PSU Chamber Choir

Monday, May 30, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
George London (1920-1985)
Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012)
Pauline Oliveros (1932)
Zoltan Kocsis (1952)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 30, 1923, 26-year-old composer and conductor Howard Hanson, who would later be one of the founders of the American Music Center, led the world premiere performance of his Nordic Symphony, the first of his seven symphonies and still one of his best-known works, in Rome during his residence as first holder of the American Rome Prize.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Fanciulli (1853-1915)
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Helmuth Rilling (1933)
Michael Berkeley (1948)
Linda Esther Gray (1948)
Melissa Etheridge (1961)


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Steven Levitt (1967)


from the New Music Box:
On May 29, 1954, the Louisville Orchestra, under the direction of Robert S. Whitney, premiered the Eleventh Symphony of Henry Cowell. The seven-movement work, subtitled "Seven Rituals," was one of the most successful of Cowell's 21 symphonies.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Profile of Ethan Sperry in PSU Magazine

My profile of Ethan Sperry, director of Choral Activities as Portland State University and the artistic director of the Oregon Repertory Singers, was recently published in PSU Magazine. You can now read it online here.

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1788)
T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)
Nicola Rescigno (1916-2008)
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
John Culshaw (1924-1980)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)
Richard Van Allan (1935-2008)
Maki Ishii (1936-2003)
Elena Souliotis (1943-2004)
Levon Chilingirian (1948)


Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
Ian Flemming (1908-1964)
May Swenson (1913-1989)
Walker Percy (1916-1990)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 28, 1957, after several discussions, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS) was born at a meeting at Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby Restaurant.

[NARAS sponsors the Grammys.]

Friday, May 27, 2016

First Musica Maestrale Festival to be held in Astoria on August 18-21

Press Release from Musica Maestrale:

Hi everyone,

We've just finished the season, but we are already looking ahead to the summer!  This year, we are trying something new and bold, and holding an early music festival in Astoria!  It will be 2 1/2 days full of concerts and workshops.  Whether you are a musician wanting to get some coaching on some tricky pieces, or an aficionado who loves the idea of non-stop early music concerts, there will be something for everyone.  Come on out to the coast to hang out in beautiful Astoria in mid-summer, and join us for this early music extravaganza!  We will even help you with the accommodations, if you wish.  More info below.

Also... we will be having our annual summer fundraiser/party in the evening of Sun. July 10.  As always, it will be a fun time filled with good food, drinks, and company, and of course, early music!  This time, the music will be provided by the wonderful Arwen Myers, whom you might have heard in our January program, and yours truly.  We are also going to try something new... a silent auction, for which we soliciting items to auction off.  It will be great fun; more on this soon, but in the meantime, save the date!


Today's Birthdays

Jacques Halévy (1799-1862)
Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882)
Claude Champagne (1891-1965)
Ernst Wallfisch (1920-1979)
Thea Musgrave (1928)
Donald Keats (1929)
Elizabeth Harwood (1938-1990)
James Wood (1953)


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876)
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
John Cheever (1912-1982)
John Barth (1930)
Linda Pastan (1932)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Al Jolson (1886-1950)
Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
Vlado Perlemuter (1904-2002)
Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) (1916-1999)
François‑Louis Deschamps (1919-2004)
Peggy Lee (1920-2002)
Joseph Horovitz (1926)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Teresa Stratas (1938)
William Bolcom (1938)
Howard Goodall (1958)
Armando Bayolo (1973)


Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837)
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Frankie Manning (1914-2009)
Alan Hollinghurst (1954)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 26, 1953, Aaron Copland appeared before the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oregon Symphony ends 2015-16 season with Mahler's grandiose 3rd Symphony

Carlos Kalmar
There's nothing for it like going out with a bang, and the Oregon Symphony chose do to that at its home venue the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Monday, May 23rd by presenting Gustav Mahler's Titanic Symphony No. 3 in D minor.   Accompanied by guest mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, the Women of the Portland State Chamber Choir and Vox Femina and the Pacific Youth Choir, there were at least 150 musicians on stage when all was said and done.

Opening with a subdued theme from the 9-voice horn choir and occasional alarming trumpet calls, the introduction to this long work gradually seeped out from the stage to overtake the hall. Striking glissandi from the low strings and a whisper-thin rumbling from the bass drum--more felt than heard--as the rest of the orchestra faded were satisfying to hear. Percussion sections are oft-overlooked (until they make a mistake) but the OSO is blessed to have an incredibly skilled and precise group--Monday night was no exception to the excellent work they've done all season.

Concert master Sarah Kwak played a marvelous pastoral solo during the introduction, and the trombone solo was equally arresting.  Often the strings felt too subsumed under the wall of sound presented by the gargantuan woodwind and brass section required by this piece--when it was tutti fortissimo all across the orchestra, the strings consistently took a beat or two longer to reach the proper dynamic--but it was a dynamic that was certainly within their ability--resulting in some weaker entrances (at least early in the work) than one would hope for.

