Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

and

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946)
Erle Stanley Gardner (1899-1970)

Monday, July 16, 2018

CMNW's July 15 matinee was a peripatetic delight

Benjamin Lulich
The program presented on Sunday July 15 at the Lincoln Performance Hall as part of the Chamber Music Northwest summer festival was a rich repast featuring works from the most spare, stripped-down solo work to sumptuous sound walls from an eclectic barrage of instruments.

Clarinettist Benjamin Lulich played Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet to open the program. The rich, woody timbre he employed in the opening, and the weight of importance placed on each individual note lent the air of a self-conscious, mildly sad threnody with a long, slow, riveting decrescendo al niente at the end. The finale felt like a slightly wonky klezmer tune, marvelously short, sweet and delicious, like a musical petit fours. Flutist Ransom Wilson followed this with Debussy's iconic Syrinx for solo flute, playing with a sinuous, serpentine clarity of line and skillful manipulation, varying timbre even across individual notes.

Jean Cartan's (1906-1932)  Sonatine for Flute and Clarinet was next, as Wilson and Lulich joined forces for a Pastorale that opened as curious ricercar followed by a murmuring accompagnato for flute, and there were fascinating times when the duo managed to sound like two flutes, or even two clarinets. The Berceuse was characterized by a warm, buttery 4-note ostinato from the clarinet, and they reveled in the dissonant cadences of the Rondeau.

Jacques Ibert's Suite from Le jardiniere de Samos saw the woodwind players joined by Mikio Sasaki on trumpet, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, Mihai Marica on cello, and percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum.Highlights from the Ibert included Frautschi's dancing, 2-note saltando chords in the Air de danse, the 3-voiced fugue with delightfully bouncy entrances, and the incredible efficacy of the ensemble playing in bringing out the highlights from amongst a welter of interweaving lines.

Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat comprised the second half of the afternoon, and for it the Ibert ensemble (minus cello and flute) were joined by Charles Reneau on trombone, Peter Lloyd on bass, and  bassoonist Julie Feves, who also provided a delightful narrative of the tale before the music started.

Jennifer Frautschi
In the opening movement Lloyd's staccato was so biting that at times it sounded like a pizzicato. Frautschi's double-stopped air in the second movement was truly engaging, and the lines were tossed so seamlessly between bassoon and trombone it was sometimes difficult to tell where one instrument ended and the other began. The Pastorale was played as a sad and evocative duet between bassoon and clarinet. The wild and wonderful staccato trumpet theme from the Royal March was another highlight, and during the Three Dances Frautschi played a languorous tango, redolent with mystery, and a slow and staggering ragtime. The Grand Choral was appropriately reverent, and the group rendered it like the odd modern cousin of a chorale at the outset of a Bach cantata.

Such incredible variety over a short concert (perhaps an hour's worth of music) is one reason why CMNW is such an important part of the region's cultural landscape, and further is an example of the ingenuity of the programming.

Today's Birthdays

Antoine François Marmontel (1816-1898)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Fritz Mahler (1901-1973)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Richard Margison (1954)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921-2010)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Gérard Lesne (1956)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Arianna Huffington (1950)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
Piero Bellugi (1924-2012)
Eric Stokes (1930-1999)
Unsuk Chin (1961)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Owen Wister (1860-1938)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Irving Stone (1903-1989)
Arthur Laurents (1917-2011)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review of Chamber Music Northwest concert in CVNA magazine

My review of CMNW's "Sounds from 20th Century America" concert has been posted in Classical Voice North America here. It was a fun concert to hear, and I hope that you enjoy reading the review!

Today's Birthdays

Sir Reginald Goodall (1905-1990)
Carlo Bergonzi (1924-2014)
Jeanne Loriod (1928-2001)
Per Nørgård (1932)
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Jennifer Smith (1945)

and

John Clare (1793-1864)
Isaak Babel (1894-1941)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Andy Akiho brings the magic back to Chamber Music Northwest's Summer Festival

Andy Akiho
Returning composer/performer Andy Akiho and friends gave a memorable concert on Wednesday July 11 at the Alberta Rose Theater, as part of CMNW's Summer Festival. Akiho's reputation (and audience) have grown over the years, as the packed house that night proved.

Joining Akiho, who performed several works on the his primary instrument the steel pan, were Ian David Rosenbaum on marimba, Tara Helen O'Connor on flute, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, and the members of the Dover Quartet, violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, cellist Camden Shaw and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt.

The decision to mic all the instruments at first was puzzling; in the opening work the flute came off as excessively shrill at parts, but balance issues were fine and did not favor one instrument over another, and it was clearly what the composer had in mind so while initially off-putting, through the course of the concert his choice bore fruit.

