Tag Archives: Classical music

keys to a classy recital: a how-to from bari Andy Stuckey

Baritone Andy Stuckey's April 28 recital at Share Hall

A rigorous solo recital may have been a requirement for his doctoral degree in musical arts from Rutgers University, but baritone W. Andrew “Andy” Stuckey transformed an academic expectation into a labor of love for him and (especially) for the audience.     

It was a stunning evening of vocally challenging music which showcased Mr. Stuckey’s  facility in a range of pieces, including perfectly appointed selections from rare baroque arias to quirky contemporary tunes, all masterfully sung.     

First, Mr. Stuckey has a powerful voice and exceptional control, soundly tested in a Veracini piece, “Se main piagato la morte,”  replete with run after run. The other pieces of early music presented included “Ah! Si vien Morte” from Nicola Porpora  and “Pensa a chi geme d’amor piagata” by George Frederic Handel.     

Joining Mr. Stuckey for the Baroque portion of the program were  Andrew Kirkman, violin;  Mira Kang, cello; and Allison Brewster Franzetti, harpsichord–all accomplished musicians. Then the stage was reset and Mr. Stuckey was accompanied by Ms. Franzetti on piano for the balance of the program.     

My favorite pieces were the Brahms selections, “Vier ernste Gesänge,” which were ideally suited to his range, his velvety rich baritone, and the intensity he projects in performance. (Mr. Stuckey talks at length about the Brahms’ selections later in this post.) He concluded the program with two of Paul Verlaine‘s poems set to music by Stravinsky and three of E.A. Robinson’s poems set to music by J. Duke. I hadn’t heard the poem “Richard Cory” for decades–literally.  Duke’s selections dripped with irony, as startling as the first time I heard them recited–expertly interpreted and sung by Mr. Stuckey. The encore, which Mr. Stuckey called a potboiler, was the perfect ending to a first-rate program.     

Andy Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.

Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.


Besides being a polished performance, the entire program was such a well conceived event that I was full of questions for Mr. Stuckey, which he gamely answered below.     

How did you select the program (who selected the program)?
It was a collaboration between me and my teacher at Rutgers, Professor Eduardo Chama.  In my career, I have found that the opportunities to sing recitals are few and far between so I am delighted to do the recital as part of the Doctoral degree requirement.     

I consider the Brahms “Four Serious Songs” to be a milestone set for my voice type.  They are at the absolute height of song repertoire and are challenging in every way.  In these songs the range is broad both tonally and emotionally, the subject is complex and deep, and the intensity required is breathtaking.  The challenge of performing music like this is what I relish about being a singer.  It is an honor to perform them.  The Stravinsky are interesting as they are a somewhat unique representation of his style.  They also happen to be orchestrated which will hopefully make them useful to me in future orchestral engagements.  The trio of John Duke vignettes are pieces that I’ve wanted to perform for quite some time.  I find the poetry fascinating and effective and the music quite illustrative. They are simply fun!  The Baroque arias were added in part, to fulfill the chamber music requirement of the degree.  I had performed them at Rutgers in concert with the original instrument group Musica Raritana.  In fact the violinist in my recital, Dr. Andrew Kirkman, is the conductor of that group. The trio of arias represent a sort of picture of the London opera scene in 1735.  It happened that one of Handel’s singers, Signor Montagnano had “defected” from Handel’s theater to a rival.     

Is it customary for the recitalist to translate what he is singing?
Generally, it is considered an important courtesy to provide the audience with a translation of the works in the recital.  A recital is SO much about the setting of poetry and prose to music that it really enhances the experience if all who are there understand the text.  Because the meaning is paramount, translation is a necessary part of the process for any recitalist.     

How long did you rehearse for this?
I started learning the repertoire last Fall and have been working like crazy ever since.  A recital is a HUGE undertaking.  Understand that the largest opera role, say Falstaff or Scarpia in my case, might be onstage for an hour.  However, the character would certainly not be singing the entire time.  In a recital of 50 minutes, it’s just the singer and a pianist. There is usually a more dense concentration of text and multiple styles which make the recital a hugely challenging art.     

What was the name of the encore piece?
 The encore was “And This Shall be for Music” by George Cory.     

Did you have a favorite piece that you performed?
The third Brahms song, “O Tod, wie bitter bist du”, is a song that has changed my view of life.     

You sang the Brahms beautifully. Do you agree with NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini who named Brahms to his top ten classical composers list?
Thank you!  Interesting list.  My initial impression of the list is that it is well done.  I might have included Monteverdi rather than Brahms but I see why Brahms was included.  Brahms is easy to overlook because to our ears it is an awful lot of pretty.  There is no doubt that he was one of the great composers of Western Classical Music though so I wouldn’t quibble too much.     

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You can follow Andrew Stuckey on Twitter @wastuckey or friend him on Facebook. He was also featured during Baritone Month earlier this year on this blog.

