Monday, February 20, 2017

Final concert of Arvo Pärt Festival sounds the search for the eternal

Although the fast pace of modern life and technology has made many people addicted to anything short and shocking, there are still those who search for things that are slower and deeper. They stuffed Kaul Auditorium to the brim last Sunday (February 12) for the final concert of the Arvo Pärt Festival and were rewarded with superb performances by Cappella Romana and the Third Angle New Music Ensemble. The program, led by Alexander Lingas, featured music by Pärt, James MacMillan, and John Tavener that drew inspiration from ancient hymns. Even the secular piece by Thanos Mikroutsikos shared a meditative sentiment that fit naturally with the others. It is too bad that Kaul Auditorium does not have some reverberation. A little bit of reverb would have warmed up the sound even more and added the extra bit of awe.

The twenty-five singers of Cappella Romana filled the hall with a gorgeous sound, starting with “Da pacem Domine” (“Give peace, Lord”), which Pärt wrote in response to the train bombings in Madrid in March of 2004. Divided into four parts, the men and women delivered the somber text with well-balanced, resonating, sustained yet bell-like tones (including some subterranean notes for the basses) that placed everyone in a meditative spell alongside the feeling of unending expansiveness.

Another hypnotic piece was MacMillan’s “Who are these angels?” Apparently, MacMilan wrote some of the music when he was 17 years old and then refashioned it in 2009. The men sang a Latin text attributed to Augustine that probes mankind’s mortality with a series of questions. The women responded with the refrain “Who are these angels and how shall I know them?,” singing with a purity of tone and zero vibrato that was absolutely ethereal and tranquil. The string quartet fluttered about, ascending to some very high notes and delicate, free-range glissandi that suggested an angelic response. An additional highlight was a brief, yet beautiful solo by violist Adam LaMotte.

Pärt’s“Alleluia-Tropus” (2008) received its U.S. premiere at this concert. Sung in Church Slavonic, the music featured a joyful refrain of “Alleluias.” Written as a dismissal hymn for St. Nicholas, the final “Alleluia” created a sense of suspension because it was sustained for a long time.

“Funeral Canticle,” composed by Tavener in 1996 in memory of his father, was used in Terrance Malick’s film “The Tree of Life.” The solos, sung in Byzantine Greek by John Boyer, featured microtonal adjustments that sounded very Middle Eastern. Each verse that the choir sang started with a simple melody that morphed into harmonically intertwined passages. Overall, the text gave me the sense of someone climbing stairs that went higher and higher.

Slowly descending and ascending lines were also expressed in Mikroutsikos “Slow Motion,” an orchestra-only piece. The music paralleled the austere and plaintive call of the other pieces on the program but without the religious context.

The final piece on the program, Pärt’s “Te Deum” (“Thee, O God, we praise”), began with an otherworldly drone from the wind harp, played from a recording. The choir sounded magnificent with excellent dynamics, including impressive double-fortes, for example, with the words “pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae” (“Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory”). Other highlights of the piece included crystalline lines from the women and a lovely solo by soprano Catherine van der Salm. The final “Sanctus” was light and feathery. The singers were supported with sensitively by the orchestra, which included the big chords from the prepared piano (Susan DeWitt Smith) that punctuated the end of a couple of passages.

For those who missed the concert, the good news is that the a cappella pieces from the program will be part of a new recording by Cappella Romana. Kudos to the ensemble and to producer Mark Powell for bringing such powerful music to Portland.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Peter Salomon (1749-1815)
Charles‑Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870)
Mary Garden (1874-1967)
Robert McBride (1911-2007)
Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Christoph Eschenbach (1940)
Barry Wordsworth (1948)
Cindy McTee (1953)
Riccardo Chailly (1953)
Chris Thile (1981)

and

Russel Crouse (1893-1966)
Louis Kahn (1901-1974)
Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Robert Altman (1925-2006)
Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Louis Aubert (1877-1968)
Arthur Shepherd (1880-1958)
Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Stan Kenton (1912-1979)
Timothy Moore (1922-2003)
George Guest (1924-2002)
György Kurtág (1926)
Michael Kennedy (1926-2014)
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988)
Smokey Robinson (1940)
Penelope Walmsley-Clark (1949)
Darryl Kubian (1966)

