Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s emotional program brings whoops of approval – Concert builds to wall of sound

By BETSY PRICE • The News Journal • October 2, 2010

Bet you can’t sleep through tonight’s Delaware Symphony Orchestra concert.

You might be lured into thinking you could by the opener, John Adams‘ “Tromba Lontana,” a lyrical four-minute piece, but by the time you get to Adams’ maniacal “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” you will know there’s no shortcut to the Land of Nod.

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker will then turn in a tour de force rendition of Samuel Barber’s “Concerto fo Piano and Orchestra, op. 38.” On Friday night, It brought whoops of approval — and the audience to its feet. They applauded so long and so loud that he returned to perform again. Continue reading

Samuel Barber: Toronto Symphony prepares sweet 100 party – American composer best known for his Adagio for Strings

The American composer Samuel Barber would have turned 100 this year, had he lived past 1981.

The American composer Samuel Barber would have turned100 this year, had he lived past 1981. Image

By John Terauds Entertainment Reporter

It’s been 72 years since the world first heard the Adagio for Strings by American composer Samuel Barber. The slow, melancholy piece immediately became a musical icon, much like the opening to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 or A Little Night Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

While the other two composers are cornerstones of the classical repertoire, much of Barber’s output is the purview of ardent fans, not the general public.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and music director Peter Oundjian are aiming to change that perception on Wednesday Oct. 6 and Thursday Oct. 7 at Roy Thomson Hall, in a program billed as The Best of Barber. It’s in honour of the composer’s 100th birthday, which falls this year (he died in 1981).

The big anniversary prompted Oundjian to invite two top soloists. Gil Shaham is tackling the gorgeously melodic Violin Concerto and Canada’s Jon Kimura Parker is playing the brash, angular Piano Concerto. Also on the bill is the Symphony No. 1, filled with lush, swelling string sounds and woodwind solos, and of course, the Adagio for Strings to open the program. Continue reading

Schoenfield’s Sonata is a work of its time

REVIEW | 07.24.10 | By James McQuillen | The Oregonian

Paul Schoenfield’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, co-commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest and given its Northwest premiere Friday night at Kaul Auditorium, is a work of its time. For one thing, Schoenfield delivered it to violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker via email in the form of a PDF file; like much of classical music itself, the legends of manuscripts delivered with the ink still wet just moments before a premiere may be a thing of the past.

More important, like the postmodern literature of David Markson that inspired the first movement (which borrowed the title of Markson’s novel Vanishing Point), it overflowed with fragmentary allusions. As Parker told the audience before taking to the keyboard, the duo asked Schoenfield about the one of the more overt of these, a quote from Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, and the composer replied with a long list of all the pieces he’d mined for material: another Beethoven concerto; works by Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, among others; and a variety of songs including “My Darling Clementine.” In Parker’s telling, the exchange recalled the familiar scene in the old Tennessee Tuxedo cartoons in which Tennessee and Chumley consult Mr. Whoopee, who then opens the door of his ridiculously overflowing closet to extract answers. Continue reading

Chamber Music Northwest ensembles revel in dynamic contrasts

REVIEW | 07.26.10 | By James Bash | Oregon Music News

With its concert on Friday evening (July 23) at Kaul Auditorium, Chamber Music Northwest placed an emphasis on pieces that explored the theme of dynamic contrasts. The program consisted of music by Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, and newcomer Paul Schoenfield. While Schoenfield’s work (co-commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest) was the wildest, all of the works revealed plenty of sonic variety, and all received superb performances. Continue reading

Intensity abounds in opening Sommerfest concert

REVIEW | 07.09.10 | By Rob Hubbard | St. Paul Pioneer Press

Just as the Viennese open the year with a bubbly concert full of waltzes and polkas from the Strauss family, so does the Minnesota Orchestra annually launch its summer celebration of Vienna’s music with a similar program. Usually, the more serious fare is saved until later in the festival, but — since the economy has squeezed Sommerfest down to 11 concerts — perhaps music director Andrew Litton decided to cut to the chase. Hence, the emotional storm clouds of Beethoven rolled in early at Friday’s opening concert.

