.

There is no question that the violent and ugly family feuds breaking the peace in long-ago Verona parallel today’s urban street life, as excellently delineated in program notes by CMU dramaturg Isabel Smith-Bernstein and emphasized by Calvin Johnson’s very effective stage projections of graffiti- covered walls and grim buildings. Nor is this the first time for such an analogy, most famously personified in Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents in West Side Story.  Wadsworth makes all that convincingly clear and his staging has the young people moving with as much energy and life as those choreographed to Leonard Bernstein’s music.

The famed balcony scene comes across superbly; each nuance of the young people’s feelings as much manifested in how they speak as it is in how they move. Adam Hagenbuch’s Romeo is full of innocence and bursting wonder which his body cannot contain by ever keeping still. Meanwhile, within the confines of her balcony, Grace Rao’s Juliet paces with equal delight and expressive joy. For me this was the highlight of the experience, its effect overshadowing every moment before and after.  However the delivery of other wonderful words throughout the play often gets trammeled in the intensity, even if the intensity stays believable and the characters remain convincing.  

Elsewhere Rao’s performance stays sweet and sincere, getting much meaning from the feelings behind the words. But Hagenbuch, always physically expressive, delivers most other speeches awkwardly, as if what he says does not come naturally.

Sairus Graham-Thille and Lachlan McKinney as Juliet’s father and Friar Laurence have believable vitality and a good sense of the characters, while Dylan Schwartz-Wallach gives much earnest integrity to the role of Benvolio.   

Wadsworth has done some trimming and transposition of the text, for example cutting most of Friar Laurence’s foreshadowing speech about poisonous plants, or overlapping two separate later scenes or having the prologue serve as an epilogue. None of this does any harm.

He has come up with a visually, physically very alive production. But his student cast has not been given enough chance to discover and reveal the richness of the language which is as much a significant part of this play as the story.    

Romeo and Juliet continues through May 4th at Philip Chosky Theater, Purnell Center for the Arts, on the CMU campus, Oakland.  412/268-2407.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Theatre review: "Clybourne Park" at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Knowing that Bruce Norris’s play Clybourne Park won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award could be an impediment to appreciating the current production at Pittsburgh Public Theater. You might  expect a masterpiece, instead of just admiring a very well-conceived and well-constructed script with more promise than it delivers. Therein lies the problem of advance knowledge along with an anticipatory idea of the intention. Nonetheless, a superior cast of visiting actors makes it all work superbly, with one of them giving an outstanding performance. Credit too director Pamela Berlin for melding everyone into a wonderfully coordinated ensemble, quite an accomplishment. 

Norris has created what some critics have described as a satire. It spins off from Lorraine Hansberry’s true masterpiece A Raisin In The Sun with a second act sequel. Clearly in both acts the core issue is racism and that is explored from a variety of angles but stays more diffused than intensely focused, dealing with people bewildered by such a subject, mentally and emotionally meandering into and out of marginal and sometimes significant thoughts and ideas. Such people certainly are believable. Therein lies Norris’ talent. Most of the time is spent on the characters’ human, often very funny foibles. That makes for many entertaining moments while, at the same time, keeping us outside their self-disguised deepest feelings.  
Hansberry wrote about the black Younger family’s highly emotional struggle and decision to move into a house in an all-white 1950s Chicago neighborhood, Clybourne Park. The neighborhood association sends Karl Lindner to try to buy them out. Norris looks at that from the perspective of white neighborhood people not seen in A Raisin In the Sun with only one character from that, Karl, as the fulcrum. This story begins by hovering over the sometimes buried story of why the house owners, Russ and Bev, want to leave their home. Karl tries to talk them out of it while Russ and Bev’s black housemaid, Francine and her husband Albert, get accidentally trapped in the discussion.

The second act takes place 50 years later when a white couple wants to buy the property and replace the house in an area which became all-black. To do so, that couple must negotiate with the neighborhood association which includes Lena, a relative of the long-since-gone Younger family.

All too human chatter and gab in the first act merge with stereotypical racist generalizations, which skitter on the surface while causing little harm. There is anger there, Russ’s, but it is directed at his neighbors given the pain he feels about the tragedy which took place in his house. In the second act, amid more diffused conversation, Lena tries to make an emotional case for honoring the good things that happened once the Youngers moved in and for not obliterating  the legacy.  

Clearly, from what I’ve said, these people cannot or choose not to dwell intently and thoroughly on racism. In fact, in the second act, they degenerate into telling crude racist jokes rather than getting involved in deep arguments. Hence the satire.

