When the COVID-19 pandemic spurred one project and thwarted another, notices of them now surfacing came to light within days of each other in our newly minted 2023.
Greg Ortwein’s much anticipated Jazz album is a sterling example of why new works of art are worth a long wait. And then there’s another kind of patience, the delayed complete Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violin, in person with pianist Kate Boyd and violinist Justine Cormack.
“I’ve been thinking about doing my own set of albums for years,” explained Ortwein, “but I’m always very busy playing full time in an orchestra, teaching at a university, doing lots of recording for other people and playing live concerts and shows. During the pandemic, I finally planned two albums and recorded them within the last year – one jazz and the other classically based music.”
“Dear Friends,” started out the January 9, 2023, email from Kate Boyd, “New Zealand Violinist Justine Cormack and I will be playing the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violin over the next eight days. This was a deferred project from 2020 when we had to cancel due to the pandemic. Originally planned for performances in 2020 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, Boyd and Cormack performed the cycle in February 2020 in New Zealand, expecting to perform the cycle at Butler University in November that year. Unfortunately, the spread of COVID around the world delayed those plans, cites the news release from Butler.
“It has been so much fun to work on these pieces,” enthused Boyd in her email, “and we can’t wait to share them with you…to celebrate Beethoven’s 253rd birthday!”
Ortwein’s album, “It Was Time,” on the other hand, invites us to celebrate death and the resultant uplifting memory of a person much loved.
“The title track “It Was Time” has a double meaning and is dedicated to my Mom, who passed away a couple of years ago,” shared Ortwein. “I wrote the melody when she passed away, and it was definitely her “Time” to go. Also, it was way over time for me to do my own album projects. One of my favorite jazz artists in Indiana is the amazing jazz clarinetist Frank Glover. I have done several recording projects with him over the years, and I always love his harmonic sense in his playing and compositions, so I asked him to take my melody and do the arrangement for the album. On the cut, Frank is playing keys, my son, Olas Ortwein, is on Fretless Bass, and former Joe Henderson drummer, Francis Wyatt, is on drums.
The sweeping, ethereal opening of the album starts me on a path from a clear-sky mountaintop to a tumultuous river careening through a narrow riverbed. Across eleven tracks, I’m experiencing every kind of landscape, and my body is moving to the verve of finely delineated instrumentation.
“I wrote “Pepperoni Grande con Queso Mas” a number of years ago when I was in the US Air Force Band,” offers Ortwein, “and have arranged it for different configurations over the years. I played Latin gigs with the Dominican pianist Pavel and knew this tune would really come to life recording it with him. Pavel was playing piano and laid down the Congas and CowBell tracks. I’m playing Electrified Bassoon and Bari Sax on this one with Olas Ortwein on Bass and the drummer in Pavel’s band, Matt McGraw laying down the rhythm.
“I’ve always loved the tune “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (was most famously recorded by Bonnie Raitt). One of my friends, Josh Kaufman, sang it on NBC’s The Voice and happened to win that season. I arranged a woodwind opening and then worked with Paul Langford to arrange the song with Paul on piano and me playing Alto Sax,” continues Ortwein. Peter Langford is on piano, and Peter Hanson is on bass with Craig Hetrick on drums.
“I’ve been playing the old song “After You’ve Gone” on duo gigs with guitarist John Fell for a few years and decided to do an updated version for the album. I added one of my best friends on trumpet – Kenny Rampton plays in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and he is also the trumpet player for the TV show Sesame Street. We hear Hansen on bass and Hetrick on drums.
“Basso Bossa” was written by bassist Peter Hansen and is a very lively bossa with plenty of solo space for Alto, Guitar, and Drums,” cites Ortwein. Hetrick takes on the drums.
The opening of track six made me catch my breath. I had to lean in. “I wrote “No More Butterflies” after coming back from a tour in Poland where I visited Auschwitz,” offered Ortwein. It is a Baritone Sax feature with a flute countermelody. John Fell is on guitar, Olas Ortwein on bass, and Carrington Clinton on drums.