Part two opened with a lush string serenade--the violins in fine fettle with all the swooning romanticism one could want. The gently quacking bassoon during the Mysterioso and the ghostly off-stage flugelhorn were nice treats to hear. Mic'ing the vocalists felt unnecessary from a volume perspective, but the concert was being recorded for broadcast so perhaps other considerations came into play. Both Platts and the choirs were excellent, with fine diction abounding. The long nocturne-like ending was carried off well by the strings, the melancholy interjections from the horn sounding bright and even lively despite the elegiac character of the finale.

And what a finale it was...the entire evening. This big, bold grand gesture of the late Romantic, the longest work in the standard repertoire (the evening clocked in at a bit under two hours without intermission)--what a fine gift from the OSO to the music-loving community. When else do you have an opportunity to hear 8 contrabasses, something like 30 violins, 9 horns, two harps, 60-some singers, etc--all going at the same time? A fine cap to maestro Carlos Kalmar for another a season well-done, and a reminder of how grateful the region at large is to have this fine ensemble.

Today's Birthdays

Thomas "Blind Tom" Bethune (1849-1908)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Beverly Sills (1929-2007)
Franco Bonisolli (1937-2003)


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)
Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 25, 1977, the American half of the Gian Carlo Menotti's "Festival of Two Worlds"—Spoleto USA—opens in Charleston, South Carolina. The Spoleto Festival Brass Quintet played at the opening ceremonies at noon that day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vancouver Symphony (WA) double dips with Shostakovich concert

By playing two Shostakovich symphonies in its final concert of the season, the Vancouver Symphony pushed into new territory and celebrated Salvador Brotons’s 25th year as Music Director in style. The rare double-dip on the program Sunday night (May 22nd) at Skyview Concert Hall featured Dimitri Shostakovich’s First and his Fifteenth Symphonies, juxtaposing his first and last symphonic works. Although the orchestra had played the First back in 2005, the performance marked the ensemble’s first-ever journey into the heady waters of the Fifteenth, which contains many treacherous, exposed passages for the first desk players and some of their colleagues. All in all, the VSO tackled both pieces with élan and emerged triumphantly.

Conducting from memory, Brotons energetically urged the orchestra into Shostakovich’s unique sound world – made all the more unique by the fact that Shostakovich wrote the piece when he was still a teenager at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The orchestra elicited the mercurial nature of the piece, building upon its perky and optimistic ambiance. The low strings displayed a rich, smooth sound, and their duets with the bassoon in the second movement marched along smartly. The orchestra excelled at tapering off the endings of both the first and second movements. Excellent solo contributions by the principals in all sections added to the snappy and bright atmosphere. Some intonation problems in the violin section marred the fastest passages and the piccolo and flute veered now and then towards the shrill side. Still, the audience got so caught up in the music that it applauded after the orchestra created a huge crescendo in the fourth movement, thinking that the piece was done. Brotons wisely used his free hand to still the noise, and the orchestra went ahead to create a big splashy ending.

The Fifteenth Symphony, written near the end of Shostakovich’s life, shifts back and forth between somber and reflective moods and jaunty and almost carefree ones. The VSO explored all corners of the piece, including the numerous, virtuosic solo passages. Principal Cellist Dieter Ratzlaf evoked the soulfully searching sections. Concertmaster Eva Richey’s solos skipped along swiftly. Principal Trombonist Greg Scholl whipped through his lines so that they almost crackled. Mournful horns were complimented by somber statements from the trombone and tuba, all of which contrasted well with the rapid fire exchange from the piccolo and flute. The percussion battery had a field day on a large array of instruments, and Principal Timpanist Florian Conzetti added the haunting soft sounds quoted from Richard Wagner’s operas.

Some of the entrances seemed a bit tentative, and violins’ intonation went a bit wayward here and there. But the orchestra captured the spirit of Shostakovich’s music , saving the best for last when the snare drum and wood block combination took over. That passage has reminded some of a funeral carriage on a cobblestone street heading into oblivion – perhaps it was just Shostakovich’s wry speculation on the end of his own life.

In a nod to much lighter fare, the concert began with two crowd-pleasing chestnuts. Brotons conducted Brahms’s famous “Hungarian Dance No. 5” with verve and a fine ear for dynamic contrast. Preceding the Brahms was a rousing account of Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” under the baton of guest conductor Karl Scarborough, who won the honor of stepping onto the podium at the orchestra’s annual fundraiser. Scarborough’s appearance was particularly fitting, because he is the one and only music teacher in the Winlock School District and was honored with the SW Washington Music Teacher award earlier this year. Bravo Mr. Scarborough!

Today's Birthdays

Paul Paray (1886-1979)
Joan Hammond (1912-1986)
Hans‑Martin Linde (1930)
Maurice André (1933-2012)
Bob Dylan (1941)
Konrad Boehmer (1941-2014)
Fiona Kimm (1952)
Paul McCreesh (1960)


William Trevor (1928)
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Declan Kiberd (1951)
Michael Chabon (1963)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 24, 1939, then 30-year-old composer Elliott Carter (b. 1908) had his first major performance of his music in New York. The work was the ballet Pocahontas composed in a populist style far different from the music for which Carter would later become internationally known and revered.