Thursday, December 8, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Gérard Souzay (1918-2004)
James Galway (1939)

and

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Live music at Club Mod a real hit

Club Mod uncorked a special live show at the studios of All Classical Portland on Saturday evening (December 3) that was delightful, informative, and extremely well played. The show was part of the Messiaen Mélange Musique festival that celebrated music created by or connected with Olivier Messiaen. Composer/impresario Bob Priest, who studied with Messiaen in Paris, created the MMM festival. Priest was a special guest of the Club Mod show, which was emceed by Club Mod host Robert McBride. McBride, who has one of the smoothest radio voices that you’ll ever hear, interviewed Priest before each set of pieces were played, which added tremendously to the context of the program. To top that off, Ronnie Lacroute read poems in French and English that related to theme of the music.

Amelia Lukas started the concert portion with a lyrical and blithe performance of Debussy’s “Syrinx” for the alto flute. Also lovely were a series of descending notes that she played with a pillowy softness. Next came “Le Merle Noir” (“The Black Bird”), Messiaen’s first piece based on bird song. This time, Lukas played the typical C flute and created all sorts of sounds that reminded me of fluttering birds that pecked about now and then. Pianist Monica Ohuchi supported Lukas with a forest of notes and the piece had a wonderful, improvised feel.

Kaija Saariaho is one of today’s preeminent composers, and her “Cendres” (“Cinders”) for piano, flute, and cello received its Portland premiere with Ohuchi, Lukas, and cellist Valdine Mishkin. The music in this piece ranged far and wide. The players used several extended techniques: Ohuchi reached inside the piano to fashion a harpsichord-like sound. Lukas and Mishkin produced a shimmer of half-tones. One passage for cello sounded like a squeaky door. It had lyrical and crystalline moments as well, and it ended quietly – just as ashes usually do.

Because Messiaen’s father was a scholar of Shakespeare’s work, Priest commissioned five pieces – each lasting one minute – inspired by Ariel’s song from “The Tempest.” Entitled the “Full Fathom Five”project, each piece was written by a different composer, beginning with Nancy Ives chant-like “Sea Change” for cello. That was followed by Linda Woody’s somber “The Bells Are Rich and Strange” for flute and cello. Next came Ken Selden’s questioning “Full Fathom 5.5” for flute, cello, and piano, which was followed by Antonio Celaya’s enigmatically lyrical “Something Rich and Strange” for flute and piano, and finally a wild and demonstrative “Sea-Changed” for piano by Jeff Winslow.

Bob Priest’s arrangement of Messiaen’s “Le Sourire” (“The Smile”) for flute, cello, and piano was delicate and lovely. I wish that it could have been extended somehow. Messiaen’s “Louange a l’eternite de Jesus” from his “Quartet for the End of Time,” received a wonderfully evocative performance by Mishkin and Ohuchi. Ohuchi played Messiaen’s “Ile de Feu I” (“Island of Fire”) with passion and élan. It was an excellent segue to a fine recording of “Turangalîla-Symphony” that closed out the evening.

McBride mentioned that Club Mod was in its ninth year. So it was high time to present a live concert, and this one was exceptional. Maybe we could hear more compositions from Northwest composers in the near future done in this kind of live format.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

University research shows the listening to classical music successful again dementia

Research at Colorado State University has shown that classical music listening has actually reversed cognitive decline in people with dementia. Click here to read about this study.

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Little Richard (1932)
José Carreras (1946)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)
Osvaldo Golijov (1960)

and

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Nicolo Amati (1596-1684)
André Campra (1660-1744)
Antonio Soler (1729-1783)
Émile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Anton Webern (1883-1945)
Halsey Stevens (1908-1989)
Nino Rota (1911-1979)
Irving Fine (1914-1962)
Charles Craig (1919-1997)
Paul Turok (1929-2012)
José Serebrier (1938)
Matt Haimovitz (1970)

and

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Anna Freud (1895-1982)
Zlata Filipović (1980)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cabaret songs survive the din of the Waypost

It was still Happy Hour when I stepped up to the bar at the Waypost to order a draft IPA. Besides libations, the Waypost, located on North Williams Avenue, has an intimate concert space with seating that is barely separated from the bar area. It’s definitely a non-traditional venue for musicians who don’t plan to use amplification. That was the intent of the cofounders of Northwest Art Song – soprano Arwen Myers, mezzo Laura Beckel Thoreson, and pianist Susan McDaniel – who bravely tested the cozy confines of the Waypost with baritone Deac Guidi on Sunday (November 27) for an evening of cabaret songs.

The professionalism of the performers was of the highest order, because they gave an outstanding performance in spite of the constant din of noise from the patrons near the bar. Anyone who sat in the first four rows probably heard most of the words, but it was difficult beyond that arc – especially when the music was mezzo piano or quieter.

Still there was much to be enjoyed, starting with Thoreson’s singing of four William Bolcom numbers, including a sultry “At the Last Lousy Moments of Love” and an enticing “Amor.” Myers didn’t miss a beat in her set of Britten tunes, excelling with the witty “Tell me the Truth about Love” and the pell-mell “Calypso.” Guidi brought down the house with his terrific singing of Cole Porter’s “The Tale of the Oyster.” All three collaborated in singing Bolcom’s “Minicabs,” with its delightful non-sequiturs.

The second half of the show began with several arrangements of popular numbers by Bob Kingston, who served as Portland Opera’s historian and lecturer for many years. Thoreson delivered the bitter sweet vibe of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” Guidi put a light touch on “The Way You Look Tonight.” Myers sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” with heartfelt poignancy that actually got the people in the bar to stop talking and listen. Rounding out Kingston’s offerings – all premieres – were lovely arrangements of “I’ll be Around,” “A Foggy Day,” and “Lush Life.”

To conclude the concert were three numbers from Bernstein’s “Candide.” Myers positively bubbled with “Glitter and Be Gay,” touching all of the high notes with a delightful élan. She teamed up with Thoreson to give a wonderfully funny “We are Women,” and Thoreson and included some sly gestures. With Guidi and an unnamed tenor, Thoreson and the ensemble did a smashing job with “I Am Easily Assimilated.” That got the crowd off their feet, so Myers and Thoreson topped it off with the “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” with a hilarious alternative text that riffed on music like “You say staccato and I say legato.” It was a great way to end the evening with ovations for all, including McDaniel, who provided masterful accompaniment for each piece.

Today's Birthdays

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Harriet Cohen (1895-1967)
Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970)
Robert Moevs (1920-2007)
Maria Callas (1923-1977)
Jörg Demus (1928)

and

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)
T. Coraghessan Boyle (1948)
George Saunders (1958)
Ann Patchett (1963)