And what welcome thunder it was. Jon Kimura Parker was the featured soloist for a performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto that rippled with intensity and was filled with interesting interpretive ideas. Sure, the waltzes and polkas were a pleasant diversion, but Parker’s performance served up some substance amid the sweetness. Continue reading

Works Made on the Wings of Inspiration

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, with Cho-Liang Lin on violin, Jon Kimura Parker on piano and William VerMeulen on French horn, performing in concert at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday afternoon.

REVIEW | 05.05.10 | By Vivien Schweitzer | The New York Times Deadlines, poverty and ambition have long been motivating factors for composers, as for many artists. But according to the program book for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s concert at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday afternoon, the featured works were not driven by prosaic concerns but composed “on wings of pure inspiration.”

Dvorak was inspired to write his Sonatina in G for Violin and Piano (Op. 100) after visiting Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota, where he is said to have scribbled a melody on his shirt cuff; he used it in the Larghetto. The work, which Dvorak composed for two of his children (aged 10 and 15), weaves echoes of folk tunes and black and American Indian songs into its four movements. The pianist Jon Kimura Parker and the violinist Cho-Liang Lin played it graciously and with considerable charm. Continue reading

Travel Diary – Iceland, Day Three

It’s concert day, which means first of all, our dress rehearsal. I still recall my utter embarrassment, at the age of 20, when I showed up at my dress rehearsal of the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony…dressed. I came to a 10am dress rehearsal in tails, because I assumed that’s what “dress rehearsal” meant. I guess it still means something, clothing-wise, if you’re an opera singer. But for an orchestra dress rehearsal, it’s just an expression. Nowadays I typically show up in baseball cap and shorts.

Continue reading

Travel Diary – Iceland, Day Two

Under Arrest? Or Getting in Shape?I have my first rehearsal with the Iceland Symphony today. It’s going to be a long one – 90 minutes on the first movement of the Brahms Concerto, a 20-minute break, and another 90 minutes on the remaining movements. In total it’s almost an hour longer than a typical American orchestra rehearsal. I notice with some relief that there is a fully automated and high-tech espresso machine in the musicians’ lounge.

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Travel Diary – Iceland, Day One

Now I understand why there was no need for a big plane. It’s barely 5 ½ hours from New York to Reykjavik. I was just starting to sleep for the overnight flight when the pilot announced we were landing. This may be the first time I have ever wished a flight was longer.

Green, rainy, volcanic, "Ice"-land

I’m headed from Keflavik airport into town, and wondering how Iceland got its name, and for that matter, how Greenland got its name. It’s as if when these countries were born, a nurse mistakenly switched their names in the nursery.

“Ice”-land manages to be green yet almost treeless.

White, mountainous "Green"-land

The ‘earth’ isn’t earthen at all; it’s all lava with low-lying verdant growth. In a well-worn patter the driver brags that NASA has tested its moon vehicles here, and it’s easy to believe.

Greenland, on the other hand, which you can hardly avoid flying over on any North American flight to Iceland, is whiter than a bleached polar bear. I’ve flown over Greenland often, and usually seen only an endless expanse of white. This time, my spectacular view of “Green”-land from the plane featured mountain peaks swimming in what appears to be mile-deep snow.

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Travel Diary – Iceland, pre-trip

I had first heard of Reykjavik as a 12-year-old chess enthusiast. As the host of the Fischer-Spassky Chess tournament, with its Cold War reverberations, it seemed impossibly remote. Since then, I’ve only been aware of the occasional musical connections to Iceland: two rather different performers, Ashkenazy and Björk, come to mind.

So an opportunity to visit Reykjavik and perform with the Iceland Symphony is irresistible. I love the unfamiliar. The repertoire is Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. But my first question after agreeing to the concert was, “How do I get there?” Continue reading


"Jon Kimura Parker...Has never performed as intimately and imaginatively in Portland as he did Sunday. Parker played like a one-man orchestra, calling forth different colors and textures as the music required."
-The Oregonian


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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