Sunday, December 10, 2023

Today's Birthdays

César Franck (1822-1890)
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Sesto Bruscantini (1919-2003)
Nicholas Kynaston (1941)
Julianne Baird (1952)
Kathryn Stott (1958)
Sarah Chang (1980)


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)
Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Today's Birthdays

Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Conchita Supervia (1895-1936)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006)
Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005)
Christopher Robson (1953)
Donny Osmond (1957)
Joshua Bell (1967)


John Milton (1608-1674)
Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908)
Léonie Adams (1899-1988)
Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Today's Birthdays

Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Frantisek Xaver Dussek (1731-1799)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Gérard Souzay (1918-2004)
Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996)
James Galway (1939)


Horace (65-8 B.C.)
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
James Thurber (1894-1961)
James Tate (1948)
Mary Gordon (1949
Bill Bryson (1951)

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Today's Birthdays

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710)
Hermann Goetz (1840-1876)
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Ernst Toch (1887-1964)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Richard Franko Goldman (1910-1980)
Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
Helen Watts (1927-2009)
Harry Chapin (1942-1981)
Daniel Chorzempa (1944)
Tom Waits (1949)
Kathleen Kuhlmann (1950)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)


Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Joyce Cary (1888-1957)
Noam Chomsky (1928)
Susan Isaacs (1943)

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Review: Handel's Messiah with the Oregon Symphony

Sasha Cooke with Chistopher Allen directing the Oregon Symphony

The setup at the Oregon Symphony’s performance of Handel’s Messiah (December 2) was a bit odd. The the tenor and bass soloists took their seats at the extreme right-hand side of the stage of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall while the mezzo-soprano and the soprano sat on the extreme left-hand side. That released them from the burden of sitting next to the conductor and staring into the audience for long periods of time since the oratorio is filled with many terrific chorus numbers. The soloists slowly and quietly walked to the front when it was time for them to sing. But it also meant that the men had to cross the entire length of the stage in order to exit before intermission and at the end of the piece. If you are going to buck tradition, then why not allow two male soloists exit by the nearest door? There was one just a few steps from where they were sitting. Oh well, maybe another day.

In any case, this rendition of “Handel’s Messiah” didn’t include every chorus and aria from the work but presented more selections from Part 1, which centers on the birth of Jesus, rather than from Parts 2 and 3, which reflect his death and resurrection. Since Christmas is nigh, the featured numbers worked very well, and gave a satisfactory representation of Handel’s masterpiece.

Guest conductor Christopher Allen, who received The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2017, shaped each movement superbly. His slowest tempi never dragged, and his fastest didn’t cause the chorus to garble the diction. The only glitch was a choppy transition into the final “and his burden is light” at the end of the first part.

The Portland State Chamber Choir, well-prepared by Ethan Sperry, sang with verve. The sopranos, altos, and tenor sections soared magnificently, but it was very challenging to hear the basses – even from my perch in the balcony on the bass side of the choir. For example, when they sang “For the mouth of the Lord” in the very first chorus, those words should have come across much more strongly. That was a problem throughout the evening.

Sasha Cooke, one of the great mezzo-sopranos of our time, turned in a jaw-dropping-beautiful performance in all of her solos. Her voice radiated warmth, clarity, and just the right amount of volume to reach every corner of the hall. Cooke also treated the audience to the rarely heard “B” section of “He was despised and rejected." It was unfortunate that the text of that section was not printed in the program.

Deanna Breiwick’s crystalline soprano superbly hit the myriad of notes in her arias. She showed off some impressive ornamentation – especially in “Rejoice greatly.” – But her voice needed more warmth, especially when paired with Cooke in “He shall feed his flock.”

Tenor Akek Shrader distinguished himself with “Comfort ye” and “Ev’ry valley,” but pinched off a couple of high notes in “Thou shalt break them.” Bass Levi Hernandez excelled especially in the upper register of his voice, and created some terrific moments in “The people that walked in darkness,” “Why do the nations,” and “The trumpet shall sound,” but whenever these pieces plunged into the basement, his sound almost disappeared.

The sound system in the Schnitz really helped to project the harpsicord and the portative organ, both of which were placed in the back part of the orchestra. Even the bassoon, played expertly by Carin Miller, could be heard distinctly. Jeffrey Works’ solo in “The Trumpet Shall Sound” was absolutely spectacular. He perfectly balanced with the soloist and pulled back the sound as needed.

The audience responded to almost all of the selections with applause, and the “Hallelujah Chorus” received the most. But for me, the highlight was Cooke, who, I understand, likes to work with Allen. Concertgoers were very fortunate to hear her glorious singing.

Today's Birthdays

Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605)
Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)
Tomas Svoboda (1939-2022)
John Nelson (1941)
Daniel Adni (1951)
Bright Sheng (1955)
Matthew Taylor (1964)


Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1768)
Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Vitezslav Novák (1870-1949)
"Little" Richard Wayne Penniman (1935-2020)
José Carreras (1946)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)
Osvaldo Golijov (1960)


Christina (Georgina) Rossetti (1830-1894)
Joan Didion (1934)
Calvin Trillin (1935)
John Berendt (1939)
Lydia Millet (1968)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1704, George Frideric Handel (age 19) refuses to turn over the harpsichord to Johann Mattheson (age 23) during a performance of Mattheson's opera "Cleopatra," leading to a sword duel between the two. It is said that during the swordplay, Handel was saved by a button on his coat that deflected Mattheson's mortally-directed blade. The two reconciled on December 30 that year, dining together and attending a rehearsal of Handel's opera "Almira," becoming, as Mattheson put it: "better friends than ever."

Monday, December 4, 2023

Today's Birthdays

André Campra (1660-1744)
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737)
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1949)
Alex North (1910-1991)
Yvonne Minton (1938)
Lillian Watson (1947)
Andrew Penny (1952)


Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891)
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968)