Thus Norris comments, making them not very likeable, as if we are meant to judge them. If we relate to them, it would not be comfortably. Norris has also come up with a lot of inventive parallel details in the 50-years later act which add to a sense of craftsmanship and a sense of intelligent design. As if these were real humans lost in a garden of Eden, not seeing the forest, only the trees. Intellectually such invention has much virtue.

Brad Bellamy gives a remarkably well-developed and especially distinctive sense of Russ’ disabling emotional pain. And, in the second act, he makes equally memorable the role of handyman Dan who accidentally uncovers Russ’ secrets. As the seemingly jovial and well-meaning Karl, Tim McGeever convincingly stays full of that man’s headstrong and blatant ignorance. I was also impressed by Bjorn DuPaty as Francine’s husband Albert with his thorough yet subtle sense of quiet dignity and careful deference to the dominant white folks.     

Scenic designer Michael Schweikardt perfectly conveys the sense of these two homes in transition. The second act’s set, no doubt conceived by Norris, makes its own special comment, as if confirming belief that such a property inevitably would deteriorate when inhabited by black people.     

Norris has given us a lot to ponder. Cumulatively you can come away admiring his perception and skill.That’s what makes this play so good. And the performances maximize its virtues. I wanted more. To be moved. To feel the pain and shame of the racism that still darkens our lives. Those dimensions lurk beneath the ground in Clybourne Park.   

Clybourne Park continues through May 19th at Pittsburgh Public Theater’s O’Reilly Theater. 621 Penn Ave, downtown. 412/ 316-1600  and







Monday, April 22, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 21st April 2013

"Lou Harrison-Scenes from Cavafy" New World Records 80710-2-"Scenes from Cavafy”: “Gending Ptolemy" w/ John Duykers, singer-Gamelan Pacifica Chorus-Gamelan Pacifica-Jarrad Powell, director

"James Hartway:Imaginary Creatures/Scenes from a Marriage" Naxos 8.559346-"Images of Mogador": "Trance Music; From the Minaret" w/The Woodland Trio:Jeffrey Zook, flute-Caroline Coade, viola-Kerstin Allvin, harp

"David Gompper: Violin Concerto" Naxos 8.559637-"Ikon" w/Wolfgang David, violin-Royal Philharmonic Orchestra-Emmanuel Siffert, conductor

"Anthony Piccolo-Imaginary Symphony and other tales" Navona NV 5904-"Imaginary Symphony": "Lady Bug's Rain Song," "Dream"w/Campanella Children’s Chorus- Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra-Petr Vronsky, conductor

David Gillingham-"Mccormick Percussion Group-Concerti for Piano with Percussion Orchestra" Ravello RR7862-Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra w/Ji Hyun Kim, piano-Mccormick Percussion Group-Robert Mccormick, conductor

"Ben Johnston-String Quartets Nos. 1,5 & 10" New World Records 80693-2-String Quartet No. 10 w/ Kepler Quartet

"Arthur Levering-Still Raining, Still Dreaming" New World Records 80662-2-same w/Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble-Scott Wheeler, conductor

"Jonathan Leshnoff: Chamber Music" Naxos 8.559721-String Quartet No. 2 "Edelman": 3rd movement w/Carpe Diem String Quartet

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 21st April 2013

Judd Woldin: music & Robert Brittan: lyrics-"Raisin" (original Broadway cast) Sony Broadway SK 32754-excerpts w/Ernestine Jackson, Virginia Capers, Elaine Beener, Walter P, Brown, Ted Ross, Joe Morton, Deborah Allen--Howard A. Roberts, music director

John Jiler: lyrics & Ray Leslee: music-"Avenue X" (1997 studio cast) RCA Victor 09026 63208-2-excerpts w/ Chuck Cooper, Jerry Dixon, Jerry Tellier, Wayne Pretlow, Cheryl Alexander-Jerry Dixon, music director

Monday, April 15, 2013

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 14th April 2013

 Cole Porter: music & lyrics
"Fifty Million Frenchmen" (1991 studio cast) New World Records- 80417-2-excerpts w/Howard McGillin, Susan Powell, Jason Graae, Scott Waara, Kim Criswell, Karen Ziemba, Kay McClelland-Orchestra New England -Evans Haile, conductor

"Silk Stockings" (original Broadway cast) RCA 1102-2-RG -excerpts w/ Don Ameche, Hildegard Neff, Henry Lascoe, Leon Belasco, David Opatoshu-Herbert Greene, music director

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 14th April 2013

 Sergei Prokofiev-"The Soviet Experience-Vol II -Pacifica Quartet" Cedille CDR 90000 130-String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op 92 w/Pacifica Quartet