I have been doing Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” on jazz gigs for a few years in a funk style and, for the recording, chose to play the melody and solo on Bassoon with Tenor Sax being the countermelody. Fell, Olas Ortwein, and Clinton again fill in the breadth.
“Lunar Love,” I wrote for my lovely new wife, Carrie,” offers Ortwein. “It is a sexy, evocative piece that really gives the soloists a lot of freedom during the solo sections, including Gary Walter’s luxurious piano, Hansen on bass, Hetrick on drums, and John is Crabiel on percussion.
“I asked Guitarist John Fell to write a tune for the album, and he brought in the challenging “I Might Be Happy” to record. I chose to trade solos with myself on Tenor Sax and Bassoon, and John plays a great Guitar solo. Assisting are Olas Ortwein on bass and Clinton on drums.
The scene suddenly changed. “I wrote “Schizoid” at the piano waiting for a university saxophone student who hadn’t been showing up for lessons and wasn’t quite “right,” explained Ortwein.”The opening part has a New Orleans feel (where I lived for a couple of years), and the solo section goes into a cool jazz “Take Five” vibe.” It falls to Fell on guitar, Hansen on bass, and Hetrick on drums to keep this piece centered.
And then I needed to know more about the total heart-thumping final track.
“During the pandemic, Kenny Rampton saw some videos of music my son[Olas] had written and had performed all the parts. Kenny was so impressed he said Olas should write some music that he and I could record with him. Olas wrote “Bigfoot” and had me record an Electric Bassoon solo with Tenor and Bari Sax parts, and Kenny plays a great trumpet plunger solo! Bigfoot is a funk tune that goes pretty “heavy” at the end, so I asked one of Indianapolis’ best metal-ish drummers, Johnny Concannon, to record the drums to close out the album with a bang!”
‘With a bang!” indeed. My walls were reverberating.
All tracks are mixed and mastered by Jeremy Radway. The cd cover art is by Catherine Ortwein.
The CD is currently available at: [email protected] or online on Spotify, iTunes [etc.]
Details for FREE Live at Butler University, with Online access through February 10, 2023:
Duckwall Artist Series: Kate Boyd, piano, and Justine Cormack, violin:
The Complete Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano performed in three concerts
Jan 10, 7:30 pm: Sonatas 1, 2, 3 – Butler University Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall (Event Link)
Jan 15, 5:00 pm: Sonatas 4, 5, 6, 7 – Butler University Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall (Event Link)
Jan 17, 7:30 pm: Sonatas 8, 9, 10 – Butler University Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall (Event Link)
Access the print program online here:
Also FREE: Jan 14, 6:30 pm: Sonatas 5 and 10 – Christ Church Cathedral (Event Link)
I listened to the first program online on January 10.
Sonata no. 1 in D major, Op. 12, no. 1, opens with a sense of urgency and oomph, compelling close listening to grasp unusual key relationships and dips into divergent tonalities. The violin is assuming leadership and presents a lyrical theme that the piano runs with. The second movement is more conventional for what audiences in 1797 expect with themes and variations, but then Beethoven breaks loose in the final movement as a playful rondo with a bit of roughhousing. Clearly, the piano and the violin are establishing themselves on equal terms, and when Boyd and Cormack delivered the closing flourish, I felt as if I was in the midst of kittens at play. Something about the relationship between these players sparked a sense of rumpus despite the supposed ‘on best behavior’ of that time.
Sonata no. 2 in A major, Op. 12, no. 2, starts without a definitive here I am—it’s cats flat down twitching their tails. Boyd and Cormack, Cormack and Boyd are signaling —as do cats; not much going on to see, but beware, lots going on if you’re paying attention. In seeming repose, there’s plenty of interplays, a bit of ‘I dare’ and ‘ dare you back.’ It’s alluding to something that transpired before that we have to imagine because we weren’t there when…It’s the finale when the flat down and twitching bounds into a high-spirited rondo, and I’m laughing at the rumpus. The players are into it. Forget the genteel 18th century.