and

André Breton (1896-1966)
Carson McCullers (1917-1967)
Amy Tan (1952)
Siri Hustvedt (1955)
Jonathan Lethem (1964)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692)
Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720)
Gustave Schirmer, Jr. (1864-1907)
Marchel Landowski (1915-1999)
Rolande Falcinelli (1920-2006)
Rita Gorr (1926-2012)
Yoko Ono (1933)
Marek Janowski (1939)
Marlos Nobre (1939)
Donald Crockett (1951)

and

Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916)
Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993)
Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)
Len Deighton (1929)
Toni Morrison (1931)
George Pelecanos (1957)

Friday, February 17, 2017

New stellar violinist to give recital

From the press release:

Darrell Hanks Studio Concerts presents Tomas Cotik Solo Violin

February 18th, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Hailed by Michael Tilson Thomas as “an excellent violinist,” Tomas Cotik is internationally recognized as a soloist, chamber musician, and professor. A much sought after recording artist, Dr. Cotik is currently involved in more than fourteen CD recordings for Naxos and Centaur Records, which have received over a hundred reviews and the highest praises from some of the best-known publications. He forms a Duo with pianist Tao Lin and was a member of the acclaimed Amernet, Delray, and Harrington string quartets. Committed to passing on his passion for music, Dr. Cotik taught at the University of Miami, Florida International University, and West Texas A&M University. He was appointed assistant professor of Violin at Portland State University in 2016.

Tickets: *Reserved: $20 *highly recommended Door: $25

Telemann, Bach & Piazzolla

Today's Birthdays

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881)
Sr. Edward German (1862-1936)
Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947)
Andres Segovia (1893-1987)
Marian Anderson (1893-1993)
Paul Fetler (1920)
Ron Goodwin (1925-2003)
Fredrich Cerha (1926)
Lee Hoiby (1926-2011)
Anner Bylsma (1944)
Karl Jenkins (1944)

and

Ronald Knox (1888-1957)
Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)
Chaim Potok (1929-2002)
Ruth Rendell (1930-2015)
Mo Yan (1955)

From the New Music Box:

On February 17, 1927, a sold-out audience attends the world premiere of The King's Henchman. an opera with music by composer, music critic and future radio commentator Deems Taylor and libretto by poet Edna St. Villay Millay, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The New York Times review by Olin Downes on the front page the next morning hailed it as the "best American opera." The opera closed with a profit of $45,000 and ran for three consecutive seasons. It has not been revived since and has yet to be recorded commercially. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Charles Avison (1709-1770)
 Willem Kes (1856-1934)
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951)
Maria Korchinska (1895-1979)
Alec Wilder (1907-1980)
Machito (1908-1984)
Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992)
Eliahu Inbal (1936)
John Corigliano (1938)
Sigiswald Kuiljken (1944)

and

Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895)
Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)
Van Wyck Brooks (1886-1963)
Richard Ford (1944)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
 Jean‑François Lesueur (1760-1837)
Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826)
Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871)
Robert Fuchs (1847-1927)
Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)
Walter Donaldson (1893-1947)
Georges Auric (1899-1983)
Harold Arlen (1905-1986)
Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
Norma Procter (1928)
John Adams (1947)
Christopher Rouse (1949)
Kathryn Harries (1951)
Christian Lindberg (1958)

and

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Art Spiegelman (1948)
Matt Groening (1954)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Seattle Symphony receives Grammy

The 2017 Grammy Award for Best Surround Sound Album for classical music went to the Seattle Symphony for its recent recording of music by Henri Dutilleux. For more information, read this report in The Seattle Times.

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Alexander Dargomizhsky (1813-1869)
Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948)
Jack Benny (1894-1974)
Wyn Morris (1929-2010)
Steven Mackey (1956)
Renée Fleming (1959)

and

Frederick Douglass (1814-1895)
Carl Bernstein (1944)

And from the Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London. He wrote the first draft in just 21 days, the fastest he’d ever written anything.