Sergei Prokofiev-"Bach-Bartok-Chopin-Ginastera- Prokofiev-Scarlatti-Argerich" EMI 7243 5 56975 2 3-Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat, op. 83 w/Martha Argerich, piano

Dmitri Kabalevsky-"Yo-Yo Ma-Shostakovich & Kabalevsky” CBS Masterworks MK 37840 -Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 49 in g minor-w/Yo-Yo Ma, cello-The Philadelphia Orchestra-Eugene Ormandy, conductor

Nicolai Miaskovsky-"The Soviet Experience Vol. 1-Pacifica Quartet" Cedille CDR 90000 127-String Quartet No. 13 in a minor, op.86 w/Pacifica Quartet

Aram Khachaturian-"Khachaturian-Gayne-Loris Tjeknavorian-National Philharmonic Orchestra" RCA 82876-65836-2-"The Gayne Ballet" excerpts w/ National Philharmonic Orchestra- Tjeknavorian, conductor

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Theatre review: "Our Class" from Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre-Sunday, 14th April 2013

Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre has begun its new season with a play that’s neither Irish nor classic, although Our Class by Polish writer Tadeusz Slobodzianek has been earning a solid reputation since it came to light in 2009.

This adaptation by English writer Ryan Craig needs serious trimming, despite the admiration the script has been accruing. Repetitions of themes and dialogue abound in the second act as trivial narrative details keep coming.

No doubt audiences and critics are deeply disturbed by the subject of the play and how it is presented. Moreover Slobodzianek has created many powerful scenes, the later ones rich in irony. He has come up with a compelling and imaginative way to present the story.

Irish director Aoife Spillane-Hinks has invented visually vivid ways to enhance the concept aided by scenic and lighting designers Gianni Downs and Jim French. And this becomes even more richly compelling to watch due to evocative body gestures and poses created by Pittsburgh movement artist Mark Conway Thompson. Several of the young actors give excellent performances. But Spillane-Hinks needs to work more with her cast on how to deliver their dialogue, especially in the increasingly sluggish second act where many actors plow through their lines as if unaware of the essential meaning of their words, obscuring emphases in mundane delivery.

It may be that such interpretations intend to evoke the sense of Hannah Arendt’s phrase “the banality of evil.” Much of what the characters say and how they say it comes across as straightforward narrative, often blandly stated rather than colored by deep emotion. They do erupt with fierce anger but other emotions, such as sorrow and grief, rarely break through the surface. And much sorrow and grief lies within this story. Moreover that impact is diffused and lost during the concluding scenes.

Slobodzianek has written about the massacre of 1600 Jews in the German-occupied Polish town of Jedwabne during World War II. Recent research attributes the slaughter to the local people, most already inherently anti-Semitic The story follows 10 classmates from their mid-teens in 1926 all the way through their deaths in a variety of ways and places up to 2003. Five of these people are Jewish.

Collectively and individually they tell of what happened over the years, but the focus, of course, is on the massacre and how the victims and killers behaved. Most of this is staged symbolically rather than graphically, Even so, the detailed verbal descriptions of the brutality remain strongly disturbing.

Slobodzianek’s emphasis seems most to be on what was done but the evil people do not say much if anything to justify their actions, as if anti-Semitism were enough. This tends to put the audience outside what happens and not to connect with the victims and their classmates. This looks like an attempt to emulate Bertolt Brecht, given the interjection of many songs, the use of underscored music and the non-realistic settings and staging. That would make sense, as does a script where everything becomes increasingly distancing. Certainly the guilty ones and the survivors have chosen such distance as a way to deal with the past. You could intellectually see that point. But we are let off from identifying ourselves with people such as they.

The 10 member cast works exceptionally well as an ensemble, especially when portraying rambunctious children. Visiting actor Rafael Goldstein stands out most with passion, depth and personality as Abram, the only member of the class who leaves Poland before the massacre and returns to find the aftermath and to try to understand what happened in his absence. Also Pittsburgh actor Justin Fortunato leaves a strong impression as the seemingly colorless but actually smarmy Henick, a man who chooses to become a priest not as a mission but as a career.

As always, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre admirably provides extensive and illuminating reading in its program book, so you will find much to understand about what happened in that tragic time and before, anti-Semitism never dying.

As for the play, we get to hear and learn much, but comprehending how and why it could happen is harder. Perhaps Slobodzianek does not intend to give us insight, rather asking us to bear witness. But when he or someone else like Brecht pushes us away, is thinking about the issues enough? Are we supposed to stay removed from such horrors and, like survivor Marianna, sit in silence before the incessant images of violence on television sipping tea and clutching cookies?

Our Class presented by Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre continues through May 4th at Henry Heymann Theater-Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland .412-561-6000 -