And indeed, with Sonata no. 3 in E flat major, Op. 12, no. 3, we’re off toward the doorway of the 19th century. No. 3 feels like a recapitulation of what has been thrusting us into what will be. Carl Sandburg’s muscular poetry cloaked in the mist: “The fog comes. on little cat feet. It sits looking. over harbor and city. on silent haunches. and then moves on;” attitude, sound, motion, position, and intention rolling over us as we listen and watch. The piano leads with a cat’s show of power and majesty and most definitely innate grandeur. The violin is not to be left idling. It leads into an adagio…it is grand and grows grander with contrasting dynamics. A joyous finale is a teaser…wait for what’s coming.
Beethoven wrote these three sonatas when he was age 27, turning 28. A lot happened over the next five when Sonatas six through nine were composed. In 1812, when Sonata 10 was composed, he depicted a very, very changed world.
I have other events to attend on January 10, 15, and 17, so please, attend in person or sign up for the online entrance. I, too, will catch up online as possible.
More Beethoven is coming up on January 25 at The Hilbert Circle Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
The description reads A merging of musical giants. This Beethoven V. Coldplay pairs two composers to deal with universal and humanist themes in their music and ask the musical question: would Beethoven have found meaning in the music of Coldplay? That notion, perhaps odd-sounding at first, becomes much more compelling when considering the events surrounding Beethoven’s creation of the Eroica Symphony- an artist desperate to solidify his position as the reigning musical genius in Vienna, but yet still misunderstood and criticized, and a young man in his thirties faced with the reality that he would indeed soon be completely deaf. How, then, would Beethoven have reacted to the Coldplay lyrics ‘Nobody said it was easy?’ or ‘When you lose something you can’t replace…. could it be worse?’
Beethoven V. Coldplay transforms the Eroica into an oratorio, weaving the melodies and lyrics of Coldplay into the original Beethoven and pairing them together based on content and context. It is the alternate Eroica Beethoven may have created had he known the music of Coldplay at the time. Three vocalists join the full symphony, and conductor/composer Steve Hackman alternates between conducting the orchestra and playing the piano. Many of Coldplay’s most well-known songs are interpolated, including ‘Yellow’, ‘Viva La Vida’, ‘Clocks’, and ‘The Scientist’. Joining Hackman are Casey Breves, Malia Civetz, and Steve Epting
Ryan Hickey, aka DJ Helicon, will perform in the lobby pre-concert. Additionally, a local record shop, Indy CD & Vinyl, will be hosting a pop-up shop.
At the ISO, January 13 and 14, “Conductor Jacob Joyce leads dramatic works from the World War eras and welcomes back soprano Julia Bullock after her ISO debut in February 2020. Bullock’s resonant voice provides the perfect channel to explore Barber’s dreamy, nostalgic scene in Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Also featured is Britten’s celebration of the coastal seascapes of England and Nielsen’s raging Fourth Symphony, reminding listeners in his words that “music is life, and like it inextinguishable.” Tickets here: https://www.indianapolissymphony.org/event/nielsens-inextinguishable/
Join season 12 of “Books, Booze, and Brains” to delve into books about neuroscience, quantum worlds, motherhood, and more, and invites the news release.
“Envisioned as a book club for the scientifically curious, the monthly events take place at Ash & Elm Cider Company, 1301 E. Washington St., Indianapolis. Attendees discuss the selected title, and a local subject matter expert is invited to share insights and help guide the conversation. Books, Booze & Brains is an ongoing partnership with Central Indiana Science Outreach, March for Science Indianapolis, Indiana Sciences, Indianapolis Public Library, and Ash and Elm Cider Company.”
These events are free and open to the public. Food and drink will be available for purchase from Ash & Elm. The events will be live-streamed for accessibility here: https://www.facebook.com/ScienceMarchIND
January-May, 2023; 6:30-8:00 p.m., in person and live stream
January 31: The Martian by Andy Weir
February 28: Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll
March 28: The Man Who Wasn’t There by Anil Ananthaswamy
April 25: The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham
May 30: The Motherhood Complex by Melissa Hogenboom
CD cover art by Catherine Ortwein