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Filed under Performers, Recitals, Reviews

meet Adam Richter aka the “Classical Vinylist”

Writer and classical enthusiast Adam Richter

“Cheap thrills for lovers of lost classical music.” That’s Adam Richter’s self-styled description of his music blog called “Classical Vinylist.” I thought it would be fun for “Operatoonity” readers to meet Adam, a fellow blogger with a supremely noble purpose: to share my discoveries of classical music that you can find if you have a little cash, a little ingenuity, and a record player.

I thought you might also enjoy his slightly warped sense of humor, evident in the context he provides for his posts such as reminding us Shostakovitch might be a tad gloomy because his Symphony No. 8 was written during World War II in the middle of the Stalin regime.

When did you start your blog, “Classical Vinylist” and why?
I started it in January of this year. I thought it would be fun to see what’s available in the realm of inexpensive music that might appeal to people who still like to listen to records. (I’m one of those people; I recognize I’m in a minority but figure I can’t be the only one.)

The reason I decided to write about classical music in particular is two-fold: First, I know nothing about it so my odds of writing about classical music in a stuffy and pretentious way are nil. But it’s a genre that is more accessible and fun than people give it credit for. Second, the odds of finding $1 albums worth listening to are greater with classical music than with any other genre. I write about rock and independent music for my day job at The Express-Times (lehighvalleylive.com), but no good rock album costs a buck. Anything that can be had that cheaply is garbage. But with classical albums, you can find some quality recordings.

What were your early musical influences?
In classical, the first works I remember that I really liked were Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I don’t play music, so I don’t look on musicians and composers as people who influence me; just people I like to listen to. For a long time I listened to a John Williams box set that had some great classical guitar. As far as works for solo pieces go, the guitar is my favorite.

What do you hope to accomplish with this blog?
I originally thought this blog would get me riches, fame, and a solid gold yacht. But my goals have since changed. I mainly hope to turn people on to some otherwise obscure recordings and do so in a way that, hopefully, gets people interested in classical music. I will know I’ve made it when Jon Stewart interviews me on “The Daily Show.”

Tell me about your career in journalism/music journalism?
I started writing professionally when I lived in Seattle in the late 1990s, first as a freelancer, then as the editor of a neighborhood weekly. When I moved to Pennsylvania I took a job at The Express-Times and decided, since no one else was doing it, that I should write a music column. My editors agreed and I’ve now been writing about music, doing reviews, profiles and enterprise pieces, for about five years. 

What is the center of the classical universe, in your opinion?
Well, definitely NOT my record shelf. I don’t think I’m enough of an expert in the genre to say where classical’s geographic center is. Having said that, I also don’t think it HAS a center. I think anywhere people can access classical music, preferably live, is good. Reading, Pa., where I grew up, for instance, has a fantastic symphony orchestra, even though it’s a city of fewer than 100,000 people. Places like Lincoln Center are fantastic, I presume, but most people can’t get there for a show. So I think the center is wherever you can get to it. 

How has technology/Internet impacted the universe of classical music lovers?
I think it has helped, in many ways. First of all, through the Internet people can access recordings of classical music that may not have been so readily available. Generally, I’m not a fan of mp3s because of the sound quality compression, but, done right, they still sound good. (Of course, I still prefer the sound of vinyl recordings to CDs, so I’m a Luddite in my own way.) One way technology has helped immensely is with the “Met in HD” opera series, where the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts its performances to movie theaters and symphony halls around the country. I know nothing beats seeing it live, but at least now people can settle for the next-best thing.

The biggest worry that I have when writing about classical music is making sure I don’t fall into the trap of using music jargon. “The Classical Vinylist” isn’t a professional review site, but a place where I hope to convey my enthusiasm for music and get others interested in what I’m able to find.

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If you prefer vinyl to CDs and like classical music finds, you’ll want to bookmark Classical Vinylist. Adam’s also Tweeting @cheapclassical.

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Filed under Classical Music, Interviews

Sunday roundup . . . good reads around the operasphere

 It’s time for a look around the blogosphere for some of my favorite, newly-minted posts relating to the world of classical music:

  • Adam Richter at “Classical Vinylist” offers a perfect selection for October listening at his post, “In search of good autumn classical.” 
  • Bachtrack, the world’s best source for finding live classical music, offers a lovely tribute to Joan Sutherland with a list of available recordings which remain “the benchmark by which others are judged.”
  • OperaPulse has a handy list of best operas for n00bs with a few surprises. (I would have thought La Bohème to be the hands-down winner).
  • Roberto Romani, aka OperaRat, has an interesting framework for categorizing classic opera as concert or story, that asks the essential question “Are you a drama queen?” Yes, Roberto, I certainly am.
  • Sestissimo offers a thoughtful examination about why she and other performers sing (or Choose Not To)  at Trying to Remain Opera-rational. I found this line from her post particularly moving: “When all you have are dreams, everything seems possible, and when all you have are experiences, everything seems both possible and impossible at the same time,” perhaps because it resonated deeply with me.


Filed under Classic Opera, News Roundup