The opening piece was the world premiere of the flute/marimba instrument set for -intuition) (Expectation, the original having been written for trumpet/marimba. O'Connor joined Rosenbaum for this syncopated, jazzy work, set over a subtly shifting ostinato on the marimba. There were nice effects from the flute, chuffing and aspirating and exaggerated flutter tonguing. A difficult piece to approach but it sort of grew on you...

Karakurenai was next, with Akiho and Rosenbaum, and was a work for prepared steel pan featuring chop sticks, poster tack and other items according to Akiho. Based around a rigid, lengthy syncopation, this shorter work had a repetitive feel that could be meditative in the right circumstances.

Deciduous, featuring Akiho and Frautschi, came third. The opening highlighted the strangely mellifluous, odd almost tonal-shifting attack and decay from the steel pan. Radically shifting moods, from frenetic and harried to placid and thoughtful took place instantaneously, leaving the listener never quite sure of anything except where they were at at the moment. A series of harmonic shrieks from the violin over a whispering accompaniment from the pan was followed by an odd, chaotic chase. Some of the most violent and painful-sounding pizzicato I've ever heard--almost diabolical--and then a beautiful soliloquy from the pan, a joyous air and a pentatonic fantasy...this was a fantastic and engaging piece.

21, a piece Akiho and Rosenbaum performed here before, left an impression that perhaps for Akiho, often (but certainly not always,) the rhythm is the mistress, and varying pitches and timbres, melodies and instruments, exist merely to service it.

Ian David Rosenbaum
The second half consisted entirely of the LIgNEouS Suite, a work some of whose movements were commissioned by different groups, with the fifth and final movement being commissioned by the Dover Quartet, who performed it along with Rosenbaum. This performance was its west coast premier.

It opened with sul ponticello scritching from the strings, and a repeating pattern over a wild and intense performance on the marimba. Wailing away with mallet shafts bereft of their yarn heads, Rosenbaum performed incredibly rapid arpeggios and scale passages with alacrity, now raking the sticks across the marimba tubes in a cacophonous glissando, followed by hard, alarmingly loud snaps from a giant rubber band. The strings sang an unlovely but fascinating accompaniment. This and other movements may not have been a marimba concerto exactly, but they came close.

The second movement began with a ghostly suppuration from the strings over a murmuring marimba, struck with very soft heads that resulted in dissonant sostenutos as the notes hung in the air long after being struck. In this and in earlier pieces, unisons occured amongst the instruments that provided a fascinating sonic color due to the disparity amongst them.

Later in the work came more startling effects from the marimba, alternatively purposely assaultive and mysteriously otherworldly. Gloriously loud, stark chords came from the strings, and strange sawing sounds, wails, slaps and knocks on the body and fingerboards of instruments. Like all of his works, this exhibited exhuberant play with the world of sounds.

Two things struck me most about this concert: first would be Rosenbaum's virtuosity on his instrument. As a percussionist I have played the marimba a number of times, so have some small inkling of the challenges this instrument presents. I have never heard it played, nor imagined it could be played, the way Rosenbaum plays it. Simply breathtaking-and here give some credit to the composer-but a lesser performer could not have attempted nor even dreamed of giving the kind of performance Rosenbaum did. It was absolutely astounding, the most technically astute and artistically intuitive kind of exhibition anyone could hope for from a true virtuoso. Being somewhat biased toward percussionists, I have often felt the they are sometimes given shorter shrift than they deserve in the world of classical/art music. Let anyone who feels that way hear a performance like this. Enough said.

Another thing is the simple joy of not only hearing something you have never heard before, but maybe even hearing something that is unlike anything you have heard before. This is the great reward that exists for those who seek out new music, which is perhaps the foremost of so many reasons I always go to hear Andy Akiho when he is in town.

Today's Birthdays

Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
George Butterworth (1885-19116)
Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962)
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Van Cliburn (1934-2013)
Richard Stolzman (1942)
Roger Vignoles (1943)

and

Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
George Eastman (1854-1932)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836-1896)
Liza Lehmann (1862-1918)
Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017)
Herbert Blomstedt (1927)
Hermann Prey (1929-1998)
Francis Bayer (1938-2004)
Liona Boyd (1949)
Suzanne Vega (1960)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
E. B. White (1899-1985)
Harold Bloom (1930)
Jhumpa Lahiri (1967)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1798, in the nation's capital of Philadelphia, President John Adams signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Marine Band. (The original "32 drummers and fifers" assisted in recruiting and entertained residents.)